Some introductory sources on integralism

In the wake of Fr. Antonio Spadaro and Rev. Marcelo Figueroa’s essay at Civiltà about American fundamentalist protestants and Catholic integralists—about which we have written here and elsewhere—there has been some discussion of integralism. It remains our contention that Spadaro and Figueroa never actually defined integralism and seemed to think, as Matthew Walther observes in a column at The Week, it is somehow the same thing as being conventionally conservative. This is flatly wrong. However, instead of criticizing Spadaro and Figueroa again, though there is much to criticize there, we thought we would point to some sources on integralism.

Before pointing to sources, a word on the project. Reclaiming integralism in 2017 is almost necessarily a project for autodidacts, and, therefore, it runs the risk of all projects for autodidacts. That is, one can accumulate a bunch of scraps of knowledge and imagine that one has mastered the field. Worse, one can accumulate a bunch of scraps of knowledge and imagine that one knows more than most. It is important, we think, to emphasize that integralism is simply Catholic political thought until the 20th century. One must, therefore, take care to think with the Church and with the Church’s authorities when one begins to look to integralism. This is not to say that one should not educate oneself on these matters; one will like have to take the initiative. Instead, it is to urge anyone interested in questions of integralism to proceed slowly and choose the best sources.

What are the best sources? Why, the ones we identify.

The best source is Pater Edmund Waldstein’s “Integralism in Three Sentences” at The Josias. One can get into the weeds quickly on this stuff, but Pater Edmund boils the theory down to its basic contentions. It’s a dense three sentences, requiring one to know more than nothing, but most educated Catholics can pick up the argument.

Also by Pater Edmund is the essential “The Good, the Highest Good, and the Common Good,” also at The Josias, which explains some of the terms that are used not only by integralists but also by Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas, and the popes. Indeed, it is impossible to discuss these matters without a clear understanding of the good, the highest good, and the common good. One will quickly lose the thread without such an understanding.

Taking a step into the realm of the philosophers and the theologians, Charles De Koninck’s The Primacy of the Common Good Against the Personalists is an important text for integralists. Likewise, St. Thomas Aquinas’s De Regno. There are obviously other texts, such as Fr. Henri Grenier’s influential manual, Thomistic Philosophy, but it is by no means necessary at first to get into the weeds of the literature. However, with St. Thomas and De Koninck, one will be able to articulate in a very general way some of the philosophical and theological arguments behind integralism. We assume, by the way, that educated readers will have some familiarity with Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and Politics. If not, it would behoove the interested reader to go back and get some familiarity with those texts, which are widely available in any number of formats.

Turning from the philosopher and theologians to the magisterium, Leo XIII’s encyclical on the Christian constitution of states, Immortale Dei, and his encyclical on the origin of civil power, Diuturnum illud, set forth some of the crucial magisterial teachings in support of integralism. While there are many other magisterial teachings that contribute to what we call integralism, Immortale Dei and Diuturnum illud are probably the most important. (His encyclical on Christians as citizens, Sapientiae christianae, is also important, but it develops upon Immortale Dei and Diuturnum illud and is perhaps not essential reading at the outset.) Leo’s style is clear, direct, and forceful. As we say, integralism is simply Catholic political teaching up until the 20th century and Leo, coming at the end of the 19th century, had an opportunity to restate that teaching. One will not go far wrong following Leo in these matters.

This is not a comprehensive introduction by any means, but we think it will provide the reader with enough of an understanding of integralism—that is, the Church’s traditional political thought—to weigh the matter intelligently. We offer, finally, this passage from St. John Paul II’s 1998 encyclical on the relationship between faith and reason, Fides et Ratio:

Eclecticism is an error of method, but lying hidden within it can also be the claims of historicism. To understand a doctrine from the past correctly, it is necessary to set it within its proper historical and cultural context. The fundamental claim of historicism, however, is that the truth of a philosophy is determined on the basis of its appropriateness to a certain period and a certain historical purpose. At least implicitly, therefore, the enduring validity of truth is denied. What was true in one period, historicists claim, may not be true in another. Thus for them the history of thought becomes little more than an archeological resource useful for illustrating positions once held, but for the most part outmoded and meaningless now. On the contrary, it should not be forgotten that, even if a formulation is bound in some way by time and culture, the truth or the error which it expresses can invariably be identified and evaluated as such despite the distance of space and time.

(Emphasis supplied.)

Philip Hamburger, Anti-Catholicism, and Liberalism

Is there any publication today as consistently interesting as First Things? Example: today, they have a piece by Columbia Law professor Philip Hamburger about the Supreme Court case Trinity Lutheran of Columbia v. Comer. This may well be a significant Establishment Clause case, given the issues and the Justices’ positions. If you are legally inclined, the petitions and briefs briefs are, of course, available through SCOTUSBlog. The case has produced some interesting ecumenical alignments. For example, the amici brief of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops is also signed by the Mormons, the Salvation Army, and the Reformed Church in America. Hamburger’s piece is not, actually,  much of a discussion of the legal issues in play with Trinity Lutheran. Instead he offers readers some background on the so-called Blaine Amendments, which are at the root of the Trinity Lutheran case.

Hamburger demonstrates—conclusively, we think—that the Blaine Amendments were the product of a pervasive anti-Catholicism in the United States in the late 19th century. Indeed, as we shall see, Hamburger makes the case that there was a bias against organized Christianity generally in many quarters, though the Church of Rome was taken as the archetype of organized Christianity. Hamburger explains:

Maine Representative James G. Blaine (1830–93) was born to a Catholic mother and a father who later converted to Catholicism; as a child, he apparently was baptized in the Catholic Church. As an adult, however, he had presidential ambitions. He does not seem to have harbored anti-Catholic animosity, and he refused to be drawn into “any avowal of hostility or unfriendliness to Catholics.” But in an era of profound anxieties about Catholics, including fears about their voting power and about the danger of their introducing papal tyranny, he was eager to be elected. He therefore proposed a constitutional amendment in late 1875 that would have rewritten the First Amendment—applying it to the states, and adding that “no money raised by taxation in any State for the support of public schools … shall ever be under the control of any religious sect.”

[…]

Blaine’s amendment appealed to such fears by preventing tax money from coming under the control of any “religious sect.” Existing constitutional provisions against establishments of religion did not bar public spending on education from reaching schools with religious affiliations, and Blaine’s amendment did not propose to alter this arrangement except by excluding Catholics. The Catholic Church, being attached to its orthodoxies, had theological objections to cooperating theologically with Protestants, and it therefore could only operate schools that were distinctly Catholic or “sectarian.” In contrast, Protestants were willing to join with Protestants of other denominations in running schools. Thus, when the Blaine Amendment stated that public money could not go to institutions belonging to any one “sect,” it effectively proposed to prevent money from reaching Catholic institutions—without cutting off funds for institutions shared by Protestant denominations.

(Emphasis supplied.) Hamburger goes on to explain, however, that Blaine’s amendment was manifestly an effort to advance his presidential hopes in 1876. And it made some headway in the Republican Party: the 1876 platform supported Blaine’s amendment. But it was obvious that Blaine’s amendment would not succeed and that the 1876 platform’s anti-Catholicism was merely an attempt to catch votes. Hamburger notes that, when Blaine’s amendment, which had passed the House overwhelmingly, reached the Senate, Blaine did not even attend the vote. It failed.

However, as is often the case, the amendment had a life of its own. Hamburger observes that many states adopted amendments to their constitutions along the lines of Blaine’s failed amendment to the federal constitution. Some of these amendments are fairly specifically anti-Catholic, others are more broadly anti-religious. And this is where Hamburger’s essay is indispensable. He explains that the Blaine amendment fits into a broader context of liberal thought in the late 19th century:

In appealing to anti-Catholic prejudice, Blaine was reaching out not merely to the unwashed masses, nor even merely to narrowly anti-Catholic nativists, but more broadly to theological liberals. As a Jewish commentator observed in 1875, “this issue will unite the whole Liberal element in this country with the anti-Catholic element, and these two elements form a vast majority all over the land.” Blaine thus could capture the votes of both traditional Protestants and theological liberals.

Nativists were not as theologically traditional in their anti-Catholicism as one might suppose. Their animosity against the Catholic Church arose not so much from the doctrines of their particular churches as from their broader theologically liberal concerns about church authority. They complained that the Catholic Church’s assertions of authority (including its hierarchy, its creeds, and its dogmatic claims of truth) threatened the mental independence of individuals. Catholic claims of priestly and especially papal authority thus seemed to prevent individual Christians from choosing their own faith, as necessary for salvation; they also seemed to prevent citizens from thinking and voting independently, as necessary for democracy.

Many theological liberals thus found themselves aligned with nativism. Although theological liberals viewed the Catholic Church as the model of what they disliked in religion, they typically expanded upon this narrow animosity to develop a broader hostility toward all hierarchical churches, Catholic or Protestant.

(Emphasis supplied.) Hamburger’s point bears repeating: liberals and nativists alike shared anti-Catholicism in the late 19th century. Indeed, the liberals and the nativists were the same people in many cases, according to Hamburger. But for many liberals, especially those who identified as capital-L Liberals around the 1876 election, the Church of Rome was not the sole enemy, even if she was the most prominent. Hamburger explains that these “Liberals” opposed all hierarchical ecclesial bodies with definite Christian doctrine.

In this same vein, Richard Garnett, at Notre Dame, has a piece at SCOTUSBlog from August 2016 discussing this question in depth, and citing several scholars, including Hamburger, who have addressed the question of the Blaine Amendments in detail. Garnett wrote:

First, will the Justices acknowledge, and perhaps even engage, the actual history and purpose of no-aid provisions like the one invoked by Missouri in this case? The Eighth Circuit did not mention the term “Blaine Amendments” and instead gestured vaguely to, again, a “long history of maintaining a very high wall between church and state” and to Missouri’s embrace of a “more restrictive” version of separation. In fact, though – as Philip Hamburger, John McGreevy, Joseph Viteritti, Lloyd Jorgenson, and many others have shown – provisions like Missouri’s were adopted by states (and sometimes required by the federal government) not to implement an abstraction like “separation” but rather to marginalize and undermine Roman Catholicism in America. These provisions’ origins, regardless of how the laws are justified or described today, are not easily disentangled from nineteenth-century America’s pervasive anti-Catholicism and nativism or from a broader ideological, nationalist project of using state-mandated public schooling to inculcate “American” values and loyalties. Justice Thomas discussed this history in his 2000 opinion in Mitchell v. Helms and Chief Justice Rehnquist mentioned it in a footnote in Locke. Will the Justices, in Trinity Lutheran, deal with the elephant in the room?

(Emphasis supplied, but hyperlinks in original.) It is possible that the Supreme Court will hand down its decision in Trinity Lutheran on Thursday at 10 AM. However, whenever it does hand down its decision, it will be interesting to see the extent to which the Court grapples with the history of the Blaine Amendments.

But we can think about these questions before the Supreme Court makes its thoughts known. Hamburger points to a fundamental problem that all integralist Catholics—indeed, all orthodox Catholics—have to confront sooner or later: liberalism is incompatible with Catholicism. Consider Leo XIII’s teaching in Libertas praestantissimum:

What naturalists or rationalists aim at in philosophy, that the supporters of liberalism, carrying out the principles laid down by naturalism, are attempting in the domain of morality and politics. The fundamental doctrine of rationalism is the supremacy of the human reason, which, refusing due submission to the divine and eternal reason, proclaims its own independence, and constitutes itself the supreme principle and source and judge of truth. Hence, these followers of liberalism deny the existence of any divine authority to which obedience is due, and proclaim that every man is the law to himself; from which arises that ethical system which they style independent morality, and which, under the guise of liberty, exonerates man from any obedience to the commands of God, and substitutes a boundless license. The end of all this it is not difficult to foresee, especially when society is in question. For, when once man is firmly persuaded that he is subject to no one, it follows that the efficient cause of the unity of civil society is not to be sought in any principle external to man, or superior to him, but simply in the free will of individuals; that the authority in the State comes from the people only; and that, just as every man’s individual reason is his only rule of life, so the collective reason of the community should be the supreme guide in the management of all public affairs. Hence the doctrine of the supremacy of the greater number, and that all right and all duty reside in the majority. But, from what has been said, it is clear that all this is in contradiction to reason. To refuse any bond of union between man and civil society, on the one hand, and God the Creator and consequently the supreme Law-giver, on the other, is plainly repugnant to the nature, not only of man, but of all created things; for, of necessity, all effects must in some proper way be connected with their cause; and it belongs to the perfection of every nature to contain itself within that sphere and grade which the order of nature has assigned to it, namely, that the lower should be subject and obedient to the higher.

Moreover, besides this, a doctrine of such character is most hurtful both to individuals and to the State. For, once ascribe to human reason the only authority to decide what is true and what is good, and the real distinction between good and evil is destroyed; honor and dishonor differ not in their nature, but in the opinion and judgment of each one; pleasure is the measure of what is lawful; and, given a code of morality which can have little or no power to restrain or quiet the unruly propensities of man, a way is naturally opened to universal corruption. With reference also to public affairs: authority is severed from the true and natural principle whence it derives all its efficacy for the common good; and the law determining what it is right to do and avoid doing is at the mercy of a majority. Now, this is simply a road leading straight to tyranny. The empire of God over man and civil society once repudiated, it follows that religion, as a public institution, can have no claim to exist, and that everything that belongs to religion will be treated with complete indifference. Furthermore, with ambitious designs on sovereignty, tumult and sedition will be common amongst the people; and when duty and conscience cease to appeal to them, there will be nothing to hold them back but force, which of itself alone is powerless to keep their covetousness in check. Of this we have almost daily evidence in the conflict with socialists and members of other seditious societies, who labor unceasingly to bring about revolution. It is for those, then, who are capable of forming a just estimate of things to decide whether such doctrines promote that true liberty which alone is worthy of man, or rather, pervert and destroy it.

(Emphasis supplied.) We see in Leo’s discourse exactly what Hamburger was talking about in the passage we quoted above. The problem with Catholicism for the liberal of 1876 was that it denies the supremacy of the individual as judge of right and wrong, even in matters of religion. But Leo makes clear that it is—in addition to an affront to God’s sovereignty and to the authority that He has granted to the Church and the state in their spheres—a shortcut to tyranny and anarchy to grant the individual and his subjective reason the supremacy demanded by liberals.

Leo goes on to address squarely the question of church and state:

There are others, somewhat more moderate though not more consistent, who affirm that the morality of individuals is to be guided by the divine law, but not the morality of the State, for that in public affairs the commands of God may be passed over, and may be entirely disregarded in the framing of laws. Hence follows the fatal theory of the need of separation between Church and State. But the absurdity of such a position is manifest. Nature herself proclaims the necessity of the State providing means and opportunities whereby the community may be enabled to live properly, that is to say, according to the laws of God. For, since God is the source of all goodness and justice, it is absolutely ridiculous that the State should pay no attention to these laws or render them abortive by contrary enactment. Besides, those who are in authority owe it to the commonwealth not only to provide for its external well-being and the conveniences of life, but still more to consult the welfare of men’s souls in the wisdom of their legislation. But, for the increase of such benefits, nothing more suitable can be conceived than the laws which have God for their author; and, therefore, they who in their government of the State take no account of these laws abuse political power by causing it to deviate from its proper end and from what nature itself prescribes. And, what is still more important, and what We have more than once pointed out, although the civil authority has not the same proximate end as the spiritual, nor proceeds on the same lines, nevertheless in the exercise of their separate powers they must occasionally meet. For their subjects are the same, and not infrequently they deal with the same objects, though in different ways. Whenever this occurs, since a state of conflict is absurd and manifestly repugnant to the most wise ordinance of God, there must necessarily exist some order or mode of procedure to remove the occasions of difference and contention, and to secure harmony in all things. This harmony has been not inaptly compared to that which exists between the body and the soul for the well-being of both one and the other, the separation of which brings irremediable harm to the body, since it extinguishes its very life.

(Emphasis supplied.) In essence, Leo teaches that liberalism, whether it is extreme or moderated, is contrary to the divine and natural law. Indeed, Leo demonstrates with great clarity that the moderate liberal is incoherent at best and disingenuous at worst.

The Catholic should, therefore, be troubled by policies like the Blaine Amendments. As Philip Hamburger outlines brilliantly, they were proximately the product of anti-Catholicism deployed cynically to further James Blaine’s presidential ambitions. However, they fit into a broader context of liberal thought in the late 1800s. This liberalism has been squarely condemned by Leo XIII, who shows us that it is both contrary to the divine and natural law and incoherent on its own terms. The sort of liberal who concedes to Catholics (or any Christian committed to Christian teaching) the right to believe what they believe, provided they keep it out of the public square, is either confused about his liberalism or economizing with the truth.

Hamburger’s piece provides an excellent test case, since it deals with a policy unquestionably liberal and unquestionably anti-Catholic. It is hard to dodge the harder questions in the context of the Blaine Amendments, since they were explicitly motivated by liberal anti-Catholicism. But one cannot stop the analysis with the Blaine Amendments, not least since the policy they articulate is no less present today than it was in 1876. Indeed, if anything, liberalism has strengthened its hand since 1876. It is all around us, as ever-present as air. One can find it in other political contexts, in the workplace, in the popular press, and in entertainment. We live in a golden age of liberalism, as it were, and it is no less hostile to the Church than the world of 1876 that produced the Blaine Amendments. The Catholic must, sooner or later, confront this hostility.

More on the Roman epiclesis

Fr. John Hunwicke has another excellent blog post on the question of the epiclesis in the Roman Rite. This time, he ties the question into the propers for the Octave of Pentecost, observed still in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. The crux of his ingenious argument is this:

According to the older Roman Rite, the Church offers the Elements to the Father, and it is simply by His gracious act of acceptance that they become the Body and Blood of His Son.  

This is exemplified in the Prayers over the Offerings, the ‘Secrets’, of this Octave week of Pentecost. If the venerable Roman tradition had had the least inkling that the Spirit is involved in the Consecration of Bread and Wine, surely the Pentecost Octave, and the Prayers over the Offerings, would have been its opportunity to offer some sort of hint in this direction.

There is none. The Propers of these days emphasise the role of the Holy Ghost in the Paschal Mysteries of Initiation, Baptism and Confirmation. For this connection, of course, there is Biblical and Patristic evidence galore. And the renewal of the hearts and lives of the Faithful by the outpouring of the Spirit is expressed.

(Emphasis in original.) This is, we think, a hugely clever argument. Notwithstanding the absence of an epiclesis in the Roman Canon, one would assume that the Pentecost propers would make some reference to the work of the Holy Spirit in the consecration of the elements of the Eucharist, no?

We note, with some amusement, that some commenters at Fr. Hunwicke’s blog point to the Veni Sanctificator in the offertory as a Roman epiclesis. However, we observe, as we did some time ago in response to Martin Mosebach’s otherwise brilliant essay, that the Veni Sanctificator, like the rest of the offertory prayers, was a later addition to the Roman Rite (coming from the Mozarabic Rite), and it cannot be said to be the ancient Roman offertory.

Pius XII on the Church’s economic competence

At The Josias, a translation of Pius XII’s 1941 address commemorating the 50th anniversary of Rerum novarum has been made available.  (Full disclosure: we helped prepare it for publication.) Obviously, we encourage you to read the whole thing at The Josias. This is, if we do say so ourselves, another great example of the value of that project. The 1941 address was, as the introductory note points out, hugely significant for St. John XXIII in particular, who drew upon it for his own encyclicals, Mater et magistra and Pacem in terris. However, until now, it has not been widely available in English. Now it is possible for Catholics interested in the full scope of the Church’s social teaching to read an important address on the topic, which was considered extremely important at the time and in subsequent years. We suspect that its new availability will help restore some of its lost luster.

To whet your appetite for the full address, we present one passage on a subject of perennial importance (and controversy): what is the authority of the Church on matters of economics? Whenever the pope says something at odds with the prevailing liberal order, a chorus of Catholic voices can be reliably counted upon to cry that the pope is not an economist, that he does not have the authority to pronounce upon such matters, and that Catholics may safely ignore him. Not so fast, Papa Pacelli says:

It was in the profound conviction that the Church has not only the right but even the duty to make an authoritative pronouncement on the social question that Leo XIII addressed his message to the world. He had no intention of laying down guiding principles of the purely practical, we might say the technical side of the social structure; for he was well aware of the fact—as our immediate predecessor of saintly memory, Pius XI, pointed out ten years ago in his commemorative encyclical, Quadragesimo anno—that the Church does not claim such a missionIn the general framework of labor to stimulate the sane and responsible development of all the energies, physical and spiritual, of individuals in their free organization there opens up a wide field of action where the public authority comes in with its integrating and coordinating activity, exercised first through the local and professional corporations and finally in the activity of the State itself, whose higher moderating social authority has the important duty of forestalling the dislocations of economic balance arising from plurality and divergence of clashing interests, individual and collective.

It is, on the other hand, the indisputable competence of the Church, on that side of the social order where it meets and enters into contact with the moral order, to decide whether the bases of a given social system are in accord with the unchangeable order which God, our Creator and Redeemer, has shown us through the natural law and revelation, that twofold manifestation to which Leo XIII appeals in his encyclical, and with reason: For the dictates of the natural law and the truths of revelation spring forth in a different manner, like two streams of water that do not flow against one another but together from the same divine source; and the Church, guardian of the supernatural Christian order in which nature and grace converge, must form the consciences even of those who are called upon to find solutions for the problems and the duties imposed by social life. From the form given to society, whether conforming or not to the divine law, depends and emerges the good or ill of souls, depends, that is, the decision whether men, all called to be revived by the grace of Christ, do actually in the detailed course of their life breathe the healthy vivifying atmosphere of truth and moral virtue or the disease-laden and often fatal air of error and corruptionBefore such a thought and such an anticipation how could the Church, loving mother that she is, solicitous for the welfare of her children, remain an indifferent onlooker in their danger, remain silent or feign not to see or take cognizance of social conditions which, whether one wills it or not, make difficult or practically impossible a Christian life in conformity with the precepts of the Divine Lawgiver?

(Emphasis supplied.) In other words, the Church has “indisputable competence” to address the aspects of the social order that touch upon the moral order. In Pius’s words, the Church has the power “to decide whether the bases of a given social system are in accord” with the natural law and the divine law. As Pius explains, social systems have an effect on men’s souls, and a disordered social system will surely have a disordering effect on men’s souls.

We are reminded on this point of the wonderful anti-liberal encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato si’. Consider paragraphs 122 and 123 of the encyclical:

A misguided anthropocentrism leads to a misguided lifestyle. In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I noted that the practical relativism typical of our age is “even more dangerous than doctrinal relativism”. When human beings place themselves at the centre, they give absolute priority to immediate convenience and all else becomes relative. Hence we should not be surprised to find, in conjunction with the omnipresent technocratic paradigm and the cult of unlimited human power, the rise of a relativism which sees everything as irrelevant unless it serves one’s own immediate interests. There is a logic in all this whereby different attitudes can feed on one another, leading to environmental degradation and social decay.

The culture of relativism is the same disorder which drives one person to take advantage of another, to treat others as mere objects, imposing forced labour on them or enslaving them to pay their debts. The same kind of thinking leads to the sexual exploitation of children and abandonment of the elderly who no longer serve our interests. It is also the mindset of those who say: Let us allow the invisible forces of the market to regulate the economy, and consider their impact on society and nature as collateral damage. In the absence of objective truths or sound principles other than the satisfaction of our own desires and immediate needs, what limits can be placed on human trafficking, organized crime, the drug trade, commerce in blood diamonds and the fur of endangered species? Is it not the same relativistic logic which justifies buying the organs of the poor for resale or use in experimentation, or eliminating children because they are not what their parents wanted? This same “use and throw away” logic generates so much waste, because of the disordered desire to consume more than what is really necessary. We should not think that political efforts or the force of law will be sufficient to prevent actions which affect the environment because, when the culture itself is corrupt and objective truth and universally valid principles are no longer upheld, then laws can only be seen as arbitrary impositions or obstacles to be avoided.

(Emphasis supplied.) Pius XII and Francis both recognize one crucial point, which the chorus of Catholic defenders of the liberal order apparently do not: sick societies produce sick men, and, since it is the cure of sick men that occupies much of the Church’s time, the Church certainly has the right to discuss the sickness of the society. By way of analogy, no one would challenge the right of a doctor, treating a deadly cholera outbreak, to discuss the tainted water supply making men, women, and children sick.

“Burying Benedict,” tradition, and unity

Matthew Schmitz’s essay, “Burying Benedict,” has kicked up quite a firestorm in the Catholic internet. The usual suspects—ranging from Fr. James Martin, S.J., to Professor Massimo Faggioli—have chimed in to suggest that, when one pope contradicts another pope, the only important thing is that there is one pope at the moment. You can find their comments on Twitter, along with other comments in a similar vein. To take these complaints at face value, one would conclude that the reigning pope, the magisterium, and tradition are all the same thing. It seems that these defenders of the Holy Father have forgotten what the Second Vatican Council taught in the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum:

And so the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved by an unending succession of preachers until the end of time. Therefore the Apostles, handing on what they themselves had received, warn the faithful to hold fast to the traditions which they have learned either by word of mouth or by letter (see 2 Thess. 2:15), and to fight in defense of the faith handed on once and for all (see Jude 1:3). Now what was handed on by the Apostles includes everything which contributes toward the holiness of life and increase in faith of the peoples of God; and so the Church, in her teaching, life and worship, perpetuates and hands on to all generations all that she herself is, all that she believes.

This tradition which comes from the Apostles develop in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts (see Luke, 2:19, 51) through a penetrating understanding of the spiritual realities which they experience, and through the preaching of those who have received through Episcopal succession the sure gift of truth. For as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her.

(Emphasis supplied and footnotes omitted.) While not as clear as Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani’s great, maligned schema De fontibus revelationis, Dei Verbum nevertheless makes the point that the tradition of the Church goes back to Christ Himself and, alongside scripture, constitutes one wellspring of divine revelation. Again Dei Verbum:

Hence there exists a close connection and communication between sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. For Sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, while sacred tradition takes the word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and hands it on to their successors in its full purity, so that led by the light of the Spirit of truth, they may in proclaiming it preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known. Consequently it is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence.

(Emphasis supplied and footnote omitted.) Nowhere in the Council’s understanding of tradition can one find the idea, articulated if dimly by Schmitz’s critics, that the reigning pope and tradition are one and the same thing. It would be just as ludicrous to say, since Dei Verbum teaches that scripture and tradition are part of one wellspring of revelation, that when a hypothetical pope contradicts scripture, the important thing is that there is one pope. It would be bizarre to imply that the pope and scripture are somehow the same thing. Public revelation ceased at the death of the last apostle; there is but one deposit of faith, handed on one generation to the next.

So much for the idea that the pope is some how himself the tradition. In fact, we know that the pope is the servant and guardian of the tradition, and has been promised the special assistance of the Holy Spirit for that ministry. Recall what the First Vatican Council taught in its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ, Pastor aeternus:

That apostolic primacy which the Roman Pontiff possesses as successor of Peter, the prince of the apostles, includes also the supreme power of teaching. This Holy See has always maintained this, the constant custom of the Church demonstrates it, and the ecumenical councils, particularly those in which East and West met in the union of faith and charity, have declared it.

[…]

To satisfy this pastoral office, our predecessors strove unwearyingly that the saving teaching of Christ should be spread among all the peoples of the world; and with equal care they made sure that it should be kept pure and uncontaminated wherever it was received.

[…]

For the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles. Indeed, their apostolic teaching was embraced by all the venerable fathers and reverenced and followed by all the holy orthodox doctors, for they knew very well that this See of St. Peter always remains unblemished by any error, in accordance with the divine promise of our Lord and Savior to the prince of his disciples: “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.”

(Emphasis supplied.) This office, in service of the tradition given by Christ or through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to the apostles, which has been handed down from those times to this time, is ultimately an office of unity:

This gift of truth and never-failing faith was therefore divinely conferred on Peter and his successors in this See so that they might discharge their exalted office for the salvation of all, and so that the whole flock of Christ might be kept away by them from the poisonous food of error and be nourished with the sustenance of heavenly doctrine. Thus the tendency to schism is removed and the whole Church is preserved in unity, and, resting on its foundation, can stand firm against the gates of hell.

(Emphasis supplied.) In other words, it is not the role of the pope to set one faction of the Church against another or to choose winners and losers, but, instead, to avoid precisely that factionalism in favor of unity. By serving the tradition and Indeed, the primacy of Peter itself is an office of unity:

This power of the Supreme Pontiff by no means detracts from that ordinary and immediate power of episcopal jurisdiction, by which bishops, who have succeeded to the place of the apostles by appointment of the Holy Spirit, tend and govern individually the particular flocks which have been assigned to them. On the contrary, this power of theirs is asserted, supported and defended by the Supreme and Universal Pastor; for St. Gregory the Great says: “My honor is the honor of the whole Church. My honor is the steadfast strength of my brethren. Then do I receive true honor, when it is denied to none of those to whom honor is due.”

(Footnote omitted.) All of this is to say that the pope is not magic. He does not get to rewrite the tradition of the Church at will to meet his whims or the whims of progressive theologians. That is not what popes do. Instead, he guards the tradition of the Church to avoid schism and preserve unity.

This is, of course, the risk of a partisan spirit in the Church and the concomitant ultramontanism. And it is a real risk. “Our man” is in the Apostolic Palace (or the modern guesthouse nearby), and it’s time to get our own back. Right and left have fallen prey to this beguiling temptation. When Benedict was pope, conservatives felt as though he would singlehandedly grant them their list of wishes going back to 1965. Now that Francis is pope, modernists and progressives feel as though Francis is going to singlehandedly grant them their list of wishes going back to 1978. Benedict undoubtedly did things his supporters were pleased by, such as the new translation of the Roman Missal, the Ordinariates, and Summorum Pontificum. Francis undoubtedly does things his supporters are pleased by, such as Amoris laetitia. But the partisan spirit that motivates such assessments leads very quickly to the irrational ultramontanism we see in the reactions to Schmitz’s piece. No one really thinks the pope can do whatever he wants. No one really thinks he’s magic. But in the moment, when things are going your way? When you’re sticking it to your ecclesiastical and ecclesial opponents? Well, maybe you didn’t mean to say it quite like that.

But you did say it.

The bottom line is that it should be uncontroversial to say that the pope must serve tradition, that he must hand on what he received. We do not make all things new with each Habemus Papam.

Everything that dies someday comes back

At First Things, Matthew Schmitz has an excellent piece, “Burying Benedict,” that begins:

Though Benedict is still living, Francis is trying to bury him. Upon his election in 2013, Francis began to pursue an agenda that Joseph Ratzinger had opposed throughout his career. A stress on the pastoral over against the doctrinal, a promotion of diverse disciplinary and doctrinal approaches in local churches, the opening of communion to the divorced and remarried—all these proposals were weighed and rejected by Ratzinger more than ten years ago in a heated debate with Walter Kasper. For better or worse, Francis now seeks to reverse Ratzinger.

Schmitz then goes on to outline the course of the debate between Ratzinger and Cardinal Kasper over communion for bigamists. It is an interesting recitation of the facts, especially since Schmitz observes that some of the polemical language in Kasper’s 2001 reply to Ratzinger—a reply following several years of back-and-forth, official and otherwise—was introduced by a translator and is not present in the original German text.

But, such interesting minutiae aside, Schmitz presents an overwhelming case that, by siding with Kasper and his supporters, the Holy Father puts himself squarely in tension with Benedict. Indeed, Francis’s language is straight out of Kasper’s various pronouncements on the question of communion for bigamists. The argument for continuity between Amoris laetitia and the various documents of the Holy Father’s predecessors is, we think, rubbished entirely by Schmitz’s brief summary of the case. Francis manifestly sides with Kasper, and Kasper was clearly arguing against the magisterial position of John Paul and Ratzinger. The only way to argue for continuity is to point to the language at the beginning of paragraph 300 and argue that Amoris laetitia doesn’t actually do anything except urge pastors “to undertake a responsible personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases, one which would recognize that, since ‘the degree of responsibility is not equal in all cases’, … the consequences or effects of a rule need not necessarily always be the same.” But such an argument is ridiculous in the face of the various instructions of the bishops’ conferences that have received varying degrees of approval from the Holy See.

This argument, which has been hashed out repeatedly over the last couple of years, takes on renewed force in light of Benedict’s brief note praising Robert Cardinal Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, which is (or was) intended as an afterword to an edition of Cardinal Sarah’s book on silence. There, Benedict wrote:

Cardinal Sarah is a spiritual teacher, who speaks out of the depths of silence with the Lord, out of his interior union with him, and thus really has something to say to each one of us.

We should be grateful to Pope Francis for appointing such a spiritual teacher as head of the congregation that is responsible for the celebration of the liturgy in the Church. With the liturgy, too, as with the interpretation of Sacred Scripture, it is true that specialized knowledge is necessary. But it is also true of the liturgy that specialization ultimately can talk right past the essential thing unless it is grounded in a deep, interior union with the praying Church, which over and over again learns anew from the Lord himself what adoration is. With Cardinal Sarah, a master of silence and of interior prayer, the liturgy is in good hands.

(Emphasis supplied.) The note is, of course, exactly the sort of thing Ratzinger has written many times over the years, and it is precisely the sort of polite, appreciative note that theologians write for each other all the time. That Benedict is the pope emeritus is, of course, a feather in Cardinal Sarah’s cap, but it hardly seemed significant to us. However, Cardinal Sarah’s many critics have gone ballistic since the publication of the letter. Cardinal Sarah’s conservative theology and evident piety drive them wild even without an endorsement from Benedict. Yet their fury was especially keen, since this was seen as an effort by Benedict to interfere in active Church politics. The progressives want to erase Benedict’s liturgical reforms and go back to the 1970s. Cardinal Sarah does not. The letter, therefore, was seen by the progressives, whose enthusiasm for progressive causes is almost solipsistic, as Benedict’s intervention in the debate.

But was it? Certainly the Holy Father’s effort to hand Walter Kasper the victory in the communion-for-bigamists debate fifteen years after the last significant exchange is no less an effort to erase Benedict’s legacy in the Church. This point is not lost on Schmitz, who concludes:

In the face of this challenge, Benedict has kept an almost perfect silence. There is hardly any need to add to the words in which he resoundingly rejected the program of Kasper and Francis. And yet the awkwardness remains. No pope in living memory has so directly opposed his predecessor—who, in this instance, happens to live just up the hill. This is why supporters of Francis’s agenda become nervous whenever Benedict speaks, as he recently did in praise of Cardinal Sarah. Were the two men in genuine accord, partisans of Francis would not fear the learned, gentle German who walks the Vatican Gardens.

And so the two popes, active and emeritus, speaking and silent, remain at odds. In the end, it does not matter who comes last or speaks most; what matters is who thinks with the mind of a Church that has seen countless heresies come and go. When Benedict’s enraptured words are compared to the platitudes of his successor, it is hard not to notice a difference: One pope echoes the apostles, and the other parrots Walter Kasper. Because this difference in speech reflects a difference in belief, a prediction can be made. Regardless of who dies first, Benedict will outlive Francis.

(Emphasis supplied.) As is so often the case, we are reminded of Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City,” which provides us the title for this post.

But we are left wondering what if?

What if, one clear morning in Rome, Benedict woke up and decided that enough was enough and issued a clear statement, written in the limpid prose he is capable of, against Kasperism. Now, it is clear that such a statement would be from Benedict as private doctor, not as pastor of the universal Church. It would have no juridical effect. Certainly the greatest living theologian of the age is entitled to comment upon the greatest theological controversy of the day. Indeed, given Benedict’s talents as a theologian, to say nothing of his prestige, one might say he has a positive duty to make known both to the pastor of the universal Church and the laity his opinion (cf. can. 212 § 3). However, if his polite praise of Cardinal Sarah is seen as a dangerous intervention worthy of attack, one can only imagine that the progressives would be convulsed with paroxysms of rage, their fury would be incandescent. The man who owed them nothing from day one would have broken his nonexistent promise of silence. But what then? 

Against Options

This is not another piece about Rod Dreher’s discussed-to-death “Benedict Option.” We have said what we intend to say about that. Instead, we want to call your attention to an excellent essay by Peter Kwasniewski at New Liturgical Movement. It begins:

I was once talking with a priest about the strange phenomenon of options in the new rite of Mass and the other sacraments. He made the observation that whenever there are multiple options, one of which is traditional and the others more recent inventions, there seems to be a subtle pressure to choose the more recent inventions, with the consequence that, as he put it, the traditional practice is “optioned out of existence.”

He goes on to observe:

To take another example, we know that it’s possible to sing the entire Mass in Gregorian chant, and that this is the clearly-stated preference of the Second Vatican Council; but a chanted Mass was one of the first casualties of allowing options for music. Most places don’t use the Entrance, Offertory, or Communion antiphons. The music ministers simply substitute other, more or less appropriate (usually less appropriate) hymns for those Propers, which are actually part of the structure of the Mass in a way that hymns never have been and never will be. Miscellaneous vernacular hymns are not printed in the official liturgical books; they’re not printed in the missal; they’re not part of the liturgy; they’re just optional add-ons. But the optional add-ons have become the norm, almost as if they’re required, and the traditional options, which are a part of the structure of the liturgy and its history, are optioned out of existence.

Read the whole thing at NLM.

Prof. Kwasniewski is, of course, correct. The Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite has a plethora of options available to the priest. And it is entirely possible to say a Novus Ordo Mass that is similar to the traditional Latin Mass. But one does not have to be a Catholic very long to realize that almost no one says a Novus Ordo that resembles a traditional Mass all that closely. Prof. Kwasniewski makes some excellent points about this reality pointing toward a wholesale rejection of tradition by many priests and bishops. We wonder, however, if that’s the whole story.