Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Servus Servorum Dei

One of the 'Francis effects' is the revisiting, not so much of Vatican II but of Vatican I. Those questions which fascinated the 16th century theologians and canonists, "What if the Pope ...?", have resurfaced. Some, and I suspect under the next Papacy, more will question that Jesuit 4th vow of obedience not to the Petrine office but to the person of the Pope. It might once have had a serious purpose, in the post-Vatican II church it has proved highly dangerous, it has made the Jesuits Papal 'heavies', who have made up their own mind over what the Pope really wants, in fact it has made each individual Jesuit his own pope. Once it might have been very much about 'thinking with the Church', now it leaves Jesuits to 'discern' which 'church' they are thinking with. The worst misinterpretations of VII seems to have perpetrated by individual Jesuits or Jesuit institutions. For many Catholics Jesuit and dissent are synonymous.

In a hyper-Papacy, where the Pope has an opinion on every matter under the sun it is difficult for us to discern quite what is the Papal Magisterium, especially when it is filtered through headline grabbing modern media. If you were shocked by the headlines that were given to us by the reports of the Papal Plane (prattle?) q &a, it is actually well worth reading what His Holiness actually did say, there was amongst the confusion some pretty good stuff, clear and concise, definite teaching. As someone else said with regard to the Francis/Cyril interview, no-one bothered to say, "Pope and Patriarch condemn gay 'marriage'" suspect.

The Francis Magisterium is imprecise, one of things that fascinates me about Orthodoxy is the idea that a Council is only 'valid' if it is accepted by the Church as a whole. It is a little like the biblical doctrine regarding 'false prophets', you only know they are false when their prophecy turns out to be untrue. In this sense the same is true about the Papacy, we only know what is 'Magisterial' in retrospect. It is little like the effects of the French French Revolution: it is too soon to judge.

Michel Vorris, who I much prefer to read than to watch, has a pretty good thing on crisis in the Magisterium,  The problem is of course as has been highlighted by the 'Congo nuns' revelation this week. This apparent significant part of Paul VI's Magisterium was probably a fiction. I had been taught it as a absolute truth: soldiers in the Congo were using rape as a weapon of war, nun's were being raped and becoming pregnant, in which case the Pope had said that they might use the contraceptive pill, not to frustrate the ends of a marital union, obviously, but to regulate their ovulatory cycle, so if these women vowed to celibacy were raped they would not become pregnant. The Curran camp of moral theologians, used this a crowbar to justify anything, even equating a child in the womb with a Congolese soldier and calling him/her an 'unjust aggressor'.

The problem this highlights is, are the actual words of a Pope Magisterial, or must they be interpreted in their historical context, or is it the perceived words of the Pope that are today given us by the media, that are Magisterial? Perhaps the great problem that this Franciscan papacy highlights is the relationship between the media and the Magisterium. Is it that the louder something is said the truer it is?

I had an interesting discussion with a Russian Orthodox over what he called the 'Papal doctrine' of the Immaculate Conception. He believed that Mary was the 'highly favoured', as the Greek renders the Angelic salutation but he wanted to say that the Blessed Virgin was highly favoured (Immaculate) not from her conception but that very moment that God said in Genesis to Eve that she and her child would crush the serpent's head. He looked perplexed when I said that she did not have any existence before her Conception, that really we were saying was always immaculate, she only came into being at her conception. It strikes me both the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption are red herrings when we speak of Infallible or Magisterial Papal statements, they are not the normal expression of it. They are true because they are true, not because the Pope. Rather than being something positive a new doctrine, they are actually a condemnation of, if anything new heresies. Thus Mary is Immaculate, not from the fall, or from some other prophecy in the Old Testament or some other pre or post-existent state but from the moment of her conception, her conception being the beginning of her existence. The same can be said I think for the Assumption, the Pope's who defined these doctrines are not saying anything positive in either doctrine, there is nothing new but he is condemning errors, possibly new errors. A definition is putting a fence (a wall?) around something by showing its limits. This is the essential nature of Vatican I's Pastor aeternus, which is itself entirely congruent with what the Church has always taught and is actually a condemnation of 19th century Jesuit Ultramontanism.
Recent 'infallible' statements such as the condemnation of contraception or he ordination of female ordination, are not in any sense spectacular, they are simply the reiteration of what the Church has always, everywhere and by all taught. Any right thinking Catholic could make them. It is Pope acting as archivist or librarian rather than a performer or magician pulling rabbits out of his sleeve.

Perhaps the great truth that this Pope will teach when he is laid to rest with his Fathers is that although the Papacy is of Divine origin, it actually should not be that important. The unity it signifies is important but is unity with Peter's faith as the Fathers remind us but after all in the normal course of the Church's life every bishop, every priest, every Catholic should be speaking infallibly or with magisterial authority all the time, firmly fixed on the Rock. If a Pope is a sower of doubt, if he polarises the Church as apparently a former South American Jesuit Provincial did in his Province we have serious problems.

The Pope is not world leader, the Church is a Communion its model is some contemporary presidency anymore than it is a feudal monarchy, he is after all servus servorum Dei, he has the least place in the Church. He is the Pontifex Maximus, the one who build bridges, we did not see that during the Synod on the family, rather the raking open of old wounds, the aggravating of divisions, even the playing of faction against faction. The Holy Spirit, as any reader of Jesuit discernment of spirits knows, is the bringer of unity, healing and peace whilst factionalism, murmuring, divisions, folly, strife etc come from an entirely different Spirit.

I pray for the time when every Catholic is so imbued with a sense of the ownership of the faith that he would tear a bishop or priest from his pulpit if ever he taught his own views in place of the revealed Truth. The thing is that the Pope shares in our faith, the faith of the whole Church, a communion that is both horizantal but also vertical. It is not 'his faith', anymore than the Church is his personal fiefdom. His role is to denounce error, and to do so with care, we all know what will happen when the returns to the steward who sets about beating the men and maid sevants in his absence.


Gregkanga said...

I don't think the Jesuit's problem is not so much liturgical as it is Ecclesiological. What they do to the Church's liturgy, and how they relativize and weaken her whole message of faith seems to more a consequence of the flawed Ecclesiologies they were taught. Small errors in ecclesiology can often lead into immense problems and incoherencies in the faith, because the Mystery of the Church is so central to the mystery of our faith. And, the same can be said about disaffected Catholic's in general, if they have an erroneous vision of the Church, then they will not be able to recognize the truth about themselves, and will be unable to understand and live their calling in its genuine value. Their vocation more often then not, will be felt only as an enormous crushing, oppressive burden from which they must be liberated.

Liam Ronan said...

Excellent piece, Father! For my part, I have but one word to offer, one word whose meaning and nuance has become universally understood throughout the centuries: "Jesuitical"

Liam Ronan said...

I should have added masters of the 'mental reservation' and gushing fountains of 'romanita', i.e. 'Cunctando regitur mundus' ("If you can out-wait all, you can rule all.”)

hails said...

Progressive/liberal Catholics have been saying this for years, papal teaching is always authoritative but not necessarily infallible.

As for the Michael Voris video, he is wrong about magisterial teaching and economic systems or environment- we have a wonderful collection of teachings from Leo 13's Rerum Novarum onwards.
And the Congo story, I don't think anyone has found proof. Some of the best studies on contraception have been undertaken by john T Noonan, and I have never seen him refer to this story. Maybe Francis knows otherwise.

Православный физик said...

Placing a more realistic expectation of the papacy, is probably the only good thing that will come from this pontificate. It seems to me as I've mentioned on other blogs, there's an extreme position of 100% of what the pope says being orthodox, and 0% of what he says being orthodox, and the answer is some unknown percentage in between. Unless he (the pope) is re-affirming what has been previously taught (via the ordinary or extra-ordinary means)....keeping our eyes on our local bishops and priests seems to be a good idea.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article, Father.

I find it interesting also the many good things the Pope said in the most recent "Aeropontification". But not one thing he said that stands lock solid with the perennial teaching of the Church can erase what he said against it. He is TEACHING when he says this stuff in these venues, and I do not believe for one minute that he doesn't know it. He seeds revolution and evil among those who eagerly wait to be encouraged in their sin.

Once upon a time as a Protestant convert to the Catholic faith I stood up in front of God and my parish and said the following:

“I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church teaches, believes and proclaims to be revealed by God.”

I do not think I can say with strong enough emphasis what it took to bring me to that point. I still believe it, too.

Doctrine and dogma don't seem to matter worth a hill of dung to this Pope, but such things sure do to me. I had to give up the respect and admiration of family and friends when I became a Catholic. So I don't take kindly to ANYONE, ESPECIALLY a Pope that turns their tail on the teaching of the Church. Personally, I find him disgusting. From recommending that men, priests, wash and kiss the feet of women {I find it obscene} to misquoting Jesus {para 161 Evangelii Gaudium} to adoring in a Mosque to belittling Traditionalists to choosing promoters of sodomy for high positions to promoting the spread of Islam in Europe to this recent sack of smack, I think the man should be deposed and personally have little time for Bishops who are such effeminates that they won't stand up for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the Mother of the Church in taking this man to task. The leadership of the Catholic Church I find repulsive, without scruples, without decency, without honor, without guts. Frankly, if I didn't fully and totally believe the TEACHINGS of the Church and relied merely on the witness to Christ and the Magesterium I see in this Pope I would chuck the whole thing in.

Holy Mother Church has been kicked into the ditch and this Pope leaves her there bleeding while the Bishops walk right by.

Anonymous said...

By your own words, "tearing you down father':

1) We all were in the mind of God before we came to be. [Cf. Jer 1:5].

2) "It strikes me both the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption are red herrings when we speak of Infallible or Magisterial Papal statements, they are not the normal expression of it." - Not Catholic nor displaying an understanding of the charism of infallibility that Christ endowed his Church with. Simply, dogmas of "the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption" belong to the deposit of the faith, to the Divinely revealed truths. Truths [or those connected to them] outside the Divine Revelation, which closed with the death of Apostle John cannot be defined as dogma.

Boris said...

A word in defense of Pope Francis. As I understand it, his confreres Jesuits in Argentina were all busy spreading a social gospel -- liberation theology -- which he did not accept as true. That strife ensued cannot be blamed to him. Meanwhile, the bishops of those south American countries, with a few notable exceptions (Romero) were busy sucking up to the powers that be. A bad situation all around. I think it could be argued -- has been argued -- that the Catholic Church lost Central America and much else in Latin America because of this great divide, which the evangelical fundamentalists were ready to exploit by -- oh my goodness, by proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. Sorry for the potted history -- I am sure a great many saints labored in Latin America during those years, but even today the last place to look for the Latin mass would be in a South American country. Bergoglio is blinkered by his history, as we are all. That he doesn't see that the liturgy is the place to start, the sina qua non for reform of the Church, is truly tragic. Good article, Father, thank you.

Jeremiah Methuselah said...


"... as we all are"; excuse me, just speak for your self, I, for one, am not blinkered by history.

It seems you are trying to defend PF by saying (it's hardly clear) he has has lost his faith ?

Jacobi said...

All a bit difficult for a mere pre-VAT II orthodox Catholic.

I have great respect for the Jesuits having been brought up in a Jesuit parish, but I know they have waxed and waned over the centuries. They have contributed to the current Liberal Ultramontanism which abounds in the Church today.

Recently, I explained my understanding of Infallibility (Jesuitical ) on another site, and so far it has gone unchallenged .

As for the Immaculate Conception, a defined Infallible doctrine, its meaning is clear from the Epistle of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, 8th December. “I was set up from eternity, and of old, before the earth was made. The depths were not as yet , and I was already conceived”

Seems clear to me. She was/is Immaculate therefore was conceived Immaculately. I'm sure it was a Jesuit who told me that some time ago!

Liam Ronan said...

Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote in his 2004 book ‘On the Road toward Christ Jesus’ (referring directly to the Russian mystic Vladimir Soloviev’s ‘A Short Tale of the Antichrist’) the following observation on the second temptation of Jesus:

“And a phrase of Soloviev’s is illuminating: The Antichrist believes in God, but in the depths of his heart he prefers himself.”

Were I myself elected Pope (obviously invalidly and illicitly) and, being convinced of the prescience of Robert Hugh Benson's apocalyptic "Lord of the World" and presumably having full knowledge of the entire Third Secret of Fatima, I just might conclude that the time left for universal evangelization in the fullness of Truth is desperately short. What is one to do?

I devise a plan. I genuinely subscribe to the view that invincible ignorance trumps all in terms of the Final Judgement (the wicked being annihilated, of course). I therefore determine to have a frenzied go at forcing the Almighty's hand by muddying the crystal clears waters of Truth so relentlessly that clouds of confusion reign in every conscience, ergo all that then matters before God is one's good intentions. Fait accompli!

"And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few." Luke 12:47-48

Worth a try.

JARay said...

I stand with "Valdemar". Well said...whoever you are! I don't wish to damn all Jesuits. Many are excellent. Some are not. I am not another Marquis of Pombal. His statue stands in Lisbon and he was famous for suppressing the Jesuits in Portugal. Some say that Pope Francis is a supporter of Liberation Theology. I don't know what theology he supports but he certainly does differ from what Theology I learned.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Many eminent people have criticised Pope Francis's remarks on contraception explaining that they are contrary to Church teaching. Particularly after Father Lombardi saying he was talking about artificial contraception. There is now clear water between what Pope Francis said and the teaching of the Church. Whether his remarks are thought to be infallible or magisterial is irrelevant. He is announcing and teaching something and his audience will be confused by what he says. Enormous damage to souls is being done.

In the absence of a suitable explanation from Pope Francis correcting what he has said the time has come for something to be done. It is up to faithful Cardinals and Bishops to do something. We lay people must call for them to do something. At the very least they must confront him with his errors and request clarification. At the same time we must all pray for the Church.

I respect his position as Pope but as a person I find him an enigma but then over the years I have found many clerics an enigma. One simply does not know what they really think.

JARay said...

I hope that this is not regarded as a red herring. I recently bought a DVD called The Star of Bethlehem. In a sense it irked me greatly because the presenter, a Mr Larson, is an American and he speaks so quicky that many of his words just do not get through to me. Also his presentation lacks continuity. He jumps from topic to topic in a flash. So, having given you my objections to this DVD, may I now tell you all why it is worth buying and very much worth watching. What he presents is compelling evidence for the Star of Bethlehem. And more than that, he shows how Scripture is fulfilled. The woman who appears in the sun with the moon at her feet and is pregnant. The enemy of the child is waiting to devour the child but is thwarted. It is all in the stars in compelling detail!
Please watch it again and again to overcome the presentation shortcommings.
Oh! I should mention that the DVD is in NTSC format (the American one) but my equipment has no difficulties with it.

John Fisher said...

I have been viewing you tube videos on a book called "The Work of Human Hands". I have come to the opinion the Bishop of Rome from Paul VI onwards has detached itself from the tradition. Paul VI got away with using his authority to attack and alter the Mass inventing a new thing. He was aided by like minds. Modernists use language that at times sounds catholic but they hollow the meaning out. Let's face it most of the changes under Paul VI were not allowed by the Council. They got away with the fraud. Men like Bugnini and his cohorts. Paul VI got away with it and so the papacy while feigning modesty no tiara has made the pope a respecter of nothing but his own ability to do as he wishes. There is a limit to papal power and attacking tradition is wrong. I feel like some massive fraud has been perpetuated on us not unlike an inverse of Henry VIII deformation of the Church in England.... Now its Popes defending a Modernist coup 50 years ago.

Just another mad Catholic said...

The problem that I have with Michael Voris is that he NEVER has any good news (either on the vortex or on the headlines clip), its all doom and gloom, savaging anyone whom he disagrees with and pronouncing judgement with all the self righteousness of your average baptist preacher.

For example late last year he aired a week long attack on the SSPX calling them 'schismatic'; now I will be the first to confess that the Society's status with the Church is irregular, but they put most of the rest of the Church to shame with their discipline and doctrinal orthodoxy (how Voris squares his assessment with that of his hero Mgsr Schneider, who comes to the opposite conclusion I'll leave to him)

He never offers hope, he only offers doom and gloom along with an exhortation to pray in the hope that if you do so, things might be only a little worse than they would if you did nothing. Hardly the stuff of motivational speeches are made of I'm sure you'll agree (especially since he talks about 'fighting the good fight as the Church Militant).

Ok Rant Over

Jeremy said...

Just as I think I ought to make a much greater effort to give this Pope credit, some other careless comment is made and I am back to square one. Either he still doesn't understand the gravity of his office - and wholly misunderstands the instantaneous nature of modern communications - or he is very bad at his job, or out of control. As to no real need for an infallible Pope, I would like, after this papacy, to say it is less important, but I do not believe this is what Christ intended for Peter. Peter, indeed, was hardly without his faults and he was certainly not qualified for the job. What bothers me greatly now is the popular semi-deification of the papacy (which seems to have started with JPII), and unconditional acceptance of whatever he seems to say on whatever subject today but which might well be reversed tomorrow. Enigma indeed.

George Carmody said...

I think 'Just another mad Catholic' has it about right. But it is the Church, not Michael Voris in particular, that fails to give real provable hope to anyone.

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