Friday, February 23, 2018

John Lamont: The Bergoglian Assault on the Faith

I've just finished reading John Lamont's lengthy essay at Rorate Coeli: "The Meaning of Amoris Laetitia According to Pope Francis." This essay, in my view, has a direct bearing on an issue raised by Fr Hunwicke's recent blog post Sedevacantism. In that post Fr Hunwicke posed the question:

"Suppose a pope were, additionally, to require of every Catholic explicit assent ex animo to heresy as a necessary condition for Communion with himself, what would be the situation?"

Lamont's essay is important because it 1) sets out the principles of how we must proceed in judging situations such as the current crisis in the Church, and 2) he follows through and draws conclusions, as well as pointing out what steps need to be taken--but have not been taken.

Briefly, the first part of Lamont's essay deals with Bergoglio's clarification of Amoris Laetitia (AL) by means of a statement in the October 2017 issue of the Acta apostolicae sedis (AAS), the journal that publishes the official acts of the Holy See. The statement incorporates a letter to Bergoglio from the Argentine bishops giving their interpretation of the meaning of AL and their plans for implementing it. They interpret AL as clearly contravening established Church doctrine and practice and state their intent to implement it in that light. Also included is Bergoglio's letter to the Argentine bishops in which he states that their interpretation is the "only possible interpretation." Finally, there is a statement by the Vatican Secretary of State to the effect that the statement is being published as part of the "authentic magisterium." Lamont is clear on this point: whatever we may think of the authority of such a statement, it is authoritative in establishing that Bergoglio's intent in writing AL was to contravene established Church teaching.

So, if not exactly requiring explicit consent from the faithful, we have already seen theologians and philosophers being dismissed for criticizing precisely the views expressed in this statement in the AAS. At a minimum, conformity through silence is now being required by increasing numbers of bishops. Lamont makes the point that all this contradicts established teaching as well as, most recently, the teachings contained in the apostolic exhortation Familiaris consortio (FC), which JP2 issued in the wake of the 1980 Synod of Bishops.

Now, just prior to publication of Lamont's essay, I had commented in response to a comment at Fr Hunwicke's blog--quoted above. The commenter, rick allen, raised precisely this issue: What should we do if voices in our head are telling us that the pope is wrong? He wrote in part:

"Why leave the question at popes? What if an ecumenical council makes a dogmatic statement I think is heretical? What if, in the fourth century, I genuinely and deeply believed that the homoousian was a seriously heretical departure from the apostolic faith?
"The Catholic Church is unlike any other because it claims an infallible magisterium. It claims that there is a divinely sanctioned office capable of resolving dogmatic disputes, and I as a Catholic recognize that the pope's judgment on these matters is more to be trusted than mine. 
"So to ask what I would do if the pope were heretical assumes that I have the capacity to judge the pope. I don't think I do.
"So what do I do when I still judge him wrong? I leave it to the Holy Spirit."

I responded:

"rick allen makes an important point. Since we now know beyond any cavil of a doubt that a duly elected pope (I accept for purposes of this comment Fr Hunwicke's stipulation) can launch a conspiracy "to undermine in advance the teaching of future popes. Strangling renascent orthodoxy before it has the chance to be born," we ought to be asking ourselves--with rick allen: Why not an ecumenical council? In this current crisis we have "woke" Catholics who have raised the alarm, voiced dubia, issued corrections, etc. Blogged! But what if ...
"What if there has been, or have been, ecumenical council(s) that have put forward theological views that have gained widespread acceptance, perhaps by ambiguity, perhaps by other means? Certainly voices of concern regarding certain documents of Vatican II are being increasingly raised in non-SSPX circles--dare I say, in what were heretofore regarded as impeccably post-Conciliar circles? What then?
"rick allen's response to such dubia is Cupichian: "I leave it to the Holy Spirit." If you have doubts, said Cupich to Prof. Rist at Cambridge, examine your conscience--could it be that you no longer believe in the guidance of the Holy Spirit?
"My response is: We must rely on our God given resources. Historical study based on sound philosophical principles will lead us to a clear vision of the Apostolic Tradition."

So, with all that in mind, let's look at how Lamont addresses the manifest conflict between AL and FC.

First, how must we proceed in judging such conflicts? Lamont first poses the question:

"What are we to make of this assertion of Amoris laetitia, now that its meaning has been settled by the AAS statement? One position is that of Cardinal Kasper, according to which the assertion is a legitimate exercise of papal teaching and disciplinary power that must be accepted and followed by all Catholics. Another position is that of the correctio filialis, according to which the assertion denies a divinely revealed truth and must be rejected as a heresy."

He then points out that a duel between conflicting papal statements with similar levels of authority will settle nothing:

"The complete opposition between Familiaris consortio and Amoris laetitia on these topics effectively disposes of Cardinal Kasper’s claim that the teaching of Amoris laetitia must be accepted by Catholics. One cannot appeal to papal authority to show that the teaching of one apostolic exhortation must be accepted over the completely contradictory teachings of the same sort. This cancelling out of papal authority claims leaves us with the question of which of these contradictory teaching should be believed by Catholics. What has to be done to answer this question is to determine which of the contradictory positions is actually true."

That is the position I took in response to rick allen. Claims of "inspiration" must be set aside; there is an objective standard for judgment. We must employ our faculty of reason and conduct historical research to determine which papal statement is in accord with the Apostolic Tradition--the Faith handed down from Jesus to the Apostles and the Church. Jesus never promised that life in the Church would be easy, that disagreements and even scandal would never arise. And yet, in a sense, matters are easier for us today than they have been in the past--the resources of critical scholarship have made access to a truly informed understanding of the Apostolic Tradition a far more realistic possibility in respects that are of particular concern in this current crisis. In other words, there's no magical solution, just scholarly plugging away.

Lamont next conducts his analysis. We will skip that and simply state that his conclusion is that AL does, objectively, contradict authentic Catholic teaching, but that Bergoglio "has not been authoritatively told that he is upholding heresy." In Lamont's view, that is a step that should be taken by ecclesiastical authority. He notes that while bishops are not able to command a pope, they are able to teach authoritatively. They also have the duty to warn the faithful when a pope falls into heresy--but, unfortunately, none of this has been done (with a very few notable exceptions). However, he quickly adds, seconding Fr Hunwicke's view:

"The fact that Pope Francis has not been authoritatively told that he is upholding heresy does not mean that he is simply in error about marriage, divorce and the Eucharist. One does not have to commit the canonical crime of heresy in order to knowingly reject the teaching of the Catholic Church. ... Pope Francis knows that he is contradicting Catholic teaching on this subject; he has composed Amoris laetitia precisely to reject the exposition of this teaching that is to be found in Familiaris consortio. He may think that adhering to the Catholic faith does not require assenting to the past teachings of the magisterium. It is likely in fact that he does think this; this modernist position is generally held by progressive clerics of his school of thought, and he has shown signs of agreement with it in a number of statements. But acceptance of modernism is itself a more profound and universal form of heresy than rejection of specific divinely revealed truths, since it does away with the whole notion of divine revelation and faith in its teachings. There is no parallel to this betrayal in the entire history of the Papacy. ... Pope Francis is attacking Christ’s teaching in a planned and systematic fashion because he is opposed to it."

This is a very important point. On all sides one hears the argument that until Bergoglio actually commits a canonical crime there is nothing to be done--we can't even state the obvious, that he is a heretic. But just as the US Constitution isn't a suicide pact, neither is the Church. Aquinas defines heresy quite simply: "Therefore heresy is a species of unbelief, belonging to those who profess the Christian faith, but corrupt its dogmas.​" If it is established objectively that a pope is corrupting the Faith while cleverly avoiding openly committing a canonical crime, the faithful--and bishops above all--have both the right and the duty to speak out.

Lamont then faults the bishops collectively for failing in their duty to call Bergoglio out, and concludes:

It would be wrong however to think that Pope Francis is the worst scourge afflicting the Church. ... In a healthy Church the problem of a heretical Pope can and will be dealt with by the Catholic bishops, just as the immune system of a healthy body will react to disease and eradicate it. The immune system of the Church at the present is not operating. The bishops of the Catholic Church have remained silent about the heresy in Amoris laetitia, and have thereby abandoned the faithful. ... Pope Francis has stated in official magisterial documents that they are papal teachings that they must accept. He has been supported in this by a large number of bishops. Pope Francis has thereby put pressure on all the Catholic faithful to reject divinely revealed truth. ... In order to protect the faithful from the attack on their belief and salvation that is being made through Amoris laetitia, it is necessary to address the falsehoods in that document itself, and to condemn them by appealing to an authority that justifies the rejection of a non-infallible papal letter; the authority of divine revelation expressed in the Scriptures and repeated by the magisterium of the Church. ... It would be sufficient to take the lesser step of simply addressing the faithful to condemn Amoris laetitia as heretical. Aside from Bishops Bernard Fellay and Henry Gracida, no Catholic bishops have done this.
"This almost unanimous betrayal of their office by Catholic bishops, and the episcopal infidelity that this betrayal reveals, is the fundamental problem in the Church. Without this massive infidelity there would have been no constituency to elect Pope Francis in the first place, and if he had nonetheless managed to be elected he would not have been able to mount an overt assault on the faith. If this fundamental problem is not solved, the repudiation of the heresies in Amoris laetitia or even the deposition of Pope Francis will not produce any lasting benefit. Other evils of a similar kind will recur, since the causes of Pope Francis’s career and actions will remain. A basic reform of the Church that addresses and eradicates these causes is what is needed."

There's much more, and I urge one and all to read it.