2016: the year of the Left’s greatest triumph

2016 was full of electoral theatre, but it was above all the year of Amoris laetitia, which by making Kasperism apparently the official teaching of the Church has discredited the Catholic Church as an authority on matters of ethics, perhaps permanently.  One can argue whether Pope Francis’ exhortation really does say that wives should not submit to their husbands but may be obliged to render the marriage debt to their adulterous partners and that personal conscience has the authority to overturn universal ethical norms.  I may be a bad Catholic for finding this the natural reading of the document, but most Catholics, including bishops (who are eagerly extending the logic), seem to agree, and the pope’s own correspondence seems to reinforce this understanding.

Perhaps I should ignore the natural reading and try to read AL according to previous teaching?  But this undermines the rationale for a living Magisterium, which is that we are supposed to read old documents in the light of new ones, rather than vice versa.  How can I trust the natural reading of these older documents without tracing them all the way back to the oldest Magisterial documents, the Bible itself?  Must every Catholic follow this chain all the way back?  At the very least, we must concede that the Protestants were right all along about the “private interpretation” thing.  Not only is it possible to understand the Bible without the Pope; it’s impossible to understand the Pope without the Bible.

Perhaps Francis, by teaching heresy, is not a valid pope?  But if an anti-pope can rule the Church without the Church noticing it, corrupting the deposit of faith, how can we be sure this didn’t happen 100, 500, or 1500 years ago?  You see the magnitude of the problem?

What’s more, the damage is irreparable.  A conservative pope might someday reverse every controversial bit of AL, but that would only mean that a rival faction would have temporarily come to power.  Everyone would remember that Rome had once taught the opposite with the acquiescence of the world’s bishops.  The ethical teachings of Rome will henceforth always be seen–by people on all sides–as current policy rather than immutable doctrine.

Plus, I know it’s not magisterial, but having a Pope tell interviewers stuff like that communists are the real Christians and only cohabiters are really married is taking its toll, even on me.

Everything I’ve said is true even if your innocuous reading of AL is correct rather than mine and the majority’s.  Assuming Catholicism survives the Francis pontificate, teaching authority will henceforth play a far smaller role for the Church than has been the case for a thousand years.  For a long time, Magisterial authority has played the key role in convincing people (to the extent they were convinced) that Catholicism is a package deal, that one may not pick and choose the bits one likes.  Without this assurance, it is much easier for liberalism to pick off “difficult” teachings one by one until nothing is left.  Now that Peter has faltered, what can hold the pieces of the Church together?

  • Tribalism.  Obviously, loyalty to Catholics as a people with distinct rituals and history can’t completely substitute for the certainty of faith, but it does give a lot.  It provides a will to resist liberal attacks.  It is itself a principle for resisting liberalism, which rejects loyalty on principle.  It gives a reason for valuing the sacraments, namely their communal binding role, even apart from their supernatural efficacy.  Ironically, tribalism is the only way to make the communal focus that liberal Catholicism wants actually work.
  • Reverence for the sacraments.  The Eucharist is the true heart of the life of the Church, but assuming your appreciation for it is more than merely tribal (not that there’s anything wrong with tribal appreciation!), it is based on certain doctrines like Transubstantiation which you regard as assured.  That is, sacramental Catholicism is no substitute for doctrinal Catholicism.  We must have some core of beliefs that can’t be shaken no matter how absurd, offensive, and self-contradictory the Church’s official teachers shall henceforth be.
  • The ideology of Catholicism.  One could try to formulate Catholicism not as a living authority but as a fixed set of principles and the deductions from them.  Catholicism would then be defined as the application of meta-principles like corporatism and sacramentalism to the historical assertion of the Incarnation.  I sort of tried to build such an ideology here.  The trouble is that, insofar as Catholicism has an ideology, it is an ideology that points to the inadequacy of ideology, that any finite set of axioms cannot adequately represent the truths in supra-rational sacramental acts and a living tradition.
  • Nitpicking.  We can continue ignoring non-Magisterial statements of popes, devising readings of hostile Magisterial documents that avoid direct contradiction with previous teaching, when that fails arguing that some older document trumps the newer one in authority according to non-arbitrary criteria.  Catholic readers will tell me this is the only viable course for an orthodox Catholic.  It suffers, though, from a priori improbability.  People are rightly skeptical that a few scattered malcontents understand Catholicism better than the Pope and bishops.  They rightly realize that our critique is self-devouring:  if 2017 Catholicism can’t be taken at face value because it doesn’t match 1958 Catholicism, how do we know we can accept the latter at face value?  The 2017 Church is every bit as emphatic about rejecting racism, national borders, and proselytism as the 1958 Church was about rejecting Communism, Protestantism, and Islam.  We could argue, as I have, that the 1958 condemnations fit Catholicism the ideology better than the 2017 condemnations, or one could argue that the 1958 condemnations carry more authority for technical reasons.  Either way, our case is complicated and non-intuitive.  I’m not entirely convinced myself.

So, what else happened in 2016?  Somehow, believing that a man who cuts his dick off and puts on a dress does not thereby become a woman passed out of the Overton Window.  Given the magnitude of the Left’s recent victories in the culture wars, this felt much less momentous than it otherwise would have.  We on the Right had gotten spoiled, expecting that it would take a full half-decade between the time the Left invents a crazy idea to the time no one is allowed to disagree.  Now it happens faster.  Welcome to the era of the no-limits Left.

The British are getting a lesson in the futility of democracy in the absence of rival elites.

On the bright side, LIGO detected gravitational waves.  Woo-hoo!  And the day after the press conferences, I got tenure.  I suppose that should make me bolder for The Cause, but given what the Catholic Church has just done to herself, it’s hard to see the point anymore.

96 Responses

  1. Congratulations on tenure.

  2. It may be that the idea of the Roman Catholic Church as *primarily* a structure of clear, valid authority is a modern distortion – a consequence of modern intellectuals trying to solve a modern problem (of endemic, unrelenting intellectual subversion) which is never truly solveable by any structure.

    That idea or hope is dead (for you at least) – but there is a stronger and deeper – albeit less *precise* – truth of your church which lies beyond it.

  3. That ordinary people can’t understand something they need to shows that negligence is occurring on someone’s part. It does not in any way negate the validity of the thing in question (e.g. the distinction between hypothetical speculation about what the Pope is thinking versus what he has actually said in his magisterial declarations).

  4. Having a Pope who has authority to turn tradition on its head was a bomb waiting to go off. Now it has gone off.

    The solution is the communion of the saints. You are not allowed to interpret the bible entirely solo, protestant style, if Christians throughout history would view you as a heretic. Your faith has to be substantially consistent with the consensus of Christians whose ancient faith has survived.

    This is, more or less, Orthodox Christianity. Pope was a single point of failure – and the pope failed.

  5. I have been thinking a lot about that. What should believers do when they can’t ignore the rot anymore? I imagine, some decades from now, a Mass with a tranny priest teaching sexual liberation to promiscuous people. How long would you wait to reach the conclusion that the sacraments have been profaned and are no longer valid?

    Several appearances of Our Lady warned us that Rome would become pagan, heretic and the See of the Antichrist. But she didn’t told us what to do except staying faithful. How do you do that as a Catholic when your Church is corrupt? As a Catholic, you can’t live your faith without sacraments and, hence, without your Church. You can’t be like Dr. Charlton, which lives his faitn in isolation (no mean to offend Dr. Charlton).

    Go SSPX? (In my country there is no parish of them) Go Orthodox? (the same) Go Protestant? What if, after much reading and reflection, you think that the Catholic Church is the church founded by Christ? What do you do?

    We are in uncharted territory. Like lots of people in history, I approached the church after a life of debauchery. I thought I have found something eternal beyond the transient nature of the world. I made a lot of sacrifices to follow the doctrine of the Church. Now it seems that these sacrifices are useless and the doctrine of the Church changes with fashion but “thanks for participating”.

    As you see, I have only questions. Does somebody have some answers? If it is so, thank you for sharing.

  6. At least this dolorous post ended on a happy note. Congratulations on tenure! (Now you can wait for your university to follow mine and institute “post-tenure review.”)

  7. As I regularly point out, this had all already happened with usury well before any of our grandparents were born. Adultery may represent a new(ish) specific subject matter here, but aside from the specific subject matter the Great Pastoral Amnesia is really just the same old same old. Francis is the new Pius VIII.


    I know that this is a great disappointment to ultramontanists everywhere; but their disappointment was inevitable.

    The main feature of authority is that you are morally obliged (within due limits) to obey those in authority; not a guarantee that those in authority are never wrong. Catholics, being modern people like everyone else, need to re-learn this ancient lesson as much as anyone.

  8. Bruce Charlton’s comment is wise. The Church as a coin-operated always-on turn-the-crank truth machine was a strawman constructed by paleoprotestants. After knocking the strawman down, paleoprotestants like the Lollards substituted the “authority” of “fixed” biblical text for the authority of capricious and flawed human leaders. De facto this just meant usurpation of Church authority: it did not provide the desired truth machine, it just made every man his own Pope (and later his own King).

    And we are all protestants now, in terms of how our thoughts work.

    Fortunately though even people trapped in protestant modes of thought can be Catholic.

  9. Amen. As has been pointed out before, by others, and much better the fact that legitimate human authority often errs likely just shows that the authority in question is human, not that he has no authority. Despite centuries of attempts, you really can’t have the Catholic Church without having the *Roman* Catholic Church. I get that apologetically it’s easy to cast stones at authority when you aren’t explicit about your own. That’s not exactly a revelation here.

    If the papacy is some bomb waiting to explode I’ll happily throw myself on the grenade. Our Lord warned there would be times of coldness that even the elect – per impossibile – would be in danger of losing the Faith.

  10. I’ve been stuck here for years. This issue has been talked about under name ‘paradox of traditional Catholicism’ on fora etc. for years with not much resolution.

    Protestants with no intention of becoming Catholic seem to have actually been able to take Communion under canon 844.4 for over thirty years, so it makes sense the divorced & remarried want an exception carved out for them too.

    Sedevacantism is too absurd for me, although they do make a good point that SSPX doesn’t solve anything in terms of making the faith coherent.

    The only other option I find plausible is Eastern Orthodoxy although I don’t find it as attractive or convincing as what I imagined Catholicism would be. But I guess we must live in the real world.

    Congratulations on tenure.

  11. Zippy is completely correct in my eyes, and the truth of his position is fairly obvious on any serious read of the history of the Church, the writings of the fathers, etc.

    Moreover, everyone already knows what the solution to the current crisis is, because it’s the exact same as the solution to every other crisis in the history of the Church: become a saint. That’s how the world actually gets better, saints and people striving to become them.

  12. I think this post is naive, but despite being naive is also basically right: sometimes very naive people people still just see the way things are when they look at them, even when the smart, non-naive people don’t.

    So have you concluded that Catholicism is false? [I drew that conclusion more than two years ago.]

  13. > The main feature of authority is that you are morally obliged (within due limits) to obey those in authority; not a guarantee that those in authority are never wrong.

    Not for the Church, which insists that it is to be not only obeyed but also believed. Pope Francis has not ordered me to do anything; he has taught me manifest falsehoods. And, as I pointed out, all the goods promised by the Church depend on the reliability of certain doctrines. We need the truth machine. It doesn’t have to give us the truth about everything, but it can’t give wrong official answers in its supposed core domain of validity. When it does that, we have a serious problem.

  14. Bonald:
    Even the actual authority of fatherhood requires the veracity of certain facts, e.g. the actual fact of fatherhood. So the reliability of pretty much anything requires faith in foundational facts (or doctrines if you prefer). That isn’t a special case, it is universally the human condition in this world.

    We need the truth machine.

    You may think you need it, but you literally can’t have it in this world. Even if we had a machine that always produced true propositions we are still stuck with our own fallibilities and limitations as receivers of the truth to which those propositions refer. Best to face that fact and accept that what you actually need is something that is actually possible, to wit, faith (trust in God-who-reveals).

  15. No other authority claims anything like infallibility. Certainly the Church would not claim such power if she didn’t think we need it.

    In what could faith concretely consist but treating something as a truth machine?

  16. The main concomitant of a highly restricted doctrine of infallibility is that very little of what the Church says and does is infallible. More to the specific point, I don’t know of anyone who is claiming that Amoris (or Pius VII on confessors, usury, absolution, and the eucharist for that matter) are infallible.

  17. Bonald:

    In what could faith concretely consist but treating something as a truth machine?

    Faith is not mechanical; it is trust vested in a person.

  18. @Zippy.

    I get that. So who do we trust? The Church before Francis or the Church after Francis?

    Are most marriages invalid, like Francis says? Or they are not, like people said before Francis? Do we proselytize to members of other religions or stop doing that? (like Francis said). If we are divorced, do we go to Eucharist or not?

    These are practical matters. They must be defined so we know what we should do. We can live with the ignorance about the fate of unbaptised children or the properties of angels. But not about how we should behave.

    I am not wise enough or holy enough to decide these matters. This is why I am a Catholic. I trust the Church to guide me. But if the Church says white and then says black, you have to decide if you trust the past Church or the present Church. This is not my role. I am not a Protestant

  19. We are obliged to believe what the Church [I]actually teaches[/I].

    The church has not [I]actually taught[/I] that adultery can be morally acceptable or that adulterers can receive communion.

    Thinking up hypothetical scenarios in which the Church officially embraces heresy is not spiritually healthy.

  20. imnobody00:
    The two biggest complaints about the Catholic Church are that she is always telling everyone what to do, and that we need to know what to do but she won’t tell us what that is.

  21. @Bonald

    Congratulations on the tenure.

    We need the truth machine.

    You have a truth machine but you’re not listening. The Pharisees were also convinced that they were 100% right and that Jesus was leading people into error.

    A truth machine is not an echo chamber.

  22. > Faith is not mechanical; it is trust vested in a person.

    I disagree. I am supposed to trust the Pope not because of his personal qualities but because of his office and his manner of presentation, criteria which are to be applied mechanically.

    Vatican II taught that we are to accept even the Pope’s noninfallible teachings with complete credulity. Only heretics like Charles Curran would refuse to accept a teaching of the Church on the technicality that it had not been infallibly pronounced. I can remember not many years ago, faithful Catholics still felt uncomfortable disagreeing with a Pope’s non-official, “off the cuff” remarks. They needed to be reminded that this was okay while being warned to do it with caution. Today, it is inconceivable to give the Vatican this sort of trust.

  23. Bonald:

    We agree that divine faith is not faith in the person of the pope, or any other mere man. (Divine faith is, of course, faith in the Divine Persons).

    Faith in general is belief in the trustworthiness of particular persons, though, not blindly accepting output from a truth machine. The latter is a post-protestant idea of faith. Religious faith is faith in – belief in the trustworthiness of – God.

    As the Vicar of Christ on earth the Pope has authority. He is your and my king, within the domains of his authority. That doesn’t make his pronouncements infallible absent the conditions for infallibility, let alone does it turn his expressly-disclaimed-as-pastoral-only off the cuff remarks and exhortations into doctrine.

    Vatican II taught that we are to accept even the Pope’s noninfallible teachings with complete credulity.

    Pope Paul VI taught that Vatican II was a pastoral council and defined no doctrines. I accept his teaching on the matter with complete credulity.

    Curran is a heretic for the same reason anyone is a heretic: he persistently and intransigently dissents from Church doctrine.

    Bergoglio/Francis may be a heretic (I’ll prescind from opining on the question specifically), and may even be an anti-Pope, but it is beyond our competence – our authority – to say. If so it will be resolved by the Church in due time. Popes have been heretics before; we’ve had anti-popes before. That doesn’t make the present situation trivial or anything less than terribly grave, of course, but it isn’t really safe to panic unless we’ve lost Divine faith. God will sort it out, He is more than up to the task, and it certainly isn’t up to you and I.

    I can remember not many years ago, faithful Catholics still felt uncomfortable disagreeing with a Pope’s non-official, “off the cuff” remarks.

    I don’t know what faithful Catholics in particular you are referring to, but my half century of experience as a Catholic (without pretense to the ‘faithful’ qualifier) isn’t like that at all. I’ve been arguing against ultramontanism for quite a long time, for what it is worth, and don’t find it even slightly plausible.

  24. Bonald, long time reader but first time commenter, I cannot agree with your conclusion though that the harm that the Church has by this permanently damaged her claim to an authoritative magisterium. I agree with you that the plain meaning of the text of Amoris Laetitia seems to support communion for unrepentant adulterers. This in itself is not enough to entirely undermine the authority of the Church’s teaching office. An apostolic exhortation can be wrong; the pope has not clearly endorsed a heretical statement while invoking the office of infallibility. That would totally undermine the system. A future pope could undo this damage by clearly condeming the idea while invoking the fullness of his authority, as JP2 did with women’s ordination. That then would not be just the temporary victory of one clerical party. Note how Francis knows he cannot explore anything in the territory of ordaining women to the priesthood, because JP2 shut the door on that with an infallible statement.

    Now that doesn’t answer your objection that if the Pope and many of the world’s bishops are sowing confusion in official and unofficial statements, even while not formally changing any infallible teaching “on the books,” aren’t we no better off than the Protestants? That would be the case—if this state of affairs were to go on indefinitely. By God’s will and the determined effort of those who are faithful to orthodoxy, it will not. This is not an entirely unprecedented position for the Church to be in. We are in, to use the phrase of Newman, a “temporary suspense of the function of the Ecclesia Docens” (see this post by Fr. Hunwicke http://liturgicalnotes.blogspot.com/2015/11/the-temporary-suspense-of-function-of.html). In the Arian crisis, many influential bishops supported the heretical position, even though Nicea remained “on the books.” St. Athanasius was even unjustly excommunicated by Pope Liberius! Things were also bleak in the monothelitism crisis, and Pope Honorius I was pothusmously anathematized at the 3rd Council of Constantinople for either his monothelite sympathies or at least his failure to condemn it.

    So yes things look bleak. But they have looked bleak in earlier periods of Church history as well. Going back into biblical times, they must’ve looked even bleaker in the 300th year of the Israelites’ 400 years of slavery! You have correctly written against “pious BS” that doesn’t do anything in the face of major crises because God will work everything out in the end. But now is a time where our faith must prompt us to fight hard to defend the truth in whatever little ways we can, not kick the Church while she’s down by writing works of despair.

  25. You raise very serious points. Our faith in God should remain primary to all else, and we must accept God is allowing the Church to face a very serious challenge.

    In your conclusions though, I think we would need to see something more along the explicit lines of the Pope saying “yes adultery is good, and this is officially an infallible statement” before losing faith in the Papacy or the specific power of infallibility, as already described in its limitations.

    Many saints have challenged Popes in their errors. Cardinal Burke may be one of those. St. Francis of Assisi was one!

  26. I’m sorry, but I’m going to write a book.

    This problem really is very easy. It is only complicated by the fact that many who identify as Catholics, have a priori excluded the real resolution to this problem, without theological justification.

    You said: “But if an anti-pope can rule the Church without the Church noticing it, corrupting the deposit of faith, how can we be sure this didn’t happen 100, 500, or 1500 years ago?”

    This is the crux of the matter; plenty of people – thousands and thousands of people – have noticed that anti-popes have been pretending to “run” the “church” for decades. Never before in history, have the institutions and purported clergy of the Church, repudiated the prior Tradition with ubiquitous denials of the prior, explicitly defined doctrines and anathemas. That only happened in the latter half of the 20th century, and plenty of people noticed it. And to anyone with a well-formed, Catholic conscience, and a familiarity with historical facts, it is easy to pinpoint the time when we have certainty that the “popes” were really anti-popes: the usurpation by John XXIII, from at least the publication of Pacem in Terris. Further, it is clear from at least 1967 on, that there was a major defection from the authentic Magisterium of the Church, broadly speaking. And even amongst those who refuse to face the full implications of this, millions have nevertheless acknowledged that there is a massive crisis of unprecedented proportions currently rocking the Church to its foundations, which often involves explicit criticism of (purported) popes and of the hierarchy more generally for their egregious failures of judgment, orthodoxy, prudence, etc.

    So, yes: people have noticed! It would indeed be strange if nobody made a peep or expressed any surprise, but nothing could be further from the truth. Many Catholics have very vocally expressed their dismay and acute concern through these decades of apostasy. There is no prior parallel in Church history, with the limited exception of the Arian crisis (very different, because there were not 2000 years’ worth of Magisterial documents at that time, meaning some doctrinal definitions were still open to legitimate debate, even though their necessary consequences would be heretical, and thus came to be condemned).

    Let us think about the pertinent facts: 1) The Scriptures directly predict the Great Apostasy, and Holy Tradition has always affirmed that it will occur; 2) Holy Tradition has consistently read Apocalypse 12 (the tail of the dragon and the falling stars) as referring explicitly to a major defection of the clergy – especially bishops – near the end of the age; this was the explicit teaching of St. Robert Bellarmine in his commentaries on the Apocalypse, as well as of other Fathers, Doctors, Saints, prophets and seers, including sister Lucia, who often affirmed that this was an element of our Lady’s message at Fatima; 3) the Supreme Pontiffs warned in numerous encyclicals over the past few centuries, that the Church was being infiltrated by non-Catholics; 4) St. Robert and other Doctors and Saints, and also apparitions like La Salette (and probably the Third Secret), explicitly predicted an antipope to accompany the apostasy; 5) while doing this, as we approached the moment of crisis, Pius XI, Leo XIII and Pius XII took explicit steps to re-affirm all the doctrinal premises of the Sedevacantist thesis, with Pius XI declaring St. Robert Bellarmine a Doctor of the Church and advancing him as the “Doctor of the Papacy,” explicitly citing his teaching on the papacy as the reason for proclaiming him a Doctor at that important time “by a special counsel of Divine providence;” 7) the Protestant Apostasy and the loss of the Papal States during a military action by Liberal militants in 1870, are book-ends, as it were, upon the destruction of Christendom in Europe, and of the Church’s exterior power; at the beginning and end of that, to deal with the threat to doctrine and discipline posed by Protestant/Liberal principles of private judgment and anti-authoritarianism, the Church affirmed the principles of Sedevacantism. It began with the Bull Cum Ex Apostolatus of Paul IV, was refined when St. Robert exhaustively synthesized the entirety of prior Tradition on membership in the Church and its application to an heretical pretender to (or erstwhile occupant of) the Holy See, and was even reaffirmed at the end, by the Relator of Vatican I, who gave the official clarification on the Archbishop of Baltimore’s question in the presence of the assembled Council Fathers, that openly heretical popes would lose office automatically, even as they ceased to be members of the Church – citing explicitly the teaching of St. Robert.

    Considering all of that, it should not surprise any Catholic that a massive defection from the Faith should be possible, nor that it would be led by the bishops, nor that it would involve the emergence of an antipope; the only thing for us to determine, then, is the Church’s teaching on how to find the Church and her true pontiff in such a crisis. And there, too, the Sedevacantist thesis should not surprise us, since for 500 years the Church repeated, again and again, either the explicit possibility of a manifestly heretical pope being ipso facto deposed (as in Cum Ex Apostolatus, St. Robert’s De Controversiis and the proceedings of Vatican I), or, alternately, affirmed all of the the theological principles which produce that conclusion (as in St. Robert’s De Controversiis, the proceedings of Vatican I, Satis Cognitum, Mystici Corporis, Billot’s De Ecclesia, and the approved, more authoritative theological manuals – Van Noort, Cartechini, Ott, Tanquerey, etc. – generally). Indeed, the whole scope of this history, the warnings of non-Catholic infiltration of the Church in papal encyclicals, the reaffirmation of the theological principles of automatic excommunication for heresy, etc., all betoken the special assistance of Divine providence. But we ignore it!

    Pius XI even proclaimed St. Robert “Doctor of the Papacy” by “a special counsel of Divine providence,” setting his feast (for some reason!), not on the anniversary of his repose, but on the day of the first apparition at Fatima. It is St. Robert who made Sedevacantism the required theological position in the case of a publicly heretical (ex-)pope.

    By the first half of the 20th century, the settled teaching, based on these principles, was that even material heretics are automatically excommunicated – with the understanding that a mere mistake about theology is not material heresy, but, rather, the lack of an intent to adhere to the Magisterium in the sense required by the Magisterium. The sin of heresy and the delict (ecclesiastical crime) of heresy are different from one another, and both are different from the mere status of being a material heretic. The sin of heresy requires pertinacity; the canonical crime of heresy involves at least a presumption of pertinacity; but the automatic excommunication for the simple fact of being a material heretic occurs automatically with or without pertinacity, by the very nature of the Church’s teaching on how one is and remains a member of the Church (i.e., manifestly conflicting theological convictions expel one from the Church, since otherwise the Church’s marks of Unity, Catholicity and Apostolicity would be destroyed). One does not need to prove that Paul VI, JPII, Francis, etc., were pertinacious, malicious heretics; one only needs to demonstrate that they do not adhere to the authentic and traditional Magisterium, for whatever reason, and thus are manifestly of a different faith and profession, not participating in the Unity, Catholicity and Apostolicity of the Church as members Thereof.

    It really is crystal-clear, cut and dry Catholic theology that affirms this. But we have inherited a world where not noticing things, and wishing not to appear “extreme,” prevents many people from saying what is obviously true – about race, about gender, about religion – on a routine basis. Our problem is not that Sedevacantism is improbable or difficult; it is that people have convinced themselves beforehand that this “extreme” position is unpalatable and impossible, for the exact same reason that “Cuckservatives” bury their head in the sand about the inevitable consequences of the sodomite agenda, or of mass immigration, or of ignoring racial differences. It’s not that the truth is complicated; it’s that the truth has been eschewed beforehand as unthinkable. Such is the post-conciliar abhorrence of admitting the obvious fact, that the “pope” is no longer Catholic.

    But, obviously, he is not a Catholic! This is very plain! He is not a member of our Church; he does not share our Faith. Sadly, the visceral sense of the Faith has been blunted even in many well-meaning persons, so that they cannot feel as keenly as they ought, the profoundly anti-Catholic nature of this new establishment.

    Sedevacantism is the only theological explanation that does not affirm contradictions or impossibilities; the alternatives (that heretics can be popes, or that the Church could err so seriously even in her ordinary magisterium as to lead the faithful into error and sin) require one to contradict the Magisterium. Sedevacantism is not without difficulties; but it is without impossibilities, unlike Conciliarism. Once it is acknowledged, the path forward is plain. The remnant of faithful Catholics, acknowledging that the Great Apostasy has destroyed the True Faith in most souls, must assemble themselves and consecrate new bishops to take the place of sees left vacant by heresy; we must elect an actual, supreme pontiff, and perform the consecration of Russia. It was not feasible for the few Sedevacantist or resisting groups to do this while there was still any credibility left to the Novus Ordo institution, nor while many true Catholics remained in its bosom. But with each day, Conciliarism’s desolation is more obvious, and the number of those who retain the real, ancient Faith while remaining within the belly of that beast, diminishes. Soon, no faithful will remain loyal to it, for loyalty to it will require explicit repudiation of Tradition, rather than the implicit loss of Tradition at present.

    I will not rehash it all here, but I will point out, briefly, the two chief mistakes in attempting to defend the Conciliar organization. 1) The idea that everything which is “not infallible,” could therefore be disastrously wrong. This is itself an heresy. It is the certain teaching of the universal, ordinary Magisterium of the Church, that, in addition to the infallibility of the universal, ordinary Magisterium, neither can the Church lead souls into danger or serious error in her more solemn documents – the Liturgy, official laws, solemn documents (though not infallible) of the papal magisterium, papally-approved synods, etc. These could contain incidental errors, and perhaps even ideas that would one day be condemned as wrong; but they could not profess explicitly condemned heresies or gravely sinful commands. 2) The idea that one remains a member of the Church until something “official” is done about it, when the certain teaching of the universal, ordinary Magisterium, is that all who publicly manifest their lack of intent to adhere to the authentic Magisterium in its traditional sense, whether they do this maliciously, or out of ignorance or even out of confusion over the nature and extent of the obligation, are no longer members of the Church.

    Two chief errors flow from these mistakes, respectively: 1) An unprecedented sense of entitlement to DISOBEY anything that is not couched explicitly, as “infallible” teaching, even though the Church’s infallible, ordinary Magisterium has explicitly stated that the faithful must internally submit to the Church’s teaching in the Liturgy, papal encyclicals, approved synods, decrees of the Roman Congregations, code of Canon Law, etc., not on grounds of the Church’s Infallibility, but on grounds of her right as an at least doctrinally safe, authoritative Teacher to be heard and obeyed. So, if one owns Francis and the bishops with him as the Catholic Magisterium, one must obey their magisterial activity, in the sense THEY intend, with docility and trust that there could be no serious error or sin in it. For that is what it means to trust the Church and to be her child. 2) A paradoxically and ironically contrary sentiment, that, despite disregarding much of what they teach and command, one MUST NOT DISAVOW purported authorities, even when these authorities are manifestly no longer Catholic (or are even anti-Catholic)! Hence arise such absurd situations, as when Conciliarists criticize Sedevacantists for being “Protestant,” because they refuse to follow a “pope” who celebrates the Protestant Reformation and calls Protestant clerics “brother-bishops.”

    There are two syllogisms in proof of Sedevacantism, both very simple:

    1a) To be a member of the Church, one must profess the Catholic Faith (and be baptized, and not be excommunicated by legitimate authority). The Magisterium has clarified that all public heretics, both material and formal, are ipso facto excluded from membership in the Church as they do not profess the Faith.

    2a) To be the pope, one must be a member of the Church.

    Therefore, a man who claims to be the pope but manifestly lacks the intention of adhering to the authentic and traditional Magisterium, for whatever reason, is neither a Catholic, nor the pope.

    1b) The Universal, Ordinary Magisterium is as Infallible as the Extraordinary Magisterium; further, the rather more authoritative elements of the Magisterium, though they could theoretically contain incidental errors, are at least infallibly safe and cannot lead the faithful into serious error or sin.

    2b) But, since Vatican II, numerous heresies, mortally sinful laws, objectionable, impious and even invalid rites, alongside widespread theological errors, offensive attitudes and sacrilegious customs, have been consistently and universally promulgated, endorsed or tolerated throughout the clergy and institutions that once belonged to the Catholic Church. The Traditional Faith, Rites, customs, laws and doctrines continued only in a few, dissenting communities from the Eastern and Western Rites.

    Therefore, either a) the Catholic Faith is false – which would give short shrift to two millennia of miraculous history; or b) a crisis of faith and of apostasy has occurred. Given the warnings in Scripture, Tradition and prophecy, and given the fact that many hundreds of thousands of faithful souls remain who have refused communion or obedience to this novel monstrosity, and given the fact that many millions more remain within the bosom of Conciliarism, yet do so only with grave misgivings and an internal refusal to acquiesce to its more manifest errors, the latter seems to be the more probable explanation. The Faith lives on, the errors are noted, trust in the Conciliar establishment is non-existent in all who have the gift of supernatural Faith in their souls. All is not lost!

    I’m sorry if this went on too long; but it is time to face the facts and admit the obvious. This post-VII thing is not the Church. It no longer uses the rites, the laws, the customs, the traditions, the doctrine nor even the language of the Church. It is the Great Delusion, the Great Apostasy, the Tail of the Dragon. Sedevacantism leaves us still in a crisis, but it does not contradict any point of Catholic doctrine and points the way forward and out. Any other position requires us to deny either the Indefectibility of the Church (for, remember, it’s not only “infallible” teaching that is obligatory, safe and required to be without heresy), or requires us to condemn a certain teaching of the Magisterium (i.e., that all manifest heretics are automatically excommunicated with or without any canonical sentence).

    The only thing that will produce a crisis of faith in the Remnant, is trying to square the circle of how manifestly heretical clergy and institutions could be acknowledged as Catholic. For that will lead one either to despair and disavow the Church’s plenipotentiary nature as a sure and divine guide to Faith and morals, “a safe way, in which fools shall not err,” or it will lead one to embrace heretical propositions in perplexed resignation to the assumption that they must, somehow, be orthodox. Either eventuality is to be avoided, for both are materially heretical propositions.

    Sedevacantism may seem “extreme,” but for the man who studies all the Magisterial doctrine on the topic, it was treated as an entirely possible situation by Doctors of the Church and Supreme Pontiffs, and even an Ecumenical Council. They did not treat it as an heretical or extreme notion; all the evidence is that they saw it coming, and sought to vigorously affirm the theological principles that acknowledged this, especially on the eve of the crisis. It is a hugely significant development in Church history, to be sure; but doctrinally it is not a leap – not even a stretch; it is well within the defined possibilities – nay, it is positively required by established, doctrinal principles. We must stop assuming that it is excluded a priori from acceptable Catholic opinion. It is the PRESCRIBED opinion in our situation, by the supreme magisterial authority, and Sainted Doctors of the Church, alike.

    Again, sorry for the length. The topic is immense.

  27. Source for an expressly heretical statement by a sitting Pope?

    No, figures. Sedevacantists are like all Cartesians, what matters isn’t concrete reality, it’s what mental states we wish to assign people.

  28. Of course we are better off than Protestants (among whom count the sedevacantists). We have the Eucharist, and the sacramental means to worthily (through the proxy of Christ’s worthiness) receive it. Next to that everything else is nothing.

    The fact that it has been becoming pastorally easier for many to receive unworthily, in the process paving the streets of Hell with the skulls of bishops, has not taken away our ability to receive Christ worthily.

    Aristokles above is right to suggest that this is what the call to sainthood looks like.

  29. Bonald, it is true that the current or “living” magisterium is the “proximate rule of faith” relative to the past magisterium, but you may have misunderstood what that means. As far as I know, it means that the current magisterium has the right to authoritatively determine the meaning and degree of authority of previous magisterial documents. This is compatible with the view that ambiguous documents ought to be interpreted in the light of unambiguous (or less ambiguous) ones, including earlier ones.

    Thus, it is arguably impermissible to claim that “Amoris Laetitia” misinterprets earlier documents or underestimates their authority, but as far as I can see, it is fine to say that some passages are ambiguous and hence should be interpreted in the light of earlier documents such as “Familiaris Consortio.”

    If Pope Francis wanted to authoritatively preclude such interpretations, he could simply answer the five dubia accordingly, but he hasn’t done so, precisely because he doesn’t want to officially commit the Church to the Kasper thesis.

  30. You are worried that if we adopted a traditional (and in your opinion non-natural) reading of “Amoris Laetitia,” we could then with equal right adopt modernist readings of earlier documents. I have two counter-arguments:

    1) Leo XIII taught that Bible passages ought to be interpreted according to their natural meaning unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise. If we apply the same principle to magisterial documents, we can argue that we have compelling reasons for a non-natural interpretations of “Amoris Laetitia,” but not of Pius XII’s encyclicals.

    2) Ambiguity is arguably part of the natural meaning of “Amoris Laetitia.” If you read the famous Chapter 8, you get the impression that the pope deliberately refrains from taking an explicit stand on the Kasper proposal.

    You also worry that if we interpret “Amoris Laetitia” in accordance with earlier documents, we could then never understand a magisterial document unless we also knew all previous documents. But this is only true if you assume that “Amoris Laetitia” is in itself just as unambiguous and straightforward as earlier documents, which I have already denied.

    A tradition-minded Catholic can accept all clear and unambiguous statements of the post-Vatican II magisterium while interpreting the vague or ambiguous ones in accordance with pre-Vatican II teachings. If a pope thinks traditionalists have misclassified unambiguous statements as ambiguous ones in order to have an excuse for re-interpreting them, he can explicitly teach that the earlier teaching was not infallible and has been overturned, but as far as I know, that has never happened.

    Note that “private interpretation” of Bible passages or magisterial documents is permissible as long as the Church has not declared an official interpretation. Otherwise, we could never understand anything because of an infinite regress: Every official interpretation would itself have to be officially interpreted.

    On the other hand, it is good that when private interpretations get out of hand, official interpretations are possible (which then in turn must be privately interpreted). This can still be used as an argument against Protestantism.

  31. This is a philosophical crisis. The Aristotelian-Thomist tradition has been replaced by various post-kantian philosophies, and the consequences are still mostly unknown. After centuries of treatises, debates and definitions, maybe it’s time to accept the divorce of Athens and Jerusalem. I don’t know.

  32. “The 2017 Church is every bit as emphatic about rejecting racism, national borders, and proselytism as the 1958 Church was about rejecting Communism, Protestantism, and Islam.”

    I don’t think that is true. The 1958 Church taught that communism, Protestantism and Islam were intrinsically evil.

    There are certainly lots of condemnations of “racism,” but that can be interpreted as “racial hatred.” I don’t think the 2017 Church teaches that every form of loyalty to one’s own race is intrinsically evil.

    Similarly, I don’t know of any magisterial document that says national borders are intrinsically evil. If I remember correctly, Pope Francis recently admitted that immigration policy is a matter of prudentiual judgement. There are certainly many episcopal and papal statements which support a very permissive immigration policy, but statements about prudential judgements under concrete historical circumstances are non-magisterial or at least carry much less magisterial weight than statements about timeless moral truths.

    There are also some statements against “proselytism,” but that can refer either to all attempts to convert others or only to the use of dishonorable means for conversion. We are free to choose the second meaning as long as the magisterium hasn’t decided otherwise. The recent Vatican document which disapproves of organized efforts to convert Jews was explicitly labeled non-magisterial.

  33. “People are rightly skeptical that a few scattered malcontents understand Catholicism better than the Pope and bishops.”

    There was the Arian crisis, so the task of Catholic apologists may not be qualitatively more difficult now than it was in 1958.

  34. When he was still an Anglican, Mgr Ronald Knox asked himself a simple question: “Why did those who anathematized Nestorius come to be regarded as “Catholics” rather than those who still accept his doctrines?” After all, the Assyrian Church of the East has maintained its distinctive witness for fifteen hundred years. He realised that we do not have to concern ourselves with theological arguments at all; the short answer is that the “Catholics” had the bishop of Rome in their party and the Nestorians did not. He came to see that “The fideles, be they many or few, be their doctrine apparently traditional or apparently innovatory, be their champions honest or unscrupulous, are simply those who are in visible communion with the see of Rome.”

    As he puts, “if you ask a Catholic “What is the Catholic Faith? ” and are told it is that held by the Catholic Church; if you persevere, and ask what is the Catholic Church, you are no longer met with the irritatingly circular definition “the Church which holds the Catholic Faith” ; you are told it is the Church which is in communion with the Bishop of Rome.”

    It is a real test, not a vicious circle and one that is is remarkably easy of application; just what one would expect of the criterion of a divine message, intended for all, regardless of learning, capacity or circumstances.

  35. Leo XIII taught that Bible passages ought to be interpreted according to their natural meaning unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise. If we apply the same principle to magisterial documents

    It should be noted that there is no parity between the two in the first place. The Scriptures were positively inspired by God, every word in them (including the allegorical parts) is there because God wanted it to be. Magesterial documents are negatively inspired, God prevents (to whatever degree the specific level of authority invoked warrants) error from being taught in them.

  36. Father Antonio Spadaro: “Theology is no #Mathematics. 2 + 2 in #Theology can make 5. Because it has to do with #God and real #life of #people…”

  37. Doesn’t this all unwind itself? If liberal Catholics say we’re allowed to #in good conscience# ignore things that make us unhappy, or make exceptions, etc. – can’t we just adhere to pre-whatever (Vatican 2? Francis? etc.?) and ignore the liberals?

    Is the teaching actually magisterial? Are we allowed to #in good conscience# simply ignore it?

  38. It seems to me that ultramontanism has worked quite well for the Church for a very long time. However overdone it was, I feel no pleasure at its demise. As I’ve been arguing, we’re going to have trouble finding something to take its place, sociologically speaking.

  39. Most objections concede the main point, in that they imply I don’t have to worry much about believing what Pope Francis wants me to believe.

    Several people remind us that, individually speaking, we still have all we need from the Church. It’s true that I don’t need to wait for clarification from the Pope to know whether I’m still obliged to be faithful to my wife. Then again, my belief in Catholic sexual ethics doesn’t depend on Church authority. It’s the other way around. I believe it for independent reasons, and the fact that only the Church got this key thing right is a mark of evidence in her favor. So, yeah, if you want to know what God wants you personally to do, that’s as clear as ever for most of us.

    If your interest is in prosecuting the culture wars (the main topic of this blog), then the Catholic Church shall henceforth be no help. You could say I only care about this because it’s easier than confronting my personal sins. You could say I’m making excuses because I’ve already been a heretic for a long time on immigration/racism. But I think it’s a reasonable thing to lament.

  40. You’re right, Bonald. It is very disheartening to discover we don’t have a Supreme Pontiff that we may simply take at face value and implicitly trust!

    It is a grave danger to Catholic evangelism, at the very least.

  41. It seems to me that ultramontanism has worked quite well for the Church for a very long time. However overdone it was, I feel no pleasure at its demise. As I’ve been arguing, we’re going to have trouble finding something to take its place, sociologically speaking.

    Ultramontanism may have been useful once, but it is still false. If that wasn’t obvious in the past, it ought to be so now. I see no reason why we should lament the demise of a false conception.

    Geocentrism was once a useful conception that lent support to a number of important theological truths about God, Man, and Creation, yet it seems silly to me to lament the fact that it is false.

  42. It may be some trouble to find something to replace ultramontanism sociologically speaking, but if it’s false it’s still worth rejecting. I’m reminded of some of Rad Trad’s articles on some unfortunate side-effects of the Counter-Reformation, particularly some of the ahistorical Josephite devotions that developed: http://theradtrad.blogspot.com/2015/08/josephology-part-12-burning.html

    As near as I can tell, ultramontanist tendencies were set in place by a similar impulse. A sort of agree and amplify if you will, taking our opponent’s accusations and running with them. The tactic, favored by some alt-right types, of responding to accusations with “yeah, so what? Maybe I oughta double down” is not without it’s dangers.

    I can sympathize with regretting the loss, but it had to go.

  43. Yes Mr. Paterson Seymour that quote and the Cardinal Manning quotes are all very well and good; there is truly nothing the Pope could do to make you waver?

  44. Barbour asks, “[T]here is truly nothing the Pope could do to make you waver?”

    I regard any attempt to define Catholics by their tenets, or the Church by its teachings, to be misconceived. Of course, people being in visible communion with Rome means that Rome has seen no reason to excommunicate them, so that unity and orthodoxy are to that extent correlative.

    After all, “the Catholic Faith” is an abstraction, so ostensive definition is impossible. If we take it to mean “the faith of Catholics,”(and it is difficult to see what else it can mean) then for this to work, “Catholics” must have a definite meaning in extension and a doctrinal definition simply begs the question: it assumes what we are trying to prove.

  45. Todor wrote, “This is a philosophical crisis. The Aristotelian-Thomist tradition has been replaced by various post-kantian philosophies.”

    Largely due to the failure of the Neo-Scholastics effectively to answer, or even address, the criticisms of modern philosophers. . The notions of substance and accidents, matter and form, essence and existence, causality &c are obviously at home in an abstract account of our descriptive language, but can we hope to derive the structure of reality from the grammar of description? Is there a necessary correspondence between the structure of our descriptive language and that of every describable thing?

    The Transcendental Thomists, beginning with Joseph Marechal and including Karl Rahner, Joseph Danceel and Bernard Lonergan recognised the problem, but largely failed to resolve it.

  46. Tell me Michael, what is a philosopher? What is language? What is failure?

    I’m afraid that there is no correspondence between the words you’re using and reality.

  47. [B]ut given what the Catholic Church has just done to herself, it’s hard to see the point anymore.

    I know I’ve held my tongue here for the most part, but it’s been three days since you posted this and I’m still floored by the fact that it came from you. Bonald, my friend, you are too smart to be saying things like this.

    Tell me, has there been a single word or act issued from Pope Francis or any of the post-Vatican II popes that has forced you to choose between being obedient to the “current Magisterium” on the one hand, and being true to your Sensus Catholicus on the other?

    For myself, I know that the answer is “no.”

    All I can lament is that I have been deprived of certain gifts, gifts I no longer have the luxury of taking for granted like my forefathers once did: the gift of always having a traditional priest, the gift of always being able to attend the traditional Mass, the gift of always having traditional catechesis offered by the local Catholic parish/school, and of course, the gift of having rock solid Papal teachings on the issues most pressing to our age.

    As a recovering liberal, I am tempted to rise up in rage and fury and demand that I have a right to the things I have been deprived by the modern hierarchy. But I know deep down, that’s not true. I have no such rights. I don’t even have rights to the gifts that I have now.

    Take heart, Bonald. The Wisdom and Love of Divine Providence is evident even in the lamentable deprivations that we presently experience.

  48. I suspect many Catholic philosophers turned their back on the A-T tradition when they realized that other philosophical approaches could give them what they want (like a Counter-Syllabus). Now, if 2+2 can equal 5 in theology (a non-eucledean theology?), some may be tempted to leave the Faith and stick with our good ol’ friend Aristotle.

  49. Bonald:
    You are right that a traditionalist Pope in an ultramontane reality would give us a material advantage in the culture wars. So would having super powers though. Personally I’ve always wanted to be able to teleport.

  50. MSP:

    You can take the modernist philosophical line, but it doesn’t just blow up religious knowledge, it blows up all knowledge whatsoever. That doesn’t seem like a reasonable way to go. So, back to Plato and Aristotle.

  51. Aindrea wrote, “It is very disheartening to discover we don’t have a Supreme Pontiff that we may simply take at face value and implicitly trust!”

    Can you think of one who could be implicitly trusted during the quarrels between Empire and Papacy, or when the Habsburg-Valois rivalry was being fought out in Italy, or during the Thirty Years War, the Quietist controversy, the Jansenist heresy, the Gallican controversy, Josephism, the suppression of the Jesuits, the French Revolution and its aftermath, or the Risorgimento?

  52. ArkansasReactionary asks, “Tell me Michael, what is a philosopher? What is language? What is failure?”

    Wittgenstein argues, “You say to me: “You understand this expression, don’t you? Well then—I am using it in the sense you are familiar with.”— As if the sense were an atmosphere accompanying the word, which it carried with it into every kind of application. If, for example, someone says that the sentence “This is here” (saying which he points to an object in front of him) makes sense to him, then he should ask himself in what special circumstances this sentence is actually used. There it does make sense.”

    He also points out the source of misunderstanding: “You say: the point isn’t the word, but its meaning, and you think of the meaning as a thing of the same kind as the word, though also different from the word. Here the word, there the meaning. The money, and the cow that you can buy with it. (But contrast: money, and its use.)”

  53. You say: the point isn’t the word, but its meaning

    But apparently it doesn’t have a meaning. The meaning is entirely made up, and has no connection to reality.

  54. @Michael Patterson

    You should read Edward Feser’s books to see how the modern objections to Thomism are wrong. The last one is the most thorough in this debate

  55. @Zippy

    I notice that you have not answered my previous question. Your answer is only rhetoric, it does not contain any argument. I’ll try it again.

    “The fact that it has been becoming pastorally easier for many to receive unworthily, in the process paving the streets of Hell with the skulls of bishops, has not taken away our ability to receive Christ worthily.”

    Please define “worthily”. If “worthily” is “acccording to the Pope’s interpretation of the Tradition of the Church”, then a divorcee receiving Communion is not unworthy so your sentence does not make sense.

    If “worthily” is “according to the traditional doctrine of the Church as I understand it”, then you have become the final arbiter of Tradition and faith. Luther also decided that he was the final arbiter of Tradition and truth as opposed to the Pope.

  56. @Aurelius Moner

    This is well argued. But Catholicism is not only the conservation of the Deposit of the Faith. It is also practice.

    How do Sedevacantists receive Holy Sacraments. Why do these sacraments have validity without apostolic succession?

    If several groups of true Catholics, gather to elect their own Bishops, which groups have valid sacraments and the true Doctrine?

  57. This could be the next step


    With Francis, there is no time to be bored. The Catholic Church is so much fun!

  58. imnobody00,

    I’ve been a Catholic for 5 minutes; however, I thought it was pretty well known that “worthily” in this context means in the state of grace and in accordance with Church law. The Luther comment was unnecessary given the audience.

    Again, everyone in these parts gets there’s a fair amount of scandal going on. However, even *if* Pope Francis or any other prelate is hell bound, that’s all the more reason for us NOT to be scandalized. NOT to say inappropriate or further scandalous things on the world wide megaphone that could potentially harm weaker Catholic brothers. Perhaps our actions here and now of refusing to be scandalized will allow the millstones of others to be tied that much more loosely.

  59. Worthily means worthily. Objectively. In a state of grace. Duh.

  60. Josh wrote, “Objectively. In a state of grace”

    But The Epistle to the Hebrews says, “For we trust (or “are persuaded”) [πειθόμεθα] that we have a good conscience, rather than “we know.” Where is the “objectivity in that?

  61. I’ll point out that an interesting book to read, is Geoffrey Hull’s “The Banished Heart: the origins of heteropraxis in the Catholic Church,” which touches a lot on trends in the Catholic Church that have led to this situation: ultramontanism, an excessive emphasis on a misplaced understanding of proper obedience, a poor understanding of how the sensus fidelity and tradition ought to be understood as an authority (lex orandi, lex credendi).

    I’m actually in the middle of reading it now. I do think the author is wrong about some things, but he makes a lot of good points.

    To me, I don’t see Francis’ outrageous statements as a threat to the faith, since I’ve never been Catholic when Francis wasn’t Pope, but it’s interesting to hear how it effects lifelong Catholics.

    Francis’ papacy was a stumbling block to my conversion, and I suspect I would have done so sooner, perhaps a year or more if Benedict had not abdicated.

    Indeed, I think a challenge is to come up with good and succinct ways to show why Francis hasn’t destroyed the Church. Good ways are already possible, but succinct is the problem– for me it came from extensive readings of history combined with theology/philosophy, and it’s hard to communicate this to others quickly. Before Francis indeed I think this was a much easier task.

  62. Michael, it’s not that complicated. A person receives communion objectively worthily if they are in actual fact in a state of grace. That a person who believes wrongly but in good faith that he is in a state of grace is subjectively inculpable for sacrilege does not change the objective reality.

  63. ArkansasReactionary wrote, “That a person who believes wrongly but in good faith that he is in a state of grace is subjectively inculpable…”

    And does AL say more?

    I also have some difficulty with the word, “objective” here. Object of what? Of perception? Hardly. Object of the sort of non-observational knowledge we have of our actions, postures, movements, and intended actions? Hebrews appears to deny this. But how can we have an “objective” description than cannot be verified or falsified?

    So, yes, I do find it complicated.

  64. “Objective” in the common usage of “reality independent of anyone’s perceptions”. Again, not complicated.

  65. MPS

    I think Veritatis Splendor pretty much states that certain acts are objectively morally evil, adultery being one of them.

    However it’s not just the performance of the act which separates a man from God’s grace it also has to be done with full knowledge of the evil of the act and with deliberate consent. Sins which are in themselves objectively mortal, may not separate a man from God’s grace if performed in ignorance or under duress. God takes circumstances into account even though the sinner performs an objectively evil act.

    Francis, I think, takes a more expansive view of ignorance and duress than Tradition has. In my own practice, I’ve been staggered at the reasons people have given me as to why they got married. In many instances there was a fair amount of psychological duress or immaturity present. There is a lot of stupid out there.

    I think one of the big problems of Scholasticism is that it assumed the rational nature of man, and judged human actions through that lens. The fact is most people are emotive, intuitive and habitual (i.e. Cognitive misers) and very little deliberative rationality is exercised in their day to day lives. I think this is why Francis has hinted that a lot of marriages may not really be “valid” in real life. My own experience in the secular confessional is strongly supportive of this view. “Pastoral” priests tend to be far more understanding of real world human limitations than theologians, especially Traditional theologians, who tend to operate as religious Turing machines.

    This is why Francis seems to both have upheld the teaching while being more “lax” on the practice of the faith.

    One bit of scripture that I’ve been reflecting on is that of John 7:53 (the woman caught in adultery). That bit of scripture gives us no clue as to the subjective state of the woman. For all we know she could have been caught in the embrace of a lover whom she deeply loved and was not sorry for the act of adultery. In other words, there is no mention of any repentance of her sin, and yet Christ forgave her. By all rights he should have condemned her and yet didn’t. There’s more going on there than a superficial scholastic analysis would imply.

  66. Those who would so easily dismiss Thomism in order to make room for the theological novelties of the day would do well to read Studiorum Ducem:

    We so heartily approve the magnificent tribute of praise bestowed upon this most divine genius that We consider that Thomas should be called not only the Angelic, but also the Common or Universal Doctor of the Church; for the Church has adopted his philosophy for her own, as innumerable documents of every kind attest. It would be an endless task to explain here all the reasons which moved Our Predecessors in this respect, and it will be sufficient perhaps to point out that Thomas wrote under the inspiration of the supernatural spirit which animated his life and that his writings, which contain the principles of, and the laws governing, all sacred studies, must be said to possess a universal character.

    Studiorum Ducem, Encyclical of Pope Pius XI promulgated on June 29, 1923

  67. ArkansasReactionary wrote“Objective” in the common usage of “reality independent of anyone’s perceptions”

    But “objective” is a description of propositions, not things; so how can it apply to a proposition that can neither be verified or falsified?

  68. @Donnie

    I hope you don’t think I’m dismissing Thomisim. The problem isn’t with Thomists as much as it is with manualists.

  69. MPS – whether a man has divorced his wife and civilly remarried another woman is easily verified.

    Whether that man is invincibly ignorant of living in a continued state of adultery is a separate question. But it’s also an irrelevant question that has no bearing on whether a Roman Catholic minister ought to administer the Sacrament of the Eucharist to this man.

    Can. 915 Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.

  70. > But “objective” is a description of propositions, not things; so how can it apply to a proposition that can neither be verified or falsified?
    I don’t understand this objection. It doesn’t seem hard for me to understand that a proposition may be definitely either true or false even if I have no way to figure out which it is.

  71. Bonald wrote, “It doesn’t seem hard for me to understand that a proposition may be definitely either true or false even if I have no way to figure out which it is.”

    Distinguo, as the Scholastics say. My problem is with a (pseudo)-proposition that cannot, even in principle, be verified or falsified. “Richard III was responsible for the murder of the little princes in the Tower” makes sense; even though the evidence is lacking to say whether it is true or false, we know, in principle, what sort of evidence could prove it. But “that baby is only pretending to smile” or “I do not know whether what I am feeling is pain, or something else” are manifestly incapable of proof and, I would suggest meaningless.

  72. Donny wrote, “MPS – whether a man has divorced his wife and civilly remarried another woman is easily verified.”

    Of course it is. What I objected to was “A person receives communion objectively worthily if they are in actual fact in a state of grace.”

  73. We can’t imagine how to count the exact number of stars in the Milky Way, therefore that number doesn’t exist.

    And to think that only a few comments ago you were arguing that our perceptions are unconnected to reality.

  74. Of course it is. What I objected to was “A person receives communion objectively worthily if they are in actual fact in a state of grace.”

    MPS – As Zippy notes above, “We have the Eucharist, and the sacramental means to worthily (through the proxy of Christ’s worthiness) receive it.”

    Whether any particular individual is worthy of receiving Our Lord in the Sacrament of the Eucharist hinges on whether that individual has Sacramentally entered into Christ’s worthiness. In other words, whether that individual is in living in Christ’s grace.

    All who desire to live in Christ’s grace so that they can receive Him truly in the flesh must be baptized and free from the stain of mortal sin.

    A soul becomes stained by mortal sin when it commits an act that is gravely wrong, with full knowledge of the sinful action and the gravity of the offense, and with deliberate and complete consent.

    As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense.” In addition, “The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders.” Due to these realities, neither you nor I nor anyone else can ever know with certainty whether any individual soul is stained by mortal sin. Only the soul itself, and Almighty God, can know for certain.

    The Church, of course, knows this. Therefore she does not ask her ministers to judge the state of our souls when we approach for Holy Communion. It is our responsibility to examine our own consciences before approaching Our Lord in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, and to obey the law of the Church which states:

    Can. 916 A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition which includes the resolution of confessing as soon as possible.

    Now, there are those in the Church today (see the recent issuance from the bishops of Malta) who believe that this is the end of the discussion. We are responsible for our own examinations of conscience. If in the process of doing so, there are those of us living in situations that Jesus Christ Himself defined as adultery who come to believe themselves to be “at peace with God”, well then there is no one to say otherwise. All who believe themselves to be in the state of grace must be assumed to be in the state of grace, so says this crowd.

    However, it is canonically and ecclesiastically FALSE that an individual’s assessment of his or her own readiness to receive Holy Communion (according to Can. 916 above) controls a minister’s decision to administer the sacrament. The minister’s decision must be made according to a different law of the Church which states:

    Can. 915 Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.

    The minister’s decision to administer the Sacrament of the Eucharist to an individual must be made entirely independently from that individual’s assessment of their own conscience. The minister must consider three things when making their decision:

    1. Am I aware of this person having been excommunicated?
    2. Am I aware of this person having been placed under interdict?
    3. Am I aware of this person obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin?

    The answer to each of these questions regards an objective state of affairs which is easily and publicly verifiable. Ministers are expected to be familiar enough with the members of their flock to know the answer to these three questions. Not one of these questions requires Catholic ministers to read our souls when we present ourselves to receive Our Lord.

  75. MPS – I realize my response above is long and may have only indirectly addressed your objection. Therefore I will attempt to clarify things more succinctly here:

    “A person receives communion objectively worthily if they are in actual fact in a state of grace.”

    1. Whether someone is in a state of grace is a matter of fact, but one that only the person in question and Our Lord can know for certain.

    2. Every would-be recipient of Holy Communion is bound to conduct an examination of their own conscience to determine if, in actual fact, they are in a state of grace before presenting themselves to receive Our Lord.

    3. It is within the realm of possibility that, due to a deficiency of knowledge perhaps, a person persevering in manifest grave sin may still be in the state of grace. Though their actions cause offense to God, they are still in the state of grace because they are not culpable for their actions.

    4. If such a person were to present themselves for Holy Communion, and the minister was aware that the person in question was persevering in manifest grave sin, the minister would still be bound to deny that person the Sacrament of the Eucharist, even though that person is, in actual fact, still in a state of grace.

    5. Later, when the person in question is informed of the reason why they were denied the Eucharist by the minister, that person would no longer be invincibly ignorant of the manifest grave sin that they have been persevering in. At this point they would then have the opportunity to cease their sinful behavior, remain in the state of grace, and receive Our Lord in the Eucharist going forward.

  76. Donnie, I think you have a slight misunderstanding of Canon 915. If a person is obstinately persevering in grave sin, this means that they’ve already been warned and are continuing anyway. It’s not the case that a person could lawfully be denied communion for unwittingly committing a sin.

  77. ArkansasReactionary, I think you have misinterpreted the term “obstinately persisting” in the context of Canon 915. Here is the official interpretation:

    “The three required conditions are: […]

    “b) obstinate persistence, which means the existence of an objective situation of sin that endures in time and which the will of the individual member of the faithful does not bring to an end, no other requirements (attitude of defiance, prior warning, etc.) being necessary to establish the fundamental gravity of the situation in the Church.” (Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Declaration “Concerning the admission to Holy Communion of faithful who are divorced and remarried,” June 24, 2000; emphasis is mine)

  78. I stand corrected.

  79. ArkansasReactionary wrote, “We can’t imagine how to count the exact number of stars in the Milky Way, therefore that number doesn’t exist.”

    That is why most Analytical Philosophers are Finitists in mathematics. For them, no number exists, until it has been calculated, although rules for generating it do. (So, by-the-by, was Wittgenstein)

  80. Donnie wrote, “Only the soul itself, and Almighty God, can know for certain.”

    But can the soul know for certain? Hebrews 13:18 suggests otherwise; likewise Ps 19:12 “But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults.”

  81. MPS – What I mean here is, if the soul is in fact stained by mortal sin, it is possible for the soul itself to know. This is not intended to mean that the soul always knows.

  82. That is why most Analytical Philosophers are Finitists in mathematics. For them, no number exists, until it has been calculated

    The insanity of that position is pretty self evident.

  83. ArkansasReactionary wrote, “The insanity of that position is pretty self evident.”

    I disagree. Consider: Human beings devise mathematical objects, symbols, (finite) sets, (finite) sequences, propositions, axioms and so on. They also devise mathematical rules of inference and transformation, irrational numbers (as rules of expansion) and so on.
    These objects and rules exist in language and nowhere else; the notion of truth-by-correspondence that applies to empirical, contingent propositions cannot apply to them in any way; they are purely self-referential and syntactical. They do not correspond to some sort of Platonic Ideas that somehow pre-exist our “discovery” of them. In fact, they do not correspond to anything.

    Thus, because a straight line can be drawn between any two points, it does not follow that it already somehow “exists” before anyone has drawn it. Likewise, the decimal expansion of an irrational number is a rule, not an object that somehow pre-exists our calculation of it. “There are three consecutive 7s in the decimal expansion of π” is meaningless, for it lacks a decidability criterion (but contrast “There exist three consecutive 7s in the first 10,000 places of the expansion of π”)

  84. irrational numbers (as rules of expansion) and so on.
    These objects and rules exist in language and nowhere else

    So circles aren’t real apparently.

    You’re only supporting what I said in my last comment.

  85. Apparently, if nobody happens to be thinking “2+2=4” it stops being true that 2+2=4.

    Or alternatively, mathematical anti-realism is insane and some sort of mathematical Platonism or the like is the case, and 2+2=4 is always true whether or not some human being happens to be thinking it at the time.

  86. MPS:

    These objects and rules exist in language and nowhere else; …They do not correspond to some sort of Platonic Ideas that somehow pre-exist our “discovery” of them.

    If “exist in language and nowhere else” treats language as a Platonic reality which exists independent of particular minds and which particular minds discover, then I suppose the statement might be taken as half true; but only at the cost of becoming an uninteresting affirmation of mathematical Platonism disguising itself as a refutation of mathematical Platonism.

  87. Zippy wrote, “If “exist in language and nowhere else” treats language as a Platonic reality which exists independent of particular minds and which particular minds discover…”

    Language is necessarily communal; a way of life based on patterns of communal experience. “Suppose you came as an explorer into an unknown country with a language quite strange to you. In what circumstances would you say that the people there gave orders, understood them, obeyed them, rebelled against them, and so on? The common behaviour of mankind is the system of reference by means of which we interpret an unknown language.”

    That is why Wittgenstein said that, if a lion could talk, we could not understand him.”

  88. MPS:

    Sorry, but that sort of anti-realist reductionism is just typical modernist/postmodernist nonsense.

    A hermit can use (and discover/invent, if he does not already have one) language to inventory his possessions, to describe and calculate aspects of his reality, to remember his own thoughts, etc. If everyone on earth but me disappeared I would still use language and mathematics all the time, not because they are human artifacts but because they are connected to reality which transcends particular human minds. If a meteor strikes earth and destroys all life tomorrow, the relation between the diameter of a circle and its circumference will remain pi.

    Wittgenstein was a clever imbecile, like many metaphysical anti-realists. Gödel proved mathematical realism/Platonism to be true, positivism-postmodernism to be a false dichotomy, using the most rigorous of methods, methods which he discovered — though the fact that he even felt the need to do so in the first place doesn’t reflect very well on the state of the modern mind.

  89. ArkansasReactionary wrote, “So circles aren’t real apparently.”
    “Circle” is a “kind,” a class or category and given that “All things in the exterior world are unit and individual, and are nothing else…” how can it be anything other than a mental reality – just like “dog” or “cat,” “table” or “chair”; they are abstractions or generalisations.

    That does not mean that they are unreal. The laws of chess, for example are perfectly real, just not physical facts. Consider the difference between describing a particular chessman (Re, ivory, an antique &c) and describing its rȏle in the game to a beginner. Is one description more “real” than another?

  90. (Actually if everyone else on earth disappeared I’d need mathematics more, not less. In a fat, dumb, and lazy society like ours most people get away with sipping their lattes and leaving the hard, reality-based tasks to others. But the reality of math can really hit you over the head when you are starving and alone).

  91. MPS:

    That does not mean that they are unreal. The laws of chess, for example are perfectly real, just not physical facts.

    Then apparently your comments have just been a straw man. Whether someone is committing objectively adulterous acts is a perfectly real fact even though it isn’t reducible to nothing but a physical fact.

    But nobody has suggested that adultery is nothing but a physical fact (stipulating that the concept ‘nothing but a physical fact’ is even coherent in the first place). That someone has or has not chosen adulterous behaviors, and does or does not continue to choose adulterous behaviors, is an objective fact; not a physical fact.

  92. Zippy wrote, “Whether someone is committing objectively adulterous acts is a perfectly real fact even though it isn’t reducible to nothing but a physical fact.”

    Of course it is. It is a verifiable, empirical, contingent fact – Who ever thought otherwise?

    What I had difficulty with was the notion of “objectively in a state of grace.” I do not see how the person himself, or anyone else could possibly know this.

  93. All things in the exterior world are unit and individual, and are nothing else

    I suppose you don’t see it, but this statement is directly self-refuting.

  94. ArkansasReactionary

    It means no more than Bl John Henry Newman’s assertion in the Grammar of Assent that “Each thing has its own nature and its own history. When the nature and the history of many things are similar, we say that they have the same nature; but there is no such thing as one and the same nature; they are each of them itself, not identical, but like.”

    Of course, there is a sense in which the ceaseless, living flow of which the universe is really composed, the motion and action of particles, is a continuous and indivisible process, but the phenomena are apprehended as singular.

  95. Bl Newman did a better job of hiding the logical contradiction, I’ll give him that.

  96. Reductionism always sounds plausible at first, at least to modern people.

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