Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Who makes the Faith?

"Never criticise the pope" has never been a Catholic rule. Ever.

There has also never been a rule that says, "Only saints can criticise popes". Nor has there ever been any rule that says you can't criticise a pope on the internet or other public forums.

All that stuff is in fact made up. And pretty recently. Mostly since we started feeling, in the early 1980s, with more and more bishops going weird and wiggy on us, that the pope was the last bastion of sanity in a world gone pazzo. But the history of the Church is longer than the last 40 years.

To say that a pope is above any criticism simply because he's the pope is becoming one of the favourite mantras of the neocatholics and "conservatives" and it is not only "solemn nonsense" it is dangerous nonsense. To suggest that the pope is above criticism is to suggest that he makes the Faith. He doesn't. The pope is the servant of the Truth, not its maker. To say that a pope cannot be corrected by the faithful is really to suggest that the Faith, the Truth, is a subjective thing dependent upon the pope's personal approval. This would render it as fragile as political opinion (which, by the way, is precisely what the world/liberal Catholics want it to be.)

Here's a few snippets for consideration.

There's no "except the pope" caveat in the following:
Can. 212 §3 [The faithfull] have the right, indeed at times the duty, in keeping with their knowledge, competence and position, to manifest to the sacred Pastors their views on matters which concern the good of the Church. They have the right also to make their views known to others of Christ's faithful, but in doing so they must always respect the integrity of faith and morals, show due reverence to the Pastors and take into account both the common good and the dignity of individuals.
John XXII (r. 1316-1334) in a series of Sunday sermons asserted that the blessed departed do not see God until after the General Judgment­. This would have undone the doctrine of the efficacy of prayers for the dead in Purgatory, among other consequences. The pope at the time was opposed, publicly, by theologians at the University Paris who said that while (by that time) the matter had never been defined as dogma, the Pope was in error, and they petitioned him to recant his opinion. Which he finally did. John XXII added at the time that he had never proposed the idea for the whole Church, and everyone had been free to disagree with him.
The Pope is infallible only when he: “speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church…” (First Vatican Ecumenical Council, Sess. 3, cap. 4).
The Pope has no power to define doctrines as he pleases, for as Vatican I also teaches: “the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles.”

More to think about here.



rubyroad said...

They are glued to THAT line they drew. And it gets more uncomfortable every day.

rubyroad said...
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Liz said...

Luke6:26 seems apt.

breathnach said...

It seems the ultramontane "Francis effect" catholycs and many of the anxious neo-con Catholics were AWOL when BXVI was being hounded as a red Prada slipper wearing Hitler Youth. The "Francis effect" is receiving similar protection afforded "Hope and Change" by the elite media.

Anonymous said...

The problem isn't so much criticizing the Pope as doing it in a public forum, where all our enemies can see our division and infighting, and those who may be considering converting to Catholicism may be dissuaded from doing so. Reverts, especially those who have been poorly taught, may reconsider whether coming back home is really such a good idea. It really is a matter of prudence. Among faithful and well-educated Catholics, such criticism will not harm their faith, but among others, it has a great potential to do harm.

Anonymous said...

Check this related blog post for more insights regarding criticism of the Pope:

Unknown said...

Public criticism of the Vicar of Christ results in what? A greater love for the truth? A real change in the Church? For years, the adherents of +Marcel have been doing just that, and what has been the result? Schism. Is that the fruit of public criticism of the Pope? Wouldn't Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI have the ultimate right to critique the present Pope? He hasn't, has he? So who thinks that they have the charism to do this public castigation? Clearly no one is above correction in the Church (St. Peter Damian) but what is the issue is: PUBLIC criticism.

Anonymous said...

Father, So you have to have a "charism" to criticize the pope? The good that comes from it is that error and confusion is corrected and clarified. The pope can do plenty of damage without changing doctrine by misleading and confusing people, which he has done plenty.

Unknown said...

If you don't have ST. in front of your name, you don't have the charism … period. I sure as heck don't want to be guilty at the judgement Seat of Christ for blasting the Vicar of Christ. Abandon your fantasy that you are correcting and clarifying confusion when publicly criticizing the Roman Pontiff; your actually ADDING CONFUSION.

Awake Deborah said...
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Awake Deborah said...

AMEN to what Father Paul said! In addition it is wrong, disrespectful and nine times out of ten it's GOSSIP, which IS sinful.

I leave you with a quote from Father Thomas Dubay. "We obey our leaders in the church, for when we listen to them we listen to Jesus, and when we reject them, we reject Him and His Father."
In His Love,

Unknown said...

The Pope is different, that is why people get the 'hits' they do, when they attack the Pope. A Catholic who does not love the Vicar of Christ is on his way to becoming a member of the Orthodox.

Awake Deborah said...

Amen. Viva il Papa!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Fr. Paul, for your insights. I find myself perplexed & troubled by the question of public criticism of the Pope. Would it be possible, at least in theory, for the faithful to publicly critique statements and/or actions of the Pope if done in a charitable manner? I think of this as being done as a way available to those who might otherwise lack a venue to exercise their rights via Can. 212 §3, given that it's at least possible for a Pope to surround himself with sycophants who would not relate any criticism. I'm not claiming that Pope Francis is doing this. Considering this from the purpose provided for by our Canon do you think that everyone remaining completely silent is an appropriate response to the misconduct of an Alexander VI or a John XII (reportedly killed by a jealous husband who caught him in the midst of a, uh, "compromising situation" with his spouse)? Would a person who did express disapproval in such situations be in peril for their soul at their judgment? What do you think? Again, I'm troubled & perplexed by the question, wanting only to be faithful and give glory to God.

Unknown said...

No one is above correction in the CHurch - St. Peter Damian. How the Pope should be critiqued is a very delicate matter. To be sure, taking to Twitter, and Facebook and Blogs to reveal the "nakedness of our Father" is not the correct way. It is not the way of the Saints. There are channels and means to address everything in the Church. The channels are there, but seldom used.

Anonymous said...

The present 'bishop of Rome' is not upholding the precious Truth of our Catholic Faith. Our obedience must be to the Faith. Since the damage this prelate is causing is public, and great confusion and veritable heresy are resulting from his imprudence and error, and stupidity, it is necessary to respond publicly. This particular 'bishop of Rome' is accelerating the rapid deterioration of Christ's Church. Stop the pious scolding of those who are saying out loud what needs to be said.

Mowery said...

Excellent point Father. It reminds me of Paul in Galatians. I'm glad that we are finally realising that he was completely out of line to oppose Peter to his face over withdrawing from those Catholics who were not Judaisers. He certainly didn't have Saint in front of his name then. If he hadn't added so much CONFUSION to the Church in the first century, who knows what heights of holiness we would have reached. Let's strike the filthy pope-criticising tent-maker from the canon!

Of course, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. Who is Voris to judge Dolan? I sure as heck don't want to be guilty at the judgement Seat of Christ for blasting the Archbishop of New York. He should abandon his fantasy that he is correcting and clarifying confusion when publicly criticizing the Roman Pontiff; he is actually ADDING CONFUSION.

Why stop at Dolan? Since when do rank and file Catholics think they can oppose Obama and Sebelius on the HHS mandate? I sure as heck don't want to be guilty at the judgement Seat of Christ for blasting the President of the United States and his functionaries. We should abandon our fantasy that we are correcting and clarifying confusion when publicly criticizing the state; we are actually ADDING CONFUSION.

To steal words from the mouth of Catherine of Siena (*gasp* her?! that scandalous, confusion adding, Pope-criticiser! Surely she dwelleth in the depths of Hell!) I say to you Father, 'don't be a boy, be a man' don't roll over simply because the Holy Father said this or said that. Only Protestants believe the Holy Father is impeccable (cannot EVER speak error) and they use that club to beat us Catholics with. I know, I used that club when I was a Protestant. But infallibility by definition means the potential for error. Anyone who says otherwise ignores the history of the great sinners who have held the papal chair and doom us to repeat it.

'A Catholic who does not love the Vicar of Christ is on his way to becoming a member of the Orthodox.' Yes, and a Catholic who does not love his Holy Mother Church is on his way to becoming a member of the Protestants. I'd rather be among the schismatics than amongst the heretics. At least the latter still have sound doctrine and sacraments. The former have not even that.

When we place the Holy Father beyond criticism, we have indeed become guilty of what the Protestants accuse us of. We are no longer disciples of Christ, but of the man who occupies His chair at a given point in history.

Mowery said...

'I'd rather be among the schismatics than amongst the heretics. At least the latter still have sound doctrine and sacraments. The former have not even that.'

I mis-typed. I meant to say this:

I'd rather be among the schismatics than amongst the heretics. At least the former still have sound doctrine and sacraments. The latter have not even that.

Anonymous said...

"If you don't have ST in front of your name, you don't have the charism, period."

Um, no one has St in front of their name until they're dead and have been canonised. Catherine of Siena was just a lay woman, a holy one of course, but a lay woman nonetheless. We can't wait until we're sufficiently 'holy' before we point out error. Public error calls for public correction. Lord knows there is enough confusion, error and compromise preached from the pulpits of ordinary parishes without the Pope adding to the mess. We're talking, fundamentally, about the salvation of souls here and Catholics have a duty to speak the truth.

Anonymous said...

Superb, Catholic insights and reflections, Mowery. The truth above all else must be defended at all times, even if this means criticizing the Holy Father in appropriate ways that can indeed be public when the Holy Father makes public statements that are not infallible.

To be sure, such criticism is a form of fraternal correction that can help the Pope exercise more prudence to avoid making additional public statements that are or can be harmful to the truth. This is a benefit to the Church, and given the Holy Father's humility, I wouldn't be surprised if he welcomes such criticisms that actually show a greater love for him than is shown by others who do not offer such correction that can benefit the Holy Father and the Church.

May the Good Lord grant the Holy Father the wisdom to speak the truth clearly at all times so as to not even inadvertently lead others into error.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

f the pope, or any other prelate or Catholic person in general, gives public scandal by his words or actions, how is it helpful to write them meek little private letters, while all the world continues to be led astray?

Public scandal means leading people in the wrong direction.

At the present juncture, one of the things the Mainstream secular media is enjoying most is not the "division" in the Church, but the fact that the "conservatives" "hardliners" (and all their other usually epithets for faithful, orthodox Catholics) are being sidelined. We are now completely ignorable because of the impression that we are nothing more than cranks.

This is the result of these conservatives who are trying to tell the traditionalists to shut up. They think they are defending the pope, but what they are doing is nothing more than increasing the division and scandal.

Unite for the Faith. Correct Peter, to his face and in public if necessary, since all his deeds are now public and before the view of all the world's millions.

We not only have the right, even without "St. in front of our names" and the duty to correct fellow-Catholics when they give scandal.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

And I remind commenters that this is a carefully policed site. They are *required* to leave a real or plausible-sounding name in the commbox. It is only too easy to squawk and screech at someone on he internet whilst hiding behind anonymity or an obvious pseudonym.

Further anonymous or obviously pseudonymous comments in this thread will be automatically deleted.

Please see the commbox rules posted to the sidebar to your left.

Dave Heath said...

Thanks for using facts and reason to educate the emotional, low-information Catholic population (and the world) about a truly non-issue. The lack of solid Catechesis of the past 50 years is frightening and any Catholic over the age of 18 should already know what you posted...

Unknown said...

The terminology of "neo-cons" and "traddies" and conservatives is truly unhelpful. Have we become Anglicans in our thinking … that we are high, medium and low? I reject emphatically your attempt to place the faithful into political camps, Hilary. You do the Church no favours politicizing it, and making into another form of Anglicanism. Your appeal for unity is disingenuous. You know what you are doing. You are using a nice sounding word, to shut faithful Catholics down from doing what we have always done, defend the Vicar of Christ.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

50 years ago, these "labels" were meaningless because everyone would be either a traditional Catholic or a non-Catholic.

Calling these folks neo-Catholics is actually an act of charity

Esteban Mullady

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

And I reject your need to stick your head in the sand.

If you're confused about taxonomy, I can refer you to various sites explaining the differences between neos and Traditionalists. Or you can read my little summation of the differences here:

But honestly, the thing that I'm most puzzled about is just why, if you're so much at odds with the basic premise of everything I stand for and fight for and uphold as true, what you're doing here.

What the hell? Do you really have this little to do on a Saturday? I'm terribly sorry if you want to continue to live in your little Fantasy that there is nothing really wrong in the Church. I do hope you manage to find your way into the Real as soon as possible. Until then, I'll ask you to mind your manners on my site and suggest that you go do the crossword.

Five minutes acquaintance with the stuff I've been writing about the Faith for the last ten years at this site will tell you that you're at the wrong party.

Personally, I'm really only confused about one thing:

who are you again? and why are you picking a 20+ comment fight in my commbox?

Please read the rules posted to the sidebar to the left...

and then get lost.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Oh, I guess that should have been "Please get lost, Father."

Mowery said...

In June AD 1972, while addressing the Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus, Bishop Fulton Sheen made the following statement:

'Who is going to save our Church? Not our bishops, not our priests and religious. It is up to you, the people. You have the minds, the eyes, and the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops act like bishops, and your religious act like religious.'

How are priests, bishops and religious supposed to act, especially in regard to questions the faithful have about the statements and actions of the reigning Pope? Like the priests, bishops, and religious of history did when the reigning Popes abused their office. They should act like St Paul, who opposed St Peter at Antioch. Like St Catherine of Siena, who told the Pope that if he would not do as he had promised, it would be better for him to resign his office.

Fr Nicholson, the laity are appealing to you and to your brother priests and bishops for guidance and answers. We do not ask for agreement, we simply ask for a serious principled answer. However, rather than a careful explanation of why we are wrong, or a resolution on the part of the clergy to voice our concerns up the chain of command, we are accused of unfaithfulness and flirting with heresy and schism and ordered to get in line, march in step, and enthusiastically shout slogans. We ask our clergy to be fathers and shepherds, and instead, they respond with Marxists tactics and clericalism. We ask for bread and are given stones.

Is it appropriate for the masses of the laity to voice their grievances as they do? Maybe, maybe not. But there is a reason it has come to this point. It is because the priests and bishops, by and large, refuse to exercise their chrism and drive the money-changers from the temple. In fact, many times, they ARE the money-changers. Be a man, Father. Be a priest. That's all we ask of you.

As for members of the laity who do voice public criticism of the Pope in public forums, those who say that they are wrong to do so are in disagreement with the Pope that they are ostensibly defending. Mario Palmaro (recquiescat in pace) received a phone call of thanks from Pope Francis for the criticism he levelled at the Pope. Those who say the Pope should not be criticised, are in fact criticising the Pope, for he has evidenced by his actions to hold a contrary position.

Those who do see the need to publicly criticise the Pope do not take it lightly, and do not enjoy having to do so. But, there is a precedent in the Church of both clergy and laity standing up and criticising Popes. And they have been thanked for doing so by the leaders of the Church who followed. I do not enjoy publicly criticising you, Father Nicholson, just as men of history and today did not and do not enjoy publicly criticising the Popes. However, your attacks on the faithful demand an answer.

Vatican II was supposed foster a greater involvement on the part of the laity. Bosh. Instead, we are told to sit down and shut up. To close our eyes, put our fingers in our ears and sing 'On Eagle's Wings' loud enough to drown out the cries of the souls falling into Hell.

Last year, at Catholic Woodstock in Brazil, Pope Francis told the young members of the laity that he wanted them to make a mess. Well, I stand with the Pope. I'm 29 years old, and till the day I die, I will make as big a mess as I can, until our priests act like priests, our bishops act like bishops, and our religious act like religious. If you tell me otherwise, you are, by extension, criticising the Pope, and have become party to the very thing you claim to oppose.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

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