Friday, September 24, 2010

On some recent pronouncements by H.H. The Pope

(I'm finally getting around to highlighting some recent Papal pronouncements I've been meaning to blog about.)

"Message for the 26th World Youth Day"

I was encouraged to read the second-last sentence of the following paragraph:

4. Believing in Jesus Christ without having seen him

[...] Enter into a personal dialogue with Jesus Christ and cultivate it in faith. Get to know him better by reading the Gospels and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Converse with him in prayer, and place your trust in him. He will never betray that trust! “Faith is first of all a
personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 150). Thus you will acquire a mature and solid faith, one which will not be based simply on religious sentiment or on a vague memory of the catechism you studied as a child. You will come to know God and to live authentically in union with him, like the Apostle Thomas who showed his firm faith in Jesus in the words: “My Lord and my God!”.
[Bold, italics, and hyperlink in the original,]

Modernism's doctrine of religious sentiment is, of course, one of its keynote errors:

10. Therefore the religious sentiment, which through the agency of vital immanenceemerges from the lurking places of the subconsciousness, is [for the Modernist] the germ of all religion, and the explanation of everything that has been or ever will be in any religion. ...
[Italics in the original,]

so the Holy Father's rejection of it as a basis for Faith is a rebuff to those who fancy that His Holiness is a Modernist in the strict sense (though that's not to say, of course, that there are not difficulties, sometimes great difficulties, in the theology and philosophy of Josef Ratzinger--some of which are apparent in the style and diction of that very same World Youth Day Message paragraph--and I think that it could still be maintained that he is a small-m modernist, in the sense of someone inordinately fond of modern philosophy and theology).

The Old Law: A bringer of blessings, or a bringer of death?

An item from a recent edition of the Vatican Information Service (V.I.S.) daily e-mail bulletin:


VATICAN CITY, 10 SEP 2010 (VIS) - The Holy Father has sent a telegram to Riccardo Di Segni, chief rabbi of Rome, for the Jewish festivities of Rosh Hashanah 5771 (New Year), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), which all fall in the month of September.

On these feast days, writes the Pope, "it is my pleasure to express the most cordial and sincere best wishes to you and to the entire Jewish community of Rome, together with the hope that these festivities may bring copious blessings from the Eternal One and be a source of intimate joy. May we all feel a growing desire to promote justice and peace, of which the world today has such need.

"With gratitude and affection I recall my visit to the Great Synagogue. May God, in His goodness, protect the entire community and enable it to develop in shared friendship, both in Rome and in the world".
TGR/ VIS 20100910 (170)

But there can be no hope that the festivities of the Old Law will bring "blessings", "copious" or otherwise, because the Old Law is now a bringer of death, not of blessings; see St. Thomas, Ia-IIæ, q. 103, a. 3, ad 2 and a. 4, ad 1, and the Council of Florence's Decree for the Jacobites (Dz. 712), among others.

H.H. The Pope's address in Westminster Hall during his State Visit to the U.K.

There are some good points in this speech (quoted from the V.I.S. daily e-mail bulletin), though from a Traditionalist perspective it's a bit mixed:


VATICAN CITY, 17 SEP 2010 (VIS) - At 5.15 p.m. today the Holy Father met with representatives from British civil society, and from the worlds of culture, academe and business, as well as the diplomatic corps and religious leaders. The meeting took place in Westminster Hall which, built in 1099, is the oldest part of Westminster Palace and is used for events of national and international significance.

[...] "In particular", he added, "I recall the figure of St. Thomas More, the great English scholar and statesman, who is admired by believers and non-believers alike for the integrity with which he followed his conscience, even at the cost of displeasing the sovereign whose 'good servant' he was, because he chose to serve God first. The dilemma which faced More in those difficult times, the perennial question of the relationship between what is owed to Caesar and what is owed to God, allows me the opportunity to reflect with you briefly on the proper place of religious belief within the political process".

"The fundamental questions at stake in Thomas More's trial continue to present themselves in ever-changing terms as new social conditions emerge. Each generation, as it seeks to advance the common good, must ask anew: what are the requirements that governments may reasonably impose upon citizens, and how far do they extend? By appeal to what authority can moral dilemmas be resolved? These questions take us directly to the ethical foundations of civil discourse. If the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident - herein lies the real challenge for democracy".

The Holy Father continued his remarks: "The inadequacy of pragmatic, short-term solutions to complex social and ethical problems has been illustrated all too clearly by the recent global financial crisis. There is widespread agreement that the lack of a solid ethical foundation for economic activity has contributed to the grave difficulties now being experienced by millions of people throughout the world. Just as 'every economic decision has a moral consequence', so too in the political field, the ethical dimension of policy has far-reaching consequences that no government can afford to ignore".

"The central question at issue, then, is this: where is the ethical foundation for political choices to be found? The Catholic tradition maintains that the objective norms governing right action are accessible to reason, prescinding from the content of revelation. According to this understanding, the role of religion in political debate is ... to help purify and shed light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles".

Without the "corrective" role of religion, the Pope explained, "reason too can fall prey to distortions, as when it is manipulated by ideology, or applied in a partial way that fails to take full account of the dignity of the human person. Such misuse of reason, after all, was what gave rise to the slave trade in the first place and to many other social evils, not least the totalitarian ideologies of the twentieth century. This is why I would suggest that the world of reason and the world of faith - the world of secular rationality and the world of religious belief - need one another and should not be afraid to enter into a profound and ongoing dialogue, for the good of our civilisation.

"Religion, in other words, is not a problem for legislators to solve, but a vital contributor to the national conversation. In this light, I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalisation of religion, particularly of Christianity, that is taking place in some quarters, even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance. There are those who would advocate that the voice of religion be silenced, or at least relegated to the purely private sphere. There are those who argue that the public celebration of festivals such as Christmas should be discouraged, in the questionable belief that it might somehow offend those of other religions or none. And there are those who argue - paradoxically with the intention of eliminating discrimination - that Christians in public roles should be required at times to act against their conscience. These are worrying signs of a failure to appreciate not only the rights of believers to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, but also the legitimate role of religion in the public square. I would invite all of you, therefore, within your respective spheres of influence, to seek ways of promoting and encouraging dialogue between faith and reason at every level of national life".

[...] "For such co-operation to be possible", he concluded, "religious bodies - including institutions linked to the Catholic Church - need to be free to act in accordance with their own principles and specific convictions based upon the faith and the official teaching of the Church. In this way, such basic rights as religious freedom, freedom of conscience and freedom of association are guaranteed".
PV-UNITED KINGDOM/ VIS 20100918 (1180)

H.H. The Pope on religious liberty and the natural-law basis for marriage

Excerpts from another V.I.S. daily e-mail bulletin:


VATICAN CITY, 13 SEP 2010 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received the Letters of Credence of Walter Jurgen Schmid, the new ambassador of Germany to the Holy See.

The Pope began by mentioning Fr. Gerhard Hirschfelder, a martyr priest who died under the Nazi regime and who is due to be beatified in Munster on 19 September. He also referred to the beatifications of four other priests and the commemoration of an Evangelical pastor, scheduled for 2011.

"Contemplating these martyrs", said Benedict XVI, "it emerges ever more clearly how certain men, on the basis of their Christian convictions, are ready to give their lives for the faith, for the right to exercise their beliefs freely and for freedom of speech, for peace and human dignity".

[...] "The Church", the Holy Father explained, "looks with concern at the growing attempts to eliminate the Christian concept of marriage and the family from the conscience of society. Marriage is the lasting union of love between a man and a woman, which is always open to the transmission of human life". In this context he identified the need for a "culture of the person", using an expression of John Paul II. Moreover, he continued, "the success of marriages depends upon us all and on the personal culture of each individual citizen. In this sense, the Church cannot approve legislative initiatives that involve a re-evaluation of alternative models of marriage and family life. They contribute to a weakening of the principles of natural law, and thus to the relativisation of all legislation and confusion about values in society". [...]
CD/ VIS 20100913 (620)

Again, a mixture of the pleasing and the displeasing. It was pleasing to hear the Holy Father speak of marriage's basis in the natural law (sometimes Catholics need to be reminded of this, because we sometimes think of marriage exclusively as a Sacrament, when the Sacrament of Marriage, though certainly a Sacrament between a baptised husband and his baptised wife, is nevertheless, in the words of The Catechism of St. Pius X., "nothing else than the natural contract itself, raised by Jesus Christ to the dignity of a sacrament", and an understanding of the meaning of that natural contract can be attained by, and defended by, unaided reason), but His Holiness's talk of 'freedom of speech', &c., was disappointing, but of course unsurprising. There is also the question of what a 'culture of the person' means.

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of Our Lady of Ransom, A.D. 2010

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