Where Peter Is has been doing great work

Where Peter Is has been doing great work November 18, 2019

Here, for instance, is Paul Fahey, strengthening the faithful against the single greatest enemy the Church faces in this hour: right wing Catholics in ceaseless war against the Holy Father and the Magisterium:

In my spiritual formation as a young adult, the idea of a future schism–refusing to submit to the teaching of the pope–was presented as a “liberal” concept. The idea was that in the name of progress, some Catholics rejected papal teaching on subjects like contraception, same-sex marriage, and women priests. This kind of schismatic believes that Church teaching on these matters hasn’t “developed” far enough, that the truth of their ideas is certain, and that Church teaching needs to catch up.

In recent years, however, I’ve grown aware of another kind of schism: a “conservative” schism. This occurs when Catholics reject official papal teaching in the name of maintaining tradition. This type of schismatic attitude holds that a when a pope’s teaching has exceeded an acceptable level of development, there has been a rupture with true doctrine. (To be clear, I’m using the word “schism” simply to describe Catholic’s refusal to submit to the Roman Pontiff [see Catechism 2089] and not in the extreme historical sense, as with the the split between Orthodox Christians and Rome in AD 1054.)

This conservative schism is a rejection of the idea that our faith is alive. Catholic teaching is more like a growing tree than a set of historical texts. Pope Francis is keenly aware of this distinction and has reiterated it multiple times during his papacy, perhaps most explicitly during a meeting with the superior generals of women’s religious orders this past spring. There he said:

“The Church is not only Denzinger, that is, the collection of dogmatic passages, of historical things. This is true, but the Church develops on her journey in fidelity to Revelation. We cannot change Revelation. It’s true the Revelation develops. The word is ‘development’ — it develops with time. And we with time understand the faith better and better. The way to understand the faith today, after Vatican II, is different than the way of understanding the faith before Vatican II. Why? Because there is a development of knowledge. You are right. And this isn’t something new, because the very nature — the very nature — of Revelation is in continual movement to clarify itself” (May 10, 2019 meeting of the International Union of Superiors General).

Notice how closely this teaching follows something Pope Saint Paul VI wrote in a 1976 letter to SSPX founder Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre,“Tradition is not a rigid and dead notion, a fact of a certain static sort which at a given moment of history blocks the life of this active organism which is the Church, that is, the mystical body of Christ.”

Revelation is always unfolding, teachings develop as we come to a greater and greater understanding of what God has revealed to us. And it is the role of the Magisterium–the successors of Peter and the other apostles–to be the divinely assisted guides in this dynamic and living process of development. Now, this isn’t some kind of magisterial positivism where the truth is created by papal fiat. Rather, Church teaching proclaims and clarifies the Truth. It’s the difference between the Magisterium writing its own truth and the Magisterium interpreting the Truth.

This is why, in his interview with Ross Douthat, the idea expressed by Cardinal Burke–that because his beliefs haven’t changed that he couldn’t possibly be wrong–is problematic. In reference to Amoris Laetitia, Cardinal Burke said, “I haven’t changed. I’m still teaching the same things I always taught and they’re not my ideas. But now suddenly this is perceived as being contrary to the Roman pontiff.” Then, regarding the Amazonian Synod, the cardinal makes this claim:

The working document doesn’t have doctrinal value. But what if the pope were to put his stamp on that document? People say if you don’t accept that, you’ll be in schism — and I maintain that I would not be in schism because the document contains elements that defect from the apostolic tradition. So my point would be the document is schismatic. I’m not.

That a magisterial teaching of the pope could possibly be schismatic (i.e. not submissive to the teaching of the pope) is logically incomprehensible. Isn’t it a blatant contradiction to say that the pope could be disobedient to himself?

Why, yes it is. More on this tomorrow.


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