+St. Peter’s Chair at Rome+
(See Unity Octave prayers following this post)
It has been suggested that in presenting some of the material on this site the opinions of questionable theologians have been used and therefore this destroys the arguments presented. Such statements only prove that a) the objectors have not read the site in its entirety and b) they have not comprehended the reasons for citing the various sources, even though these reasons are made quite clear in the course of the demonstrations. More to the point, it is not the opinions of these theologians that are presented as actual proofs here. Rather it is the sources they provide to document their cases, namely documents issuing from the Roman Pontiffs, the Ecumenical Councils, the Pontifical Congregations and the consensus of scholastic theologians.
Msgr. Joseph C. Fenton, in the January 1956 issue of the American Ecclesiastical Review (“Appraisal in Sacred Theology”), told his readers that “The theologian is expected not only to present accurate teaching, doctrine strictly in conformity with the statements of the Church’s magisterium, but also to prove or demonstrate the propositions he sets forth.” Proofs from divine revelation and Church teaching must accompany those things that are “objectively certain.” Reasons advanced for opinions must be “serious and highly pertinent.” The theologians and other authors used to support what is written on this site are not cited primarily because of the author’s own specific reliability, but rather because of the proofs they present in their works and their loyalty to the Continual Magisterium. Their citation of numerous papal documents supporting their arguments is the most compelling reason for citing their works.
Even so, Fenton comments, “It is definitely not enough to have one’s teachings in harmony with those solemn judgments of the magisterium in which dogmas of the Catholic faith are defined.” Here Fenton cites the teaching of Pope Pius IX found in Tuas Libentur (DZ 1683) where the Pope reminds German theologians they must also “subject themselves to the doctrinal decisions set forth by the Pontifical Congregations and to those points of doctrine which are retained by the common and constant agreement of Catholics as theological truths which are so certain that to render opinions opposed to these points of doctrine, if not heretical, are at least deserving of some other theological censure.” In addition, those things also are forbidden which even approach heresy and non-infallible papal teachings, which also must be obeyed.
A tendency noted by Msgr. Fenton in another article, written before his departure from the Catholic University of America in the early 1960s, warns of yet a further danger — that of demeaning the teachings of the manuals of dogmatic theology used to demonstrate truths of faith to Catholic college students and to instruct seminarians. “We are speaking…of the manuals in the field of fundamental dogmatic theology, which were in use and were influential at and after the turn of the twentieth century… Probably the most important of these manuals were those of Louis Billot, who will most certainly be counted among the very ablest of all the theologians who labored for the Church during the early part of this century. Even more widely known than the works of Billot were those of the Sulpician Adolphe Tanquerey. Many thousands of priests were introduced to the study of sacred theology, and particularly of fundamental dogmatic theology, by courses based on Tanquerey’s De Religione: De Christo Legato: De Ecclesia: De Fontibus Revelationis, the first of the three volumes of his Synopsis theologiae dogmaticae ad mentem S. Thomas Aquinatis accommodata. This particular volume had gone into its twenty-first edition in 1925. If the theses taught by Tanquerey were opposed to those of ‘the most authentic Catholic tradition of all ages,’ then thousands of priests, educated during the first part of the twentieth century were being led into error by the men whom Our Lord had constituted as the guardians of His revealed message.” Here Rev. Fenton also mentions Revs. Garrigou-LaGrange, Van Noort, Devivier-Sasia, Yelle, DeGroot, E.S. Berry and many others.
Msgr. Fenton continues: “Now it is quite obvious that the common teaching of the manuals of fundamental dogmatic theology since the turn of the twentieth century has been the doctrine, which has been taught to the candidates for the priesthood within the Catholic Church, at least up until the past few months. We are dealing with books, which have been employed in teaching in seminaries and universities. If these books all contain common teaching opposed to or even distinct from genuine Catholic doctrine, then the ordinary and universal magisterium of the Catholic Church has been very much at fault during the course of the twentieth century.
“It is quite obvious that the individual opinions of individual authors do not constitute Catholic doctrine and could not be set forth as such. But there is a fund of common teaching (like that which tells us that there are truths which the Church proposes to us as revealed by God, and which are not contained in any way within the inspired books of Holy Scripture), which is the unanimous doctrine of the manuals, and which is the doctrine of the Catholic Church. The unanimous teaching of the scholastic theologians has always been recognized as a norm of Catholic doctrine. It is unfortunate that today there should be some attempt to mislead people into imagining that it has ceased to be such a norm in the twentieth century.
“The Catholic priest knows perfectly well that there is never going to be, and that there never could be, any ‘return’ to a more authentic Catholic doctrinal tradition through the abandonment of the common teaching of all the twentieth-century manuals of fundamental dogmatic theology. The living and infallible magisterium of the Catholic Church never abandons the most authentic Catholic tradition. That tradition is manifest in the teaching of the twentieth-century manuals, and in the condemnations of the various Modernistic propositions.”
It is this “fund of common teaching” that is consulted when weighing the worth of any given article or work used on this site, and if the teachings presented do not reflect that fund, then they are not quoted. Long before the “new theology” of Vatican 2 became the norm, Msgr. Fenton was down in the trenches doing all in his power to expose and defeat it. His many works, contained in this author’s library, provide a good sounding board for who and what was not in tune with Church teaching.
Anticipating Humani Generis
Prior to the issuance of Pope Pius XII’s Humani Generis in Aug. 1950, Msgr. Fenton penned an admirable defense of the infallibility of papal encyclicals in a two-part article for the American Ecclesiastical Review. In opening statements to both articles, he emphasized the role played by those participating in the Vatican Council regarding the possibility of infallible statements in the encyclicals. In Part II he relates how, thanks to (then) Abp. Henry Edward Manning and Bishop Ignatius Senestry, the Council rejected the teaching that “the Holy Father can speak infallibly only when he solemnly proclaims a dogma of Divine faith or when he solemnly condemns some teaching as heretical.” It is clear from the excerpts below that Catholics are bound even by non-infallible statements in the encyclicals and are certainly irrevocably bound by those papal encyclicals and other papal documents, according to Humani Generis, entered into the Acta Apostolica Sedis. This is precisely what was stated in the article Material-Formal Hypothesis Condemned As Heresy under Recent Articles on the content page of this site.
“Doctrinal Authority of Papal Encyclicals,” Pt. I; American Ecclesiastical Review, Aug. 1949
“Most theologians… insist the [Holy Father] has the right to demand, and actually has demanded, a definite and unswerving internal assent to his [encyclical] teachings from all Catholics… This sincere assent… due to teachings presented even in a non-infallible way …is definitely and seriously obligatory. The obligation holds until such time as the Church might come to modify its position on some particular portion of the teaching or …serious reasons for such modification might become apparent… The Catholic’s duty to accept the teachings conveyed in the encyclicalseven when the Holy Father does not propose such teachings as a part of his infallible magisterium is not based merely on the dicta of the theologians. The authority which imposes this obligation is that of the Roman Pontiff himself.” And here he cites the teachings of the Vatican Council and Pope Pius IX’s Tuas Libentur. Msgr. Fenton further points out that such an assent also must be extended to the non-infallible decisions of the various Roman Congregations.
“Doctrinal Authority of Papal Encyclicals,” Pt. II; American Ecclesiastical Review, Sept. 1949
Fenton wrote: “According to the Vatican Council… the Church can teach infallibly by solemn judgment or by its ordinary and universal magisterium” (DZ 1792). After explaining at length in both parts of his article that a good number of theologians deny this clear teaching or simply gloss over it, in Part II he details the dangers of this attitude and demonstrates where it had led at the time of his writing. “There is an attitude [of theologians] towards the encyclicals that can be productive of doctrinal evil and …lead toward a practical abandonment of their teaching. According to this attitude, it is the business of the theologian to distinguish two elements in the content of the various encyclicals. One …would be the deposit of genuine Catholic teaching which …all Catholics are bound to accept at all times.
“The other …would be a collection of notions current at the time the encyclicals were written. These notions… would enter into the practical application of Catholic teaching, as ideas Catholics can afford to overlook… This attitude can be radically destructive of a true Catholic mentality. The men who have adopted this mentality imagine they can analyze the content of an individual encyclical or a group of encyclicals in such a way that they can separate the pronouncements which Catholics are bound to accept from those which would have merely an ephemeral value. They, as theologians, would then tell the Catholic people to receive he Catholic principles and do as they liked about the other elements. In such a case, the only true doctrinal authority actually operative would be that of the individual theologian.”
In other words, the authority of the theologian, not the Holy Father himself, would be used to determine what was recommended for Catholic belief, Fenton points out. “It is very difficult to see where this process would stop,” Fenton continues. “The men who would adopt this course would inevitably force themselves to treat all the doctrinal pronouncements of the Popes after the fashion of the teachings of private theologians… If a man chooses to dissect the encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII, there is no reason why the documents which emanate from Gelasius or from St. Leo I should not be subject to the exact same process. If the statements of Pius IX are not valid exactly as they stand, it is difficult to see how those of any other Roman Pontiff are any more authoritative.” Msgr. Fenton notes that while private theologians are obligated and privileged to study the encyclicals and explain them to the people, they are forbidden to interpret them.
“The Holy Father, however, not the private theologian, remains the doctrinal authority. The theologian is expected to bring out the content of the Pope’s actual teaching, not to subject that teaching to the type of criticism he would have a right to impose on the writings of another private theologian… The pronouncements of the Roman Pontiffs, acting as the authorized teachers of the Catholic Church, are definitely not subject to that sort of evaluation… This tendency to consider the pronouncements of the ecclesia docens, and particularly the statements of the papal encyclicals, as utterances which must be interpreted for the Christian people, rather than explained to them, is definitely harmful to the Church. It is and it remains the business of Catholic theologians to adhere faithfully to the teachings of the encyclicals and to do all in their power to bring this body of truth accurately and effectively to the members of Christ’s Mystical Body.”
Today we have those who are not even clerics spouting the opinions of the very remiss theologians Msgr. Fenton describes above as though it were gospel. This in spite of the fact that in Humani Generis Pope Pius XII declared the encyclicals (and even papal addresses) can and often do contain infallible statements. Anything entered into the Acta Apostolica Sedis is binding, and even what is not there entered deserves a firm internal assent. This is not just the opinion of Msgr. Fenton, but of the majority of theologians, even before Pope Pius XII’s definition. Instead there are many who continue to teach today that the encyclicals are open to interpretation and still do not bind. Unless they wish to be counted among the nouvelle “theologians” who later became the architects of Vatican 2, they would do well to cease and desist and follow only the teachings of the Roman Pontiffs, in their entirety.
Unity Octave Prayers
Pope Leo XIII first suggested the following prayers in 1897 when he asked Catholics to pray for Christian unity by reciting a novena. Later, the actual Church Unity Octave was established and blessed by Pope St. Pius X in 1909, who set the dates for the Octave. Prayers begin with the date of the Chair of St. Peter (Jan. 18) and end with the Conversion of St. Paul, (Jan. 26). Pope Benedict XV extended its observance to the Universal Church on Feb. 25, 1916. All today should join in these prayers.Priest: How the Sacred Heart must grieve to behold so many divisions among Christian Churches separated from the one true Church He founded. Pray that Christ’s plea may be realized:
ANTIPHON: (Cantor) Ut omnes unum sint, sicut tu Pater in me* et ego in te; ut et ipsi in nobis unum sint, ut mundus credat* quia tu me misisti. (John 17: 21)(Translation: That they may all be One, as Thou, Father, in Me and I in Thee; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that Thou has sent me.)
- (Priest) “I say unto thee, that thou art Peter;”
- (All) “And upon this Rock I will build My Church.”
Priest: LET US PRAY. O Lord Jesus Christ, Who didst say to Thine Apostles: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you,” regard not our sins but the Faith of Thy Church, and grant unto her that peace and unity which are agreeable to Thy Will. Who livest and reignest, God forever and ever.
Prayer to Our Lady, Help of Christians, to Protect the Church
All: Mary, Immaculate Virgin, Mother of God and our Mother, thou seest how the Catholic Faith is assailed by the devil and the world – that Faith in which we purpose, by the help of God, to live and die – Do thou, O Help of Christians, renew thy victories as of old, for the salvation of thy children.To thee we entrust our firm purpose of never joining assemblies of heretics. Do thou, all holy, offer to thy Divine Son our resolutions and obtain from Him the graces necessary for us to keep them unto the end. Bring consolation to the visible head of the Church – support the Catholic Episcopate; protect the clergy and the people who proclaim thee Queen. Hasten, by the power of thy prayers, the day when all nations shall be gathered around the Supreme Pastor. Amen.Priest: Mary, Help of Christians,
ALL: Pray for us.
(Those praying the Octave are asked to direct each day to the following intentions):Beginning Wednesday, Jan. 18: The return of all the “other sheep” to the one fold of St. Peter, the One Shepherd.
Jan. 19: The return of all Oriental Separatists to Communion with the Apostolic See.
Jan 20: The submission of Anglicans to the Authority of the Vicar of Christ.
Jan 21: That the Lutherans and all other Protestants of continental Europe may find their way back to the Holy Church.
Jan 22: That Christians in America may become one in communion with the Chair of St. Peter.
Jan. 23: The return to the Sacraments of lapsed Catholics.
Jan. 24: The conversion of the Jews.
Jan. 25: The Missionary conquest of the world for Christ.