Sunrise doesn’t last all morning

On December 10, the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews issued “The Gifts and the Calling of God Are Irrevocable,” an explicitly non-magisterial, non-doctrinal “reflection” on the theological questions that have cropped up after Nostra aetate.

Paragraphs 41 through 44 of the reflection have gotten a lot of attention in the press. Essentially, “The Gifts and the Calling” is an institutional expression of the so-called Two Covenant Theory, which holds that the covenant between God and the Jewish people remains in force, notwithstanding the New Law. This idea—which draws upon Paul’s Letter to the Romans—is an awfully complicated question, and a relatively recent development. On the other side of the question, Pius XII in Mystici Corporis, for example, held that the Old Law was abolished in favor of the New Law by Christ’s death on the Cross. (It is unfortunate that the Commission did not address Mystici Corporis and other magisterial documents that preceded Nostra aetate, which would no doubt have been on the Council fathers’ minds as they debated the question.) But all of this is hugely complicated—to say nothing of how sensitive the whole matter is in the wake of the horrors of the Holocaust—and well beyond our limited theological knowledge.

However, Father John Hunwicke has been posting and reposting a series of reflections on the Commission’s document and Nostra aetate. One of these reflections makes the very interesting point that Christ’s actions were pointed toward Temple-based Judaism and its strongly sacrificial aspects, and Christianity, as found in Christ’s Church, supersedes that form of Judaism. Fr. Hunwicke quotes Rabbi Jacob Neusner, an eminent scholar who has spent a lot of time thinking about Christian-Jewish relations, who argues the institution of the Eucharist was intended to replace the sin-offerings at the Temple. And, of course, Christ referred to himself as the Temple in John’s Gospel when challenged by leaders of the Jewish community. Thus, when one discusses supersessionism, one must, as Fr. Hunwicke says, be precise about what supersedes what.

All of this is a hugely interesting question, and while the Commission’s document has been criticized harshly for the points made in paragraphs 41 through 44, we think that the document, to the extent that it prompts reflection and discussion—particularly interfaith discussion among scholars who know from what on these matters—on these issues is a valuable contribution to dialogue. Even if it is explicitly non-magisterial and non-doctrinal.

Ottaviani, Döpfner, and Article 33 § 1 of the Ordo Concilii

The history of the Second Vatican Council—which is to say, the nitty-gritty, technical stuff—has largely receded into inaccessibility. While the faithful are told—and told and told and told—how important the Council was to the life of the Church. It was a second Pentecost, a rebirth of the Church, and any number of other things. But the how and why of the Council are so poorly understood that this seminal event in the life of the Church might as well have happened on the dark side of the Moon. For our part, given our deficient formation in Church history, we have endeavored to find out more about what actually happened during the Council, including, when possible, the technical aspects of the events. While these technical aspects are, of course, interesting from an antiquarian standpoint, we think that there are lessons that can be drawn from them that may well be applicable today.

For reasons perhaps obvious to you, dear reader, we have followed the arguments of Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani, then the secretary of the Holy Office (popes were their own prefects in those days). The first session of the Second Vatican Council did not go well for Cardinal Ottaviani. Not only did he find himself outmaneuvered by the Modernists and progressives but he also found himself humiliated openly during sessions of the Council. Perhaps the most notable incident occurred on October 30, 1962, during the debate over the draft constitution De Sacra Liturgia, which, after amendment, was issued as Sacrosanctum Concilium. Ottaviani rightly apprehended that the progressives were aiming at a complete revision of the Mass, widespread use of the vernacular, and communion under both species, among other things. (Acta Synodalia I.2.18–20.) And he said so. And in saying so, he ran over the allotted time for interventions. (The allotted time wasn’t exactly a hard-and-fast rule, either: the Ordo Concilii, art. 33 § 3, provided, merely: “Quilibet Pater de una eademque re, ex regula, semel tantum loqui potest, idemque rogatur decem momenta ne excedat.”) But Bernardus Cardinal Alfrink, a confirmed progressive, was presiding on October 30, and he ordered Ottaviani’s microphone cut—to applause in the hall, which was noted, perhaps cruelly, in the Acta Synodalia.

But the indignity suffered during the debate over De Sacra Liturgia would not be Cardinal Ottaviani’s last battle during the first session of the Council. The progressives, recognizing that some of the approved schemata prepared by the preparatory commissions would not achieve the sweeping changes they demanded, began to prepare and circulate their own draft schemata. The progressive Jesuit Henri de Lubac, in his Vatican Council Notebooks, reports that the Germans, including Jesuit Karl Rahner, prepared an alternate draft of the doctrinal schema almost as soon as they hit the ground in Rome. (Among the bright young priests helping Fr. Rahner draft an alternate schema was a young priest of Munich and Freising and rising theologian, Fr. Joseph Ratzinger. What a life the cloistered monk of Mater Ecclesiae has led!) The alternate schemata were, of course, circulated among sympathetic Council fathers. It goes without saying that Ottaviani objected to this practice.

The issue really began to come to a head on November 14, 1962, in the context of the hugely contentious discussion of Cardinal Ottaviani’s schema De Fontibus Revelationis. (One could write a book on the disastrous course of events surrounding De Fontibus Revelationis and its eventual replacement, Dei Verbum.) Ottaviani did not read the relatio personally—Msgr. Salvatore Garofalo, a professor at the Urbaniana and a member of the theological commission read the relatio, as a matter of fact—but he did make some prefatory remarks, including a very pointed comment about the alternate schemata then circulating:

Circumferuntur quaedam schemata quae essent substituenda schemati officialiter proposito. Hoc mihi non videtur congruere cum dispositione can. 222, par. 2, quae unice Summo Pontifici reservat materiam disponendam, et non esset reverens et obsequiosum erga Summum Pontificem, qui dedit discutiendum propositum schema officialiter, et igitur mens eius est ut hoc schema discutiatur, non alia quae privatim proponuntur. Si sunt correctiones faciendae, huic schemati fiant. Est liberum omnibus proponere correctiones, emendationes. Sed super hoc schema debet fieri discussio, non super alia.

(Acta Synodalia I.3.27.) In fact, Ottaviani’s spoken remarks on this issue were more pointed than his prepared text (cf. Acta Synodalia I.3.28). The theological commission had prepared—not without controversy—schemata for the Council to consider. The Council was supposed to consider the official schemata!

In support of his argument on this point, Ottaviani cited canon 222 § 2, which provided:

Eiusdem Romani Pontificis est Oecumenico Concilio per se vel per alios praeesse, res in eo tractandas ordinemque servandum constituere ac designare, Concilium ipsum transferre, suspendere, dissolvere, eiusque decreta confirmare.

(Emphasis supplied.) In Ed Peters’s indispensable translation of the 1917 Code, this is rendered:

It is for this same Roman Pontiff to preside himself or through another over the Ecumenical Council, to establish and designate the matters that are to be treated and the order to be observed, and to transfer, suspend, dissolve, and confirm the Council and its decrees.

(Emphasis supplied.) That is to say, the pope sets the agenda for ecumenical councils and determines what they will consider.This remains, essentially, the law of the Church today (can. 338 § 2). Cardinal Ottaviani could well have also cited chapter 8 of the Ordo Concilii Oecumenici Vaticani II Celebrandi, which plainly anticipates that the official schemata would be discussed and amended through debate in the public sessions. Regardless of the legal authority, Ottaviani had a point: when John XXIII distributed the commissions’ draft schemata, he “establish[ed] and designate[d] the matter . . . to be treated.”  In Cardinal Ottaviani’s opinion, the Council fathers were therefore obligated to consider the “official” schemata, not agitate for the alternatives, such as the one prepared by Karl Rahner and his collaborators.

The debate over De Fontibus Revelationis went badly. As soon as the relatio was over, Cardinals Liénart and Frings, two leaders of the progressive faction, rose to attack the schema on various issues. (One can read the Acta Synodalia to see exactly why the progressives hated Ottaviani’s De Fontibus Revelationis, needless to say the effects of such a clear, precise statement of Catholic doctrine on ecumenism were deplored.) The battle continued on November 17. Julius Cardinal Döpfner, the young archbishop of Munich and another confirmed progressive, rose to criticize Cardinal Ottaviani’s points. In fact, he argued for a major revision to the procedure of the Council that would open the door to the alternate schemata:

Hanc disceptationem minime timeamus—ceteroquin in quaerenda veritate spectaculum unionis et caritatis in Spiritu Domini praestantes—neque ut irreverentia erga Summum Pontificem censenda est talis discussion. Nam in Ordine ab ipso Summo Pontifice dato legimus (art. 33 § 1), quemvis Patrem de unoquoque schemate admittendo vel emendando vel etiam reiciendo verba facere posse. Ex quo constat: ex laboribus praeparatoriis nullum oritur praeiudicium, et omnino intactum remanet nobis munus diiudicandi quid fiat de unoquoque et etiam de hoc schemate… Post disceptationem in genere autem fiat suffragium, utrum schema ut totum accipiatur an non. Quo suffragio peracto, videbimus quomodo ulterius procedendum sit. Si revera praesens forma schematis maioritati competenti Patrum placuerit, uti subiectum ulterioris laboris adhibeatur; si non, novum schema elaboretur. Et hoc, secundum meum humile iudicium, praeferendum esse videtur, quia a punctis diversis tendentiis et curis magis approprinquante exordium sumeretur.

(Acta Synodalia I.3.125) (Some original formatting omitted.) In other words, according to Cardinal Döpfner, because the Council fathers could, under article 33 § 1 of the Ordo Concilii, urge the rejection of a schema, there was no presumption in favor of the official schemata. And, based upon this lack of presumption, Döpfner took took the argument a step farther: after the general discussion of an official schema, there should be a vote whether the schema should be taken up or not. Obviously, as a German Council father, Döpfner knew that there were alternate schemata circulating, especially Rahner’s draft of a doctrinal schema. And given the course of the debate over De Fontibus Revelationis, one wonders whether Döpfner knew something the rest of the Council fathers didn’t.

Cardinal Ottaviani intervened shortly after Cardinal Döpfner’s speech and responded to the German’s points, suggesting that Döpfner simply did not understand how the preparatory commissions worked. (Acta Synodalia I.3.131.) Ottaviani also responded to Döpfner’s extraordinary suggestion that the schemata receive a general up-or-down vote after the initial debate:

Quod attinet ad novam propositionem factam quando iam labores sunt in fine istius constitutionis, quando iam maioritas…, fortassis cuidam non placet quod iam maioritas se expendit pro approbatione in forma generali cum emendationibus utique istius constitutionis; nunc fit propositio, ut respuatur. Hoc mihi videtur contrarium canoni 222, § 2. Videtur contrarium etiam ipsi dignitati istius consessus.

( I.3.132.) Once again, Ottaviani raised canon 222 § 2 as an objection to the notion that the Council could reject an official schema. The pope sets the agenda of an ecumenical council and the pope proposed the official schemata.

But Döpfner’s position got an unexpected boost against Ottaviani’s canon 222 § 2 argument. Norman Cardinal Gilroy, an Australian, was in the chair on November 17, and he read a note, responding to Ottaviani’s remarks:

Aliquis Pater conciliares mihi tamquam praesidi scripsit: «Enixe rogo em.mum praesidem congregationis ut attentionem Patrum dirigat ad canonem 33, sectionem primam. Est quod sequitur: “Quivis pater verba facere potest de unoquoque proposito schemate vel admittendo vel reiciendo”. Attentio dirigatur ad verbum reiciendo».

(Id.) (Emphasis supplied.) It is apparent, then, article 33 § 1 is therefore a significant procedural rule for this moment in the history of the Council: Cardinal Döpfner cited it as in support of his argument that no presumption existed in favor of the official schema, and it was the basis of the note passed to Cardinal Gilroy to shut Ottaviani down. And, given that the debate over De Fontibus Revelationis turned out to be a tremendously significant moment in the first session of the Council—indeed, the whole Council—one might say that article 33 §1 is a significant procedural rule for the history of the Council as a whole. But what does it say?

One must look for a copy of the the Ordo Concilii Oecumenici Vaticani II Celebrandi, as it was during the first session of the Council. (The Council’s procedures were later revised during the Council itself on a sort of ad hoc basis, including during the debate over De Fontibus Revelationis.) However, the 1962 Ordo Concilii can be found in Latin as an appendix to John XXIII’s motu proprio Appropinquante Concilio, helpfully available in Latin and Spanish on the Vatican’s website. There, you find article 33 § 1:

Quivis Pater verba facere potest de unoquoque proposito schemate vel admittendo, vel reiciendo, vel emendando, suae orationis summa Secretario generali saltem tres ante dies scripto exhibita.

It’s a procedural provision. The Council fathers could make an intervention urging the adoption, rejection, or amendment of an official schema so long as they provided a copy of their written text to the Council general secretariat. That’s all. It is certainly not a mandate for an anything-goes discussion. And the progressives at the Council probably knew that, since they assiduously avoided quoting the final clause of the provision: suae orationis summa Secretario generali saltem tres ante dies scripto exhibita.

If the procedural aspect of article 33 § 1 weren’t clear enough from its words, the remaining provisions of article 33, make it clear:

§ 2. Oratio ita ordinanda est ut prius de principiis generalibus, postea vero de particularibus dispositionibus agatur, schematis ipsius. semper ordine servato.

§ 3. Quilibet Pater de una eademque re, ex regula, semel tantum loqui potest, idemque rogatur decem momenta ne excedat.

§ 4. Si orator obiecti vel temporis assignatos limites praetergrediatur, potest a Praeside ad eosdem revocari.

§ 5. Qui emendationes proposuit, absoluto sermone, scriptam relationem eandemque a se subscriptam Secretario generali tradere debet.

§ 6. Qui singula verba vel paragraphos schematis emendanda censuerit, scriptam formulam proponere tenetur, prioribus substituendam.

In other words, article 33 simply sets forth the procedure of debate in the Council aula. One doubts very much that it was intended to have the substantive significance that Cardinal Döpfner attached to it during his intervention. Certainly, the text, when it isn’t silent, seems to assume that the Council will be debating the official schemata, not preparing and circulating alternate schemata. However, when Döpfner made his intervention and when Gilroy read out the note essentially restating Döpfner’s position, the implication that article 33 § 1 abolished any presumption in favor of the official schemata went almost unchallenged. Almost: on November 20, Bishop Luigi Carli—later to become the subject of some controversy during the debate over Nostra aetate—intervened at length regarding the interpretation of article 33, and he argued against the broad interpretation articulated by Döpfner. (Acta Synodalia I.3.231–33.) Too late, though.

All of this is, of course, interesting in its way. Certainly, the inside baseball of the Council is fascinating, not least since it adds context to the documents the Council ultimately handed down. It also fosters enormous sympathy for Cardinal Ottaviani, who was, it seems, outgunned by the organized progressives at every turn. But there is, it seems to us, another reason for interest in this episode: the progressives’ approach to the law.

Consider what happened in outline form. Ottaviani cited canon 222 § 2 against the practice of preparing alternate schemata. Döpfner quoted part, but not all, article 33 § 1 of the Ordo Concilii in support of the argument that the official schemata enjoyed no presumption and that the Council should take an up-or-down vote on each official schema after the general debate. Ottaviani returned to canon 222 § 2 during the debate, and someone passed a note to Gilroy also quoting part, but not all, of article 33 § 1, and implying that it authorized that sort of practice. In other words, Döpfner’s selective quotation of the rule was used to justify a revolution in procedure plainly not foreseen by anyone but the progressives.

Laws, which ought to be construed harmoniously, were turned against each other. And it largely worked. It seems to us that one can find examples of this sort of activity in various circles today. This, then, is a reason why it behooves traditionally minded Catholics to familiarize themselves with the events at the Council.

On we sweep with threshing oar

Previously, we mentioned Pius XII’s 1941 address, La solennità della Pentecoste, commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Rerum novarum, as a source for developing a consistent, Catholic understanding of the immigration issues so much in the news lately. We, however, did not mention Pius’s 1952 apostolic constitution (!) on the spiritual care of migrants, Exsul Familia Nazarethana. (Unlike La solennità, an English translation of Exsul Familia is readily available.)

In Exsul Familia, Pius outlines his previous discussions of the right to migrate. In addition to La solennità, he addressed the issue in his 1945 Christmas Eve discourse, Negli ultimi anni, his February 1946 allocution to the newly elevated cardinals, and a 1948 letter to Cincinnati Archbishop John McNicholas. Obviously Exsul Familia is a much longer and much more sustained treatment of the issue of migration. (Though the 1946 allocution certainly addressed the issue at some length, too.)

We admit that we have not memorized all of Pius’s various statements about migrants—though many are collected, helpfully, in Exsul Familia—but it seems to us that he was a pope deeply concerned with the question of migration. Understandably so! His pontificate saw enormous numbers of people displaced by destruction, to say nothing of those who fled when they saw the trajectory of Europe from continent to charnel house. It is entirely reasonable that Pius devoted much thought to migration. It is less reasonable, however, that we seem to have forgotten his teaching on the matter.

Perhaps it’s time to reclaim it.

Important PCLT clarifications on “Mitis iudex”

On the better-than-average website for the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, there are six letters concerning the implementation of Mitis iudex Dominus Iesus, the Holy Father’s recent motu proprio reforming the procedure for matrimonial cases. Two letters—Prot. No. 15138/2015 and Prot. No. 15139/2015, both dated October 1, 2015—are especially interesting, as they deal with the admission of a case to the processus brevior. We have written about them before, especially when, as we recall, canonist Ed Condon reported on them initially. However, the PCLT website makes these letters—and four others—available for all who want to read them.

In case you don’t want to visit the PCLT website: the letter in Prot. No. 15138/2015 states,

The new canon 1683 and Art. 15 of the procedural norms make clear that the consent of the petitioner and the respondent (whether given by a joint signature of the parties or by other means) is a preliminary condition to initiate the brief process. The consent of both parties required to initiate this procedure is a condition sine qua non. This explicit consent is foremost necessary because the brief process is an exception to the general norm.

If the whereabouts of a respondent are unknown, the case cannot be accepted for the processus brevior. While the legislator formulated a presumption regarding the disposition of the respondent in art. 11 §2 of the procedural norms, this presumption applies only to the ordinary process and not to the brief process. Though the consent of the respondent can be given by several means, those means must however guarantee publicly and unequivocally his or her will, also for the protection of the judge and the parties. Otherwise, the brief process cannot be introduced.

(Emphasis supplied.) In the same vein, the letter in Prot. No. 15139/2015 states, unequivocally, “The brief process cannot be used, if the respondent remains silent, does not sign the petition or declare his consent.” (Emphasis supplied.) In short, both parties have to appear and explicitly consent to the processus brevior before it can be used. If one party fails to appear or appears and does not consent (note the distinction between objecting and not consenting) to the processus brevior being used, then the case proceeds in the ordinary manner.

This is, of course, an important clarification, since some folks have worried that the processus brevior could be forced upon absent or unwilling parties. In a non-trivial number of matrimonial cases, we are given to understand, one spouse often refuses to participate. Thus, the concern was that the spouse who does want to participate would get the case put on an express train to Constat City. Apparently not. And more than that, if the other spouse does participate but refuses to give his explicit consent to the processus brevior, no processus brevior. (However, as with anything like this procedure, it is still possible to overcome the resistance of a respondent, especially if tribunal staff sell it as a fast-track process in everyone’s best interest.)

Of course, we still wonder how tribunals would be able to weed out colluding couples, who seem to get a leg up in the processus brevior.

Fr. Lombardi defends the Vatican courts

Amid the Vatileaks 2 trial at the Vatican, Father Lombardi has issued a lengthy defense of the Vatican City State courts. It begins,

In recent weeks, since the opening of the trial for the dissemination of reserved documents commonly known as “Vatileaks 2”, many observations and evaluations have been written regarding the judicial system of Vatican City State and in particular on the Tribunal where this trial and its related procedures are taking place. Since many of these observations are inappropriate, or at times entirely unjustified, it would appear opportune to offer some considerations enabling a clearer view and a more just evaluation of this fundamental aspect of the situation.

Read the whole thing there.

We note merely that it is extraordinary—to our mind, anyway—that a press office would issue such a lengthy defense of a sovereign state’s courts. For example, if foreign defendants were haled into United States District Court for similar offenses under the Espionage Act of 1917, it would surprise us very much if the court’s public information officer issued a defense of the procedures employed by the court, including the rights of the accused and the qualifications of advocates.

David Bentley Hart on “Laudato si'”

Orthodox writer David Bentley Hart has a piece at First Things this month, wondering why American Catholics of a conservative bent, as he calls them (we tend to say, “Catholics on the American political right,” which we think better captures the phenomenon) have such distaste for the Holy Father, especially his recent social encyclical Laudato si’. He notes,

I suppose that in America, such sentiments [as those expressed in Laudato si’ – pjs] might sound a bit outrageous. We tend to think that all enterprise is of a piece, that the small business that produces a useful product and creates needed jobs exists in some sort of inviolable continuum with global corporate entities of every kind, and that we cannot affirm the former without defending the latter. Even “conservative” Christians who deplore the cultural costs of late modernity treat any critique of its obvious material basis as practically blasphemous. But everywhere else in the world, those same criticisms would simply, and correctly, be described as “true.” They would even be regarded as simply “Catholic.” Laudato Si positively trembles from all the echoes it contains of G. K. Chesterton, Vincent McNabb, Hilaire Belloc, Elizabeth Anscombe, Dorothy Day, E. F. Schumacher, Leo XIII, John XXIII, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and (above all) Romano Guardini; its native social and political atmosphere is that rich combination of Christian socialism, social democratism, subsidiarism, distributism, and anti-materialism that constitutes the best of the modern Catholic intellectual tradition’s humane alternative to all the technologisms, libertarianisms, corporatisms, and totalitarianisms that in their different ways reduce humanity to nothing more than appetent machines and creation to nothing more than industrial resources.

(Emphasis supplied.) Read the whole thing there; it won’t take long. He’s pretty much right, too.

One point where Hart is light is on the history—even the fairly recent history—of American Catholicism’s resistance to the Church’s social teaching. For example, John XXIII’s Mater et Magistra prompted the jibe “Mater si, magistra no.” And, more recently, American Catholics bent over backward either to explain why Benedict didn’t write all of Caritas in veritate or to make the same old (tedious at this point) arguments about how the Church doesn’t have same authority in matters of state and economy as it does in matters of faith and morals. (How Pius IX would have laughed at them! Right before handing them copies of Syllabus.) All this is to say that Francis is not the first pope to encounter resistance to his social teaching from Catholics on the American political right, though he might be the first pope to wade into a debate still very active in American political circles with his social teaching. (Maybe. Quadragesimo anno certainly addressed issues that were very much au courant in 1931.) Indeed, resistance to the Church’s social teaching might be a major characteristic of American Catholicism.

Grenier on economic liberalism

Yesterday, we published a longish piece here about Paul VI’s attitude toward socialism compared to Pius XI’s. We quoted the Canadian Thomist Henri Grenier’s Cursus Philosophiae (translated as Thomistic Philosophy) at some length, both to give a concise summary of the doctrine as it existed after Quadragesimo anno and to clarify—by means of summary—some of Pius’s points. We noted, briefly, that Grenier also summarizes the important points of the Church’s condemnation of economic liberalism.

The Church’s position on economic liberalism is often a point of contention, especially with Catholics on the American political right, who frequently express great fondness for the free market. Indeed, some of the most strident criticisms of the Holy Father’s recent social encyclical, Laudato si’, have come from these Catholics. (Just as some of the most strident criticisms of Benedict’s Caritas in veritate came from these Catholics.) And these criticisms have two key features: (1) the Holy Father has somehow sold out to a climate-change consensus that is not settled at best and bogus at worst, and (2) the Holy Father is inflexibly opposed to capitalism and the free market. The former point, we think, is best left to the experts, most of whom, we are told, say that climate change is a thing. But the latter point, it seems, is easily answered by the Church’s own teaching.

But discussing the Church’s own teaching is difficult, since the definition of capitalism, the free market, and economic liberalism is tricky. Definitions are either inadequately simplistic or too complex to be agreed upon as a premise. Consequently, the argument becomes definitional. And this is where we think Grenier is helpful. He offers a very helpful summary of economic liberalism that seems right to us. We reproduce it here simply as something interesting to read:

2° Economic liberalism maintains that the control of material goods is a strictly private, personal, and individual right. Its fundamental principles are the following:

a) Private utility is the chief and almost the sole stimulus of economic life, and especially of production, for it is the individual who can best seek, know, and promote his own interests or utility.

b) Therefore, in economic life, private liberty must be strictly safeguarded. Hence the State’s only function in economic matters consists in the protection of private rights; and it must abstain from all positive intervention in the settlement of the economic problems of society (State police or night watchmen).

Moreover, all associations, especially workmen’s associations, should be abolished, because they are a restraint on individual liberty.

c) Economic life should be governed by free competition. In other words, the first law of economic activity is free competition, i.e., the free play of economic individualities seeking, by any lawful means, the greatest possible advantages, respecting at the same time, of course, the equal rights of others to do the same.

d) The consequence of free competition is responsibility; and hence each one not only must provide for his own needs entirely through his own initiative and industry, but becomes solely responsible for the happiness or unhappiness that may be his.

(3 Thomistic Philosophy § 1152, 2º, trans. O’Hanley.)

A point of correction

In “Preces meae non sunt dignae,” we referred to the Dies irae as “a splendid old hymn.” It has been brought to our attention—by a source we respect very much and have quoted here from time to time—that this is not quite correct. The Dies irae is a sequence historically used in the Requiem. (This is, of course, why your copies of the Mozart and Verdi Requiems have settings of the Dies irae, for example.) It was dropped from its venerable position in the Mass in the Bugnini revisions, though, which is why it got transported over to the Liturgia Horarum as an optional hymn for the thirty-fourth week of Tempus Per Annum, according to the same source.

We regret the error, not least on account of who pointed it out.

Did Paul VI change the Church’s teaching on socialism?

In an earlier post, we unpacked Paul VI’s statement in Octogesima adveniens, which apparently permitted Christians to engage in what the Pope called “socialist currents.” He was suspicious of them, to be sure, but he acknowledged that Christians could, provided, of course, that they retained a clear-eyed understanding of both the ideological aspects of socialism and the fundamental inseparability of those ideological aspects from the political expressions of socialism and its larger goals, discern the extent to which they could commit themselves along socialist lines. In other words, Paul VI seemed to acknowledge that it was possible for Christians to reach a via media with socialism.

After some reflection on this statement, it seems to us that Paul’s statement in Octogesima adveniens may represent a significant departure from the prior social teaching of the Church. In fact, the great Pius XI in Quadragesimo anno explicitly excluded cooperation between Christians and socialists. (We’ll explore what, precisely, he said infra.) And Papa Ratti’s bright-line exclusion of cooperation was taken up in the manualist tradition. So, Paul’s statement, at the very least, does not explicitly reiterate that bright-line exclusion. And, as is so often the case with teaching after Pius XII, it will be seen infra that Paul’s statement admits of two interpretations. On one hand, his statement is a narrow opening for cooperation, which represents a departure from Pius’s teaching. On the other hand, his statement is merely an oblique reference to that teaching. However, as we have observed, failure to explicitly reaffirm doctrine is functionally equivalent to changing doctrine. It is, as Benedict XVI might say, a question of which hermeneutic one prefers: continuity or rupture.

(We will add some section headings for convenience, perhaps a professional weakness.)

1. Paul VI Apparently Opened the Door to Cooperation in Socialism in Octogesima adveniens

But let’s look at the question in detail. Recall first what Paul VI said in Octogesima adveniens:

Some Christians are today attracted by socialist currents and their various developments. They try to recognize therein a certain number of aspirations which they carry within themselves in the name of their faith. They feel that they are part of that historical current and wish to play a part within it. Now this historical current takes on, under the same name, different forms according to different continents and cultures, even if it drew its inspiration, and still does in many cases, from ideologies incompatible with faith. Careful judgment is called for. Too often Christians attracted by socialism tend to idealize it in terms which, apart from anything else, are very general: a will for justice, solidarity and equality. They refuse to recognize the limitations of the historical socialist movements, which remain conditioned by the ideologies from which they originated. Distinctions must be made to guide concrete choices between the various levels of expression of socialism: a generous aspiration and a seeking for a more just society, historical movements with a political organization and aim, and an ideology which claims to give a complete and self-sufficient picture of man. Nevertheless, these distinctions must not lead one to consider such levels as completely separate and independent. The concrete link which, according to circumstances, exists between them must be clearly marked out. This insight will enable Christians to see the degree of commitment possible along these lines, while safeguarding the values, especially those of liberty, responsibility and openness to the spiritual, which guarantee the integral development of man.

We have previously discussed this passage, and we will not belabor the point unnecessarily. Paul says that Christians—conscious both of socialism’s ideological tenets and of the inseparability of those ideological tenets from political expression and broader goals—can discern “the degree of commitment” along socialist lines.

It bears noting, and is most relevant for our discussion here, that nothing in Paul’s teaching in Octogesima adveniens explicitly excludes cooperation between Christians and socialism. Paul advises caution, but, one gets the real sense (we do, at any rate) that if all the conditions are met, then there is a possibility for cooperation.

2. Henri Grenier’s Thomistic Philosophy Is a Good Example of the Church’s Prior Teaching, Which Was Based on Pius XI’s Quadragesimo anno

Perhaps the easiest way into Pius’s teaching is to look, first, at Canadian Thomist Henri Grenier’s Cursus Philosophiae—translated into English as Thomistic Philosophy. Grenier’s manual was a hugely significant treatise in seminaries and colleges in its day. However, time just gets away from us, as Charles Portis says, and it is unlikely that Grenier is much read in the seminaries these days, except perhaps by a few devoted Thomists. Grenier was a major opponent of personalism, which took off in earnest after 1945 for obvious reasons, and also an important influence on Charles De Koninck and the so-called Laval School of Thomism. (A topic best left to the experts.) At any rate, the third volume of his Philosophy addresses various social questions in detail, including possible cooperation between Catholics and socialists. Grenier also demolishes the possibility of economic liberalism a few pages later, to give you an idea of what you’re dealing with there.

Now, let us consider what Grenier said,

Some Catholics have unwarrantably wondered about the possibility of a «middle course» between mitigated Socialism and the principles of Christian truth, so that Socialism could be met, as it were, upon common ground.

For, first, they have felt, class warfare, on condition that it refrains from enmities and mutual hatred, can gradually become an honest discussion of differences, which is a principle of social restoration and peace.

Secondly, the war declared upon the ownership of private property, if attenuated, can be directed not towards the abolition of the possession of productive goods, i.e., the means of production, but towards the restoration of order in society, namely, when, according to the principles of sound philosophy, certain forms of property are reserved to the State, the private ownership of which would be at variance with the common good.

Pope Pius XI settled very definitely any doubts in this matter by solemnly declaring that Socialism, even in its more moderate form, is irreconcilable with the teachings of Christianity.

(3 Thomistic Philosophy § 1150, 3º, trans. O’Hanley) (footnote omitted.) In other words, some Catholics have explored the possibility that, if socialism abandons class warfare in favor of “honest discussion of differences,” and if socialism permits private property except where the common good requires property to be under public control, then there may be room for cooperation between socialism and Christ’s Church. The via media! No such luck, Grenier says. Socialism, even moderate socialism, is “irreconcilable” with Christianity. We see that, at least as Grenier understands the situation, there is no possibility for the sort of via media that Paul marks out.

3. Pius XI in Quadragesimo anno Held that Socialism Is Incompatible With Christianity, Even if Socialism Moderates Its Policies of Class Struggle and War on Private Property. 

In support of this proposition, Grenier cites Pius XI’s Quadragesimo anno. Indeed, Quadragesimo anno is, it seems, itself sufficient  to answer the Catholics who have “unwarrantably wondered” about a possible via media between socialism and the Church’s social teaching. We come, therefore, to the heart of the matter. The brief portion of Quadragesimo anno that Grenier quotes in a footnote comes near the end of a considerably longer passage, which ought to be considered in full, because Pius does something very clever in it. Pius begins,

One might say that, terrified by its own principles and by the conclusions drawn therefrom by Communism, Socialism inclines toward and in a certain measure approaches the truths which Christian tradition has always held sacred; for it cannot be denied that its demands at times come very near those that Christian reformers of society justly insist upon.

For if the class struggle abstains from enmities and mutual hatred, it gradually changes into an honest discussion of differences founded on a desire for justice, and if this is not that blessed social peace which we all seek, it can and ought to be the point of departure from which to move forward to the mutual cooperation of the Industries and Professions. So also the war declared on private ownership, more and more abated, is being so restricted that now, finally, not the possession itself of the means of production is attacked but rather a kind of sovereignty over society which ownership has, contrary to all right, seized and usurped. For such sovereignty belongs in reality not to owners but to the public authority. If the foregoing happens, it can come even to the point that imperceptibly these ideas of the more moderate socialism will no longer differ from the desires and demands of those who are striving to remold human society on the basis of Christian principles. For certain kinds of property, it is rightly contended, ought to be reserved to the State since they carry with them a dominating power so great that cannot without danger to the general welfare be entrusted to private individuals.

Such just demands and desire have nothing in them now which is inconsistent with Christian truth, and much less are they special to Socialism. Those who work solely toward such ends have, therefore, no reason to become socialists.

That’s a neat trick, there at the end, isn’t it? If socialism, Pius says, has moderated class struggle into mere dialogue between classes and renounced public ownership of the means of production in favor of the recognition that the public authority has the right to govern capital, then there’s no reason to become a socialist, since those doctrines aren’t uniquely socialist. And this is, of course, a point that is difficult to answer: if socialism is about, say, mere economic justice and solidarity within and among classes, then there is very little to distinguish socialism from other political tendencies. Almost no mainstream political tendency wants economic injustice and conflict among classes for its own sake.

Paul seems to contradict this point pretty squarely in Octogesima adveniens, doesn’t he? Paul says,

Distinctions must be made to guide concrete choices between the various levels of expression of socialism: a generous aspiration and a seeking for a more just society, historical movements with a political organization and aim, and an ideology which claims to give a complete and self-sufficient picture of man. Nevertheless, these distinctions must not lead one to consider such levels as completely separate and independent. The concrete link which, according to circumstances, exists between them must be clearly marked out.

Under Pius’s teaching, if socialism is only “a generous aspiration and a seeking for a more just society,” then there is no reason to cooperate with socialism, because neither of those things are uniquely socialist. And he is probably right, as we said. Paul, on the other hand, seems to leave the door open.

But it probably doesn’t matter much, since Pius doubts that socialism really has moderated class struggle or renounced public ownership of the means of production:

Yet let no one think that all the socialist groups or factions that are not communist have, without exception, recovered their senses to this extent either in fact or in name. For the most part they do not reject the class struggle or the abolition of ownership, but only in some degree modify them. Now if these false principles are modified and to some extent erased from the program, the question arises, or rather is raised without warrant by some, whether the principles of Christian truth cannot perhaps be also modified to some degree and be tempered so as to meet Socialism half-way and, as it were, by a middle course, come to agreement with it. There are some allured by the foolish hope that socialists in this way will be drawn to us. A vain hope! Those who want to be apostles among socialists ought to profess Christian truth whole and entire, openly and sincerely, and not connive at error in any way. If they truly wish to be heralds of the Gospel, let them above all strive to show to socialists that socialist claims, so far as they are just, are far more strongly supported by the principles of Christian faith and much more effectively promoted through the power of Christian charity.

Since socialism is likely to retain some of its uniquely socialist character, can’t the Church moderate its doctrines a little to find that via media? Of course not! Pius offers a variation on his neat trick from before. Here, he says that the way for Christians to interact with socialists is to show them—without departing from the doctrine of Christ’s Church—that there is no just socialist claim that is not supported and advanced better by the Church. In other words, it is the Christian’s duty to show the socialist that his just aims are really the Church’s aims and that the Church is better able to actually achieve those aims. The Christian is the perfect socialist, or, to put it in a less polemic manner, the Christian has perfectly what the socialist has imperfectly. Cooperation with socialism is therefore nothing more or less than bringing the Gospel to socialists.

Pius then circles back to the idea that socialism can moderate its distinctive aspects—class struggle and the public ownership of the means of production—sufficiently to permit cooperation between the Christian and the socialist.

But what if Socialism has really been so tempered and modified as to the class struggle and private ownership that there is in it no longer anything to be censured on these points? Has it thereby renounced its contradictory nature to the Christian religion? This is the question that holds many minds in suspense. And numerous are the Catholics who, although they clearly understand that Christian principles can never be abandoned or diminished seem to turn their eyes to the Holy See and earnestly beseech Us to decide whether this form of Socialism has so far recovered from false doctrines that it can be accepted without the sacrifice of any Christian principle and in a certain sense be baptized. That We, in keeping with Our fatherly solicitude, may answer their petitions, We make this pronouncement: Whether considered as a doctrine, or an historical fact, or a movement, Socialism, if it remains truly Socialism, even after it has yielded to truth and justice on the points which we have mentioned, cannot be reconciled with the teachings of the Catholic Church because its concept of society itself is utterly foreign to Christian truth.

(Emphasis supplied.) Even if socialism moderates itself to the point of class dialogue and public authority over certain private property, socialism is still diseased. This seems to be contradicted even more strongly by Paul, doesn’t it? Paul seems to hold that

But why does Pius say this?

[A]ccording to Christian teaching, man, endowed with a social nature, is placed on this earth so that by leading a life in society and under an authority ordained of God he may fully cultivate and develop all his faculties unto the praise and glory of his Creator; and that by faithfully fulfilling the duties of his craft or other calling he may obtain for himself temporal and at the same time eternal happiness. Socialism, on the other hand, wholly ignoring and indifferent to this sublime end of both man and society, affirms that human association has been instituted for the sake of material advantage alone. 

Because of the fact that goods are produced more efficiently by a suitable division of labor than by the scattered efforts of individuals, socialists infer that economic activity, only the material ends of which enter into their thinking, ought of necessity to be carried on socially. Because of this necessity, they hold that men are obliged, with respect to the producing of goods, to surrender and subject themselves entirely to society. Indeed, possession of the greatest possible supply of things that serve the advantages of this life is considered of such great importance that the higher goods of man, liberty not excepted, must take a secondary place and even be sacrificed to the demands of the most efficient production of goods. This damage to human dignity, undergone in the “socialized” process of production, will be easily offset, they say, by the abundance of socially produced goods which will pour out in profusion to individuals to be used freely at their pleasure for comforts and cultural development. Society, therefore, as Socialism conceives it, can on the one hand neither exist nor be thought of without an obviously excessive use of force; on the other hand, it fosters a liberty no less false, since there is no place in it for true social authority, which rests not on temporal and material advantages but descends from God alone, the Creator and last end of all things.

(Footnotes omitted and emphasis supplied.) In other words, the fault with socialism is its concept of society as ordered toward the efficient production of goods, and, in Pius’s view, that fault is inseparable from socialism. This fault has two consequences: it requires excessive force and creates false liberty.

4. Henri Grenier Summarizes and Clarifies Pius’s Argument Against Socialism’s Concept of Society.

Now, this ought to be carefully considered. Socialism has one body of doctrine, Pius seems to tell us, and two key aspects of that doctrine are class struggle and the public ownership of the means of production. But there is more to socialism than those two points—including the idea that society is ordered toward production—and even if socialism moderates the two big points, the remaining doctrine is poisoned by socialism’s concept of society. There is, then, no way in Pius’s mind for the Christian to cooperate with the socialist, even if the socialist moderates the leading aspects of socialism.

The importance for Pius of the socialist concept of society cannot be understated. And it may help to clarify the argument a little to see what Pius is getting at. Grenier does just that. The thesis is that socialism is untenable. (We know Grenier’ll prove it, but don’t let that spoil the suspense.) Grenier unpacks the major and minor premises of Pius’s argument:

1° Man must live in society, in order to attain temporal and eternal happiness. But, according to Socialism, man’s only purpose in living in society is the acquisition of an abundance of temporal goods. Therefore.

Major.— The end of civil society is the temporal happiness of this life as directed to eternal happiness.

Minor.— For Socialism, in declaring even an attenuated kind of war on private ownership, is concerned only with the acquisition of an abundance of material goods, and thus shows no solicitude either for man’s higher goods, or for his liberty. For it teaches that man must be completely subject to civil society, in order that he acquire an abundance of material goods.

(3 Thomistic Philosophy § 1151, 1º.)  He proceeds to the conclusion, and explains the two antecedents to the conclusion, of Pius’s argument:

2° Society, as conceived by the Socialist, is, on the one hand, impossible and inconceivable without the use of compulsion of the most excessive kind; and, on the other hand, it fosters a false liberty. Therefore Socialism is untenable.

Antecedenta) Society is impossible and inconceivable without the use of compulsion of the most excessive kind.— According to Socialism, the possession of the greatest possible amount of temporal goods is esteemed so highly that man’s higher goods, not excepting liberty, must be subordinated and even sacrificed to the exigencies of efficient production.

b) Society fosters a false liberty.— Society, according to the Socialistic conception of it, is based solely on temporal and material advantages. From this it follows that neither society nor its members are subject to God, the wellspring of all authority. In other words, Socialism, in which no place is found for true social authority, destroys all authority.

We may add that Socialism cannot, in virtue of its principles, abolish class welfare.

(3 Thomistic Philosophy § 1151, 2º.) We note briefly here that there is an interesting point raised by this argument: does Pius mean that the mere subordination of man’s higher goods to the possession of temporal goods itself constitutes the “obviously excessive use of force”? That is, if man’s higher good is subordinated to the possession of temporal goods without physical coercion, is that still the “obviously excessive use of force”? If so, this is a remarkably interesting and potentially fruitful line of argument. But that’s not exactly what we’re here for today.

To summarize, in Pius’s view, socialism is contradictory to Christian doctrine because of its views on class struggle and private property, but even if socialism moderates those views, it is still contrary to Christian doctrine because socialism rejects the proper end of civil society in favor of a purely materialistic concept of civil society. Worse than that, socialism, in order to implement its materialistic concept of society, both uses excessive force and fosters a false concept of liberty. In other words, the poison in socialism is fundamental. Therefore, Christians cannot cooperate with socialism.

5. Returning to Octogesima adveniens: a Hermeneutic of Continuity or a Hermeneutic of Rupture?

As noted above, this bright-line approach is not to be found in Octogesima adveniens. Or is it? Remember, again, what Paul said:

Too often Christians attracted by socialism tend to idealize it in terms which, apart from anything else, are very general: a will for justice, solidarity and equality. They refuse to recognize the limitations of the historical socialist movements, which remain conditioned by the ideologies from which they originated. Distinctions must be made to guide concrete choices between the various levels of expression of socialism: a generous aspiration and a seeking for a more just society, historical movements with a political organization and aim, and an ideology which claims to give a complete and self-sufficient picture of man. Nevertheless, these distinctions must not lead one to consider such levels as completely separate and independent. The concrete link which, according to circumstances, exists between them must be clearly marked out. This insight will enable Christians to see the degree of commitment possible along these lines, while safeguarding the values, especially those of liberty, responsibility and openness to the spiritual, which guarantee the integral development of man.

(Emphasis supplied.) It seems to us that one could argue that Paul kept Quadragesimo anno in mind when he wrote Octogesima adveniens, and when he talks about “an ideology which claims to give a complete and self-sufficient picture of man,” he could well be talking about socialism’s broader notions of society—notions which Pius held to be incompatible with Christianity. Furthermore, one could well argue that Paul pointed out that there is a link between, say, “a generous aspiration and a seeking for a more just society,” and those same broader, incompatible notions of society. Furthermore, one could argue that Paul’s injunction to safeguard integral values—including liberty—points toward Pius’s teaching that socialism simultaneously does violence to and promotes a false vision of liberty. (To say nothing of socialism’s materialistic outlook, which contradicts necessarily “openness to the spiritual.”) In other words, Paul’s admonitions to Christians fit into Pius’s teachings and result in Christians being unable to commit themselves along socialist lines. Paul reaffirms Pius.

But if that were the case, one wonders why Paul did not come out and reaffirm Pius’s bright-line noncooperation rule. One can just as easily read Paul as permitting some commitment or cooperation. Certainly such a reading finds support in the text and does not require lengthy analyses of Paul’s secret allusions to Quadragesimo anno. And one could quite reasonably say that Paul meant what he said, and what he said was that Christians could, keeping certain things in mind, come to a decision about the extent to which they could commit themselves along socialist lines. If he had meant that they could not so commit themselves, then he would have said so. And this reading is hard to answer, too. No means no, and maybe means maybe.

The question, then, is whether one prefers a hermeneutic of continuity or a hermeneutic of rupture. And that question seems to be answered largely by one’s broader political preferences. Obviously, Christians who seek a via media—or something more—will adopt the hermeneutic of rupture, arguing that Paul VI, perhaps considering certain changes in the state of socialism by 1971, softened the Church’s stance on cooperation or commitment. And Christians who reject socialism completely on political grounds will adopt a hermeneutic of continuity with Pius XI’s strict anti-socialist teaching.



Cardinal Burke on Antonio Spadaro’s Synod wrap-up

We have noticed, lately, that we have not heard much from Raymond Cardinal Burke regarding the ongoing debate over the possibility of admitting bigamists to communion. We have heard, of course, from Robert Cardinal Sarah and Bishop Athanasius Schneider, both of whom have been prominent commentators on the developments in the Church. Today, Cardinal Burke has a brief essay in the Register, responding to Father Antonio Spadaro’s triumphant essay in the Jesuit periodical La Civiltà Cattolica, whose proofs, we are unfailingly reminded, are corrected in the Secretariat of State (or Santa Marta, as the case may be), which pretty well declared the path to communion for bigamists wide open after the Synod’s conclusion. Cardinal Burke’s essay concludes,

The way of discernment upon which the priest accompanies the penitent who is living in an irregular union assists the penitent to conform his conscience once again to the truth of the Holy Eucharist and to the truth of the marriage to which he is bound. As the Church has consistently taught and practiced, the penitent is led in the “internal forum” to live chastely in fidelity to the existing marriage bond, even if seeming to be living with another in a marital way, and thus to be able to have access to the sacraments in a way which does not give scandal. Pope St. John Paul II described the Church’s practice in the “internal forum” in No. 84 of Familiaris Consortio. The Declaration of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts of June 24, 2000, illustrates the teaching in No. 84 of Familiaris Consortio. Both of these documents are referenced in the final report of the synod, but sadly in a misleading way.

To give the impression that there is another practice in the “internal forum,” which would permit an individual in an irregular union to have access to the sacraments, is to suggest that the conscience can be in conflict with the truth of the faith. Such a suggestion clearly places priests in an impossible situation, the expectation that they can “open a door” for the penitent which, in fact, does not exist and cannot exist.

(Emphasis supplied and hyperlink omitted.) Read the whole thing there.

Those that read the tea leaves might be inclined to note that Fr. Spadaro is a close collaborator of the Holy Father, and there are those who have suggested that his comments might be seen as a preview of the Holy Father’s eventual disposition of the matter. And, of course, there was that get-together at the Villa Malta, to say nothing of the get-togethers at Santa Marta during the Synod. At any rate, Cardinal Burke’s piece is a solid counterweight to Fr. Spadaro’s breakthrough view of the Synod.