Tuesday, February 3, 2009

On Traditional socio-political doctrine and Vatican II

In the combox to this post, Mrs. Louise Purcell of http://pcv-louise.blogspot.com has asked me a few questions, which I am happy to try to answer. Firstly I will have a look at the bases—Scriptural and Magisterial—for the Traditional teaching on the Confessional State, Church-State relations and religious tolerance, then at what to say to Catholics who are unfamiliar with these doctrines, and then I will say some things about Vatican II.

1 Traditional socio-political doctrine

1.1 Scriptural basis for doctrine on the relations between Christ the King and the State

The key texts here are, firstly, those famous words of Our Lord in St. Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 22, Verse 21:

… Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God, the things that are God's.
and secondly, St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, Chapter 13, Verses 1-7:

1 Let every soul be subject to higher powers. For there is no power but from God: and those that are ordained of God. 2 Therefore, he that resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God. And they that resist purchase to themselves damnation. 3 For princes are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good: and thou shalt have praise from the same. 4 For he is God's minister to thee, for good. But if thou do that which is evil, fear: for he beareth not the sword in vain. For he is God's minister: an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil. 5 Wherefore be subject of necessity: not only for wrath, but also for conscience' sake. 6 For therefore also you pay tribute. For they are the ministers of God, serving unto this purpose. 7 Render therefore to all men their dues. Tribute, to whom tribute is due: custom, to whom custom: fear, to whom fear: honour, to whom honour.
Now Matthew 22:21 concerns not only the duties of the citizen to the State and to God; it is a principle of justice that also covers the duties of the State itself to God—Caesar himself must render to God what is God’s; in particular, the State must render to Him the homage that is His due for endowing the State with its authority (Romans 13:1) over the populace and for whatever temporal blessings, such as peace and prosperity, God might deign to bestow on the State. Now given that the State is not only a juridical, but also a moral (or rational), person, there is no reason why the State cannot, by the light of natural reason, come to knowledge of the existence of God and deduce that, as a matter of justice, it owes Him homage; furthermore, in societies that have been evangelised, it can acknowledge Christ as its King.

1.2 Scriptural basis for doctrine on the relations between Christ’s Church and the State

The same two Scriptural excerpts are also applicable to healthy Church-State relations. Unfortunately Matthew 22:21 is much misused, sometimes adduced (wrongly) by liberals in support of their precious ‘wall between Church and State’. Bl. Pius IX expands on the meaning of this verse as follows:

Faith (however) teaches and human reason demonstrates that a two- fold order of things exists, and that at the same time two powers are to be distinguished on earth, one naturally which looks out for the tranquillity of human society and secular affairs, but the other, whose origin is above nature, which presides over the city of God, namely, the Church of Christ, divinely established for the peace and the eternal salvation of souls. Moreover, these duties of the twofold power have been very wisely ordained, that "the things that are God's may be rendered to God," and, on account of God, "to Caesar the things that are Caesar's" [ Matt. 22:21], who "is great on this account, because he is less than heaven; for he himself belongs to Him to whom belong heaven and every creature.''* And from him, surely by divine mandate, the Church has never turned aside, which always and everywhere strives to nurture obedience in the souls of her faithful; and they should inviolably keep, (this obedience) to the supreme princes and their laws insofar as they are secular; and, with the Apostle it has taught that princes "are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil," ordering the faithful "to be subject not only for wrath," because the prince "beareth not the sword as an avenger to execute wrath upon him that cloth evil, but also for conscience' sake," because in his office "he is God's minister" [Rom. 13:3 ff.]. Moreover, it itself has restricted this fear of princes to evil works, plainly excluding the same from the observance of the divine law, mindful of that which blessed Peter taught the faithful: "But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a railer, or a coveter of other men's things. But if as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name" [ 1 Pet.4:15f ]
(my emphasis,
Dz. 1841, Encyclical Etsi Multa, §16,
So we render to God what is God’s, and we render to Caesar what is Caesar’s on account of God; hence the fundamental doctrine of the indirect subordination of the state’s purpose, the civic common good, to the Church’s purpose, the salvation of souls. St. Thomas Aquinas explains this subordination as follows:

… A superior and an inferior power can be related in either of two ways. Either the lower power is totally derived from the higher; in this case the whole force of the lower is founded on the force of the higher; then, absolutely and in everything, the higher power is to be obeyed rather than the lower; … the power of God is related to all created power in this way; in the same way the power of the emperor is related tothe power of the proconsul; in the same way the power of the pope is related to all spiritual power in the church, since the diverse grades and dignities in the church are disposed and ordained by the pope himself, whence his power is a sort of foundation of the church, as appears in Matthew 16:[18]. … Or, on the other hand, the higher power and the lower power can be so related that both derive from one supreme power, which subordinates one to the other as he wishes; in that case one is not superior to the other unless in those things in which the other has been subordinated to him by the supreme power, and the higher is to be obeyed rather than the lower in such things only; the powers of bishops and archbishops, which descend from the power of the pope, are related in this way. …
The spiritual and the secular power are both derived from the divine power; and therefore the secular power is under the spiritual only in so far as it has been subjected to it by God: namely, in those things that pertain to the salvation of the soul; and therefore the spiritual power is, in such matters, to be obeyed rather than the secular. But in those things that pertain to civil good, the secular power is to be obeyed rather than the spiritual, according to the saying in Matthew 22:[21], “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”
Unless, perhaps, the secular power is joined to the spiritual, as in the pope, who holds the apex of both authorities, the spiritual and the secular.
(My emphasis,
Commentum in IV Libros Sententiarum, St. Thomas Aquinas, cited in The Crisis of Church & State 1050-1300, Brian Tierney, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N. J., 1964, p.171)
Given that there are also ‘mixed matters’, such as marriage and education, it is highly desirable that there be union between Church and State when the State’s populace is predominantly Catholic so as to conduce to harmonious resolutions of conflicts in these matters. Secularists, and Catholic crypto-secularists, might argue that such conflicts would not even arise if Church and State are separated, but the union of Church and State is also desirable as a matter of justice—the State can hardly confess Christ as its King (which it must) without acknowledging the Church as its queen, as it were. Furthermore, the indirect subordination of the State’s purpose to the Church’s purpose also implies the ministerial function that the State owes to the Church, a function that entails not only protection but also assistance.

1.3 Scriptural basis for doctrine on liberty

The key text here is the words of Our Lord in St. John’s Gospel, Chapter 8, Verse 32:

And you shall know the truth: and the truth shall make you free.

The truth shall make you free—the truth shall give you liberty. Of the three kinds of liberty—psychological liberty (free will), liberty of action and moral liberty—the basis for moral liberty (in other words, for natural rights) can only be what is true and good. But it is hardly necessary to appeal to Scripture in order to prove this; the very definition of a right is the liberty justly to claim some entitlement, with ‘justly’ being the key word, and the essence of justice is to get what one is owed. All that sin and error are owed are punishment and repression—one cannot have a right to a wrong! Certainly, when a given wrong is the lesser of two wrongs, one of which has to be permitted, then one can tolerate the lesser wrong, but it still remains a wrong and hence cannot be the object of a proper right; a right is a matter of justice, while a tolerance is a matter of prudence.

1.4 Magisterial basis for these doctrines

The Magisterial basis for the Traditional doctrines on the ideal relations between Christ the King and the State and between Christ’s Church and the State, and on religious tolerance, is (was?) indisputable. Read Gregory XVI’s Mirari Vos, Bl. Pius IX’s Quanta Cura and Syllabus Errorum, Leo XIII’s Immortale Dei, Libertas, Diuturnum, Sapientiæ Christianiæ, St. Pius X’s Vehementer Nos, Pius XI’s Quas Primas and Pius XII’s Allocution Ci Riesce. I have also done a summary of the Traditional doctrine, which I have revised and expanded slightly and re-posted in the next post. There is also the fact that the Church supported, for some fifteen hundred years, severe penalties for those who advocated the principle of separation of Church and State. Compare this to the Traditional doctrine against contraception. When Paul VI decided to uphold the Traditional doctrine in Humanæ Vitæ, he did so on the advice of a minority of his advisory commission; this minority pointed out that for the Church to impose something as binding under pain of grave sin for even a hundred years was a strong indicator of its veracity, so the notion that separation of Church and State can be the ideal is historically implausible.

But given that there is no prospect of the Traditional doctrine being translated into fact anytime soon, one might ask: why even bother upholding it? Well, for one thing, because it’s the truth! And secondly, as Mr. Muehlenberg might say (though obviously he would disagree with a Catholic Confessional State!), ideas have consequences, and bad ideas have bad consequences; denying the Traditional doctrine can lead all too easily to indifferentism and practical nihilism.

1.5 Defending the Traditional teaching against Catholics who dispute it

Regarding a supposed right to religious liberty, ask them how someone can possibly have a right to a wrong. Regarding the duties of the State to God, ask them how it can be that we must all ‘render unto God what is God’s’, yet the State is somehow exempt from paying tribute to God, to Whom it owes its authority—its very existence. Regarding the duties of the State to the Church, ask them how separation of Church and State can be the ideal when it was the union of the two that was upheld as the ideal for some fifteen hundred years, with severe penalties for dissenters, imposed over scores of generations. And point out that one must be clear about the distinction between justice and prudence: the Traditional doctrine is the ideal, as a matter of justice, but in practice departures from it can be tolerated, as a matter of prudence.

2 My opinions on Vatican II

In nutshell: my opinion is not that the documents of Vatican II contain heresy or error, but that they tend to heresy or error because of their ambiguity, their openness to widely divergent and erroneous interpretations. To take an example that we have discussed before: the words of Gaudium et Spes to the effect that man is the only creature that God has wanted for its own sake. Now even Msgr. Williamson, no apologist for Vatican II, acknowledges that, in itself, this is open to an orthodox interpretation. But which is the interpretation that will appeal more to fallen man—the orthodox one, or the unorthodox one? The unorthodox one, of course, and that is what we have seen, on many points, in the Council’s aftermath. It is not enough for the private individual simply to apply the ‘hermeneutic of continuity’—what is needed is clear direction from the Hierarchy (an example of which I will provide in a moment). I like the recent suggestion of Mr. Gerald Warner in the British Daily Telegraph (though I wouldn’t use the word ‘errors’):

… The only remotely celebratory response to the Council's 50th anniversary would be to appoint a commission of orthodox theologians to scrutinise all of Vatican II's documents and correct their errors. It is time to revisit and reform this council that has brought forth such poisonous fruits.
But it is not only me and members of the S.S.P.X. who acknowledge these ambiguities: Paul VI acknowledged this by directing the Council’s Secretary-General to annex a Preliminary Note of Explanation to the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium in which the potential for an heretical interpretation of ‘hierarchical communion’—this interpretation being the heresy of the ‘double subject’ of Ecclesiastical authority—is averted. It seems to me that many of Vatican II’s documents could have done with one (or several) such explanatory notes.

So we have this ambiguity acknowledged by Traditionalists, by the Council itself, and also by enthusiasts for the so-called ‘Spirit of Vatican II’ like Mr. Brian Coyne, a spirit which is, according to him, a spirit of ‘outgrowing’ the need for certitude, and indeed a confected opposition between truth and certitude is one of his pet themes, evident most recently in his latest comment at the Coo-ees blog, where he denounces “these self-deluding games that seek to place a premium on certitude at the expense of truth”. So those of his ilk embrace the ‘Spirit of Vatican II’ precisely because of its ambiguities!

But as you know, the Conciliar document that really sticks in my craw is the Declaration on Religious Freedom, Dignitatis Humanæ. Now we should note firstly that the document is a Declaration, and strictly speaking the declaration, the direct object, is the following lines in section 2:

2. This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.

The council further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person as this dignity is known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself.(2) This right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed and thus it is to become a civil right.
The rest of the document is elaboration and explanation. It is interesting, though, that, of the many times that the document speaks of a right to religious liberty, whether of individuals or groups, the object of the right is never specified—it is always at the level of subject (with one exception, but one mentioned in a different context). That is, it always says things like ‘individuals have the right to practice their religion’, never ‘individuals have the right to practice any religion, whether Catholic or non-Catholic’. (Note: things like ‘his/her/their religion’ are subjective, pertaining to the subject of a right, while things like ‘any/every religion/this/that religion’ are objective, pertaining to the object of the right.) So conceivably the document could be reconciled with Tradition as a statement of abstract, subjective principles, in the manner of, say, Pius XII in his Christmas 1942 Radio Address. No doubt crypto-secularists, liberals and neo-conservatives would scoff at this, but it does indeed appear to be supported by the letter of the text.

So that covers what Msgr. Lefebvre regarded as Dignitatis Humanæ’s confusion between subjective and objective rights. He summarised its three other problems as: confusion between ontological dignity and operative dignity (neither can be a basis for a right to spread error); illegitimate break between positive and negative rights (whether framed as a right to disseminate error or a right not to be restrained from disseminating error, the object of the right is still the spreading of error, which can never be the basis for a proper right); and, illegitimate symmetry between being forced to disobey one’s conscience and being restrained from obeying one’s conscience (the former is sinful because it involves the consent of the will to what one discerns to be evil, while the latter does not).

Also important is what Msgr. Lefebvre calls the ‘problem of limitations’. Traditionally, the relevant criterion for the limitation of religious rights was the common good: hence in a Catholic-populated country the State need not refrain from punishing offences against the Catholic religion because such offences would also be offences against the common good. Conversely, in a mixed-religions country the State may tolerate offences against the Catholic religion because to punish them would be too damaging to the common good. But Vatican II took a ‘just public order’ as its criterion, and itself admitted that this criterion is the ‘basic component’ of the common good (“common welfare” in its words), not necessarily the common good itself; its concept of a ‘just public order’ is explained in section 7:

7. The right to religious freedom is exercised in human society: hence its exercise is subject to certain regulatory norms. In the use of all freedoms the moral principle of personal and social responsibility is to be observed. In the exercise of their rights, individual men and social groups are bound by the moral law to have respect both for the rights of others and for their own duties toward others and for the common welfare of all. Men are to deal with their fellows in justice and civility.

Furthermore, society has the right to defend itself against possible abuses committed on the pretext of freedom of religion. It is the special duty of government to provide this protection. However, government is not to act in an arbitrary fashion or in an unfair spirit of partisanship. Its action is to be controlled by juridical norms which are in conformity with the objective moral order. These norms arise out of the need for the effective safeguard of the rights of all citizens and for the peaceful settlement of conflicts of rights, also out of the need for an adequate care of genuine public peace, which comes about when men live together in good order and in true justice, and finally out of the need for a proper guardianship of public morality.

These matters constitute the basic component of the common welfare: they are what is meant by public order. For the rest, the usages of society are to be the usages of freedom in their full range: that is, the freedom of man is to be respected as far as possible and is not to be curtailed except when and insofar as necessary.
(my emphasis)
But even the term ‘basic component’ is ambiguous: does it mean that this ‘just public order’ is a strict subset of the common good? If so then this can only be a departure from Tradition. If, on the other hand, it means in some sense the foundation of the common good, then this might be reconcilable with Tradition—one could argue for ‘order’ to be taken in the teleological sense, as in ‘ordered towards’, ordered towards some end; the State’s proper end, or purpose, is the common good, so one might take ‘just public order’ in the sense of ‘ordered towards the common good’. Even this sounds a little strained, though, doesn’t it?

But the official response to Msgr. Lefebvre’s Dubia only made matters all the more murky, muddying the waters with talk of a ‘social space of autonomous activity’, which Msgr. Lefebvre recognised as a sophistry, since social activity can never be truly autonomous since it has the potential to edify or scandalise.

So to sum up: I could see how Dignitatis Humanæ might, might, be reconciled with Tradition, and would have no problem whatsoever with taking it as a policy document, but I do not see how its teachings could be regarded as constituting a development of the earlier body of doctrine; at best they would be a statement of some abstract, subjective principles. As for the other documents, if unambiguous clarification from the Magisterium is not forthcoming then I find the solution of Pope St. Gregory the Great in the aftermath of Constantinople II, mentioned recently at Athanasius’ blog, rather appealing: St. Gregory “counselled prelates to ignore the 2nd Council of Constantinople for the sake of peace and unity.”

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of St. Blaise, Bishop, Martyr, A.D. 2009


Anonymous said...

Bless you, Pole. I will enjoy reading all this!

Anonymous said...

Secularists, and Catholic crypto-secularists, might argue that such conflicts would not even arise if Church and State are separated

Ha! Upon what basis could they argue it? As soon as a Catholic Church has government funding for its schools, the schools must take on the wretched Secularist agenda in return.

This, more than anything, convinces me that what you write is all true, for it ought to be obvious that Catholic scools ought to be assisted financially by the state as a matter of justice and they ought to receive it without any improper interference by the state (eg in the doctrines to be taught).

Anonymous said...

… The only remotely celebratory response to the Council's 50th anniversary would be to appoint a commission of orthodox theologians to scrutinise all of Vatican II's documents and correct their errors. It is time to revisit and reform this council that has brought forth such poisonous fruits.

You would say, rather, "correct their ambiguities" or similar?

Anonymous said...

Also, if we have been marinating for 40 years and more in Secularist dogma (which we surely have been) then the ambiguities are going to be interpreted even by very faithful Catholics in the light of those errors.

So, we need a persuasive apologetic to help our fellow Catholics at least see that "putting on the mind of Christ" must still be done, even if we have already accepted (and are practicing) many of the Church's difficult teachings such as not using artificial contraception.

Cardinal Pole said...

"You would say, rather, "correct their ambiguities""


Catholic Mission said...

Friday, November 12, 2010
The new Democratic Labour Party, NSW, Australia whose President is Michael Webb and whose members include many priests and Robert Haddad of the Archdiocese of Sydney, perhaps unknowingly, holds the teaching extra ecclesiam nulla salus, as promoted by the leftist secular media in Boston in the 1950’s.It’s a modern version of the traditional teaching.Catholic critics could refer to is as ‘modernist’. It was created by Cardinal Richard Cushing, the then Archbishop of Boston, with the assistance of the Jesuits at Boston College and the Jewish Left media.

There are two DSP groups in NSW. The DSP Sydney of Michael Webb is Catholic with traditional Catholic Faith as their ethos but positively ‘progressive’ on the Church teaching, outside the Church there is no salvation. They are using the liberal, ‘spirit of Vatican Council II’ version of a changed, dogma.

The DLP Constitution according to Webb and Haddad opposes the infiltration of trade unions by Communist and Socialists.

The DSP Constitution does not claim to be Catholic in its ethos, whose membership is open to people of all religions and ideologies and whose aim is to serve all people with no discrimination based on religion, culture, nationality etc. This is fundamentally part of the Gospel teaching to love and serve all. There is also no separation of Church and State in the Holy Roman Catholic Church. So it would be religiously meaningful for Catholics in Australia to support Michael Webb. Probably because of the familiar sectarian secular laws, which could also exist in that province, he has not mentioned the word Catholic in the Constitution.


Catholic Mission said...

It does not mention non Catholics being saved with the baptism of desire or in invincible ignorance, not because it denies it, but because these are cases known explicitly only to God. Neither do we know whom Jesus will judge as having a good conscience or having perfect contrition or being in partial communion. Hence there is no contradiction to the ex cathedra teaching of Cantate Domino that everyone with no exception needs to be a formal member of the Catholic Church, with Catholic Faith and the baptism of water (AG 7), to go to Heaven and avoid Hell.

The DLP needs to issue a clarification on this subject as they would clarify any misconceptions on the issue of abortion.

To reject this teaching in public is a mortal sin and according to Canon Law a Catholic in this condition is not to receive the Eucharist or offer Mass if he is a priest, until the scandal is removed and absolution received in the Sacrament of Confession.

Both Michael Webb and Fr. John George, a retired priest from the Archdiocese of Sydney, have refused to affirm and agree with the ex cathedra teaching (See blog True Catholic). Instead they have chosen the ‘changed’ adapted to secularism version of the infallible Catholic truth.

The DLP could get a clarification from the Archdiocese of Sydney or Cardinal George Pell on the two versions of extra ecclesiam nulla salus and provide Magisterial texts to support their view.

If one says according to the leftist version that everyone needs to enter the Church except for those in invincible ignorance and with the baptism of desire I could say the same and yet affirm ‘the rigorist interpretation’ of outside the Church there is no salvation. I.e. de facto everyone needs to enter the Catholic Church to go to Heaven and avoid Hell and there are no known exceptions. De jure (in principle and as a concept) a person can be saved with the baptism of desire or in invincible ignorance. It’s a possibility but it is only known to God. De jure we do not know any particular case of the baptism of desire etc. Neither do we know any case of the baptism of desire etc over the last 100 years.


Catholic Mission said...

In a similar way one can analyse Magisterial texts on this issue.

Pope Pius IX in an Allocution, December 9, 1854 wrote:

"We must hold as of the faith, that out of the Apostolic Roman Church there is no salvation; that she is the only ark of safety, and whosoever is not in her perishes in the deluge; we must also, on the other hand, recognize with certainty that those who are invincible in ignorance of the true religion are not guilty for this in the eyes of the Lord. And who would presume to mark out the limits of this ignorance according to the character and diversity of peoples, countries, minds and the rest?". –from the blog True Catholic (Home Page)
For me it says:

Everybody de facto needs to enter the Catholic Church for salvation and there are no exceptions, de jure (in principle, as an acceptable concept) those in invincible ignorance of the true religion; the Catholic Faith can be saved, in ‘certain circumstances’ (Letter of the Holy Office 1949) and so they would be known to God only.

For Michael Webb and Fr. John George it says:

Everybody de facto needs to enter the Catholic Church for salvation and those who are in invincible ignorance are de facto known to us and so do not de facto have to enter the Church. So this is an exception to the ex cathedra Cantate Domino.

They would be saying, judging from the posts on the blog True Catholic everybody needs to enter the Church except for those in invincible ignorance etc who do not have to enter the Church and whom we can identify explicitly.


Catholic Mission said...

There is no Magisterial document which says the Catholic Church has retracted or changed the ex cathedra dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus. Neither is there a Church Document which refers to ‘explicit’ baptism of desire etc.

Pope Pius IX is saying de facto every one needs to enter the Church with no exceptions (Cantate Domino) and de jure there could be those saved in invincible ignorance etc and they would be known only to God.

Michael Webb and Fr. John George interpret Pope Pius IX’s statement with a de facto-defacto analysis. This is contrary to the Principle of Non Contradiction. It’s also irrational. It’s also a rejection of Cantate Domino and so is a first class heresy.

If the Cantate Domino cannot be affirmed in public or it is changed in public on the Internet then can the Church teachings on abortion be also changed Catholics coould wrongly ask ? Sadly this is a bad example being given in public by a priest and the DLP President who rightly oppose abortion.

Catholic Mission said...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Thursday, November 4, 2010


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010