+St. Benedict, Abbot+
Now that everyone, for the time being, is forced to say their Sunday prayers at home, those with time on their hands can perhaps study their faith and re-evaluate their reason for remaining with the Traditionalist sect. Catholics who have practiced their faith at home all these years have developed a set routine of prayers and Sunday devotions and for them, nothing will change. But it may be difficult for those used to depending on others to direct and regulate their spirituality. Whether they like the comparison or not, it is much like a co-dependency situation, where Traditionalists feel lost and abandoned when they cannot interact with Traditionalist clergy and receive their sacraments. Over time, all of us learned to adapt, but only because we were determined to obey the Church and cease displeasing God. If you have been following this latest series of articles, you will notice that all the reasons why Traditionalist “clergy” cannot function are being treated in each post. But before the remaining installments are posted, some distinctions must be made to clarify the following questions raised by readers.
There has been a keen interest among readers to know what teachings of the Roman Pontiffs in their encyclicals are declared as infallible and what teachings must be accepted only as certain, or as pontifical opinion. It is not always clear which is which, but in the long run, it does not matter. In the first case, that of infallibility, Catholics are bound to accept what is taught with a firm and absolutely irrevocable assent. In the second place, Msgr. Joseph C. Fenton says those things which are taught non-infallibly must be given a “definite internal religious assent.” The theologian Lercher notes that this assent is due “until the Church might choose to modify the teaching previously presented or until a proportionately serious reason for abandoning the non-infallible teaching contained in a pontifical document might appear” (“The Doctrinal Authority of Papal Encyclicals,” Pt. 1; The American Ecclesiastical Review, August, 1949). Fenton explains that “Any reason which would justify the relinquishing of a position taken in a pontifical statement would have to be very serious indeed.” Rev. Francis Connell, also on the staff of The American Ecclesiastical Review, agrees with Msgr. Fenton on this point in a separate article.
In the present situation, Catholics today are in no position to quibble with what the popes have taught, or even to try and sort out what degree of obedience is owed to any given proposition. Certainly those things infallibly taught are to be held with an irrevocable assent and should be known, but these are usually presented as such by the theologians or designated as heretical propositions in Denzingers. We are to accept these non-infallible teachings as a matter of obedience, and to fail to do so, Msgr. Fenton states in another article, would be considered worthy of a censure at least temerarious, which one scholastic defines as “a proposition stating as certain something that cannot be effectively demonstrated either by reason or from authority” (“The Religious Assent Due to the Papal Encyclicals,” The American Ecclesiastical Review, July, 1950).
While this may seem a mild censure compared to that for heresy, there are some misunderstandings here regarding what such a censure really entails. Msgr. Fenton explains in this article:
“Contradiction of a doctrinal statement contained in a papal encyclical in a non-infallible manner, but asserted authoritatively only in an encyclical, is something that could be qualified with at least the censure of error. Obviously this applies to doctrinal statements alone.” When some topic in an encyclical is deals with things dogmatic “it is perfectly clear that these statements deal at least with matters connected with the faith, and that the authority by which they are proposed is at least on a par with that of the common consent of the Fathers or of the scholastics. By reason of these characteristics, all doctrinal statements contained in the encyclicals must be accepted with a firm and sincere inward assent. For this same reason a denial of these doctrinal propositions may be qualified or censured as at least temerarious.”
“At least in an indirect manner, every rejection of an authoritative doctrinal pronouncement contained in a papal encyclical is opposed to the theological virtue of faith itself. That virtue empowers a man to accept with complete certitude and on God’s own authority the body of truth which the Church proposes as having been revealed by God as his public communication to mankind… We lay ourselves open to very serious misunderstandings when we fail to appreciate the fact that the teaching of the Church must be taken as a unit.” And here Msgr. Fenton references integral truth, so sadly lacking in Traditionalist’s neo-Modernist version of theology. Msgr. Fenton notes that those who fail to accept these teachings once they are censured, even as only erroneous, or temerarious, and pertinaciously adhere to them regardless of the censure, have been condemned in the past for heresy. This is what those holding onto such teachings while claiming they are not infallible fail to understand.
The true violation here is the denial of the Roman Pontiff’s ability to censure them at all, or to forbid them to teach what has been proscribed by the Apostolic See. In the end they excommunicate themselves for the denial of the Vatican Council teachings, that the pope is supreme in jurisdiction and authority and is to be obeyed in all things, even those things which only approach “heretical wickedness.” Msgr. Fenton quotes Carmelite theologians who hold the temerarious classification as an offense against the rule of studiousness, a part of the virtue of ecclesiastical modesty. St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that men who seek to know the truth beyond their own range of competences are guilty of this infraction (Summa II-II, q. 160, art. 1). Fenton comments:
“Those who on their own initiative presume to question or contradict a doctrinal statement proposed authoritatively in a papal encyclical, even in cases where the Holy Father does not make a definitive decision, may well be said to be striving for something manifestly beyond their competence. No individual, and for that matter, no group of individuals within the ecclesia discins, (those taught by the Church), can be said to have the competence to dispute with the visible head of the Church militant on a matter connected with the Church’s deposit of Divine Revelation. At least in an indirect manner, however, every rejection of an authoritative doctrinal pronouncement contained in a papal encyclical is opposed to the theological virtue of faith itself…
“When an individual or group of individuals presume on their own initiative to deny or to ignore the authoritative doctrinal statements of papal encyclicals, they are at least placed in the position of rejecting divinely authorized guidance in the direction of the purity and well-being of the faith.” Both infallible and non-infallible statements, he continues, “enter in to the effective carrying out of the Petrine mission to confirm the faith of the brethren.” This is why the author of betrayedcatholics insists on strict adherence to all papal decrees, which are our only guarantee of safe guidance in matters of faith. It is why those wishing to remain faithful Catholics must be urged repeatedly to depart from the Traditionalists, all of whom violate these papal teachings. These men have consistently denied the Church’s teaching regarding the nature of jurisdiction for at least four decades and have multiplied into dozens of sects and independent operators who hold the same fateful error.
Only by presuming Pope Pius XII would not wish his law to apply during an extended interregnum can they appear to justify their position. But the fact that this is definitely not his mind as the lawgiver is expressed in several papal documents, and cannot be ignored. The very scholastic principles Traditionalists pretend to use to their advantage actually uphold the right of the lawgiver to invalidate their acts. “Laws justly declaring an incapacity to act or to receive benefits invalidate the attempted act or reception even if they [the laws] are inculpably unknown or facts pertaining to their application is unknown” (Rev. Bernard Wuellner, S.J., Summary of Scholastic Principles, 1956). This applies to the laws enacted by the Roman Pontiffs declaring that the acts of those men who present themselves as bishops without first receiving papal approval are null and void, (Pius VI, Charitas: Pope Pius IX, Etsi multa and Graves ac diuturnae; Pope Pius XII in Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis). As we have just seen above, no one may question these papal determinations as having ceased to apply or as unjust without incurring some form of censure.
It is the heighth of hypocrisy to hold that the Church as Christ constituted it must last unto the consummation, carried on by Traditional “bishops,” when Christ appointed Peter as head of the Church, there is no successor to St. Peter today, and his Vicars teach the Church cannot exist without him. The Church’s stated mission is the salvation of souls. In Acerbo Nimis, Pope St. Pius X states the first duty of the bishops and priests are to teach the people and only then to baptize and convey the other Sacraments. In this same encyclical, Pope Pius X lamented that:
“It is a common complaint, unfortunately too well founded, that there are large numbers of Christians in our own time who are entirely ignorant of those truths necessary for salvation. And when we mention Christians, We refer not only to the masses or to those in the lower walks of life — for these find some excuse for their ignorance in the fact that the demands of their harsh employers hardly leave them time to take care of themselves or of their dear ones — but We refer to those especially who do not lack culture or talents and, indeed, are possessed of abundant knowledge regarding things of the world but live rashly and imprudently with regard to religion… Our Predecessor, Benedict XIV, had just cause to write: “We declare that a great number of those who are condemned to eternal punishment suffer that everlasting calamity because of ignorance of those mysteries of faith which must be known and believed in order to be numbered among the elect.”
So these Traditionalists cannot claim they had no obligation to educate, if things were already this bad in Pope St. Pius X’s times. Especially given the confusion arising from Vatican 2, they had an even greater obligation to do so. It was unquestionably the mission of those lawful pastors validly ordained under Pope Pius XII to teach the faithful those means necessary to salvation following Vatican 2, but the faithful kept demanding the Mass and Sacraments and insisting on their right to receive them. Out of human respect, and a desire, in many cases, to see to their own support, these pastors gave into their demands. This even though their jurisdiction, in most cases, had expired and they were ipso facto excommunicated and declared infamous for celebrating the Novus Ordo Missae, when the penalty of infamy forbids them to posit valid acts, (Can. 2294, §1 and § 2). No such mission, however, existed for those who were consecrated without papal approval and/or ordained by such pseudo-bishops, as Pope Pius IX calls them, who subsequently consecrated priests. Such Traditionalists in the same circumstances might be able to educate, but only as laymen; and then only if they had ceased functioning as clerics, renounced their errors, and publicly retracted them. To the best of this author’s knowledge, no Traditionalist cleric has ever broken ranks and done this.
The necessity of the papacy and obedience to the Roman Pontiff are definitely truths those following Traditionalists do not understand and accept. Traditionalists who maintain they are providing their followers the necessary means of salvation are actually placing those in their care at risk of losing the very thing they treasure most. To repent and do penance for this loathsome sin and lead their people into the desert of prayer and contemplation of eternal truths is not something these clerics so-called would even consider. Only those who beg God for the grace to see the truth and save their souls will have hope of receiving these graces. Now that many people are forced to stay at home rather than attend Traditionalist services, they would be wise to use this time allotted them to study their faith and reassess their understanding of what is required to attain eternal salvation. A novena to the Holy Ghost for the light of truth would be a good way to begin.