November 18, 2018, Sunday
“They seek their own interests, not the interests of Jesus Christ; they proclaim His word, but spread their own ideas.” —St. Augustine (354-430 A.D.), referring to heretical theologians during the late 4th and early 5th centuries. The words are cited by Catholic theologian Fr. Nicola Bux in an October 13 interview on the present state of the Church
Benedict’s 2013 Resignation, Concerns about the Possible Abrogation of Summorum Pontificum (which in 2007 confirmed the universal right of all Catholic priests to celebrate Mass according to the Old Liturgy), and the Possible Dangers of a Proposal to Designate a List of “Official” Catholic Writers and Bloggers
Three significant stories have flown “under the radar” (to a certain extent) in recent days.
They deserve greater attention.
(#1) The question of Benedict XVI’s 2013 resignation in the context of widespread concerns about seemingly heretical ruptures with traditional Catholic orthodox teaching in recent years (link to the original Italian interview, link to Edward Pentin’s brief summary in English; and link to a slightly more extended treatment by Debra Heine).
[Note: on my computer, when I try to go to the Pentin link, I receive a warning in bright red with the words “Deceptive site ahead”(!); you have to click on “Details” and then, after the words, at the end, you have to click on “if you understand the risks to your security, visit this unsafe site”; I did visit the site because I wanted to read the article; but all this was very strange to me; it is the first time it has happened in any of my searches for Church news on various Catholic websites that I have been warned that the site is “deceptive”; it appears that Pentin’s site is being treated by certain browsers, or search engines, as “deceptive”; I do not know more about this matter; if you wish, take a look for yourself… if you are willing to “risk” a visit to Pentin’s blog.]
The first story is already more than a month old. It emerged in an October 13 interview granted by Fr. Nicola Bux, a conservative Italian Catholic theologian and liturgy expert to Italian Catholic journalist Aldo Maria Valli (the same Aldo Maria Valli who talked at length with Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano just before Vigano published his explosive Testament on the night of August 25, now almost three months ago).
What is important about this story?
The fact that Bux, generally regarded as a thoughtful, competent thinker — a priest of the Archdiocese of Bari, he is a professor of eastern liturgy and sacramental theology who has studied and taught in Jerusalem and in Rome; under Benedict’s papacy he was a consultor to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and still is a consultor for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints — points to the issue of the nature and legitimacy of Pope Benedict XVI’s 2013 decision to resign the papacy as something that may need further study.
Over the past five and a half years since the resignation, most serious Catholic theologians have avoided giving any sort of credence to questions about the legitimacy or nature of Benedict’s abdication out of a desire not to “de-stabilize” the Church’s government in any way.
But Bux, in a rather tentative yet unmistakable way, is raising the matter as one of legitimate doctrinal concern. This seems new.
(#2) Is it possible that some prelates could be planning and working for the abrogation of Summorum Pontificum?
The second story concerns a “trial balloon” recently launched in Italy which some are interpreting as a “preliminary test” to judge whether it might not be opportune in the not-too-distant future — perhaps after Benedict XVI dies (he is now 91) — to “abrogate” his 2007 Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum. Here is a link to a OnePeterFive story on the matter.
I do not think such an “abrogation” would be legitimate if attempted, nor do I think it would be right or good to suppress the old rite completely — as some evidently wish to do — but some observers are now suggesting there is support for such an effort.
Clearly, such an attempted abrogation would be a rupture with the thinking and wishes of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI.
(#3) The Possible Dangers of a Proposal to Designate a List of “Official” Catholic Writers and Bloggers (link)
Theologian Calls for Examination of Validity of Pope Benedict’s XVI’s Resignation
Monsignor Nicola Bux: “Unity is made in truth”
by Aldo Maria Valli
October 13, 2018
(Note: Translation from the original Italian is my own.—RM)
The issue of sexual abuse in the Church has somewhat displaced the debate on Amoris laetitia and on all that followed about the adherence of the magisterium to right doctrine.
But, as is obvious, the issues are connected.
Therefore, it seems appropriate to resume the thread of the discussion and we do it with a specialist, Monsignor Nicola Bux, theological consultor of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, after having been a consultor for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, for the Congregation of Divine Worship and for the Office of Pontifical Celebrations.
The author, among numerous other books, of the essay Peter Loves and Unites: The Pope’s Responsibility for the Universal Church (Edizioni Studio Domenicano), Monsignor Bux has just returned to Italy from Argentina, where, in Buenos Aires, he was invited to the XXI Encuentro de formacion catolica, on the theme of The Liturgy: Fount and Expression of the Faith.
Don Nicola, “heresy” and “schism” — words that seemed to have disappeared from the Catholic vocabulary — are returning to the center of many analyses on the current situation of the Church. Could we begin by assessing the status quaestionis [the “state of the question”] after Amoris laetitia and the debate which ensued?
Monsignor Nicola Bux: It seems to me that after the publication, on September 24, 2017, of the Correctio filialis de haeresibus propagatis (“Filial Correction concerning the propagation of heresies”), and after the Declaration promulgated in Rome by the conference of April 7 this year, where Cardinal (Walter) Brandmüller and Cardinal (Raymond) Burke spoke, the idea that the Pope himself, in his magisterium, has slipped into heretical affirmations, is now at the center of a vast debate, which is becoming more and more passionate each day.
At the origin of this vast debate is the apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia, in which — according to the 40 signatories of the Correctio (which in the meantime went up to 250, not counting the thousands of adhesions linked to the initiative) — may be found as many as seven heretical propositions concerning marriage, the moral life and the reception of the sacraments.
And the problems, at least as far as Amoris laetitia is concerned, have become considerably aggravated and complicated.
As is well known, the letter of Pope Francis to the Argentine bishops of the Buenos Aires region and the criteria indicated by the latter for access to communion by the divorced and newly married, have been published in Acta Apostolicae Sedis, accompanied by a note ex audientia SS.mi [“from an audience with the Holy Father”] of the cardinal Secretary of State, who, on the approval of the Pope, considers these two previous documents as an expression of the “authentic magisterium” of the current Pope and, therefore, as a magisterium to which Catholics must grant pious respect of intellect and will.
At the same time, Cardinal Brandmüller, one of the four cardinals of the dubia (the others are Burke, Meisner and Caffarra, the last two now deceased) in an article has proposed the idea, which I also have proposed, that the Pope should issue a profession of faith [to clarify the situation].
In this regard, Don Nicola, also in the light of the statements of Cardinal (Gerhard) Müller on the need for a public disputatio on Amoris laetitia, and the words of the Secretary of State of the Holy See, Cardinal Parolin, according to which “within the Church it is important to dialogue,” is it realistic to imagine that we may receive an answer from the Pope and that he may make a “profession of faith” to dispel all doubts and confusion?
Monsignor Nicola Bux: The authentic unity of the Church is made by and in the truth. The Church was placed by the Founder — He who said: “I am the truth” — as “the pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Tim 3:15).
Without the truth there is no unity, and charity would be a fiction.
The idea that the Church is a federation of ecclesial communities, a bit like the Protestant communities, would make it difficult for the Pope to make a profession of Catholic faith.
In fact, after the last two synods, a faith and a morality have come forth that we could characterize as, to say the least, at “two speeds”: the evidence of this is that in some places it is not possible to give communion to the divorced and remarried, and in others it is possible. Not a few bishops and parish priests, therefore, are in great embarrassment, because of an unstable and confused pastoral situation.
This being so, it seems realistic to think of creating a “table” within the Church, to understand what is Catholic and what is not: a doctrinal discussion, on which pastoral practice would depend.
Doctrinal development always benefits from debate.
The example comes from Joseph Ratzinger, who first as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then as Pope, received various dissenting theologians, discussing with them.
And if there is no discussion?
Monsignor Nicola Bux: I fear that the apostasy will deepen and the de facto schism will grow.
Precisely a process of rational and charitable discussion within the Church would make necessary a profession of faith by the Pope, with the abjuration, evidently, of any errors and erroneous opinions declared up to that moment, to reaffirm the Catholic faith as a model, a rule of belief for every Catholic.
By the way, this situation has become even more urgent as a result of the latest novelties introduced by the Pope, such as the definition of the death penalty as “against the Gospel.”
A definition arrived at in a debatable way, changing an article of the Catechism of the Catholic Church according to a a decidedly historicist vision.
This poses a series of problems. Also of personal conscience. Especially since the previous catechisms, I think of the Roman or Tridentine or the so-called Major Catechism of St. Pius X, taught the legitimacy of capital punishment and its full conformity to Divine Revelation.
The Tridentine catechism even defined the norm that allowed the state authority to impose a just punishment, not excluding even capital punishment, on an offender, guilty of serious crimes, as a part of “divine law.”
So the problems, as I said, are serious, because either we have to admit that the Church has taught the legitimacy of something anti-evangelical practically for 2,000 years, or we must admit that Pope Francis has erred, considering against the Gospel something that, on the contrary, is, at least on the level of principle, in conformity with Revelation.
The question is very delicate. But sooner or later it must be faced.
And the question of capital punishment is not the only such question.
Many people ask: if the Pope feels himself free to change an article of the Catechism according to the changing needs of the People of God or the different sensibilities of today, can he do it with regard to other points as well, even more important ones?
Monsignor Nicola Bux: It is a very worrisome question. It is a legitimate concern to wish to preserve the depositum fidei unharmed from the contingent sensibilities of society, today or tomorrow.
Returning to the initial question, what is needed is a profession of faith similar to that made by Paul VI in 1968, in order to reaffirm what is Catholic, in the face of the errors and heresies that spread immediately after the Second Vatican Council, especially because of the publication of the Dutch Catechism.
In our case, however, it would be a matter of reaffirming certain truths about the sacraments, morality and the social doctrine of the Church, and likewise of rejecting any doubtful or erroneous opinion that may have spread, even involuntarily, on these issues.
Some have observed that the initiative of the Correctio, though dramatic, is not new, because already in the times of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and even before, under Paul VI, there were petitions made by theologians, clerics and laity, both individual and organized. It was the position of scholars who believed that the Second Vatican Council, in its anti-dogmatism, had introduced a break with the previous Church, and they accused those pontiffs of centralism and non-openness to the requirements of modernity. Do you find what happened then like what is happening today?
Monsignor Nicola Bux: No, because that was a non-Catholic attack on Catholic teaching. In a similar way, though from the opposite perspective, other theologians and laymen, who harbored suspicions about the Council, expressed their opposition even to healthy innovations. In both cases, it was a protest and not a correction.
Today’s Church leaders, placed in the key posts of the ecclesiastical establishment, keep silent, never entering into the merits of the heresies that are challenged, in particular, in the apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia.
It should be remembered that St. Pius X, in the encyclical Pascendi, warned that never clearly confessing any heresy is the behavior typical of modernists, because in this way they can hide themselves inside the Church.
But why in your opinion would a profession of faith be helpful? And if the Pope, as all signs indicate, will not do it, what could happen?
Monsignor Nicola Bux: In Gratian’s Decretals (pars I, Dist. 40, chapter VI) there is this canon: “No mortal will presume to speak of the guilt of the Pope, since, charged with judging everyone, he must not be judged by anyone, unless he deviates from the faith.”
A distancing and deviation from the faith is called “heresy,” a word that comes from the Greek “airesis” and means the choice and absolutization of a truth, minimizing or denying the others that are in the category of Catholic truths (remember in this regard that (Hans Urs) von Balthasar wrote an essay entitled “Truth is Symphonic”).
Obviously, the deviation must be manifest and public. And in the case of manifest heresy, according to St. Robert Bellarmine, the Pope can be judged.
Bellarmine was also Prefect of the Holy Office, a figure whose function is precisely to watch over the respect for orthodoxy in the faith by all, including the Pope, who is also the first to have to carry out such an oversight.
The Pope is called by the Lord to preach the Catholic faith, but to do so he must prove he is able to defend it.
The Orthodox — the Christians of the East separated from Rome — are so-called precisely because they have emphasized the primacy of true faith as a condition of the true Church. Otherwise the Church ceases to be a pillar and foundation of truth. Consequently, whoever does not defend the true faith falls from any Church office, patriarchal, eparchal, etc.
Excuse me, Fr Nicola, are you saying that in a case of heresy, just as a heretical Christian ceases to be a member of the Church, even the Pope would cease to be Pope and head of the ecclesial body, and would lose all jurisdiction?
Monsignor Nicola Bux: Yes, heresy affects the faith and the status of member of the Church, which are the root and foundation of jurisdiction.
This is the thought of the Fathers of the Church, especially Cyprian, who dealt with Novatian, anti-Pope during the pontificate of Pope Cornelius (cf. Lib 4, ep 2).
Every faithful, including the Pope, if he embraces heresy, separates himself from the unity of the Church.
It is well known that the Pope is at the same time a member and a part of the Church, because the hierarchy is within and not above the Church, as stated in Lumen gentium (No. 18).
Faced with this eventuality, so serious for the faith, some cardinals, or even the Roman clergy or the Roman synod, could admonish the Pope with fraternal correction, could “resist him in the face” as Paul did with Peter at Antioch; they could refute him and, if necessary, call on him to repent. Should the Pope be pertinacious in error, it would be necessary to distance oneself from him, in accordance with what the Apostle says (see Titus 3: 10-11). Furthermore, his heresy and his unwillingness to repent should be declared publicly, so that he might not cause harm to others and so that everyone may protect themselves.
If a heresy were well-known and made public, the Pope would ipso facto lose his pontificate.
For theology and canon law, the pertinacious heretic is someone who questions a truth of faith consciously and voluntarily, that is, with the full awareness that this truth is a dogma and with the full adherence of the will.
I note that one can have obstinacy or pertinacity in a sin of heresy committed even simply due to weakness.
Moreover, if the Pope did not want to maintain union and communion with the whole body of the Church, as when he tried to excommunicate the whole Church or to subvert the liturgical rites based on the apostolic tradition, he could be schismatic.
If the Pope does not behave like a Pope and head of the Church, neither is the Church in him nor is he in the Church.
By disobeying the law of Christ, or by ordering what is contrary to natural or divine law, what has been universally ordained by the Councils or the Apostolic See, the Pope separates himself from Christ, who is the chief head of the Church and in relation to whom the ecclesial unity is constituted.
Pope Innocent III says that the Pope must be obeyed in everything, until he turns against the universal order of the Church: in this case, unless there is a reasonable cause, he should not be followed, because, behaving thus, it is no longer subject to Christ and therefore separates from the body of the Church.
I do not hide, however, that what I have said, although clear and simple in theory, in practice meets many difficulties; disadvantages also of a canonical nature.
If we should ever reach such a point, what would be the consequences for the faith and for the Church?
Monsignor Nicola Bux: Whoever wants to be Pope cannot deny the Catholic truth; on the contrary, he must adhere to it in full if he wants to claim the magisterial authority.
That is what Ratzinger wrote years ago, stressing that the Pope cannot “impose his own opinion,” but must “recall precisely the fact that the Church cannot do what she wants and that even he, indeed, precisely the Pope, does not have the faculty to do it” because “in matters of faith and sacraments, as concerning the fundamental problems of morality” the Church can only “consent to the will of Christ.”
In the case of opposition between the text of a papal document and other testimonies of Tradition, it is permissible for a well-educated believer, who has carefully studied the matter, to suspend or deny his consent to the document itself.
In the case of Amoris laetitia, there are those who have shown that the document is cumbersome and contradictory in many points, and the quotations of St. Thomas are affixed to propositions that support things contrary to his thought. One understands, therefore, what Joseph Ratzinger wrote: “On the contrary, it will be possible and necessary to criticize papal pronouncements, insofar as they lack support in Scripture and in the Creed, in the faith of the universal Church. Where there is neither the unanimity of the universal Church nor a clear testimony of the sources, a binding decision is not possible; if a decision if made formally, the indispensable conditions would be lacking and the problem of its legitimacy should therefore be raised”(Joseph Ratzinger, Faith, Reason, Truth and Love, Lindau, 2009, p. 400).
In short, if the Pope does not guard the doctrine, he cannot demand discipline; if he then should lose the Catholic faith, he would fall from the Apostolic See. “The power of Peter’s keys does not extend to the point that the Supreme Pontiff can declare ‘not sin’ what is sin, or ‘sin’ that which is not sin. In fact, this would be to call evil good, and good evil, something that always has been and will be very far from the one who is the Head of the Church, the pillar and foundation of truth” (see Robert Bellarmine, De Romano Pontifice, lib IV chapter VI, page 214, and also Lumen gentium, 25).
Consequently, the Pope who, as a private person, would identify himself with heresy, would no longer be the Supreme Pontiff or Vicar of Christ on earth.
However, you yourself said that there are practical difficulties that are not unimportant …
Monsignor Nicola Bux: For a Pope, in fact, there is a kind of immunity from jurisdiction. Therefore, although in theory it is said that the cardinals can ascertain his heresy, certainly in practice it would become difficult, because of the fundamental principle Prima sedes a nemine iudicatur [“The first See is judged by no one”] taken from can. 1404 c.i.c. (Code of Canon Law)
No church, as a daughter, can judge the mother, that is, the Apostolic See.
Even less may any sheep from the flock stand up and judge its pastor.
If we look at how this principle has been applied in the history of the Church, and of the papacy in particular, we note that even in the case of accusations of heresy, or even a true apostasy of the Pope, everything ended with nothing. I’ll give a couple of examples.
The first that comes to mind is that of Pope Marcellinus. According to ancient sources, especially the Liber Pontificalis, during the great Diocletian persecution of the 4th century AD, he is said to have yielded and offered incense to the idols, that is, he is said to have apostatized, although this is not completely historically certain (for example, some authors and historians of the ancient Church, such as Eusebius of Caesarea and Theodoret of Cyrus, deny this, stating that this Pope shone nobly during the Great Persecution). Following his alleged apostasy, a synod is said to have been called to Sinuessa, a town between Rome and Capua, near the current Mondragone, in 303 with the aim of ascertaining and declaring the apostasy of the Pope.
Now, it is true that the acts of this synod are considered apocryphal and dating from the 6th century, but it is undoubted that from them emerges the clear refusal of the synod to ascertain and condemn Marcellinus for his act of apostasy.
On the contrary, the synod members ask the Pope himself to judge his gesture and to choose himself the right punishment, recognizing a sort of immunity from their jurisdiction for the Pope, precisely because of the principle I have laid out above, namely, that the First See cannot be judged by anyone.
For the record, Marcellinus, apparently repented of the gesture, testified to his faith, and died a martyr. For this reason he is venerated as Pope and Martyr on April 26.
The second case is that of Pope Leo III and his famous oath, represented by Raphael in a famous fresco in the Apostolic Palace. Pope Leo III appears there in pontifical attire, taking an oath on the Gospels, before Charlemagne and a crowd of dignitaries, laity and clergymen, and the people of God, on 23 December of the year 800, in the Basilica of St. Peter. The Pope was accused — although the ancient sources are not very precise in this regard — of perjury and adultery (no one knows with whom) by the nephews of his predecessor, Pope Adrian I.
Charlemagne came to Rome to put order among those who supported the Pope and his opponents. The Pope, freely, “without being judged and corrected by anyone, spontaneously and voluntarily,” purified himself before God of faults, declaring and professing his innocence from the accusations made against him. The Pope concluded: “I declare this spontaneously to eliminate any suspicion: not that this is prescribed by canons, nor so that I might create a precedent and impose such a use in the holy Church upon my successors and my brothers in the episcopate.”
In Raphael’s painting appears a writing: Dei non hominum est episcopos iudicare, that is: It is up to God, not to men, to judge bishops.
This is an allusion to the confirmation, given in 1516 by the Lateran Council V, of the bull Unam sanctam of Boniface VIII, in which the principle according to which the responsibility of the pontiff can be judged only by God was sanctioned.
In short, many practical difficulties …
Monsignor Nicola Bux: A further difficulty is, then, in the identification of the exact contours of a heresy.
Look, unlike the past, theology is no longer reliable, but has become a sort of arena in which everything converges and its opposite. So, if a truth is affirmed, there will always be someone willing to defend the exact opposite. As you can see, there are many practical, theological and juridical difficulties to the question of the judgment of an heretical Pope.
Perhaps — and I say this from a practical point of view — it would be easier to examine and study more accurately the question concerning the juridical validity of Pope Benedict XVI’s renunciation, i.e., whether it was full or partial (“halfway,” as some have said) or doubtful, since the idea of a sort of collegiate papacy seems to me decidedly against the Gospel text. In fact, Jesus did not say “Tibi dabo claves…” [“I will give to you the keys”] turning to Peter and Andrew, but he only told Peter!
That’s why I say that, perhaps, a thorough study of the resignation could be more useful and profitable, as well as helping to overcome problems that today seem insurmountable to us.
It has been written: “There will also come a time of the most difficult trials for the Church. Cardinals will oppose cardinals and bishops bishops. Satan will put himself in their midst. Also in Rome there will be great changes”(Saverio Gaeta, Fatima: The Whole Truth, 2017, p 129). And this great change, with Pope Francis, we can see in a palpable way, given the clear intention to mark a line of discontinuity or break with the previous pontificates. This discontinuity — a revolution — generates heresies, schisms and controversies of various kinds.
However, all of them can be traced back to sin. And this was already noted by Origen: “Where there is sin, there we find multiplicity, there schisms, there heresies, there controversies. Where virtue reigns, there is unity, there communion, thanks to which all believers were of one heart and one soul “(In Ezechielem homilia, 9.1, in Sources Chrétiennes 352, p. ).
Even the liturgy was affected by all this, and you wrote this often in your books …
Monsignor Nicola Bux: Exactly. We celebrate as if God were not present, a worldly ceremony.
But here we are comforted by the words of St. Athanasius of Alexandria addressed to the Christians who suffered under the Arians:
“You remain outside the places of worship, but faith lives in you. Let’s see: what is more important, the place or the faith? True faith, of course.
“Who has lost and who has won in this fight, who keeps the seat or who observes the faith?
“True, buildings are good, when apostolic faith is preached; they are holy, if everything takes place in a holy way…
“You are the ones who are happy, you who remain within the Church for your faith, who hold it firmly in the foundations as they have come down to you from the apostolic tradition, and if any execrable jealously tries to shake her on various occasions, she is not successful.
“They are those who have broken away from it in the current crisis.
“No one will ever prevail against your faith, dear brothers, and we believe that God will make us return our churches one day.
“The more violent people try to occupy the places of worship, the more they separate from the Church. They claim that they represent the Church, but in reality they are those who are in turn expelled from it and go astray”(Coll. Selecta SS Eccl. Patrum, Caillu and Guillou, vol.32, pp. 411-412).
Let us pray, however, that Divine Providence may intervene in favor of the Church, so that it does not happen that we can find ourselves before the eventuality that I have described. Less than a month after Benedict XVI’s resignation, also the distinguished Jesuit canonist, Father Gianfranco Ghirlanda, expressed his desire for this, at the end of an important article (La Civiltà Cattolica, 2 March 2013).
Can we say that heresy does not consist only in spreading false doctrines, but also in silencing the truth about doctrine and morality?
Monsignor Nicola Bux: Certainly yes. If the term “doctrine” bothers someone, then use the term teaching, because both are the translation of the Greek didachè.
Where doctrine is lacking, there are moral problems, as we are seeing!
When the Pope and the bishops do this [cease teaching doctrine], they use their office to destroy the Church.
St. Augustine says: “They feed themselves, they seek their own interests, not the interests of Jesus Christ, they proclaim His word but to spread their own ideas.”
“The name of Jesus Christ,” said Cardinal (Giacomo) Biffi, “has become an excuse to talk about something else: migration, ecology and so on. Thus we are no longer unanimous in speaking (1 Cor 1: 10) and the Church is divided.”
By the way, further modifications to the texts of the Roman missal in Italian, especially to the Our Father, should be avoided, because they would produce further divisions among the faithful.
[End October 13, 2018, Fr. Bux interview with Aldo Maria Valli]
In the next two letters, news and reflections on the 2nd and 3rd stories “under the radar”:
(#2) The Possible Abrogation of Summorum Pontificum, and
(#3) The Possible Dangers of an “Official Catholic” List of Bloggers and Writers
(to be continued)
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