In yesterday’s post the subject was Fr Thomas Weinandy OFMCap’s letter to Pope Francis of 31 July, seemingly still unanswered; the release of this letter has been afforded a reception which is gaining momentum. This is for a very good reason: one who was approved by the establishment has broken ranks. Not just anyone, but an eminent theologian who had been head of the US bishops’ own doctrinal commission. One does not need to be Einstein to see in the circumstances surrounding Fr Weinandy’s resignation as theological consultant to the US bishops that the bishops’ conference has thrown him under a bus.
Prepare to see many establishment figures rushing to distance themselves from him. It is an understandable and otherwise laudable Catholic instinct that leads some to see any opposition to a pope as tantamount to blasphemy. Yet some situations are not so clear cut. This is why we must read Fr Weinandy’s letter very carefully; he is no Luther and far more a Newman.
There is quite the barely-contained frenzy surrounding the Correctio filialis issued above the signatures of a number of clergy and laity, many of them eminent men and women of letters and learning. Soon after there was an invitation to those clergy and laity who had not been invited previously to sign the document to add their names to it. Looking at it today I see that there are now 233 signatories.
Yet is no less remarkable a document for who has not signed it. For some, no doubt, there is that fear that has been articulated by Fr Ray Blake and, more stridently, by Fr John Hunwicke, a fear of retaliatory ecclesiastical bullying. Fr Blake also raised the impression that might be conveyed by such popular initiatives, namely that their concerns belong only to those who have signed, whereas they are shared by many more. In other words, the correctio carries with it the danger of a sort of self-marginalisation. Which is why the loopier among conciliarista and neo-papalist theologians, such as Massimo Faggioli, can come out with such absurdities as this series of tweets (among the dizzingly vast stream he puts out—is this all he does? can theology be adequately pursued by 140-character tweets?): Continue reading “The Correctio Filialis: A Tangential Observation”→
Recently I made use of Frank Sheed to suggest that the cloud of papal silence over the Amoris Laetitia crisis, and in particular the dubia of i quattro cardinali, might perhaps carry with it a silver lining. In a nutshell, Sheed explained that papal infallibility can be secured by the Holy Spirit in a positive way, definitive teaching for example such as that on Our Lady’s assumption, or in a negative way, in that even the most scandalous of popes were preserved from teaching error ex cathedra. In that case, their silence was at least silver, if not golden. So too now, papal silence might not be as bad as we think.
For we do well to remember that the papacy does not exhaust the teaching authority of the Church. Historically popes have not been doctrinally very active, save as courts of final appeal. The dubia were presented to Pope Francis precisely in his capacity as the final and magisterial arbiter of doctrinal contention. It would be wonderful if he answered them by reaffirming the teaching of Christ.
The five questions, or dubia, submitted by Cardinals Caffarra, Burke, Meisner and Brandmüller to Pope Francis regarding his Apostolic Exhortation on family life, Amoris Laetitia, have been mentioned here before. Many commentators have expressed frustration that the pope has yet to answer them. Plain rude, some say. Probably quite a few liberals also would like Pope Francis to answer the dubia, and make the de facto practice in many places de iure: that divorcees who have entered into a subsequent civil remarriage might be allowed to receive Holy Communion.
So far the pope has been silent, and his defenders—not a few of them self-appointed and self-serving—have taken it upon themselves to attack i quattro cardinali, and even to advocate what it is said the pope thinks but has never quite said: that civilly-remarried divorcees should receive Holy Communion, as part of the Church’s “accompaniment” of them. There is a supremely strong case that the Chief Shepherd of the Flock should answer the dubia and clarify once and for all the Church’s teaching. Continue reading “Cardinals’ Dubia and Papal Silence: The Silver Lining”→
The older I get the harder it is to make the long flight from London to Sydney in one trip. It is not that the planes are not getting better and the flights a little quicker. They are. Rather, the long-haul jet-set life is for the younger or at least the more acclimated.
One request fulfilled in my coming is to bring some relief to my family from the extraordinary heatwave of the past couple of weeks in Sydney. It was with pleasure that I saw the plane emerge to land from grey cloud, and to find on the ground a far more temperate temperature. Grey is not always bad; in some contexts it can be a relief. Continue reading “Discerning the Shades of Grey”→
As you know, in a monastery the monk–priests take turns as principal celebrants of the conventual Mass. At Douai most of us usually offer a few words of reflection, a homilette, of a greater or lesser degree of depth according to the monk involved. (nb depth is not always a virtue!) So this morning I was slated for the Mass, and I was struck by the gospel Mark 3:22–30:
The scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan?If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come.But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.
“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”
In a recent post on the vexed issue of the cardinals’ dubia and their alleged dissent, a deal of discussion was prompted, and this is no bad thing. It merits being talked through sanely and sagely, without hysterics or histrionics.
Lost, or at least potentially so, is a brief but very helpful comment from Fr Mark Kirby OSB, Prior of Silverstream, a new and thriving Benedictine community north of Dublin. In his comment he points us to a post on his blog, Vultus Christi. Acknowledging the perennial nature of “difficult pastoral situations” of the sort Amoris Laetitia seeks to address, he laments that in the current debate so little is said of prayer, grace and Mary in offering strategies for what is now being called “pastoral accompaniment”. Continue reading “What Amoris Laetitia lacks: the Marian Solution”→
A brief thought on the ongoing, and troubling, impasse over Amoris Laetitia, and the dubia submitted by i quattro cardinali seeking clarification of controverted formulations in and implications of the papal exhortation.
Sandro Magister today wrote of what he described as “the calculated ambiguity of the text, which has opened the way to a multiplicity of interpretations and applications, some of them decidedly new with respect to the age-old teaching of the Church.” This was part of his introduction to an essay by Claudio Pierantoni which finds a parallel to the current crisis of confusion in the early Church.
However it strikes me that we can find not merely a parallel with but also the origin of the present situation. Magister is almost certainly right in detecting a deliberate ambiguity in Amoris Laetitia (AL). However, it is probably not so very surprising that this is so. AL seems to embody a hermeneutic of ambiguity that can find its roots in the documents of the Second Vatican Council. One does not need to be a scholar to recall the many ways in which ambiguity has been read into conciliar texts, or extracted form them, in order to justify innovations in liturgy, theology and ecclesial life that the majority of the Council fathers would not have countenanced if they had been presented to them at the Council itself.
This conclusion is easily reached even without recourse to the new historiography and hermeneutics which are upsetting the deeply entrenched status quo when it comes to interpreting the Council. One need only read the 1966 classic, The Rhine Flows into the Tiber, by the Divine Word missionary, Fr Ralph Wiltgen SVD. Released while the dust of the Council was still settling, and written from a liberal perspective, it is disarmingly frank in its innocent-faced revelations about the machinations of the northern European faction at the Council, including “compromises” in drafting the texts of the conciliar documents. The ambiguity of these documents was clearly planned by their theologian drafters, it not by their episcopal promulgators.
This “calculated ambiguity” in the conciliar documents begat the ambiguity today in AL. This time, however, lessons have been learned and it seems that some are prepared to confront the ambiguity in order to nip its deleterious effects in the bud. No one of sound mind wants to revisit the chaos and trauma of the post-conciliar confusion.
More often than not, magisterial formulations allow room for future doctrinal reflection and elaboration (not change) by stating the barest minimum necessary to counter error and safeguard truth. The Magisterium never tries to say more than is necessary. It has a most un-German terseness and economy of language. Words are carefully chosen, having often been fought over, precisely in order to avoid ambiguity and the chaos that would almost certainly arise from it in the future.
If the Council fathers can be said to have failed, or made a mistake, at all it is certainly in this, if not elsewhere: that they failed to do the work of thrashing out the formulations to the extent they should have. In order to prevent an ever-lengthening Council, and the atrophy that might arise from this, they accepted all too readily the compromise texts placed before them by the periti, in which, as is now often admitted, “time bombs” of ambiguity had been carefully hidden. Desperate to keep up with the swinging sixties, they raced ahead of God.
The fathers ate sour grapes and the children’s teeth have been set on edge. Or what they sowed we have been painfully reaping ever since. AL is part of this conciliar harvest. It seems prudent at the very least that some pastors of the Church have learned the bitter but prophetic lesson afforded by Cardinal Ottaviani and are politely but firmly working to ensure that the teeth of the next generation will not also be set on edge, that they will a richer and more abundant harvest to reap than that sown with studied ambiguity, however good its intention. We all know that adage will tells us which road it is that is paved with good intentions. And would that Pope Francis might note the bitter lesson afforded by Pope Paul VI.
The Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need, has designated today as Red Wednesday. Mancunians know this tag for another reason, but it is being coopted and elevated by ACN to signify the day on which we take time for special remembrance who are persecuted for their faith. We are encouraged to donate if we can, or to pray and ideally to attend Mass, and as a sign to the world, to wear something red today.
Given the headlines in the Catholic press and blogosphere the last week or two, it is hard not to think of certain red-clad cardinals. The letter of i quattro cardinali—Brandmüller, Burke, Caffarra and Meisner—seeking papal clarification of five dubia, doubts, that have arisen as a result of the conflicted and confusing reception of the Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation (following last year’s Synod on the Family), Amoris Laetitia (“the Joy of Love”, not “The Joys of Love” as The Week put it, which makes it sound like an instruction on sexual technique. Of course, the choice of amor(-is) does refer to the fact that it is sexual love being discussed, not the more supernatural caritas). Continue reading “Red Wednesday: the Four Cardinals”→