Monday, 24 April 2017

The challenge to Pope Francis and Amoris Laetitia; I - THE NECESSARY CONSISTENCY OF THE MAGISTERIUM WITH TRADITION. THE EXAMPLES OF HISTORY

On April 22, 2017 at the Hotel Columbus in Rome and in the vicinity of St. Peter's Square a conference took place called "Seeing Clarity: One year after Amoris Laetitia." It featured six eminent Catholic laymen who called on Pope Francis to answer the dubia of the four cardinals on the matter of certain passages in Amoris Laetitia, passages that undermine the Church's magisterial teaching on adultery, mortal sin and the Holy Eucharist.

This is the first of six, which will be posted on subsequent days.


THE NECESSARY CONSISTENCY OF THE MAGISTERIUM WITH TRADITION. THE EXAMPLES OF HISTORY

by Claudio Pierantoni
Professor of Medieval Philosophy
University of Chile

In this presentation we will first briefly examine the incidents of two popes of antiquity, Liberius and Honorius, who for different reasons were accused of deviating from the Tradition of the Church, during the long Trinitarian and Christological controversy that occupied the Church from the 4th to the 7th century.

In the light of the reactions of the ecclesial body in the face of these doctrinal deviations, we will then examine the current debate that has developed around the proposals of Pope Francis in the apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” and the five “dubia” raised by the four cardinals.

1. The case of Honorius

Honorius I was the only pope to have been formally condemned for heresy. We are in the early decades of the 7th century, in the context of the controversy over the two wills of Christ. Honorius upheld the doctrine of the one will in Christ, or “monothelitism”, which was however later declared to be in contrast with the dogma of the two natures, divine and human, a doctrine solidly founded on biblical revelation and solemnly decreed by the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

Here is the text with which, in 681, after his death, the third ecumenical Council of Constantinople, the sixth ecumenical council, condemned him together with Patriarch Sergius:

“Having examined the dogmatic letters written by Sergius, in his time the patriarch of this imperial city. . . and the letter with which Honorius responded to Sergius, and having seen that they are not in keeping with the apostolic teachings and with the definitions of the holy councils and of all the illustrious holy Fathers, and that on the contrary they follow the false doctrines of the heretics, we reject them and execrate them as corruptive.”

2. The case of Liberius

Liberius was instead pope at one of the most delicate moments of the Arian controversy, halfway through the 4th century. His predecessor, Julius I, had tenaciously defended the faith established by the Council of Nicaea in 325, which declared the Son to be consubstantial with the Father. But Constantius, the emperor of the East, supported the majority position of the eastern bishops, contrary to Nicaea, which according to them did not leave room for the personal difference between the Father and the Son. He had the pope abducted, deposed, and sent into exile in Thrace, where after about a year he gave in.

Lberius thus renounced the faith of Nicaea and excommunicated Athanasius, who was its most significant defender. Now docile to the emperor, Liberius obtained permission to come back to Rome, where he was reinstalled as bishop. In the months that followed, all the pro-Arian prelates who had established their careers through the favor of Constantius consolidated their power in the main episcopal sees. This is the moment at which, according to the famous expression of Saint Jerome, “the world lamented that it had become Arian.” Of the more than one thousand bishops that Christendom numbered, only three stalwarts held firm in exile: Athanasius of Alexandria, Hilary of Poitiers, and Lucifer of Cagliari.

But Constantius died suddenly, in 361, and the emperor Julian, later called “the Apostate,” rose to the throne. He imposed the return of the Roman state to paganism, eliminated the whole ecclesiastical policy of Constantius at a stroke, and allowed the exiled bishops to go back to their jurisdictions. Free from threats, Pope Liberius sent an encyclical that declared invalid the formula he had previously approved, and required the bishops of Italy to accept the creed of Nicaea. In 366, in a synod celebrated in Rome shortly before he died, he even had the joy of obtaining the signature of the creed of Nicaea by a delegation of eastern bishops. As soon as he died he was venerated as a confessor of the faith, but devotion to him was soon interrupted because of the memory of his concession.

In spite of their differences, the two cases of Liberius and Honorius have in common an attenuating circumstance, and that is the fact that their respective doctrinal deviations took place when the respective doctrines were still being determined, that of the Trinity in the case of Liberius and the Christological one in the case of Honorius.

3. The case of Francis

However, the doctrinal deviation that is taking place during the current pontificate instead has an aggravating circumstance, because it is not countering doctrines that are still unclear, or still being determined, but doctrines that, in addition to being solidly anchored in Tradition, have also been exhaustively debated in recent decades and clarified in detail by the recent magisterium.

Of course, the doctrinal deviation in question was already present in recent decades and with it therefore was also the underground schism that this signified. But when one passes from an abuse at the practical level to its justification at the doctrinal level through a text of the pontifical magisterium like “Amoris Laetitia” and through positive statements and actions of the pontiff himself, the situation changes radically.

Let us see, in four points, the progress of this destruction of the deposit of the faith.

First

If marriage is indissoluble, and yet in some cases communion can be given to the divorced and remarried, it seems evident that this indissolubility is no longer considered absolute, but only a general rule that can admit exceptions.

Now this, as Cardinal Carlo Caffarra has explained well, contradicts the nature of the sacrament of marriage, which is not a simple promise, as solemn as it may be, made before God, but an action of grace that works at the genuinely ontological level. Therefore, when it is said that marriage is indissoluble, what is stated is not simply a general rule, but what is said is that ontologically marriage cannot be dissolved, because in it is contained the sign and the reality of the indissoluble marriage between God and his People, between Christ and his Church. And this mystical marriage is precisely the end of the whole divine plan of creation and redemption.

Second

The author of “Amoris Laetitia” has instead chosen to insist, in his argumentation, on the subjective side of moral action. The subject, he says, may not be in mortal sin because, for various reasons, he is not fully aware that his situation constitutes adultery.

Now this, which in general terms can certtainly happen, in the utilization that “Amoris Laetitia” makes of it instead involves an evident contradiction. In fact, it is clear that the much-recommended discernment and accompaniment of individual situations directly contrast with the supposition that the subject remains, for an indefinite time, unaware of his situation.

But the author of “Amoris Laetitia,” far from perceiving this contradiction, pushes it to the further absurdity of affirming that an in-depth discernment can lead the subject to have the certainty that his situation, objectively contrary to the divine law, is precisely what God wants from him.

Third

Recourse to the previous argument, in turn, betrays a dangerous confusion that in addition to the doctrine of the sacraments goes so far as to undermine the very notion of divine law, understood as the source of the natural law, reflected in the Ten Commandments: a law given to man because it is suited to regulating his fundamental behaviors, not limited to particular historical circumstances, but founded on his very nature, the author of which is none other than God.

Therefore, to suppose that the natural law may admit exceptions is a real and proper contradiction, it is a supposition that does not understand its true essence and therefore confuses it with positive law. The presence of this grave confusion is confirmed by the repeated attack, present in “Amoris Laetitia,” against the quibblers, the presumed “pharisees” who are hypocrites and hard of heart. This attack, in fact, betrays a complete misunderstanding of the position of Jesus toward the divine law, because his criticism of pharisaic behavior is based precisely on a clear distinction between positive law - the “precepts of men” - to which the pharisees are so attached, and the fundamental Commandments, which are instead the first requirement, indispensable, that he himself asks of the aspiring disciple. On the basis of this misunderstanding one understands the real reason why, after having so greatly insulted the pharisees, the pope ends up in de facto alignment with their own position in favor of divorce, against that of Jesus.

But, even more deeply, it is important to observe that this confusion profoundly distorts the very essence of the Gospel and its necessary grounding in the person of Christ.

Fourth

Christ in fact, according to the Gospel, is not simply a good man who came into the world to preach a message of peace and justice. He is, first of all, the Logos, the Word who was in the beginning and who, in the fullness of time, becomes incarnate. It is significant that Benedict XVI, right from his homily “Pro eligendo romano pontifice,” made precisely the Logos the linchpin of his teaching, not by coincidence fought to the death by the subjectivism of the modern theories.

Now, in the realm of this subjectivist philosophy there is the justification of one of the postulates most dear to Pope Francis, according to which “realities are more important than ideas.” A maxim like this, in fact, makes sense only in a vision in which there cannot exist true ideas that not only faithfully reflect reality but can even judge and direct it. The Gospel, taken as a whole, presupposes this metaphysical and epistemological structure, where truth is in the first place the conforming of things to the intellect, and the intellect is in the first place that which is divine: indeed, the divine Word.

In this atmosphere it can be understood how it is possible that the editor of “La Civiltà Cattolica” could state that it is pastoral practice that must guide doctrine, and not the other way around, and that in theology “two plus two can equal five.” It explains why a Lutheran lady can receive communion together with her Catholic husband: the practice, in fact, the action, is that of the Lord’s Supper, which they have in common, while that in which they differ is only “the interpretations, the explanations,” mere concepts after all. But it also explains how, according to the superior general of the Society of Jesus, the incarnate Word is not capable of coming into contact with his creatures through the means that he himself chose, the apostolic Tradition: in fact, it would be necessary to know what Jesus truly said, but we cannot, he says, “since there was no recorder.”

Even more thoroughly in this atmosphere, finally, it is explained how the pope cannot answer “yes” or “no” to the “dubia.” If in fact “realities are more important than ideas,” then man does not even need to think with the principle of non-contradiction, he has no need of principles that say “this yes and this no” and must not even obey a transcendent natural law, which is not identified with reality itself. In short, man does not need a doctrine, because the historical reality suffices for itself. It is the “Weltgeist,” the Spirit of the World.

4. Conclusion

What leaps to the attention in the current situation is precisely the underlying doctrinal deformation that, as skillful as it may be in evading directly heterodox formulations, still maneuvers in a coherent way to carry forward an attack not only against particular dogmas like the indissolubility of marriage and the objectivity of the moral law, but even against the very concept of right doctrine, and with it, of the very person of Christ as Logos. The first victim of this doctrinal deformation is precisely the pope, who I hazard to conjecture is hardly aware of this, victim of a generalized epochal alienation from Tradition, in large segments of theological teaching.

In this situation, the “dubia,” these five questions presented by the four cardinals, have put the pope into a situation of stalemate. If he were to respond by denying Tradition and the magisterium of his predecessors, he would also be heretic formally, so he cannot do it. But if he were to respond in harmony with the previous magisterium, he would contradict many of the doctrinally significant actions carried out during his pontificate, so it would be a very difficult choice. He has therefore chosen silence because, humanly, the situation can seem to have no way out. But meanwhile, the confusion and the “de facto” schism are spreading in the Church.

In the light of all this, it therefore becomes more necessary than ever to make a further act of courage, truth, and charity, on the part of the cardinals but also of the bishops and then of all the qualified laity who would like to adhere to it. In such a serious situation of danger for the faith and of generalized scandal, it is not only licit but even obligatory to frankly address a fraternal correction to Peter, for his good and that of the whole Church.

A fraternal correction is neither an act of hostility, nor a lack of respect, nor an act of disobedience. It is nothing other than a declaration of truth: “caritas in veritate.” The pope, even before being pope, is our brother. 

4 comments:

Ana Milan said...

It is now over seven months since the four Cardinals sent the Dubia to PF with a copy to Cardinal Müller. After two months with no response the Dubia was made public with the promise that if not answered by end of Christmas Season a formal correction would be made. Maybe a formal correction has been made but, if so, it was not made public & still is without response.

This situation cannot be allowed to continue as it continues to allow the cancer of heresy in AL & the CC since VII to grow unabated. As Pope, PF cannot afford the luxury of silence - he must answer the Dubia, one way or another. That is what is required by any holder of the Papal Office. If he is unwilling or unable to do so, he must resign as it seems to be the only way around the problem. The state of the CC is far more spiritually important than the compromised position of PF or other members of the Hierarchy, who are supposed to be the upholders of the True Faith & servants of the faithful. Those who are so corrupt as to think themselves as new gods who can run roughshod through the Liturgy, Sacraments & Doctrine of the CC must be excommunicated. We have Fr. Amorth's word that the Vatican reeks of the smell of Satan who has been particularly active through Marxist/Masonic/Modernism & our politically correct NWO Society & rules the Vatican & Episcopates by way of countless clerical adherents.

The Popes & Hierarchies of the past sixty years have failed to stand for Christ & His Word. Only that we have Our Lady's promise that when all would seem lost, then would be Her Triumph, we would all be in utter despair. However, knowing that She has already crushed the serpent's head must give the four Cardinals the necessary fire in their bellies to proceed promptly with the public correction they promised as otherwise they too would have failed Jesus. Our Lady of Fatima pray for us & give us enlightenment in this Centenary Year of Fatima.

philipjohnson said...

Francis!Answer the Dubia or get the Hell out back to Argentina.

Anonymous said...

Jorge won't be impressed with the truth coming out from this conference, the devil won't be to happy either. Yes indeed sometimes you just have to fight fire with fire... The truth, declared at this conference against the conniving lies (false compassion) coming from Bergolio & Co will cause Bergolio to fume in anger. Watch for signs as his temper goes past boiling point. Bergolio is losing the battle, just like all creeps that try to twist the truth into a lie. let it be said for all generations to come, that Bergolio was a great big Fruitless bully that tried to defy God's law whilst attempting to turn himself into a God. The history books will show,that Bergolio in all his efforts and support from heretics within the church failed miserably to change God's written law.

Anonymous said...

AMEN, Ana.

Margaret