Today we celebrate the 72nd anniversary of the issuance of Humani generis. This infallible papal encyclical addressed many of the errors circulating not long after the end of World War II. Among them were some of those very errors and heresies which still plague us today, several which readers will find familiar. That these teachings yet are contested after seven decades proves that those claiming to continue the true Catholic Church of Pope Pius XII are doing nothing of the sort. Here we will enumerate those errors and in next week’s blog we will explain the nature of the division in the Church that existed long before the false Vatican 2 council. This dichotomy eventually led to the rejection of papal teaching, particularly certain decisions issued by Pope Pius XII.
Errors condemned by Pope Pius XII in Humani Generis
- Eirenicism (i.e., ecumenism, which would allow Catholic doctrine to be distorted or perverted) (paras. 11, 12, 43);
- Theologians can authentically interpret the Divine deposit, (para. 21);
- The pope is unable to permanently end theological discussions and disputes, (para. 19, 20);
- What is taught in official papal documents is not binding, (para. 20);
- Hypotheses and conjectural notions can be legitimately employed in theological argument, (paras. 35, 37);
- False teachings on Scholasticism and true certitude (pragmatism, necessity of scholastic method — paras. 3, 17, 18, 31, 32, 34);
- Ex cathedra pronouncements are rare, (para. 21);
- Restrictions can be placed by theologians on what constitutes an ex cathedra pronouncement and theologians may dictate a formula for the actual wording of the pronouncement, (para. 21);
- Encyclicals and other papal documents are not infallible or binding in conscience, (para. 20);
- The pope binds the faithful in obedience only when condemning teachings or acts as heretical, (para. 18);
- Ordinary magisterium pronouncements are not binding in conscience, only the extraordinary (ex cathedra) variety, (paras. 18, 20);
- Minimalism — watering down papal teaching to make it appear it is not applicable or binding (paras. 14, 16, 43);
- In conclusion, Pope Pius XII commands teachers to accept and observe his teachings, (paras. 42, 43).
This encyclical was issued seven years after Mystici Corporis Christi and reinforces the teaching of that encyclical. In Humani generis, Pope Pius XII admonishes those who do not accept the definition of the Church as synonymous with Christ’s Mystical Body in Mystici Corporis. He also includes in Humani generis the paragraph below, addressing encyclical letters in general and how they are to be accepted by all the faithful as documents of the ordinary magisterium.
“Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such letters the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their teaching authority. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: ‘He who listens to you, listens to me’; and generally what is expounded and inculcated in Encyclical Letters already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine. But if the Supreme Pontiffs in their official documents, purposely pass judgment on a matter up to that time under dispute, it is obvious that that matter, according to the mind and will of the same Pontiffs, cannot be any longer considered a question open to discussion among theologians.”
In his article “Humani Generis and the Holy Father’s Ordinary Magisterium” (American Ecclesiastical Review, 1951), Msgr. Joseph C. Fenton explains how this paragraph is to be understood by the faithful. He touches on some very important points below which I hope will help readers better understand some of the subject matter discussed recently on this blog.
“Each sentence of this paragraph [from Humani generis above] contains an important theological truth. The first expresses a sometimes obscured fact about the Holy Father’s teaching activity. The second sentence brings out a truth which has not hitherto been set down very frequently in that section of theological writing dealing with the Holy Father’s teaching power. It constitutes a striking contribution to theological literature. The third stands as a necessary inference from the first and the second sentences. It has definite and intensely practical implications for present day theologians.
“The first statement of this paragraph condemns any minimizing of the authority of papal encyclicals which might be based on the subterfuge that the Holy Father does not use the fullness of his doctrinal power in such documents. The teaching of the encyclicals postulates an assensum per se, an acceptance by Catholics precisely because it is the teaching of the supreme doctrinal authority within the universal Church of Jesus Christ on earth. It demands such acceptance even when the Holy Father does not use supremam sui Magisterii potestatem. In other words, Catholics are bound to tender, not merely a courteous acknowledgment, but a genuine and sincere inward acceptance, to teachings which the Holy Father sets forth with a note or qualification LESS than de fide or even doctrina certa…
“Catholics are obliged in conscience to accept these condemnations, and to reject the proscribed propositions inwardly and sincerely. In the last analysis, this process involves the command to adopt an opinion, since the Church, in designating a proposition merely as something rash or ill-sounding (to mention only two of these doctrinal censures inferior to those of heresy and error), has not given a definition or completely definitive judgment on the matter in question. This irrevocable decision is to be found only in the definitions properly so called, THE DESIGNATION OF SOME PROPOSITION AS DE FIDE OR AS CERTAIN.
“It is impossible to see the full meaning of this teaching without having an accurate understanding of what constitutes the suprema magisterii potestas of the Roman Pontiff… It is perfectly certain that this same magisterium ordinarium et universale can also be the vehicle or the organ of a definition within the field of the Church’s secondary object of infallible teaching. The encyclicals of the Holy Father can be and actually are statements of this magisterium. Hence they may be documents in which a dogma is defined or a certain truth of Catholic doctrine (which, however, is not presented precisely as revealed) is brought to the people of God on earth…The Humani generis likewise adverts to the fact that, when a person hearkens to the authoritative teaching of the ecclesia docens, that person is actually hearkening to the voice of Our Lord Himself. Once again, it takes this means to remind us that the Church does not teach in this world other than as the instrument and the body of Jesus Christ. The man who quibbles about the Church’s doctrinal authority is finding fault, in the last analysis, with the means by which Our Lord brings His divine truth to the children of men.
“An example of this procedure is to be found in the treatment of the question about the immediate source of episcopal jurisdiction in the Holy Father’s encyclical Mystici corporis. Prior to the appearance of that document there had been many excellent theologians who had contended that the residential bishops of the Catholic Church receive their jurisdictional authority immediately from Our Lord. A greater number of theologians, (and writers de iure publico ecclesiastico) held, on the contrary, that these men received their powers from Our Lord through the Roman Pontiff, in such a way that they came immediately from the Holy Father. In the Mystici corporis, the Pope spoke of the residential bishops’ ordinary power of jurisdiction as something ‘immediate sibi ab eodem Pontifice Summa impertita.’ That phrase was rightly taken as an indication that the controversy had been settled, once and for all. Where before the teaching that the bishops received their power of jurisdiction immediately from the Roman Pontiff had been qualified as ‘communis,’ it now became known as ‘doctrina certa.’
“The fact that the Sovereign Pontiff had, as it were ‘gone out of his way;’ or ‘taken the trouble;’ to speak out on a question which had hitherto been regarded as controversial, was taken as an indication that he wished to put an end to the discussion… The fact that a question is thus treated by the Roman Pontiff is, according to the Humani generis, an indication that the Holy Father intends that this subject should no longer be considered as a question open to free debate among theologians… If the decision is irrevocable, but only in the sense that the Holy Father has placed this teaching within the category of doctrina certa (but not doctrina de fide) then the theologian is free to argue about the possibility of a de fide or dogmatic definition of this point, BUT HE IS DEFINITELY NOT FREE TO TEACH OR TO HOLD THAT THE DOCTRINE SET FORTH BY THE HOLY FATHER CAN BE REJECTED OR MODIFIED AT ALL. No teaching is set forth as certain unless it has been defined as true, unless there is no possibility, no fear or danger, that the opposite may turn out to be true.”
READERS MUST BE PERFECTLY CLEAR ABOUT THE ABOVE DECISION ON THE BISHOPS, BECAUSE TODAY SO MANY TRADITIONALISTS HAVE CLAIMED THAT THEY POSSESS THEIR EPISCOPAL POWERS DIRECTLY FROM CHRIST, WHEN THIS IS THE CONTRADICTION OF A PAPAL TEACHING THEY MUST HOLD FIRMLY AND IRREVOCABLY. There is no possibility that this decision will ever be reformed. All the above is important to keep in mind to be better able to know when certain teachings of the popes must be obeyed firmly and irrevocably. In teaching theology to the laity at the Catholic University of America, Msgr. Fenton and Rev. Edmund Burke were careful to first educate their students in the different grades of doctrinal certainty to better assist them in knowing not how to practice only the minimal degree of obedience owed to these teachings, but to instruct them in determining “the full significance of the magisterium.” (AER, December 1957). Because we have no true pope, true unity is not possible. The closest we can come to such unity is what Henry Cardinal Manning describes in his The True Story of the Vatican Council:
“Unity of faith generates unity of mind, unity of heart, unity of will. Truth goes before unity. Where truth is divided, unity cannot be. Unity before truth is deception. Unity without truth is indifference or unbelief. Truth before unity is the law and principle and safeguard of unity.” This is why I try to stay as close as possible to all the Roman Pontiffs teach, regardless of what that may be, or the grade of doctrinal certainty attached to it. It is the only guarantee of truth, and the closest thing to unity that we can find. No number of bishops or theologians teaching prior to Vatican 2 could possibly equal or supersede the teachings of the Roman Pontiffs. And those who believe that avoiding the lesser censures for error saves them from sanctions are sadly mistaken.
The consequences of teaching condemned propositions
It is the common teaching and practice of Traditionalists that one may teach anything as long as it is not formally heretical. In fact, in cases of heresy, they often appeal against a decree of a Council or an infallible teaching of a pope, because the actual import of what they are appealing against is unclear to them (when it would be clear to any reasonable person). The Church has condemned numerous errors, not as heretical, but as being false. Are we permitted to teach something which the Church condemns as merely being untrue? Does error have rights, as long as it is not heresy?
Canon 2242, paragraph 1 provides that: “Only offenses which are grave are punished with censures.” A grave offense is a mortal sin. Therefore, only mortal sins are punished with censures. Canon 2257 states: “Excommunication is a censure by which one is excluded from the communion of the faithful with the consequences enumerated in the following Canons, which consequences are inseparable. It is also called anathema especially when inflicted with the solemnities described in the Pontificale Romanum.” For many centuries, before the codification of Canon Law, the censure of excommunication was inflicted ipso facto, whenever one publicly or privately defended or taught a condemned proposition, no matter what type of condemnation may have been attached to the proposition. Therefore, the Church presumed that such is a mortal sin. Because so many today do not understand with what authority the Church condemns propositions, this matter needs to be addressed and it must be understood: we are bound under pain of mortal sin to condemn all that the Holy Catholic Church condemns.
Some propositions are condemned with a censure attached. For instance, the Church might have said that anyone who teaches a certain proposition is excommunicated. Now, Can. 6, para. 5 provides that no censure of excommunication suspension, or interdict exists, unless it is restated in the Code of Canon Law. This law is to simplify matters and refer people to one list of censures, which Woywod-Smith provide in the back of their commentary. However, Canon 2317 provides that: “Persons who stubbornly teach or defend, either publicly or privately, a doctrine which has been condemned by the Apostolic See or by an Ecumenical Council not, however, as formally heretical, shall be barred from the ministry of preaching the Word of God and of hearing sacramental confessions, and from every other office of teaching, without prejudice to other penalties which the sentence of condemnation of the doctrine may perhaps have decreed….”
And this is a restatement of a papal law written some 350 years before the issuance of the 1917 Code, listed in the Fontesto this canon.
“Further, whoever knowingly presumes in any way to receive anew [heretics, apostates or schismatics] so apprehended, confessed [and this includes notorious heresy or schism under canon law] or convicted, or to favor them, believe them, or teach their doctrines shall ipso facto incur excommunication, and, become infamous.” This is taken from Pope Paul IV’s 1559 bull Cum ex Apostolatus Officio. So Canon 2317 apparently revokes the general provision of Canon 6, paragraph 5 in virtue of this older law and retains in force each and every penalty attached to a particular condemned proposition in the bull of condemnation. Therefore, a censure may very well be attached to a condemned proposition, and as such, may be inflicted ipso facto, by the teaching of the proposition. And when in doubt about the application of this law to the laity, one is instructed under Can. 6 no. 4 to abide by the old law (Pipe Paul IV’s bull) which states “…Both they and laymen appointed as aforesaid…”
In comparing Canon 2317 and the Constitution Apostolica Sedis of Pius IX, Rev. Leech, J.C.L., writes: “The new law (Can. 2317) has a wider extension in this case than the Constitution. By the latter, it was forbidden under penalty to defend or teach not every condemned proposition, but only those condemned under pain of excommunication; the new law comprehends in the present instance every condemned proposition that is not formally heretical, without regard to penalties attached to the condemnation.” (Teaching a heretical proposition is already covered under Canon 2314, which provides for an ipso facto excommunication). “It must be noted that those penalties, even of excommunication, which the Holy See or a General Council, when condemning a proposition attached to the teaching of such propositions, are still in force and are incurred according to the conditions set down in the particular sentence of condemnation.”
Reverend Charles Augustine, in his A Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, lists the following decrees, found in Denzinger’s Enchiridion Symbolorum, which come under the provision of Canon 2317:
- Errors of Wycliff and Hus, censured in Inter cunctas, by Martin V;
- Errors of Luther, which are not heretical, condemned in Exsurge Domine, by Leo X;
- The proposition condemned by Clement VIII, stating that confession and absolution can be made by letter or message;
- The 45 propositions condemned by the Holy Office in decrees dated September 24, 1665 and March 18, 1666;
- The 65 propositions condemned by the Holy Office on March 4, 1679;
- The 68 propositions of Michael de Molinos, condemned in Coelestis Pater, by Innocent XI. (Quietism);
- The 32 propositions condemned by Alexander VIII on August 24 and December 7, 1690. (Jansenism)
- The 101 propositions of Quesnel, condemned in the Bull Unigenitus and Pastoralis Official, by Clement XI. (Jansenism);Five proposition condemned in Destestabilem, by Benedict XIV
- Eighty-five propositions condemned in Auctorem Fidei, by Pius VI. (These are the propositions of the Jansenist Synod of Pistoia, which have raised their ugly head at Vatican II and among Traditionalists.
- Finally, the errors of the Modernists, which are not formally heretical (although Pope St. Pius X called this system “the synthesis of ALL heresies”); and
- The censures contained in Lamentabili and Pius X’s Syllabus of Errors, if the specific proposition is to be censured.
Rev. Augustine explains that “The penalties attached to the transgression of this law, for clergymen, consists in the withdrawal of their faculties. Laymen guilty of this delinquency must be removed from [any] teaching office.” Remember that those propositions condemned as formally heretical are covered under Canon 2314. The balance in the above decrees, if taught, render the teacher excommunicated by the act of teaching them. This applies even if the delinquent is in good faith, as Can. 2200 states. And it also applies to any layperson teaching such doctrines on the behalf of others. Those who wish to retain their membership in the Church and avoid the shipwreck of their faith need to fully familiarize themselves with the strict obligation to accept even the opinions of the Roman Pontiffs as binding. If all believe he speaks for Christ on earth, and this is a de fide truth of faith, they cannot fail to hearken to everything that he teaches.