Clarification appears in ‘Acta Apostolicae Sedis’…
Novus Ordos in Shock as Francis declares Permissibility of Communion for Public Adulterers “Authentic Magisterium”
Analysis & Commentary
After more than 19 months of reports, analyses, arguments, interviews, rumors, conjectures, accusations, excuses, warnings, “corrections”, promises, allusions, and plenty of spin, the “doubts” about the correct interpretation of Francis’ “Apostolic” Exhortation Amoris Laetitia have now been officially put to rest: In a tacit move behind the scenes, Francis ordered that his Sep. 2016 endorsement of the interpretation offered by the Argentine “bishops” of the Buenos Aires region for their flock become a part of his (putative) “authentic Magisterium” and be included in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, which is the official Vatican organ publishing papal texts and decisions. Semi-Traditionalists and conservative Novus Ordos are in shock, scrambling to figure out what this means and what to do next.
Before we proceed to analyze and evaluate this latest move on the part of the “Pope”, which puts an end to the debate over Amoris Laetitia at least de jure, let’s first recall the background and look at the raw facts:
- The Buenos Aires Guidelines on the Interpretation of Amoris Laetitia and Francis’ approval of them in letter to Buenos Aires “Bishops” on Sep. 5, 2016
- Full Text in Spanish and English of Buenos Aires Guidelines (PDF)
- Full Text in Spanish and English of Francis’ Approval of Buenos Aires Guidelines (PDF)
- Although these guidelines and Francis’ endorsement were originally leaked to the public, some time ago they were published on the Vatican web site
- The most offensive portion of the Buenos Aires Guidelines is this one: “If one arrives at the recognition that, in a particular case, there are limitations that diminish responsibility and culpability…, particularly when a person judges that he would fall into a subsequent fault by damaging the children of the new union, Amoris Laetitia opens up the possibility of access to the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist…. These in turn dispose the person to continue maturing and growing with the aid of grace. However, it is necessary to avoid understanding this possibility as an unrestricted access to the sacraments, or as though any situation might justify it. What is proposed is a discernment that adequately distinguishes each case” (nn. 6-7).
- Francis’ endorsement of the Buenos Aires Guidelines is clear and definitive: “The document is very good and completely explains the meaning of chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia. There are no other interpretations.”
- The Buenos Aires Guidelines as well as Francis’ endorsement have been published in the Oct. 2016 edition of the Acta Apostolicae Sedis (vol. CVIII , n. 10; pp. 1071-1074). Francis’ endorsement is called an “Apostolic Letter” (p. 1071).
- Appended to the two documents is a “Rescript ‘from an Audience with His Holiness'” by “Cardinal” Pietro Parolin, dated June 5, 2017, which reads: “The Supreme Pontiff decreed that the two preceding documents be promulgated through publication on the Vatican website and in Acta Apostolicae Sedis, as authentic Magisterium.”
- The Acta Apostolicae Sedis (“Acts of the Apostolic See”) is the “only official publication of the Holy See … in which all official acts and laws in whatever form are promulgated” (Michael Williams, The Catholic Church in Action [New York, NY: P. J. Kenedy & Sons, 1958], p. 155). It was instituted by Pope St. Pius X in 1908 with the Apostolic Constitution Promulgandi. Although not all decisions of the Roman Congregations are published in the Acta, nevertheless, “if they contribute to the interpretation of some point of canon law or are of interest in jurisprudence, they are published” there (The Catholic Church in Action, p. 90).
These are the facts. After catching up on covering all the news items from Francis’ recent trip to Myanmar and Bangladesh, Novus Ordo news sites began to report on this Amoris Laetitia development. Here are links to just a few:
- “Pope’s Letter to Argentine bishops on ‘Amoris Laetitia’ part of official record” (Crux)
- “Pope’s Letter to Argentine bishops is Magisterial Teaching, Cardinal Parolin says” (Catholic Culture)
- “Pope Declares Troubling Interpretation of AL ‘Authentic Magisterium'” (Church Militant)
Considering that the Novus Ordo Sect itself requires its adherents to hold that the “authentic Magisterium” of the man they recognize as Pope requires their “religious submission of the intellect and will” (see Canon 752 of Novus Ordo Canon Law), conservative Novus Ordos and Semi-Traditionalists now have an obvious problem on their hands, one they must either admit and seek to resolve or else deny and explain away.
Which is exactly what they’re doing. We look at a few of their efforts and evaluate them:
“Deacon” Nick Donnelly
In a tweet of Dec. 2, 2017, English “Deacon” Nick Donnelly asked: “Has Francis deposed himself as the successor of St Peter by attempting to make the heretical interpretation of AL Authentic Magisterium?” For a Novus Ordo cleric, this is quite a courageous question to raise, and it is refreshing to see. A great many of his colleagues do not have the guts to do so. Pray for all of them, that they may begin (or continue) to wake up.
“Bishop” René Henry Gracida
Likewise on Dec. 2, René Henry Gracida, a retired Novus Ordo bishop from Texas, wrote on his blog: “Francis’ heterodoxy is now official. He has published his letters to the Argentine bishops in the ACTA APOSTOLICA SEDES [sic] making those letters magisterial documents.” The “bishop” has been republishing posts from other blogs that denounce or are severely critical of Francis. Earlier this year, Gracida became the first (and, so far, only) Modernist “bishop” to publicly voice doubt regarding Francis’ legitimacy.
David Domet at Vox Cantoris is willing to call Francis a “pernicious and filthy heretic” but still believes that “cardinals must now begin the formal process” of accusing/warning and judging him — an idea that is totally at odds with the Catholic dogma that the Pope — and this the blogger believes him to be — cannot be judged by any man, for all men are his inferiors. But while no one can subject a true Pope to an ecclesiastical trial, what can be done is recognize that a particular papal claimant is indeed a “pernicious and filthy heretic”, as obviously even Mr. Domet agrees with regard to Francis. But from this it follows with necessity that he is not the Pope of the Catholic Church, and for this cognitive (not legal) judgment, no authority is needed. It is the only possible and therefore necessary conclusion to draw from all the evidence.
Michael Voris of Church Militant fired up his spin machine and, unable to ignore this big of a story, he at least sought to focus his viewers’ attention away from Francis and instead directed it to those evil “bishops” who are basically doing what Francis has been doing. Not once but twice did Voris try this tactic:
- Vortex, “Critical Moment”, Dec. 4, 2017: “While this may appear to be a crisis regarding the papacy, we’d like to point to something even more critical….”
- Vortex, “The Real Deal”, Dec. 5, 2017: “…another much more important question needs to be asked. How is it — regardless of what the pope meant — that so many various bishops and bishops’ conferences seem to agree that those in an objective state of mortal sin can in some circumstances receive Holy Communion?”
We call his enterprise Church Disneyland for a reason. His Vortex is in reality a Distortex.
Over at One Peter Five, rhetorician Steve Skojec presented an “expert” assessment from Dr. John Joy on Francis’ move to have the Buenos Aires Guidelines and his endorsement added to the Acts of the Apostolic See. Joy advanced a rather curious thesis: Although the inclusion in the Acta “means that it is an official act of the pope rather than an act of the pope as a private person”, and although it is clearly “an official endorsement” of the Buenos Aires interpretation of Amoris Laetitia, nevertheless Joy claims that “this doesn’t necessarily mean that the letter to the Argentine bishops is itself magisterial” — and so religious submission of intellect and will wouldn’t necessarily be required. Apparently Joy missed the fact that Francis had explicitly decreed that the two documents be given the status of “authentic Magisterium.”
Resignationist Louie Verrecchio was also not impressed by Joy’s expert analysis. In fact, Verrecchio succinctly summarized the whole spectacle about the latest Amoris Laetitia development thus: “Jorge Bergoglio is a heretic; notorious, formal, pertinacious, and that, my friends, is hardly breaking news.” Being a Resignationist, Verrecchio already believes Francis isn’t a valid Pope (he thinks Benedict XVI is), so he finds his rejection of the Argentinian impostor corroborated.
In a convoluted post at Catholic Herald, columnist Dan Hitchens offers what sounds like a rather desperate attempt to persuade himself and others that it is best to move along because there is really nothing to see here. He maintains that Francis’ decision to include the Buenos Aires Guidelines and his endorsement in the Acta “may somewhat clarify what the Pope is saying” while noting “the ambiguity of the document” and concluding that “this episode leaves us pretty much where we were.” In other words: whatever.
The Semi-Traditionalist comedy site The Remnant failed to surprise in its commentary, which was provided by David Martin:
Hence Amoris Laetitia [Chapter] VIII, which proposes that people living in adultery can be guiltless and thus be admitted to the sacraments of Confession and Communion when “concrete circumstances” make it difficult to renounce their adulterous state, is now declared “magisterial” by the Holy See.
The problem with this is that heresy or sacrilege can never be declared magisterial, so that if it is, it not only has no binding force, but the faithful are obliged to resist and refute such a declaration. St. Thomas Aquinas says in his Summa Theologiae: “If the faith were endangered, a subject ought to rebuke his prelate [pope] even publicly.”
(David Martin, “Communion to Adulterers Promulgated as ‘Authentic Magisterium'”, The Remnant, Dec. 4, 2017)
And there you have The Remnant‘s entire theological “competence” on display. We may rephrase Martin’s argument thus: “What cannot be magisterial cannot be magisterial; so if it is, then it doesn’t count. And look over here, we found a nice quote from St. Thomas Aquinas. It has nothing to do with the subject matter, but don’t let the facts get in the way of our propaganda.”
Only if Francis were to issue his endorsement of the Buenos Aires Guidelines ex cathedra (i.e., meeting Vatican I’s conditions for infallibility) would Francis cease to be Pope, Martin assures his hapless readers — incorrectly, of course. Although even this much would be contrary to The Remnant‘s usual position, we must remind Martin that Francis has already done things a true Pope is divinely protected from doing — such as declaring John Paul II a saint of the Catholic Church, for the canonization of saints is an act protected by infallibility, as even Remnant columnist Christopher Ferrara once knew.
Speaking of Chris Ferrara, we would be totally remiss, of course, if we did not pay particular attention to what this professional spindoctor has to say about Francis’ declaration that the Buenos Aires Guidelines are now “authentic Magisterium.” As of the time of this writing, Ferrara has published three posts on the matter at the Fatima Network web site:
- The Amoris Laetitia Game: Keep Them Guessing While We Do What We Planned to Do (Dec. 4, 2017)
- The Authentic Magisterium Is Truth, Not a Trademark (Dec. 5, 2017)
- The Plague of Ecclesial Positivism: No Truth, Only Law (Dec. 6, 2017)
In the first post, Ferrara correctly shows that there is no reasonable way to absolve Francis of error here; but then he asserts that whether or not Francis has fallen into heresy is “ultimately … not for any of us, but only for the Church (an ecumenical council or subsequent Pope as in the case of Honorius I), to judge definitively.” This is nonsense, of course. Whether or not Francis has embraced heresy is not dependent on some authoritative judgment, definitive or otherwise, but on Catholic teaching applied to the empirically verifiable facts.
Interestingly enough, Ferrara knows this and acts accordingly when it comes to individuals other than the ones who claim to be Pope, especially when it is helpful to the case he’s arguing at a given moment. For example, consider what Ferrara said about “Cardinal” Walter Kasper a few years back, also in connection with Amoris Laetitia:
Kasper is one of the Church’s most notorious post-conciliar Modernists, who, among other heresies, has denied the historicity of the Apostolic Succession. Not surprisingly, then, his address to the cardinals calls for a “pastoral solution” that would allow certain divorced and “remarried” Catholics, living in a state of public adultery, to receive Holy Communion.
(Christopher A. Ferrara, “The Francis Effect: A Gathering Storm”, The Remnant, Mar. 11, 2014; underlining added.)
Here we see the lawyer Ferrara identifying Kasper as not only a heretic but in fact a “most notorious” one, correctly labeling the heresy he adheres to as Modernism. More specifically, The Remnant‘s chief polemicist accuses Kasper of denying the historicity of the Apostolic Succession and notes that this is but one “among other heresies” the “cardinal” holds. A little later in the same article, Ferrara even accuses Kasper not only of being a heretic but of deliberately “undermin[ing] [an] aspect of the Faith”.
So, when it comes to “Cardinal” Kasper, Ferrara has no problem detecting heresy and identifying and condemning him as a heretic. Yet when Bergoglio does the same thing Kasper does, suddenly we “don’t know” if it’s heresy. This isn’t principled Catholic commentary on Ferrara’s part — it is simply propaganda meant to persuade the reader in favor of The Remnant‘s editorial position.
As far as the case of Pope Honorius I goes, by the way, that argument has been refuted here.
Francis’ decision to declare the explanation of Amoris Laetitia given by the Buenos Aires “bishops” to become part of his “authentic Magisterium” is a devastating blow to Ferrara, who has maintained for years that none of the errors since Vatican II have ever been “official” or “binding” and therefore not truly “magisterial”; rather, the lawyer from Virginia maintains, there has been a “great facade” erected that makes it appear as though the regime of novelty since the council were official, binding, and magisterial, when in reality it is not so.
Ferrara argues this at length in a book he co-authored with Thomas E. Woods, Jr., entitled, The Great Facade: The Regime of Novelty in the Catholic Church from Vatican II to the Francis Revolution (2nd ed., 2015). This book had appeared in its first edition in 2002. We will quote two sentences from this work, found in both editions, that have now come back to bite the authors: “Satan understands better than any other creature that the Magisterium can never officially teach error…. [W]e have the divine assurance that the Church can never officially teach error” (The Great Facade, 1st ed: p. 66; 2nd ed: p. 60; italics given).
But this is exactly what Francis has now done, and it is absolutely undeniable, since he explicitly used the phrase “authentic Magisterium” with regard to his approval of the Buenos Aires Guidelines and ordered them to be published in the official compilation of papal pronouncements, the Acta Apostolicae Sedis. In other words: It doesn’t get any more official or magisterial than this (in degree, yes, but not in kind).
Faced with this unhappy refutation of his own position, Ferrara’s task was now to find a way around it all. This he did in his second post on the subject:
As the explosive new book on Pope Francis, The Dictator Pope, makes its appearance as a best seller in both English and Italian editions, the Church is confronted with an astonishing dictatorial abuse of the Magisterium itself by Francis and what some have called his “magic circle” of handpicked ultra-progressivists.
(Christopher A. Ferrara, “The Authentic Magisterium is Truth, not a Trademark”, Fatima Network, Dec. 5, 2017)
Notice that in the opening sentence already our lawyer calls Francis’ move a “dictatorial abuse of the Magisterium”. But if, as Ferrara believes, Francis is Pope, what should be “abusive” about ordering one of his own Apostolic Letters to be included in the Acta? Did not Pope Pius IX do the same thing when he commended the German bishops for their explanation of the dogma of papal infallibility in his Apostolic Letter Mirabilis Illa Constantia (see Denz.-H. 3112-3117)?
Of course, what constitutes the “dictatorial abuse of the Magisterium” for Ferrara is not the form of promulgation but the falsity of Francis’ teaching. However, the truth of a doctrine can never itself be part of the criteria for what constitutes an authentic exercise of the Magisterium, for that would result in absurdity: It would require the faithful to know ahead of time and independently of the Magisterium what is true and what is false in religious matters, when the whole point of the Magisterium is to teach people what is true and what is false concerning faith and morals. Thus the role of teacher and taught would be entirely reversed.
Ferrara proceeds to criticize Francis’ inclusion of the two documents in the Acta as follows:
This move is a blatant attempt to halt all criticism of AL (including the seemingly imminent “formal correction” by Cardinals Burke and Brandmüller) by cloaking the letter and the guidelines in the language of Canon 752 of the 1984 Code of Canon Law, which (citing Vatican II) provides “[a]lthough 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.”
The ploy cannot succeed. Francis’ novelty cannot be part of the “authentic Magisterium” because it transgresses the fundamental divine limitation on papal doctrinal authority as enunciated by the First Vatican Council:
“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.”
Francis is here claiming to announce new doctrine, overturning the teaching of his own predecessor in keeping with all of Tradition. As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under John Paul II declared in 1998, the absolution and admission to Holy Communion of public adulterers in “second marriages,” without a commitment to cease adulterous sexual relations, “is intrinsically impossible” and “The conscience of the individual is bound to this norm without exception.” That is because this is a norm “over which the Church has no discretionary authority. The indissoluble nature of marriage… goes back to Christ Himself and is thus identified as a norm of divine law,” and the admission of public adulterers to Holy Communion would violate that divine moral norm.
This is the usual line of argumentation used by the recognize-and-resist crowd: What constitutes the genuine Roman Catholic Magisterium is determined not by the (putative) Vicar of Christ, the Pope, but by some American lawyer with access to the traditional Denzinger, who routinely reviews the Pope’s pronouncements to judge their orthodoxy and then informs the populace as to what is and isn’t to be accepted from the man who is “judged by no one” (1917 Code of Canon Law, Canon 1556). No doubt, St. Pius X would have been impressed!
What is worse is that Ferrara thinks that Vatican I is helping his case, but this is not so. If we look at the words he quoted in their proper context, this becomes evident. Their source is Chapter 4 of the Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus. This document contains the council’s solemn teaching about the Papacy. Chapter 1 shows how our Blessed Lord instituted the Papacy and made St. Peter the first Pope; Chapter 2 explains how this primacy exists in all true successors of St. Peter, even until the end of time; Chapter 3 explains in what the papal primacy consists; and Chapter 4 defines the infallible teaching authority of the Pope.
We will now look at Chapter 4 in its entirety to see the full context. The words quoted by Ferrara we will mark red:
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.
So the fathers of the fourth council of Constantinople, following the footsteps of their predecessors, published this solemn profession of faith: The first condition of salvation is to maintain the rule of the true faith. And since that saying of our lord Jesus Christ, You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, cannot fail of its effect, the words spoken are confirmed by their consequences. For in the apostolic see the catholic religion has always been preserved unblemished, and sacred doctrine been held in honour. Since it is our earnest desire to be in no way separated from this faith and doctrine, we hope that we may deserve to remain in that one communion which the apostolic see preaches, for in it is the whole and true strength of the christian religion.
What is more, with the approval of the second council of Lyons, the Greeks made the following profession: “The holy Roman church possesses the supreme and full primacy and principality over the whole catholic church. She truly and humbly acknowledges that she received this from the Lord himself in blessed Peter, the prince and chief of the apostles, whose successor the Roman pontiff is, together with the fullness of power. And since before all others she has the duty of defending the truth of the faith, so if any questions arise concerning the faith, it is by her judgment that they must be settled.”
Then there is the definition of the council of Florence: “The Roman pontiff is the true vicar of Christ, the head of the whole church and the father and teacher of all Christians; and to him was committed in blessed Peter, by our lord Jesus Christ, the full power of tending, ruling and governing the whole church.”
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.
It was for this reason that the bishops of the whole world, sometimes individually, sometimes gathered in synods, according to the long established custom of the churches and the pattern of ancient usage referred to this apostolic see those dangers especially which arose in matters concerning the faith. This was to ensure that any damage suffered by the faith should be repaired in that place above all where the faith can know no failing.
The Roman pontiffs, too, as the circumstances of the time or the state of affairs suggested, sometimes by summoning ecumenical councils or consulting the opinion of the churches scattered throughout the world, sometimes by special synods, sometimes by taking advantage of other useful means afforded by divine providence, defined as doctrines to be held those things which, by God’s help, they knew to be in keeping with sacred scripture and the apostolic traditions.
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 Saviour 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.
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.
But since in this very age when the salutary effectiveness of the apostolic office is most especially needed, not a few are to be found who disparage its authority, we judge it absolutely necessary to affirm solemnly the prerogative which the only-begotten Son of God was pleased to attach to the supreme pastoral office.
Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the christian faith, to the glory of God our saviour, for the exaltation of the catholic religion and for the salvation of the christian people, with the approval of the sacred council, we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals.
Therefore, such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the church, irreformable.
So then, should anyone, which God forbid, have the temerity to reject this definition of ours: let him be anathema.
(Vatican I, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Chapter 4; underlining added.)
Clearly, what Vatican I is teaching is that because he is assisted by the Holy Ghost, the Pope will “religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles” and will not “make known some new doctrine” by the revelation of the same Holy Ghost.
Mr. Ferrara, on the other hand, reduces this teaching to little more than a superficial banality: He claims it simply means that the Pope isn’t supposed to make new doctrines, for that is not why the Holy Ghost was given him. Such an interpretation of the text is not tenable because this much is true of anyone, not just of the Pope alone. In fact, even a Protestant would agree that his own self-styled pastor isn’t supposed to teach his own strange doctrines. That’s hardly a profound insight to be taught by a Catholic ecumenical council!
Secondly, notice that the conciliar constitution says that “the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine…” (italics added). If Ferrara’s understanding of this passage were correct, it would mean that the Pope is not supposed to proclaim new doctrines that are nevertheless revealed to him by the Holy Ghost — a grotesque thing for a Catholic council to teach.
Thirdly, Ferrara’s interpretation does not jibe with the surrounding context, which establishes the prerogatives and uniqueness of the Papacy, protected by the Holy Ghost. What sort of divine protection would the Holy Ghost provide if the Pope were merely “not supposed to” invent new doctrines but nevertheless be quite capable of doing so? Wouldn’t that be true also of your local grocery store clerk and the grumpy bus driver on your morning commute? Aren’t they, too, “not supposed to” come up with a new gospel?
It is evident, therefore, that Vatican I teaches, not that the Pope ought not to teach new (or false) doctrine, but that he actually does not. That is the meaning of the special assistance of the Holy Ghost for the Pope. Ferrara turns the doctrine of Vatican I from describing a truth about the Papacy into a merely normative rule for papal conduct — but the idea that dogmas are merely normative and not descriptive was actually condemned by Pope St. Pius X in his Syllabus of Modernist Errors: “The dogmas of the Faith are to be held only according to their practical sense; that is to say, as preceptive norms of conduct and not as norms of believing” (Pius X, Decree Lamentabili Sane Exitu, error n. 26). This statement is to “be held by all as condemned and proscribed”, according to the Pope.
Ferrara concludes his Dec. 5 post as follows:
In sum, “authentic Magisterium” stands for the truth of Christ and what the Church has always taught in His name and by His authority. It is not a trademark that Pope Francis can blithely affix to his absurd novelties in order to declare them beyond criticism or discussion.
Never in the entire history of the Church has any Pope dared to abuse the Magisterium in this manner. There have been other papal tyrants in Church history, but never has there been a Pope who tried to tyrannize Catholic doctrine itself by demanding universal submission to his own errant ideas.
Several observations must be made here.
First, a man who believes the Vatican II Sect is the Roman Catholic Church can hardly speak about “what the Church has always taught”, for the Vatican II Church does not teach, for example, the social kingship of Christ, the absolute identity of the Church our Lord founded with the Catholic Church, or the necessity of the Church for salvation. Thus it is false to say that the church he believes in “has always taught” this. His church hasn’t taught it for the last 50 years — so “always” is simply not true. We notice that our lawyer from Virginia has now carefully added the caveat “in His name and by His authority” — this will allow him to argue later that whatever heresies or other errors may proceed from the Novus Ordo magisterium henceforth, cannot be considered as being taught “in [Christ’s] name and by His authority.” This may be clever on his part, but it is totally unworthy of Sacred Theology. People need to remember that when they read Ferrara, they are simply watching a skilled lawyer at work.
Secondly, notice that Ferrara shies away from quoting any Catholic dogmatic theology manual for a definition of what constitutes the “authentic Magisterium” — which would have been the natural thing to do. But where Ferrara fails, Novus Ordo Watch is happy to help out:
Authentic magisterium (from [Greek] authentia = authority) is the office of handing on doctrine instituted by a legitimate authority. Therefore, it implies in the teacher the power and office of handing on doctrine; but in the disciples [i.e. in the taught] the obligation and right to receive instruction. Magisterium can be authentic in two ways: in the broad sense and in the strict sense.
Authentic magisterium in the broad sense is that which by itself does not have the power to demand from the disciple the assent of the intellect. Such is, for example, the magisterium of a professor in a university. Authentic magisterium in the strict sense is that which has such power in itself to impose doctrine, that the disciples by that very fact are bound to give the assent of the intellect, because of the authority of the legate of God which the teacher makes use of.
(Fr. Joachim Salaverri, Sacrae Theologiae Summa IB: On the Church of Christ, trans. by Fr. Kenneth Baker [original Latin published by BAC, 1955; English published by Keep the Faith, 2015], n. 504; italics given.)
Why did Mr. Ferrara not see fit to quote a definition such as this for his “explanation” of what constitutes the authentic papal Magisterium? Quite simply, because it sinks his boat. Ferrara does not proceed from Catholic teaching in his argumentation and then reason to a necessary conclusion. Instead, he begins with his desired conclusion and then tries to find (highly selective) evidence to back it up — at the expense of traditional Catholic teaching if need be. This is why we call him a propagandist and rhetorician.
Ferrara’s position on the authentic Magisterium, which is held by virtually all recognize-and-resist adherents, is also blown to pieces by St. Robert Bellarmine, the Doctor of the Papacy, who emphasized that the nature of the papal teaching authority is such that if God did not prevent it from teaching error, all the faithful would be led into such error precisely because of their divinely-mandated duty of submission:
The Pope is the Teacher and Shepherd of the whole Church, thus, the whole Church is so bound to hear and follow him that if he would err, the whole Church would err.
Now our adversaries respond that the Church ought to hear him so long as he teaches correctly, for God must be heard more than men.
On the other hand, who will judge whether the Pope has taught rightly or not? For it is not for the sheep to judge whether the shepherd wanders off, not even and especially in those matters which are truly doubtful. Nor do Christian sheep have any greater judge or teacher to whom they might have recourse. As we showed above, from the whole Church one can appeal to the Pope yet, from him no one is able to appeal; therefore necessarily the whole Church will err if the Pontiff would err.
(St. Robert Bellarmine, De Romano Pontifice, Book IV, Chapter 3; translated by Ryan Grant as On the Roman Pontiff [Mediatrix Press, 2016], vol. 2, p. 160; underlining added.)
It’s just too bad that this Doctor of the Church did not take into consideration that there is quite an easy solution to this conundrum: an American layman could just declare on various online and print publications that the “Pope” has it all wrong — problem solved and gates of hell kept from prevailing!
Ferrara himself loves to quote Bellarmine whenever he can find a quote that supports (or so he thinks) the position he is arguing (see, for example, here and here — with a sedevacantist response here). But when Bellarmine clearly refutes him, Ferrara sides with…. Ferrara!
The same goes for the American lawyer’s quoting of Pope Pius IX, for example. He will be happy to quote certain parts of the encyclical Quanta Cura, but you will scarcely find him quote the following text from the same document:
Nor can we pass over in silence the audacity of those who, not enduring sound doctrine, contend that “without sin and without any sacrifice of the Catholic profession assent and obedience may be refused to those judgments and decrees of the Apostolic See, whose object is declared to concern the Church’s general good and her rights and discipline, so only it does not touch the dogmata of faith and morals.” But no one can be found not clearly and distinctly to see and understand how grievously this is opposed to the Catholic dogma of the full power given from God by Christ our Lord Himself to the Roman Pontiff of feeding, ruling and guiding the Universal Church.
(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Quanta Cura, n. 5)
Little did the good Pius IX suspect that eventually there would be found the likes of Chris Ferrara, who refuse assent and obedience even to those judgments of the (putative) Holy See that do touch upon faith and morals — in the name of “Tradition”, of course!
Ferrara’s position is also dangerously close to that which was explicitly condemned by St. Pius X, namely, the following assertion: “In proscribing errors, the Church cannot demand any internal assent from the faithful by which the judgments she issues are to be embraced” (Decree Lamentabili Sane Exitu, error n. 7). But then again, if a layman from the United States gets to reject the “authentic Magisterium” of one man he accepts as Pope, why not also that of others?
Other high-profile individuals who have commented on Francis’ latest addition to the “authentic Magisterium” include Dr. Joseph Shaw, the official spokesman for the famous Filial Correction effort. He appears to be grasping at straws as he tries to persuade his readers that, in essence, nothing has really changed — totally ignoring Francis’ now “magisterial” statement that “[t]here are no other interpretations” of Amoris Laetitia‘s Chapter VIII than the one given by the Buenos Aires “bishops.”
Edward Peters and “Fr.” John Zuhlsdorf
Canon lawyer Ed Peters seeks refuge in an argument that can only be considered legalistic: Canon 915 in Novus Ordo Canon Law states that people “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion”; and since Francis has not explicitly decreed that this canon be revoked or considered superseded, Peters reasons, nothing has really changed. (Mr. John Zuhlsdorf, otherwise known as “Fr. Z”, agrees with him in essence.)
While this argument may work for a canon lawyer, who only considers what pertains specifically to the theological discipline of canon law, it is simply a red herring. The issue is not that Canon Law has or has not been changed — the elephant in the living room is that Francis has used his putative authentic Magisterium to impose the idea that reception of the sacraments is not per se impermissible for people who are in public mortal sin of which they have not repented.
In summary, we can say that the reactions among the conservative Novus Ordos and Semi-Traditionalists are quite varied. While some select few are willing to concede that Francis has squared the circle and therefore some serious questions now need to be asked regarding his legitimacy, others maintain silly positions that run the gamut from “he didn’t actually say it” to “he may have said it but he didn’t mean it” to “he said it and meant it but it doesn’t count.” But only Michael Voris managed to insult his audience so badly that he basically said, “Who cares? You should be worried about the evil bishops!”
Interestingly enough, Francis’ move doesn’t just leave prominent Novus Ordo and Semi-Trad commentators with the proverbial egg on their faces. “Cardinal” Gerhard Ludwig Muller, too, doesn’t look too good now. Recall that Muller was interviewed about Amoris Laetitia in May 2017 by EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo:
ARROYO: Why do you think Amoris Laetitia has been so…It was a document intended, I think, to bring everyone together around the centrality of marriage and family, and yet it has caused such global division. I mean even the Pope himself, when he approves of the Argentine bishops interpretation, that seems to give credence and weight to the absolute opposite of what you’re…the interpretation that you’re advancing; that you can’t change this and that nothing has changed and that there is no possibility of this. The Pope seems to be giving a preference to the Argentines who say there is a path here…
MÜLLER: I’m not that clear with all that actions, bishops interpret the pope, the pope interpret the bishops. And, we have some rules in how to act in the Church. We have synods, coming together and then the pope make a summary and with his papal authority he gives his explanation or writes the documents and then must be…all be finished not with interpretation of the interpretation; that is not good for (the) Church. And I am saying (this) as a Catholic theologian.
We’ll just leave it at that.
By the way, now that the Buenos Aires Guidelines and Francis’ endorsement of them are included in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, we can expect that they will also show up in the next Novus Ordo edition of Denzinger. Think about that for a minute.
The upshot of all this is a very simple Catholic truth we have repeated here time and again: The Papacy has consequences. Recognizing a man as the Pope of the Catholic Church who is in fact a manifest anti-Catholic heretic or even apostate, has dire consequences because the office of Vicar of Christ is more than just a title. The Pope is a teacher, legislator, and administrator with genuine authority given him directly by God.
We would like to remind all our readers of some articles we have published here before regarding the Papacy, demonstrating that the true Catholic teaching about the Pope has been eclipsed by today’s self-proclaimed “traditionalists” who recognize Francis as Pope but then refuse him submission:
- The Stumbling Block of the Papacy: Why Bergoglio doesn’t fit
- Anything but Sedevacantism! Analysis of a curious Phenomenon
- A Dangerous Experiment: Taking Francis’ Claim to the Papacy seriously
- Have the Gates of Hell prevailed? The Papacy and Sedevacantism
- The Impossibility of Judging or Deposing a True Pope
Those interested in more sedevacantist commentary on Francis’ move to include the Buenos Aires Guidelines in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis may wish to read what Tom Droleskey has written:
“Go Ahead, Argue with Monsignor Joseph Clifford Fenton” (Christ or Chaos)
If there is indeed going to be a schism between the conservative and the liberal Modernist camps in the Novus Ordo Sect over Francis, this move should be the trigger point. If this doesn’t do it, there will be no schism at all.
The Papacy has consequences, and one of these consequences is that a true Pope cannot do what Francis has done.
Image sources: vatican.va (screenshot) / churchmilitant.com (spoofed) / istockphoto.com
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