A comment on Hellerstedt

Today, the Supreme Court handed down its opinion in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, No. 15-274, 579 U.S. ___ (2016), invalidating some Texas regulations on abortion clinics. The decision today “vigorously reaffirms” Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood. In other words, the status quo remains firmly in place, despite some states’ attempts to regulate abortion vigorously. (Of course, it is interesting to observe the secular left, ordinarily so fond of government intervention, coming down so firmly on the side of corporations and deregulation, though that’s another story.) In the face of such a tragedy, we recall the Holy Father’s wise words in Laudato si’:

Modern anthropocentrism has paradoxically ended up prizing technical thought over reality, since “the technological mind sees nature as an insensate order, as a cold body of facts, as a mere ‘given’, as an object of utility, as raw material to be hammered into useful shape; it views the cosmos similarly as a mere ‘space’ into which objects can be thrown with complete indifference”. The intrinsic dignity of the world is thus compromised. When human beings fail to find their true place in this world, they misunderstand themselves and end up acting against themselves: “Not only has God given the earth to man, who must use it with respect for the original good purpose for which it was given, but, man too is God’s gift to man. He must therefore respect the natural and moral structure with which he has been endowed”.

Modernity has been marked by an excessive anthropocentrism which today, under another guise, continues to stand in the way of shared understanding and of any effort to strengthen social bonds. The time has come to pay renewed attention to reality and the limits it imposes; this in turn is the condition for a more sound and fruitful development of individuals and society. An inadequate presentation of Christian anthropology gave rise to a wrong understanding of the relationship between human beings and the world. Often, what was handed on was a Promethean vision of mastery over the world, which gave the impression that the protection of nature was something that only the faint-hearted cared about. Instead, our “dominion” over the universe should be understood more properly in the sense of responsible stewardship.

Neglecting to monitor the harm done to nature and the environmental impact of our decisions is only the most striking sign of a disregard for the message contained in the structures of nature itself. When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities – to offer just a few examples – it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected. Once the human being declares independence from reality and behaves with absolute dominion, the very foundations of our life begin to crumble, for “instead of carrying out his role as a cooperator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature”.

This situation has led to a constant schizophrenia, wherein a technocracy which sees no intrinsic value in lesser beings coexists with the other extreme, which sees no special value in human beings. But one cannot prescind from humanity. There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself. There can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology. When the human person is considered as simply one being among others, the product of chance or physical determinism, then “our overall sense of responsibility wanes”. A misguided anthropocentrism need not necessarily yield to “biocentrism”, for that would entail adding yet another imbalance, failing to solve present problems and adding new ones. Human beings cannot be expected to feel responsibility for the world unless, at the same time, their unique capacities of knowledge, will, freedom and responsibility are recognized and valued.


Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? “If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away”.

(Emphasis supplied, paragraph numbers and footnotes omitted.)

Supranational government and the demographic question

Last night, we noticed on Twitter a discussion about our piece, The ghost at the Brexit feast, that seemed to focus on our assertion that supranational government has to be founded upon Catholic principles. Of course, that is not really our assertion; it is the inescapable conclusion of the teachings of St. Pius XSt. John XXIII, and Benedict XVI. Setting that to one side, the discussion included the fact that Catholics are only 17.8% of the world population. The implication being either that Catholics are not in a position to establish supranational government along Catholic lines because there aren’t enough Catholics to do it or that Catholics need to convert the nations. Either way, the implicit criticism is that supranational government founded upon Christ and His Church is not possible due to demographic problems.

Ordinarily we do not respond to Twitter discussion of our posts. (We recall that we promised to reconsider our comment policy here, which we are still doing, albeit very, very slowly.) However, this Twitter discussion seemed to raise some interesting points, not least since we did not consider the demographic angle when we wrote our original piece. However, the discussion was very interesting and led us to work through some of the implications of the demographic issue on the question of supranational government.

In short, we think the best response is along the lines of the point that Henri Grenier (and Pius XII, at the very beginning of the Second World War) made: all nations, Catholic or not, are bound together with mutual and reciprocal moral and juridical bonds. And, whether Catholics constitute a demographic minority or not, this interaction and interrelationship of all nations exists and is ultimately founded upon the divine law. Pius XII observed:

[I]t is indispensable for the existence of harmonious and lasting contacts and of fruitful relations, that the peoples recognize and observe these principles of international natural law which regulate their normal development and activity. Such principles demand respect for corresponding rights to independence, to life and to the possibility of continuous development in the paths of civilization; they demand, further, fidelity to compacts agreed upon and sanctioned in conformity with the principles of the law of nations.

The indispensable presupposition, without doubt, of all peaceful intercourse between nations, and the very soul of the juridical relations in force among them, is mutual trust: the expectation and conviction that each party will respect its plighted word; the certainty that both sides are convinced that “better is wisdom, than weapons of war” (Ecclesiastes ix. 18), and are ready to enter into discussion and to avoid recourse to force or to threats of force in case of delays, hindrances, changes or disputes, because all these things can be the result not of bad will, but of changed circumstances and of genuine interests in conflict.

But on the other hand, to tear the law of nations from its anchor in Divine law, to base it on the autonomous will of States, is to dethrone that very law and deprive it of its noblest and strongest qualities. Thus it would stand abandoned to the fatal drive of private interest and collective selfishness exclusively intent on the assertion of its own rights and ignoring those of others.

(Emphasis supplied.) All of this is to say, then, that there are connections between all nations that create a community of mankind. The common good of this community requires supranational government insofar as there are major issues confronting the community of nations that are too great for any one country to solve. Christ and His law, Pius XII teaches us, are the very foundation of these connections. This, of course, makes perfect sense in light of what St. Pius X teaches us in Notre charge apostolique: Catholic charity is the only foundation for meaningful, effective solidarity. Thus, Catholics may only constitute 17.8% of the world population, but that does not change the fact that Christ and His Church are the very bedrock of the international community and the only hope for effective international solidarity. The demographic issue is, strictly speaking, simply not relevant.

However, that is a profoundly unsatisfying answer, because, in concrete terms, demographics do matter. (Just ask anyone who ever lost an election.) It is, of course, important to think in concrete terms when considering questions like supranational government, especially a supranational government that challenges some of the assumptions currently governing supranational authorities. To put it another way: if Catholics are to think about what must be done, the consideration of how it must be done is hugely important. And, in politics, how it must be done often involves a serious consideration of demographics. Yet, at the same time, we must avoid giving the impression that the teachings of the good and holy popes of the modern age—indeed, the teachings of Christ and His Church more generally—are but one voice among many, competing in the marketplace of ideas. That is manifestly not the case.

Thus, we can say that the demographic consideration, while not strictly relevant to the basic doctrinal approach to the question of supranational government, is an important one in concrete terms. How one grapples with demographics is, of course, a different question altogether, and one somewhat more difficult. However, to propose a potential line of inquiry, we wonder whether it might not be more productive to consider Catholics as a percentage of a given country, rather than as a percentage of total population. When considering supranational government, a country either joins and submits to the authority’s jurisdiction or it does not. Thus, the number of Catholics as a percentage of a given country’s electorate is more important, we think, that the number of Catholics as a percentage of the world’s total population.

Following up on Brexit

We note, as a quick follow up to our piece today about Brexit, that The Josias ran, almost exactly a year ago, an excerpt from Henri Grenier’s Thomistic Philosophy regarding supranational government, which came to the conclusions subsequently identified by St. John XXIII and Benedict XVI. As Pater Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist., pointed out in his introduction, the Holy Father also took up this question in Laudato si’.

The ghost at the Brexit feast

We begin with an apology for letting Semiduplex lie fallow so long. We had been accustomed to posting more regularly, but other factors have intervened, work and otherwise. We had intended on discussing the Holy Father’s recent comments, shocking to some, about the possibility of widespread nullity of marriage, and the responses of his some of his notable critics, no less shocking. But the prospect was simply too depressing. However long the Holy Father reigns—and long may he reign—the basic paradigm of his reign is pretty well set in stone. At this point, we suspect that he could give a speech consisting solely of excerpts from Pascendi, and it would still provoke outrage.

We were perhaps fortunate not to have waded into the swamps surrounding the Holy Father’s remarks, because something much, much more interesting has happened: the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, including Scotland and Wales, voted in a referendum to withdraw from the European Union. David Cameron, prime minister of the United Kingdom, has announced his intention to resign later in the near future as a result of this vote. Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland, has announced her intention to renew Scottish independence efforts. The decision comes after recent polling and betting markets showed the “remain” option edging out “leave.” It seems that, in the doing of the thing, Wales and rural England voted strongly to leave, while London and Scotland voted to remain.

In other words, not only has the United Kingdom’s future as a member of the European community been called into serious doubt but also its future as a united kingdom. It is, then, a Big Deal, even as the twenty-four-hour news cycle turns everything into a big deal.

However, Catholics ought not to cheer too loudly England’s rejection of the European Union, especially insofar as it represents a rejection of supranational government. To be sure, the technocratic, neoliberal bureaucracy in Brussels is not a good supranational government. However, Catholics ought not to object to supranational government per se. Indeed, as we will see herein, the Church has taught for some time that supranational govermnent is necessary. Thus, as Catholics process Brexit and its consequences, they ought to consider that, while the European Union did not turn out to be an especially good idea, we need something like the European Union (or the United Nations or whatever) to serve properly the common good.

This is, then, the ghost at the Brexit feast. The European Union is a problem, as we said, and countries can find ample justification for leaving the European Union. But when it comes to finding justifications for rejecting the idea of supranational government altogether, it is a different question. Indeed, as we will see, there is simply no compelling justification for rejecting supranational government altogether. Thus, we have been a little perturbed by the response to Brexit among some Catholics, especially traditionally minded Catholics.

The basic reason for supranational government is this: some problems are bigger than individual nation-states. Indeed, in an increasingly interconnected world—globalized, we suppose, is the unfortunate word for it—individual nations are simply not competent to handle certain issues. Consider, for example, international crime—the drug trade, sex trafficking, or any of a whole host of similar evils. Certainly, it is possible to address the issue in each country, but we have seen that that simply does not work. Drugs are produced in one country, trafficked across several countries, and sold in another country still. But remember the idea of subsidiarity as outlined by Leo XIII in Rerum novarum and Pius XI in Quadragesimo anno, we see that the smallest competent unit ought to handle a given issue bearing upon the common good.

Consider further international finance and banking, as we were led to do by a very sharp acquaintance of ours in another venue. The effects of Brexit upon the British economy were front and center in the argument by advocates of remaining in the European Union. Apparently, membership in the European Union makes it easier for financial firms based in England to do business on the Continent. (We’re not experts at this, so we’ll take their word for it.) And this international character makes regulating financial firms difficult. There have been efforts to do this, one way and another, but they involve bilateral agreements and the grinding work of international diplomacy. And certain countries prefer to bolster their economies by avoiding these regulations and giving financial firms an out. One hears about tax havens and offshore corporation havens and asset protection trust havens—or one hears about them whenever something especially egregious takes place involving one of them, such as the so-called Panama Papers. In other words, prescinding from illegal conduct like the drug trade, one can find it impossible to regulate coherently and consistently the lawful activities of international organizations. Thus, the nation-state, as we conceive of it today, is not the smallest competent unit. Supranational government is necessary.

Of course, American Catholics on the political right will no doubt reject the idea that supranational government is necessary. However, when they do so, they set themselves against the teaching of the good and holy popes of the modern age. Recall what Benedict XVI said in his great (and misunderstood) social encyclical, Caritas in Veritate:

In the face of the unrelenting growth of global interdependence, there is a strongly felt need, even in the midst of a global recession, for a reform of the United Nations Organization, and likewise of economic institutions and international finance, so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth. One also senses the urgent need to find innovative ways of implementing the principle of the responsibility to protect and of giving poorer nations an effective voice in shared decision-making. This seems necessary in order to arrive at a political, juridical and economic order which can increase and give direction to international cooperation for the development of all peoples in solidarity. To manage the global economy; to revive economies hit by the crisis; to avoid any deterioration of the present crisis and the greater imbalances that would result; to bring about integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration: for all this, there is urgent need of a true world political authority, as my predecessor Blessed John XXIII indicated some years ago. Such an authority would need to be regulated by law, to observe consistently the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity, to seek to establish the common good, and to make a commitment to securing authentic integral human development inspired by the values of charity in truth. Furthermore, such an authority would need to be universally recognized and to be vested with the effective power to ensure security for all, regard for justice, and respect for rights. Obviously it would have to have the authority to ensure compliance with its decisions from all parties, and also with the coordinated measures adopted in various international forums. Without this, despite the great progress accomplished in various sectors, international law would risk being conditioned by the balance of power among the strongest nations. The integral development of peoples and international cooperation require the establishment of a greater degree of international ordering, marked by subsidiarity, for the management of globalization. They also require the construction of a social order that at last conforms to the moral order, to the interconnection between moral and social spheres, and to the link between politics and the economic and civil spheres, as envisaged by the Charter of the United Nations.

(Emphasis supplied and footnotes omitted.) In other words, Benedict recognized that some problems are too big for any one nation-state to resolve; a given country is not the smallest unit competent to address the global economy and financial institutions, to say nothing of the environment, migration, or international peace and disarmament. In order to address these issues, all of which bear upon the common good in a very serious way, something bigger than an individual country is necessary.

In support of his argument, Benedict cited St. John XXIII’s 1963 encyclical on world peace, Pacem in Terris, in which that saintly pope observed, wisely:

In our own day, however, mutual relationships between States have undergone a far reaching change. On the one hand, the universal common good gives rise to problems of the utmost gravity, complexity and urgency—especially as regards the preservation of the security and peace of the whole world. On the other hand, the rulers of individual nations, being all on an equal footing, largely fail in their efforts to achieve this, however much they multiply their meetings and their endeavors to discover more fitting instruments of justice. And this is no reflection on their sincerity and enterprise. It is merely that their authority is not sufficiently influential.

We are thus driven to the conclusion that the shape and structure of political life in the modern world, and the influence exercised by public authority in all the nations of the world are unequal to the task of promoting the common good of all peoples. 

Connection Between the Common Good and Political Authority

Now, if one considers carefully the inner significance of the common good on the one hand, and the nature and function of public authority on the other, one cannot fail to see that there is an intrinsic connection between them. Public authority, as the means of promoting the common good in civil society, is a postulate of the moral order. But the moral order likewise requires that this authority be effective in attaining its end. Hence the civil institutions in which such authority resides, becomes operative and promotes its ends, are endowed with a certain kind of structure and efficacy: a structure and efficacy which make such institutions capable of realizing the common good by ways and means adequate to the changing historical conditions.

Today the universal common good presents us with problems which are world-wide in their dimensions; problems, therefore, which cannot be solved except by a public authority with power, organization and means co-extensive with these problems, and with a world-wide sphere of activity. Consequently the moral order itself demands the establishment of some such general form of public authority.

(Heading in original, emphasis supplied, and paragraph numbers omitted.) St. John’s argument is interesting especially since it draws a connection between the moral order, the common good, and competence. The moral order requires that an authority be competent to pursue the common good insofar as possible. This raises, we note in passing, the interesting notion that governments mired in partisan dissension and inertia contravene the moral order, as they are thereby incompetent to pursue the common good. A sobering thought for those in Congress. At any rate, one may say, with St. John, that a supranational political authority is morally necessary, in addition to being practically necessary.

No doubt American Catholics on the political right will maintain their objection, presuming they don’t dust off their old trick of declaring (heretically) that the pope has no authority to pronounce upon these matters, pointing next to intrusions on national sovereignty and self-determination and individual liberty. Ah, they say, any supranational government must necessarily become, sooner or later, the Soviet Union. But St. John identifies the solution to that objection (hint: it’s something near and dear to Pius XI’s heart, which means it’s near and dear to ours):

The same principle of subsidiarity which governs the relations between public authorities and individuals, families and intermediate societies in a single State, must also apply to the relations between the public authority of the world community and the public authorities of each political community. The special function of this universal authority must be to evaluate and find a solution to economic, social, political and cultural problems which affect the universal common good. These are problems which, because of their extreme gravity, vastness and urgency, must be considered too difficult for the rulers of individual States to solve with any degree of success.

But it is no part of the duty of universal authority to limit the sphere of action of the public authority of individual States, or to arrogate any of their functions to itself. On the contrary, its essential purpose is to create world conditions in which the public authorities of each nation, its citizens and intermediate groups, can carry out their tasks, fullfill their duties and claim their rights with greater security.

(Emphasis supplied and paragraph numbers omitted.) There are, of course, problems that do not require supranational political action. And the European Union has proved to be most alienating in its technocratic insistence upon regulating these issues, too. In other words, the European Union went beyond creating conditions under which the governments of its member states could flourish individually to attempting in some measure to replace the governments of its member states. (We recall, especially, the brutal austerity regime imposed upon Greece during its financial crisis in the not-too-distant past.) This clearly contravenes subsidiarity.

But the American Catholic on the political right might press the point, complaining, since he no doubt heard it regularly at a recent seminar, that absolute power corrupts absolutely. (A comment, by the way, about papal infallibility, we recall being told.) And this is where a point by Pater Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist., comes in. At his wonderful blog Sancrucensis, he notes that St. Pius X addressed the real problem here:

Now that Brexit has become Brexibat, and the supposed ‘direction’ of European history has been called into doubt, Pope St. Pius X (if he were still alive today) might be forgiven for saying “I told you so.” In his Apostolic Letter Notre Charge ApostoliqueSt. Pius X rejected the idea that “universal solidarity” or “fraternity”  could be established on any firm basis apart from the Catholic Faith. Fraternity founded on “the love of common interest or, beyond all philosophies and religions, on the mere notion of humanity” is soon swept away by “the passions and wild desires of the heart.” No, he writes, “there is no genuine fraternity outside Christian charity.” Indeed, even if it could succeed a fraternity merely based on enlightened self-interest and a common recognition of humanity would not even be desirable:

By separating fraternity from Christian charity thus understood, Democracy, far from being a progress, would mean a disastrous step backwards for civilization. If, as We desire with all Our heart, the highest possible peak of well being for society and its members is to be attained through fraternity or, as it is also called, universal solidarity, all minds must be united in the knowledge of Truth, all wills united in morality, and all hearts in the love of God and His Son Jesus Christ. But this union is attainable only by Catholic charity, and that is why Catholic charity alone can lead the people in the march of progress towards the ideal civilization.

(Hyperlinks in original, emphasis supplied, and block quote slightly reformatted.) When one looks, then, at failed supranational governments—the Soviet Union, the European Union perhaps—one sees, as Pater Waldstein points out at length in his essay, that they are founded not upon Christ and His Church, but upon secular notions of brotherhood.

Thus, if supranational government is to be successful—that is, if it is to live up to its obligations under the moral law—it must be founded upon Christ and His Church. Only Catholic charity, as St. Pius tells us, provides a sure foundation for the solidarity of peoples and the progress of civilization. Anything else falls far short one way and another, usually horribly, as the last hundred years have shown repeatedly.

It may well be right for Catholics to cheer Brexit, or any other withdrawal from the technocratic Brussels regime. The philosophical underpinnings of the European Union are simply inadequate to provide a framework of solidarity and progress, insofar as they are essentially secular, Enlightenment ideals. But, St. John XXIII and Benedict XVI teach us, supranational government is necessary to serve the common good, given the international character of some of the major problems confronting the common good. And St. Pius X tells us that the only sure foundation for such a government is Christ’s Church and the charity she teaches us. So, as Catholics cheer Brexit, they ought to give some thought to how to bring about the sort of supranational government the Church teaches us that we need.

It would be a big project, to say the least. Big enough to take a little bit of the edge off the celebration, no?

Notable analysis of the Pan-Orthodox Council situation

Gabriel Sanchez, well known to readers of Semiduplex for his excellent blog, Opus Publicum, has a must-read piece at First Things about the status of the Pan-Orthodox Council. He provides a good summary of the situation as it stands, including the main points of contention. A selection:

What is all the fuss about? There are several agenda items covering intra-Orthodox ecclesiastical governance that in theory should not be terribly concerning, but that nevertheless reveal deep divisions within Orthodoxy along ethnic and national lines.

For instance, the question of the so-called “Orthodox diaspora” is fraught with difficulties. Many Orthodox living in the West would prefer to remain under the wing of bishops in their historic homelands, rather than coalesce around an autocephalous (self-governing) local church. Tied to this issue is the question of who decides when a newly established local church becomes self-governing and under what conditions. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople has long asserted this right for himself; other patriarchal churches in world Orthodoxy remain unenthused about his claim.

(Emphasis supplied and hyperlinks in original.) Read the whole thing there.

“Come una madre amorevole” now available in English

Francis’s Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio data “Come una madre amorevole” is now available in English as “As a Loving Mother.” Article I of the Letter is rendered as:

§ 1. The diocesan Bishop or Eparch, or one who even holds a temporary title and is responsible for a Particular Church, or other community of faithful that is its legal equivalent, according to can. 368 CIC or can. 313 CCEO, can be legitimately removed from this office if he has through negligence committed or through omission facilitated acts that have caused grave harm to others, either to physical persons or to the community as a whole. The harm may be physical, moral, spiritual or through the use of patrimony. 

§ 2. The diocesan Bishop or Eparch can only be removed if he is objectively lacking in a very grave manner the diligence that his pastoral office demands of him, even without serious moral fault on his part.

§ 3. In the case of the abuse of minors and vulnerable adults it is enough that the lack of diligence be grave.

§ 4. The Major Superiors of Religious Institutes and Societies of Apostolic Life of Pontifical Right are equivalent to diocesan Bishops and Eparchs.

(Emphasis supplied.) Imagine the possibilities!

The CDF Letter “Iuvenescit Ecclesia” released today

Today, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has released Iuvenescit Ecclesia, a letter dealing with the relationship between the hierarchy and charismatic groups within the Church. The document is available in English, but, even though it has a Latin incipit, has not been released in Latin (in keeping with the recent practice of the Curia). However, the prepared remarks from the press conference presenting the document, including the remarks of Cardinal Müller and Cardinal Ouellet, are available only in Italian. Edward Pentin, at the National Catholic Register, has released a summary of the document.

We are a little bit in the dark, and some of the commentaries have not elucidated the issue: was there some concrete situation that led to this guidance? Have the bishops of the world been seeking guidance from the Holy Office on these matters for some time? While the theological questions are interesting and the letter’s resolution of them no less interesting, one doubts very strongly that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith does anything needlessly. Thus, one wonders why it did this. If someone “in the know” wants to shoot us an e-mail explaining this (assuming anyone “in the know” reads Semiduplex, which is perhaps a big assumption), we would, of course, be thrilled to pass it along to our readers—anonymity guaranteed, of course.

It is interesting to note, if briefly, how quickly the Congregation bypasses Pius XII’s discussion of charismatic groups in Mystici Corporis in favor of the Vatican II teaching, contained in Lumen Gentium. Of course, given that this letter has a practical bent to it, intended, as it is, to address concrete issues in the Church today, one cannot expect a conspectus of the whole magisterium on these issues. But it would be nice, we think, if something that, to be fair, happened essentially the day before yesterday in the life of the Church got more than a mere mention. It is indicative of a forgetting that has happened and continues to happen since 1965, despite the best efforts of popes like John Paul and Benedict and prelates like Cardinal Müller.

Furthermore, while the document contains an at-times-dense exploration of the theological relationship between the hierarchy and charismatic groups, it also contains a list of criteria “to help the recognition of the authentically ecclesial nature of the charisms.” As we said, there is a concrete trajectory to the letter. Three such criteria are particularly interesting:

d) Witness to a real communion with the whole Church. This requires a “filial relationship to the Pope, in total adherence to the belief that he is the perpetual and visible center of unity of the universal Church, and with the local bishop, ‘the visible principle and foundation of unity’ in the particular Church”. This implies a “loyal readiness to embrace the[ir] doctrinal teachings and pastoral initiatives”, as well as “a readiness to participate in programs and Church activities at the local, national and international levels; a commitment to catechesis and a capacity for teaching and forming Christians”.

e) Recognition of and esteem for the reciprocal complementarity of other charismatic elements in the Church. From this arises a readiness for reciprocal cooperation. Truly: “A sure sign of the authenticity of a charism is its ecclesial character, its ability to be integrated harmoniously into the life of God’s holy and faithful people for the good of all. Something truly new brought about by the Spirit need not overshadow other gifts and spiritualities in making itself felt”.

f) Acceptance of moments of trial in the discernment of charisms. Because a charismatic gift may imply “a certain element of genuine originality and of special initiative for the spiritual life of the Church” and in its surrounding “may appear troublesome”, it follows that one criteria of authenticity manifests itself as “humility in bearing with adversities”, such that: “The true relation between genuine charism, with its perspectives of newness, and interior suffering, carries with it an unvarying history of the connection between charism and cross”. Any tensions that may arise are a call to the practice of greater charity in view of the more profound ecclesial communion and unity that exists.

(Emphasis supplied and footnotes omitted.)

We remember, perhaps unnecessarily, the debate over the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate who were, once upon a time, a hot-button issue among traditionally minded Catholics. (The intense focus on the FFI has, we think, subsided a little bit, both because of intervening events and because the Holy Father has made his dealings with the Society of St. Pius X no secret.) However, one of the arguments in support of the authoritarian intervention by the Congregation for Religious was that the FFI did not include devotion to the Forma Extraordinaria in its founding charism. As its founder, Fr. Manelli, began promoting the Forma Extraordinaria with the society, tensions arose. The rest is well known.

And with that experience in mind, it seems to us that these criteria could well be claimed by bishops who do not want to grant recognition to new groups claiming the traditional Latin Mass as part of their charism. The commitment to the local bishop’s pastoral initiatives and participation in his programs could well be a major problem when a group with a traditional charism runs into a progressive bishop. And the group has to accept the difficulties created by that encounter, since genuine charisms require patience in times of trial. (Likewise, a group with a progressive-but-still-orthodox charism could run into the mirror image of the problem if they wanted to establish themselves in a diocese with a more conservative bishop.)

Father Matthew Schneider, L.C., observes that Iuvenescit Ecclesia is aimed more at new movements and groups of the laity rather than religious, and, therefore, perhaps some of the concerns arising from the experience of the FFI are inapplicable to this situation. (Mutuae relationes would govern, one imagines, issues with the religious.) However, it is worth noting that the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, to take an example at random, is not an Institute of Consecrated Life or Society of Apostolic Life, cf. Iuvenescit Ecclesia no. 2, but instead a Public Association of the Christian Faithful (cf. can. 298 § 1). Indeed, Iuvenescit Ecclesia specifically states, in footnote 116,

The most simple juridical form for the recognition of ecclesial entities of a charismatic nature at the present time appears to be that of a private association of the Christian faithful (cf. CIC, canons 321-326; CCEO, canons 573, §2-583). Nonetheless, it is worthwhile considering the other juridical forms with their proper specific characteristics, for example public associations of the Christian faithful (cf. CIC, canons 573-730; CCEO, canons 573, §1-583), clerical associations of the Christian faithful (cf. CIC, canon 302), Institutes of Consecrated Life (cf. CIC, canons 573-730; CCEO, canons 410-571), Societies of Apostolic Life (cf. CIC, canons 731-746; CCEO, canon 572) and Personal Prelatures (cf. CIC, canons 294-297).

(Emphasis supplied.) Thus, it seems to us, given the experience of some groups, to say nothing of the explicit text of the letter, pace Fr. Schneider, that Iuvenescit Ecclesia is not specifically aimed at the laity. In other words, traditionalist groups, even clerical groups, ought to weigh carefully Iuvenescit Ecclesia moving forward.

Or be prepared to respond to criticism founded on Iuvenescit Ecclesia.

More on St. Mary Magdalene

Gregory DiPippo has a fascinating post at New Liturgical Movement on the recent elevation of the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene from obligatory memorial, in which he observes:

Fr Zuhlsdorf is certainly correct to predict that far too much will be made out of the fact that Pope Francis has raised the feast of a woman to a grade mostly occupied (as far as the general Calendar goes) by Apostles. Not only is this not a novelty, it is partially a return to the historical practice of the Tridentine Rite. In the Breviary of St Pius V, which predates his Missal by two years (1568), there were only three grades of feasts: Double, Semidouble and Simple. St Mary Magdalene’s feast was a Double, meaning that it had both Vespers, doubled antiphons at the major hours, nine readings at Matins, precedence over common Sundays, and had to be transferred if it were impeded. It is true that later on, as Double feasts were subdivided into four categories, she remained at the lowest of them (along with all the Doctors, inter alios). Nevertheless, the privileges of her liturgical rank did not even begin to be curtailed until late in the reign of Pope Leo XIII, at the end of the 19th century.

(Emphasis supplied and hyperlink omitted.) Of course, in the normative (for the Forma Extraordinaria) books of 1960/1962, St. Mary Magdalene’s feast is a feast of the 3rd class, though it is one of those rare 3rd class feasts with propers.

A couple of years ago, DiPippo wrote a very long, very interesting essay on St. Mary Magdalene’s feast more broadly considered, and it is well worth checking out when you have an idle hour.

That said, someone could profitably catalogue all the strangely traditional acts of the Holy Father. For example, in Mitis iudex Dominus Iesus, he restored, as we recall, traditional appellate jurisdiction in matrimonial cases to the metropolitan see (or the senior suffragan see in sentences rendered by the metropolitan). The restoration of St. Mary Magdalene’s feast to its post-1568 status is another such act. One wonders—we wonder, at any rate—whether there is any rhyme or reason or even a pattern to such acts.

The Feast of St. Mary Magdalene

Today, the Congregation for Divine Worship has released a decree, Resurrectionis dominicae, dated June 3raising the commemoration of St. Mary Magdalene from a memorial to a feast. Archbishop Arthur Roche, secretary of the Congregation, has written a lengthy article for L’Osservatore Romano, currently in Italian, discussing the decision of the Holy Father to raise the commemoration of St. Mary Magdalene to a feast. Here is an interesting portion of the decree:

Nostris vero temporibus cum Ecclesia vocata sit ad impensius consulendum de mulieris dignitate, de nova Evangelizatione ac de amplitudine mysterii divinae misericordiae bonum visum est ut etiam exemplum Sanctae Mariae Magdalenae aptius fidelibus proponatur. Haec enim mulier agnita ut dilectrix Christi et a Christo plurimum dilecta, “testis divinae misericordiae” a Sancto Gregorio Magno, et “apostolorum apostola” a Sancto Thoma de Aquino appellata, a christifidelibus huius temporis deprehendi potest ut paradigma ministerii mulierum in Ecclesia.

(Emphasis supplied.) We are, of course, particularly interested in the decree’s reference to the New Evangelization. As you may recall, the New Evangelization was a major theme of Benedict XVI’s pontificate. However, since February 28, 2013, not much has been heard about the New Evangelization. (And, perhaps, with good cause: it seemed to be little more than a buzzword for many people.) It is, therefore, interesting to see St. Mary Magdalene being mentioned as an example in the context of the New Evangelization.

What is also interesting is the extent to which St. Gregory the Great and St. Thomas Aquinas are cited in the decree and Archbishop Roche’s article. Particularly the description of Mary Magdalene as “apostolorum apostola,” apostless of the apostles. Obviously, this is, as Rorate Caeli noted in a series of tweets, a more or less literary appellation. However, at a time when the enemies of the Church have decided to renew their efforts for the so-called ordination of women, such language must be used carefully—or not at all—lest false equivalences be drawn. If we have learned nothing else from the Synodal process, we have seen that the progressives will twist, contort, and restate facts until their conclusions, once thought ridiculous, become “inevitable.” Add to this the modern (Modernist?) fetish for the language of “rights” and “equality,” and you’ve got a powerful brew.

Of course, none of this is a reason not to celebrate Mary Magdalene’s feast. It is a reason to ask for her intercession that the teaching of the One she loved so dearly be upheld and defended in His Church, however.

You know and I know that we wouldn’t be satisfied

The Holy Father, on June 4, issued the Apostolic Letter in the form of a Motu Proprio Come una madre amorevole. (“Like a loving mother.”) The text is in Italian, and, so far, an English version has not been made available. One anticipates that an English translation will be made available in due course—though, recall that Mitis iudex Dominus Iesus was not made available in English for quite some time after it was promulgated—and one can always obtain a machine translation ad interim. Edward Pentin, of course, has some coverage at the National Catholic Register, where he reports:

In a new Apostolic Letter, issued motu proprio, entitled “Come una madre amorevole” (As a Loving Mother), the new norms provide for the removal of bishops (or those equivalent to them in Canon Law) from their offices in cases where they have “through negligence, committed or omitted acts that have caused grave harm to others, either with regard to physical persons, or with regard to the community itself.”

The Letter also clarifies in cases of “abuse of minors or vulnerable adults, it is sufficient that the lack of diligence be grave.”

The director of the Holy See Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, said in an explanatory note that the apostolic letter “insists on the importance of vigilant care for the protection of minors and vulnerable adults, calling for a ‘particular diligence.”

Therefore, he continued, “it clarifies that negligence regarding cases of sexual abuse committed against children or vulnerable adults are among the ‘grave causes’ that justify removal from ecclesiastical offices, even of bishops.”

(Emphasis supplied and hyperlink omitted.)

For our part, we note that Come una madre amorevole will undoubtedly be represented as establishing a mechanism by which bishops negligent in sex-abuse cases can be removed; however, it is by no means limited to that circumstance. It seems to us that, under Article I, § 1, of the motu proprio, almost any very grave negligence (Art. I, § 2) having a physical, moral, spiritual, or financial effect could result in an a process being initiated (likely in the Congregation for Bishops, Art. II, §§ 1–2).

Imagine the possibilities!