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

Monday, January 23, 2012

Can the Magisterium Teach Heresy?

In a recent Open Letter to Si Si No No, Fr. Giovanni Cavalcoli, O.P. challenges the SSPX to take a clear and logically consistent position relative to the indefectibility of the Church and the infallibility of the Magisterium on matters of faith:

Is the Church’s Magisterium, in matters of faith, infallible or fallible? You have to choose.  It is here that we will see if you are truly Catholic or crypto-Protestants, or, despite your intentions to the contrary – crypto-Modernists. But at least the Modernists are coherent: as a principal, they have a relativist and evolutionist gnoseology. How can you, Thomists, who claim the existence of an immutable and definite truth and also see the Church as teacher of the truth, end up alongside the Protestants and Modernists by saying that the Church can err de facto in the doctrine of the truth?

The Magisterium is not only infallible when it proclaims or defines a dogma, but also when it simply teaches a truth of the faith or close to the faith, without declaring the need to define it. It is enough that is about matters of the faith, as in the case of the new conciliar doctrines. It is this teaching that is found in the [Motu Proprio] Ad tuendam fidem, which you most certainly know. Besides, when you negate infallibility, certainly with this you do not identify sic et simpliciter, the fallible with the actually false. And yet you do not exclude the possibility of error, you do not deny that in the future, that which is taught today will become false or show itself to be false.

Now this contrasts with the Divine mission of teaching the Gospel which was entrusted to the Church by Christ. Therefore, denying the infallibility of the Magisterium is against the faith and so it is heresy. The moment you accuse, even in a veiled way, the Council of having fallen into heresy, you do not realize that you have fallen in it yourselves.

Q. Can the Church err in what she proposes for our belief?  
A. No, the Church cannot err in what she proposes for our belief, since according to the promise of Jesus Christ she is unfailingly assisted by the Holy Ghost.

UPDATE: The Response from Si Si No No

The response given by the editors of Si Si No No confirms the SSPX position that the Second Vatican Council represents a substantial rupture in faith.  According to the authors, the doctrine of the Magisterium can be multiple or different regarding even the "substance" of the faith:

The  Church as subject is always one; She is and will always be “pillar and sustainer of the Truth ”, even if the object or doctrine taught by Her may be multiple regarding “the way” and the “substance”. Now the Second Vatican Council is “pastoral”.... So the doctrine of Vatican II is different regarding “the way” of the other XX Councils preceding it and in some cases it even deviates from “the substance”.  
According to the authors, this deviation or rupture was made possible insofar as the Second Vatican Council did not intend to "define and bind belief" and, therefore, the criteria for an infallible divine assistance was not satisfied at the council.  Rather, the type of divine assistance operative at the Second Vatican Council was only of a fallible kind and therefore subject to err -- not only in practical-prudential or "pastoral" decisions -- but also with respect to the substance of the faith.     

Friday, January 13, 2012

The SSPX Response


In early December of last year, the SSPX submitted its response to the Holy See concerning the doctrinal preamble.  While the exact contents of the response and the doctrinal preamble remain secret, DICI has revealed that "one of the components that make up this response is the cogently argued study by Fr. Jean-Michel Gleize that appeared in Le Courrier de Rome (no. 350, décembre 2011)."

The study affirms at the outset the following "incontestable principles" with respect to the teaching office or Magisterium of the Church:

In the first part of his study, the Spanish prelate recapitulates the fundamental notions recalled by Pius XII in Humani Generis: the fact that an act of the Church’s Teaching Authority [magisterium] is not guaranteed by the charism of infallibililty proper to solemn definitions does not mean that it can be considered “fallible” in the sense that it conveys “provisional teaching” or even “authorized opinions.” In general, that is, when it does not give solemn and infallible definitions, the Church’s Teaching Authority is always assisted by God, and this assistance is necessary to assure the indefectible transmission of the deposit of faith. In this sense, the merely ordinary teaching authority also benefits from a certain charism of truth.1 The infallibility of the Church’s Teaching Authority [magisterium] must be understood analogously, that is, as admitting of varying degrees.2

Likewise, then, the assent due to truths proposed by the Teaching Authority [magisterium] may also be understood as admitting of varying degrees. Infallible solemn definitions ordinarily set formally or virtually revealed truths, which require an assent of divine faith. Other non-defined teachings require religious inner assent, which implies, over and above the assent to the truth properly so-called, a certain element of obedience toward the magisterial authority. Finally, acts of the magisterium may contain elements that, being extraneous to a particular teaching, do not command as such any assent.

The author then laments that this criteria should be applied to Vatican II:  "These general reminders would not present any difficulty had Msgr. Ocariz not applied them to the teachings of Vatican II."  Indeed, the author proceeds to highlight four teachings of Vatican II that are considered to be irreconcilable with Tradition and the previous Magisterium where the contradictions in question constitute a rupture or break with respect to the unity of the teaching subject or Magisterium as well as with the unity of the object or doctrine (emphasis in original): 

The fact of Vatican II:  new teachings contrary to Tradition
On at least four points, the teachings of the Second Vatican Council are obviously in logical contradiction to the pronouncements of the previous traditional Magisterium, so that it is impossible to interpret them in keeping with the other teachings already contained in the earlier documents of the Church’s Magisterium.  Vatican II has thus broken the unity of the Magisterium, to the same extent to which it has broken the unity of its object.

These four points are as follows.  The doctrine on religious liberty, as it is expressed in no. 2 of the Declaration Dignitatis humanae, contradicts the teachings of Gregory XVI in Mirari vos and of Pius IX in Quanta cura as well as those of Pope Leo XIII in Immortale Dei and those of Pope Pius XI in Quas primas.  The doctrine on the Church, as it is expressed in no. 8 of the Constitution Lumen gentium, contradicts the teachings of Pope Pius XII in Mystici corporis and Humani generis.  The doctrine on ecumenism, as it is expressed in no. 8 of Lumen gentium and no. 3 of the Decree Unitatis redintegratio, contradicts the teachings of Pope Pius IX in propositions 16 and 17 of the Syllabus, those of Leo XIII in Satis cognitum, and those of Pope Pius XI in Mortalium animos.  The doctrine on collegiality, as it is expressed in no. 22 of the Constitution Lumen gentium, including no. 3 of the Nota praevia [Explanatory Note], contradicts the teachings of the First Vatican Council on the uniqueness of the subject of supreme power in the Church, in the Constitution Pastor aeternus.  (…)

Therefore, according to the author, those holding the teaching office have the possibility to propose defective teachings that must ultimately be considered as non-Magisterial.  Put another way, Magisterial acts are those true teachings proposed by those holding the teaching office.  On the contrary, those defective teachings that depart from truth are not Magisterial acts, properly speaking.  We are given to understand by this that a true and legitimate Pope can nevertheless exercise or promulgate an illegitimate and anti-Magisterial act concerning matters of faith.    

The same word “magisterium” is used both to designate the person who exercises the power of the magisterium [the teaching office or authority], (the pope or the bishops), and the act of the magisterium (an infallible definition or a simply authentic teaching). The person is the subject of a power or of a function which is by definition ordered to its object. For example, every man is endowed with a reasoning mind [speculative intelligence] ordered by nature to grasp first principles.50 This function either absolutely is or is not. On the other hand, the exercise of the magisterium is the employment of a function: even if most of the time this usage is correct, it always remains possible that the titular of a function may exercise the act defectively, which amounts to failing to accomplish the act, since a defective act is defined as a privation. For example, intellectual error or falsehood is defined as the privation of the relationship that should exist between the mind and reality.

We admit without challenge that Vatican II represented the magisterium of the Church in the sense in which the power of the bishops who were gathered during this council cum Petro et sub Petro was and still is the power to teach the universal Church. But we object that the intention of this Council was to meet the demands of a self-styled pastoral magisterium, the new intention of which is clearly foreign to the ends of the divinely instituted magisterium. It contradicted on at least the four points named above objective fundamental ideas of the constant magisterium clearly defined. It thus appears that this magisterium was marked by a grave deficiency in its very act. The Angelic Doctor said: “When anyone endowed with an art produces bad workmanship, this is not the work of that art; in fact it is contrary to the art.”51 Similarly, due allowance being made, when a council produces bad teaching, it is not the work of the magisterium; in fact, it is contrary to the magisterium, that is to say, against Tradition.

The study does not attempt to reconcile this conclusion with the "incontestable principles" given at the outset including that "...the Church’s Teaching Authority is always assisted by God, and this assistance is necessary to assure the indefectible transmission of the deposit of faith. In this sense, the merely ordinary teaching authority also benefits from a certain charism of truth."  In addition, the study does not attempt to resolve the problem over who has the competence and authority to judge whether a particular "act" of a Pope or a Council is true or defective concerning matters of faith.   

It is also noteworthy that three of the four rejected doctrines (above) are taken directly from the Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen Gentium promulgated by Pope Paul VI in the following manner:

"Each and all these items which are set forth in this dogmatic Constitution have met with the approval of the Council Fathers.  And We by the apostolic power given Us by Christ together with the Venerable Fathers in the Holy Spirit, approve, decree and establish it and command that what has thus been decided in the Council be promulgated for the glory of God."

Given in Rome at St. Peter's on November 21, 1964.

Finally, we can observe by the study a decisive turn from previous statements seemingly affirming the will to interpret Vatican II teachings in the light of Tradition:  

“Far from wanting to stop Tradition in 1962, we wish to consider the Second Vatican Council and post-conciliar teaching in the light of this Tradition which St. Vincent of Lérins defined as ‘what has been believed at all times, everywhere and by all’ (Commonitorium), without rupture and in a perfectly homogenous development. Thus we will be able to contribute efficaciously to the evangelization requested by the Savior (see Matthew 28; 19-20)."
Bishop Fellay, DICI, Press Release, March 12, 2009

UPDATE: Andrea Tornielli reports that Bishop Fellay subsequently delivered a "second response" to the Holy See concerning the doctrinal preamble.  This second "concise" response is said to comply with the expected format enabling the process to take a step forward. 

The true response of the superior of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X, Bernard Fellay, formulated according to the requests of the Holy See, arrived at the Vatican just last week. The first reply, received by the Vatican on 21 December, was not considered adequate by Vatican authorities, who urged the head of the Lefebvrians to redraft it, considering the first delivery as more of a “documentation” than a reply. Thus Bishop Fellay has prepared a second text, more concise than the doctrinal preamble that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith sent him last September. This second text is now being carefully examined by consultants from the Ecclesia Dei Commission - who follow the Lefebrvian dossier - and this could take time.
...Fellay’s second response - which accepts some parts of the doctrinal preamble while questioning others - needs time to be examined... 
Recall that in the doctrinal preamble proposed by the Ecclesia Dei Commission (headed by Cardinal William Levada and led by Monsignor Guido Pozzo), the Lefebvrians were asked to subscribe to the profession of faith – that which is considered essential to being Catholic. The profession requires three different levels of approval and distinguishes between revealed truths, dogmatic statements, and ordinary magisterium. About the latter, it says that the Catholic is called to ensure a “religious submission of will and intellect” to the teachings that the Pope and the college of bishops “offer when they exercise their authentic Magisterium,” even if they are not proclaimed in a dogmatic way, as is the case with most of the documents of the magisterium...
The fact that the new and more appropriate response - which was considered in the sacred palazzos to be a “step forward” - needs to be carefully studied and considered, meaning that it is neither a definitive “yes” or “no” to the final text of the preamble. But it welcomes some parts of the Vatican text, while expressing reservations about others, and above all, it calls for further clarifications and additions. In fact, the Lefebvrians do not intend to give their assent to the texts of the Council regarding collegiality, ecumenism, interreligious dialogue, and religious freedom, because they believe these to be inconsistent with tradition. Indeed, the concept of tradition - “Traditio” - and its value, represents the crux of the debate that has characterized the talks between the Society and the Holy See. The Lefebvrians criticize some of the Council’s provisions, considering them to be at odds with the tradition of the Church.