Thursday, December 11, 2008

A comment on the Magisterial status of the condemnations in Quanta Cura

Here is a comment that I have posted at Mr. David Schütz’s blog Sentire cum Ecclesia:


Mr. Schütz,

Thank you for your response.

You said that you
“do not deny that Quanta Cura was "an Act of the Papal Magisterium" - although I would think "ordinary" rather than "extraodinary".”
Now an Act of the Ordinary Papal Magisterium is something that is pronounced

1) On a matter of faith or morals
2) In the Pope’s capacity as Head of the Church Militant

Acts of the Ordinary Papal Magisterium are infallible when they are universal (i.e. in common with the other Popes). But Acts of the Extraordinary Papal Magisterium (E.P.A.) are infallible in and of themselves, and the criteria for judging whether any given Act belongs to the E.P.A. are that the teaching be pronounced

1) On a matter of faith or morals
2) In the Pope’s capacity as Head of the Church Militant
3) As binding on all the Faithful
4) In a definitive and irrevocable manner

So I suppose I am really asking you to show that one or more of these criteria are not to be found in Quanta Cura. But Section 6. is quite clear:

Amidst, therefore, such great perversity of depraved opinions, we, well remembering our Apostolic Office, and very greatly solicitous for our most holy Religion, for sound doctrine and the salvation of souls which is intrusted to us by God, and (solicitous also) for the welfare of human society itself, have thought it right again to raise up our Apostolic voice. Therefore, by our Apostolic authority[2], we reprobate, proscribe, and condemn all the singular and evil opinions and doctrines severally mentioned in this letter, and will and command that they be thoroughly held by all children of the Catholic Church as reprobated, proscribed and condemned[3].
(my emphasis and numbering)
2) and 3) are clearly present in Section 6., and 1) and 4) are clear from the letter of the condemned errors, e.g.

“the best constitution of public society and (also) civil progress altogether require that human society be conducted and governed without regard being had to religion any more than if it did not exist; or, at least, without any distinction being made between the true religion and false ones.”

“that is the best condition of civil society, in which no duty is recognized, as attached to the civil power, of restraining by enacted penalties, offenders against the Catholic religion, except so far as public peace may require.”

“liberty of conscience and worship is each man's personal right, which ought to be legally proclaimed and asserted in every rightly constituted society; and that a right resides in the citizens to an absolute liberty, which should be restrained by no authority whether ecclesiastical or civil, whereby they may be able openly and publicly to manifest and declare any of their ideas whatever, either by word of mouth, by the press, or in any other way.”
I would summarise your other objections as follows:

A) The circumstances that elicited the condemnation
B) The circumstances in which the condemnation applies

Now A) is clearly an invalid objection, since the errors are condemned in and of themselves; the circumstances that elicited them and the arguments on which the condemnations are built up do not matter. This is as true for Quanta Cura as it is for Ineffabilis Deus. (Speaking of which, compare the definition in that document to the condemnations in Quanta Cura:

“by the authority of Jesus Christ our Lord, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own[2]: "We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin[4], is a doctrine revealed by God[1] and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful[3]."”
(my numbering)
All the same criteria are there.) I am aware of His Holiness’s apparent endorsement of some opinions on the supposedly Christian foundations of liberalism (I blogged on this last week), but the origins of European or American liberalism are irrelevant to the question of the infallibility with which the errors were condemned in Quanta Cura.

Objection B) is also invalid; you mention that you

“have pointed out that they did not apply at the time to the missions in the highlands of New Guinea.”
But this is irrelevant for two reasons: firstly, it would be like saying that Catholic teaching on the just wage does not apply to the Papuan highlands because there is not yet a market economy there. That might be true, but once a market economy does begin to operate, Catholic economic teaching will certainly begin to apply. And secondly, in any case, the three errors I quoted apply universally to the human race, since they pre-suppose only one key circumstance, namely, man’s social nature.

Then you mention that you

“could also point out that there is no sense in which they could have applied to the United States in 1864.”
But you have asserted this, not demonstrated it; in fact, the American system of government and society was founded largely on those three errors that I have quoted. I would have thought that to be indisputable.

So in fact, the errors condemned in Quanta Cura were condemned with the seal of Papal infallibility; they remain binding on the conscience of every Catholic.

Thursday, December 11, 2008 4:04:00 PM


Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of St. Damasus I, Pope, Confessor, 2008 A.D.

No comments: