Plans for an anniversary

It is almost September. In the words of a great American poet, it is “strange how the night moves with autumn closing in.” 2017 will be gone before we know it.

Everyone knows that 2018 marks the fiftieth anniversary of Humanae vitae, Paul VI’s towering reaffirmation of the Church’s moral teaching with respect to sexual matters. Fewer people know (probably) that 2018 also marks the fiftieth anniversary of Paul VI’s Solemni hac liturgia, the statement made at the end of his Year of Faith, which sets forth the Credo of the People of God. There had been in the preparatory sessions for the Council much discussion about revisions to the profession of faith formulated at the Council of Trent and revised slightly following the First Vatican Council. However, these discussions did not bear much fruit at the Council, for which we may be grateful, as Paul’s Credo of the People of God is a wonderful expression of Christian faith.

Paul’s motu proprio begins with a lightning bolt statement: “We dedicated it [i.e., the Year of Faith] to the commemoration of the holy apostles in order that we might give witness to our steadfast will to be faithful to the deposit of the faith which they transmitted to us, and that we might strengthen our desire to live by it in the historical circumstances in which the Church finds herself in her pilgrimage in the midst of the world.” He went on to say, shortly thereafter:

Likewise, we deem that we must fulfill the mandate entrusted by Christ to Peter, whose successor we are, the last in merit; namely, to confirm our brothers in the faith. With the awareness, certainly, of our human weakness, yet with all the strength impressed on our spirit by such a command, we shall accordingly make a profession of faith, pronounce a creed which, without being strictly speaking a dogmatic definition, repeats in substance, with some developments called for by the spiritual condition of our time, the creed of Nicea, the creed of the immortal tradition of the holy Church of God.

In making this profession, we are aware of the disquiet which agitates certain modern quarters with regard to the faith. They do not escape the influence of a world being profoundly changed, in which so many certainties are being disputed or discussed. We see even Catholics allowing themselves to be seized by a kind of passion for change and novelty. The Church, most assuredly, has always the duty to carry on the effort to study more deeply and to present, in a manner ever better adapted to successive generations, the unfathomable mysteries of God, rich for all in fruits of salvation. But at the same time the greatest care must be taken, while fulfilling the indispensable duty of research, to do no injury to the teachings of Christian doctrine. For that would be to give rise, as is unfortunately seen in these days, to disturbance and perplexity in many faithful souls.

(Emphasis supplied.) If you have not read the Credo, we will not spoil it for you by setting it forth at length. Read it at the Vatican website. In Latin, if you can. We will however quote a contemporary commentator:

[A]mong all this tumult a light has shone forth capable of reducing to nought the attempts of the world to bring Christ’s Church to an end. On June 30, 1968 the Holy Father published his Profession of Faith. It is an act which from the dogmatic point of view is more important than all the Council.

This Credo, drawn up by the successor of Peter to affirm the faith of Peter, was an event of quite exceptional solemnity. When the Pope rose to pronounce it the Cardinals rose also and all the crowd wished to do likewise, but he made them sit down again. He wanted to be alone, as Vicar of Christ, to proclaim his Credo and he did it with the most solemn of words, in the name of the Blessed Trinity, before the holy angels and before all the Church. In consequence, he has made an act which pledges the faith of the Church.

We have thereby the consolation and the confidence of feeling that the Holy Ghost has not abandoned us. We can say that the Act of Faith that sprang from the First Vatican Council has found its other resting point in the profession of faith of Paul VI.

The commentator? Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, in his Open Letter to Confused Catholics.

Perhaps then someone ought to draw up plans for commemorating the Credo of the People of God next year, recalling Paul VI’s intention in having it prepared (allegedly by Jacques Maritain) and reciting it solemnly as an act pursuant to Our Lord’s mandate to Peter to confirm his brethren in the faith, and to defend the pure, apostolic faith.

Archbishop Fernandez’s essay translated

Rorate Caeli has prepared a full translation of Archbishop Fernandez’s essay defending Amoris laetitia. We encourage you to read the whole thing there. An excerpt, on perhaps an unrelated point gives a sense of the quality of Archbishop Fernandez’s reasoning throughout.

In 1832, Pope Gregory XVI, in Mirari vos, had said that it is an “absurd and erroneous doctrine, or rather delirium, that freedom of conscience is to be claimed and defended for all men” (MV 15). In the Syllabus of Pius IX (1864) religious freedom is condemned as one of the principal “errors.” But in the following century, the Second Vatican Council substantially modified these very firm ideas (cf. DH 2-3). A similar evolution occurred on the issue of the possibility of salvation outside of the Catholic Church. We recall also the case of slavery: Pope Nicholas V allowed the king of Portugal to take slaves. Then, in 1455 the Bull Romanus Pontifex reaffirmed this. And this is not a secondary issue, since it has to do with the inalienable dignity of the human person. (With respect to this subject of the evolution in the understanding of the doctrine, the examples can be taken into account which are given in: Thomas Rausch, “Doctrine at the service of the pastoral mission of the Church,” La Civiltà Cattolica, v. 3981, May 14, 2016; pp. 223-236.) As of those changes in the understanding of doctrine, there were, as a consequence, various changes in discipline.

However, some hold that these comparisons are not convincing, and insist that any evolution should be carried out in the same line as what was said previously by the Church. It would be a kind of magisterial “fixism.” But, precisely in the examples mentioned above, it can be seen that the evolution did not take place “in the same line” as before, at least not on the question in itself. Between allowing slavery and not allowing it in any case, there is an immense evolution. There is only Continuity in the general doctrine about human dignity, but not in the precise point in question, where the Church really evolved in its understanding. In the same way, between affirming that only a Catholic can be saved and holding that there is a possibility of salvation outside the Church, there is no continuity with regard to the question in itself. It is obvious that the Church grows into a better reception of the proposal of the Gospel, in a more complete vision and in new ways of applying what has been taught. But some have an enormous difficulty in admitting that something similar can occur in questions related to sexuality.

(Emphasis supplied and hyperlink in the original.) And this is the Pope’s chief ghostwriter!

In the interest of truth, one is reminded of Dignitatis humanae‘s actual text:

Pariter vero profitetur Sacra Synodus officia haec hominum conscientiam tangere ac vincire, nec aliter veritatem sese imponere nisi vi ipsius veritatis, quae suaviter simul ac fortiter mentibus illabitur. Porro, quum libertas religiosa, quam homines in exsequendo officio Deum colendi exigunt, immunitatem a coercitione in societate civili respiciat, integram relinquit traditionalem doctrinam catholicam de morali hominum ac societatum officio erga veram religionem et unicam Christi Ecclesiam. Insuper, de hac libertate religiosa agens, Sacra Synodus recentiorum Summorum Pontificum doctrinam de inviolabilibus humanae personae iuribus necnon de iuridica ordinatione societatis evolvere intendit.

(Emphasis supplied.) We cannot imagine that the theologians assisting Wojtyla and Ratzinger would have ever made such an incautious, frankly incorrect statement on a point that has been, whether Archbishop Fernandez knows it or not, hugely controversial in the life of the Church. Perhaps the next time the Holy Father has Bishop Fellay over for lunch, he can ask him to give a quick conference on the subject to the senior officials of the Curia.

Speaking of Wojtyla and Ratzinger, we observe that nowhere in Fernandez’s essay is John Paul’s encyclical Veritatis splendor so much as cited, much less discussed.

“No hay otras interpretaciones”: Official Edition

One unexpected benefit from Archbishop Fernandez’s essay defending Amoris laetitia was the revelation that the Holy Father’s letter to the Argentine bishops regarding their norms implementing Chapter 8 of Amoris laetitia is now on the Vatican website. The online version of the letter includes the norms promulgated by the Argentine bishops (allegedly drafted with some assistance).

The letter and the norms leaked some time ago, but it is, of course, extremely interesting that they’d suddenly be available on the Vatican website, apparently in connection with Archbishop Fernandez’s argument that the Holy Father’s letter responding positively to the norms constitutes a magisterial act. We invite you to check out the letter and the norms. While they clarify precisely nothing about Amoris laetitia, they are, in their way, illuminating.

The Amoris highwire routine

We read, with some interest, that Archbishop Fernandez, a close collaborator of the Holy Father, has offered a spirited defense of Amoris laetitia. Of course, one hardly knows what to make of such coverage. Austen Ivereigh, a journalist supportive of the Santa Marta party, covers in Crux, a website funded by the Knights of Columbus, an essay written by Archbishop Fernandez in a special issue of CELAM’s theological journal, commenting upon the Holy Father’s exhortation, Amoris laetitia. We are supposed to think that this is what the Holy Father thinks, just as we are supposed to have thought that Spadaro and Figueroa were expressing the mind of the Holy Father with their confused essay in Civiltà. It is strange indeed to have entered a world where the mind of the pope is explained and asserted by everyone except the pope. Friendly journalists and clerical boosters—albeit clerical boosters without official briefs—tell us what was meant. And in all of this the one man who could clear things up definitively never quite does.

Nevertheless, Fernandez’s essay appears to be an attempt to have his cake and eat it too. Consider the following points reported by Ivereigh:

  • “He said Pope Francis has resisted proposals of progressive moral theologians to drop altogether a distinction between objective sin and subjective guilt, and has maintained that sexual relations by divorced people in a new union always ‘constitute an objective situation of habitual grave sin,’ even if culpability might not exist in a subjective sense in some cases.”
  • “Even in these cases, however, ‘for Francis it is not the concrete circumstances that determine the objective morality,’ said Fernández, adding: ‘The fact that conditions might diminish culpability does not mean that what is objectively bad thereby becomes objectively good.'”
  • “Turning to the process of discernment outlined in Amoris, Fernández said Francis nowhere claimed that someone can receive Communion if they are not in a state of grace, only that an objectively grave fault is not sufficient to deprive a person of sanctifying grace.”

On the other hand, Ivereigh tells us that Fernandez maintains:

  • “Such discernment, he went on, is not about the moral absolute of the norm, but about its disciplinary consequences. The norm remains universal, but its consequences or effects can vary. By making clear that this can be discerned by means of a ‘pastoral dialogue,’ said Fernández, ‘this is what opens the way to a change in [sacramental] discipline.'”
  • “That change is legitimate, said Fernández, who cites examples from history of the Church evolving, both in the understanding of her doctrine and of the disciplinary consequences that flow from it – over slaveholding, for example, or the question of the salvation of non-Catholics. Doctrine has remained constant but there have been at times clear shifts in the understanding and application of that doctrine, he added.”
  • “He went on to accuse the pope’s critics of a kind of ‘intellectual Pelagianism,’ in which a particular form of reasoning becomes the yardstick for judging the Gospel as well as the Petrine ministry. In this way, he said, ‘the Scriptures are only there to illustrate the logic of ‘that’ reasoning, administered by an oligarchic group of ethicists.'”

In other words, it’s the same old highwire act that the supporters of Amoris laetitia always have to perform. Well, they don’t have to perform it, but they seem to like performing it an awful lot, regardless of how successful they are. On one hand, they cannot chuck the doctrinal points, especially those worked out in Veritatis splendor, no matter how badly they want to. But on the other hand, they can posit a baffling distinction between doctrine and “disciplinary consequences,” in which the “disciplinary consequences” can be divorced altogether from the doctrine. Cardinal Graf von Schönborn, being a rather brilliant theologian, performs the high-wire act pretty well; Archbishop Fernandez, well, let us be charitable and say he is not Cardinal Graf von Schönborn. And here the difference shows.

As a final note, this coverage is an interesting example of one of the two approaches being taken to the Holy Father’s pontificate as we have passed the four-year mark. The Europeans—in this we include Fernandez and Ivereigh—seem to have decided that it’s time to double down on the Holy Father’s centerpiece initiative and lash out at his critics. (They seem to define his centerpiece initiative as “communion for bigamists.” So much for the brilliant, incisive Laudato si’.) The Americans, as shown in the recent Orlando festivities, want to hit the reset button and return to the carefree days of Evangelii gaudium. The problem, they tell us, is that we haven’t properly engaged with the Holy Father’s programmatic text. The American progressives have also changed the faces. Instead of the aloof Blase Cardinal Cupich or the doctrinaire Bishop Robert McElroy, we find ourselves positively surrounded with the charming, smiling Joseph Cardinal Tobin. It is probably too soon to tell whether the congenial approach is superior to the combative approach. One suspects, however, that, no matter how separate doctrine and praxis may be in the minds of the Pope’s staunchest partisans, one still catches more flies with honey.

Cardinal Newman’s sixth note

Following the publication of Spadaro and Figueroa’s confused essay in Civiltà, critiquing, well, whatever it was they were critiquing, a secondary controversy sprang up. You see, dear reader, many of the initial critics of Spadaro and Figueroa’s essay—Matthew Schmitz at First Things and Ross Douthat at the New York Times—were converts. And the progressives pounced upon this fact. The converts were holier-than-thou reactionaries bent on accusing the Holy Father of heresy, resisting his agenda, and many other delicts besides. (It was a rare delight to see people for whom ultramontanism was a four-letter word between October 1978 and February 2013 rushing so gallantly to the defense of the rights of the Roman Pontiff.) However, a point has been overlooked. In many of the critiques of the converts, Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman’s Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine was invoked. The argument, stated with the usual imprecision of the progressive, was that the converts want the Church to remain as it was when they converted—and they converted because the Church confirmed them in their prejudices—but any real Catholic knows, as Cardinal Newman tells us, that doctrine develops. The converts, then, are the ones out of step with the mind of the Church, as expressed by Cardinal Newman.

First, a biographical note. The controversy over converts struck us as bizarre to say the least. (Part of the reason we didn’t weigh in at the time is because we found it so bizarre. The other reason is that we were a minor, minor player in the original controversy. All in all, it seemed like a good time to take a little vacation.) For one thing, we are not a convert. We have, in fact, not wandered very far as such things go. We hear Mass in the sight of the font in which we were baptized. We often have business in the sacristy in which we made our first confession. And we often make our communion in exactly the same spot at which we made our first communion those many years ago. However, that ultimately does not much matter. In the Church, the question is whether one is baptized—that is, whether one has accepted God’s call to become through baptism His adopted son or daughter. The progressives’ emphasis on baptism seemed to be yet another example of identity politics; only those noble so-called cradle Catholics could understand the enormously subtle arguments offered in support of Spadaro and Figueroa’s farrago of invective. Because we are not a convert, we did not get our back up at the progressives’ insults.

But we did notice the occasional references to Cardinal Newman’s teachings in all these responses. (Almost as choice as the delight of watching a bunch of aging liberals take up the banner of ultramontanism is the delight of watching them use Newman, the greatest convert of his age, as a cudgel against other converts.) The progressives are good modernists, and, either through guile or ignorance, know or suspect that they’ll find no support in Pascendi or Lamentabili for their assertions about the development of doctrine. But they feel that the mere invocation of Cardinal Newman is enough to justify those assertions. (St. Pius X thought otherwise.) This is, as they imagine, a devastating own in the parlance of the day. Schmitz or Douthat or whoever is against Cardinal Newman, who says doctrine can develop! However, we shall see in a moment that the progressives cannot have understood Newman any more than Spadaro and Figueroa could have understood integralism. Indeed, the developments of which the progressives are so proud are not developments at all, but corruptions of doctrine.

How do we know that? Because Cardinal Newman tells us so.

In the Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (page 171 of the standard 1878 edition), Newman identified seven “notes”:

of varying cogency, independence and applicability, to discriminate healthy developments of an idea from its state of corruption and decay, as follows:—There is no corruption if it retains one and the same type, the same principles, the same organization; if its beginnings anticipate its subsequent phases, and its later phenomena protect and subserve its earlier; if it has a power of assimilation and revival, and a vigorous action from first to last. On these tests I shall now enlarge, nearly in the order in which I have enumerated them.

(Emphasis supplied.) That is, Newman sets forth seven features of authentic developments of doctrine; if a putative development has those notes, it just might be an authentic development. If not, well, that’s a problem. It occurs to us, in the wake of the fight over Spadaro, Figueroa, and the converts, that almost no one ever talks about these notes, least of all the progressives. Indeed, almost no one ever talks about the content of the Essay. It is bandied about largely in support of a broad assertion that doctrine can “develop,” which rather oversimplifies Newman’s actual argument in the Essay. And certainly no one ever talks about the notes in the context of the teachings—or supposed teachings—that are being defended against the onslaught of the conservatives.

And with good reason. The dog, dear reader, don’t hunt. Let us consider but one example. Newman’s “sixth note”  (pp. 199–200) is as follows—it’s actually quite a beautiful passage separate and apart from the theological content:

As developments which are preceded by definite indications have a fair presumption in their favour, so those which do but contradict and reverse the course of doctrine which has been developed before them, and out of which they spring, are certainly corrupt; for a corruption is a development in that very stage in which it ceases to illustrate, and begins to disturb, the acquisitions gained in its previous history.

It is the rule of creation, or rather of the phenomena which it presents, that life passes on to its termination by a gradual, imperceptible course of change. There is ever a maximum in earthly excellence, and the operation of the same causes which made things great makes them small again. Weakness is but the resulting product of power. Events move in cycles; all things come round, “the sun ariseth and goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.” Flowers first bloom, and then fade; fruit ripens and decays. The fermenting process, unless stopped at the due point, corrupts the liquor which it has created. The grace of spring, the richness of autumn are but for a moment, and worldly moralists bid us Carpe diem, for we shall have no second opportunity. Virtue seems to lie in a mean, between vice and vice; and as it grew out of imperfection, so to grow into enormity. There is a limit to human knowledge, and both sacred and profane writers witness that overwisdom is folly. And in the political world states rise and fall, the instruments of their aggrandizement becoming the weapons of their destruction. And hence the frequent ethical maxims, such as, “Ne quid nimis,” “Medio tutissimus,” “Vaulting ambition,” which seem to imply that too much of what is good is evil.

So great a paradox of course cannot be maintained as that truth literally leads to falsehood, or that there can be an excess of virtue; but the appearance of things and the popular language about them will at least serve us in obtaining an additional test for the discrimination of a bonâ fide development of an idea from its corruption.

A true development, then, may be described as one which is conservative of the course of antecedent developments being really those antecedents and something besides them: it is an addition which illustrates, not obscures, corroborates, not corrects, the body of thought from which it proceeds; and this is its characteristic as contrasted with a corruption.

(Emphasis supplied.) In other words, a true development does not contradict what came before it. There is no moment in the development of doctrine at which point the doctors and masters in debate may say, “formerly all men were mad.”

A little later, Newman adds, by way of preface to some examples of his sixth note:

It is the general pretext of heretics that they are but serving and protecting Christianity by their innovations; and it is their charge against what by this time we may surely call the Catholic Church, that her successive definitions of doctrine have but overlaid and obscured it. That is, they assume, what we have no wish to deny, that a true development is that which is conservative of its original, and a corruption is that which tends to its destruction. This has already been set down as a Sixth Test, discriminative of a development from a corruption, and must now be applied to the Catholic doctrines; though this Essay has so far exceeded its proposed limits, that both reader and writer may well be weary, and may content themselves with a brief consideration of the portions of the subject which remain.

It has been observed already that a strict correspondence between the various members of a development, and those of the doctrine from which it is derived, is more than we have any right to expect. The bodily structure of a grown man is not merely that of a magnified boy; he differs from what he was in his make and proportions; still manhood is the perfection of boyhood, adding something of its own, yet keeping what it finds. “Ut nihil novum,” says Vincentius, “proferatur in senibus, quod non in pueris jam antea latitaverit.” This character of addition,—that is, of a change which is in one sense real and perceptible, yet without loss or reversal of what was before, but, on the contrary, protective and confirmative of it,—in many respects and in a special way belongs to Christianity.

(Emphasis supplied.) This, of course, is true. No heretic would ever openly admit that he is breaking definitively with the doctrine of the Church. Historically, the argument is that accretions of that much-discussed and little-loved (if hugely lovable) institution, the medieval Church, have distracted from the pure apostolic doctrine of the early Church. The modernist, however, finds that taste cloying—who wouldn’t after 400 or 500 years—and prefers instead to push the boundaries. But, as we noted, no one ever seems to get around to making the argument in terms of Newman’s notes.

Perhaps there is good reason for this strange silence. Could one, keeping particularly the sixth note in mind, make an argument that some of the innovations the modernists are so proud of these days are true developments of doctrine? Could they do it keeping in mind that an argument is more than a mere assertion? Could one, for example, defend the more extreme interpretations of Amoris laetitia (separate and apart from the text itself or the interpretations offered by some cardinals and bishops) as “conservative of the course of antecedent developments”? Could one defend the recent push to normalize the gay movement within the Church as “an addition which illustrates, not obscures, corroborates, not corrects, the body of thought from which it proceeds”? Or is it, perhaps, more natural to say that these interpretations of Amoris laetitia and these sudden calls for “dialogue” and “inclusions” are but contradictions and reversals of “the course of doctrine which has been developed before them”? Certainly the proponents of the putative developments have a view. But, against them, Cardinal Newman warns us that “a corruption is a development in that very stage in which it ceases to illustrate, and begins to disturb, the acquisitions gained in its previous history.”

Such a demonstration ought to be expected from the progressives who contend that their pet developments are entirely consonant with the apostolic faith of the Church. After all, it is they who have brought Newman into the debate in defense of the concept of development. They are not articulating mere points of theological or historical interest. Still less are they providing us with an introduction to Newman’s thought. They mean to justify their arguments as developments. It would be natural, therefore, for them to set forth an argument in Newman’s own terms that their putative developments have all the signs of a true development, rather than the absence of such signs indicating corruptions of doctrine. Yet we are unaware of any such demonstrations. Of course, we admit, as you may have guessed, that we think such a demonstration would be exceedingly difficult. And we suspect that the progressives are not hugely interested in demonstrating that their ideas are true developments.

In all of this, it seems awfully hard to avoid Newman’s statement that “overwisdom is folly.”

Of course, one hardly faults the progressives for their desire to transform the development of doctrine into the abrogation and redrafting of doctrine. It is always easier to find reasons to replace what is out of step with the world with what is in step with the world. It is always exciting to set to one side the beliefs of one’s father in exchange for something apparently new. But we must remember what Newman says, “This character of addition,—that is, of a change which is in one sense real and perceptible, yet without loss or reversal of what was before, but, on the contrary, protective and confirmative of it,—in many respects and in a special way belongs to Christianity.” That is, the Christian lives within tradition. We might deepen our understanding of doctrine, we might find an answer in the tradition to a new question, but we never leave the tradition. And we certainly do not abandon one part of it for something new.

It is little surprise, therefore, that we see Newman so often invoked and so infrequently quoted. One finds Pascendi and Lamentabili extremely inconvenient—and rightly so—when one wants to begin to recast the doctrine of the Church. The modernist wants Cardinal Newman on his side—needs Cardinal Newman on his side—but one, upon even cursory inspection, finds Newman to be very much not their man. And it seems to us that one could very profitably run the progressives’ pet doctrines through all of Newman’s notes in greater detail than done here, just to see what happens. We already know, of course, but sometimes such an étude is profitable for other reasons. And it might finally convince the progressives that there’s no future for them in solemnly telling us that Cardinal Newman is on their side.

Pius XI’s “Mit brennender Sorge”

At The Josias, Pius XI’s encyclical on the Church and the German Reich, Mit brennender Sorge (With burning concern), has been presented with a brief introduction. In point of fact, as has been pointed out elsewhere, we wrote most of the introduction. To avoid needless cross-posting, we will not quote at length from Mit brennender Sorge or the introduction. Instead, we will encourage you, dear reader, to check it out at The Josias. This is one occasion when The Josias‘s project of recovering the magisterial tradition of the Church on matters of politics lines up neatly with events in the headlines. The question of race, always important, is returning to the forefront of the national discourse. Catholics, particularly Catholics who hold to the Church’s teachings on political economy and the constitution of states, are called upon, we think, to inform their consciences with the Church’s teachings. Integralism—Pius tells us in Mit brennender Sorge—requires no less.