The condemnation of Action Francaise, a parallel for today’s denunciations of the Alt Right

The Southern Baptist condemnation of “Alt Right” “racism” has made me grateful that Pope Francis has thrown the Catholic Church into complete doctrinal confusion.  If John Paul II were alive today, we might be witnessing an infallible declaration that borders are immoral.  It seems as if God, in His wisdom, has allowed the Church to fall into a sort of protective intellectual hibernation.  Because we cannot yet think clearly, it is better if we speak only in postmodern gibberish.  The Magisterium is to be humiliated but preserved, and a final victory over this present egalitarian madness–if there is to be any–is to be the work and the glory of Him alone.

One hundred years ago, a movement similar to today’s Alternative Right existed in Charles Maurras’s movement Action francaise.  Like today’s Alt Right, Action francaise was a movement led by intellectuals (based on a journal, there not yet being an internet) on the principles of particularism/nationalism and rejection of democracy.  Like today’s neoreaction, its founding thinker was a nonbeliever, but the movement was friendly to the Church as an institution and so managed to gain many Catholic adherents, especially among the young, intellectual, and right-wing.

The Church was presented with a dilemma.  On the one hand, this new movement was attacking liberalism–the prime heresy of the age and primary enemy of the Church–and defending without apology the ancient regime Catholicism had built.  On the other hand, although Catholics associated with the movement such as La Tour du Pin and Maritain seemed to remain loyal sons of the Church, there was the danger that Catholics under Maurras’s sway would adopt his consequentialism and instrumentalist view of the Church.

The Church chose to condemn–Cardinal Andrieu’s statement being a mix of name-calling, attribution of Maurras’s private beliefs to the whole organization, and outright lies–and in doing so dealt a terrible blow to French monarchism and made a great gift to anti-clerical republicanism.  Eventually, Action francaise submitted, but only after being reduced to a fraction of its former self.  Such has long been the status of the Church that it has power only to harm its friends.  Pius XI wrote a whole encyclical against communism, and this did nothing to check the horrors of godless socialism.

From Volume 9 of Henri Daniel-Rops’ History of the Church of Christ:

Criticism had long been directed against Action francaise or, more exactly, against the principles on which Charles Maurras claimed to base his political doctrine…the French bishops asked that Maurras’s works be placed on the Index.  On 26th January 1914 the consultors announced that seven of those works stood condemned; and their decision was confirmed by the General Congregation, which added the paper Action francaise.

Pius X, however, delayed publication of the verdict.  When it was reported to him on 29th January, by the secretary of the Congregation, he replied that the works in question were certainly prohibited, that the condemnation would be promulgated from that date, but that the decree was not published until such time as he personally thought fit.  ‘Maurras’, he declared, ‘is a good champion of the Church and of the Holy See.’  Other reasons for this clemency were his unwillingness to disturb Catholicism in France on the eve of a war which he regarded as certain, and his anxiety not to offend the many distinguished Frenchmen, religious and secular, who had begged him to deal gently with the culprit.  Benedict XV adopted the same attitude:  in 1915, after careful consideration, he decided that if the decree were published during the war, “political passions would prevent a fair assessment of such an act on the part of the Holy See”.  So there the matter lay, as expressed by Pius X:  Damnabilis sed non damnandus–condemnable but not to be condemned.

The affair took a new turn after the accession of Pius XI in 1922…

Pius was still studying the works of Maurras, Daudet and Bainville, as well as the pages of Action francaise itself, when alarming reports reached the Vatican of the movement’s rapid progress among Catholic youth.  A quarter, if not one-third, of French seminarists were adherents of Maurras, while A.C.J.F. complained that Action francaise was drawing off the most active elements of right-wing Catholic youth.  The Camelots du Roi, a royalist organization for propaganda used by Action francaise for public demonstrations and acts of violence, particularly struck Pius XI.  In May 1925 the Cahiers de la Jeunesse catholique belge organized a referendum on this question:  ‘Among writers of the past twenty-five years, whom do you consider as your masters?’  Maurras headed the list with 174 votes; Cardinal Mercier came last with six.  The Belgian episcopate took fright; a group of distinguished Belgian Catholics published a warning, and Pius XI resolved to stand no more nonsense.

The Pope, however, refrained from immediate recourse to stern measures.  The Action francaise movement included so many excellent Catholics who did not share all Maurras’s philosophical ideas–although they were more or less contaminated by the ‘pernicious atmosphere’ of positivist naturalism–that he thought it more useful to enlighten them before striking a final blow.  After vain approaches to various members of the French hierarchy, he delegated this task to the aged Cardinal Andrieu, Archbishop of Bordeaux.  On 27th October 1926 there appeared in Aquitaine, the diocesan bulletin, a declaration by that prelate.  Having had to reply to a group of young Catholics ‘on the subject of Action francaise and the attitude they should adopt toward it’, he advised them to break away from it as quickly as possible.  The wording of the archiepiscopal declaration was extremely harsh, describing the directors of the movement all together as ‘atheists or agnostics’, as ‘Catholics by profession but not by conviction’, as ‘amoralists’, and so on.  The document, however, made the whole problem absolutely clear by denouncing in the plainest terms the Maurrasian heresy.  Its only faults were a lack of serenity, the attribution to Action francaise as a whole the philosophical ideas of its leader, and even the attribution to Maurras himself of opinions he had never taught, e.g. the need to re-introduce slavery.  The stroke was therefore excessive and not very skillful; but it was an important warning , exceeding in importance that of the tired old man who had delivered it.  There could be no more room for doubt when, on 5th September, a letter from Pius XI to Cardinal Andrieu was published, congratulating him upon having denounced ‘a rebirth of paganism.’

It may be that Pius XI thought that sufficient, that the Catholics of Action francaise would listen to his appeal and abandon the movement.  There appears, however, to have been some hesitation in the ranks of Action francaise as to what attitude should be adopted.  Some, e.g. Jacques Maritain, believed it would be possible for Catholics to remain within the political movement while eschewing doctrinal errors.  Others protested that the papal condemnation was only a political and even a police measure inspired by politicians of the Briand type, and that if they had to choose between their two loyalties they would prefer Action francaise.  Many ecclesiastical authorities, with Cardinal Maurin, Archbishop of Lyons, at their head, advised a course of ‘wait and see’.  Whid did the directors of the monarchist movement suddenly favor a more stubborn attitude?  On 15th December, in reply to various notes in Osservatore Romano and under the title ‘Rome et la France‘, Charles Maurras’s journal published an article of astounding vehemence, accusing a ‘small gang of simoniacal agents’ of insulting good Frenchmen ‘in their conscience as believers and in their honour as men’.  Five days afterward, in Consistory, Pius XI retorted by expressly forbidding all Catholics to belong to the undertakings, to remain in the school or to read the journal ‘of men whose writings set aside our dogma and our morality’….Rome replied on 29th December 1926 by publishing the decree of the Holy Office as drawn up in 1914.  To it was added an explicit condemnation of the journal Action francaise.

…Pius was coldly resolved upon victory.  At his request 116 French bishops signed a manifesto approving and explaining the condemnation; those who believed they ought not to sign paid dearly for their refusal.  Cardinal Billot was obliged to resign and retired as a simple Jesuit to a house of the Society.  Several religious also, some of them notorious, were punished…Meanwhile the Sacred Penitentiary decreed that any priest who gave absolution to supporters of Action francaise would be suspended from hearing confessions, that seminarians faithful to the movement would be dismissed, and that the faithful who remained stubborn in rebellion would be regarded as public sinners and refused the sacraments.

France became at once a tragic stage upon which friendships were destroyed and families divided among themselves, as in the days of the Dreyfus affair.  Good Catholics were seen carried to a civil grave because of their allegiance to Action francaise; priests censured for having taken the last sacraments to fathers who stood condemned; marriages and baptisms performed as in the worst days of the Terror.

[Fast forward a decade to 1937]

After a visit to Paris by Mgr. Ottaviani, assessor of the Holy Office, a new letter was sent to Rome, in which the [governing] committee [of Action francaise] expressed its ‘sincere grief’ for what had been ‘disrespectful, offensive and even unjust’ in their attitude, and rejected ‘every principle and every theory opposed to the teachings of the Church’.  The Holy Office replied on 5th July by lifting the condemnation of Action francaise, but without mentioning that of Pius X against Maurras’s philosophy.

To be clear, Catholics did have a duty to disassociate from Action francaise while it was condemned, because the Pope did have the authority to command it.  The virtue of obedience is never clearer than when the command is foolish.  Still, no one has the authority to keep us from recognizing it as foolish.  Someday, the Church will ready to pronounce on the questions posed by European nationalism, but not until her current fever has passed.  When it does, will there still be any European nations?

74 Responses

  1. >It seems as if God, in His wisdom, has allowed the Church to fall into a sort of protective intellectual hibernation

    Top-rate Panglossian papism, Bonald – my hat is off to you, I’m impressed by how you’re spinning the situation.

    Do you think studying the Action française affair could teach general lessons on how Christians and non-believers can cooperate successfully against the Left? Or is your point restricted to the reaction of the Vatican?

  2. It is not to me entirely clear that the condemnation of Action francaise was unjust or foolish.

    I am also not seeing real depth of understanding, meaningful action, or scholarship among the Alt Right either. Far better works are coming from established presses, such as Before Church and State, and much of what is now in the pages of First Things is in many respects robustly illiberal in some of its best writers. Jacobite has offered a few good tidbits, too.

  3. Key difference being that even when AF’s integralist nationalism was a degeneration from prior ultra-royalism of the likes of Saint-Bonnet, Peyronnet, Rivarol, Claude Ferrand, Ballanche, Laurentie, it was still based on a firm counterrevolutionary grounding and respect of past wisdom. Maurras was firmly decentralist and anti-absolutist, adopting a corporate and neofeudal perspective similar to Boulainvilliers in Les Idées royalistes (1910), and earlier in L’Idée de la décentralisation (1898), citing Frederic Le Play’s conservative approach to family and labor, Baron de Barante (Orleanist-era minister)’s view on constitutionalism, among others.

    The contemporary alt-right is not a good parallel to the AF at all. The alt-right consists primarily of Forty-Eighter radicals infused with volkisch ideas. The SBC was not wrong in its condemnation, it simply did so without tact and for more dubious reasons.

  4. Dear God, that was appalling Bonald. I always thought you a traditionalist and not an Integralist.

    Action Francaise was a disaster for the Catholic faith. Essentially it was a Catholicism without God. Tradition without foundation. The whole movement needs to be studied by the Alt-Right as how not to do it.

    To be clear, Catholics did have a duty to disassociate from Action francaise while it was condemned, because the Pope did have the authority to command it.

    Dude, you’re getting it wrong even when you’re trying to get it right. Monophorism (Google it) is absolutely toxic to the faith and a blind obedience to the Papacy without any reference to the truth turns Catholics into dead spiritual robots. Oh, and its not like the Papacy wanted to condemn the movement, it appears that they had to be dragged kicking and screaming. In fact, legitimate Catholics were censured in preference to atheists who were trying to preserve a dying social order by one of the most “traditional” popes ever.

    Even at the time the Holy Office was forced to examine the morality of the Action Francaise and after long delays reported to the Pope that the movement’s moral principles were not compatible with the Catholic faith. In spite of this, Pius X decided not to publish the condemnation. Marc Sangnier, the faithful Catholic democrat, was disowned, but Charles Maurras, the avowed atheist, was allowed immunity. Seldom has political sympathy influenced more clearly a papal act, or refusal to act.

    (Pope John, Meriol Trevor)

  5. Good post! Not sure I agree with it entirely, but a good starting-point for discussion.

    Unfortunately a lot of weak responses so far. Some of it seems to be semantics around the term ‘Alt Right’ itself which has suffered due to the comic conquest of that term by Richard Spencer.

    I think your points are very fair if one is understanding the term as the condemners are using it, which is a much fairer approach. They use it to describing new Internet-age illiberal right-wing movements. Leftist and liberals from the SBC, to mainstream Catholic hierarchs, to the tradinistas, would indeed gleefully condemn everyone posting here, other than slumlord, as alt-right, fascists, etc.

    Current neoreaction/alt-right/identitarianism is indeed nowhere near comparable to the original AF in size, scope of intellectual output, unity, etc. But it is growing and has fathered positive developments elsewhere, the renewal of paleoconservatism as a respectable public face for right wing ideas, etc.

    First Things was resolutely liberal until the intellectual climate had already shifted. Jacobite ‘is’ one of the many online magazines which have come out of the alt-right. The renewal/new development of Catholic integralism seems pretty clearly to have followed the initial work of neoreaction in creating an appetite for illiberal, traditionalist politics. This is borne out also by IRL observations I’ve had at local meetings with young trads.

    Regrettably, only new thing Catholic political culture seems to have organically produced from within its established universities, journals, etc is new iterations of progressivism and socialism, just look on Twitter etc. The least awful of these is an attempt to articulate a left-integralism, which can be seen in some contributors to the Josias for instance.

    But they’re having their own troubles and easily just get swallowed up in mainstream leftism, so I think that right-integralism, now that it has taken root inside Catholic circles, has a good chance at growth.

  6. “blind obedience to the Papacy without any reference to the truth turns Catholics into dead spiritual robots”

    I don’t get it. If authority means anything at all, surely it means that sometimes you’ve got to obey orders you don’t agree with. The only exception is commands that violate the natural law, and nobody is commanded by natural law to belong to Action Francaise.

  7. > Top-rate Panglossian papism, Bonald

    Thank you. It’s not easy.

    I would say that AF is a very good example of the sort of collaboration with unbelievers that would be beneficial to us.

  8. I don’t get it. If authority means anything at all, surely it means that sometimes you’ve got to obey orders you don’t agree with.

    You’ve missed the whole point of Christianity if you think that the Church’s job is to “order” people around. The Church’s authority is like the authority of a professor, founded on the truth of its propositions. It proposes and does not impose.

    There is no simple combox answer for your question but I would recommend the link below as a starting point. Furthermore, Google up Ratzinger’s essay’s on Conscience as they deal directly with the role of Papal authority.

    https://www.americamagazine.org/issue/following-faithfully

  9. >When it does, will there still be any European nations?

    I’m pretty sure Israel will still be there.

  10. “You’ve missed the whole point of Christianity if you think that the Church’s job is to ‘order’ people around. […] It proposes and does not impose.”

    Taken literally, this is heretical. As you can read in any good catechism, the Church has the God-given authority to teach, sanctify and govern. It can make laws (not just suggestions) which apply to all the baptized. Its laws are at least as binding as state laws; hence, they can even be enforced by physical coercion.

    Pope Leo X, in his bull Exsurge Domine (1520), condemned the following proposition: That heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit. (Denzinger 773).

    From the Council of Trent’s Canons on the Sacrament of Baptism (1547):

    Can. 8. If anyone shall say that those baptized are free from all precepts of the holy Church, which are either written or handed down, so that they are not bound to observe them, unless they of their own accord should wish to submit themselves to them: let him be anathema. (Denzinger 864; the previous canon talks about Divine law, so this one must be about merely ecclesiastical laws).

    Can. 14. If anyone shall say that those who have been baptized in this manner as infants, when they have grown up, are to be questioned whether they wish to ratify what the sponsors promised in their name, when they were baptized, and if they should answer that they are not willing, that they must be left to their own will, and that they are not to be forced to a Christian life in the meantime by any other penalty, except that they be excluded from the reception of the Eucharist and of the other sacraments until they repent: let him be anathema. (Denzinger 870)

    Pius VI, in the bull Auctorem fidei (1794), condemned as “heretical” [t]he proposition affirming, “that it would be a misuse of the authority of the Church, when she transfers that authority beyond the limits of doctrine and of morals, and extends it to exterior matters, and demands by force that which depends on persuasion and love”; and then also, “that it pertains to it much less, to demand by force exterior obedience to its decrees”; in so far as by those undefined words, “extends to exterior matters,” the proposition censures as an abuse of the authority of the Church the use of its power received from God, which the apostles themselves used in establishing and sanctioning exterior discipline (Denzinger 1504).

    In the same bull, Pius VI also condemed as “leading toward a system condemned elsewhere as heretical” the proposition that the Church does not have authority to demand obedience to its decrees otherwise than by means which depend on persuasion; in so far as it [i.e., the proposition] intends that the Church has not conferred on it by God the power, not only of directing by counsel and persuasion, but also of ordering by laws, and of constraining and forcing the inconstant and stubborn by exterior judgment and salutary punishments (Denzinger 1505).

    Here is a dogmatic definition by Vatican I:

    If anyone thus speaks, that the Roman Pontiff has only the office of inspection or direction, but not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the universal Church, not only in things which pertain to faith and morals, but also in those which pertain to the discipline and government of the Church spread over the whole world […]: let him be anathema (Denzinger 1831).

  11. slumlord wrote:

    The Church’s authority is like the authority of a professor, founded on the truth of its propositions.

    That is exactly the modernist error I recently discussed here. All that business about binding and loosing just means that when you agree that the Church is right you should do what she “requires”, which is what you agree that you should do anyway. Church authority doesn’t actually impose any moral obligations.

  12. The Papacy holds both powers, and Catholic blog discussions are often confused by failure to distinguish them (as I also failed to distinguish them above). There is, on the one hand, the Pope’s authority to tell me to do stuff or abstain from doing stuff. Pope Francis could order me to quit the Orthosphere, and I would be obliged to obey. I would be perfectly free to think it was a stupid and unfair thing for him to do, but having a ruler means sometimes you’ve got to put up with some stupidity and unfairness. On the other hand, there is the Pope’s teaching authority, in which he effectively speaks in the declarative rather than the imperative. This isn’t really like the expertise of a professor, which is based on the professor’s superior knowledge, but on trusting the Holy Spirit.

    What I object to is a hybrid of these two, in which we are obliged to sincerely believe (and not just refrain from contesting) things that the Church does not infallibly declare and whose consistency with previous teaching she doesn’t bother to establish. One can’t command belief, the matter of the second type of authority, by an act of the first type of authority.

  13. Action Francaise was a disaster for the Catholic faith.

    When I think of a disaster I think of Dignitatis Humanae’s gutting of Catholic teaching. The Church’s late embrace of cultural Protestantism has been an unmitigated disaster in Church history and his accelerated the advance of liberalism everywhere.

    The irony in all this too is that while people like Maritain where (rightly) concerned about the instrumentalization of Catholicism by AF, that result is precisely what Maritain’s later Christian democracy ideals that so influenced the Council ended up producing. A Catholicism totally instrumentalized for the purposes of American democratic-liberalism.

  14. bonald:

    One can’t command belief, the matter of the second type of authority, by an act of the first type of authority.

    Yes, that is a good insight. And a corollary to the doctrine of infallibility is that almost all of the pope’s concrete actions involve exercise of action-authority, not epistemic authority (for lack of better terminology).

  15. Pope Francis could order me to quit the Orthosphere, and I would be obliged to obey.

    Thought experiment.

    What if Pope Francis ordered you to believe that the sun rotated around the Earth. Would you be obliged to believe that?

  16. “What if Pope Francis ordered you to believe that the sun rotated around the Earth. Would you be obliged to believe that?”

    This is irrelevant to our discussion since it refers to interior beliefs, while Bonald is talking about laws which regulate external behavior. He has already conceded that we don’t need to believe in the wisdom of such laws as long as we obey them.

    If an infallible doctrine of the Church appeared to be refuted by empirical evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, we would of course still have to believe in the doctrine, since the infallible magisterium is more reliable than any amount of empirical evidence. If we are talking about the non-infallible magisterium, there is a strong presumption in its favor which can arguably be rebutted by extremely strong empirical evidence.

  17. If an infallible doctrine of the Church appeared to be refuted by empirical evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, we would of course still have to believe in the doctrine,

    An infallible doctrine can’t be refuted by empirical evidence, else it would be fallible.

  18. That’s why I wrote, “appeared to be refuted.” It is in principle possible for a false statement to be supported by what appears to be overwhelming evidence.

  19. @David

    This is irrelevant to our discussion since it refers to interior beliefs

    From Lumen Gentium (25)

    “This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.”

    Sorry, but there’s no wiggle room for “interior beliefs.”.

  20. Pope Francis has explicitly declined to make his mind and will on doctrine manifest (e.g. dubia-gate, as just one prominent example among countless). What is manifest is that he refuses to make his mind and will explicit, as frequently affirmed by the character of his documents, his frequent repetition that he doesn’t deny doctrine but that doctrine isn’t the focus of his words, and from the manner of his speaking.

    So to the extent he is exercising any authentic magisterium at all it must be of the action-pastoral-authority kind, not the epistemic-doctrinal-authority kind. And even there his most apparent mind and will is that he for the most part declines to unequivocally engage in any of it, since that would be hidebound rule following.

    He could in fact command Bonald not to post at the Orthosphere, but that would undermine the whole weaponized ambiguity of his agenda.

  21. One recalls Maurice Blondel’s famous retort to Maurras’s Jesuit defender, Pedro Descoqs, who believed Action Français would lead to “the triumph of the Church in society.”

    “A Catholicism without Christianity, submissiveness without thought, an authority without love, a Church that would rejoice at the insulting tributes paid to the virtuosity of her interpretative and repressive system… To accept all from God except God, all from Christ except His Spirit, to preserve in Catholicism only a residue that is aristocratic and soothing for the privileged and beguiling or threatening for the lower classes—is not all this, under the pretext perhaps of thinking only about religion, really a matter of pursuing only politics?”

    Abbé Laberthonnière, the editor of Blondel’s L’Annales de philosophie chrétienne, was equally scathing: “’The triumph of the Church in society? That would be excellent. But then, it is necessary to examine by what means our religion permits us to pursue it. Moreover, it has not been promised us. And then, it is not, perhaps, the most pressing of our tasks.

    The Church is like Christ. To go to souls, she is, in her own essence, a soul of truth and kindness. And, if He needs a body to act in the world, it is by His soul and for His soul that His body subsists. And, if we wish His body to be beautiful and vigorous, if we wish it to be radiant, let us labour to enrich her soul with the faith and love of our souls.

    Her power does not consist in giving orders, to which external obedience is required, backed up by threats or favours. Her power is to raise souls to the life above. It is to give birth to and to cultivate in consciences the supernaturalising obligation to live for God and for others, through Christ, and to pass through temporal defeats to a triumph that is timeless.

    Do not indulge in childish dreams, when you have in your grasp eternal realities that invite you. Understand, all you who would triumph and reign on earth – Et nunc, reges, intell1gite.” (Ps 2:10, to a French audience, instantly recognizable as the text of Bossuet’s funeral oration for Henrietta Maria, widow of the executed Charles I of England, that everyone reads at school]

  22. I would say that AF is a very good example of the sort of collaboration with unbelievers that would be beneficial to us.

    Bonald,

    Do you have any criteria for when you think it might be beneficial to collaborate with unbelievers?

    I can envision scenarios where it would be beneficial, especially in situations where you are collaborating on a single issue (e.g., abortion, sodomy) without being required to sign on to a whole ideology. I don’t know enough about AF adequately to judge that situation for myself, although it’s not obvious to me that the Church was foolish in condemning it.

    Regarding the alt-right though, it seems to me that the danger of moral and intellectual corruption is real when Christians are actually identifying as alt-right rather than simply cooperating on this or that issue, particularly since the alt-right seems to have coalesced around an explicitly secular ideology.

    Hypothetically, if the alt-right were a lot more powerful than it is, and were vying for control of the government with the left, then I could see a stronger case being made for collaboration, say, if the alt-right were promising to protect Christians from leftist persecution (similar perhaps to how Christians in the Middle East will sometimes support secular ruling regimes for protection from Muslim persecution). But at this point in the game, it seems to me that traditionalist Christians are simply being led astray by yet another modernist ideology masquerading as an ersatz conservatism when they agree to keep religion a secondary issue. Something similar to Zippy’s iron law might apply: the more you wish to participate in the alt-right, the more you are required to become modernist in ideology.

  23. > What if Pope Francis ordered you to believe that the sun rotated around the Earth. Would you be obliged to believe that?

    If I’m reading Lumen Gentium correctly, I’m obliged to sincerely believe even non-infallible statements of the pope. This bothers me, even apart from the plausibility of any particular papal utterance.

    Suppose the pope does speak ex cathedra. The only way a Catholic might argue against accepting this teaching would be to claim that it falls outside the Church’s competence. But I’m not sure how that case could be made. We all have some sense of what topics fall outside the realm of “faith and morals”, but this is largely based on what topics the Church does not in fact concern herself with. The very fact that the Church teaches something could be considered evidence that its subject is a matter of faith.

  24. > Do you have any criteria for when you think it might be beneficial to collaborate with unbelievers?

    My criteria are as follows:
    1) The collaboration must involve no compromise on our part.
    2) Catholics must be less tempted by the errors espoused by the unbelieving collaborators than they are by the errors these collaborators are helping us fight.

    If collaborating with unbelievers is ever appropriate, then just pointing out that Charles Maurras or Mencius Moldbug are atheists doesn’t settle the issue. The same people who insisted the Church disassociate with AF went on to insist that we collaborate with communists to work for social justice! If we can’t work together with atheists who want to re-establish a Catholic monarchy, I can’t imagine what atheists we could work with.

    The second criterion in particular clarifies the case of the Alt Right. The Alt Right involves people who embrace various heresies, but none of them have become core principles of the movement. The moral error of anti-racism, on the other hand, has infested the Church and done grievous damage to our moral reasoning abilities. Not only has this bad idea found fertile ground in the Church, the ugly sentiment of anti-white bigotry has taken root in many believers’ souls. I don’t see any equivalent spiritual danger from the other side. Contrary to what their enemies say, no one on the Alt Right denies the humanity of blacks or Muslims or begrudges them their own homelands.

  25. Michael Paterson-Seymour,

    Interesting quote but it seems we got that exact result anyway thanks to Maritain & co.

    If we can’t work together with atheists who want to re-establish a Catholic monarchy, I can’t imagine what atheists we could work with.

    The worst is when both the Social Justice and Americanist Catholics try to coopt the rhetoric and imagery of the Civil Rights movement for their various pet ideologies. Where was the “primacy of the spiritual” in Francis’s speech to Congress praising Lincoln and MLK? It is all just more of the same worship of the American civil religion.

  26. @Michael Patterson Seymor

    Preach it, brother. Blondel saw where the Church was going and troubles it was going to going to face, particularly the de Christianisation of Europe. For want of a better expression, he understood that the “authoritarian traditionalists” were as toxic to the Faith as were the liberals. I’m not sure if I’m right here, but he was indirectly condemned by Pascendi as a Modernist, only to have the Church ask for his services when it finally decided to put the boot into AF.

    Blondel understood that Christianity is the expression of Faith originating from within the individual. Acting like a Christian–either through compulsion or habit–without a Christian nature, gave the appearance of being Christian without the substance of it. Spiritual Zombies acting like Christians. That’s why he correctly identified AF as “Atheistic Catholicism” which was ultimately poisonous to the Faith.

    @Bonald

    I’m obliged to sincerely believe even non-infallible statements of the pope. This bothers me, even apart from the plausibility of any particular papal utterance.

    It bothers me……..a lot. Since what it does is place Papal Authority above the Truth. It inverts the Power/Truth relationship of Christianity, placing power above it. Ratzinger rejects this view as he understood the Papacy as having its legitimacy in being an expositor of the Truth.

    Now, if you’re a Catholic, and believe the Pope is protected from error when he makes an infallible statement, it’s no big deal, since the Papal statement is true, and therefore congruent with reality. If on the other hand you believe an infallible statement is wrong, then you’ve got to leave the Church.

    http://www.aquinasonline.com/Questions/conscience.htm

    The real problem comes with non-infallible statements. i.e ordinary Magisterium. The Church’s positions on some of these issues is probably, in the main, correct, however there may be areas where further development of doctrine may need to occur. i.e. Slavery, Usury, Conscience etc. The problem is here is how to distinguish doctrinal development which is true from error. The Traditionalist approach to this issue is to not allow any development of doctrine, or if any doctrine is allowed to develop, it is developed along preconceived lines. (To the Trad, more fasts and mortification are good, any laxity bad.) Any Pope which “tightens the screws” is good, any one which loosens them bad. Hence the current Francis hate.

    The Traditionalist approach when confronted with Truth is to insist upon authority and tradition to refute it. This is why I consider the Trads to be the other plate of the vice, the other being the liberals, who are squeezing the Church out of existence.

    The stakes are pretty high, and many of those pushing the “authoritarian viewpoint” don’t really understand the hell they’re descending into.

    In light of the Lumin Gentium quote. It might be worth revisiting this famous scene from the movie 1984. Substitute “Church” for “Party” and implications for the authoritarian argument are horrifying. Not the particularly nice bit of “compassion” at the end of the scene to top it all off.

    Truth and its primacy is our ultimate protection from our descent into Hell.

  27. Not the particularly nice bit of “compassion”

    Not should be Note.

  28. Slumlord,

    Something I think that gets overlooked in these kinds of discussions is that Truth is a person. A Divine Person, to be precise.

    So while it is true enough to point out that Truth (Christ) > Papal Authority, to say something like, “the Papacy derives its its legitimacy in being an expositor of the Truth” muddies the waters in my view. The Papacy derives its authority directly from the Truth, who is, again, Jesus Christ.

    We love the Truth and desire to do all that the Truth requires of us. And because the Truth loves us, He has provided us with a Holy Father to shepherd us until He comes again in glory. This is why we love and obey the Holy Father, because it is what the Way, the Truth, and the Life desires for us.

    Zippy linked to his “Search engine of Christ on Earth” post above and I think it’s worth mentioning again. The Church doesn’t derive Her authority from an ability to exposit the Truth without error, although this is an ability She possesses. She derives her authority directly from the Truth Himself, to whom She is both body and bride.

  29. @Donnie

    That may be so, but who has precedence, Truth or Authority?

  30. @Donnie

    The Papacy derives its authority directly from the Truth, who is, again, Jesus Christ.

    Can the Papacy promote an error by virtue of the Authority delegated by Christ?

    Think about it. The theological implications are horrifying.

  31. Slumlord

    Cardinal Henri de Lubac wrote this appreciation of Blondel: “Latin theology’s return to a more authentic tradition has taken place–not without some jolts, of course–in the course of the last century. We must admit that the main impulse for this return came from a philosopher, Maurice Blondel. His thinking was not primarily exercised in the areas proper to the professional theologians, nor did it base itself on a renewed history of tradition. Still, he is the one who launched the decisive attack on the dualist theory that was destroying Christian thought. Time after time he demonstrated the deficiencies of the thesis of the “extrinsicist” school, which recognized “no other link between nature and the supernatural than an ideal juxtaposition of elements which…were impenetrable to each other, and which were brought together by our intellectual obedience, so that the supernatural can subsist only if it remains extrinsic to the natural and if it is proposed from without as something important only in so far as it is a supernature…”

  32. Bonald wrote, “The very fact that the Church teaches something could be considered evidence that its subject is a matter of faith…”

    Take an historical example. All theologians accept that Pope Innocent X’s condemnation of the famous Five Propositions of Jansenism in Cum Occasione of 1653 was an exercise of the infallible magisterium. The pope claimed that these propositions were taught in the Augustinus of Cornelius Jansen.

    In 1656, in Ad Sanctam Beati Petri Sedem, Pope Alexander VII declared that since some still insisted that those propositions were not to be found in the Augustinus, or were not meant by the author in the sense in which they were condemned, he declares that they are contained in the Augustinus, and have been condemned according to the sense of the author. It is hard to see how this could possibly be a question of faith or morals.

    Nevertheless, in 1664 in Regiminis Apostolici, he imposed on the clergy subscription of a formula, submitting “to the apostolic constitution of the Supreme Pontiff Innocent X dated May 31, 1653, and to the constitution of the Supreme Pontiff Alexander VII dated October 16, 1656, and, with a sincere heart, I reject and condemn the five propositions taken from the book of Cornelius Jansen entitled Augustinus and in the sense understood by that same author, just as the Apostolic See has condemned them by the two above-mentioned constitutions and so I swear.” How anyone could subscribe that formula in good conscience who had not read the Augustinus or who differed from the Pope’s interpretation is an interesting question. Are we required to make a submission of faith to the Pope’s judgment?

    As Pascal objected, “We are bound to believe that the commandments of God are not impracticable; but we are under no obligation to know what Jansenius has said upon that subject. In the etermination
    of points of faith, God guides the Church by the aid of His unerring Spirit; whereasin matters of fact He leavesher to the direction of reason and the senses, which are the natural judges of such matters. None but God was able to instruct the Church in the faith; but to learn whether this or that proposition is contained in Jansenius, all we require to do is to read his book. And from hence it follows that, while it is heresy to resist the decisions of the faith, because this amounts to an opposing of our own spirit to the Spirit of God, it is no heresy , though it may be an act of presumption, to disbelieve certain particular facts, because this is no more than opposing reason- it may be enlightened reason- to an authority which is great indeed, but in this matter not infallible.”

  33. That may be so, but who has precedence, Truth or Authority?

    This is like asking, “who has precedence, Christ or Christ?”

    Can the Papacy promote an error by virtue of the Authority delegated by Christ?

    Can the man whom God has willed as His Vicar on Earth promote what appear to be manifold errors and/or objective heresies? Evidently, as this has happened numerous times throughout the history of the Church with several Popes, including the present one.

    And yet in spite of this Truth and Authority Himself has ensured that the faith of Peter and his successors shall never fail:

    Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren. (Luke 22:32)

  34. This kind of discussion blackpills me. The Church is totally pozzed.

  35. “If on the other hand you believe an infallible statement is wrong, then you’ve got to leave the Church.”

    Then why is Luther a heretic?!?

  36. @Luigi

    This kind of discussion blackpills me. The Church is totally pozzed.

    The Church isn’t “pozzed” the Church is more than the Papacy, and there have always been elements in it that have tried to drag it down and others who have tried to build it up. (Remember, even Aquinas was condemned for some of his positions for a while.)

    The Theology with regard to infallible Papal statements is sound in my opinion, the real problem comes with non infallible teachings. On one hand you have the Liberals, who basically say that anything goes if it’s a non infallible teaching, on the other, the Conservatives, who want you to be a “GPS Catholic” and demand that the Church do all its thinking for you and not notice inconsistencies.

    Look at Donnie’s statement above; It’s logically incoherent yet he does not notice.

    “Can the man whom God has willed as His Vicar on Earth promote what appear to be manifold errors and/or objective heresies? Evidently, as this has happened numerous times throughout the history of the Church with several Popes, including the present one.”

    (Statement 1: The Church has historically made errors)

    “And yet in spite of this Truth and Authority Himself has ensured that the faith of Peter and his successors shall never fail:”

    (Statement 2: Christ shall ensure that the Church does not make an error)

    Statement 1 and Statement 2 are logically exclusive. Donnie clearly does not notice, and I agree that in his case–given his cognitive abilities– it is better that he just follows Papal teaching on matters, but for those of us who are bothered by inconsistencies the question is, how to the reconcile the tension between authority and conscience, and the answer to that is by doing our hardest to live in the “Truth”. Doctrinal development comes from the reconciliation of this tension.

    @Mart

    Then why is Luther a heretic?!?

    Luther is a heretic for holding propositions which the Church regarded as false. What you seem to have conflated in your mind is the issue of Damnation and Heresy.

    It is the opinion of Aquinas that a man who opposes the Church in good conscience, commits a venial sin against it and therefore is not damned. The crux of the issue here is the formation of conscience.

    Only Gold knows the state of Luther’s conscience. Even though a heretic he may stand in God’s good grace.

  37. Statement 1 and Statement 2 are logically exclusive. Donnie clearly does not notice, and I agree that in his case–given his cognitive abilities– it is better that he just follows Papal teaching on matters

    Appreciate your concern for my cognitive abilities, but you might want to “cast out first the beam in thy own eye.”

    Honestly, all I really should need to do here is just quote your own comment back to you: “the Church is more than the Papacy.”

    But then again, I’m not the one that made the astounding logical leap of taking the admission that certain individual Popes have appeared to promote error and heresy and turned that into, “the Church has historically made errors.” So allow me to elaborate.

    Pope Honorius is an example of a pope who appeared to promote heresy. For this he was famously anathematized at the Third Council of Constantinople. Was he actually a Monothelite heretic? Almost certainly not. The reigning Pope at the time of the Council, Pope Saint Leo II, took great pains to make clear the fact that Honorius was condemned not for teaching heresy, but for not doing enough to oppose it. Nevertheless, that he appeared to promote heresy, and was anathematized for it, is a matter of historical fact.

    Pope Stephen VI held the infamous “cadaver synod”, in which he had the body of his predecessor, Pope Formosus, dug up, clad in papal vestments, seated upon a throne, and judged by Pope Stephen and the synod. The verdict? That Formosus had been unworthy of the Chair of St. Peter, that he had never been pope, that all his acts as pope were annulled, and that all the orders conferred by him were invalid, including his consecrations of bishops. Before a year had passed, however, Stephen’s condemnation of Formosus had been annulled by his successors, Theodore II and John IX, who had Formosus reburied and restored to a place of honor. A few years later, however, Pope Sergius III reaffirmed the decisions of Pope Stephen VI, once again judging Formosus to be an unworthy anti-Pope, whose conferred orders were once again considered to be invalid. Yet it should be noted that the Church’s final verdict on the matter is that Formosus was, in fact, a valid pope.

    There are other examples but the point should be clear by now. Popes are not gods. They are men, and like all men they are not necessarily protected from objective error. What they are protected from, however, is losing the faith.

    “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” Lest we forget, Peter denied Christ three times. And yet we are assured that his faith did not fail. If that doesn’t speak to the nuance between embracing objective error and outright losing the faith, I don’t know what does.

    Two hundred and sixty-six men have sat in the Chair of St. Peter. All have been unworthy of the honor. Many have been Saints. Some have been scoundrels. Some have at times appeared to embrace objective error. Some are almost surely in Hell. Yet none of them ever lost the faith. And none of their successors ever will.

  38. Note the unmitigated arrogance of slumlord’s rationalizations. Obedience to the Church is right for common folk, but for those with higher “cognitive abilities” (meaning he and those who agree with him), it is merely optional.

    Also, I’m about pretty sure that the grandiose pronouncement that Aquinas held obstinate disobedience to the Church to be a venial sin if in “good conscience”, is false. I’d appreciate a source for the claim, if one existed.

  39. “Cognitive abilities” is a gnostic incantation that slumlord invokes as his way of pretending to be faithful to Catholic doctrine while in fact dissenting on contraception, usury, the intrinsic immorality of killing the innocent (yes, even in wartime), etc. For most people (like our poor little cognitively limited donnie, but really anyone who notices slumlord’s dissent from doctrine) sure it is better to follow what the Church teaches doctrinally; but history will eventually come out on the side of the cognitive elite who dissent from those particular Catholic doctrines which make cocktail parties and clinical encounters awkward. It is really the dissenters who are following Aquinas, see, because Aquinas wasn’t always right about everything, so dissent from doctrine is a sign that you are an intelligent holy think-for-yourselfer like Aquinas not one of those poor pathetic integrists.

  40. Nice to hear from you Zippy, I knew you would chime in and try and segue to another topic.

    BTW, there was no “gnostic incantation”, I’m a meat and potatoes type of guy. It was a failure of logic which I admittedly–rudely and snarkily–pointed out.

    The snark was totally unnecessary and unreservedly apologise for the snark to Donnie.

  41. slumlord:

    It was a failure of logic which I admittedly–rudely and snarkily–pointed out.

    Your contention that donnie perpetrated an error of logic — seemingly based on your express assumption that he is an idiot — is itself a false dichotomy or, as we might say, an error of logic.

  42. @Zippy.

    seemingly based on your express assumption that he is an idiot

    You assume too much. It was based upon the incompatibility of his propositions, not his personal qualities.

  43. It was based upon the incompatibility of his propositions

    Except they’re not incompatible propositions. Popes can be as foolish or as dastardly as any man. But no Pope has or ever will lose the divine gift of faith.

    We will always have a pope. We may not always have a good pope, or even a good man as pope, but we will always have a pope. And he will always command our allegiance and our loyalty, not on the basis of his intellectual gifts or his own virtues, but on the basis of who he is.

  44. Do we have any reason to believe that popes will always personally possess the gift of faith? Or does possession of the gift of faith just refer to his public utterances?

  45. I don’t know of any doctrine which makes it (e.g.) impossible for a pope to personally go to Hell.

    Slumlord’s false dichotomy though depends on everything a Pope says which might be construed as “teaching” being true. It also depends on interpreting donnie’s words in a very particular, non obvious way and then pretending that that is the only possible interpretation.

    But of course a direct concomitant of the doctrine of infallibility under certain very restrictive conditions is that there isn’t any guarantee that much of anything that a pope “teaches” about Church doctrine is necessarily true, unless he actually is speaking ex cathedra.

    In any event I haven’t noticed Francis authoritatively teaching anything doctrinal at all. In fact the whole method of his pontificate seems to be to first deny that he is teaching anything new about doctrine, followed by volleys of insults directed at anyone who calls his pastoral agenda into question. Arguably those who would assume or claim that Francis is authoritatively teaching doctrine are dissenting from what Francis himself actually says about the matter.

    My own conclusion is that he isn’t authoritatively resolving any doctrinal disputes and he isn’t exercising any juridical authority telling me what to do. If he wants to correct that impression I am receptive to a clear and unequivocal statement from him correcting it. And I can’t wait to see the flying pigs.

  46. “Do we have any reason to believe that popes will always personally possess the gift of faith? Or does possession of the gift of faith just refer to his public utterances?”

    This is a matter of dispute. If I remember correctly, St. Robert Bellarmine thought it was more likely that Divine Providence would never allow a pope to lose the faith, but admitted that the contrary opinion was, at his time, more common.

  47. Do we have any reason to believe that popes will always personally possess the gift of faith?

    Yes, we do.

    “Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren.” (Luke 22: 32)

    Our Lord, speaking immediately after offering the first Mass and predicting His own betrayal, speaks clearly and directly about the personal faith of Peter. Not what might be considered Peter’s magisterium, or his charism of infallibility, or any “office” of his that is only exercised under certain circumstances. Instead, Christ prayed that in depths of Peter’s soul the gift of faith given to him by the Father would not fail.

    The supernatural gift of personal faith which Peter received, which allowed him to first recognize Christ’s divinity, is the foundation upon which Christ established the Papacy. Christ’s prayer has ensured that this foundation will never fail, not just in Peter but in any of his successors. The First Vatican Council confirms this in Chapter IV of its Constitution Pastor Aeternus:

    This gift, then, of truth and never-failing faith was conferred by Heaven upon Peter and his successors in this Chair, that they might perform their high office for the salvation of all; that the flock of Christ, kept away by them from the poisonous food of error, might be nourished with the pasture of heavenly doctrine; that, the occasion of schism being removed, the whole Church might be kept one, and resting in its foundation, might stand firm against the gates of hell.

    Lest we forget, all of this is true in spite of the fact that Peter denied Christ three times. For as St. John Chrysostom writes, “He does not say, ‘I have prayed that thou deny not,’ but that thou do not abandon the faith.” And St. Theophylus: “For albeit thou art for a time shaken, yet thou holdest stored up, a seed of faith; though the spirit has shed its leaves in temptation, yet the root is firm.”

  48. But of course a direct concomitant of the doctrine of infallibility under certain very restrictive conditions is that there isn’t any guarantee that much of anything that a pope “teaches” about Church doctrine is necessarily true, unless he actually is speaking ex cathedra.

    Yeah, my false dichotomy.

    The core problem is that non-infallible teachings may contain erroneous elements. The Ultramontane positions is that truth does not matter. Simply Obey. Or as Zippy says, “Shut up and row.”

    Is the believer obliged to believe what they think is an authoritatively taught error? (I’m assuming that they have taken the appropriate steps to inform their conscience properly.) The Ultramontane faction regards Papal authority as binding irrespective of the Truth of the teaching. Authority Trumps truth. Welcome to the world of postmodernism, where Truth is subordinate to the exercise of Power.

    As for equating Truth and Authority, that is a conflation error. Authority is predicated on something other than itself. Now the Pope may have authority because God commanded obedience, but if the Pope is spreading an error, on the authority of God, it would be a contradiction of God’s nature, who always speaks the Truth. Papal Authority is predicated upon the Truth. (Look it up, Ratzinger and Newman both affirm this.)

    As for equating Faith and Truth, that is also a conflation error. Faith is the capacity to know supernatural Truth, but it also “sees through a glass darkly” so may be mistaken in its apprehension of it. If simply having the Faith alone guaranteed knowledge of the Truth we wouldn’t need a teaching magesterium at all and could all become Protestants instead. (That is, after all, what they think.)

    Indeed, a deeper look at Protestantism will show that the relationship between conscience and the Truth is not at all oppositional to Papal teaching, and that good,intelligent and sincere Protestants frequently become pseudo-Catholics/Catholics by this approach. C.S. Lewis being a prime example. Indeed, C.S. Lewis’s rejection of taking the final step to Rome was based, in his opinion, that the would have to cease thinking for himself. For Lewis this wasn’t an issue of Pride, rather a giving up of conscience/moral agency. He saw where the Ultramontane position led to.

    “And the real reason why I cannot be in communion with you is not my disagreement with this or that Roman doctrine, but that to accept your Church means, not to accept a given body of doctrine, but to accept in advance any doctrine your Church hereafter produces. It is like being asked to agree not only to what a man has said but to what he’s going to say.”

    The horror of the Ultramontane position is that it kills conscience and the Ultramontanist becomes blind to the possibility of error. Authority and Tradition become substitutes for the Truth.This was the sin of the Pharisees. And we all know Christ’s position with regard to the Pharisees was.

    Furthermore, it kills the Faith. From Ratzinger’s essay on the subject;

    “Much more than that, conscience signifies the perceptible and demanding presence of the voice of truth in the subject himself. It is the overcoming of mere subjectivity in the encounter of the interiority of man with the truth from God”.

    Blondel understood that the Church’s insistence on automatic obedience was killing the “interior spiritual mechanics” of believers, no matter how impressive the external form and behaviour of the believers were. When Vatican II came around an pulled the thumbscrews off there was nothing to keep the faithful attracted as the “interiority” was dead.

    I gotta admit that this blog confuses me. As a blog supposedly devoted to orthodoxy–including obedience to the Pope– I don’t understand how you can champion the concept while dissing the Pope everytime he says something you don’t like.

  49. slumlord:

    The core problem is that non-infallible teachings may contain erroneous elements.

    That doesn’t begin to get at “the” core problem. Even granting that a given teaching is infallible, the person interpreting it isn’t. Even granting an infallible sovereign, his subjects aren’t infallible.

    (That of course leaves a ‘hole’ open for postmodernists like yourself to claim that birth control pills are OK because they are high tech and aren’t the kind of contraception universally condemned by the Church, modern usury is OK because modern money is high tech and isn’t medieval money, bombing innocents isn’t the same kind of act as shooting them with arrows, etc etc.)

    Papal Authority is predicated upon the Truth.

    Well, yeah, so is the authority of every husband and father. This doesn’t make their every act into a literal act of God.

    I’m pretty sure we actually agree that epistemic assent and obedience of juridical authority aren’t even the same kind of thing, and I’ve been criticizing ultramontanism for decades. I just don’t see that as a license to promote mortal sin as long as the means to commit it use modern technology.

    Indeed, C.S. Lewis’s rejection of taking the final step to Rome was based, in his opinion, that the would have to cease thinking for himself.

    Well, yes. Or maybe it had something to do with the fact that he was civilly “married” to a divorced woman.

  50. Whatever version of or spin on the story of Lewis and his divorcee wife one may believe, any of the reasons given – including the one slumlord gives – for Lewis declining the Blessed Sacrament and instead dying while still participating in the Anglican pretend liturgy, is pitiable; not illustrative of some profound point.

    Invoking Lewis’ personal failure here just speaks ill of Lewis.

  51. On the other hand, Lewis was hitting on something true. It’s a point Newman also emphasized. A Catholic’s faith doesn’t just consist in deciding he agrees with the Church on a bunch of established dogmas; he also trusts the Church in advance on further clarifications of doctrine.

  52. … he also trusts the Church in advance on further clarifications of doctrine.

    Sure. By the very nature of their methods the modernists don’t clarify doctrine though, they attempt to obfuscate it. Does Amoris clarify anything at all?

  53. Look at it this way.

    There is no possible way for the average Catholic in the pews to read and understand every word that the Church has produced and currently produces. Nor is there any reason or mandate to engage in a bigotry of the present by reading only recently dated documents.

    But the average Catholic in the pews should certainly listen with a trusting attitude when the Church has in fact issued unequivocal statements clarifying doctrines of the Church.

    In the age of hypermedia I would expect to notice it if the Church had recently issued new unequivocal statements clarifying doctrine. (Here is an example of what that might look like: “We do in this our perpetual decree, reprobate and condemn all contracts, pacts, and conventions whatever, to be celebrated in the future, whereby …”)

    But I haven’t noticed any unequivocal, clarifying statements about doctrine made by the present pontificate. Quite the opposite actually. Issuing unequivocal clarifying statements about doctrine would undermine the whole apparent point of muddying the waters in the name of “mercy” construed as (selective) permissiveness when it comes to (certain) mortal sins.

  54. I gotta admit that this blog confuses me. As a blog supposedly devoted to orthodoxy–including obedience to the Pope– I don’t understand how you can champion the concept while dissing the Pope everytime he says something you don’t like.

    That’s because you’re still looking at this through the lens of a false dichotomy: either it is possible to safely dissent from firmly established doctrine, or else every utterance from the Pope must be treated as if infallible. The fact that most of us here vehemently reject the former proposition does not necessitate that we endorse the latter. Once you realize this you’ll be a lot less confused.

  55. I disagree with the notion that the obligation to accept even the non-infallible magisterium puts “authority” over “truth.”

    For an analogy, suppose you have taken an introductory course in calculus, and you have found what appears to be a counterexample to the fundamental theorem of calculus. Despite carefully checking everything, you are unable to find a flaw in your reasoning. Clearly, the consensus of all mathematicians over the last centuries isn’t infallible. However, you still ought to accept the fundamental theorem of calculus because you making a mistake which you are unable to detect is far more likely than the consensus being false. If you believe your counterexample is correct, this makes you a crackpot, not a lover of truth.

    The same applies to the Church’s non-infallible magisterium, even though there may be exceptional cases where the evidence against the doctrine is so overwhelming that the obligation of interior assent ceases.

  56. @Donnie.

    That’s because you’re still looking at this through the lens of a false dichotomy: either it is possible to safely dissent from firmly established doctrine, or else every utterance from the Pope must be treated as if infallible.

    That’s not my false dichotomy.

    The fact that most of us here vehemently reject the former proposition does not necessitate that we endorse the latter.

    Yeah, I get it. For you guys authority trumps Truth.

    @DK

    For an analogy, suppose you have taken an introductory course in calculus

    Let’s try a different analogy. Suppose Tradition and the Magesterium teach that the sun rotates around the earth, and then a funny Italian guy comes along saying its the other way around. Who do you believe?

  57. slumlord:

    For you guys authority trumps Truth.

    Anyone who suggests that authority trumps truth – or that truth trumps authority, for that matter – is asserting a false dichotomy. Authority is the creation of a specific moral/behavioral obligation, truthfully binding upon subjects, by some sovereign (person in authority).

    In this case slumlord projects the false dichotomy onto others — a straw man.

  58. In the 17th century, the non-infallible magisterium taught geocentrism (the theory that the earth is motionless and at the center of the universe) and therefore condemned heliocentrism (the theory that the sun is motionless and at the center of the universe). In 1820, Pope Pius VII allowed Catholic astronomers to teach heliocentrism as conclusively established.

    Catholics were clearly obligated to accept geocentrism in the 17th century. Galilei didn’t have any decisive proof for his theory. When heliocentrism appeared to be solidly established, the magisterium reversed its course pretty soon. Therefore, in my opinion, the Galileo affair doesn’t provide an example of justified dissent.

    It isn’t even clear that the 17th-century Church was mistaken in the first place. The notion of absolute motion (which is presupposed by both geocentrism and heliocentrism) has been abandoned by contemporary physicists, who consider all frames of reference to be equally valid (based on the General Theory of Relativity). I don’t think we can exlude the possibility that the earth’s frame of reference might one day turn out to be the “objectively correct” one in some sense, in which case the earth may be said to be motionless.

    According to contemporary cosmology, the notion of a “center of the universe” doesn’t make sense, but we don’t know which cosmological models physicists will use in the future. If one day they use models which have a well-defined center, how do we know the earth will not turn out to be in that center?

    The Church never denied the fact that in the sun’s frame of reference, the earth (approximately) travels on an ellipse with the sun in one of its focal points. In the earth’s frame of reference, the sun does indeed travel on a complicated curve around the earth, and the Church never taught that the sun travels on a circle or ellipse or any other easy-to-describe curve around the earth.

    Maybe the lesson is that we ought to trust the non-infallible magisterium even when it is contradicted by apparently overwhelming scientific evidence, since further scientific advances might show that the evidence isn’t as decisive as it seemed at first.

  59. the non-infallible magisterium taught geocentrism

    I expect that a rather expansive understanding of “the non-infallible magisterium” is required to support that conclusion. Though as you suggest, it is in fact true that the sun goes around the earth from our inertial frame of reference.

  60. The Roman Catechism, promulgated by St. Pius V and a very important part of the ordinary magisterium, says the following when discussing the first article of the Creed:

    “The earth also God commanded to stand in the midst of the world, rooted in its own foundation, and made the mountains ascend, and the plains descend into the place which he had founded for them.”

    A footnote refers to Psalm 103:5, 8: “Who hast founded the earth upon its own bases: it shall not be moved for ever and ever. […] The mountains ascend, and the plains descend into the place which thou hast founded for them.”

    Thus, the Roman Catechism teaches geocentrism as Divinely revealed.

  61. Slumlord, I don’t see how you can possibly read off “authority trumps truth” from what Donnie wrote. For that matter, suppose we had someone who took the position that Donnie rejects and asserted that every utterance of every Pope is infallibly true. This person also would not be setting authority over truth; this person would be asserting that the two can never come into conflict.

    I think by “truth”, you’re referring to something more specific, like “the weight of available empirical evidence”. It could indeed be said that a hypothetical ultra-ultra-montane Catholic of the type I describe puts ecclesiastic authority above the weight of available empirical evidence, but precisely because he believes that the former more reliably aligns with truth than the latter.

  62. Thus, the Roman Catechism teaches geocentrism as Divinely revealed.

    Thanks. I’ll just suggest that it takes a wee bit of extrapolation to get from those actual quotes to a specific theory of astronomy.

  63. @Bonald

    This person also would not be setting authority over truth; this person would be asserting that the two can never come into conflict.

    And yet that person may be wrong, especially with regard to the ordinary teaching magisterium. i.e on the issue of slavery.

    On the other hand he would be right with regard to issues of infallibility.

  64. As far as I know, the traditional teaching on slavery is as follows:

    (1) Absolute slavery (where the owner has unrestricted authority over his slave) is intrinsically wrong.

    (2) Moderate slavery (where the owner merely has a right to the labor of the slave) is permissible if there is a just cause (e.g., when someone has committed a crime or cannot repay his debts).

    Since at least the late 19th century, popes have expressed the opinion that even justified moderate slavery is in practice undesirable.

    As far as I can see, there is no reason for dissent from this teaching. In the 13th amendment to the U.S. constitution (and also in the German constitution), forced labor for criminals is explicitly permitted. Unfortunately, some contemporary prelates have a tendency to use imprecise language, e.g., by insufficiently distinguishing between absolute and moderate slavery or between the presence and absence of a just cause and also between binding doctrines and non-binding prudential judgements.

  65. @Bonald

    Slavery is not intrinsically immoral

    And yet Veritatis Splendor disagrees.

    “Reason attests that there are objects of the human act which are by their nature “incapable of being ordered” to God, because they radically contradict the good of the person made in his image. These are the acts which, in the Church’s moral tradition, have been termed “intrinsically evil” (intrinsece malum): they are such always and per se, in other words, on account of their very object, and quite apart from the ulterior intentions of the one acting and the circumstances. Consequently, without in the least denying the influence on morality exercised by circumstances and especially by intentions, the Church teaches that “there exist acts which per se and in themselves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong by reason of their object”.131 The Second Vatican Council itself, in discussing the respect due to the human person, gives a number of examples of such acts: “Whatever is hostile to life itself, such as any kind of homicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and voluntary suicide; whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat labourers as mere instruments of profit, and not as free responsible persons: all these and the like are a disgrace, and so long as they infect human civilization they contaminate those who inflict them more than those who suffer injustice, and they are a negation of the honour due to the Creator.”

  66. In this passage, St. John Paul II says that Gaudium et Spres #27 mentions some examples of intrinsically evil acts, but he doesn’t explicitly claim that everything mentioned in Gaudium et Spres #27 is an intrinsically evil act. The latter interpretation would run into the following difficulties:

    (1) “[M]utilation” can be licit at least for medical purposes: “Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2297).

    (2) “[S]ubhuman living conditions” cannot be intrinsically sinful acts because they aren’t acts in the first place. Permitting someone to live under “subhuman […] conditions” cannot be intrinsically evil since Veritatis Splendor teaches that only the negative precepts of the natural law can be exceptionless (see #52), whereas providing humane living conditions is a positive precept. Causing someone to live under “subhuman […] conditions” is intrinsically evil if you define “subhuman […] conditions” as “conditions to which nobody can ever be licitly subjected,” but then the claim is vacuous. It probably isn’t intrinsically evil to cause someone to live under very unpleasant conditions, since life is more valuable than comfort, and St. John Paul II explicitly admitted capital punishment to be licit in principle (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2267).

    (3) “[D]eportation” obviously isn’t intrinsically evil. If I went into St. Peter’s Basilica naked, wouldn’t I be deported from Vatican City? Perhaps the adjective “arbitrary” belongs not only to “imprisonment,” but also to “deportation,” but in that case, might it not also belong to “slavery”? This would mean that non-arbitrary slavery isn’t intrinsically evil.

    In response, you might say that Gaudium et Spes is referring only to those kinds of “mutilation” which do in fact “violate[] the [moral] integrity of the human person” and only to those kinds of subjecting someone to “subhuman living conditions” and of “deportation” which are in fact “offensive to human dignity,” but then you would also have to admit that only those kinds of “slavery” which are in fact “offensive to human dignity” are condemned. Besides, such an interpretation would render the passage almost tautological.

    If St. John Paul II condemns “slavery” as such as intrinsically evil, then the word “slavery” should be interpreted as “absolute slavery”; this would be consistent with the traditional doctrine.

    It is very implausible that slavery in the sense of “forced labor” is intrinsically evil. If capital punishment is in principle permissible, how can it be intrinsically evil to sentence criminals to forced labor? When a farmer requires his children to help him with his work, that is “slavery.” When you tell your children to clean up their rooms, that is, strictly speaking, “slavery.” Clearly, slavery in the wider sense is sometimes permissible.

  67. I’m curious. Does the prohibition on “absolute slavery” add anything to other natural law prohibitions? For example, I know it is wrong to kill my slave, not because there is a natural law against slavery, but because there is a natural law against murder. Is there anything I may not do to my slave, not because it would violate some other precept of natural or divine positive law, but just because would constitute absolute slavery?

  68. On the one hand, absolute slavery is intrinsically evil because it would allow for the master to commit intrinsically evil acts, such as killing or mutilating an innocent slave. On the other hand, according to moral theologian Viktor Cathrein SJ (1845-1931), absolute slavery treats the master as the slaves “immediate end” (“finis immediatus”), whereas only God is every human being’s “immediate end.”

  69. [i]Is there anything I may not do to my slave, not because it would violate some other precept of natural or divine positive law, but just because would constitute absolute slavery?[/i]

    Selling them

  70. The horror of the Ultramontane position is that it kills conscience and the Ultramontanist becomes blind to the possibility of error. Authority and Tradition become substitutes for the Truth.This was the sin of the Pharisees. And we all know Christ’s position with regard to the Pharisees was.

    Oh my, it seems that over the last few weeks we’ve descended from being unintelligent to being Pharisees. Good thing we have a wise non-Pharisee like slumlord here to correct us.

  71. It has been claimed that the Church cannot infallibly teach that a given proposition is indeed contained in a given book (a so-called “dogmatic fact”), because it is not an issue of “faith and morals.” However, when Vatican I defined papal infallibility, it was already well-established that infallibility extended also to dogmatic facts. Therefore, the phrase “faith and morals” cannot plausibly be interpreted to exclude dogmatic facts.

    The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith confirmed in 1998 that dogmatic facts could be taught infallibly (Doctrinal Commentary on the Concluding Formula of the Professio Fidei, #11).

  72. I’m curious. Does the prohibition on “absolute slavery” add anything to other natural law prohibitions? For example, I know it is wrong to kill my slave, not because there is a natural law against slavery, but because there is a natural law against murder. Is there anything I may not do to my slave, not because it would violate some other precept of natural or divine positive law, but just because would constitute absolute slavery?

    I don’t know if you read Just Thomism, but that blog’s author had a post yesterday addressing this question:

    https://thomism.wordpress.com/2017/07/23/the-cheap-grace-of-condemning-slavery/

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