The War Against The Papacy
Recently I have received a number of requests for copies of my small book War Against the Papacy, which is mentioned in the Introduction to this website. After having furnished these persons with a word-document version of the same, I have received comments to the effect that the information contained therein was most helpful. I have therefore posted the entire work here.
Even though though War Against the Papacy was written before the death of Pope John Paul II. I consider that its analysis and content has now become even more relevant and pertinent.
Many Catholics, hoping for a return to traditional Catholicism, rejoiced with the ascension of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to the Papacy as Pope Benedict XVI. The Motu proprio Summorum Pontificum largely had the effect of causing many such persons to turn a blind eye towards the extremely disturbing philosophical and theological errors to be found in Cardinal Ratzinger’s writings - analyses of which are to be found in many articles on this website. This "refusal to look" only served to aid in the further entrenchment and permeation of these errors into every facet of Catholic thought, life, and worship.
The election of Francis I might well be seen as the fruition of this blindness. There are now two articles (see Part I, Article 24 and Part I, Article 26) which explore the continuation, and magnification, of this crisis into the Papacy of Francis I. In addition, Pope Francis, in both personal statements and action, has clearly revealed his animosity towards Traditional Catholicism.
The SSPX, while wounded and suffering dissensions within, especially in bitter disagreement over Bishop Fellay’s failed attempts to reach agreement with Roman authorities, is now in a "hardened" position where any foreseeable prospect of union with Rome, or any continuation of discussions, seems impossible. At the same time, there exists various degrees of despair and bitterness among traditional Catholics which can easily become the motivation for extremes of thought and action. Such persons thus become easy prey to temptations towards the SSPX or Sedevacantism. Thus, the increased relevance of all that follows:
“And because iniquity hath abounded,
the charity of many shall grow cold (Mt 24:12).”
“The See of Peter and the posts of authority in Rome being occupied by anti-Christs….” (Archbishop Lefebvre’s Letter to the Future Bishops,Angelus – official publication of the SSPX in the U.S.)
It is a central contention of this little book that the present struggle within the Catholic Church is generating those heresies which are to be the core weapon of what may be Satan’s final great battle against Christ’s Church. And while it is certainly true that this battle is waged by the world against the Church, it is even more true that Satan desires the destruction of the Church from within. Necessarily, this titanic struggle “from within” is, and always will be, constituted primarily by a war waged against the Rock upon which the Catholic Church is founded. Since we have Christ’s assurance that the Rock itself will not fail, and since Hell has received ample proof over almost 2000 years of Church history that this is indeed the case, then Satan’s efforts must now be directed against the faithful, and specifically against their faith in and obedience to the Papacy. This attack is waged on a twofold front.
The first of these attacks is directed against the belief of the faithful in the divinely established prerogatives of Peter. As defined in detail by Vatican Council I, there are two of these prerogatives which constitutes what is commonly called the Papal Primacy: 1) Papal Infallibility, and 2) the Papal Primacy of Jurisdiction (the Primacy of Government and Discipline over the entire Church). There exists a great deal of confusion in regard to the nature and scope of these powers conferred on Peter and his successors. This is especially true of the Primacy of Jurisdiction. This confusion is at the heart of the Schism of Archbishop Lefebvre and his followers. Part I of this book will therefore carefully delineate the nature and scope of this twofold Primacy as defined by Vatican Council I.
Vatican I also teaches that there is a third prerogative bestowed by Christ upon Peter and his successors. It consists in Christ’s promise to Peter that he would never personally lose the faith. This prerogative is not to be considered as part of the twofold Primacy, but rather as the foundation upon which the integrity of the Papacy itself is built. If the Pope were to lose the faith and become a heretic, then he would necessarily cease to be Catholic. The notion that a heretic, non-Catholic Pope would be entrusted by Christ with the divinely constituted Primacy of teaching and governing all the faithful, would certainly belie Christ’s promises to build His Church upon the Rock of the Papacy.
We will also, therefore, closely examine Vatican Council I’s doctrinal teaching concerning the never-failing faith of Peter and all his successors. And we will also examine various consequences of the denial of this doctrine.
I would also mention here that much of the efforts by certain “traditionalists” to prove that a Pope can be a heretic focus on Pope Honorius I and Pope John XXII. The reader will note in the Table of Contents that there are chapters devoted to each of these Popes. Both were clearly orthodox, and those who would attempt to prove otherwise are simply following in the well-worn path of secular and Protestant falsifications of history.
Of course, neither the actions of God or Satan can be analyzed with the same surety as can those elements of the Papal prerogatives about which we have already spoken. I believe, however, that it will be well worth our efforts to make some attempt at understanding both the way in which Satan works, and also the possible character and meaning of God’s chastisements. The fact is that many in the Church have become so bitter over the actions of recent Popes that they have been led to deny the dogmatic teachings which define the divine prerogatives of the Papacy. It will be very much a central purpose of this book, therefore, to place before such persons a vision of the Church, and its present crisis, which will preclude such rash action; and also, hopefully, have the effect of drawing back into the Church those who have been scandalized into leaving her.
It is characteristic within the Church in times of crisis that the pendulum swings wildly. St. Thomas teaches (I-II, 65) that both moral and intellectual virtues conform to the mean. This does not mean that virtue is a matter of some sort of compromise or “standing in the middle” between relative extremes, but rather that it is a truth of the moral or intellectual life which can be violated by either excess or deficiency, by either addition or subtraction. Truth in itself is therefore profoundly radical – the “extreme” of being fully in accord with reality. In times of confusion it is precisely this radicality of full conformity to truth which is very hard to maintain. The common reaction to confusion and crisis tends towards the erroneous extremes of either subtracting from or adding to the truth, and thus violating the mean. Usually this is done because the cross of complete fidelity appears too painful to bear or too difficult to understand.
Most of the readers of this book will be more than familiar with the attacks of Modernism and Modernists upon the traditional Church and the Papacy. What is less known, and very possibly more tragic, is that there exists within the Church today a twofold “extreme” which is creating a profound division within the numbers of those very persons who most wish to be considered orthodox and traditional Catholics. At one end, we find those who have set up a “traditional” Catholicism which in one way or another denies the Church’s doctrinal teaching regarding Papal prerogatives. At the other extreme are those who deny the extraordinary crisis to which the Papacy itself is being subjected – those who refuse to see the degree to which recent Papacies have led us into realms of worship, spirituality, philosophy, ecumenical approaches, etc. which, although not compromising the Church’s Infallible Magisterium or constituting loss of faith by these same Popes, are in profound opposition to the approaches and policies of their predecessors.
Both of these extremes constitute distortions of the truth which effectively negate any real possibility of understanding the full magnitude and nature of the crisis of Truth which is upon the Church. If it be certain that we cannot truly love unless we first know, then it must equally be true that effective prayer also depends upon knowledge of the truth. We cannot pray for the healing of a wound that is not acknowledged. This is especially true if the understanding is blocked by a refusal to look. For such a refusal most often resides, and is nourished, in a comfort which denies the very Cross of Christ. We may safely presume that such prayers rising from such shallows are seldom answered in the affirmative.
This present work is therefore intended to be read alongside all of my articles concerning The War Against Being, which are contained on this website.
I consider equally important my long article titled The Return to God (see Part V in the Menu)), which consists of an examination of the Beatitudes and their relationships to the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. The intellectual confusion which now pervades the Church is largely a fruit of a failure to live the Gospel as found in the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes. There can be no full return to intellectual sanity without a corresponding return of the Christian will to live the Gospel.
Finally, it would be well to give some explanation of the layout of this book. Part I focuses on a full delineation of the prerogatives of the Pope as taught and defined by Vatican Council I. It also includes an analysis of Pope Pius IX’s Encyclical Quartus supra, which offers a clear exposition of the doctrine concerning the much-denied (especially by the movement founded by Archbishop Lefebvre) doctrine concerning the Papal Primacy of Jurisdiction.
Part II will examine the concept of Catholic charity and its intimate link, through the virtue of suffering obedience, to the meaning of the Mass. This section may at first sight seem to the reader to be the least appealing, simply because it does not deal with the “hard facts” of doctrine, canon law, historical events, etc. I would here counsel the reader in advance, however, that failure to understand the concepts explored in this part of the book will vitiate any ability to fully understand what is wrong with the extremes of many self-styled “traditionalists.” A careful reading of these pages, on the other hand, will hopefully enable the same reader to understand why these extremes deny the very reality of the Mass to which they claim loyalty. I wish the reader to understand that I write this criticism of certain elements of the traditional movement as one who assists regularly, and almost exclusively, at the Traditional Latin Mass. I also write as one dedicated to its restoration and, therefore, as an insider who abhors the errors of members of his own spiritual family.
Part III concerns itself with a wide-ranging examination of topics concerning the various denials of Papal prerogatives. This will necessarily entail examinations of the specific errors of individuals and groups.
Part IV will then deal with the crisis of the Papacy itself. I wish the reader to know from the beginning that I approach this subject with trepidation, always keeping in mind the German proverb, “He who eats the Pope, dies.” I believe that dealing with this topic is necessary, I also believe it is dangerous. I believe it is necessary because, as I have said, we cannot do what is required for the healing of a wound unless we first admit that it exists, and take pains to understand its nature. I believe it is dangerous because many who have seriously looked upon these wounds have failed to understand their nature (just as the disciples failed to understand Christ in the midst of His Passion), and have gone off into various forms of heresy and schism. In order to avoid these dangers we shall always keep foremost in mind the doctrinal teaching of Vatican I to the effect that Christ is always directing His Church, and that he has not now, or at any other time in history, abandoned this direction of His Church. We must, in other words, attempt to look deeply into the nature of this present chastisement in order to see Heart of Christ working in Love for His Church. Without this vision of operating Divine Love in the midst of this great scourging and Crucifixion of the Church, we must surely be scandalized to the point of denying Christ’s Mystical Body, just as His Apostles were all scandalized at His Passion, and abandoned Him:
“And Jesus saith to them: You will all be scandalized in my regard this night; for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be dispersed (Mark 14:27).”
“Behold, the hour cometh, and it is now come, that you shall be scattered every man to his own, and shall leave me alone (John 16:32).”
In a certain sense, the Apostles had an excuse for abandoning Jesus. They had no experience or knowledge of God being Crucified. We have no such justification.
All this, of course, is an ambitious undertaking. I therefore can only preface what follows with sentiments similar to those expressed by many other Christian writers of the past:
For all that I have written which is true, I thank God.
If there be error, the fault lies totally with myself.
The Divine Prerogatives of the Papacy
Vatican I And The Papal Primacy
Satan’s great effort against the Papacy is immensely aided by what can only be labeled as an extraordinary ignorance on the part of Catholics concerning one of the most essential dogmas of their faith: the twofold Primacy of Peter as defined by the First Vatican Council. Being created in the image of God, man possesses the faculties of intellect and will. The intellect is fulfilled in submitting, through faith, to God’s Revealed Truth; the will is fulfilled in submitting to God’s grace and living His Charity. Faith is not sufficient unto salvation. St. James writes, “Faith without works is dead (James 2:20).” St. Paul is more specific and devastating: “If I should have all faith, so that I could move mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing (1st Cor 13:2).” Moreover, this charity which is demanded of us is something quite specific. It bears a demand upon us to imitate Christ who “loved the Church, and delivered himself up for it (Eph 5:25).” Further on, we will explore more fully the nature of this love and the specific character of the sacrifice which it requires.
It is one of the great prides of an orthodox Catholic that he has submitted to the Holy Father in the care of his faith (intellect). It is an almost universally unknown truth of our Faith that God wills that the Papacy also be the foundation and determination of all true union with Christ in charity (will), without which no man may attain salvation. It is this charity, and our security in the love of Christ, which is the subject of the first two-thirds of Vatican I’s First Dogmatic Constitution of the Catholic Church, commonly called by its first two words Pastor Aeternus. We will begin with an examination of its teachings.
The expressed purpose of the First Dogmatic Constitution of the Church is to proclaim the Church’s teaching concerning this twofold unity (of both faith and charity) with the Church which is necessary for salvation. The introduction to Pastor Aeternus begins with the following statement:
“The Eternal Pastor and Bishop of our souls, in order to continue for all time the life-giving work of His Redemption, determined to build up the Holy Church, wherein, as in the house of the living God, all who believe might be united in the bond of one faith and one charity.” (All use of italics within quotations (unless otherwise noted) is done by the author for the sake of emphasis.)
This first sentence contains all the essential elements Of Vatican I’s teaching on the Papal Primacy. This Primacy is, in the first place, a work whose purpose is to continue the actor Christ’s Redemption. It is, in other words, a work of mercy. Secondly, it is to be exercised within and through the juridical and visible structure of the Catholic Church. Finally, God’s purpose in establishing the Primacy is to draw the faithful into a twofold unity with Christ - a unity of faith and charity - both of which are necessary for salvation.
It is evident from a reading of the Gospels that Christ knew well the terrible insecurity (due to both original and actual sin) and fragility of man’s heart and mind, and that His mercy was centered in the longing to draw mankind out of this state of tragic insecurity into the surety of His Love and Truth. Weeping over Jerusalem, Our Lord exclaimed, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered together thy children, as the hen doth gather her chickens under her wings, and thou wouldest not?” It is most revealing that these words of Christ come at the end of that chapter (Mt 23) which contains the most detailed analysis of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and scribes, of that fundamental sin in man by which he substitutes the traditions of man for those of God, by which men “tithe mint, and anise, and cumin, and have left the weightier things of the law: judgment, and mercy, and faith (Mt 23:23).”
We are not permitted to conclude that this hypocrisy, the tragic tendency of both intellect and will towards deception, are the natural possession of only the wicked. Rather, they are the common inheritance of us all. In the mystery of Christ’s mercy our redemption depends not primarily on our own exercise of intellect and free will but upon the surrender, through faith, of these faculties to His forming grace. This is the teaching of Vatican Council I’s other great document, The Dogmatic Constitution On the Catholic Faith:
“Man being wholly dependent upon God, as upon his Creator and Lord, and created reason being absolutely subject to uncreated truth, we are bound to yield to God, by faith in His revelation, the full obedience of our intelligence and will. And the Catholic Church teaches that this faith, which is the beginning of man’s salvation, is a supernatural virtue, whereby, inspired and assisted by the grace of God, we believe that the things which He has revealed are true; not because the intrinsic truth of the things is plainly perceived by the natural light of reason, but because of the authority of God Himself, Who reveals them, and Who can neither be deceived nor deceive.”
The introduction to Pastor Aeternus concludes by assuring us that our security in faith and charity (communion) is its immediate concern, and that our belief in and acceptance of the Papal Primacy is the Rock upon which this security is built:
“And in order that the episcopate also might be one and undivided, and that by means of a closely united priesthood the faithful might be kept secure in the oneness of faith and communion, He set Blessed Peter over the rest of the Apostles, and fixed in him the abiding principle of this twofold unity.. . .We, therefore, for the preservation, safe-¬keeping, and increase of the Catholic flock, with the approval of the Sacred Council, do judge it to be necessary to propose to the belief and acceptance of all the faithful, in accordance with the ancient and constant faith of the universal Church, the doctrine touching the institution, perpetuity and nature of the sacred Apostolic Primacy, in which is found the strength and solidity of the entire Church.”
Institution of the Primacy
Chapter I of Pastor Aeternus, which is very short, treats of the institution of the Primacy. The words by which Christ conferred this primacy upon Peter are quoted:
“And I say to thee that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church; and the gates of hell, shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bound on earth, it shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 16:18—19)
There are two important points made by the Council in regard to this institution. First, it contains not only a promise to Peter of a primacy in matters of faith and morals, but also a primacy of what this document calls “the jurisdiction of Chief Pastor and Ruler over all His fold.” Jurisdiction may be defined as the right to exercise official authority over a designated group of people. The Pope’s jurisdiction is a right of government and discipline over the entire Church. This subject will be thoroughly explored in our analysis of Chapter III of Pastor Aeternus, which deals with the “nature’ of the Primacy. Meanwhile, however, there is a second point made by Chapter I which is also very crucial for our understanding of the Primacy of Jurisdiction:
“At open variance with this clear doctrine of Holy Scripture, as it has ever been understood by the Catholic Church, are the perverse opinions of those who, while they distort the form of government established by Christ the Lord in His Church, deny that Peter in his simple person preferably to all the other Apostles, whether taken separately or together, was endowed by Christ with a true and proper primacy of jurisdiction.”
Christ established His Primacy of Jurisdiction in the simple person of Peter (Cardinal Manning’s translation of Pastor Aeternus, which we are using, includes this phrase “simple person.” While other translations do not use this phrase, it is obviously faithful to the actual meaning of the text, and to the intentions of the Fathers of Vatican I – the Primacy was established in the man Peter and in those actual persons who would be his successors, and not in some office independent of the actual reigning Pope).
We know this fact from the proceedings of the Council itself. At the very beginning of its deliberations on Pastor Aeternus, 24 bishops were elected to form what was called the “Deputation de Fide.” The appointed task of this body of bishops was to sort through the original schema, the speeches of the various bishops in the “General “Congregations”, and the proposed amendments. They then presented the final form of the document, with an accompanying explanation as to the meaning of terms employed in the document, to the bishops for vote at a General Congregation. The man appointed to present the document and offer this explanation was Mgr. Vincent Gasser, Prince-Bishop of Brixen, Austrian Tyrol who, according to Dom Cuthbert Butler in his two volume classic entitled The Vatican Council, “stands out as the most prominent theologian of the Council.” Bishop Gasser’s speech was nearly four hours long and, according to Dom Butler, “gave a full explanation of its [the document’s] import, which being authoritative as to the mind of the deputation, is summarized here.” Following are Bishop Gasser’s words (He here addresses the charism of Papal infallibility, but it is obvious that what he says applies to all the prerogatives and powers bestowed by Christ upon Peter):
“In this definition the subject of the infallibility, i.e. the person who exercises it, is the Roman Pontiff, as a public person in relation with the universal Church (V. II, p. 141) [bold emphasis is mine].”
In summarizing what Bishop Gasser said about the concept of “person” and “public person”, Dom Butler earlier writes (V. II, p. 135-136):
“He then went on to speak of the three words that from the beginning had been at the root of nearly all the controversy: the Pope’s personal, separate, absolute infallibility; for the whole matter hinges on these notions.”
‘In what sense is the Pope’s infallibility personal? It is personal in that it belongs to the Roman Pontiff, not the Roman Church, or the Roman See [all bold emphasis is again mine]. The infallibility is personal in as far as it belongs to each legitimate occupant of the Roman See. But it is not personal as belonging to the Pope as private person or private doctor. So we do not speak of personal infallibility although we attribute it to the person of the Roman Pontiff, not as an individual person, but a public person, the Head of the Church in his relation to the Universal Church….Therefore the sentence, ‘The Roman Pontiff is infallible’, is not to be blamed as false, because Christ promised it to the person of Peter and the person of his successor; but only as incomplete, as the Pope is infallible only when by his solemn judgment he defines matters of faith or morals for the universal Church.”
It is evident therefore, from the above explanation given by the representative of the Deputation de Fide, that every one of the Fathers or Bishops at Vatican I was fully aware that Pastor Aeternus (The First Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ) explicitly teaches that the Primacy of Peter belongs to the person of Peter and his successors, and not to some See or Office distinct from him.
It is also certain, therefore, that all of the promises made by Christ to Peter were made to his person. In other words, whether we are referring to the Papal Primacy of Jurisdiction, or to the Charism of Infallibility, or to the never-failing faith of Peter and all his successors (each of these to be individually discussed in the following pages), we must see each and every one of these Papal prerogatives as being powers or promises bestowed directly on the person of Peter and his successors. Further, they all refer back to that foundational promise made to Peter in Matthew 16:18 that he would be the “Rock” who would be the foundation of the Church and against which the gates of Hell would not prevail. The integrity and safety of the Church itself is therefore established directly upon the Papacy.
This truth is enormously important for the maintenance and defense of unity of communion within the Church. It certainly is quite correct and permissible to speak of the Pope in various ways exercising his “office.” Or, on the other hand, we may certainly speak of the Pope acting in a “private” or non-official capacity. The Pope’s expressions of personal opinions, for instance, do not constitute any exercise of his office (we will discuss this subject much more in Part IV). But none of this can be used to deny or compromise the Catholic truth that the prerogatives of the Papacy lie within the person of the reigning Pope himself. The distinctions made between the Pope exercising his office or, on the other hand, acting as a private person, must be seen as distinctions lying within the person of the Pope himself. This is also confirmed within the Code of Canon Law, which states:
“The bishop of the Church of Rome, in whom resides the office given in a special way by the Lord to Peter, first of the Apostles, and to be transmitted to his successors, is head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ and Pastor of the universal Church on earth; therefore, in virtue of his office [which resides in him] he enjoys supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power in the Church, which he can always freely exercise “ (Canon 331 – bold emphasis and bracketed comment is mine].
It has ever been the policy of schismatics to attempt to draw a distinction between the juridical office of Peter and the actual person of a reigning Pontiff, and to claim that we only have to obey the person of the Pope when his government and discipline of the Church is in accord with what we believe to be the proper course of action for the office of the papacy. According to their argument, the “person” of a pope may turn against the “office” of the papacy, thus “orienting” the Church in a direction which violates the office of the papacy and contradicting that direction willed for the Church by Christ. This argument is, for instance, proposed by the followers of Archbishop Lefebvre in order to justify their direct disobedience to the commands of Pope John Paul II. At this point we may simply note that this position directly contradicts the teaching of Vatican I. In our analysis of Chapters II and III of Pastor Aeternus we will see that the Council offers more profound insight into Christ’s direction of the Church through the simple person of Peter and his successors.
We shall also see that this false distinction between the Pope and his office is used to deny the never-failing faith of all Popes, and therefore to assert that a Pope can as a private person lose his faith, become a full-blown heretic, and thus cease to be Catholic. For most of those who profess this error (but by no means all), this would amount to the Pope losing the Papacy. We will have much more to say about this later.
The Perpetuity of the Primacy in the Successors of Peter
With astonishing precision, Chapter II of Pastor Aeternus unveils the mystery of Peter living in his successors:
“That which the Prince of Shepherds and great shepherd of the sheep, Jesus Christ our Lord, established in the person of the Blessed Apostle Peter to secure the perpetual welfare and lasting good of the Church, must, by the same institution, necessarily remain unceasingly in the Church, which, being founded upon the Rock, will stand firm to the end of the world. For none can doubt, and it is known to all ages, that the holy and Blessed Peter, the Prince and chief of the Apostles, the pillar of the faith and foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour and Redeemer of mankind, and lives, presides and judges to this day, always in his successors the Bishops of the Holy See of Rome, which was founded by Him and consecrated by His Blood. Whence, whosoever succeeds to Peter in this See does by the institution of Christ Himself obtain the primacy of Peter over the whole Church. The disposition made by Incarnate Truth (dispositio veritatis) therefore remains, and Blessed Peter, abiding in the rock’s strength which he received (in accepta fortitudine petrae perseverans), has not abandoned the direction of the Church.”
Three very closely linked points are made concerning the perpetuity of Peter’s Primacy. First, that which was established in Peter must necessarily remain until the end of time in the successors of Peter. Secondly, this can only be if Peter “lives, presides and judges, always in his successors.” The words used by the Council, “lives, presides, judges”, show that we are hear speaking of a power and authority of government and discipline which is distinct from the teaching Magisterium of the Church. When speaking of the Pope’s Primacy of Jurisdiction we are in no way concerned with infallibility. We are, instead, speaking of supreme power and authority, of God’s will for us in regard to His governance of the Church through the Papacy; and His will is simply that we correspond our will to His – in other words, we are to obey the Pope.
The above passage further emphasizes that this power and authority are “to this day, always”, thus eliminating any possible contention that this living, presiding, and judging by Peter could conceivably fail in any given pope. This also is an extremely important point. It has always been the policy of schismatics to appeal to some other Pope or Council, past or future, against the decisions of a reigning pontiff. It has also been the constant tradition of popes to condemn such a position. Pope Benedict XIV specifically condemns those who would appeal to a future Ecumenical Council:
“We likewise excommunicate and anathematize each and every one, of whatever state, grade, or condition he may be, We place under interdict the universities, colleges, and chapters, by whatever name they are constituted, who appeal from Our ordinances or instructions, or those of the Roman Pontiffs then existing, to a future Universal Council, as well as those who would assist, counsel, or favor this appeal (Benedict XIV, Pastoralis Romani Pontificis, Mar 30, 1741).”
Pope Leo XIII, in the following passage, condemns any attempt to oppose the directives of a reigning Pope to those of previous pontiffs:
“Similarly, it 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; and in some ways they resemble those who, on receiving a condemnation, would wish to appeal to a future Council, or to a Pope who is better informed,” (Leo XIII, Epistola tua, June 17, 1885)
The final point regarding this “perpetuity” of Peter’s Primacy is that we are obliged to believe that, under the government of any Pope, “Christ has not abandoned the direction of the Church.” This is, of course, a necessary conclusion from the first two points of this doctrine which we have been discussing. If Peter, in his simple person and through Christ, always rules through any given pontiff, then it is logically and theologically incorrect to assert that the direction or “orientation” given to the Church by any Pope can contradict that which is willed by Christ. This of course does not mean that Christ always wills to give us the most sublime gifts through the papacy, or that He may not use the papacy to chastise us - to take away graces, or to substitute lesser gifts for greater ones. Nor does it mean that the Pope may not make decisions and acts of governance which, at least from some immediate and human judgment, appear neither prudent nor wise. Nor does it mean that, within quite strict limits of prudence and charity, we do not have the right to try to show a Pope that he may he wrong in his course of action. It does mean (and we will see this fully substantiated in our examination of the next part of the Council’s teaching) that Christ always wills that we obey the Pope in his direction and governing of the Church.
The Power and Nature of the Primacy
Chapter III of Pastor Aeternus is entitled “On the Power and Nature of the Primacy of the Roman Pontiff.” The heart of its teaching is contained in the following paragraph:
“Hence we teach and declare that by the appointment of our Lord the Roman Church possesses a sovereignty of ordinary power over all other Churches, and that this power of jurisdiction of the Roman pontiff, which is truly episcopal, is immediate; to which all, of what¬soever rite and dignity, are bound, by their duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, to submit, not only in matters which belong to faith and morals, but also in those that appertain to the discipline and government of the Church throughout the world; so that the Church of Christ may be one flock under one supreme pastor, through the preservation of unity, both of communion and of profession of the same faith, with the Roman pontiff. This is the teaching of Catholic truth, from which no one can deviate without loss of faith and salvation.”
This is an astounding teaching, and one about which most Catholics are abysmally ignorant. Every Catholic must submit to the Pope in his government and discipline of the Church. This is a dogma of the Catholic Church, the denial of which is a heresy and entails loss of salvation.
The Pope’s Juridical Primacy covers the entire “work” of the Church. He is the supreme administrator, legislator, and judge of all the faithful. Pastor Aeternus declares the supreme independence of this power in the following passage:
“And since, by the divine right of Apostolic primacy, one Roman pontiff is placed over the universal Church, We further teach and declare that he is the supreme judge of the faithful, and that in all causes the decision of which belongs to the Church recourse may be had to his tribunal, but that none may reopen the judgment of the Apostolic See, than whose authority there is no greater, nor can any lawfully review its judgment. Wherefore they err from the right path of truth who assert that it is lawful to appeal from the judgments of the Roman pontiffs to an ecumenical council, as to an authority higher than that of the Roman pontiff (Ch. III).”
The Pope’s Juridical Primacy does not convey any right upon the papacy to violate any man’s conscience or to coerce into sin. In order to understand this distinction, we shall look at a specific example — what might be called a “hard case.” We will imagine that I am a bishop, and that the Pope has ordered me to consecrate a man bishop whom I know to be a grave sinner and an actual conspirator against the Church and its mission. It would definitely violate my conscience to consecrate such a man. I certainly have the right, while exercising prudence and due respect, to tell the Pope that he is wrong in this course of action, and to use every just means at my disposal to try to convince him of this fact. Let us further presume that all my efforts in this direction fail and that the Pope remains set on this course of action. He sends me a letter, again ordering me to perform this consecration. Do I have the right to refuse? Yes - simply because, as I have said, the action would do violence to my conscience. Would I have the right to conspire against some other bishop performing this consecration, or refuse to accept the validity of this consecration after its administration? No. Would I have the right to continue to try to bring to the Pope’s attention and that of my brother bishops the conspiratorial activities of the newly consecrated bishop? Yes, as long as the Pope did not order me to silence. If the Pope excommunicated me, would I have the right to continue in my episcopal and priestly work? Absolutely not. This is a difficult conclusion for us, especially as Americans, to swallow. We will explore the reason for this obedience in a later chapter. For now we will simply acknowledge that such obedience is a direct necessity of the Church’s doctrine on the Papal Primacy; and that in accepting this teaching we may he doing violence to our American sense of justice, but we are not in opposition to the teachings or actions of Our Lord Who “delivered himself to him that judged him unjustly (1st Pet 2:23).”
If the above situation and its solution seems somewhat complicated, it is so only in appearance. There is a clear golden thread of Catholic truth running through each decision that must be made in what, admittedly, would be a very wrenching experience for any Catholic. It may be very simply stated: When the Pope judges and binds contrary to what we are doing, we stop what we are doing. If our hypothetical bishop would decide in his own conscience (wrongfully) that it was his duty to continue to exercise his ministry for the good of souls, he would he committing a far greater evil by denying Christ’s will as expressed through the Papal Primacy of Jurisdiction, and thus denying the very nature of the Church and its Divine Constitution. We might assume that such an act would be the fruit either of a terrible presumption, or an equally terrible despair regarding Christ’s promise to be with His Church and His Vicar until the end of time.
Pope Leo XIII, in his encyclical on The Unity of the Church (Satis Cognitum) quotes St. John Chrysostom on the relationship which exists between bishops and the Pope in the Divine Constitution of the Church:
“If the divine benignity willed anything to be in common between him (the Pope) and the other princes (bishops), whatever He did not deny to the others He gave only through him. So that whereas Peter alone received many things, He conferred nothing on any of the rest without Peter participating in it.”
In that same document, Leo XIII comments on the above passage:
“From this it must be clearly understood that bishops are deprived of the right and power of ruling, if they deliberately withdraw from Peter and his successors.... But the episcopal order is rightly judged to be in communion with Peter, as Christ commanded, if it be subject to and obeys Peter.”
In other words, denying Christ and His Church and its Divine Constitution will do little for souls (except involve them in schism, heresy, and sacrilege), even though it might have the short-term appearance of being the Catholic thing to do.
The extraordinarily precise and simple formulations of Pastor Aeternus would seem to preclude any distortion or diminution of the Papal Primacy by those who have had the opportunity to read them. We will see in our further examinations of this subject that, sadly, this is not the case.
The fourth chapter of Pastor Aeternus deals with the second part of Papal Primacy: Papal Infallibility in the teaching of truth. We must begin by mentioning one very important point. The Constitution Pastor Aeternus deals specifically with ex- cathedra definitions of the Pope. Modernists would love to confine Infallibility to just those definitions. The only papal teaching in the entire 20th century which they would be obligated to believe would then be the ex -cathedra definition of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven pronounced by Pope Pius XII in 1950 (of course they do not believe in this dogma -but this defection from the faith on their part would certainly not be hard for them to hide). If this were true – that Papal Infallibility were confined only to extraordinary definitions of the Solemn Magisterium – then such limited exercise of the charism of Infallibility could hardly be said to keep our intellects “secure” in the faith. Fortunately the charism of Infallibility is also present in the Universal Ordinary Magisterium of the Church. In a talk given to the bishops of New York, Oct 15, 1988, Pope John Paul II spoke on the authority of the Ordinary Magisterium:
“This Magisterium is not above the divine word but serves it with a specific “carisma veritatis certum”, which includes the charism of infallibility, present not only in the solemn definitions of the Roman Pontiff and of Ecumenical Councils, but also in the universal ordinary Magisterium (Lumen Gentium 25), which can truly be considered the usual expression of the Church’s infallibility.”
In the above quotation the Pope makes reference to Vatican II’s Dogmatic constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium 25) which states,
“This loyal submission of the will and intellect must be given in a special way, to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he does not speak ex-cathedra in such wise, indeed, that his supreme teaching authority be acknowledged with respect, and that one sincerely adhere to decisions made by him, conformably with his manifest mind and intention, which is made known principally either by the character of the documents in question, or by the frequency with which a certain doctrine is proposed, or by the manner in which the doctrine is formulated.”
Both Pope John Paul II and Vatican II are here speaking of the Pope exercising his teaching office through what is called the universal ordinary magisterium. Such teaching is universal because it is addressed to the entire Church, ordinary because it does not take the form of an ex-cathedra definition or the solemn pronouncements of an Ecumenical Council. Encyclicals, Apostolic Exhortations, and the Wednesday General Audience may all contain teaching which are forms of the universal ordinary magisterium. Their doctrinal teachings are, therefore, forms of what Pope John Paul II says “can truly be considered as the usual expression of the Church’s infallibility.” Infallibility is, of course, something which applies only to teachings concerning faith and morals - to doctrine. There are certainly all kinds of things which concern the Pope in his encyclicals, etc. which are not doctrinal and, therefore, not subject to the criterion of infallibility. Finally, we should recognize that the teaching of both Pope John Paul II and Vatican II regarding the infallibility of the ordinary magisterium is not something new. The following teaching is taken from Vatican Council I’s Dogmatic Constitution Concerning the Catholic Faith:
“Further, by divine and Catholic faith, all those things must be believed which are contained in the written word of God and in tradition, and those which are proposed by the Church, either in a solemn pronouncement or in her ordinary and universal teaching power, to be believed as divinely revealed (Ch. 3).”
Not all teaching concerning doctrine to be found in Encyclicals and other sources of the universal ordinary magisterium are proposed to the faithful as being “divinely revealed.” In fact, we could safely conclude that this is seldom, if ever, the case. The teaching to be found in Encyclicals, for instance, could run the entire gamut from personal opinion to infallible pronouncements. Unquestionably, however, much of the teaching in such documents would require “the loyal submission of the will and intellect” demanded by Vatican Council II, according to the somewhat indefinite conditions laid out in Lumen Gentium, as quoted above. We must also take into consideration the consent to the teachings of Encyclicals demanded by Pope Pius XII in the following passage from his encyclical Humani Generis:
“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 10:16), 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 same Pontiffs, cannot be any longer considered a question open to discussion among theologians.”
It would indeed be very difficult to understand how the Church could bind us to consent and to “loyal submission of the intellect and will” in such matters if they were not guaranteed to be free from error. Christ told Peter that whatever he bound on earth would be bound in Heaven. Certainly, we do not even dare consider that Heaven would bind us, in intellect and will, to error. In other words, we may be able to lay out quite specific conditions which allow us to say that something has been infallibly defined, but there are many other teachings of Popes and the Church which we are to consider infallible, and to which we are to surrender the consent of our intellect and will.
Let us try to summarize. First, when we speak of the Pope exercising his extraordinary office, we are concerned with the charism of infallibility exercised under strict parameters. The pope must be teaching on faith and morals; he must be addressing the universal Church, and must make clear that the teaching which he is proposing is binding on all the faithful, and he must make clear that what he is teaching is divinely revealed. These conditions being met, we are dealing with an infallible definition.
Second, the Pope teaches many things concerning faith and morals in his encyclicals, etc. which are not infallibly defined, but can be consider the usual expression of the Church’s infallible teaching authority. The conditions which are necessary for these teachings to be binding are the following: that they are conformable to the Pope’s mind and will - this being manifested by the nature of the documents, the frequency of repetition, or the manner in which they are stated. To these doctrinal teachings we are bound to submit our intellect and will. And even though the above-mentioned conditions may be somewhat indeterminate, we are certainly obligated to give the benefit of doubt to the binding nature of these teachings. Such would certainly hold, for instance in the case of the Church’s teaching about the intrinsic evil of contraception, or the invalidity of a female priesthood.
Third, there are other Papal teachings which are not binding on our intellects and wills. This may be so because they are not addressed to the universal Church; do not deal directly with doctrine; are expressed as personal opinion; are lacking in clarity as to exact meaning; or because they are isolated instances of teaching, and are not stated frequently. Pope John Paul II has, for instance, made statements in regards to ecumenical principles and actions which certainly are not binding on our minds and wills. The same may be said in regard to certain references he has made to evolutionary theory. It is very unclear what is the actual content of the beliefs behind these statements, or even what consequences these might have in regard to doctrine. He has also taught a great deal on economic and political principles, much of which certainly has little to do with doctrine.
In subsequent chapters we shall have much more to say about these issues.
The Never-Failing Faith of Peter And His Successors
There is one final doctrine which needs examination in our consideration of Vatican I’s Constitution Pastor Aeternus. It is becoming common fare among some who style themselves “traditionalists” to claim that a pope can lose the faith, and in so doing, lose the papacy. Vatican I is so explicit and repetitious in its denial of this error, and in affirming its opposite, that we will be faithful to its spirit by quoting each of the relevant passages:
“For the Fathers of the Fourth Council of Constantinople, following in the footsteps of their predecessors, gave forth this solemn profession: The first condition of salvation is to keep the rule of the true faith. And because the sentence of our Lord Jesus Christ cannot be passed by, Who said, ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church’, these things which have been said are proved by events, because in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has always been kept undefiled, and her well-known doctrine has been kept holy. (We must keep this teaching in mind when we come to study its denial by those who, for whatever personal agenda, seek to prove that such Popes as Liberius and Honorius were heretics).
A second passage from Pastor Aeternus:
“For the Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter, that by His revelation they might make known new doctrine, but that by His assistance they might inviolably keep and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith delivered through the Apostles. And indeed all the venerable Fathers have embraced and the holy orthodox Doctors have venerated and followed their apostolic doctrine; knowing most fully that this See of Saint Peter remains ever free from all blemish of error, according to the divine promise of the Lord Our Saviour made to the Prince of His disciples: ‘I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not; and thou being once converted, confirm thy brethren.’”
It is worth noting here that there exists within part of the “Traditionalist” movement a whole repertoire of oft-repeated and parroted arguments which seek to justify the claim that a Pope can lose his faith. One of the most frequently used is the first sentence of the above quote, which states:
“For the Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter, that by His revelation they might make known new doctrine, but that by His assistance they might inviolably keep and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith delivered through the Apostles.”
Taken out of the context of the entire paragraph quoted above, and then placed into the context of the polemics used by certain “extremists”, this sentence can easily be made to appear to justify the notion that a given Pope can defy the workings of the Holy Spirit and become a heretic. But if we read this sentence in the full doctrine contained in the paragraph of which it is an integral part, then we can easily see that it means just the opposite: namely, “…that this See of Saint Peter remains ever free from all blemish of error, according to the divine promise of the Lord Our Saviour made to the Prince of His disciples: ‘I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not; and being once converted confirm they brethren.’” In other words, the Holy Spirit was promised and given to Peter and his successors to insure not only that the Pope will make no errors in the exercise of his infallible teaching office, but also to insure that he would not personally lose the faith. The infallibility of the “See of Saint Peter”, although not necessarily guaranteeing that the Pope cannot make a mistake in his personal opinions (we shall discuss this issue more fully in our examination of the case of Pope John XXII), is therefore inherently linked to the never-failing faith of Peter as a simple person. The Pope, in other words, cannot be or become a formal heretic or “one who has lost the faith.” Jesus said, “I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not.” It should not be necessary to point out that He did not pray for some sort of Office distinct or separate from Peter, but for the man himself.
Finally, one more quote from Pastor Aeternus:
“This gift, then, of truth and never-failing faith was conferred by Heaven upon Peter and his successors in this Chair, that they might perform their high office for the salvation of all; that the flock of Christ, kept away by them from the poisonous food of error, might be nourished with the pasture of heavenly doctrine; that, the occasion of schism being removed, the whole Church might be kept one, and resting in its foundation, might stand firm against the gates of hell.”
All of the above quotations are taken from Chapter IV of the First Dogmatic Constitution of the Church of Christ. It is extremely important to understand that those who attempt to contradict this doctrinal teaching, even if they do so by quoting statements made in the past by famous men, theologians, saints, or even the private and non-universal teaching of a Pope, are promoting and teaching a heresy. It has been said that all the early Church Fathers were guilty of teaching at least one objective heresy (with the possible exception of St. Irenaeus). St. Thomas Aquinas was confused regarding the truth concerning the Immaculate Conception. Most of these men, however, were not guilty of the sin of heresy simply because they taught falsely before the Church had officially defined these truths. This would also be the case for those who taught that a reigning pope might lose the faith, if they did so before the Church had defined its teaching in the First Vatican Council. Those who do so now, however, have no such excuse and are clearly promoting a well-defined heresy.
POPE PIUS XI AND QUARTUS SUPRA
It certainly is true that, historically speaking, most of those people who have been seduced into following heresies and schisms, have done so without a very clear idea or conviction as to exactly what doctrine or doctrines they are denying.. The same, I think, may be said of most traditionalists who have denied truths concerning the Papacy. They tend to have embraced the idea that the only time a Catholic is strictly obliged to obey the Pope is when he defines something ex cathedra. For the rest, they sort of place themselves behind a nebulous confusion of ideas which tell them that they can, under a great variety of conditions all of which are dependent on their own subjective judgment, disobey the Pope. They huddle, in other words, behind a conscious or unconscious denial of the doctrine of the Papal Primacy of Jurisdiction as defined by Vatican I.
Pastor Aeternus was ratified by Pope Pius IX and promulgated in Rome on July 18, 1870. If there is any question as to interpretation of the Council’s document it is to this Pope and his teaching that we must first refer. Fortunately, Pope Pius IX has, with the possible exception of Pope Leo XIII and his encyclical Satis Cognitu, written an encyclical which offers us the most detailed examination of both the submission which must be given to Papal acts of governance and, on the other hand, a profound analysis of the distortions and deceptions of those who would attempt to deny this Primacy.
The encyclical Quartus Supra, addressed to the Church in Armenia, was written 2½ years after Pastor Aeternus. Its subject is the schism which had arisen 3 years previously among the Armenians in Constantinople and was now threatening the Church in Armenia. The Pope states, “The beginnings of this new schism were, as is usually the case, complicated by many contributory factors.” It is not, however, these “contributory factors” which are of primary concern either to the Pope or to us. The determining factor in the schism is that they had defied the Pope in his discipline and government of the Armenian Rite Church. They had driven the legitimate Patriarch from his See, installed a false patriarch, and sacrilegiously consecrated a bishop.
In analyzing this schism Pius IX declares, “The chief deceit used to conceal the new schism is the name of ‘Catholic’. The originators and adherents of the schism presumptuously lay claim to the name despite their condemnation by Our authority and judgment. It has always been the custom of heretics and schismatics to call themselves Catholics and to proclaim their many excellencies in order to lead peoples and princes into error.” The Pope says that these same schismatics have even published a declaration of faith to prove that they are Catholic, but concludes, “However, it has never been possible to prove oneself a Catholic by affirming those statements of the faith which one accepts and keeping silence on those doctrines which one decides not to profess.” Of course, the doctrine which the schismatics had “decided not to profess” is the Papal Primacy of Jurisdiction.
The Pope then proceeds to examine the traditional teaching of the Church regarding the Pope’s authority and concludes with the following statement: “All these traditions dictate that whoever the Roman Pontiff judges to be a schismatic for not expressly admitting and reverencing his power must stop calling himself Catholic.” The Holy Father continues:
“Since this does not please the neo-schismatics, they follow the example of heretics of more recent times. [and this is the primary argument of the Lefebvrites in their denial that Archbishop Lefebvre has actually incurred the sentence of excommunication and declaration of schism]. They argue that the sentence of schism and excommunication pronounced against them by the Archbishop of Tyana, the Apostolic Delegate in Constantinople, was unjust, and consequently void of strength and influence. They have claimed also that they are unable to accept the sentence because the faithful might desert to the heretics if deprived of their ministration . . . The Jansenist heretics dared to teach such doctrines as that an excommunication pronounced by a lawful prelate could be ignored on a pretext of injustice. Each person should perform, as they said, his own particular duty despite an excommunication. Our predecessor of happy memory Clement XI in his constitution Unigenitus against the errors of Quesnell forbade and condemned statements of this kind . . . Through human weakness a person could be unjustly punished with censure by his prelate. But it is still necessary, as Our predecessor St. Gregory the Great warned, ‘for a bishop’s subordinates to fear even an unjust condemnation and not to blame the judgment of the bishop rashly in case the fault which did not exist, since the condemnation was unjust, develops out of the pride of heated reproof.’ But if one should be afraid even of an unjust condemnation by one’s bishop, what must be said of those men who have been condemned for rebelling against their bishop and the Apostolic See and tearing to pieces as they are now doing by a new schism the seamless garment of Christ, which is the Church?”
We see clearly, therefore, that no person has the right to continue his “duty” within the Catholic Church if he has been excommunicated. The constitution Unigenitus (mentioned by Pope Pius IX in the above quotation) contains three Jansenist propositions condemned by Pope Clement XI which relate directly to this subject. We will relate only one of these errors: (#91)”The fear of an unjust excommunication should never hinder us from fulfilling our duty; never are we separated from the Church, even when by the wickedness of men we seem to be expelled from it, as long as we are attached to God, to Jesus Christ, and to the Church herself by charity.” There can not, of course, be either charity or union with the Church and with Christ where there is rebellion against the Pope. Interestingly enough, all of these can remain intact for a person who might he unjustly excommunicated by a bishop, and obeys the provisions of this excommunication while trying to prove his innocence. This is the teaching of Pope Innocent III, which can be examined in the article on “Excommunication” in the Catholic Encyclopedia, 1909 or 1913 edition.
Pope Pius IX makes one more very important point in his encyclical Quartus Supra:
“But the neo-schismatics have gone further, since ‘every schism fabricates a heresy for itself to justify its withdrawal from the Church.’ Indeed they have even accused this Apostolic See as well, as if We had exceeded the limits of Our power in commanding that certain points of discipline were to be observed in the Patriarchate of Armenia. Nor can the Eastern Churches preserve communion and unity of faith with Us without being subject to the Apostolic power in matters of discipline. Teaching of this kind is heretical, and not just since the definition of the power and nature of the papal primacy was determined by the ecumenical Vatican Council: the Catholic Church has always considered it such and abhorred it.”
All this is, of course, simply a complicated way (necessitated by the deceits of those who oppose the simple truth) of saying what Christ said to Peter: “Whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth shall be loosed in heaven.” In his encyclical Satis Cognitum, Pope Leo XIII examines this same passage of scripture:
“This metaphorical expression of binding and loosing indicates the power of making laws, of judging, and of punishing; and the power is said to be of such extent and force that God will ratify whatever is decreed by it. Therefore it is supreme and absolutely independent, so that, having no other power on earth as its superior, it embraces the whole Church and all things entrusted to the Church.”
We have endeavored in the first part of this book to very carefully delineate the Church’s teaching on the Papal Primacy, especially as that Primacy relates to the government and discipline of the Church (Primacy of Jurisdiction). Unquestionably, as we have already mentioned, this teaching runs counter to much of our culture, and possibly, therefore, to ideas and values which have formed our own consciences and habits of thinking. Simply stated, we have an enormously hard time believing that we could ever be obliged to submit ourselves to something that we do not understand or that we know to he unjust. Yet this is precisely what Christ did. As I have said, the bare truth concerning this obligation which binds our minds and wills is very hard to swallow. There is, however, a “heart” – a Mystery of Catholic Charity – to this teaching which, when properly understood, might lead us to a deep love of this catholic truth, which is so intimately related to the Cross of Jesus Christ. This love and this Mystery will be the subject of Part II.
Papal Primacy and the Mystery of Catholic Charity
In the first part of this book we have examined the Papal Primacy as an institution established by Christ to “secure us in the unity of faith and communion.” For the most part we have, up to this point, considered charity as obedience and submission to the Will of God as expressed through Papal government and discipline of the Church. Christ said, “If you love me, keep my commandment (Jn 14:15)”, and it is most common for us to think of this as obeying the prescripts of the law. However, Christ sacrificed Himself on the Cross and rose again from the dead in order that His Holy Spirit might come to dwell within us and that we might be enabled to live His Charity. For this reason it is necessary that we possess not only the charity of obedience and submission, but also the charity of a sacrificial love. Jesus teaches two great commandments: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength”, and “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Both of these require a sacrificial love since neither comes easy to the heart and mind of man vitiated by original sin.
This is an absolutely essential part of our Faith. Christ requires that our relationship to Him, to His Church, and His Vicar be not of mere assent, but of passion – with whole heart, whole soul, whole mind, whole strength. These commands are given not just to the apostles, priests, or religious, but to everyone. Christ saves the most repulsive image in the New Testament – “I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth” – for the lukewarm. Is this not a perfect description of what has happened since Vatican II? If thousands of priests and nuns, who have abandoned their vocations, had retained their “first love” (Apoc 2:4) before Vatican II, would they have lost it after the Council? If the laity would have possessed this passion before 1965 would they have started using birth control, abandoned their children to the atheistic public school system, or denied the existence of purgatory after the Council? Had they truly loved the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass would they have acquiesced and been drawn into the desecration of the liturgy which is so much standard fare in many parishes, or participated in the turning of the Mass against the Pope in rebellion and schism, as have the Lefebvrites and others who have, in one form or another, denied the divine prerogatives of the Papacy? Without doubt, many members of the hierarchy have much to account for in either actively or passively fostering the devastation which has occurred within the Church. I believe, however, that the real source of this devastation lies not in the hierarchy but in a deep spiritual malaise which has been infecting the hearts and minds of Catholics for centuries, depriving them of their “first love.”
I would like to begin our exploration into the nature of this love by first turning to a prophet in the Old Testament who is, I believe, the most Christ-like figure under the Old Covenant. Daniel is called by God “thou man of desires” (Dan 10:11) because of his great passion for God and His Holy Will. It is Daniel, in fact, who proclaims to God, “for there is no confusion to them that trust in thee (Dan 3:40).” The following are also his words, spoken from a state of exile and suffering in Babylon:
“And I prayed to the Lord my God, and I made my confession, and said: I beseech thee, 0 Lord God, great and terrible, who keepest the covenant, and mercy to them that love thee, and keep thy commandments. We have sinned, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly, and have revolted: and we have gone aside from thy commandments, and thy judgments (Dan 9:4-5).”
It is in the nature of sanctity – and Daniel most surely was the holiest Israelite of his age – to plumb the depths of that “super¬natural solidarity” which exists among men. It is a great mystery. Adam sinned, and all men died. Christ “became sin” in order to re¬deem all men from sin. And Daniel, being fully aware of the sin of the leaders of Israel (Dan 9:8), never says they, but instead we have sinned. This solidarity which existed even among the chosen people was only a weak foreshadowing of that which was to come to fulfill¬ment in the Mystical Body of Christ. It is to Christ’s teaching that we must turn for an understanding of this great mystery.
Our Lord’s great discourse concerning the mystery of this sacrificial love both for and within the Church is to be found in chapters 13-17 of the Gospel according to St. John. It is no accident that these chapters surround Christ’s offering of the first Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Our Lord was teaching His disciples the meaning of the Mass.
Christ instituted the Church to bring salvation to all nations: “Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (Mt 28:19).” The central truth which Christ teaches throughout John 13-17 is that the Vine will only bear fruit, the Church will only convert the nations, to the extent that those within live the sacrificial love of Christ for one another.
At the end of the Last Supper Christ laid aside His garments, girded Himself, and washed his disciples’ feet. He became a servant, a slave. Our Lord then says, “If then I being your Lord and Master have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” These words echo similar ones in St. Matthew: “And he that will be first among you, shall be your servant. Even as the Son of man is not come to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life as a redemption for many (Mt 20:27-28).” For this reason one of the Pope’s titles is “Servant of the Servants of God.” It is also in John 13 that Christ offers us His “new commandment”: “A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples.” The early Christians were to be recognized “by the love they bore for one another.”
It is not, however, only discipleship which is the goal of this love, but also friendship with Christ and the fruitfulness that can only come from that friendship:
“This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you.Greater love than this no man hath, that he lay down his life for his friends.You are my friends, if you do the things that I command you. I will not now call you servants: for the servant knoweth not what his lord doth. But I have called you friends: because all things whatsoever I have heard of my Father, I have made known to you. You have not chosen me: but I have chosen you; and have appointed you, that you should go, and should bring forth fruit; and your fruit should remain: that whatsoever you shall ask in my name, he may give it you. These things I command you, that you love one another (John 15:12-17).”
It is important for us to understand how necessary this “fruitfulness” is to our salvation:
“I am the true vine; and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me, that beareth not fruit, he will take away: and every one that beareth fruit, he will purge it, that it may bring forth more fruit....I am the vine; you the branches; he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing. If any one abide not in me, he shall be cast forth as a branch, and shall whither, and they shall gather him up, and cast him into the fire, and he burneth (Jn 15:1-6).”
The heart of Christ’s last discourse is to be found in chapter 17. Here Christ reveals that the great purpose of this sacrificial love is to achieve that unity in His Mystical Body which will enable Christ and His Church to convert the nations. He does so in prayer to His Father:
“And not for them (the apostles) only do I pray, but for them
also who through their word shall believe in me;That they all may he one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in
thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may
believe that thou hast sent me.And the glory which thou hast given me, I have given to them; that they may be one, as we also are one:I in them, and thou in me; that they may be made perfect in one; and the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast also loved me (Jn 17:20—23).”
The message is extraordinarily simple, but rich. It is also extraordinarily unaccomplished. Less than 20% of the world “know” that Christ is the Son of God and established the Catholic Church to bring all men to salvation. This situation is not due to any failure on the part of Christ. Nor is it due primarily to any failure in the Church hierarchy. St. Gregory the Great wrote, “Divine Justice provides shepherds according to the just desserts of the faithful.” If the Mystical Body of Christ is suffering from within (and it surely is) then this is due essentially to the state of our love for God, the Church, and one another.
The one essential thing necessary for the recovery of this love is to realize that, in St. Paul’s words, “we are members one of another (Eph 4:25).”, that in being members’ of Christ’s Catholic Church “we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones (Eph 5:30).” In another passage, St. Paul prays for the grace for each of us to be able to suffer for one another and the Church:
“That there might be no schism in the body; but the members might be mutually careful one for another.And if one member suffer any thing, all the members suffer with it; or if one member glory, all the members rejoice with it.Now you are the body of Christ, and members of member ( 1Cor 12:25-27).”
There is certainly no member of the Mystical Body more worthy and more needful of our suffering love than he who is the Rock upon the Church is built. On Nov 18, 1912, Pope St. Pius X addressed an allocution to the members of the Apostolic Union. His subject was “Love for the Pope”:
“To love the Pope, it is sufficient to reflect who he is. The Pope is the guardian of dogma and morals; he is the depository of the principles which ensure. the integrity of the family, the grandeur of nations, the sanctity of souls. He is the councilor of princes and peoples; he is the chief under whose sway none feels tyrannized, because he represents God Himself. He is par excellence the father who unites in himself all that is loving, tender and divine. It seems incredible, and yet it is a sad fact, that there are priests to whom this recommendation must be made, but We are nonetheless in Our times under the hard, the unhappy necessity to say to priests: Love the Pope!
“And how must the Pope be loved? Not in word alone, but in deed and truth. When we love someone, we seek to conform ourselves in everything to his thoughts, to execute his will, to interpret his desires. And if Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself said, ‘If anyone love me, he will keep my word,’ to show our love for the Pope we must obey him.
“And this is why, when we love the Pope, we do not dispute whether he commands or requires a thing, or seek to know where the strict obligation of obedience lies, or in what matter we must obey; when we love the Pope we do not say that he has not yet spoken clearly - as if he were required to speak his will in every man’s ear, and to utter it not only by word of mouth but in letters and other public documents as well. Nor do we cast doubt on his orders, alleging the pretext which comes easily to the man who does not want to obey, that it is not the Pope who is commanding, but some one in his entourage. We do not limit the field in which he can and ought to exercise his authority; we do not oppose to the Pope’s authority that of other persons -no matter how learned - who differ from the Pope. For whatever may be their learning, they are not holy, for where there is holiness there cannot be disagreement with the Pope.”
Pope Pius X was a very humble man. He was the first Pope to he canonized in almost 350 years (Pope Pius V, who died in 1572, being the last). He certainly did not speak and write such words for any hope of his own self-aggrandizement. If he has spoken what appear to us to be extraordinary words about the depth of love which we are to have for the Pope - “seek to conform ourselves in everything to his thoughts, to execute his will, to interpret his desires” – then it is for the salvation of souls and the triumph of the Church that he does so.
There is very little question that this love for the Pope and the Church has been virtually lost among Catholics. There certainly are many thousands of people who flock to see and hear John Paul II, and there certainly is something genuine in their feelings of admiration and awe for him. But how many of these thousands believe it is alright to use artificial birth control? How many place their trust in him and in the Church more than in the world? How many know that the United States is doomed to either anarchy or tyranny unless it be converted to the Catholic Church and submit to the spiritual rule of the Pope? There is no doubt that modernism and liberalism have taken their toll among the vast majority of Catholics. They have simply “left their first charity (Apoc 2:4).”
There is another side to this lost charity. It resides among those who claim adherence to traditional Catholicism – not only the followers of Archbishops Lefebvre or others who are in open rebellion against the Pope, but also among many who are simply deeply hurt and bitter over the “reform” of Vatican II. It is certainly permissible to believe that the Papacy is suffering a crisis (we will be discussing this is more fully in Part IV), and that the Pope is doing some things, or even many things, that are not good for the Church. But it is not permissible to allow the frustrations associated with such a belief to drive one into a denial of charity towards the Pope, a phenomenon which almost inevitably leads to a denial of Papal prerogatives, and eventually to heresy and schism.
This loss of charity is especially evident in conversations of some traditionalists. Most often it takes the form of what might be called “hierarchy gossip” — detailing the latest sins of notoriously liberal bishops, the inaction of other bishops in the face of obvious evil, the duplicity of some member of the Curia, the latest scandal on the Pope’s ecumenical activities. There is an attitude, a spiritual orientation, which is central to this loss of charity. It is best expressed in the words, “They have sinned against us, they have taken the Mass away from us.” And while there certainly is often a great deal of truth to such assertion, it is equally true that such preoccupation with the sins of the hierarchy have constituted the slippery slope which has led many into schism.
It is certainly praiseworthy to work for both the right to have the Traditional Latin Mass, and for its widespread availability. It is also permissible to believe that it is a superior form of the Mass, and that the restoration of the Catholic Church is intimately linked with the restoration of this Mass. At the same time, we must realize that the Traditional Latin Mass has been the rallying point for those who have defied the Pope to the point of excommunication and schism. We must examine the Church’s teaching, especially as found in St. Thomas, in order to understand that their actions constitute not only a rejection of the Papal Primacy and the Church, but also of the reality of the Mass itself.
In the aftermath of Vatican II and the promulgation of the New Rite of the Mass,the Traditional Latin Mass became the rallying point for those who, like Archbishop Lefebvre, stated that the Pope was denying tradition, had separated himself from the Magisterium, and had become an antichrist. In other words, there came into being a whole “traditionalist culture” much of which was ready to defy Papal governance in order to “have” the Traditional Mass. And, of course, there are also those various forms of sedevacantism which simply believe, for one reason or another, that the Chair of Peter is empty. Usually (but not always), this belief that the Chair of Peter is empty is taken to extend through the last four Papacies.
On the other hand, there has always existed in this “traditionalist culture” many other persons who definitely do not believe that devotion towards the Latin Mass (and adherence to the teachings of previous Popes in regard to such things as the Social Kingship of Christ, false ecumenism, the historical inerrancy of scripture, etc.) can be carried so far as to deny Papal government and discipline of the Church. Nor do they allow the fact of the reality of Papal error (in non-infallible pronouncements and actions) to carry them to the extreme position of declaring that a Pope is a heretic or has lost his Catholic Faith. While feeling justified in struggling for the return of the Latin Mass, and also justified in respectfully criticizing the Pope’s errors, they remain subject to the divinely constituted parameters of Catholic doctrine concerning the Papacy. They remain “suffering servants”, united to the Church of Christ founded upon the Rock of the Papacy.
There has always been a tendency within the Traditionalist movement to try to “paste over” these profound differences, and to focus instead on common adherence to the idea that “It is the Mass that matters.” If, however, we examine traditional Catholic teaching regarding the meaning of the Mass, it becomes starkly evident that it is the “reality” of the Mass itself which is under attack by those Traditionalists who have chosen the path of division and denial of Papal prerogatives.
St. Thomas teaches that “the reality of the sacrament (Eucharist) is the unity of the mystical body without which there can be no salvation (III, Q.3, A.3).” He quotes St. Paul’s words, “For we, being many, are one bread, one body, all that partake of one bread (1st Cor 10:17)”, and he further comments, “from this it is clear that the Eucharist is the sacrament of the Church’s unity (A.2).” Since the Pope is the foundation and the determiner of this unity, it is a denial of “the reality of the sacrament” to offer or participate in a Mass which is offered in disobedience to the Pope’s regulation of the liturgy. This is why the offering of Mass by an excommunicated bishop or priest has always been considered a sacrilege.
The question which St. Thomas actually sets out to answer in III Q.3 is: “Whether the Eucharist is necessary for salvation?” His answer is clear: the sacrament itself is not necessary for salvation, but the reality it contains (the unity of the Mystical Body) is absolutely essential for salvation. St. Thomas offers several arguments to justify this position, possibly the easiest for our understanding being taken from St. Augustine:
“As St. Augustine says (explaining John 6:54), ‘This food and this drink, namely, of His flesh and blood, He would have us understand the fellowship of His body and members, which is the Church in His predestinated and called, and justified, and glorified, His holy and believing ones.’ Hence, as he says in his epistle to Boniface: ‘No one should entertain the slightest doubt, that then every one of the faithful becomes a partaker of the body and blood of Christ, when in Baptism he is made a member of Christ’s body nor is he deprived of his share in that body and chalice even though he depart from this world in the unity of Christ’s body, before he eats that bread and drinks of that chalice.”
There is a very essential point to be made here. “Having” the Old Mass, the New Mass, or any other Mass is not intrinsically necessary for salvation. Being in union with the Church and subject to the Roman Pontiff is necessary for salvation. The Mass is the “great Gift of God.” We must realize, however, that if we place any gift above His Will we are guilty of committing an act of idolatry. God exercises his dominion over the Mass through Papal government and discipline. He may take away one form of it and give us a less perfect form. He may at some subsequent date give us back the more perfect form. He may, if He so wills, take It away altogether. He can do all this without our cooperation or assent. He will not take us away from the Church and our salvation without our cooperation.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was instituted by Christ to be the very center and heart of the Church’s unity – that action of the whole Church wherein the infinite sacrifice of Christ is united with the individual sacrificial love of each of the faithful, and perfects it. It is the Mass, therefore, which Christ instituted to be the source of that charity and integrated Christian living by which the Church would possess the power to convert the nations. Fr Dennis Fahey has possibly said it best:
“Every member of Christ by his assistance at Mass declares his readiness to stand for the integral programme of the Rights of God, for which the Head of the Mystical Body suffered death. Christ’s members are meant to belong to Him entirely. They ought to come forth from Mass determined to maintain harmony between the submission to God the Father they have expressed in the Holy Sacrifice and their individual lives. They should he resolved, under the leadership of Christ the King, to permeate the whole social life of the State and country political and economic, with the spirit of the Mystical Body, so that it may not only not hamper their efforts and the efforts of their fellow-members to live their daily lives as members of Christ, but may favour them. All Catholics, are, by the fact of their membership in Christ, whole-time Christians, and should be intimately convinced of their solidarity with Christ and with their fellow-members of His Mystical Body in the really vital struggle that is going on in the world . . . Our Lord will pour His Life into souls in Holy Communion, in proportion as they are thus one with Him in mind and will, for progress in personal sanctification or growth in holiness is simply the development of the spirit of the Mystical Body (Mystical Body of Christ and the Reorganization of Society, p. 115-17).”
He who denies the Pope in his power of regulation of the liturgy is simply destroying all this. He prevents his own sanctification, scandalizes and vitiates the work of the Church for the conversion of nations, and commits sacrilege against the very Blessed Sacrament which he claims to defend.
We might also conjecture: that since the “Old Mass” was and is a more perfect expression of the Kingship of Christ over man and society; and since western man (at least) has for hundreds of years been increasingly denying this Kingship either through outright rejection of the Church or by attempting to serve both God and the world; and since God, in His Mercy, can only allow man to go so far in his abuse of His Kingship – therefore, Christ directed His Church and His Vicar, by the Holy Spirit, to take away the Old and give us the New Mass. The New certainly allows much more freedom, and sometimes freedom is the last and best chastisement God has to offer to man in order to bring him to his knees.
Catholic Charity and Obedience
We have previously mentioned the extraordinary ignorance on the part of most Catholics in regards to the dogma of Papal Primacy in the government and discipline of the Church. This is an ignorance which long pre-dates Vatican Council II. Catholics have certainly been aware of the fact that the Pope was the governing head of the Church. This awareness did not extend, however, to the fact that it is a dogma of our faith that all Catholics must submit to the Pope in his decisions concerning the government and discipline of the Church. I have yet to find an adequate treatment of this doctrine in
a pre-conciliar catechism.
There is a reason for this ignorance. It lies in a terrible loss of the truly Catholic sense of obedience, and in a correspond¬ing failure to understand the relationship of obedience to the uniquely Catholic concept of charity within the Mystical Body of Christ. The following quotation from one of St. Peter’s Letters will help us to rediscover this relationship:
“Be ye subject therefore to every human creature for God’s sake: whether it be to the king as excelling; Or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of the good: For so is the will of God, that by doing well you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not as making liberty a cloak for malice, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy, if for conscience towards God, a man endures sorrows, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if committing sin, and being buffeted for it, you endure? But if doing well you suffer patiently, this is thankworthy before God. For unto this are you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow his steps. Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. Who, when he was reviled, did not revile: when he suffered, he threatened not: but delivered himself to him that judged him unjustly (1st Pet 2:13-23).”
St. Peter instructs us, “For unto this you are called.” Unto what? To submission, to obedience and even slavery. Further, this obedience and patient suffering is to be rendered not only to the just master but also to the “froward” and the unjust. We need to seriously meditate on this passage of scripture to understand how foreign it is to our way of thinking. As Americans we need to understand that our country is founded upon a principle which is almost the perfect negation of Peter’s teaching:
“That to secure these rights (Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness), Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; That whenever any Form of government becomes destructive of these ends it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it . . .” (Declaration of Independence)
The right to reject any act of government or discipline, which we subjectively believe to be unjust, is deeply imbedded in our consciences.
It was not in Christ’s conscience. He was the first to practice this apparently unreasonable obedience, and we must follow and imitate Him if we are to merit salvation. The above passage from St. Peter also explains the reason why we must do so: this patient, obedient, and unearned suffering is “thankworthy before God.” The Greek word translated in the Douay-Rheims as “thankworthy” is none other than “charis” - the word used throughout the New Testament for “grace”. In other words, our obedience, and the suffering which it might entail, is “grace” before God.
Now, let us apply this truly Catholic sense of obedience to the question of Papal Primacy. We are instructed by the Constitution Pastor Aeternus that we must submit to the Pope in all matters pertaining to his discipline and government of the Church. We know that the Pope is neither infallible nor impeccable in such matters. He can do things in his rule of the Church that are neither wise nor prudent. Vatican Council I tells us that it is still God’s will that we submit to his government and discipline. As an example, let us suppose that I am absolutely sure that God wants me to establish a Religious Order or some other “work” for the salvation of souls. I may even believe, as did Archbishop Lefebvre, that this “work” is necessary for the salvation of the whole Church. Let us also suppose that the Pope refuses permission for me to establish this order or work. In such a case, even if the Pope was manifestly wrong in the eyes of many experts, I am called upon By God and our Faith to obey and to suffer patiently, for this is “thankworthy before God.” If I choose to disobey, then I am simply asserting the primacy of my works over the Cross and the hidden workings of God’s grace.
We have reached a point in our discussion of the Catholic concept of obedience where it becomes obvious that the demands of our faith run absolutely counter to what might be called the “religion” of our culture. The Catholic truth regarding the virtue and necessity of obedience may be stated in the following manner:
For a Catholic, the demands of supernatural charity, according to the Will of God, can supersede the demands of natural justice and natural reason.
Christ’s offering of Himself on the Cross defies all natural justice and reason. It makes no rational sense to us that the Infinitely Good God should suffer infinite pain for man who is nothing in himself. Christ’s obedience to the Cross is an act of supernatural charity which supersedes natural justice and reason, while at the same time satisfying supernatural justice. We also are called to this same “unreasonable” obedience and charity: “For unto this are you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow his steps (1st Pet 2:21).”
We are used to thinking of the Papacy as something which guarantees truth in Christ’s Church. And so it is. Equally important, however, is the fact that Christ established His Church on the Rock of the Papacy in order to guarantee charity and the continual flow of reparative grace within His Mystical Body. This “charity through obedience” is not an option. It is a demand of our faith. The dogma of the Papal Primacy locks us into a sacrificially obedient love towards the Papacy in much the same way as marriage locks spouses into a sacrificial relationship to one another and to the sacrament which they have received. We have previously quoted St. Gregory’s statement, “Divine Justice provides shepherds according to the just desserts of the faithful.” We may now look at this statement in a deeper light. Bad shepherds are not just a punishment. They are a wound in our own Body which requires the reparative grace of our suffering charity. They are a specific call from God for an increase in this charity.
It is therefore astonishing, in any real “Catholic sense”, that this moment in history which is characterized by so many poor shepherds has called forth from many who are most ready to call themselves traditional Catholics, not reparation and suffering obedience in imitation of Christ, but reviling and rebellion in imitation of he who hates the cross of Christ. It simply is not true that we are faced with only two choices – either to fight them or join them in their errors. Christ did neither of these. He chose a third way, the way of the Cross. Nor does this mean that we are forced to surrender ourselves to the pervasive influence of Modernism within most dioceses. The family and its divinely mandated authority for the rearing of children is prior to any diocesan authority. We have the perfect right and obligation to protect our children from the errors of priests or bishops.
The rebellion against the Papal Primacy of Jurisdiction is possibly the most insidious fruit of Liberalism. It is a revolution so pervasive that it unites and spans the distance between a Hans Kung and an Archbishop Lefebvre. It denies the Church of its very life-blood, of that grace produced by suffering, obedient love which is necessary for the fulfillment of Christ’s mission for the Church: the conversion of the nations. If there is anything that appears most striking about the Church at this moment in history, it is its apparent weakness. The Church seems drained of power. Priests have no power to resist the temptations of the world. The Pope seems to have no power over bishops, clergy, or religious. The Catholic man or woman in the world has no power to defend his or her faith against either militant secularism or Fundamentalism. Catholic “works” without a Catholic “Heart” is impossible. Faith without works is dead. We have become impotent because we have become independent. We must pray for the grace to return to the “first love” and “first works” which is the Cross of Christ, and, the “power” that overcomes the world.
Forms of Decay:
An Exploration Into Principle Attacks Upon The Papacy
THE LEFEBVRITE SCHISM
“Every schism fabricates a heresy for itself to justify its withdrawal from the Church”
(Pius IX, Quartus Supra)
On June 30, 1988, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, against the clearly expressed order of Pope John Paul II not to do so, consecrated four bishops for the expressed purpose of being able to carry on the work of his Society ( which is called by its members “The Society of St. Pius X” – a name which I will refuse to use, for reasons which should be obvious after reading the allocution by Pope Pius X quoted earlier). This act of the Archbishop immediately incurred for him, and the four bishops just consecrated, automatic excommunication from the Catholic Church under canon 1382 of the Catholic Code of Canon Law and a declaration of schism under canon 1364.
On July 2, 1988, The Pope confirmed that the Archbishop was indeed excommunicated and in schism. The Pope issued the Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei (to be found in its entirety at the end of this section) which states:
“In itself this act was one of disobedience to the Roman Pontiff in a very grave matter and of supreme importance for the unity of the Church, such as is the ordinations of bishops whereby the apostolic succession is sacramentally perpetuated. Hence such disobedience - which implies in practice the rejection of the Roman Primacy - constitutes a schismatic act.”
It has always been the contention of Archbishop Lefebvre and his followers that the SSPX is not in schism because there was no intention on the part of the Archbishop or the members of his Society to set up a parallel Church separate from Rome, or to reject “the authority of the Pope to command.” It is part of their oft-repeated polemic that such an intention is necessary for anyone to be in schism. Such reasoning, of course, is absolutely contrary to the teaching of Pope Pius IX in Quartus Supra (the reader might refer back to page 25 for a the Pope’s elaboration on this statement) that “All these traditions dictate that whoever the Roman Pontiff judges to be a schismatic for not expressly admitting and reverencing his power must stop calling himself Catholic.” This teaching of Pius IX is embodied in the following passage from the article on Schism in the 1912 Catholic Encyclopedia:
“Some theologians distinguish ‘active’ from ‘passive’ schism. By the former they understand detaching oneself deliberately from the body of the Church, freely renouncing the right to form a part of it. They call passive schism the condition of those whom the Church herself rejects from her bosom by excommunication, inasmuch as they undergo this separation whether they will or no, having deserved it.”
The latter (passive schism) is definitely the case with the SSPX. What is more, this “passive schism” is profoundly rooted in an act which, in the Pope’s own words, “implies in practice the rejection of the Roman Primacy.” This act is constituted by the rejection of Papal authority “in a very grave matter and of supreme importance for the unity of the Church, such as is the ordinations of bishops whereby the apostolic succession is sacramentally perpetuated.” In other words, no matter what protestations Archbishop Lefebvre and his followers may make about being subject to the Pope and accepting his Primacy, this subjection is not in accord with Catholic doctrine regarding the Primacy, nor in accord with the duty of all Catholics towards the Pope’s authority. The schism of the SSPX also, therefore, necessarily involves a heresy: the rejection of the Church’s doctrine concerning the Papal primacy. As we have seen in Quartus Supra, this is in full accord with the teaching of Pius IX that “Every schism fabricates a heresy for itself to justify its withdrawal from the Church.” And, again, this teaching is also in full accord with that of the Catholic Encyclopedia:
“But as St. Jerome remarks, practically and historically, heresy and schism nearly always go hand in hand; schism leads almost invariably to denial of the papal primacy. Schism, therefore, is usually mixed [a mixture of schism and heresy], in which case, considered from a moral standpoint, its perversity is chiefly due to the heresy which forms part of it.”
The SSPX, in other words, while claiming nominal belief in, and subjection to, the Papal Primacy, denies the substance of its doctrine. Their intention of accepting the authority of the Pope is therefore vacuous.
In Ecclesia Dei, the Pope warns the faithful that they must “cease support in anyway for that movement.” And further: “Everyone should be aware that formal adherence to the schism is a grave offense against God and carries the penalty of excommunication decreed by the Church’s law.”
The day before, on July 1, 1988 the Sacred Congregation for Bishops issued a “Decree” declaring the excommunication and schism of the Archbishop, the four newly consecrated bishops, and also Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer (co-consecrator with Archbishop Lefebvre), and further declared: “The priests and faithful are warned not to support the schism of Monsignor Lefebvre, otherwise they shall incur ipso facto the very grave penalty of excommunication.”
It is very important to realize that the Pope declared this state of excommunication and schism not just because Lefebvre and his newly consecrated bishops participated in consecrations without a Papal mandate, but because they were done explicitly against a Papal mandate not to do so. These consecrations therefore constituted a direct act of disobedience and a rejection in practice of the Papal Primacy.
At the very center of the Lefebvrite schism there is, therefore, according to John Paul II, an implicit heresy: the “rejection of the Roman Primacy.” As we have been able to see from a close examination of the dogmatic teaching of Vatican Council I there is simply no doubt that this is so. As already noted, Archbishop Lefebvre and his followers have, of course, all along protested that they do believe in the doctrine of the Papal Primacy and that they are subject to the Pope in all things that are “legitimate.” Their protestations are classic examples of the deceptions specifically analyzed by Pius IX in his encyclical Quartus Supra:
1) “The chief deceit used to conceal the new schism is the name of ‘Catholic’.”
2) While claiming to profess the traditional Catholic faith, they refuse to submit their profession of faith to the Primacy of Peter for judgment.
3) They continue to call themselves ‘Catholic” after the Pope has judged them excommunicated and in schism. They do so under the pretext that the excommunication was unjust.
4) They continue to exercise their “ministries” under the pretext that they have a right to do so, and because “the faithful might desert to the heretics if deprived of their ministration.”
5) In order to justify their schism they “fabricate a heresy” by claiming that they can “preserve communion and unity of faith with Us (the Apostolic See) without being subject to the Apostolic power in matters of discipline.”
Despite the obvious fact that the “Society” is in schism, we must admit that there exists such a state of confusion within the Church at this time that the obvious cannot be taken for granted. In the Introduction we mentioned that the “Society” is largely responsible for those distortions of theology, history, and Canon Law which are being used to attack the Papacy. Here we will endeavor to expose some of them, beginning with their use of Canon Law to justify the Archbishop’s position.
Before beginning, however, we offer below Pope John Paul II’s Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei. The reader should consider referring to it as he reads the arguments presented below.
The Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei
Pope John Paul II
Apostolic letter given on July 2, 1988.
1. With great affliction the church has learned of the unlawful episcopal ordination conferred on June 30 by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, which has frustrated all the efforts made during the previous years to ensure the full communion with the church of the Priestly Society of St. Pius X founded by the same Archbishop Lefebvre. These efforts, especially intense during recent months, in which the Apostolic See has shown comprehension to the limits of the possible, were all to no avail.
2. This affliction was particularly felt by the successor of Peter, to whom in the first place pertains the guardianship of the unity of the church, even though the number of persons directly involved in these events might be few, since every person is loved by God on his own account and has been redeemed by the blood of Christ shed on the cross for the salvation of all.
The particular circumstances, both objective and subjective, in which Archbishop Lefebvre acted provide everyone with an occasion for profound reflection and for a renewed pledge of fidelity to Christ and to his church.
3. In itself this act was one of disobedience to the Roman pontiff in a very grave matter and of supreme importance for the unity of the church, such as is the ordination of bishops whereby the apostolic succession is sacramentally perpetuated. Hence such disobedience—which implies in practice the rejection of the Roman primacy—constitutes a schismatic act. In performing such an act, notwithstanding the formal canonical warning sent to them by the cardinal prefect of the Congregation for Bishops last June 17, Archbishop Lefebvre and the priests Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta have incurred the grave penalty of excommunication envisaged by ecclesiastical law.
4. The root of this schismatic act can be discerned in an incomplete and contradictory notion of tradition. Incomplete, because it does not take sufficiently into account the living character of tradition, which, as the Second Vatican Council clearly taught, "comes from the apostles and progresses in the church with the help of the Holy Spirit.
There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on. This comes about in various ways. It comes through the contemplation and study of believers, who ponder these things in their hearts. It comes from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which they experience. And it comes from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth."
But especially contradictory is a notion of tradition which opposes the universal magisterium of the church possessed by the bishop of Rome and the body of bishops. It is impossible to remain faithful to the tradition while breaking the ecclesial bond with him to whom, in the person of the apostle Peter, Christ himself entrusted the ministry of unity in his church.
5. Faced with the situation that has arisen, I deem it my duty to inform all the Catholic faithful of some aspects which this sad event has highlighted.
a) The outcome of the movement promoted by Archbishop Lefebvre can and must be, for all the Catholic faithful, a motive for sincere reflection concerning their own fidelity to the church's tradition, authentically interpreted by the ecclesiastical magisterium, ordinary and extraordinary, especially in the ecumenical councils from Nicaea to Vatican II. From this reflection all should draw a renewed and efficacious conviction of the necessity of strengthening still more their fidelity by rejecting erroneous interpretations and arbitrary and unauthorized applications in matters of doctrine, liturgy and discipline.
To the bishops especially it pertains, by reason of their pastoral mission, to exercise the important duty of a clear-sighted vigilance full of charity and firmness, so that this fidelity may be everywhere safeguarded.
However, it is necessary that all the pastors and other faithful have a new awareness, not only of the lawfulness but also of the richness for the church of a diversity of charisms, traditions of spirituality and apostolate, which also constitutes the beauty unity in variety: of that blended "harmony" which the earthly church raises up to heaven under the impulse of the Holy Spirit.
b) Moreover, I should like to remind theologians and other experts in the ecclesiastical sciences that they should feel called upon to answer in the present circumstances.
Indeed, the extent and depth of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council call for a renewed commitment to deeper study in order to reveal clearly the council's continuity with tradition, especially in points of doctrine which, perhaps because they are new, have not yet been well understood by some sections of the church.
c) In the present circumstances I wish especially to make an appeal both solemn and heartfelt, paternal and fraternal, to all those who until now have been linked in various ways to the movement of Archbishop Lefebvre, that they may fulfill the grave duty of remaining united to the vicar of Christ in the unity of the Catholic Church and of ceasing their support in any way for that movement. Everyone should be aware that formal adherence to the schism is a grave offense against God and carries the penalty of excommunication decreed by the church's law.
To all those Catholic faithful who feel attached to some previous liturgical and disciplinary forms of the Latin tradition, I wish to manifest my will to facilitate their ecclesial communion by means of the necessary measures to guarantee respect for their rightful aspirations. In this matter I ask for the support of the bishops and of all those engaged in the pastoral ministry in the church.
6. Taking account of the importance and complexity of the problems referred to in this document, by virtue of my apostolic authority I decree the following:
a) A commission is instituted whose task it will be to collaborate with the bishops, with the departments of the Roman Curia and with the circles concerned, for the purpose of facilitating full ecclesial communion of priests, seminarians, religious communities or individuals until now linked in various ways to the society founded by Archbishop Lefebvre who may wish to remain united to the successor of Peter in the Catholic Church while preserving their spiritual and liturgical traditions in the light of the protocol signed on last May 5 by Cardinal Ratzinger and Archbishop Lefebvre.
b) This commission is composed of a cardinal-president and other members of the Roman Curia, in a number that will be deemed opportune according to circumstances.
c) Moreover, respect must everywhere by shown for the feelings of all those who are attached to the Latin liturgical tradition by a wide and generous application of the directives already issued some time ago by the Apostolic See for the use of the Roman Missal according to the typical edition of 1962.
7. As this year specially dedicated to the Blessed Virgin is now drawing to a close, I wish to exhort all to join in unceasing prayer, which the vicar of Christ, through the intercession of the mother of the church, addresses to the Father in the very words of the Son: "That they all may be one!"
Given at Rome, at St. Peter's, July 2, 1988, the 10th year of the pontificate.
1. Cf. Informatory note of June 16, 1988; L'Osservatore Romano, English ed., June 27, 1988, pp. 1-2.
2. Cf. Vatican Council I, "Pastor Aeternus," Ch. 3; Denzinger-Schonmetzer 3060.
3. Cf. Code of Canon Law, Canon 751.
ibid., Canon 1382.
5. Vatican Council II, "Dei Verbum," 8; cf. Vatican Council I, "Dei Filius," Ch. 4; DS 3020.
6. Cf. Mt. 16:18; Lk, 10:16; "Pastor Aeternus," Ch. 3; DS 3060.
7. Cf. Canon 386; Paul VI, "Quique Iam Anni," Dec. 8, 1970; "Acta Apostolicae Sedis" 63 (1971) pp. 97-106.
8. Cf. Canon 1364.
9. Cf. Congregation for Divine Worship, "Quattuor Abhinc Annos," Oct. 3, 1984; AAS 76 (1984) pp. 1088-1089.
CANON LAW AND THE EXCOMMUNICATION AND SCHISM
OF ARCHBISHOP LEFEBVRE
The Dec, 1990 Angelus (a publication of Archbishop Lefebvre’s Society in the U.S.) contained an article written by Michael Davies entitled “Who is Schismatic, Part II.” Much of the article consists of an attempt by Mr. Davies to use canon law to justify the action of Archbishop Lefebvre in consecrating four bishops against a papal mandate. The arguments used by Mr. Davies are very typical of those used by the Society and its defenders. The following analysis is meant to systematically refute these arguments while at the same time establishing with certainty both the excommunication of Archbishop Lefebvre and the schismatic status of the movement which he founded.
I would like to begin by quoting a canon which, to my knowledge, neither Mr. Davies or any member of the Society has ever quoted as having a bearing on this case:
Canon 16: “Laws are authentically interpreted by the legislator and the one to whom the legislator has granted the power to interpret them authentically.”
The supreme legislator in this case is, of course, Pope John Paul II. He is also the immediate judge since Archbishop Lefebvre was punished under Canons 1364 and 1382 by a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See. He is also therefore the legitimate “interpreter” according to Canon 16, and he has exercised this office in his Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei through the following declaration:
“In itself, this act was one of disobedience to the Roman Pontiff in a very grave matter and of supreme importance for the unity of the Church, such as is the ordinations of bishops whereby the apostolic succession is sacramentally perpetuated. Hence such disobedience — which implies in practice the rejection of the Roman Primacy - constitutes a schismatic act.”
The footnote to this particular passage of Ecclesia Dei refers us to Canon 751, which reads as follows:
“Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”
The Pope is, of course, referring to the third part of Canon 751. Schism is defined as a refusal to submit to the Pope in his government and discipline of the Church. The very next passage of Ecclesia Dei is quite specific in detailing both the nature of this schism and the persons involved:
“In performing such an act, notwithstanding the formal canonical warning [the Pope’s emphasis] sent to them by the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops on 17 June last, Mons. Lefebvre and the priests Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta, have incurred the grave penalty of excommunication envisaged by ecclesiastical law.”
In other words, the Pope’s declaration of both schism and excommunication against Archbishop Lefebvre is due not just to the act of consecrating bishops without a Papal mandate, but also to the far more grave sin of consecrating bishops in calculated defiance against a Papal mandate forbidding such an action. Such “rejection of the Roman primacy” constitutes not only a schismatic act, but also a heresy. This, of course, is the common course of all schisms. In the words of Pope Pius IX, “Every schism fabricates a heresy for itself to justify its withdrawal from the Church (Quartus Supra).” Pope John Paul II’s declarations in Ecclesia De are in total accord with these principles.
This should, for any member of the Catholic Church, be the end of the argument. Cannon 333, N.3 says simply, “There is neither appeal nor recourse against a decision or decree of the Roman Pontiff.” This canon duplicates the teaching of Vatican Council I: “none may reopen the judgment of the Apostolic See, than whose authority there is no greater, nor can any lawfully review its judgment (Pastor Aeternus, Ch. III).” Neither Canon or Council, of course, are enough to stop Archbishop Lefebvre or his apologists. It is most important to realize at this point that ecclesiastical laws, especially those which deal with censures and penalties are, much like Holy Scripture, very subject to false individual interpretation. And, as in the case of Scripture, the Church has laid down rules for their proper interpretation:
Canon 17: “Ecclesiastical laws are to be understood in accord with the proper meaning of the words considered in their text and context. If the meaning remains doubtful and obscure, recourse’ is to be taken to parallel passages, if such exist, to the purpose and the circumstances of the law, and to the mind of the legislator.”
Michael Davies’ violations of the integrity of Canon Law are simply massive. They may be divided into four distinct but related categories: 1) As we have seen he denies the proper role of the Holy Father as supreme legislator and judge in matters of Canon Law. This leads implicitly to an heretical denial of the Papal Primacy as defined by Vatican Council I and as supported by Canon Law itself (see Canon 333, N.3 quoted above); 2) He omits canons detrimental to his argument. Most important, he omits Canon 1364 par.1 by which the Sacred Congregation of Bishops declared Archbishop Lefebvre, his four newly consecrated bishops, and “Bishop’ Castro Mayer (co-consecrator) not only Excommunicated but also in schism; 3) He selects and isolates certain canons from other parallel canons necessary for their proper interpretation and application (according to the principle laid down for proper interpretation by Canon 17 quoted above); and 4) He falsifies the internal meaning and logic of those canons which he assigns to his own arguments.
Michael Davies first argues that Archbishop Lefebvre’s consecrations of bishops without a papal mandate cannot be an “intrinsically evil act” because this same act has not always been punished by automatic excommunication - in the 1917 Code it was punished only by suspension. Mr. Davies should recognize that Canon Law is always a temporal and therefore imperfect reflection of the Divine Constitution of the Church, that historical situations and exigencies change, and that these changes are reflected in corresponding changes in Church law. This same Church law, in one way or another, or in one canon or another, has always condemned those as schismatic who gravely resisted Papal Primacy in the discipline and government of the Church. It is very possible that in times past and under different historical conditions bishops could consecrate bishops without a specific papal mandate, and without such consecrations constituting grave rebellion against the Holy See. One can well imagine situations when, because of the lack of modern communications, a bishop may indeed have consecrated a bishop on account of some perceived necessity (such as the prospect of his own imminent death) without being guilty of committing a schismatic act. Such a situation is even now theoretically possible, and there are canons (as we shall see), which can mitigate and even nullify any condemnation and punishment of such an act (again, the Holy Father is the legitimate interpreter of any such situation).
We must remember, however, that the consecrations performed by Archbishop Lefebvre occurred in the very midst of communications with and appeals from the Holy See and that they were administered not only without, but expressly against a Papal Mandate. Archbishop Lefebvre was excommunicated under the provision of Canon 1382 for consecrating bishops without a papal mandate. The fact that he has also been declared by the Congregation for Bishops and the Pope to be in schism involves factors which increase his culpability and therefore merit the additional declaration of schism. For this reason the “Decree” issued by the Sacred Congregation for Bishops on July 1, 1988 declared the Archbishop to be both excommunicated and in schism under the provisions of two canons:
“Monsignor Marcel Lefebvre, Archbishop—Bishop emeritus of Tulle, notwithstanding the formal canonical warning of 17 June last and the repeated appeals to desist from his intention, has performed a schismatical act by the episcopal consecration of four priests, without pontifical mandate and contrary to the will of the Supreme Pontiff, and has therefore incurred the penalty envisaged by can.1364 par.1 and can.1382 of the Code of Canon Law.”
Note that Canon 1364 is mentioned first in this Decree. It reads:
“N.l: With due regard for can. 194, N1.2, an apostate from the faith, a heretic or a schismatic incurs automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication and if a cleric, he can also be punished by the penalties mentioned in can. 1336, N.1.1,2,3.” (can. 1336 prescribes other misc. penalties)
Pope John Paul II’s declaration of excommunication and ‘schism found in Ecclesia Dei is, of course, a confirmation of this previously issued Decree of the Congregation.
This public declaration of schism by both the Pope and the Congregation seems to have gone virtually unknown by Traditionalists. Witness the strange argument next offered by Michael Davies:
“It appears to be taken for granted by most of the Archbishop’s critics that he was excommunicated for the offense of schism, and the Vatican has certainly been guilty of fostering this impression. There is not so much as a modicum of truth in this allegation. The New Code of Canon Law includes a section beginning with Canon 1364 entitled “Penalties for Specific Offenses” (De Poenis in Singula Delicta).’ The first part deals with “Offences against Religion and the Unity of the Church” (De Delictis contra Religionem et Ecclesiae Unitatem). Canon 1364 deals with the offense of schism which is, evidently, together with apostasy and heresy, one of the three fundamental offenses against the unity of the Church.
But the Archbishop was not excommunicated under the terms of this canon or, indeed, under any canon involving an offense against religion or the unity of the church.”
In other words, Mr. Davies is ignorant of the most elementary fact of this case – that Archbishop Lefebvre has been declared both excommunicated and in schism by Canon 1364.
There is more. Through his distortions of Canon Law, Michael Davies is leading himself and others out of the Church. The final paragraph of the Decree issued by the Congregation for Bishops reads:
“The priests and the faithful are warned not to support the schism of Monsignor Lefebvre, otherwise they shall incur ipso facto the very grave penalty of excommunication.”
It might seem futile to proceed any further with Mr. Davies’ arguments. I believe, however, that there is merit in doing so – both in order to be able to claim completeness and fairness in dealing with this issue, and also in order to explore the whole question of “intention” with all the problems concerning culpability and imputability, which this question poses. In other words, the case of Archbishop Lefebvre offers a valuable opportunity to learn some principles concerning moral theology, for which purpose Canon Law can he an excellent teacher.
Mr. Davies first cites Canon 1321, N.1 which reads as follows:
“No one is punished unless the external violation of a law or a precept committed by the person is seriously imputable to that person by reason of malice or culpability.”
He next quotes Canon 1323, N.4 which states:
“The following are not subject to penalties when they have violated a law or precept:
N.4: a person who acted out of grave fear1 even if only relatively grave, or out of necessity or out of serious inconvenience unless the act is intrinsically evil or verges on harm to souls.”
Mr. Davies is, of course, interested in the “argument from necessity.” He offers the Archbishop’s argument that there exists a “state of emergency” (because the Popes have separated themselves from the Church and the “previous” Magisterium), which makes it “necessary” for the Archbishop to consecrate orthodox bishops in order to be able to ordain orthodox priests who can carry on tradition.
The argument from necessity is automatically invalidated, however, if the action of consecrating bishops expressly against a papal mandate is intrinsically evil. We have already seen that Mr. Davies’ attempt to argue the contrary has met with a resounding condemnation by the Church. Such an act is intrinsically evil because it “implies in practice a rejection of the Roman Primacy" (John Paul II — Ecclesia Dei), which in turn implies a rejection of the de fide dogmatic teaching of Vatican Council I concerning the Papal Primacy:
“Hence We teach and declare that by the appointment of Our Lord the Roman Church possesses a sovereignty of ordinary power over all other Churches, and that this power of jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff, which is truly episcopal, is immediate; to which all, of whatsoever rite and dignity, both pastors and faithful, both individually and collectively, are bound, by their duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, to submit, not only in matters which belong to faith and morals, but also in those that appertain to the discipline and government of the Church throughout the world; so that the Church of Christ may be one flock under one supreme pastor, through the preservation of unity, both of communion and of profession of the same faith, with the Roman Pontiff. This is the teaching of Catholic truth, from which no one can deviate without loss of faith and of salvation.” (Pastor Aeternus, Ch. III)
To assert, therefore, that an Archbishop has the right, for any reason whatsoever (or in any state of supposed “necessity” whatsoever) to defy a papal mandate against the consecration of bishops is not only schismatic in intent but also heretical.
Mr. Davies’ final argument is, in many respects, the saddest of them all. It consists, very simply, of an attempt to make the Archbishop not morally responsible for his actions. He first asks us to assume, for the sake of argument, that a real case of necessity did not exist, and then asks the question, “Would the Archbishop then have been validly excommunicated?” ‘1By no means”, answers Mr. Davies: “Canon 1323, N.4 and N.7 indicate that the Archbishop would not have incurred excommunication if he believed sincerely that his arguments for a case of necessity were valid.” In other words, even if the actions of Archbishop Lefebvre were intrinsically evil, they were not imputable to him (he was not morally responsible for them) “if he believed sincerely” that what he was doing was right. N.4 of Canon 1323 is, of course, the case of “necessity” with which we have already dealt. N.7 of this same Canon reads; “a person who without any fault felt that the circumstances in N.4 or 5 (which deals with self—defense) were verified.
The great gaping “hole” in Mr. Davies argument lies within the words “without any fault”. He fails to consider (remember Canon 17 and the rules for interpreting Canon Law) Canon 1325 which says that “Crass, supine, or affected ignorance can never be considered in applying the prescriptions of Canons 1323 and 1324.” In other words, a person can “sincerely believe” that what they are doing is right (even though it is objectively evil) and still be fully responsible for this evil because of some kind of ignorance for which he is responsible. An example:
Suppose a young man has been educated in the Catholic faith, including the precepts concerning marriage. He graduates from school, goes to work, marries, and has a family. Over the years, and due to his involvement in the world and lack of diligence in guarding and living his faith, his conscience in one or more areas becomes dull. He divorces his wife, who has been unfaithful, and marries another woman whom he “sincerely believes” is a gift from God and whom he sincerely believes will be a wonderful mother for his children. Is that man “without fault?” Of course not. Regardless of the “sincerity” of his belief he was responsible to retain his knowledge of and obedience to God’s objective law concerning marriage and its responsibilities. He may indeed now be ignorant of that law, but this ignorance does not free him from his guilt no matter how “sincere” his present feelings or beliefs might be. In other words, there is something deeply insincere about his sincerity. His ignorance is what is called “crass”.
We have come at this point to one of the most important distinctions in moral theology: that between invincible and vincible ignorance. The following is taken from the article on “Ignorance” from the Catholic Encyclopedia:
“Ignorance is said to be invincible when a person is unable to rid himself of it notwithstanding the employment of moral diligence, that is, such as under the circumstances is, morally speaking, possible and obligatory. This manifestly includes the states of inadvertence, forgetfulness, etc. Such ignorance is obviously involuntary and therefore not imputable. On the other hand, ignorance is termed vincible if it can be dispelled by the use of ‘moral diligence’. This certainly does not mean all possible effort; otherwise, as Ballerini naively says, we should have to have recourse to the pope in every instance. We may say, however, that the diligence requisite must be commensurate with the importance of the affair in hand, and with the capacity of the agent, in a word such as a really sensible and prudent person would use under the circumstances. Furthermore, it must be remembered that the obligation mentioned above is to be interpreted strictly and exclusively as the duty incumbent on a man to do something, the precise object of which is the acquisition of the needed knowledge.”
As we have noted above, the Archbishop’s actions constitute a denial “in practice” of the dogma of the Roman Primacy as defined by Vatican Council I. This dogma was certainly a part of his Catholic education. Therefore, according to the above underlined moral principle, the diligence requisite upon him for knowing and acting upon this article of faith “must he commensurate with the importance of the affair in hand, and with the capacity of the agent.” We must now ask the question: What “affair” is more important to the unity and apostolicity of the Church than is the submission of a bishop to the Roman Primacy? And whose “capacity” is greater in this regard than an Archbishop? Archbishop Lefebvre was, therefore, supremely responsible and culpable for any alleged ignorance in this area of Catholic faith and practice. His ignorance could only be termed “crass” since the slightest effort to understand his divinely constituted responsibility in this grave matter would have brought him face to face with the dogma of Papal Primacy in the discipline and government of the Church.
There is one more canon, which is applicable to this case:
Canon 1326, N.1: “A judge can punish more severely than a law or a precept has stated (the following persons):
1.2: a person who has been given some dignified position or who has abused authority or office in order to commit the offense.
1.3: an accused who although a penalty has been established against a culpable offense, foresaw what was to happen yet nonetheless did not take the precautions which any diligent person would have employed to avoid it.”
This canon simply attributes increased responsibility (and permission for more severe punishment) to the actions of a man like Archbishop Lefebvre – both because of the dignity of his office, and because of the quite clear information which he possessed regarding the will and intentions of the Holy See.
Trashing the Popes and The Council:
A Study in Lefebvrite Self-Justification
In Part I we studied the clear statements of Vatican Council I regarding the “Perpetuity of the Primacy of Blessed Peter in the Roman Pontiffs.” In order to better compare the Church’s teaching with the teaching of Archbishop Lefebvre, we will again quote the following passage from Ch. II of Pastor Aeternu:
“That which the Prince of Shepherds and great shepherd of the sheep, Jesus Christ our Lord, established in the person of the Blessed Apostle Peter to secure the perpetual welfare and lasting good of the Church, must, by the same institution remain unceasingly in the Church, which, being founded upon the Rock, will stand firm to the end of the world. For none can doubt, and it is known to all ages, that the holy and Blessed Peter, the Prince and chief of the Apostles, the pillar of the faith and foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour and Redeemer of mankind, and lives, presides and judges to this day, always in his successors the Bishops of the Holy See of Rome, which was founded by Him and consecrated by His Blood. Whence, whosoever succeeds to Peter in this see does by the institution of Christ Himself obtain the primacy of Peter over the whole Church. The disposition made by Incarnate Truth (dispositio veritatis) therefore remains, and Blessed Peter, abiding in the rock’s strength which he received (in accepta fortitudine petrae perseverans), has not abandoned the direction of the Church.”
The Church’s doctrinal teaching on this subject could not be more precise. Christ, through Peter, always rules and directs the Church through the reigning Pontiff for the “perpetual welfare and lasting good of the Church.” As we have pointed out before, “direction” may involve chastisement.
Now, we will look at two very public and “official” statements of Archbishop Lefebvre regarding the present Pope’s direction of the Church. In his 29 August, 1987 “Letter to the Future Bishops”(published in the July, 1988 Angelus), Archbishop Lefebvre begins with the following statement:
‘The See of Peter and the posts of authority in Rome being occupied by anti-Christs . . .”
The January, 1987 Angelus printed a “Declaration (Subsequent to the Events of the Visit of Pope John Paul II to the Synagogue and the Congress of Religion at Assisi)” signed by both Archbishop Lefebvre and Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer. The following three paragraphs are part of this Declaration:
“Adopting the liberal religion of Protestantism and of the Revolution, the naturalistic principles of J.J.Rousseau, the atheistic liberties of the Declaration of the Rights of Man, the principle of human dignity no longer having any relation with truth and moral dignity, the Roman authorities turn their backs on their predecessors and break with the Catholic Church, and they put themselves at the service of the destroyers of Christianity and of the universal Kingdom of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“The high point of this rupture with the previous Magisterium of the Church took place at Assisi, after the visit to the synagogue. The public sin against the one, true God, against the Incarnate Word, and His Church, makes us shudder with horror. John Paul II encourages the false religions to pray to their false gods — an immeasurable, unprecedented scandal.”
“The denial of the whole past of the Church by these two Popes (Paul VI and John Paul II) and the bishops who imitate them is an inconceivable impiety for those who remain Catholic in fidelity to twenty centuries of the same Faith.”
Reading the above quotes, one should immediately be struck with a question. Convinced as he was that the Pope is an antichrist and that he has broken with the Catholic Church, ruptured with the previous Magisterium, and denied the whole past of the Church, how could Archbishop Lefebvre believe that John Paul II is Pope? The answer is, of course, that he could not without making the papacy into an empty shell. Those who follow Archbishop Lefebvre in his conclusions regarding the present Pope have only two choices. They may choose heresy - the denial of the teaching of Pastor Aeternus; or they may choose sede-vacantism (the position or belief that the Chair of Peter is empty). Those who choose the first alternative should realize, however, that they cannot empty Peter of his power without also emptying the Chair of Peter. The followers of Archbishop Lefebvre could, however, attempt to disguise this terrible emptiness through a process of historical distortions which purport to prove that past popes have taught heresy in their exercise of the Universal Magisterium, and that through their government and discipline of the Church they have “oriented” the Church in a direction contrary to the will of Christ, thus engendering “justified” disobedience to the Papacy. Their efforts at self-justification have generally focused on four Popes: Peter, Liberius, Honorius I, and John XXII.
The “case” against Peter is taken from St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians 2:11-12:
“But when Cephas (Peter) was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that some came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them who were of the circumcision.”
In September, 1988 an article appeared in the Newsletter Courrier de Rome (translated from the Italian Newsletter Si Si No No) entitled “Neither Schismatics Nor Excommunicated,” an article which Archbishop Lefebvre called “a master-piece of pastoral work and theology.” The article comments on the above passage from Galatians:
“The Risen Jesus conferred on Peter the Primacy which he exercises with the veneration of the first Christian community. In Antioch however, Paul realizes that Peter was ‘reprehensibilis’ because he and others led by his example, ‘did not walk uprightly unto the truth of the Gospel’. Though inferior and subordinate to Peter, he reproved him ‘coram omnibus,’ in front of everyone. Saint Thomas comments, ‘The occasion of the reproach was not minor but just and useful: it was the risk run by evangelical truth; the manner in which it was made was suitable because it was public and evident . . . given that this lapse constituted a peril for everyone.’Therefore Holy Scripture teaches that, with the exception of the case of infallibility, Peter is fallible and can become ‘reprehensible’.”
The above is very typical of Lefebvrite distortion of history. While containing 95% truth it adds just enough error to twist the whole account to their cause. We must analyze it carefully. First, we must realize that it was to Peter that God first revealed, at the house of Simon the tanner, the truth concerning the share which the Gentiles were to have in Christ’s Redemption. Peter taught this truth clearly: “In very deed I perceive, that God is not a respecter of persons. But in every nation, he that feareth him, and worketh justice, is acceptable to him (Acts 10:34-35). On his return to Jerusalem he defended this truth against the Jews (Acts 11) and taught it at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15). His behavior in Galatians can in no way, therefore, be used to undermine his exercise of the teaching Magisterium.
More important, however, Peter did not order anyone (he issued no act of government or discipline) to do anything. It was simply a personal withdrawal and therefore in no way an act of Church government. Paul was, therefore, in no way “resisting” an act of Papal Primacy relevant to government and discipline of the Church. As a footnote to this passage in the Challoner Douay¬-Rheims Bible says:
“The fault that is here noted in the conduct of St. Peter was only a certain imprudence, in withdrawing himself from the table of the Gentiles, for fear of giving offense to the Jewish converts; but this, in such circumstances, when his so doing might be of ill consequence to the Gentiles who might be induced thereby to think themselves obliged to conform to the Jewish way of living, to the prejudice of their Christian liberty. Neither was St. Paul’s reprehending him any argument against his supremacy; for in such cases an inferior may, and sometimes ought, with respect, to admonish his superior.”
There are, of course, popes whose lives did not at all reflect the moral dignity of their office. Apologists for the “Society” are fond of detailing such cases. They do nothing to undermine the Primacy, but rather enhance it by showing forth the power and. faithfulness of God’s promise in the midst of human weakness.
The Lefebvrites have used a number of arguments attempting to justify the actions of Archbishop Lefebvre which have exerted tremendous moral pressure and persuasion on his followers. None have been more effective than that which attempts to identify the moral and theological position of Archbishop Lefebvre with that of St. Athanasius. Their argument essentially runs as follows: Pope Liberius signed a formula of doubtful orthodoxy (regarding the Arian heresy) and excommunicated Athanasius for refusing to capitulate to the Arians. St. Athanasius was eventually victorious and was canonized as the great defender of orthodoxy. Therefore his alleged excommunication was invalid. Since Archbishop Lefebvre is also a great defender of orthodoxy against the errors of a reigning pope, therefore his excommunication is also invalid.
I would invite anyone interested in this argument to read the articles on “Liberius” (especially the section titled “Forged Letters”) and “Infallibility” in the 1910, 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia. I will only summarize its basic arguments:
1) The “letters” of Pope Liberius mentioning a condemnation of St. Athanasius are almost certainly forgeries.
2) Before he was sent into exile (for refusing to capitulate to the Arians) by the Emperor Constantius, Pope Liberius was, along with Bishop Hosius, one of the two greatest defenders of St. Athanasius; after his exile he was again a great fighter against this heresy. After his exile, the Catholics of Rome revolted against the Arian anti-pope Felix and received Liberius back in triumph. There is absolutely no evidence of any confession of having fallen, no recantation, no atonement on the part of Pope Liberius. Pope St. Anastasius I (401) mentions him with Dionysius, Hilary, and Eusebius as one of those who would have died rather than blaspheme Christ with the Arians.
3) Considering his actions both before and after his exile and alleged “fall,” any actions taken against the Faith or against St. Athanasius during his exile could have only been occasioned by excessive coercion and fear. This would have deprived any such actions of the moral freedom necessary for truly human acts (an elementary principle of moral theology), and thus certainly the necessary qualifications for a true papal “declaration of excommunication.” Interestingly enough this point of moral theology is made in Vatican II’s treatment of the Papal Primacy: that decisions of the Pope, in order to be binding on the minds and wills of the faithful, must be to his “manifest mind and intention, which is made known either by the character of the documents in question, or by the frequency with which a certain doctrine is proposed, or by the manner in which the doctrine is formulated (Lumen Gentium, 24).” Even though St. Athanasius believed that Liberius had fallen (the Catholic Encyclopedia notes that he received his information from St. Jerome who, according to the same article, is noted for historical inaccuracies), it was this great Saint (Athanasius) himself who absolved Pope Liberius of any moral responsibility by saying that Liberius gave way “for fear of threatened death” and “for what men are forced to do contrary to their first judgment, ought not to be considered the willing deed of those in fear, but rather of their tormentors.” St. Athanasius knew the clear history of Pope Liberius’ valiant defense of the faith against Arianism before he was arrested, taken into exile, and possibly tortured. He therefore knew that the “manifest mind and will” of the Pope was against Arianism and in support of his own bishopric.
I do not believe that anyone has claimed that Pope John Paul II was tortured into excommunicating Archbishop Lefebvre, nor that his declaration of excommunication and schism were not “conformable to his manifest mind and intention.” Therefore, the attempt to use St. Athanasius as a justification for Archbishop Lefebvre’s direct rebellion against the orders of a Pope in full use of his faculties is simply one more case of distorting history in order to further their own non-Catholic agenda.
I would forcefully challenge anyone who wishes to continue to use St. Athanasius as a justification of the SSPX schism to read carefully the 1910-13 Catholic Encyclopedia article on Pope Liberius. Anyone who can read this article and still come away with any surety regarding the claims concerning Liberius’ alleged heresy or the alleged excommunication of St. Athanasius is simply living in a fantasy-land.
There may indeed be much confusion and debate regarding the case of Pope Liberius. Much of the reason for this confusion, or lack of surety concerning the actual historical facts, simply lies in the fact that there is such a paucity in good historical information regarding these events. The very fact, however, that many traditionalists, relying on such slim and unsubstantiated evidence, should continue to parrot the notion that Liberius was a matter-of-fact heretic, is a strong testimony to the presence of a very unnatural hunger on their part, and certainly confirms that there is something profoundly wrong in their own Catholic makeup.
A Heretic Pope?
If there is one thing common to all the various individuals and groups involved in these denials of Papal prerogatives, it is that they all seek to prove that a Pope can lose the faith and become a heretic. Admittedly, this is a very strange appetite for any Catholic to possess. Nevertheless this is the case, and I believe that it is increasingly so.
The end result of such a quest almost invariably culminates in the attempt to apply this belief to the present Pope. Part of their standard repertoire is to quote statements made by such people as St. Robert Bellarmine and Suarez to the effect that a Pope could become a heretic, and in so doing, cease to be Catholic and therefore also cease to be Pope. Vatican Council I has simply firmly established the doctrine that such a thing is impossible. St. Robert Bellarmine or Suarez may be excused from the charge of heresy simply because they published their ideas before the doctrine was clarified by the Church. Those who teach such things now, however, are without any such excuse.
The logical conclusion for such a belief is, of course, Sedevacantism: the belief that the Chair of Peter is empty. There are, of course, many different groups of Sedevacantists which are functioning today. They all deny that Pope John Paul II, for one reason or another (usually either because he was not validly elected, or because he became a heretic), is a valid Pope.
Many, however, have not yet gone that far. Robert Sungenis of Catholic Apologetics International, for instance, is one who rejects the contention of Bellarmine and Suarez that a heretical, non-Catholic Pope ceases to be Pope. Mr. Sungenis believes that a Pope can lose his Catholic faith, be a full-blown heretic, and yet still be a valid Pope. I think that the reader will readily understand that one of the strange consequences of such a belief is that if a full-blown heretic and non-Catholic can be a valid Pope, then it would certainly be possible for the Antichrist to be Pope. This, of course, is precisely the position of many Protestants. We need to keep in mind the fact that if we believe it possible for a Pope at any time in history to be or become a heretic and thus become the Antichrist, or at least a figure and foreshadowing of the Antichrist, then we are now and at every moment in history placed in the position of subjectively having to judge the Pope as to his Catholicity, and thus subjectively judge as to whether we are going to follow him in the exercise of his twofold Primacy.
Most who follow the line of reasoning which culminates in the possibility of a fully heretical Pope are certainly not so specific, and probably have not thought out the implications of their belief. Rather, their parroting of this belief functions as sort of backdrop or fail-safe, justifying all sorts of other beliefs and actions involved in their denial of Papal Prerogatives. It is my belief, however, that most of these people are on the cusp of Sedevacantism. They see that Pope John Paul II is close to death, and are hanging on until they see what comes next. If the next Pope pursues similar policies, I would expect to see a massive exit of many self-styled traditionalists into Sedevacantism within a couple of years.
All of this strange hunger to prove that a Pope can be a heretic usually comes to rest upon the case of Pope Honorius I.. The name “Honorius” in fact has become a sort of mantra in much of the traditionalist movement. Evocation of the name says it all: the Pope can be a heretic. Therefore, except in the case of ex cathedra definitions of dogma, these people believe that the Pope can be a heretic, we have the right to make the subjective judgment as to when he has lost his faith and therefore possibly the papacy, and we have the right and even obligation to disobey him when we judge such to be the case. This, of course, renders over 99% of the Pope’s actions, judgments, government, discipline, and teaching subject to the judgment of the faithful. We therefore no longer have a Rock able to stand against Hell, but only a pebble which even the most inept of the faithful can find some way to kick out of the path of their own private desires and judgments.
The case of Pope Honorius is therefore of immense importance to the topic which we are pursuing, and we will devote ample time and space to its examination. The distortions imposed upon this real historical event by a false “traditionalism” serve as a kind of seed from which, and out of which, many other errors grow. It is a fascinating story. And upon the completion of our examination, I hope the reader, if he or she has ever considered such a thing as a heretic Pope to be possible, will never again be tempted to follow “reasonings” which so directly and intuitively run counter to the promises made by Our Lord to St. Peter.
It will help us to understand the case of Pope Honorius if we first understand some history concerning the specific heresy of which he is accused.
The fourth through the seventh centuries constitute the period of the great Christological heresies. It was during this period that the Church, through great controversies and battles, defined both the relationship of Christ to the Father (through the crisis of the Arian Heresy), and also the relations between the human and divine natures within Christ Himself (through the condemnation of theApollonarian, Nestorian, Monophysite, and Monothelite Heresies). As the reader can see, there was really only one dominant heresy in the struggle to define the relationship of Christ to the Father. There certainly was some variations in regard to this heresy (the semi-Arians for instance), but basically the heresy was one. Either Jesus was truly One with the Father, or He was not.
When we come to the relationship between the divine and human natures in Christ things get much more complicated. The orthodox Catholic doctrine is, of course, that there are two natures (the Divine and the human) in one Divine Person. This is easy to say, and possibly to memorize, but can be very difficult to conceptualize and apply. It is, in fact, impossible for the human mind to wrap itself around the idea that the Infinite and the finite can be fully and truly united in One Person, yet each nature retaining its own faculties and operations. The Nestorians could not understand it, and so they postulated two Persons in Christ, and claimed that Mary could only be the Mother of the human, and not the Divine. The Monophysites, in their vehemence to defend the Unity of the One Divine Person against the heresy of Nestorius, went so far as to deny the fully human nature of Christ. Thus we have their name: “Monophysites”, which simply means “one nature.” In other words, the Monophysites , in order to defend a good thing ( the Unity of the One Divine Personhood of Christ), did a bad thing (denied the two natures in Christ).
Now we come to the particular circumstances which formed the basis for the rise of the Monothelite (literally “One Will”) Heresy. Cyrus, Patriarch of Alexandria, very much wanted to bring the Monophysite heretics of Egypt back into the Church. We may well imagine that he began this project with good intentions. He certainly was sympathetic towards their defense of the Unity of the Divine Personhood against the Nestorian heretics. Cyrus proposed a formula for the reunion of the Monophysites which read, “That this same Christ, one and the Son, performs both the actions which belong to him as God, and those which are human, by one, sole, theandric operation. There is no problem of course with the notion that “the same Christ” (the One Divine Person) performs the actions which belong to both God and man. The denial of this truth would amount to Nestorianism. The problem is with the phrase “one, sole, theandric operation.” The word “theandric” literally means “God human.” This phrase, in other words, denies the two distinct natures in Christ and the two distinct operations of these natures. In other words, it asserts that there is only one real will in Christ, and that being the Divine Will.
Cyrus was challenged by the monk Sophronius ( a canonized saint), who shortly thereafter became Patriarch of Jerusalem. Cyrus, in turn, appealed to his friend Sergius, Patriarch of Constantinople – the second most powerful See in Christendom. St. Sophronius pursued the subject with Sergius. Sergius tried to pacify Sophronius with the argument that neither the words one will or two wills, or one operation or two operations should be used, because this whole issue was new, and the use of any of these phrases would scandalize the faithful into the embrace of either the Nestorian or the Monophysite heresies and schisms. Sergius, in turn wrote to Pope Honorius, explaining these matters, and asking for a decision. It should be noted at this point that historians are divided as to the sincerity of Sergius in this matter. Some believe that he was sincerely confused, and honestly seeking clarification from the Pope. Others believe that he was a full-fledged Monothelite heretic, and that the letter he wrote to Honorius is only an artfully contrived piece of subterfuge. The Third Council of Constantinople condemned him as one of the heretics. There is, of course, nothing infallible about such a condemnation. The Church never claims infallibility in judging a man in the internal forum (internal culpability and guilt). Nevertheless, there does seem a good case for Sergius being a Monothelite.
The pertinent section of Pope Honorius’ answer to Sergius is printed below:
“Confessing that the Lord Jesus Christ, the mediator of God and of men [1Tim 2:5] has performed divine (works) through the medium of the humanity naturally [gr. hypostatically] united to the Word of God, and that the same one performed human works, because flesh had been assumed ineffably and particularly by the full divinity [gr. in –] distinctly, unconfusedly, and unchangeably…so that truly it may be recognized that by a wonderful design [passible flesh] is united [to the Godhead] while the differences of both natures marvelously remain….Hence, we confess one will of our Lord Jesus Christ also, because surely our nature, not our guilt was assumed by the Godhead, that certainly, which was created before sin, not that which was vitiated after the transgression. For Christ…was conceived of the Holy Spirit without sin, and was also born of the holy and immaculate Virgin Mother of God without sin, experiencing no contagion of our vitiated nature….For there was no other law in His members, or a will different from or contrary to the Savior….(from Denzinger 251).”
The translation from Denzinger is slightly confusing in its use of bracketed words, so I also offer a translation of that part of the above passage taken from Bishop Hefele’s work on the Church Councils:
“And the flesh was not from heaven, but was taken from the holy God-bearer [the Blessed Virgin], for the Truth says in the Gospel of Himself: ’No man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven’ (John 3:13), teaching us clearly that the flesh which was susceptible of suffering was united with the Godhead in an unspeakable and unique manner; on the one hand distinct and unmingled, on the other unseparated; so that the union must be wonderfully thought of under the continuance of both natures.”
Pope Honorius also wrote a second letter to Sergius in which he said:
“…So far as pertains to ecclesiastical doctrine, what we ought to hold or to preach on account of the simplicity of men and the inextricable ambiguities of questions (which) must be removed…, is to define not one or two operations in the mediator of God and of men, but both natures united in one Christ by a natural union, when we should confess those operating with the participation of the other and the operators, both the divine, indeed, performing what is of God, and the human performing what is of the flesh; teaching [that they operate] neither separately, nor confusedly, nor interchangeably, the nature of God changing into man, and the human changed into God; but confessing the complete differences of the natures….Therefore, doing away with…the scandal of the new invention, we, when we are explaining, should not preach one or two operations; but instead of one operation, which some affirm, we should confess one operator, Christ the Lord, in both natures; and instead of two operations – when the expression of two operations has been done away with – rather of the two natures themselves, that is of divinity and of the flesh assumed, in one person, the Only-begotten of God the Father unconfusedly, inseparably, and unchangeably performing their proper (works) with us (Denzinger, 252).”
Even a cursory reading of these two letters reveals the orthodoxy of Pope Honorius. He confesses the One Divine Personhood. He also fully confesses the union of both the divine and human natures – each performing their respective works “distinctly”, “unconfusedly”, and yet “inseparably” in the One Divine Person of Christ. Further, in making the confession of “one will of Our Lord Jesus Christ”, Pope Honorius immediately gives the reason and meaning: “because surely our nature, not our guilt was assumed by the Godhead, that certainly, which was created before sin, not that which was vitiated after the transgression….For there was no other Law in His members, or a will different from or contrary to the Savior….”
Pope Honorius therefore clearly employed the phrase “one will” only in the moral sense: namely that there was not in Christ a human will, vitiated by the effects of Original Sin, and at variance with or opposition to the Divine Will. We, of course, often speak of such a moral union when we use such phrases as “they are of one will concerning this matter.” It is absolutely certain in the context of the letter that this is precisely the meaning which must be attributed to the use which Honorius made of the phrase “one will.” In no way does his use of this phrase constitute a denial of a truly untainted human will in Christ.
Pope Honorius therefore ordered silence in regards to the questions of one will or two wills, one operation or two operations. The reason which he gives is stated in his first letter:
“We, however, wish to think and to breathe according to the utterances of Holy Scripture, rejecting everything which, as a novelty in words, might cause uneasiness in the Church of God, so that those who are under age may not, taking offence at the expression two energies [wills and operations], hold us for Nestorians, and that (on the other side) we may not seem to simple ears to teach Eutychianism (Monophysistism), when we clearly confess only one energy.”
After analyzing these letters, therefore, several things may be said in regard to Pope Honorius. First, he was orthodox. He was not a heretic. Second, in ordering silence in regard to these terms, his primary motive was to cause further scandal through an occasion leading to further growth of either Nestorianism or Monophysitism. The worst that can be said is that he was somewhat confused and did not see the importance of the terms involved in this dispute, and that he was also deceived by the alleged artifice of Sergius into ordering silence in this matter. None of this, of course, offers the slightest evidence of heresy on his part.
The heretics, of course, did not keep silent. They continued to propagate the Monothelite heresy, and took Pope Honorius’s statement concerning the “one will”out of its proper context, and claimed the Pope himself as a Monothelite.
Pope John IV:
Two years after the death of Pope Honorius (638), Pope John IV ascended the throne of Peter. In 641 he wrote an epistle titled Dominus qui dixit to the Emperor Constantius concerning “The Meaning of the Words of Honorius about the Two Wills” (Denzinger 253). He writes:
“Thus in the dispensation of His sacred flesh, He (Christ) never had two contrary wills, nor did the will of His flesh resist the will of His mind….Therefore, knowing that there was no sin at all in Him when He was born and lived, we fittingly say and truthfully confess one will in the humanity of His sacred dispensation; and we do not preach two contrary wills, of mind and of flesh, as in a pure man, in the manner certain heretics are known to rave. In accord with this method, then, our predecessor (already mentioned) [Honorius] is known to have written to the (aforementioned) Sergius the Patriarch who was asking questions, that in our Savior two contrary wills did not exist internally, that is, in His members, since He derived no blemish from the transgression of the first man….This usually happens, that, naturally where there is a wound, there medicinal aid offers itself. For the blessed Apostle is known to have done this often, preparing himself according to the custom of his hearers; and sometimes indeed when teaching about the supreme nature, he is completely silent about the human nature, but sometimes when treating of the human dispensation, he does not touch on the mystery of His divinity…So, my aforementioned predecessor said concerning the mystery of the incarnation of Christ, that there were not in Him, as in us sinners, contrary wills of mind and flesh; and certain ones converting this to their own meaning, suspected that He taught one will of His divinity and humanity which is altogether contrary to the truth.”
Pope John IV, in other words, totally exonerated Pope Honorius of heresy.
Pope St. Martin:
In the year 649, Pope St. Martin called together the Lateran Council in order to define the true doctrine and to condemn Monothelitism. All the major figures in this heresy are anathematized by name by the Council. Their writings are examined and thoroughly discussed. Pope Honorius is never mentioned. On the contrary, the Council states that since the rise of this heresy all the Roman Pontiffs had been solicitous in defending the faith against this heresy. Pope St. Martin was martyred by the Monothelites in 653.
St. Maximus the Confessor:
Possibly the most powerful and astonishing evidence as to the orthodoxy of Pope Honorius comes to us from the writings of St. Maximus the Confessor. I shall let Bishop Hefele relate it from Volume 5 of his monumental work on The History of the Councils of the Church:
What is most fascinating about this excerpt from St. Maximus’ debate with Pyrrhus is the revelation that the person (John Symponus, who St. Maximus says “has illuminated the whole West with his learning’) who wrote Pope Honorius’ letter to Sergius is the same person who wrote the Letter of Pope John IV, which later would exonerate Pope Honorius. The Letter of Pope John IV contains the following sentence concerning Pope Honorius:
“So, my aforementioned predecessor said concerning the mystery of the incarnation of Christ, that there were not in Him, as in us sinners, contrary wills of mind and flesh; and certain ones converting this their own meaning, suspected that He taught one will of His divinity and humanity which is altogether contrary to the truth….”
In other words, the same man who wrote the letter of Pope Honorius specifically declares that it is “altogether contrary to the truth” that this letter, or Pope Honorius (and thus also the Abbot John himself) ever taught “one will of His divinity and humanity.” And further, this same author of the Pope’s letter, says, “Therefore, knowing that there was no sin at all in Him when He was born and lived, we fittingly say and truthfully confess one will in the humanity of His sacred dispensation; and we do not preach two contrary wills, of mind and of flesh….” In other words, he specifically says that the clause in the Honorius letter which proclaims “one will” in Christ refers only to the moral union of will in the untainted and unfallen nature of Christ’s humanity.
This interpretation of the meaning of the words of Pope Honorius is therefore confirmed by the very person who wrote Honorius’ letter. It is also confirmed, obviously, by Pope Honorius and Pope John IV. It should also be noted that Pope John IV held a synod in which he condemned Monothelitism, and that St. Maximus died as a martyr at the hands of the Monothelites.
Pope St. Agatho:
Pope Agatho (678-681) convoked the Third Council of Constantinople (the Sixth Ecumenical Council), and reigned during the period that the Council was in session. He did not attend personally, but sent legates. By the time the Acts of the Council reached Rome for the Pope’s confirmation, Pope Agatho was dead. This task therefore fell upon his successor, Pope Leo II. We will, of course, speak of Pope Leo and his actions in regards to the Council further on in our discussion.
Pope Agatho wrote a letter to Emperor Constantine IV, and this letter was read and embraced at the Council. The Pope condemned all the major promoters of the Monothelite heresy by name. But if one is looking for the name of Honorius, it is conspicuous by its absence. Pope Agatho also wrote the following
“Let your tranquil Clemency [the Emperor] therefore consider, since it is the Lord and Saviour of all, whose faith it is, that promised that Peter’s faith should not fail and exhorted him to strengthen his brethren, how it is known to all that the Apostolic pontiffs, the predecessors of my littleness, have always confidently done this very thing…."
Pope Honorius was a predecessor of Pope Agatho. It is obvious, therefore, that Pope Agatho’s statement concerning the never-failing faith of his predecessors refers also to Pope Honorius. This reference becomes even more specific in a subsequent passage:
“Wherefore the predecessors of Apostolic memory of my littleness, learned in the doctrine of the Lord, ever since the prelates of the Church of Constantinople have been trying to introduce into the immaculate Church of Christ an heretical innovation, have never ceased to exhort and warn them with many prayers, that they should, at least by silence, desist from the heretical error of the depraved dogma, lest they make the beginning of a split in the unity of the Church, by asserting one will, and one operation of the two natures in the one Jesus Christ our Lord….”
Anyone with knowledge of these events immediately recognizes that the phrase “at least by silence” refers to only one man: Pope Honorius, who ordered silence upon the contesting parties in Constantinople and elsewhere. Therefore, even though he does not mention him by name, the famous letter of Pope Agatho gives clear testimony of the never-failing faith of all his predecessors, and contains a specific reference to the orthodoxy of Honorius.
After carefully examining the letter of Pope Agatho, Bishop Hefele, in his History of the Councils of the Church, concludes the following:
“In this letter there are three points quite specially worthy of consideration: 1) The certainty and clearness with which Agatho sets forth the orthodox Dyothelitic (Two Wills) doctrine; 2) the zeal with which he repeatedly declares the infallibility of the Roman Church; and 3) the strong assurance, many times repeated, that all his predecessors had stood fast in the right doctrine, and had given exhortation to the patriarchs of Constantinople in the correct sense. Agatho was then far removed from accusing his predecessor Honorius of heresy, and the supposition that he had beforehand consented to his condemnation entirely contradicts this letter (Vol. 5, p. 145-46).” – emphasis is again mine
The interesting thing about this statement is that Bishop Hefele was among the “minority” bishops at Vatican Council I who were against the Definition of Papal Infallibility. During the Council he actually wrote a pamphlet on Pope Honorius, using this case as an argument against the Definition. According to Dom Cuthbert Butler in his two volume work The Vatican Council, Bishop Hefele “seems to have been the bishop who found the greatest difficulty in accepting the definition of the infallibility (he finally published the Definition in his own diocese in 1871, and wrote to the Papal Nuncio to inform the Pope of his own acceptance). His testimony as to the belief of Pope Agatho in the orthodoxy of Pope Honorius is therefore of inestimable value, coming as it does from one whose original orientation during the Vatican Council was to establish the contrary.
The extraordinary thing is that after all this testimony (which, as we have seen includes Pope John IV, St. Maximus the Confessor, Pope Agatho, - and possibly most important – the Abbot John Symponus, who was author of both the letter of Pope Honorius and the letter of Pope John IV), the Fathers of the Third Council of Constantinople still condemned Pope Honorius. The fact that they did indeed condemn Honorius cannot be denied. They did so in the following words:
“After we read the doctrinal letters of Sergius of Constantinople to Cyrus of Phasis and to Pope Honorius, as well as the letter of the latter to Sergius, we found that these documents are quite foreign to the apostolic dogma, also to the declarations of the holy Councils, and all the Fathers of repute, and follow the false teachings of the heretics; therefore we entirely reject them, and execrate them as hurtful to the soul. But the names of these men must also be thrust forth from the Church, namely, that of Sergius, who first wrote on this impious doctrine; further, that of Cyrus of Alexandria, of Pyrrhus, Paul and Peter of Constantinople, and of Theodore of Pharan, all of whom Pope Agatho rejected in his letter to the Emperor. We anathematize them all. And along with them, it is our unanimous decree that there shall be expelled from the Church and anathematized Honorius, formerly Pope of Old Rome, because we find in his letter to Sergius, that in all respects he followed his view and confirmed his impious doctrines.”
We must make four points concerning this declaration. First, the declarations of a Council do not take effect unless they are ratified by the reigning Pope. We shall address this point in a moment. Second, the Council chose to ignore the clear statements of two preceding Popes (John IV and Agatho) who had exonerated Honorious of any charge of doctrinal error, and instead declared just the opposite.
Third, the statement of the Council that “we find in his [Honorius’] letter to Sergius, that in all respects he followed his view and confirmed his impious doctrines” is absolutely contrary to the truth. Any honest reading of Pope Honorius’ letter itself proves such a claim to be false. In addition, as I have already documented, Abbot John Symponus who wrote both the letter of Honorius and also the letter of Pope John IV confirms the orthodox intentions of Pope Honorius. We also have the clear absolution from the charges of heresy made by Pope John IV, St. Martin, St. Maximus the Confessor, and Pope Agatho. We also have the judgments of clear exoneration of Pope Honorius from the charges of personal heresy by the most eminent historians in this matter: scholars such as Bishop Hefele (History of the Councils of the Church), Horace Mann (The Lives of the Popes in the Middle Ages), the contemporary historian Warren Carroll (The Building of Christendom), and many others. Interestingly enough, Dom Chapman, author of the article on Honorius in the 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia also concludes that Pope Honorius had excellent intentions and cannot be judged as a private heretic. But he also concludes that “he was a heretic, not in intention, but in fact” because of his apparently confused use of the words “one will.” Dom Chapman also concludes that no one has the right to defend Honorius. Obviously, all of the other sources I have listed do not agree. The point is, however, that Dom Chapman fully agrees that Pope Honorius cannot be considered a “heretic in intention”, and cannot, therefore, be considered a Pope who “lost the faith.”
It is therefore clear from all this testimony (and there is more) that Pope Honorius was not a heretic in any sense of “having denied or lost the faith”. Mann, in an attempt to understand the appellation “heretic” as applied to Pope Honorius, also has the following to say:
“It has indeed been contended that the Council may not have anathematized Honorius in the same sense as it did Pyrrhus and Sergius. For it must be observed that the word heretic did not always denote one who ‘knowingly and willingly’ taught error. It sometimes, as Bolgeni has conclusively shown, was applied to such as favoured error in any way. And it would certainly seem, from the edict which Constantine issued at the close of the council, regarding the observance of its decrees, that when the council included Honorius in its anathemas, it only did so in the sense of his having favoured the spread of Monothelitism by his letters to Sergius. The edict speaks of Honorius as “a confirmer of the heresy and as one who was not consistent with himself.’”
We know that in order for a person to be truly called a heretic he must hold onto an error of faith pertinaciously and contumaciously. Most of us can make mistakes in our understandings or communications of the faith, but this does not mean that we are heretics. In order to be justly labeled as such we must persevere in our error in the face of being shown the contrary. Loosely speaking we might call our errors or mistakes objective “heresies”, but this does not at all mean that we may justly be called “heretics.”
With Pope Honorius, however, we know that even his belief was orthodox. If we may accuse him of anything, it is a certain ignorance of the terminology that was needed in order to counter this new heresy, and a confusion of terminology. It may be said, therefore, that Pope Honorius inadvertently furthered the cause of the heretics through his own ignorance and confusing use of terms. But no matter how we look at the situation, it is clear that in no way could it be justly said that he followed Sergius or the other heretics “in all respects,” or “confirmed their impious doctrines.” The condemnation of the Council is therefore clearly a case of excess.
The fourth point which needs to be made is that no Council has any power or right to judge a Pope. Vatican Council I teaches:
“And since, by the divine right of Apostolic primacy, one Roman pontiff is placed over the universal Church, We further teach and declare that he is the supreme judge of the faithful, and that in all causes the decision of which belongs to the Church recourse may be had to his tribunal, but that none may reopen the judgment of the Apostolic See, that whose authority there is no greater, nor can any lawfully review its judgment. Wherefore they error from the right path of truth who assert that it is lawful to appeal from the judgments of the Roman pontiffs to an ecumenical council, as to an authority higher than that of the Roman pontiff.”
It is truly “illicit”, therefore, for a Council to attempt to judge a Pope. The Fathers of the Council of Constantinople might be excused for this mistake because this “point of doctrine” had not been fully taught, but certainly we should have the Catholicity not to follow their error, or to use this error as a justification for modern errors concerning the nature of the Papacy. In other words, we should not use the “illicit” condemnation of Pope Honorius by the Sixth Ecumenical Council in order to deny the never-failing faith of Peter and his successors.
In considering the reasons as to why the Council of Constantinople may have rushed to such a judgment we might also consider the following. In reading the Acts of the Council one is struck by the fact that the Fathers always refer to Honorius as “the Pope of Old Rome.” The Council was dominated by bishops from the East (and to a very forceful degree by the Emperor), and therefore strongly under the influence of the Church at Constantinople. Constantinople had replaced Rome as the seat of the Emperor, and thus of secular power. There was also, therefore, a strong tendency to conceive of Constantinople as the “New Rome”, and to also conceive the Patriarch of the See of Constantinople as somehow equal in prestige and power to the Pope of Old Rome. At the Council of Chalcedon in 451 (the famous Council which condemned Monophysitism and at which the Tome of Leo was read and accepted), the Church Fathers passed the following Canon #28:
“Following in every way the decrees of the holy fathers and recognizing the canon which has recently been read out – the canon of the 150 most devout bishops who assembled in the time of the great Thedosius of pious memory, then emperor, in imperial Constantinople, new Rome – we issue the same decree and resolution concerning the prerogatives of the most holy church of the same Constantinople, new Rome. The fathers rightly accorded prerogatives to the see of older Rome, since that is an imperial city; and moved by the same purpose the 150 most devout bishops apportioned equal prerogatives to the most holy see of new Rome, reasonably judging that the city which is honoured by the imperial power and senate and enjoying privileges equaling older imperial Rome, should also be elevated to her level in ecclesiastical affairs and take second place after her…[emphasis mine].”
This Canon was rejected outright by the Pope Leo the Great (Pope Leo I – not to be confused with Pope Leo II) . However, this Canon, approved by the Council Fathers, shows us clearly that as early as the year 451, despite the fact that the Eastern Churches were still submitting to the ultimate decisions of the “Pope of Old Rome”, the foundations were already laid for a confusion about the supreme authority of the Roman Pontiff, a situation which would ultimately burst forth in the Eastern Orthodox schism of the Eleventh Century. It is not at all surprising, therefore, that such an attitude could also find fruition in the illicit hubris of a formal condemnation of Pope Honorius at the Sixth Ecumenical Council.
Pope Leo II:
Finally, we must consider the actions of Pope Leo II in confirming the actions of the Council of Constantinople. For this purpose I quote the words of historian Warren Carroll:
Everything we know and can conclude about the thought and actions of Pope St. Leo II regarding the decrees of the Sixth Ecumenical Council held in Constantinople in 680 and 681 must be drawn from his five extant letters, all relating to this subject: one to Emperor Constantine IV and four to Spain – to its King Erwig, to its bishops collectively, to the Spanish bishop Quiricus, and to the Spanish Count Simplicius. The letters to the Emperor, to the king, and to all the Spanish bishops contain clear statements that Pope Leo has confirmed the final decree of the Council, while at the same time redefining its language on Pope Honorius to make it conform to the fact, evident from a careful reading of Honorius’ letter to Sergius, that he had not endorsed Sergius’ Monothelite ideas, but only refrained from condemning them. Writing to the Emperor, almost certainly composing the letter himself in the Emperor’s language, Greek, Pope Leo II wrote that Pope Honorius was condemned because ‘he permitted the immaculate faith to be subverted.” Writing in Latin to the Spanish bishops, he declared that Honorius was condemned for not at once extinguishing the flames of heresy, but rather fanning them by his negligence. To King Erwig he wrote that Honorius was condemned for negligence in not denouncing the heresy, and for using an expression which the heretics were able to employ to advance their cause, thereby allowing the faith to be stained (p. 254).”
We thus have five letters from Pope Leo II which deal with the subject of the condemnation of Pope Honorius. The words are strong in their criticism in regard to Pope Honorius’ negligence. All five letters, however, studiously avoid designating him as a heretic. These letters therefore constitute an obvious refusal on the part of Pope Leo II to subject Pope Honorius to a condemnation for heresy.
It is clear, therefore, that in no way can we assume that Pope Leo II confirmed the Council’s condemnation of Pope Honorius in the sense that “he followed the view and confirmed the doctrines” of the Monothelite heretics. In other words, the only way that the word “heretic” could be applied to Honorius at all is in a meaning and fashion that is antiquated: namely that through his failure to condemn the heresy outright, and through his use of a term which the heretics could then distort to their own advantage, he unwittingly fostered the spread of this heresy.
It is also true that there is no basis in the divine constitution of the Church for one Pope having the power or right to judge another. Popes have certainly tried to do so at least a couple of times in the history of the Church. The results that I know of have been disastrous. It might do us good to consider one example. Pope Stephen VI (896-97) held a synod at which he had the body of Pope Formosus (891-896) dug up, clad in papal vestments, and seated on a throne. The decision of Pope Stephen and the synod, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia (1909), was that Formosus had been unworthy of the pontificate, that he had never been Pope, that all his measure and acts were annulled, and that all the orders conferred by him were invalid, including his consecrations of bishops, which, of course, also invalidated (if such a thing were possible) the orders of the priests ordained by these bishops. After having had the three fingers used in consecrations severed from his hand, and the papal vestments torn from his body, Formosus’ body was thrown into the Tiber.
In 897, Pope John IX had Pope Formosus’ body taken from the river and restored to a place of honor. He annulled all the decisions of Stephen VI, and declared all the orders conferred by Formosus to be valid.
The story does not end here, however. Pope Sergius III (904-911) reaffirmed all the decisions of Stephen VI (which nullified those of John IX).We can well imagine how many bishops and priests were now involved in the declaration of their orders being invalid. Finally, it should be mentioned that the Church’s final decision on the matter is that Formosus was indeed a valid Pope.
I think that these events should be sufficient to show the possibility of error involved in Popes judging Popes. These Papal judgments do not, of course, compromise the faith of the Popes who committed these dastardly deeds. But they certainly do serve to put attractive icing on Protestant invectives against the Papacy.
I suspect that Pope Leo II, being a saint, instinctively drew back from the fulsome condemnation of Pope Honorius pronounced by the Third Council of Constantinople. Further, if he had understood the future consequences of such an act of “Concilliarism” (the doctrinal error that views an Ecumenical Council to be superior in power to the Pope, and to have to power to judge him), and the fact that its presumptuous and false condemnation of Pope Honorius would fuel the future aspirations of millions of heretics and schismatics, especially at the time of the Protestant Revolt, he most surely would have rejected it in toto.
The fact is, however, that the Council’s condemnation of Pope Honorius was reiterated by the routine condemnation of past heretics found in several future Councils. It became part of the Papal Oath taken by Popes in the 8th - 11th Centuries, and it was part of the Roman Breviary readings for the Feast of Pope Leo II until the 18th Century. It is therefore incalculable the degree to which these errors concerning Pope Honorius’ orthodoxy have contributed to a justification of the Protestant position. Popes, even saintly Popes, make mistakes. And it certainly is worth speculation as to whether a clear and outright rejection by Pope Leo II of the condemnation of Pope Honorius as a heretic would have saved many far more souls from the mortal sins of schism and heresy, than have been lost through Pope Honorius’ failure to immediately condemn the Monothelite heresy.
The Church is full of men who make mistakes, including Popes. When, however, any Catholic take these mistakes and exalts them to a position which enables him to falsely deny one of the divine prerogatives which Christ established upon Peter and his successors, then such a person becomes an enemy of Christ, and at war against the divinely established institution of the Papacy. Today, the numbers of such people are legion. The Modernist camp is, of course, almost universally among these numbers. What is most tragic is that very many of those who would call themselves Catholic traditionalists are now their fellow-travelers in this regard. The fact is that many of us who love the Traditional Mass sit side-by-side with those who are involved in this war against the Papacy. If we wish to be blessed by God in our efforts towards the restoration of traditional Catholicism, we must also wage war against these errors present within our own family. Foremost among these errors is the belief that the faith of Peter can fail.
Pope John XXII
The case of Pope John XXII is very helpful in any attempt to understand the prerogative of non-failing faith which Christ has promised to Peter and his successors. This is especially true because it clearly reveals the very necessary distinction we must draw between objective error, on the one hand, and full-fledged heresy or loss of faith on the other. We know, for instance, that most of us at one time or another have certainly been mistaken in our understanding, or even our defense, of certain points of the Catholic faith. We also know, however, that in most cases this did not make us into heretics. When the truth was finally shown to us, we may have struggled with it somewhat at first, but eventually, through God’s grace and very likely the help of some member of the hierarchy, we were able to see the nature of our error, and we submitted to the truth. At no time in this process were we necessarily heretics. We were in error, we were confused, but we had not “lost the faith.”
“Loss of faith” or formal heresy involves something much more serious. It requires that we be pertinacious and contumacious in clinging to error, especially in the face of attempts by the hierarchy to show us the nature of our error. In other words, we must rebelliously persist in our error in the face of the truth being clearly and repeatedly manifested to us.
The same distinction must be drawn in regard to the Papacy. We know, of course, that in his infallible teaching office the doctrinal teachings of the Pope are guaranteed to be free from any error whatsoever. However, in his personal or private writings and teachings, and also in his teachings which are not covered by the charism of infallibility, the Pope can error. The most famous incident involving such an error occurred in the first half of the 14th century during the Papacy of Pope John XXII.
The Catholic Encyclopedia has the following to say about the famous case of John XXII’s supposed “heresy”:
“Before his elevation to the Holy See, he had written a work on this question [the Beatific Vision], in which he stated that the souls of the blessed departed do not see God until after the Last Judgment. After becoming pope, he advanced the same teaching in his sermons. In this he met with strong opposition, many theologians, who adhered to the usual opinion that the blessed departed did see God before the Resurrection of the Body and the Last Judgment, even calling his view heretical. A great commotion was aroused in the University of Paris when the General of the Minorites and a Dominican tried to disseminate there the pope’s view. Pope John wrote to King Philip IV on this matter (November, 1933) and emphasized the fact that, as long as the Holy See had not given a decision, the theologians enjoyed perfect freedom in this matter. In December, 1933, the theologians at Paris, after a consultation on the question, decided in favour of the doctrine that the souls of the blessed departed saw God immediately after death or after their complete purification; at the same time they pointed out that the pope had given no decision on this question, but only advanced his personal opinion, and now petitioned the pope to confirm their decision. John appointed a commission at Avignon to study the writings of the Fathers, and to discuss further the disputed question. In a consistory held on 3 January, 1334, the pope explicitly declared that he had never meant to teach aught contrary to Holy Scripture or the rule of faith and in fact had not intended to give any decision whatever. Before his death, he withdrew his former opinion, and declared his belief that souls separated from their bodies enjoyed in heaven the Beatific Vision.”
There obviously existed in Pope John the “good faith” which was proved to be quite docile and humble in the face of revealed truth. There was, on his part, no evidence of perverse obstinacy or persistence in error. This is a clear case of a Pope having made a mistake” in his personal opinion and in sermons which were not preached to the Universal Church, and certainly not binding on the faithful. We might call it an objective “heresy” if we wish (but this is certainly a very strong word in the face of such docility on the part of the Pope). But this certainly does not constitute any justification for calling Pope John XXII a “heretic”, or of considering him to have lost his faith.
Two Hundred and Sixty Four men have sat in the Chair of St. Peter. All have been unworthy of the honor. Many have been Saints. Some have been scoundrels. Some have had mistresses. Some are almost surely in Hell. None of them ever lost the faith. Of this we can be sure. To believe otherwise is to embrace objective heresy.
John Paul II and Assisi
It was the view of Archbishop Lefebvre, as we have previously quoted him, that “the high point of this rupture (of Pope John Paul II, Paul VI and the bishops who imitate them) with the previous Magisterium of the Church took place at Assisi....” The background to this event is quite simple. In 1986 Pope John Paul II invited representatives from the world’s religions to come to Assisi to pray for peace. The common meeting took place in the Piazzale of the Lower Basilica of St. Francis.
We may certainly question the wisdom of holding such an event. Apparently many people did, since a similar event held recently in Assisi did not include a common gathering in a Catholic Church. Questioning its wisdom, however, is not the same as saying that such an event constituted “a rupture with the previous Magisterium”, the breaking away of the Pope from the Catholic Church, and a justification for calling him an anti-Christ. In order to determine if Pope John Paul II has indeed done these things it might be well (and only fair) to examine his own intentions and doctrinal statements concerning this meeting. This is easily done, since his Wednesday General Audience on Oct 22, 1986 (five days prior to the event) was entirely devoted to this subject. The following are a series of quotes from that Audience (which was printed in its entirety in the November 13, 1986 issue of the Wanderer):
“At Assisi all the representatives of the Christian churches and communities and of the world religions will be engaged solely in invoking from God the great gift of peace.”
“I would like this fact, so important for the process of reconciliation of men among themselves and with God, to be seen and interpreted by all members of the Church in the light of the Second Vatican Council and of its teachings.”
“In the Council, in fact, the Church, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, reflected at length on her position in a world ever more marked by the encounter of cultures and religions.”
“According to the Council, the Church is ever more aware of her mission and duty, indeed of her essential vocation to announce to the world the true salvation which is found only in Jesus Christ, God and man (cf. Ad Gentes, 11-13).”
“Yes, it is only in Christ that all mankind can be saved. There is no other name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). From the very beginning of history all who are truly faithful to God’s call, as far as it is known to them, have been directed toward Christ (Cf. Lumen Gentium, 16).”
“Precisely because Christ is the center of the whole created world and of history, and because no one can come to the Father except through Him (cf. Jn 14:6), we approach the other religions in an attitude of sincere respect and of fervent witness to Christ in Whom we believe. In them there are, in fact, the ‘seeds of the Word’, the ‘rays of the one truth’, to quote the words of the early Fathers of the Church who lived and worked in the midst of paganism . . .
. . . “What will take place at Assisi will certainly not be religious syncretism.”
“Certainly we cannot ‘pray together’ namely, to make a common prayer, but we can be present while others pray. In this way we manifest our respect for the prayer of others and for the attitude of others before the Divinity; at the same time we offer them the humble and sincere witness of our faith in Christ, Lord of the Universe.”
The Pope’s doctrinal clarifications highlight the extreme error in Archbishops Lefebvre’s position. Such statements as “Yes, it is only in Christ that all mankind can he saved”, and “What will take place at Assisi will certainly not be religious syncretism”, and “Certainly, we cannot ‘pray together” do not leave much room for the anti-Christ thesis – unless, of course, one believes the Pope to be some kind of conspiratorial mole who is mockingly uttering orthodox statements while secretly working from within to destroy the Church.
Nor does the idea that in pagans and paganism there are “seeds of the Word” constitute a break with the Church’s teaching. Saints Clement of Alexandria and Justin Martyr (both of them early Church Fathers) spoke of a “Dispensation of Paganism.” In her book Saints Who Made History, Maisie Ward has the following quote from St. Clement of Alexandria, with the words in parentheses having been inserted by Newman (who greatly admired this passage):
“His are all men, some actually knowing Him, others not as yet: some as friends (Christians), others as faithful servants (Jews), others as simply servants(heathen) . . . He it is who gives to the Greeks their philosophy by His ministering Angels . . . for He is the Saviour not of these or those but of all . . . His precepts, both the former and the latter, are drawn forth from one fount . . . now at length by His own personal coming, He has closed the course of unbelief, which is henceforth inexcusable; Greek and barbarian being led forward by a separate process to that perfection which is through faith.”
The idea is both simple and scriptural enough. There exists what might he called an “Original Revelation”, which may be considered from two aspects. The first is that which St. Paul calls “the law written in their hearts (Ro 2:15)”, the internal legacy coming to every man created in the image of God. The second is that which comes down to man through history and culture and contains that true tradition, variously distorted and confused, which began in the Garden of Eden. Looked at in this way, even the most pagan religion therefore contains “seeds of the Word”; and the proper role of Christian evangelization is therefore not to suppress these impulses but to draw out, through witness, dialogue, etc., this good from all the evil and distortions with which it is surrounded.
St. Paul, in order to draw out this law written in the pagan heart, purify it from pagan errors, and bring it to fulfillment in Christ, “dialogued” with them about their “unknown God” (Who actually had an altar – certainly the previous “offerings” on this altar must have fallen quite short of being Christian), saying, “What therefore you worship, without knowing it, that I preach to you (Acts 17:23).” And St. John, in order to teach the Greek mind about the mystery of Christ, adopted the Greek term “Logos”, which possessed a history rich in pantheistic connotations. This tension has always existed in the Church. One generation, saint, or Pope converts pagan temples into Christian churches; the next, with a greater fear of paganism, destroys such temples and builds new churches on their ruins. I think there is little doubt that Paul VI and John Paul II have gone further than any previous popes in this dialogue with paganism. We may question their prudence. To question their Catholicity, however, is simply one more desperate attempt by the Archbishop and his followers to justify their own rebellion.
As mentioned earlier, apologists for Archbishop Lefebvre’s direct disobedience to the Holy See have largely drawn their justification of his position and that of his “Society” from the contention that Vatican Council II and the “Conciliar Popes” have “oriented” the Church in a direction that runs counter to Church Tradition. Much of this argument has focused on Dignitatis Humanae, the Council’s Declaration on Religious Liberty.
The premier controversialist for the Society’s position is Michael Davies, whose The Second Vatican Council and Religious Liberty was published in 1992. His book, beginning with the cover (as we shall demonstrate), is a work of extraordinary duplicity.
I say this not as a judgment upon Mr. Davies’ character, but as a necessary prerequisite for understanding the depth and extent of the errors in this book. This duplicity both undermines any claim the author might make to genuine Catholic scholarship, and also places his work in an adversarial relation¬ship to the Catholic Magisterium.
In the “Foreword” to his book Mr. Davies states that he submits it in advance to the judgment of the Magisterium, and that he also hopes he has worked within the guidelines laid down by Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect for the Doctrine of the Faith, in a letter to Archbishop Lefebvre dated 20 July, 1983. He quotes the following excerpt from that letter:
“It must be noted that, because the conciliar texts are of varying authority, criticism of certain of their expressions, in accordance with the general rules of adhesion to the Magisterium, is not forbidden. You may likewise express a desire for a statement or an explanation on various points. You may not, however, affirm that the conciliar texts, which are magisterial texts, are incompatible with the Magisterium and with Tradition. You may say that personally you cannot see how they are compatible, and so ask the Holy See for an explanation (p.3).”
If we turn, however, from this rather modest position as stated in the Foreword, to the cover of the book, we are presented with what is quite literally a very different picture. On the front cover is a picture of the interior of St. Peter’s with all the Bishops in session during the Second Vatican Council. Superimposed over this picture is a replica of a U.S. Airmail 45¢ stamp honoring the French Revolution, and bearing the classic images of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. The back cover of the book carries the following explanation:
“Michael Davies proves that this teaching (that the State should conform its legislation to the law of Christ the King) was abandoned by the Second Vatican Council in Dignitatis Humanae, its Declaration on Religious Liberty, which, wrote Henri Fesquet, enabled ‘the Church to take up the standard of the French Revolution. . . . Liberty, Equality, Fraternity; this glorious motto was the quintes-sence of Vatican II . . . ’”
This judgment concerning Dignitatis Humanae, so graphically conveyed on the cover, is confirmed by Michael Davies within:
“The Ottaviani schema (the schema prepared by the Central Pontifical Commission preparatory to the Second Vatican Council – and set aside in the First Session) does not enjoy a magisterial authority, but it represents the state of Catholic doctrine on the question on the eve of Vatican II and expresses substantially the doctrine that the Council would have had to propose if it had not been turned away from its purpose by the coup d’etat of those who made of it the ‘states general of the people of God,’ a second 1789.” (p. 295)
In other words, according to Michael Davies, Dignitatis Humanae constitutes the French Revolution within the Church and is incompatible with the Magisterium and Tradition. Even more specific is a statement made on page 47:
“If the teaching of Vatican II is correct, then this right must always have existed and not only has a long line of Popes, in common with St. Thomas Aquinas, taught a doctrine that is false, but non-Catholics have frequently been deprived of what was due to them as a natural right.”
Finally, two more quotations:
“There is not the least doubt that Paul Blanchard was totally correct in stating that the Catholic Church had changed its position on the subject of Religious Liberty.” (p.210)
“Among the most fundamental documents of the Magisterium referring to the subject of Church and State are Mirari vos of Pope Gregory XVI, and Quanta cura and the Syllabus of Pope Pius IX. A good number of Fathers were profoundly disturbed by the fact that there was not the least allusion to these essential texts. There can be no doubt as to the reason for this calculated omission. Their teaching cannot be reconciled with that of Dignitatis Humanae.” (p. 200)
As I have said, it is necessary for the reader of Michael Davies’ book to be aware of this duplicity. While claiming submission to the Magisterium he is, at the same time, hell-bent upon proving that it has taught error in Dignitatis Humanae, and that this document and this Council were indeed an act of revolution against God and His Truth.
Before beginning our analysis of the specific magisterial texts involved in this issue it would he well to consider one other point. It is the duty of the Magisterium to formulate profound truths within the confines and limitations of language – truths which are often multi-faceted and subject to being approached from various perspectives. It is very possible for different passages from Scripture, or statements by Popes or Ecumenical Councils, to appear to contradict one another. Properly understood, none of the following pairs of magisterial declarations contradict one another. Note, however, how easy and how tempting it would be for someone (who was so inclined) to claim contradiction in them:
1. “For the Father is greater than I.” (John 14:28)
2.“God of God: Light of Light: true God of true God. Begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father....”(Nicene Creed)
1. “For we account a man to he justified by faith, without the works of the law.” (Romans 3:28)
2. “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:20)
1. “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot he my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)
2. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church, and delivered himself up for it.” (Ephesians 5:25)
1.“One indeed is the universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved.” (Lateran Council IV)
2.“We know and you know that those who are invincibly ignorant of our most holy religion, and who, carefully observing the natural law and its precepts placed by God in the hearts of all men, and, disposed to obey God, lead an honest and upright life, can, with the help of divine light and grace, merit eternal life.” (Pius IX, Quanto conficiamur moerore)
We will not enter into the solution of any of these apparent contradictions. I can assure. the reader that such solutions exist, and that they are true. I am equally confident that most readers are not in need of such assurance. They simply possess enough Catholic “sense” (of the faith, or of both faith and knowledge) and humility to know that this indeed must be the case. Such also is the “case” with the following pair of teachings from the Magisterium, both of which require the submission of our intellect and will:
1. “And, first, let us examine that liberty in individuals which is so opposed to the virtue of religion, namely, the liberty of worship, as it is called. This is based on the principle that every man is free to profess as he may choose any religion or none. But, assuredly, of all the duties which man has to fulfill, that without doubt, is the chiefest and holiest which commands him to worship God with devotion and piety . . . And if it be asked which of the many conflicting religions it is necessary to adopt, reason and the natural law unhesitatingly tell us to practice that one which God enjoins, and which men can easily recognize by certain exterior notes, whereby divine Providence has willed that it should be distinguished, because, in a matter of such moment, the most terrible loss would be the consequence of error.... Wherefore, when a liberty such as we have described is offered to man, the power is given him to pervert or abandon with impunity the most sacred of duties, and to exchange the unchangeable good for evil; which, as we have said, is no liberty, but its degradation, and the abject submission of the soul to sin,” (Pope Leo XIII, Libertas Humana)
2. “The Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom.” (Dignitatis Humanae, 2)
I have purposely limited the quote from Dignitatis Humanae to one sentence in order to accentuate the apparent contradiction. According to Michael Davies, Libertas Humana is “the most important treatment of the subject” of religious liberty. Therefore, through a careful examination of the above quotations within their respective contexts we should be able to determine whether this appearance is substantive. We must begin by examining the definition which Pope Leo gives to that “liberty of worship” which is the object of his condemnation. “Liberty of worship” (according to the above passage from Libertas Humana) is “based on the principle that every man is free to profess as he may choose any religion or none.” This perverted notion of freedom is, in turn, a tenet of Liberalism. According to Pope Leo, Liberalism is that movement in politics and morality which attempts to incarnate in society the doctrines of Naturalism and Rationalism, namely, “the supremacy of human reason, which refusing due submission to the divine and eternal reason, proclaims its own independence, and constitutes itself the supreme principle and source and judge of truth. Hence these followers of Liberalism deny the existence of any divine authority to which obedience is due, and proclaim that every man is the law to himself (Libertas Humana, 12).”
Now, there are two very crucial points to be made here. The above definition of Liberalism given to us by Pope Leo XIII is also the definition most appropriate to the French Revolution and its goals. In claiming that Dignitatis Humanae was a “second 1789” – the French Revolution within the Church – Mr. Davies must logically contend that Dignitatis Humanae denies the existence of divine authority, proclaims that every man is a law unto himself, and that human reason is supreme. It is part of what I have called the extraordinary duplicity of his book that his statements lead to such an absurd deduction.
Dignitatis Humanae is, on the other hand, quite explicit in its declaration of war against precisely just this kind of Liberalism:
“The sacred Council begins by professing that God Himself has made known to the human race how men by serv¬ing Him can be saved and reach happiness in Christ. We believe that this one true religion continues to exist in the Catholic and Apostolic Church, to which the Lord Jesus entrusted the task of spreading it among all men when He said to the apostles: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you’ (Mt 28:19-20). All men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and His Church, and to embrace it and to hold on to it as they come to know it.
The sacred Council likewise proclaims that these obli¬gations bind man’s conscience. Truth can impose itself on the mind of man only in virtue of its own truth, which wins over the mind with both gentleness and power. So while the religious freedom which men demand in fulfilling their obligation to worship God has to do with freedom from coercion in civil society, it leaves intact the traditional Catholic teaching on the moral duty of individuals and societies towards the one true religion and the one Church of Christ”(Dignitatis Humanae,1).
It would be good to repeat this last statement: Dignitatis Humanae “leaves intact the traditional Catholic teaching on the moral duty of individuals and societies towards the one true religion and the one Church of Christ.” If it embraces a concept of religious freedom (and it surely does), then this religious freedom must be something uniquely different from that which is endorsed by Liberalism and condemned by many popes. We are, in other words, dealing with a very similar use of language or terms which embody quite different or even opposing concepts. The “liberty of worship” demanded by Liberalism is not at all the same as that taught by Vatican II, any more the “right to love” claimed by the fornicator is in any way consonant with the love demanded by God. This point leads us to a quotation from Pope Leo’s Libertas Humana, which is absolutely essential in order to place his condemnation of “liberty of worship” into its proper perspective and insure its correct meaning:
“For, to reject the supreme authority of God, and to cast off all obedience to Him in public matters or even in private and domestic affairs, is the greatest perversion of liberty and worst kind of Liberalism; and what We have said must be understood to apply to this alone, in its fullest sense (#25).”
Pope Leo’s condemnation of liberty of worship “must be understood to apply to this alone (Liberalism’s rejection of God, and elevation of human reason to supremacy), in its fullest sense.” The Pope clearly leaves open the possibility for Church teaching on a “freedom of religion” which is founded not upon the rejection of God but rather on His affirmation; not in the elevation of human intellect to supremacy, but in submission of the same to the one true religion and one true Church of Christ. As we have seen, this is the precise intention expressed by the opening paragraphs of Dignitatis Humanae.
Remembering, therefore, that Article 1 teaches that “all men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and His Church, and to embrace it and hold on to it as they come to know it”, we will now proceed to a specific examination of Dignitatis Humanae’s teaching concerning religious liberty:
“The Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. Freedom of this kind means that all men should be immune from coercion on the part of individuals, social groups, and every human power so that, within due limits, nobody is forced to act against his convictions nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his convictions in religious matters in private or in public, alone or in associations with others. The Council further declares that the right to religious freedom is based on the very dignity of the human person as known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself. This right of the human person to religious freedom must he given such recognition in the constitutional order of society as will make it a civil right.” (Art. 2)
First, we must recognize that this freedom of religion is not absolute. It is to be exercised “within due limits.” This is a subject we will pursue later.
Second, what is disputed by Archbishop Lefebvre or Michael Davies is not that freedom which belongs to the internal forum -- to private beliefs and acts of worship. Both admit that the Church has always taught that God wills that man come to Him in interior freedom of choice. What is disputed, and that which Mr. Davies and the Lefebvrites claim is in contradiction to Tradition, is the teaching that no one, within due limits, is to be “restrained from acting in accordance with his convictions in religious matters in private or public.” Following is the Council’s reasoning for this teaching concerning public freedom of religion:
“It is in accordance with their dignity that all men because they are persons, that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore bearing personal responsibility, are both impelled by their nature and bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth once they come to know it and direct their whole lives in accordance with the demands of truth. But men cannot satisfy this obligation in a way that is in keeping with their own nature unless they enjoy both psychological freedom and immunity from external coercion. Therefore the right to religious freedom has its foundation not in the subjective attitude of the individual but in his very nature. For this reason the right to this immunity continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it. The exercise of this right cannot be interfered with as long as the just requirements of public order are observed.”(Art. 2)
“It is through his conscience that man sees and recognizes the demands of the divine law. He is bound to follow this conscience faithfully in all his activity so that he may come to God, who is his last end. Therefore he must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters. The reason is because the practice of religion of its very nature consists primarily of those voluntary and free internal acts by which a man directs himself to God. Acts of this kind cannot be commanded or forbidden by any merely human authority. But his own social nature requires that man give external expression to these internal acts of religion, that he communicate with others on religious matters, and profess his religion in community. Consequently to deny man the free exercise of religion in society, when the just requirements of public order are observed, is to do an injustice to the human person and to the very order established by God for men.” (Art. 3)
The freedom of religion which Vatican II declares to be a right is founded upon “the very nature” of man created in the image of God. We may consider this “nature” or “image” as being constituted in two ways: first, as the “knowledge of God written in the human heart” (but obscured by original and actual sin); and second, as the ”nature” which impels him to seek out the truth, especially religious truth. Man’s fundamental obligation in this life is to search out God and His truth; and psychological freedom and immunity from external coercion, within due limits, are necessary conditions for conducting this search.
In order to understand Dignitatis Humana’s teaching on religious freedom, it would be well to point out another lack of consistency in Michael Davies’ work. On page 45, Mr. Davies quotes Pope Leo XIII on the subject of toleration:
“While not conceding any right to anything save what is true and honest, she (the Church) does not forbid public authority to tolerate what is at variance with truth and justice, for the sake of avoiding some greater evil, or of obtaining or preserving some greater good.”
The Pope gives a twofold reason for toleration. On page 65, however, Mr. Davies has reduced it to one:
“Error can be tolerated only because overt attempts to suppress it could entail an even greater evil.”
Mr. Davies has simply eliminated the possibility that evil can be tolerated because some greater good might be obtained. In so doing he has violated the teaching of Pope Leo XIII and St. Thomas, and has also denied God the exercise of His mercy.
Pope Leo, in Libertas Humana, writes:
“In this (toleration or permission of evil), human law must endeavor to imitate God, who as St. Thomas teaches, in allowing evil to exist in the world, ‘neither wills evil to be done, nor wills it not to be done, but wills only to permit it to be done; and this is good (I q.XIX,a.9,ad.3).”
St. Thomas teaches that “God wills no good more than He wills His own goodness.” Yet, he tolerates sin, which is “the privation of right order towards the divine good.” It would therefore be nonsense to say that God tolerates sin only because suppression of it would entail a greater evil. There simply is no greater evil than sin. God tolerates sin because it is an evil which is attached (accidentally) to a greater good, which is nothing less than human nature (and free will) created in the image of God. And God tolerates this sin against His divine goodness not because man’s nature and free will are a greater good than His goodness, but because His mercy is greater than evil and “seeks to draw out good from all the evil that is in the world.” This is precisely the meaning of the parable of “the wheat and the cockle” (Mt 13:30,40—42 - also Art. 11, Dignitatis Humanae). He can do this only by respecting what His Hands have made – man , created in God’s image with intellect and free will. It is therefore also a serious error on Mr. Davies’ part to say that “It is not freedom but truth which is the foundation of the dignity of the human person (p. 234).” Freedom certainly must conform itself to truth in order for man to achieve that dignity which is his goal in life – union with God; but man also possesses a “dignity of nature” founded upon both his intellect and free will, the free exercise of both being necessary to the achievement of this end. This natural integrity of the human intellect and will is of such importance that, according to St. Thomas, man is morally bound to act in conformity with his conscience even when his conscience is objectively wrong and his action objectively sinful (Ia IIae,q.XIX,a.5). This, of course, does not necessarily excuse the person from sin. Such excuse depends upon the vincibility or invincibility of the ignorance upon which this person’s judgment of conscience is based. The obligation, as taught by Dignitatis Humanae, remains: all men are bound to seek God’s truth and Christ’s Church, and to submit to such as they discover it.
Michael Davies repeatedly claims that the declaration Dignitatis Humanae asserts a “right not to be prevented” from propagating error (or heresy) in public (p.212). This is, of course, false. Only something which is a moral good can be the object of a right. Such a position leads Mr. Davies into another duplicity within the context of his own statements:
“. . . the Declaration (Dignitatis Humanae) nowhere suggests that any individual can have a positive right to profess or spread error,” (p. 213)
“The diffusion of lying opinions is thus indubitably designated by Dignitatis Humanae as a right to be guaranteed by the civil law rather than an evil to be tolerated only to avoid a greater evil.” (p. 228)
Dignitatis Humanae teaches neither a right to propagate error in public nor a right not to be prevented from propagating such error. It teaches very clearly that man is bound to seek the truth and to embrace it when found. There can be neither a right to error nor a right “not to he prevented” from propagating error. There can be and there is, however, a right to a good (human nature created in the image of God by which man, in free will and intellect, seeks out truth) to which error and even evil may be attached. It is therefore the good which is the subject of a right, and it is the error which is the subject of toleration. Dignitatis Humanae does not use the word “toleration”, but the traditional concept of toleration is implicit in all its teaching on religious liberty. Dignitatis Humanae never attributes a “right” to something which is not a moral good. The same cannot be said of Michael Davies. In his effort to prove that Dignitatis Humanae posits a “right to diffuse error” or a “right not to he prevented from propagating error” in the external forum , Mr. Davies violates both the dignity of man and the Catholic criterion for something to deserve the appellation “right” by declaring that man has a “right not to be prevented” from holding false beliefs in the internal forum and a “right not to be prevented” from passing these erroneous beliefs onto his children.(p. .46). In point of fact, Catholic moral theology tells us that the “right” possessed by the person who harbors erroneous beliefs does not adhere to either the errors themselves or to any right “not to he prevented” from holding these errors. The right applies to the freedom of conscience, which cannot be violated. The case of a father raising his child in false beliefs is similar. The right is applied to the institution of the family, established by God and prior to civil governments, which is the moral good to which in this particular case is attached the evil of misbelief.
We have already noted that religious freedom, although a right inherent in the human person, must be exercised “within due limits.” The state violates the limits set upon its authority by God if it attempts to control or restrict what properly belongs to that which is the moral good called religious freedom (Art. 4). It does not violate its mandate from God if it restricts or controls the evils which may be attached to this good. Dignitatis Humanae uses a variety of terms to indicate the basis for such restrictions: public order (Articles 2,3,4,7), public peace and public morality (Art. 7), common good (Articles 6,7), and “objective moral order” (Art. 7). Quite frankly, Dignitatis Humanae is, for the most part lacking in specificity as to what these criteria entail. The most specific, “the objective moral order”, would certainly restrict such things as divorce, abortion, contraception, and polygamy. Originally the document “On Religious Freedom” was part (Ch. 5) of the schema “On Ecumenism”. Msgr. de Smedt, who was the official relater of this document (prepared by the Unity Secretariat) to the Council Fathers, offers the following explanation in his relatio:
“From this it is evident that the right and duty to manifest externally the dictate of conscience is not, unlimited, but can be and at times must be tempered and regulated for the common good. “ (Michael Davies, p. 287)
The traditional Catholic term “common good”, under the teaching of such Popes as Leo XIII and Pius IX, could definitely restrict such things as media attacks upon Catholic truths and morality, and the dissemination of false teachings which could prove a danger to souls. In his final relatio on Dignitatis Humanae Bishop deSmedt offered the following explanation for the substitution of “public order” as a restricting norm for “common good”:
“The basic component of the common good is referred to today in modern civil law and in many state Constitutions as the ‘public order.’ In order for our document to be readily intelligible in the modern world, it should use this technical term according to its accepted modern usage.”(Ibid., p. 196)
There is no question that most of the Church Fathers believed that the religious freedom which they were endorsing in Dignitatis Humana was subject to restriction by the traditional Catholic concept of the common good. There is also no question that Popes Paul VI and John Paul II interpret the function of civil government in regard to this freedom to be the promotion of the common good. Pope John Paul II, in Redemptor Hominis teaches: “The Church has always taught the duty to act for the common good and, in so doing, has likewise educated good citizens for each state. Furthermore, she has always taught that the fundamental duty of power is solicitude for the common good of society; this is what gives power its fundamental rights (#17).”
Just as Pope Leo XIII’s Libertas Human, and similar pronouncements such as Pope Pius IX’S Syllabus and Quanta Cura, and Pope Gregory XVI’S Mirari vos, were all directed at restricting or stemming the tide of that false “liberty of worship” which is the god of Liberalism, so Dignitatis Humanae is primarily directed against that worldwide assault being directed against true religious freedom by militant atheism. It is, therefore, obviously more concerned with protecting that freedom, rather than specifying the restrictions, which might be placed upon it. It is interesting that in Libertas Human, Pope Leo himself makes the very distinction we have made here – that between what he calls “natural liberty” and “moral liberty.” He further states that his encyclical does not deal with natural liberty, but rather with moral liberty.
Dignitatis Humanae, of course, deals mostly with natural liberty. We might deplore this. We might cry out, along with Pope Leo XIII, that we have heard enough about the rights of man, and that we want to hear about the rights of God (Tametsi). In our frustration, however, we are not permitted to set ourselves against the Magisterium and distort its teaching.
The desire which many traditional Catholics feel for a return to a true spiritual union between Church and state is legitimate. As we have seen, Dignitatis Humanae firmly endorses the constant “Catholic teaching on the moral duty of individuals and societies towards the one true religion and the one Church of Christ (Art. 1).” There are, however, certain points that must be considered in any efforts we might wish to make towards such a restoration of traditional Catholic culture.
First (as pointed out in the letter of Cardinal Ratzinger previously quoted), we have a Catholic obligation not to assert contradiction within the teaching of the Magisterium. In addition, we have the same type of obligation not to defy the Pope in the exercise of his Primacy of Jurisdiction (government and discipline of the Church). To do either of these places us in either objective heresy or schism, or both (as is the case with the Lefebvrites).
Second, union between Church and state by no means insures long-term spiritual health. The Church has widely considered the 13th Century to be the “greatest of centuries” because it was during this period that Church and state worked most closely together for the twofold end (spiritual and temporal) of man, and because this union was widely incarnated in the institutions of society (the Guilds are one of the most obvious examples). We must realize, however, that within 250 years of this same century, half of Europe was in the process of denying the Catholic faith. Because whole nations and cultures are visibly Catholic does not at all insure that individual faith is of such a quality as to either sustain historical trials or endure the passage of generations. What is demanded for such faithfulness is constant conversion and reconversion of the human heart and mind to God (This is the almost constant theme Of Vatican II).
Third, we may believe that Vatican Council II has had the effect of handing Catholics over to their own freedoms. This does not entail, as the Lefebvrites would have it, heresy. It may well entail punishment and chastisement:
“So I let them go according to the desires of their heart:
they shall walk in their own inventions.” (PS 80:13)
It may demand widespread conversion of individuals and societies to that “first love” and “first works” (Apoc 2:4,5) which we have earlier discussed. Only such love and works can reconstitute society under the rights of God and the Kingship of Christ. Only the Church can rebuild Christian civilization. And the Church can only obtain to that power and grace if we be converted to that sacrificial love for the Church and its Vicar which was the subject of Part II of this book.
We must also point out the extreme spiritual danger incurred by those who would presume to deny the teaching of Dignitatis Humana on religious liberty. Consider the following dogmatic statement of Vatican Council I on the subject of the Church’s infallible teaching office:
“Further, by divine and Catholic faith, all those things must be believed which are contained in the written word of God and in tradition, and those which are proposed by the Church, either in a solemn pronouncement or in her ordinary and universal teaching power, to be believed as divinely revealed (Dogmatic Constitution Concerning the Catholic Faith, Ch. 3).”
Now, bearing the above definition in mind, we read the following from # 2 of Dignitatis Humanae:
“The Council further declares that the right to religious freedom is based on the very dignity of the human person as known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself.”
Dignitatis Humanae clearly proposes its teaching on religious freedom as being divinely revealed. The person who denies this teaching is therefore placing himself in a position of heretical opposition to the infallible teaching magisterium of the Catholic Church.
Earlier in Quartus Supra to the effect that “Every schism fabricates a heresy for itself to justify its withdrawal from the Church.” We have extensively discussed those heresies which deny the divinely established prerogatives of the Papacy. We must now add to them this heresy which denies the Church’s teaching on natural religious freedom. It is, in fact, this heresy which makes the position of Archbishop Lefebvre and his followers truly terminal, a spiritual cul-de-sac. Once we have concluded that a Pope (and now it is several Popes) and a Universal Council can wrongfully teach a doctrine as being divinely revealed, where do we go from there? Where is our Pope, our Church? Where is our God?
Finally, we must recognize that, despite all that has been said above, there still exists a very legitimate concern about Dignitatis Humanae. It can be rightly seen as being profoundly disproportionate in its emphasis on “natural” human liberty, seemingly at the expense of “moral” liberty and the whole concept of the Social Kingship of Christ.Unquestionably, this disproportionate teaching has been profoundly instrumental in promoting the false ecumenism and indifferentism which has saturated every aspect of Catholic belief and practice since Vatican II. It is, however, one thing to postulate disproportion, and entirely another thing to claim contradiction in a magisterial document which proclaims its teaching to be founded upon divine revelation.
As I have mentioned before, there are two extremes tearing at the heart of
those who wish to remain faithful Catholics. On the one hand, there are those who, through bitterness over all the changes which have occurred since Vatican II, are now denying the divinely established prerogatives of the Papacy, and thus are also denying the Divine Constitution of the Church. On the other side, are those who have refused to see that the Church has been struck and dealt a near-mortal blow, all the way from the humble heel of the faithful to its very head. In other words, the Papacy itself is under direct attack.
Unquestionably, those who have followed what are admittedly good Catholic instincts in defending priests, bishops, and the Pope in the years since Vatican II, have been in a position of constant retreat. The average good Catholic, for instance, refused to look at what was happening to the teaching religious orders, to their parish priests, and to their diocesan bishops immediately after the Council. They continued to send their children to diocesan schools, and as a result, vast numbers of their children are no longer Catholic. And if they had a child who became a religious, there is a very good chance that this same child has denied his or her vocation and left his or her order. And even if that be not the case, the very great likelihood is that this child is dressing and living in such a way as to make his or her vocation appear almost indistinguishable from life in the world.
Many of these same “conservative” Catholics who finally had to admit that their local convents and possibly also their own parish priest had gone bad, continued to trust their bishops. They tended to still view the bishops as good shepherds who were victims of rebellion among the ranks of the diocesan priesthood and religious orders. After all, they thought, is not each bishop personally approved by the Pope? And is this not a guarantee of at least minimal orthodoxy and moral uprightness?
However, the recent sexual scandals within the priesthood have now also engulfed the episcopacy. In large part, therefore, these same people, who have tried to be faithful, “conservative” Catholics, are on the retreat again. And they are now in retreat not only in respect to their local bishop and the bishops of this whole country, but also in relation to the Papacy itself. Just recently, for instance, Pope John Paul II rewarded Cardinal Law by making him Archpriest of St. Mary Major, one of the four major basilicas of Rome. The fact is that Archbishop Law, in his cover-ups of priestly pedophilia in Boston, is guilty of major crimes against the innocence of children. Many of the faithful know this, and many have been deeply disturbed.
This particular incident received significant coverage in the public media. However, any serious investigation will reveal that there are literally a myriad of cases involving everything from priestly and episcopal heresy, to horrible liturgical abuses, heretical catechisms and abuse of parents rights in the administration of the Sacraments, to episcopal and priestly sexual abuse, concerning which the faithful in large numbers have militantly and repeatedly petitioned the Pope and the Vatican Bureaucracy, and have received no justice, and very often simply a cover-up.
The effect of these revelations, as I have said, is backing many people who consider themselves orthodox Catholics right up to the door of the Papacy. And with further research, many of these same people are becoming aware of the extraordinary degree to which the policies, and even some of the non-dogmatic teachings of Pope John Paul II (and Paul VI), are in direct contradiction to the policies and teachings of their predecessors.
Nowhere is this change in policy and teaching more evident than in the realm of ecumenism. Before Vatican II, the whole concept of “unity” revolved around the principle that there was only one source of unity in Christ. This unity lay within the One, Holy, and Roman Catholic Church of Christ. The Church was viewed as a Beacon on a hill to which all men must come for truth and unity in Christ. And in the case of Protestants and others who had separated from the Church, the only path to union was that form of re-union by which they returned to the Catholic Church. The Church therefore focused its energies on proclaiming the truth in its fullness as a light which would attract to itself those who were predisposed through God’s grace to respond to this light. The essential structure of evangelization was therefore to be seen in a vertical perspective – as Christ (through the light of His truth and love) drawing all men up to Himself through the Church.
The new approach promoted through the Pontificates of Paul VI and John Paul I, while not at all denying the doctrinal principles of unity to be found in the traditional formulation as given above, increasingly saw God’s grace and truth working in a horizontal fashion – through what many have called “integral humanism.” Through this new “ecumenical approach” the emphasis was to be placed upon God’s grace already present and working in the world, and in all peoples. The primary means of evangelization then became the effort to “dialogue” with the world in order to draw out a truth that was already present, although hidden and in many ways distorted.
The problem with such an approach, of course, is that it entailed the Church coming down to the world. It necessitated that the Church dialogue with the world in such a way as not to offend the world. And this “gentle conversation with the world” encouraged both a “softening” of the truth, and a selective presentation of the truth. Even more important, this approach by the Pope and other members of the hierarchy further led the faithful into attitudes which bred indifferentism and the belief that there really was not much difference between Catholicism and Protestantism, or even between Catholicism and many of the pagan religions. In other words, this “new” ecumenical approach had the effect of handing over the entire Catholic world to a vast new near-occasion to sin. Ecumenism may therefore be seen as being at the root of virtually all the chaos which we have seen in the Church since Vatican II: everything from Priestly perversity to the existence of at least two generations who have never learned their faith. All these evils may be seen, in other words, as the fruit of an attempt by the Church to serve both God and the world – the “serving of the world” being a phrase very nearly equivalent (at least in its effects) to the term “ecumenism.”
Such an approach even leads to a confusion in regards to the Catholic doctrine concerning the absolute distinction which must be made between God’s Supreme Being and the nature of all created being. Christ said, “And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all things to myself.” It is true that this refers to the crucifixion, and it is also true that in order to be “lifted up”, Christ first had to come down to man in the Incarnation.
Yet the nature and process of man’s sanctification is clear. It is a vertical process – a being lifted up, a looking up, a vision of light and ascending truth and virtue, a beacon on a hill, and a revelation from above. The eyes of the human soul must be made to tear their gaze away from the earth and up to God. These are not mere conventions of language, but they express profound spiritual and psychological truths. And these psychological and spiritual truths, expressed in simple human language, are also the profound protector of the integrity of belief in the absolute Nature of God’s Supreme Being.
In order to clearly see the contradiction between these new ecumenical activities and the previous tradition of the Church, one need only contrast the ecumenical meetings promoted by Pope John Paul II with the teachings of Pope Pius XI in his encyclical em>Mortalium Animos. Since this is an enormously important point in our consideration of the present crisis, I shall quote rather extensively from this great encyclical:
“A similar object is aimed at by some, in those matters which concern the New Law promulgated by Christ our Lord. For since they hold it for certain that men destitute of all religious sense are very rarely to be found, they seem to have founded on that belief a hope that the nations, although they differ among themselves in certain religious matters, will without much difficulty come to agree as brethren in professing certain doctrines, which form as it were a common basis of the spiritual life. For which reason conventions, meetings and addresses are frequently arranged by these persons, at which a large number of listeners are present, and at which all without distinction are invited to join in the discussion, both infidels of every kind, and Christians, even those who have unhappily fallen away from Christ or who with obstinacy and pertinacity deny His divine nature and mission. Certainly such attempts can nowise be approved by Catholics, founded as they are on that false opinion which considers all religions to be more or less good and praiseworthy, since they all in different ways manifest, and signify that sense which is inborn in us all, and by which we are led to God and to the obedient acknowledgment of His rule. Not only are those who hold this opinion in error and deceived, but also in distorting the idea of true religion they reject it, and little by little, turn aside to naturalism and atheism, as it is called; from which it clearly follows that one who supports those who hold these theories and attempt to realize them, is altogether abandoning the divinely revealed religion.”
Further, in considering such ecumenical activities conducted among non-Catholic Christians, Pius XI writes:
“These pan-Christians who turn their minds to uniting the churches seem, indeed, to pursue the noblest of ideas in promoting charity among all Christians: nevertheless how does it happen that this charity tends to injure faith? Everyone knows that John himself, the Apostle of love, who seems to reveal in his Gospel the secrets of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and who never ceased to impress on the memories of his followers the new commandment ‘Love one another,’ altogether forbade any intercourse with those who professed a mutilated and corrupt version of Christ’s teaching: ‘If any man come to you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into the house nor say to him: God speed you.’ For which reason, since charity is based on a complete and sincere faith, the disciples of Christ must be united principally by the bond of one faith. Who then can conceive a Christian Federation, the members of which retain each his own opinions and private judgment, even in matters which concern the object of faith, even though they be repugnant to the opinions of the rest? And in what manner, We ask, can men who follow contrary opinions, belong to one and the same Federation of the faithful? For example, those who affirm, and those who deny that sacred Tradition is a true fount of divine Revelation; those who hold that an ecclesiastical hierarchy, made up of bishops, priests, and ministers, has been divinely constituted, and those who assert that it has been brought in little by little in accordance with the conditions of the time; those who adore Christ really present in the Most Holy Eucharist through that marvelous conversion of the bread and wine, which is called transubstantiation, and those who affirm that Christ is present only by faith or by the signification and virtue of the Sacrament; those who in the Eucharist recognize the nature both of a sacrament and of a sacrifice, and those who say that it is nothing more than the memorial or commemoration of the Lord’s Supper; those who believe it to be good and useful to invoke by prayer the Saints reigning with Christ, especially Mary, the Mother of God, and to venerate their images, and those who urge that such a veneration is not to be made use of, for it is contrary to the honour due to Jesus Christ, ‘the one mediator of God and men.’ How so great a variety of opinions can make the way clear to effect the unity of the Church We know not; that unity can only arise from one teaching authority, one law of belief and one faith of Christians. But We do know that from this it is an easy step to the neglect of religion or indifferentism and to modernism, as they call it.
….So, Venerable Brethren, it is clear why this Apostolic See has never allowed its subjects to take part in the assemblies of non-Catholics: for the union of Christians can only be promoted by promoting the return to the one true Church of Christ, of those who are separated from it, for in the past they have unhappily left it.”
The above description given us by Pius XI of certain kinds of teachings, activities, and meetings which promote a false “ecumenism” would seem to be a perfect description of what Pope John Paul II has done at Assisi and countless other ecumenical gatherings. According to Pius XI, “one who supports those who hold these theories and attempt to realize them, is altogether abandoning the divinely revealed religion.” The mysterious fact is, however, that Pope John Paul II has not abandoned the faith. It is a doctrine of the faith that he cannot lose the faith. He has found some way in his own mind of reconciling such ecumenical actions and theories with an orthodox exposition of the Catholic Faith (as we have seen in his doctrinal explanation which he gave in his Wednesday General Audience before the meetings at Assisi). I believe that such a reconciliation results in nightmare. It may not promote indifference in the personal faith of Pope John Paul II, but it has definitely promoted profound indifferentism in millions of Catholics, and has also confused non-Catholics in a very profound way. The average Protestant, based upon the ecumenical thrust of the Pontificates of Paul VI and John Paul II, certainly thinks that the Catholic Church is “coming around” to the way of thinking and believing formulated by the Protestant “reformers.” The same may even be said, at least to some extent, about the Buddhists or members of other pagan religions.
Nor are we here concerned only with ecumenism. This new ecumenical impetus has also furnished the orientation and motivation for profound alterations in virtually everything that we call Catholic .The contradictions which exist between the policies and teachings of John Paul II and his predecessors extend to many areas: to the form of the Mass and how it is to be offered; to the understanding of the proper relationship between Church and State; to the comparative emphasis to be placed upon natural freedom as contrasted to moral freedom (already explored in my chapter on Religious Liberty), and to many other areas of Catholic life and worship. There have been a number of books already written on these subjects, and I will not go further in examination of these issues. I will only point out that most of these books are written in such a way as to justify various forms of rejection of the Church’s doctrine on the Papacy. As such they represent a tragic extreme which must be avoided.
The bottom line, however, is that while all of these things may be seen as part of that chastisement which has come upon the Church, none of them involve denial of Catholic doctrine by the Pope. Further, it is an absolute obligation of our Catholic Faith that when we do find the Pope doing or saying such things, that we first fully accept that Pope is not a heretic, and has not lost his faith. It is only then that we can begin to understand this situation which is so bewildering to so many.
We are compelled by the Gospel to believe in God’s extraordinary love for His Church. St. Paul writes:
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church and delivered himself up for it: That he might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life: That he might present it to himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish.(Eph 5:25-27)/”
This does not mean that God is strictly obligated to do everything He could conceivably do in order to bring every man to Heaven, but such a love surely does mean that His relationship to His Mystical Body the Church is of such a nature as to not allow a situation in which He has virtually abandoned His flock to the wolves. And this is precisely what so many traditionalists seem to believe. The standard explanation offered by many of these “traditional” Catholics to explain the present crisis is as follows: somehow a group of liberal periti and bishops gained control of the proceedings of Vatican Council II. They wrote the documents in such a way that they contained “time bombs” which could then be exploited after the Council to implement all these disastrous changes. After the Council they gained access to virtually all the key positions, possibly even including the Papacy, in order to implement these changes. And since God respects man’s free will and the choices that man makes, we are now in the position of being ruled by a bunch of modernists who are in control of the Vatican bureaucracy, and to a large extent, the Papacy and episcopacy.
If Christ’s love, as described by St. Paul, be true, and if it further be true, as taught by Vatican I, that Christ established in Peter and his successors all that is necessary to “secure the perpetual welfare and lasting good of the Church”, and if Peter (through Christ) “lives presides and judges to this day, always” in his successors, including Pope John Paul II, and if Christ “has not abandoned the direction of the Church”, then the scenario described above must represent an extraordinarily shallow view of what is happening within Christ’s Beloved, the Church. God certainly does respect man’s free will, but He is easily capable at the same time of so ordering things according to His Providence that the Church will have shepherds according to His Will. St. Gregory the Great, in fact, said that “Divine justice provides shepherds according to the just deserts of the faithful.” Moreover, there also exists such a thing as “efficient” grace which, while not at all tampering with man’s freedom, yet exerts such a powerful effect upon the heart and mind of man as to make virtually certain man’s (including the Pope’s) compliance with God’s will. St. Paul’s conversion was of such a nature. The Beatific Vision is the ultimate example of such grace. Finally, God at any time could take the present Pope away, and insure through the guidance of the Holy Spirit that we get something akin to a new Pius X or Leo XIII. The one astounding thing that seems to shine forth from the Pontificate of John Paul II is the extraordinary degree to which God seems to be doing just the opposite. For years, the continuing presence of John Paul II has seemed to be due to divine suspension of imminent death.
We are therefore faced with a great mystery. Stated succinctly, we are faced with the absolutely necessary conclusion that the present crisis in the Church is not due just to the permissive will of God, but also to His positive will. And here we come face to face with the great age-old problem concerning the existence of evil in a world created by an Infinitely Good God. In other words, just as there was something in the positive will of God involved in His sending the Babylonians and Assyrians against the Jews as a means of chastisement and eventual renewal, so we must conclude that the changes wrought by Vatican II and the Papacies of Paul VI and John Paul II are also due in some way to the positive will of God.
We may be faced with confusion when we try to relate the present chaos in the Church to the promises which Christ made to His Church, and also the promises and guarantees laid out for us in the doctrinal teaching of Vatican Council I. But I think such confusion is really the result of our lack of understanding of the relationship between good, evil, and punishment. For this, I think, we need the help of St. Thomas.
St. Thomas teaches that all evil must have a cause, and that the cause of evil is good. He quotes St. Augustine: “There is no possible source of evil except good.” Now, this may seem an astounding statement to us, but it becomes easier to accept when we understand the very nature of creation. All created things are limited. Limitation is in itself a privation of the perfect good of Infinitude, and it is therefore, as St. Thomas said, evil. Yet God did not will this privation directly, but only accidentally. He willed the good of creating being from non-being, and to this good is attached, per accidens, the evil of limitation. We may also understand this relationship between good and evil when we look at the reality of change, which has been with us since even before the Fall. All change involves the corruption (death) of old forms and the generation of new. The “good” of any animal in Eden was dependent upon the death and corruption of plant life, and this corruption is an evil accidentally attached to a higher good. Evil, therefore, is the accidental privation of good attached ultimately to the good of divine order in the world. And this divine order finds its greatest fulfillment in the almost infinite good of angelic spirits and human souls attaining to unity with God for all eternity in the Beatific Vision.
Having looked at the relationship between good and evil in creation in general, we are now more prepared to look at the application of these principles to God’s providential dealing with Human souls, and with the Church which Christ established in order to bring souls to their final end. In discussing the question whether God is the Cause of Evil, St. Thomas squares off against the following objection (from his imaginary protagonist in the Summa):
“It would seem that the supreme good, God, is the cause of evil. For it is said (Isa. 14:5,7): I am the Lord, and there is no other God, forming the light, and creating darkness, making peace, and creating evil. And (Amos 3:6): Shall there be evil in a city which the Lord hath not done?”
Part of St. Thomas’ answer runs as follows:
“”But it is manifest that the form which God chiefly intends in things created is the good of the order of the universe. Now, the order of the universe requires, as was said above (Q.22,A.2 ad2; W.48,A.2), that there should be some things that can, and do sometimes, fail. And thus God, by causing in things the good of the order of the universe, consequently and as it were by accident, causes the corruptions of things, according to 1 Kings ii. 6: The Lord killeth and maketh alive. But when we read that God hath not made death (Wis i. 13), the sense is that God does not will death for its own sake. Nevertheless the order of justice belongs to the order of the universe; and this requires that penalty should be dealt out to sinners. And so God is the author of the evil which is penalty, but not of the evil which is fault…(Q. 49, A.2).”
The following quote is the answer which St. Thomas therefore gives to the scriptures quoted above, especially to the one which reads “Shall there be evil in a city which the Lord hath not done?:
“These passages refer to the evil of penalty, and not to the evil of fault.”
In other words, when we look at the chaos and evil in the Church today, we may consider that the “evil” in the City of God is a mixture of God’s penalty and man’s fault, a mixture which is very difficult to sort out in most situations. We are constrained, however, by the Gospel to believe that God is not the author of any moral evil, and that He truly desires the death or ruin of no man. God, therefore, according to the teaching of Vatican I, is in some way positively willing the orientations and policies of the Pontificate of Pope John Paul II, and if these policies seem in any way evil to us, then we need to consider the probability that this orientation is a chastisement designed to draw us out of deep sin – sin which only would have gone deeper if God had continued to bless us with what we had and loved before this chastisement. It is into the nature of this sin that we should be directing our inquiry if we wish to come back to God and be renewed in His gifts and His grace. In this regard, I have come to believe that the pre-Vatican II Catholic world was, while outwardly appearing healthy, profoundly diseased within. We certainly possessed the Mass, and we also possessed supposedly the best Catholic school system in the world. Our convents were full, and vocations to the priesthood abundant. We believed, for the most part, what was written in the Baltimore catechism. We “possessed” the faith.
At the same time, however, we also believed in unlimited economic, scientific and technological progress. We were up to our necks in usury and the pursuit of unlimited financial gain. We sat in front of our TV’s and increasingly watched banality, worldliness, immodesty, and crudity. We made sports our religion. We allowed God to be kicked out of the schools, and we continued to send our children to these schools.
Increasingly, we began to tolerate the teaching of evolution to our children, and then came to believe in it in ever growing numbers. We believed that water really was reducible to H2O, and not a substance created by God out of nothing. We increasingly believed that psychological analysis and materialistic explanations of human behavior were deeper and more important than understanding the different effects upon human behavior of sin and virtue, and the workings of God’s grace. Many welcomed divorce and longed for contraception. We polluted Sundays and Holy Days with our worldly activities. And more and more, God became a one hour Sunday appendage to the real pursuit of our lives.
In other words, we were attempting to serve both God and the world in a way unprecedented in human history. The most fundamental teaching of the Gospel concerning our primary obligation towards loving and following Christ was being drowned beneath this duplicity:
“For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also.
The light of thy body is thy eye. If thy eye be single, they whole body shall be lightsome.
But if thy eye be evil they whole body shall be darksome. If then the light that is in thee, be darkness: the darkness how great shall it be!
No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one, and love the other: or he will sustain the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
I firmly believe that the duplicity with which we attempted to serve both God and mammon, and which brought us material prosperity accompanied by what also appeared to be so many spiritual blessings (all the things I listed above: the Mass, the schools, abundant vocations, etc.), was indeed darksome. And that God, through these recent Papacies has taken away these gifts, and handed us over to Satan’s most vicious attack that we might learn not to blaspheme; and that, being reduced to helplessness, we might eventually turn away from our duplicity and return to Him in poverty, humility, and the exercise of his mercy.
“You ask, and receive not; because you ask amiss: that you may consume it on your concupiscences.
Adulterers, know you not that the friendship of this world is the enemy of God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of this world, becometh an enemy of God….
Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners: and purify your hearts, ye double minded
Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy into sorrow.
Be humbled in the sight of the Lord, and he will exalt you.”
(James: 4: 5-7,8-10)
It is an old story, repeated many times over, both throughout the Old Testament and also over almost 2,000 years of Christian history. Yet never before in human history has man possessed the scientific reductionism, technological “progress”, and material prosperity which makes it so tempting and easy for him to serve two masters.
As I have said before, the most effective chastisement which God can inflict upon man in such a situation is simply to hand him over to his own natural freedom. I believe that that is what Dignitatis Humanae is all about. It is what the New Mass facilitates. And it is what a whole host of other “new” things in the Church is all about – the “relaxation” of the fasting laws, the permission for altar girls, the indiscriminate promotion of NFP, etc. And, possibly, pre-eminent among these chastisements is the ecumenical movement by which the Church, and all the faithful, are in effect lowered into the pool of the world’s errors and sins. If we had come to the point of living profoundly duplicitous lives; if we had surrendered ourselves to serving the world in all the other aspects of our lives: political, economic, educational, recreational, etc. – then why should we deem it surprising that God should hand us over to Satan in our spiritual lives so that we might “learn not to blaspheme (1 Tim 1:20).”
All these things have the effect of promoting natural freedom, and a “veiling” of the protective cover of Christ’s Kingship over our lives. They are, in reality, spiritual democracy. And we have deserved it, and for the most part still do. I believe, in fact, that the view which places the major responsibility for everything that is wrong with the Church upon members of the hierarchy, theologians, etc. is profoundly superficial. This, after all, is the dominant view among those who call themselves “traditional” Catholics. It is in fact this “orientation” towards almost exclusively blaming Popes, bishops, priests, etc. which prevents us from perceiving the real roots of infidelity in our own duplicity – such “double-mindedness being at the root of the present chastisement and chaos in the Church.
What is necessary in order to understand this crisis is true Christian piety. In one of its roots the word piety connotes “fidelity” in fulfilling ones obligations towards God, and to others in any way responsible for our existence or well-being. In another nuance, it finds roots in the Italian word for “pity” – thus we have the “Pieta” of Michelangelo. And in another root, it means “appeasement” (which, of course, is closely linked to the Catholic idea of “reparation” and sacrifice). True “piety” therefore reaches almost infinitely deeper than any strictly human rational analysis into the roots of suffering, confusion, and chaos that are present in the Church. It reaches into the very Heart of Christ, into His Merciful Love, and therefore into the mysterious interplay between chastisement and blessing through which God works to “draw good out of all the evil in the world.”
It is this “piety” which came into play in my attempted analysis of the events at Assisi. I first of all established quite clearly through the Pope’s Wednesday General Audience, held just previous to this event, that Pope John Paul II believes that there is no salvation except through Jesus Christ. He cannot therefore be justly accused of heresy. How then do we account for what I have also called the “nightmare” of Assisi? The whole Pontificate of Pope John Paul II, as I see it, is devoted to the “project” of God’s Divine Mercy through Jesus Christ. In the promotion of God’s mercy John Paul II looks deeply into the heart and nature of man and sees God’s image, and therefore the profound dignity of every man, even the greatest sinner. According to his own writings therefore, he believes that even within the most pagan religions there are “seeds of the Word” – ideas, longings, aspirations, etc. which are truly directed towards the one true God. This is not a new idea confected by Pope John Paul II. Certain early Church Fathers spoke of this concept, and Saint Clement of Alexandria even went so far as to speak of a “dispensation of paganism.” At any rate, the Pope believes that the time has come that God wishes us not to try to impose Christ’s Kingship from the top, but to draw out, through dialogue and ecumenism, these “seeds of the Word” into the fullness of truth in Christ.
As I say, I believe I can understand what he is doing. There is no denial of Catholic doctrine in such a position. There is also, certainly, some truth in it. It does not make Pope John Paul II a heretic. But it does make for nightmare. And I think the nightmare is one we deserve.
We deserve the nightmare because we have possessed the faith of Catholicism, but not its heart. We have “tithed mint and rue and every herb; and passed over judgment, and the charity of God (Luke 11:42).” In other words, besides the spiritual duplicity which sought to have the things of this world more than ever before, there was in pre-Conciliar Catholicism something akin to the religion of the Pharisees. The Pharisees possessed God’s promise and covenant, possessed God’s law, possessed the Promised Land, and possessed the true religious worship. And they used these possessions to deny God’s love and mercy not only towards other human beings, but even so as to destroy in themselves and many others the very love man owes to God – thus causing Christ to say through his Prophet: “I saw no one to comfort me.”
It is a telling thing to me that the only time, at least in the area where I live, that I hear the word “nigger” used is when I am among traditional Catholics. Certainly not from everyone, but nevertheless it is a phenomenon that is real and recurring. It is also revealing that it is only among some traditional Catholics that one finds the belief that any one who is not a physical member of the Catholic Church is bound to go to Hell. But even more important than these specific attitudes, there has always seemed to me to be a kind of ambience present in so much of traditionalist writings and conversations that tells of a sort of Gnostic elitism. It stems forth in the attitude that we are the people who have the Truth, and possess the Mass, while forgetting that the Mass is the living embodiment of Christ’s Passion for the souls of all men. It is the most telling thing to me that when I am among many (but certainly not all) traditional Catholics I sense so little of this passion for souls. I sense possession, I sense a cause, but I do not sense a passion in imitation of Christ’s merciful love.
It is my belief, therefore, that the chastisement which we are experiencing, especially in this country and in the West generally, is the fruit of our having possessed the faith of Catholicism, but not its heart. We have become “as fat as butter” while two-thirds of the world goes to bed hungry every night. We have self-righteously dismissed all pagan people because “all the gods of the pagans are devils” while failing to realize that in the depths of the hearts of many of these same pagans are the hearts of children crying out implicitly, if not actually, for Jesus Christ. We gave our pittance to the missions and our hundred dollar bills to the purchase of new TV’s, cars, boats and motors, snowmobiles, and degrees from secular and atheistic institutions.
I believe that Assisi was a nightmare because it was an expression of false philosophical approaches (as examined in the final section of this book), and that it involves an extraordinarily naïve approach to dialoguing with error, superstition, and evil. Despite all this, I also believe that it involves the heart of a Catholic Pope who suffers deeply for the salvation of others in his desire to bring God’s mercy to all men. Yet, it is also true that the whole concept of mercy can be abused. His writings reveal that he sees himself as ruling through serving, and that this serving is at the very heart of his concept of mercy. But it is equally true that in order to truly serve, a Pope must rule. And this I cannot see that he has effectively done. He has been merciful, and even rewarding, to Cardinal Law, but through his failure to govern, he has done little to prevent a whole generation (or two) of Catholic children from being spiritually, and in many cases physically, raped by those who are ministering in the name of the Church. I understand, in fact, that in his latest book Pope John Paul II also expresses personal misgivings about his government of the Church
And this is why I, and I think many others who are caught in the web of these extremes, feel as though “My heart is become like wax melting in the midst of my bowels.” On the one hand, we have no idea how to convince Pope John Paul II that the cause of Divine Mercy may be best served through a return to the traditional concept of the Social Kingship of Jesus Christ, to the Traditional Mass, and through a radically new commitment to the spirituality and passion of which this Mass is the perfect expression in prayer. On the other hand, we see a deeply fractured and divided traditionalist movement, divided for the most part because of a multitude of errors concerning the Papacy, these errors being rooted in a profoundly superficial understanding of the relationship of Christ to His Mystical Body the Church. I further believe that it is this division from the Papacy which is depriving the Church of that suffering and reparative charity which is necessary for its reform. Archbishop Lefebvre, for instance, called Pope John Paul II an “anti-Christ”, and yet stated that he prayed for him at every Mass. How can there be anything of the power of reparation and reform in a prayer rooted in such a judgment, and in such duplicity?
An Attempt At Understanding
So what is happening in the interior of Pope John Paul II that enables him to do what he does? Holy Scripture tells us, of course, that no man can understand another’s heart. But there are qualities and realities built into both the nature of supernatural Revelation and man’s response to it in faith that might at least give us a handle on how this strange and heart-rending state of affairs has come to pass. And it is precisely this “handle” which we are so much in need of in order to retain some sort of Catholic sanity in the midst of this confusion. We need, in other words, an explanation of how Pope John Paul II can do these things while still possessing the “never-failing faith” guaranteed by Christ to all Popes.
The key to this explanation lies, I believe, in understanding the difference, and even conflict, which can exist between faith and personal philosophy. Vatican Council I’s other great document, The Dogmatic Constitution On The Catholic Faith, teaches the following:
“The Catholic Church, with one consent, has also ever held, and does hold, that there is a twofold order of knowledge, distinct both in principle and in object: in principle, because our knowledge in the one is by natural reason, and in the other by divine faith; in object, because, besides those things to which natural reason can attain, there are proposed to our belief mysteries hidden in God, which, unless divinely revealed, cannot be known” (Ch.IV).
In terms of our understanding of the “sciences” concerned with ultimate truths, these two categories of human knowledge may be named as Revelation and Philosophy. These two sources may be distinct, but they are not totally separate. To a certain extent, and in some cases to a very large extent, there is an overlap. One example of this overlap is the doctrine of Transubstantiation. We would have no knowledge of this mystery without access to Divine Revelation. Nor could we assent to this truth without the Gift of Divine Faith. Yet, once having received this Revelation and this gift, reason and philosophy are able to penetrate a considerable way into how this miracle happens in the physical realm. This is accomplished through the philosophy of St. Thomas which, as Pope Pius XI wrote in Studiorum Ducem, the Church has embraced as its own. This philosophy enables us to be certain of the distinction between substance and accidents which is characteristic of all physical things, and allows us to understand with our natural reason how such a change can occur: through the miraculous change of the entire substance of the bread into the Body of Christ, and the change of the entire substance of the wine into the Blood of Christ, the accidents alone remaining. Only Thomistic metaphysics (the highest branch of philosophical enquiry) is able to explain this change: and therefore only a belief in the philosophy of St. Thomas is able to give us a totally consistent mental framework necessary to approach this truth in all its sublimity and mystery.
The point I wish to strongly emphasize, however, is that it is perfectly possible to possess and retain the faith, even faith in transubstantiation, while at the same time possessing an erroneous philosophical approach to this same faith and to all of reality. Vatican I give us the following definition of faith:
“And the Catholic Church teaches that this faith, which is the beginning of man’s salvation, is a supernatural virtue, whereby, inspired and assisted by the grace of God, we believe that the things which he has revealed are true; not because the intrinsic truth of the things is plainly perceived by the natural light of reason, but because of the authority of God Himself, Who reveals them, and Who can neither be deceived nor deceive” (Ch. III).
Faith, in other words, is a gift of God “by which man yields voluntary obedience to God Himself, by assenting to and cooperating with His grace, which he is able to resist” (Ibid.). Faith is fundamentally an act of docility of the human mind and heart in response to God’s Revelation. It does not necessarily entail an act of understanding and knowledge. What is more, a man can possess the uprightness of heart and docility towards God to assent to all that God has revealed, yet at the same time, be immersed in philosophical approaches to his faith which, when rightly perceived, are in radical opposition to this deposit of Revealed Truth. This disparity between faith and philosophical approach existed in St. Augustine. We can also see this in someone like Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross). Dr. Dennis McInerny has written a very penetrating article in the Winter, 2004 issue of the Fellowhip of Catholic Scholars Quarterly exploring her phenomenological errors . Based on her phenomenological analysis she very clearly inferred, for instance, that evil was not just a privation of good, as St. Thomas taught, but possessed positive being. Carried through to its logical conclusion, this philosophical position would have led her to one of two conclusions. If there is only One God, He would have to be the Creator of evil, since all being comes from God. The only other choice would be Manichaeism, and the positing of a “second” God as being the creator of evil. The extraordinary thing is that, according to Dr. McInerny, she was able to avoid all of this, and was able to totally embrace Divine Revelation and the wholesome theology of the Saints, especially St. Theresa of Avilla and St. John of the Cross, despite these disparities between her personal philosophy and her faith. The same may be said of her rejection of Thomistic ontology and cosmology, especially the distinction made by St. Thomas between substance and accidents. Carried to its logical conclusion this rejection of Thomism would have led to a rejection of the Catholic dogma of Transubstantiation. Fortunately, Edith Steins’s faith over-rode her philosophy. This is part of her greatness, and wonderful evidence of the power of God’s grace even in the midst of human weakness and error.
Philosophy is often called “the handmaiden of Revelation (and theology).” If a man’s philosophy is healthy and true, then it is a tremendous support to his understanding and living of Divinely revealed truth. If his philosophy is sick, however, it poses a continual threat of corruption to revealed truth itself, and almost inevitably perverts the applications of this truth and faith (even if still clung to in the intellectually) in the practical realm. It is this sickness of philosophy [as explored in my articles concerning "The War Against Being"] which has entered into the souls of virtually all contemporary “civilized” men. It led Edith Stein and so many other modern thinkers into phenomenology. It has led Cardinal Ratzinger into formulating profound errors in his private writings. And it has led Pope John Paul II into that “Gethsemane” (the title of a book by Cardinal Siri on the modern theological movement) of pain which flows out of the attempt to unite the theology of the Church with the philosophy and science of modern man.
The fundamental “untruth” that is told over and over again, in book after book and article after article, about the philosophy of Pope John Paul II is that he is in some way a real Thomist; and further, that his philosophy is the fruit of his enormous creativity in uniting the philosophy of St. Thomas with the principles of modern philosophy (especially Phenomenology). Concerning Karol Wojtyla’s book Person and Act, George Weigel (Witness To Hope) writes: “The point, John Paul II later wrote, was to work out in detail the philosophical issues involved in putting the older Aristotelian-Thomistic ‘philosophy of being’ together with the ‘philosophy of consciousness’ [Phenomenology] he had analyzed in the Scheler dissertation (i.e., to work out the relationship between the objective truth of things-as-they-are and our subjective or personal experience of that truth).”
The fact is that for a person who is a real Thomist there is no need to unite Thomism with some other philosophy in order “to work out the relationship between the objective truth of things-as-they-are and our subjective or personal experience” of them. This relationship between objective reality and how we know it was worked out in great clarity by St. Thomas in Question 84, Part I of the Summa. At the very core of Thomistic philosophy is the science of epistemology, or “criteriology”, the explanation of how the human mind truly apprehends the ontological nature of things. This science of epistemology is, in turn, rooted in Thomistic cosmology and ontology, the sciences which explains to us the distinctions among the ten categories of being, and especially that distinction between substance and accidents which is absolutely central to our perception of reality and, of course, to our acceptance of the Catholic dogma of Transubstantiation.
Why then did John Paul II perceive a need to “put together” Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy with some modern form of philosophy? The answer is that he (along with virtually all prominent Catholic philosophers) had rejected Thomistic cosmology, and therefore no longer had an objective basis on which to build his view of reality. George Weigel writes:
“He (Karol Wojtyla) also came to see that the philosophical analysis of reality and its relationship to the moral life he had been taught at the seminary and the Angelicum [under the personal direction of the great “traditional” Thomist, Garrigou-Lagrange] was inadequate in the contemporary world. Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas had built their philosophies from the foundation of cosmology. But starting with a general theory of the universe and moving to a theory of the human person didn’t leave much room for human freedom, and modern science had falsified many of the assumptions that ancient and medieval philosophers had made about the universe (p.126).”
George Hunston Williams, in his book The Mind of John Paul II confirms this view:
“The reason that Catholic thinkers were drawn to Phenomenology is that many of them knew that while the old distinction between real substance and the superficial accidents had to be rethought, so also the Kantian distinction had to be rethought – the distinction between the phenomena taken in by the senses and the ever-inaccessible noumena, ‘things in themselves.’”
Now, let us put all this into a language that the average layman can understand. Having been driven away by “science” from the traditional Catholic cosmological and philosophical position regarding substance and accidents, the Catholic philosopher had been left between a rock and a hard place, as the saying goes. His only other choice for a personal philosophy was one of a myriad of forms of “subjectivisms” (Kantian subjectivism being the most prevalent), in which there was no guarantee that any of our experiences, sensations, or perceptions corresponded to objective reality. And since the whole idea of objective physical reality (cosmology), and our ability to truly know it (epistemology) thus becomes severely undermined under such a philosophy, then even more tenuous becomes our confidence in the possibility of any objective certainty regarding moral truths, or even the existence of God.
Desperate to find a basis for claiming access to objective reality, many Catholic and Protestant thinkers began around the beginning of the 20th century to focus on the “phenomena” of human consciousness and volition (willing) in order to try to capture some foundation for speaking about objectivity in regard to the world around us, and especially in regard to morality. Pope John Paul II’s attempt to weld Thomism and Phenomenalism was not at all new. Nor is his Personalism. The French philosopher Emmanuel Mounier (1905-1950), for instance wrote a book simply called Personalism. He also wrote one titled Be Not Afraid, which as many readers will remember was the initial cry of Pope John Paul II’s Pontificate. At any rate, this alleged “discovery” of objective reality and moral norms within “phenomena” and human consciousness was somehow welded with the notion that this was a “new” Thomism, simply because it had the temerity in a dominantly Kantian world of positing a correspondence between the mind and objective reality, and a harmony between faith and reason. This supposed marriage between Thomistic “realism” and phenomenology came to be called “Neo-Thomism”, “Transcendental Thomism”, or simply the “New Theology.” Included as members of the pantheon of this movement are such figures as Chenu, Congar, de Lubac, Danielou, von Balthasar, and Rahner.
The truth is, however, that the claim that any of this “New Theology” is in any way “Thomistic” is absolutely absurd. If a man showed up at NFL tryouts claiming to be a pro-football player – weighing 90 pounds, dressed in nothing but swim trunks and carrying a beach-ball – we would indeed think him absurd. In similar fashion, it is absolutely ridiculous that anyone should get away with the claim to be a Thomist, after having stripped himself of belief in Thomistic cosmology, epistemology, and ontology.
Such is the great “Catholic” philosophical lie of our times. The penetration of this lie, however, goes much deeper than the realm of ideas. It corrupts the whole view of the mission of Christ and His Church. Having succumbed to philosophical “subjectivism” in their theory of knowledge (despite their protestation about a new Thomism, and their claims to a new ontology), the “New Theologians” came to promote “disencumbering” the faith from objectivity in all areas. All the traditional formulations of Catholic truth came to be seen as “abstract”, “static”, “triumphalistic”, and the suffocating restrictions of a paternal and tyrannical order that is passing.
In a rather dense but extremely important passage for our understanding the “ecumenical thrust” of the modern Church, George Williams writes:
“Always carefully enunciated, a fundamental concern of the New Theology was to accommodate a general Catholic acceptance of human evolution to received theology at the crucial point of Adam created in the image of God and of Christ as the Second Adam and Redeemer of men. By speaking of “the unity of mankind” alongside the received oneness of the race in the First Adam, and in beholding the eternal son of God incarnate as the second Adam and as having from eternity with God the Father sought the redemption of all humanity and indeed of all creation with “the new man” even before the incarnation and the rise of the Church as his salvific prolongation in time through the Holy Spirit, they had come to understand Christ as continuously active in the minds and hearts of all peoples and persons under Providence. Going back behind the sharp distinction drawn by Thomas between nature and grace and between reason and faith, the proponents of the New Theology in different ways found sanction in St. Augustine and the Greek Fathers and in Scripture itself for their disposition to see the whole of life sacramentally (hence their interest in lay participation in the Liturgical Movement) and to see nature suffused with sustaining grace and the Church itself as the Sacrament and Sign of the fundamental unity of every man in body, mind, and soul, of all mankind in a common global history. They were opposed to secularism but they were also opposed to a displacement of the supernatural spatially above and beyond the natural (The Mind of John Paul II, p. 99).”
To “go back behind the sharp distinction drawn by Thomas between nature and grace”; to see Christ as “continuously active in the minds and hearts of all peoples and persons under Providence” and to be “opposed to a displacement [is this the same as “distinction?”] of the supernatural spatially above and beyond the natural” is, of course, a perfect mindset for justifying kissing the Koran (as John Paul II has done) or praying with Lutherans and animists. Why is this so? Because such a mindset tends to erase those fundamental distinctions between God and man, the supernatural and the natural which are necessary in order to perceive how God works in this world. To “see nature suffused with sustaining grace” is, for instance, designed to sound a death knell to all that is truly Catholic, especially the whole sacramental necessity of baptism. In his Modern Catholic Dictionary, Fr. John Hardon offers us the following definition:
“As the Church has come to explain the meaning of grace, it refers to something more than the gifts of nature, such as creation or the blessings of bodily health. Grace is the supernatural gift that God, of his free benevolence, bestows on rational creatures for their eternal salvation. The gifts of grace are essentially supernatural. They surpass the being, powers, and claims of created nature, namely sanctifying grace, the infused virtues, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and actual grace. They are the indispensable means necessary to reach the beatific vision.”
Seeing nature created and constantly sustained by the creative action of God, and believing that “in Him we live and move and are” is indeed good Catholic teaching. But to believe that all of nature is “suffused with sustaining grace” involves a profoundly confused theology.
All of Catholic theology and faith is rooted in the primary distinction between God and the world; between the life of supernatural grace and the state of spiritual death of “natural,” fallen man. While it is certainly true that Pagans receive actual graces from God, this certainly should not be justification for us to “see the whole of life sacramentally” or to “see nature suffused with sustaining grace.” These actual graces must be seen as divine gifts impelling peoples towards the fullness of life and truth only to be found in the Catholic Church. To lose this distinction is to descend into the quagmire of pantheism and indifferentism.
The power of language and of ideas is immense. Upon reading the above-quoted passage from George Williams, for instance, the average orthodox reader might feel some initial apprehension. This initial apprehension usually passes (especially if more of the same is encountered), and the pantheistic ambience which such language contains enters the soul and becomes the fertile soil for further incursions by the errors and heresies of the world.
It is this fertile soil which is the seed-bed for questioning whether anyone can be in Hell. It virtually necessitates something like the New Mass as a vehicle for pluralism, free expression, and growing camaraderie with “separated brethren.” And it is the all-pervading ambience which totally inhibits any effort towards evangelization. It is the death of the Social Kingship of Jesus Christ. It is the current Agony of Christ in His tortured Mystical Body.
All this, as I have said, is the fruit of rejecting Thomistic cosmology and metaphysics, in prostitution to the world of modern science. Put into a very simple formula: rejection of Thomistic cosmology necessitates subjectivism, which, if taken to its ultimate logical conclusion, comes to rest in Pantheism. This is a specific philosophy, but also, as I have said, an all-pervasive ambience which can do its work without ever revealing itself as a full-blown heretical doctrine or system of belief. It clogs our liturgies, saturates catechisms, justifies tolerance towards every perversion, tends towards encouraging every aberrant freedom. It is what is killing us. And it is the ultimate trick of Satan, simply because it does the work of decay right up to death’s door without ever necessitating an actual denial of the faith.
t is relatively easy for us when this specter takes visible form in outright heresy. As we have noted, however, it does not always do so; and it is then that it is most insidious and destructive. Edith Stein must have received extraordinary graces which protected her faith from the flotsam of her phenomenological philosophy. For many others this is not the case. The path over which the Church has traveled during the past 40 years is strewn with the carcasses of theologians and philosophers who have surrendered their faith to the secularizing demands of modern philosophy, often without fully realizing what they themselves have done. The same path is also strewn with the decaying spiritual remains of millions of children who were formed from the catechisms which were the fruits of such philosophical and theological aberrations.
We are guaranteed by our faith that Pope John Paul II has not lost his faith. I can be absolutely certain that his mind and heart are submissive to the objective order of truth as revealed by God, despite the possibility of his embracing philosophical approaches to this faith which are inconsistent with the content of objectively revealed truth. How vast, however, have been the consequences of what seems to have been a very near miss. The Gates of Hell shall not prevail against the Church and the Papacy, but that does not mean that they cannot be howling at the door, and that this din cannot cause tremendous confusion and loss of souls.
There is an old German proverb that runs, “He who eats the Pope dies.” I confess that I don’t even want to take a nibble. I have written this chapter with trepidation, and it is not in any sense meant to be derogatory to either John Paul II or his Papacy. It is entirely possible that despite all discrepancies in his personal philosophy, and like Edith Stein, he may be a saint. Rather, this article constitutes a plea for mercy, not only upon the Pope but also upon all of us.
As I have said, I firmly believe that the chastisement which is upon us is meant to draw us out of our duplicitous attempt to serve both God and the world. I also believe that the cure for this duplicity lies in understanding and implementing in our lives the teaching of the Beatitudes taught by Christ in His Sermon on the Mount (which is the subject of analysis in mu article The Return to God. A very big part of this chastisement, however, must be the movement of grace designed to make us stand up and speak the truth, whatever be the consequences. If I am a very humble part of the Body of Christ and come to know of some terrible injury to Its head, then it would not only be a suicidal act to remain silent, but also a failure in charity towards every other member of that Body. I offer this book specifically with this charity in mind and heart. And I offer it especially for Pope John Paul II and his successor.
Faith, Hope, and Our Children
It has been my experience that the “bottom-line” for parents who have followed Archbishop Lefebvre or other schismatic groups out of the Catholic Church and into schism is that they are doing it for their children. The reasons for their choice often seem con¬vincing. They believe the New Mass is superficial at best, heretical and possibly even invalid at its worst. In either case, according to this line of reasoning, it represents an occasion for scandal for their children. Even if the New Mass is only superficial, it undermines prayer, and consequently erodes faith.
The actual bottom-line, however, is that these people and their children are weekly, or even daily, participating in sacrilege; and that they are participating in a sacramental life which is outside the Church, without which there is no salvation. This is true, regardless of any judgment which may be made in regard to their personal culpability and involvement in the schism of Archbishop Lefebvre or other leaders of these movements.
The same parents fail to consider one thing. There are millions of people who assisted at the Traditional Latin Mass during all the years of their childhood, and yet effectively lost their Catholic Faith during a few years subsequent to Vatican Council II. Retention of the Faith is not primarily dependent on “having” the Old Mass. It is primarily dependent upon being faithful to God’s grace – believing in His Truth, being obedient to His commands and precepts, and possessing that sacrificial love for Christ and His Mystical Body which we have already examined. We cannot communicate this love, which is necessary for salvation, to our children if we are in rebellion against the Holy Father.
It is therefore absolutely essential for our children to see and sense in us this love for the Pope and the Church. It must be a deeply personal love; and since the Church is now in terrible agony, it must be a deeply suffering love. Our children can certainly sense if this love is insincere. If we pray for the Pope during Mass, and afterwards gossip about what we think are his latest sins, then our children will discover our hypocrisy and be drained of their faith – that faith which, according to St. Paul, is dead without charity.
There is no doubt that our responsibilities as parents are increased in times such as these. If we assist at a Mass where there is irreverence or where our children might hear something that is not in accord with the faith, we must spend additional time explaining to them what is right and true, Even more important, we must spend additional time praying for these people and in reparation for such offenses committed against God. We must impart to our children a vision of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ – pure and unstained in its invisible nature – wounded, scourged, and defiled in its visible nature, even by those who are its members. We may have to travel many miles on Sunday to find a Mass offered in a manner more in keeping with God’s Will. We have to shelter our children – surround them with friends, books, entertainment, and (most impor¬tant) schooling, which are in accord with our faith. All this, hopefully, will be communicated to our children as a love and passion for Christ and His Church.
In this sense we are blessed. The pre-Vatican II parent felt little of the holy terror of the world which we feel. Father and Mother trusted the bishop, trusted the pastor and sister, slowly amalgamated their faith to American pluralism, and watched their children slip away.
We are blessed if we and our children learn from all this how to love as Christ loved us.
“And now we follow thee with all our heart, and we fear thee, and seek thy face. Put us not to confusion, but deal with us according to thy meekness, and according to the multitude of thy mercies.”