Friday, October 11, 2019

The Faithful Who Forgot to Believe?

Your words are too much for me, says the Lord. 
You ask, “What have we spoken against you?” (Malachi 3:13)

Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me. (Luke 10:16)

As I watch the antics of those anti-Francis Catholics that inflict confusion on the Church while accusing the Pope of causing confusion, I think we have a curious case: Catholics who claim to be faithful while forgetting one of the important elements of that faith. That element is faith in God to protect His Church from teaching error. For whatever motive§, they say that the Pope is teaching error. But God protects His Church from teaching error. If He did not, we could never know what to obey and what not to obey.

Some might claim that the Pope can err and it’s up to the Church to correct him when he does. They cite canon 212 §3 while ignoring §1 (not to mention 752, 1373, and 1404)# or by applying the wrong definition to “inasmuch.” They cite St. Paul rebuking Peter or the “correction” of Pope John XXII. But neither case involved teaching error. St. Paul rebuked St. Peter for his personal conduct, not his teaching. John XXII did not teach at all. He merely gave an opinion on an undefined (at this time) subject@. While the critics cite these cases to argue that Pope Francis can err, these cases can’t be used to justify the rejection of Pope Francis, who is intending to teach on faith and morals. 

If what they claim about this Pope was true, then we would effectively be conceding the claims of the Orthodox and Protestant denominations and merely disagreeing over when a Pope did teach errors. The problem is, if the Pope can teach errors, we have no way of proving when any Pope& has taught correctly. I say that the Pope taught rightly on X while you disagree. I say the Council of Chalcedon in 451 was right. Another might say that the Robber Synod of 449 was right. If we do not have a final visible authority who has the final say on what is and is not proper teaching*, we have nothing to confirm who teaches rightly or when? How can we profess to be a Church which the gates of hell will not prevail against (Matthew 16:18) if we consistently claim the gates of hell sometimes do prevail when we disagree?

If we insist on holding to our interpretation of a council while refusing obedience to the Popes and Councils we dislike, we do not act as Catholics, but as Eastern Orthodox. If we insist on holding to our interpretation of the Scripture, rejecting the authority of the magisterium under the headship of the Pope, we do not act as Catholics but as Protestants.

But this is what we have in this situation: a group who claims to be faithful Catholics but refuse obedience to the Church under the current visible head. This obedience is not ultramontanism or papolatry. It is the behavior that the faithful were expected to give to the Pope when he taught. This obedience was required when the Pope intended to teach. The concept that the Pope only had to be obeyed when he taught ex cathedra was consistently condemned. For example, Pius IX in his Syllabus of Errors condemned the proposition that:

22. The obligation by which Catholic teachers and authors are strictly bound is confined to those things only which are proposed to universal belief as dogmas of faith by the infallible judgment of the Church. — Letter to the Archbishop of Munich, “Tuas libenter,” Dec. 21, 1863.

Yet those Catholics who claim they are justified in rejecting Amoris Laetitia or Laudato Si are doing exactly what the Church condemns. Incredibly, some critics say Amoris Laetitia can be rejected because it is “only” an Apostolic Exhortation that differs from Familiaris Consortio. That traps these critics in a dilemma. If an Apostolic Exhortation is not binding, then Familiaris Consortio is not binding either. But if Familiaris Consortio was binding, then Amoris Laetitia is binding because, CCC #85 (see footnote * below) tells us that authentic interpretation comes from the magisterium in communion with the Pope.

While the critics argue that Laudato Si is an opinion and not binding, #15 specifically identifies the encyclical as “now added to the body of the Church’s social teaching”. Under canon 752 (see footnote #, below) the teaching of the Pope—even when not infallible—requires the religious submission of intellect and will. This canon references Lumen Gentium #25 which tells us:

This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.

There is no way a Catholic can refuse obedience to the teaching of the Pope and still be considered faithful.

And this brings us back to the point I gave at the beginning. Some Catholics who profess to be the true believers by opposing the Pope have stopped believing one part of the faith. That part is the belief that the successors of Peter teach with the same authority and protection that Jesus Christ gave to the original rock on which He built a His Church (Matthew 16:18)^. The Catholic who forgets this belief can put faith in himself instead of the Church, believing that the Church can err but he cannot. But such a Catholic is not accurately professing the Faith because he forgot what to believe about the authority and protection by which a Pope teaches.


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To understand the origin of the meme, see here: https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/is-this-a-pigeon

(§) As always, I want to make clear I neither name nor presume the culpability of individuals. I leave it to God and their confessors to assess that. I merely write on the dangerous attitudes that I believe dangerous to the faithful while (per canon 752) giving religious submission of intellect and will to the Pope when he acts as Pope.

(#) The relevant canons:

can. 212 §1. Conscious of their own responsibility, the Christian faithful are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the Church.
§2. The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires.
§3. According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.

can. 752 Although not an assent of faith, a religious submission of the intellect and will must be given to a doctrine which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops declares concerning faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim it by definitive act; therefore, the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid those things which do not agree with it.

can. 1373 A person who publicly incites among subjects animosities or hatred against the Apostolic See or an ordinary because of some act of power or ecclesiastical ministry or provokes subjects to disobey them is to be punished by an interdict or other just penalties.

can. 1404 The First See is judged by no one.

(@) The modern equivalent of St. John XXII might be when Benedict XVI, in the book interview Light of the World, where he mentions “a male prostitute with AIDS” as an example of moving from a premoral outlook to starting to think about the consequences of actions. Many inside and outside the Church wrongly thought this was a teaching. The outcry against John XXII was based on people wrongly thinking he was teaching.

(&) Or, given the hostility towards Vatican II, any Council. If one won’t obey Vatican II, thinking it “errs,” such a one has nothing to say to another who claimed Trent was wrong.

(*) From the Catechism:

85 “The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living, teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.” This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome. (888–892; 2032–2040)

(€) Lumen Gentium #25 references the same source cited by Pius IX.

(^) Some claim Christ is the rock, denying this verse gives any primacy to Peter, but in making this statement, He makes Himself the Builder.



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