More Papal Bull

I invariably have other things to do when some new absurdity comes out of the Roman Catholic Church. The newest is that Pope Francis is being threatened by four Cardinal whistle-blowers over the issue of allowing civilly remarried divorcees to receive Communion.

In a former article, I mentioned this issue as being better dealt with as a matter of conscience in the confessional. Not all cases are the same. I have my own experience of marriage – and St Paul considered marriage as an option for those too weak for celibacy. Some people have been dealt a really raw deal in life, but that is between them and their parish priests and their local diocesan nullity tribunal. I don’t want to go into the question from the point of view of moral or sacramental theology, canon law or pastoral care of the faithful.

My attention was drawn to An FAQ for All Christians on Divorce, Pope Francis and the Bishops Questioning Him.

Q: How can the doctrine of papal infallibility survive this?

A: Fans of logic will note that it can’t. If Pope Francis continues on the course he has chosen, he will prove, empirically, that this teaching was never true in the first place.

Q: What will that mean for the First Vatican Council?

A: That council, and every other council the Catholic Church has held since the great Schism with the Orthodox in 1054, will be called into question. The Orthodox theory, that it was Rome which went off the rails back then, will start looking pretty persuasive. Last time I checked, making the case for that was not the Roman pontiff’s job.

So that is what is tickling the Jesuit Pope as he thinks about ripping off no fewer than four Cardinals’ hats, from men who have acted within the limits of canon law! It is all becoming abject nonsense.

We Anglican Catholics follow principles given in the Affirmation of St Louis. A few extracts:

We cannot decide what is truth, but rather (in obedience) ought to receive, accept, cherish, defend and teach what God has given us. The Church is created by God, and is beyond the ultimate control of man.

We repudiate all deviation of departure from the Faith, in whole or in part, and bear witness to these essential principles of evangelical Truth and apostolic Order:

The received Tradition of the Church and its teachings as set forth by “the ancient catholic bishops and doctors,” and especially as defined by the Seven Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church, to the exclusion of all errors, ancient and modern.

We disclaim any right or competence to suppress, alter or amend any of the ancient Ecumenical Creeds and definitions of Faith, to set aside or depart from Holy Scripture, or to alter or deviate from the essential pre-requisites of any Sacrament.

There are many small Churches that came into being because authority and institution have been perverted and corrupted. This has always been the cause of schism and the reflex of surviving outside the system in small communities. We do this because we cannot call the whole Christian message nonsense as many have done. We try to go on. So do many good and devout Roman Catholics and people from other communities.

The internet has helped to bring about a new paradigm in politics. May the swamp be drained in Rome too!

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9 Responses to More Papal Bull

  1. Well there are doctrines which I cannot personally agree with in the RCC which is why I belong to an orthodox Old Catholic jurisdiction and have not joined the Ordinariate. That said there is relentless negativity against Pope Francis from certain parts of the Christian Church and I think some of this is unbalanced. I approve of the fact that many outside the church have been listening to him and relate to the way in which he presents Christian truth.
    I think that he will be remembered by posterity as ‘The Pope of Mercy and Hope’
    I approve of his criticism of legalism and the various ways in which he has criticised this.

    I agree with him that the Confessional is not a torture chamber but is an encounter for healing, mercy and forgiveness and that the Eucharist is not a reward for the righteous but strong medicine for the weak. Two quotes. Homily before the Angelus St Peter’s Square 11th Sepetember this year –
    ‘There is no sin in which we have fallen,from which, by the grace of God, we cannot rise again; there is no individual beyond redemption, no one is beyond redemption, because God never ceases to want our good, even when we sin’

    Finally quoting from Misericordia Et Misera Apostolic Letter November 2016. ‘There is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with God’

    • I sympathise with your reasoning. Cardinal Burke represents a rigorist attitude I have come across in Rome, and canonical legalistic positivism. It is a hangover from the old Inquisition and their torture chambers. I understand the Pope from a pastoral point of view, given some of the situations we have all seen of physical and psychological abuse in marriage, and often the abused wife or husband carrying the can with the expenses and the children. It is too easy to get involved with someone else in a relationship – and bang – there go the resolves of keeping the marriage bond and suffering for it as a Christian hero. Marriage has to be indissoluble, but we are also dealing with human beings. If I were separated from my wife, I would resolve to go the heroic way and stay on my own, but I have no children and it would be easier for me than for others. If I remarried I would not be allowed to continue as a priest, and that would present me with a heart-rending choice. So one has to stay away from “occasions of sin” and live a disciplined life – easier when you’re in your late 50’s than in your 30’s. But for those who live other lives than mine, someone has to be pastoral in some way with them. Generally in the RC Church it’s either “Who cares?” or “Take a hike!”.

      The problem is that this pastoral problem is treated on a par with the Immaculate Conception or the Novus Ordo liturgy imposed by Paul VI, another one who probably “felt infallible”. It is a matter of the confessional and not of canon law.

      This whole thing should have been dealt with differently than through synods, papal documents and doctrinal arguments.

      I also understand the Cardinals. They would ask “Whatever next”? Gay marriage? Women priests? Politically correct speech? My canon law professor at university left us with a reflection: essentially we have the rule of law (interpreted and applied with pastoral sensitivity and the spirit of the law, not just the letter) or the tyranny of the arbitrary. All Churches have to have law. The ACC has a code of canon law too.

  2. J.D. says:

    In a way I’d agree with you, there’s a lot of negativity towards the Pope when some of his criticisms are pretty good. While I’m more of a traditionalist when it comes to matters liturgical (I mean in a broad sense, NOT SSPX/ FSSP 1950’s kitsch Catholicism) I’m definitely more moderate on other things. I shudder to imagine a Pope the way many trads would like, a legalistic pharisee hurling anathemas and speaking in the triumphalist and abstract verbiage of Scholasticism and late 19th century papal encyclicals! Sounds awful to me.

  3. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    It is interesting to see the matter-of-fact comments in Catholic Encyclopedia articles of a century ago – for example, Patrick Toner, writing on “Infallibility”: “A similar exceptional situation might arise were a pope to become a public heretic, i.e., were he publicly and officially to teach some doctrine clearly opposed to what has been defined as de fide catholicâ. But in this case many theologians hold that no formal sentence of deposition would be required, as, by becoming a public heretic, the pope would ipso facto cease to be pope. This, however, is a hypothetical case which has never actually occurred”.

    • Having read some sedevacantist literature some years ago, this thesis is supported by Pius IV’s Cum ex apostolatus and various bits and pieces by Fr Robert Bellarmine in the 16th century. I’m sure most of that stuff that was in books and reviews in my day are now on the internet. The problem with sedevacantism is that they dig themselves into an even deeper hole. I don’t envy them. I suppose they can be compared with the Безпоповцы Old Believers, though there are some viable communities in the USA and France with their own bishops. Not my scene!🙂

      • J.D. says:

        Sedevacantism is mind numbingly simple and complex at the same time. I There are whole volumes if complicated argumebts,proof texts and scholastic style syllogism both for and against the theory. The best book I ever read about it was the recently written refutation of it called “The Sedevacantist Delusion: Why Vatican II’s Clash with Sedevacantism Supports Eastern Orthodoxy” by John C. Pontrello. While his case specifically for Orthodoxy might be arguable,his masterful dismantling of both sedevacantism and trad schizophrenia is rock solid. He makes a strong case for either simply shutting up and accepting modern Catholicism or rejecting it as absurd and following a church with a more balanced Conciliarism ecclesiology. It’s quite good, although I wish he’d have chosen some more erudite sedevacantist such as Father Anthony Cekada to refute rather than the silly and nutty Dimond Brothers.

      • I see no useful purpose in refuting sedevacantism, whether it is the “mainstream” version of Bishop Dolan, Fr Cekada, etc. or the version combined with Feeneyism held by the Dimond Brothers.

        I do see a purpose in researching western conciliar Catholicism, which is essentially Old Catholicism (most of it has become “progressive” but a small minority sticks to the old principles, spirituality and worship) and Anglicanism (Canterbury/Lambeth Conference or Continuing or the more recent Evangelical split-offs allied with the Southern Cone).

        Roman Catholic apologists will tell you that Catholicism without the Pope is futile. It depends what you want: big institutions with money, bureaucracy and worldly power, or the little community that just gets on together and has a bishop, the priesthood and a body of doctrine that is recognisably Catholic. Some people have been known to be so attached to their church building that they continued to attend it after it became redundant, was sold and became a mosque! That is obviously the extreme caricature. We can make a very nice little church ourselves in an old outbuilding or a specially built small building.

        No need to refute others who have found a foundational myth to give coherence to their community. They may be wrong, but our duty is to build up something good and positive like we try to do in the ACC.

      • J.D. says:

        I don’t disagree with you there Father. I just found that book to be pretty easy reading and illuninating,especially for someone such as myself who came out of Catholicism and who was at one time leaning toward sedevacantism.

        That’s strange people will stick to a church building even long after its been sold or the religion has changed but it’s understandable,as we invest a lot of ourselves into our spiritual lives and the traditions we hold. For some it is really a solid guide post and anchor in the storm of life and it’s hard to imagine being without it. It claims to speak for immutable truths in a world that denies they exist. I guess in that sense our faith can become like a security blanket.

        Sometimes I ask myself if I really believe or is this just something of a mythology that I find comfort in and hope is true? I’m serious here too. I love things like the Officr,lives of saints and the stories about Jesus Christ and miracles,but at heart I’m pretty much a fideist,rejecting that our faith can be proved with any kind of rational certainty, holding more to the idea of William James that some things like religion must be lived and not proven. I’ve always looked at our faith like a Zen koan, something reason cannot really get a hold on that must be lived.

        As for ecclesiology, sedevacantism simply represents the logical outcome of the über rationalism and legalism of certain segments of the Roman Catholic Church.

        I always wanted to check out what a liturgically conservative Old Catholic Church was like, or something like your Sarum Use ACC but there’s no real options here. There’s one ACC church in Jacksonville but right now I’ve got no car to check it out.

      • I know very little about your life (married, etc?) but you come over as a solitary seeking your way. I suspect that one thing you need is a good spiritual father who is not concerned about whether you formally adhere to the Church he belongs to, but rather sees spirituality as above all boundaries.

        Above all, as someone very kindly advised me, “Pursue your dreams”. Do what you know intuitively to be right. I have known people to go to all sorts of churches, not to ask to become members of them, but simply to pray and sense the communion of prayer.

        By the way, there is no “Sarum Use ACC”, simply the ACC. My Bishop tolerates Sarum on the basis of it being an Anglican liturgy. I would love others in the ACC to take interest in Sarum, but I can’t force them. It is just in my little chapel in France. The Anglican Missal is also a very beautiful rite, but more based on the Roman Missal than the old Norman tradition.

        Indeed, sedevacantism is a fruit of scholastic thinking and Aristotle’s metaphysics, logic and epistemology. Experience teaches me that things never fit into such neat categories. In regard to rationalism, as opposed to the use of reason, you and I think like the Romantics. Turn your back on the human world a little and go and explore some lovely natural space.

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