Proph has posted an important post on the danger of a new “pastoral” Church practice that would contradict her witness on the indissolubility of marriage (more brazenly than our farcical annulment industry already does, that is). Like everyone else, I think it possible and even probable that this will happen. That is, I don’t think that God has given us any assurance that such an evil thing won’t happen.
There is then an important sense in which I don’t have faith in the Church, at least in that I don’t trust Rome to promote Roman Catholicism and discourage sin. However, before anybody tells me to get lost and become officially Protestant, consider the fact that no one believes anymore in the reliability of Rome in the way that seemed like the self-evidently Catholic position one hundred years ago. No one believes it for the very good reason that there is no way to believe it. Every position one could possibly take involves effectively dismissing the Magisterium as a usefully reliable guide. Consider the options:
- What Proph calls “the Magisterium of the moment”: Pope Francis’s Catholicism is great, and what looks like a gutting of morality and the sacraments is really a Spirit-mandated work of mercy. But if that’s true, then all the popes prior to Francis were completely wrong about what they thought was their most important duty.
- Magisterial minimalism: basically, no special trust is to be extended to papal or episcopal statements per se when infallibility is not explicitly invoked. The trouble with this (aside from it being explicitly repudiated in Lumen Gentium) is that it means the protection the Holy Spirit gives the Magisterium is practically worthless. I have no guarantee that the pope and all the bishops won’t deny the existence of God tomorrow, just that they won’t formalize it in a particular way.
- Sedevacantism: Since we all admit that the Church has gone off the rails, I don’t see how this is a crazier position than anything else.
- Catholicism is a false religion, and the contradictions between Pius X and Francis I prove it.
All of these undermine the Church’s authority in serious ways. We Catholics should keep that in mind when we criticize each other. Here, for example, is a sedevacantist website criticizing the SSPX for not trusting that the Holy Spirit would prevent the true Church from falling into error (although He won’t, apparently, prevent her from being usurped and replaced by a false religion without noticing it). And here is the SSPX attacking sedevacantists for drawing a distinction between a ruler having legitimacy and him having authority, which again is an odd point for the Lefebvrists to be emphasizing. I myself certainly will not criticize the SSPX, like most Catholics do, for “disobedience” given that I will never submit to a change in the doctrine of marriage, no matter how many popes should demand it of me. (One could argue that I’m already in rebellion against the Magisterium for what I’ve written on this blog on the subject of immigration. I would disagree, of course, but that would be my Magisterial minimalism talking.) The fact is that any contemporary Catholic can be accused of failing to trust the Holy Spirit to take care of the Church.
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