A collection of personal reflections. Copyright © 2005-2011 K. Gurries

Friday, June 17, 2011

Radaelli: "No Rupture, But Also No Continuity"

Sandro Magister hosts a new contribution by Enrico Radaelli to the ongoing rupture vs. continuity debate.  Seemingly unconvinced by the Holy Father's proposal of a hermeneutic of reform in continuity with Tradition, and in sharp contrast to the arguments proposed by Fr. Cavalcoli, Radaelli argues that the Church currently finds itself in a state where there is neither rupture nor continuity.

According to Radaelli, formal rupture is theoretically impossible -- being limited to the first and second degrees of (infallible) doctrine.  On the other hand, Radaelli considers that the third degree of doctrine is ultimately and in the final analysis "not at all obligatorily binding for the obedience of the faithful."  According to Radaelli, this third degree of doctrine is subject to errors that can even contradict dogmatic truth or irreformable doctrines of the first and second degrees (i.e., authentic magisterial teachings of the third degree can be heretical).  On one hand, Radaelli denies that third degree doctrines touch upon the "dogmatic field".  On the other hand, Radaelli considers that third degree doctrines can nevertheless contradict dogma or doctrines within the "dogmatic field" representing a "false continuity with dogma".  While this does not constitute "formal rupture" it nevertheless can reflect a disparity with Tradition and a loss or disconnect with dogmatic truth.  So, we are left with a situation where there is no formal rupture, nor formal continuity -- so long as the errors and contradictions persist within the third degree of doctrine.  According to Radaelli, the only way out is to "purify" the doctrines of the third degree by raising them to the "supernatural level" and bringing them into contact with the "dogmatic fire".  The author proposes that the concilar doctrines be purified by the "white hot fire" on the occasion of the "fiftieth anniversary of the council of discord".

Fr. Cavalcoli has responded to Radaelli in a postscript where he further clarifies some of the confused ideas regarding doctrines of the third degree.  The Dominican theologian states that the third level of doctrine often contains a mixture of both doctrinal elements as well as pastoral provisions.  The doctrinal elements can "do no wrong" whereas pastoral provisions are subject to change according to circumstances or can even be imprudent, misguided or wrong in isolated cases.  It is only this later aspect that represents the fallible "straw" of the third degree -- and the process of separating the pure doctrine from the "straw" of pastoral provisions and other contingencies is precisely what is involved in order to raise doctrines from the third to the second or first degree.  Indeed, history has shown this to be a painstaking process that can even take centuries to sort out.  It is by virtue of the doctrinal content (even if these are newly developed points in continuity with the old) that religious submission of intellect and will is due to doctrines of the third degree. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Giovanni Cavalcoli: The Infallibility Of Vatican II

The ongoing debates between various theological experts (hosted by Sandro Magister) has produced a number of interesting exchanges and clarifications. For example, in one postcript, Fr. Giovanni Cavolcoli clarifies his position relative to the doctrinal authority of Vatican II.

All agree that there are three basic "degrees" of Catholic teaching.  The first and second degrees are infallible and definitive.  The third degree, however, while demanding religious assent is nevertheless reformable.  At the same time, however, it would be false to assume that this "reformability" implies the possibility of a contradiction between the various levels or degrees of doctrine.  So we are left with something of a parodox: if third degree doctrines can't contradict doctrines of the first and second degree then in what sense can these be fallible?  Fr. Cavalcoli resolves the problem by distinguishing between (a) the dogmatic order and (b) practical-pastoral directives.  The supreme magisterium can never defect with respect to the former (a) -- even if it is subject to err at times in the later (b).  The reason is that doctrines of the third degree can treat dogmatic elements that are proposed in a manner that is nevertheless comingled with non-dogmatic and contingent aspects:

"The third degree also admits the fallibility of opinions and doctrines of a pastoral, moral or legal character." (Adapted from Google Translation)

Therefore, the hermeneutic of reform in continuity presupposes that the development of newer points of doctrine (third degree doctrines) must be perfectly compatible and analogically homogeneous with previously declared doctrines of the first and second degrees.  At the same time, however, third degree doctrines are not irreformable and "definitive" insofar as they contain contingent aspects related to the pastoral-prudential order.  The proper understanding of these distinctions is the key to the hermeneutic of reform in continuity and protects us from the dangers of rupture theology.