Friday, March 23, 2018

A Case Study On Continuity Between Ratzinger and Bergoglio: The Spirit And "Living Tradition"

Back on March 17, 2018, Fr Hunwicke pointed out in his blog post Heureka! Heureka! that

"The first and fontal dogma there attributed [in Wikipedia] to 'Modern Church' [i.e., Modernism] is ... lo and behold ... the prime distinctive dogma of Bergoglianism:

What Fr Hunwicke is referring to is Bergoglio's constant contention that the Holy Spirit is speaking to him and that he is only doing what the Spirit bids him to do. The "God of surprises" communicates His surprises to Bergoglio through the Spirit. And we all know that whoever sins against the Spirit commits the unforegiveable sin. (Mark 3:28-29)

Fr Hunwicke appeared to believe that this notion, that revelation has not come to an end--which I refer to as "continuing revelation"--is a dogma that is distinctive of "Bergoglianism." In the comments I sought to rectify that misconception. It certainly is a distinctive mark of Bergoglianism, but it's just as certainly not unique to Bergoglianism. What, to me, makes this question a matter of some topical interest is that within a few days of Fr Hunwicke's post the whole question of an "inner continuity" between the pontificates of Ratzinger and Bergoglio took on added significance due to the famous letter of Ratzinger. In the letter Ratzinger responded to what amounted to a request that he endorse Bergoglio's ideas, as described in "eleven small volumes" by a variety of pro-Bergoglio theologians. I wrote about that controversy in Bergoglio's LetterGate--Continuity and Discontinuity, my central contention being that Ratzinger was quite correct in pointing out the "inner continuity" between his pontificate and that of Bergoglio. This fact of substantial theological agreement is, of course, exactly what Ratzinger cultists are in a complete state of denial about. To admit it would bring their entire worldview crashing down on their heads.

At any rate, wishing to bring some clarity to the matter, I commented on Fr Hunwicke's blog:

But, speaking of "continuing revelation," that, of course, is a position that Ratzinger was accused of holding as far back as his seminary days and right through his Dei Verbum days up to the present. A point of "inner continuity" with Bergoglio? [Dei Verbum, the Word of God, is the Dogmatic Constitution on Revelation, at Vatican II.]
Here's a link ...: The Debate on Tradition
In this blog the author [Fr. Waldstein, cf. below] includes a quote from Ecclesia Dei in which Lefebvre is attacked for having "an incomplete and contradictory notion of Tradition." IMHO, however, a good case could be made that the position espoused in Ecclesia Dei that "the living character of Tradition, which, as the Second Vatican Council clearly taught, 'comes from the apostles and progresses in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit'" does in fact constitute a form of "continuing revelation." The passage from Ecclesia Dei continues in a way that is for me most alarming, smacking as it does of an uncritically optimistic as well as a very subjective notion of Tradition and, therefore, of Revelation. [Ecclesia Dei is the reaction of pope Wojtyła to Archbishop Lefebvre's consecration of four bishops without Vatican authorization.]

A look at Fr. Edmund Waldstein's (O. Cist.) blog shows that he was actually attempting to defend Ratzinger's view on Apostolic Tradition as a "living process," not a matter of "definite ideas." Let's take a look. (For fuller links to referenced material please vist the blog, linked above.) Fr. Waldstein begins:

I have just been reading parts of the debate at Vatican II on the sections of Dei Verbum dealing with Apostolic Tradition. ... I have been defending ... the account of Tradition developed by by Pope Benedict XVI long before he became pope. He understands Tradition as “the living process whereby the Holy Spirit introduces us to the fullness of truth and teaches us how to understand what previously we could still not grasp (cf.  Jn 16:12-13),” and the “remembering” by which the Church “can come to recognize what it had not caught sight of previously and yet was already handed down in the original Word.” Aelianus and Thomas Cordatus [commenters at Fr. Waldstein's site] have been objecting that Ratzinger’s account seems dangerously close to the modernist idea of continuing Revelation. They insist that Tradition must be the handing on of definite ideas, though not in set formulas.
Very similar objections were brought up by some of the council fathers in the debate on Dei Verbum. The peritus Ratzinger had given a speech which had influenced the 4th draft of the Document–especially Article 8–and several of the fathers objected to this. 

One might well imagine that this idea of Tradition as a living process could be taken to amount to "continuing Revelation." As we see next, some of the Fathers of the Council put their finger on the nub of the problem: Ratzinger's view places later theologizing attempts at the explanation of Apostolic Tradition on the same level as the Tradition itself--and this is a view that Ratzinger has consistently maintained. Note that in the passage from Ratzinger's Commentary Ratzinger notes the final decision of the Theological Commission but not any arguments that could be said to actually address the objection that Leger raised:

... Cardinal Leger insisted on the same point, He found that the Schema, ... blurred the strict distinction between apostolic and post-apostolic tradition [what I call "theologizing"] and endangered the strict transcendence of divine revelation when it was confronted with the statements and actions of the teaching office of the Church. The Cardinal was concerned that the Church should bind itself firmly to the final and unchangeable word of God, that does not grow, but can only be constantly assimilated afresh and cannot be manipulated by the Church. The Theological Commission considered the question carefully, but decided not to make any major alterations in the text. It pointed out that the clause ” … Traditio proficit” is explained by a second clause “crescit … tam rerum quam verborum perceptio“, i.e. the growth of tradition is a growth in understanding of the reality that was given at the beginning. (Commentary pp.186-187)

So, yes, if "the growth of tradition is a growth in understanding of the reality that was given at the beginning," that does amount to saying that later theologizing has the same authoritative status as "the reality that was given at the beginning." And with that, Ratzinger's views became ... gospel.

Waldstein then notes how Ratzinger's view, as embodied in Dei Verbum, was cited to justify excommunicating Archbishop Lefebvre:

Bl. Pope John Paul II saw this question, ... as the main error of Archbishop Lefebvre. In the Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei he has written:
The root of this schismatic act can be discerned in an incomplete and contradictory notion of Tradition. Incomplete, because it does not take sufficiently into account the living character of Tradition, which, as the Second Vatican Council clearly taught, “comes from the apostles and progresses in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on. This comes about in various ways. It comes through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts. It comes from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which they experience. And it comes from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth”.

So here we see that theological speculation on Tradition is itself part of the "living character of Tradition," the development of doctrine, as it were. To call it "theological speculation" hardly gives it its due, for we are told that "this living process ... comes from the apostles and progresses in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit." And a sin against the Holy Spirit is unforgiveable. Have I played fast and loose by conflating the "living process" with the resulting "tradition?" I don't think so--after all, where else would the process come from it is to be considered valid? But what if later "tradition" seems to contradict earlier tradition? Well, since the process "progresses ... with the help of the Spirit" that would seem to be the case. The Spirit leads us to an ever greater insight--onward and upward, Excelsior! Cynics are left to wonder why the Spirit took something like 1,964 years to help us to this insight, but I suppose that's what the "hermeneutic of continuity" ultimately explains. A Teilhardian Eucharist and New Liturgy that bears no resemblance to the Apostolic Tradition, but does bear an uncanny resemblance to the Gnostic speculation of Hegel and others, the abolition of Hell "that all may be saved", a new definition of the ends of marriage to provide cover for contraception and homosexuality--all that and much more has come into the V2 Church through the magical "hermeneutic of continuity."

Therefore, it seems amply safe to conclude that, far from being a wild eyed radical introducing dangerous Modernist heresies into the Church, Bergoglio is no more than a staid Ratzingerian, repeating the same old Modernist heresies that Ratzinger has been repeating for decade after decade.

ADDENDUM: As further examples of inner continuity between Ratzinger and Bergoglio, in spite of differences of "style and temperament," we could cite the influence of Rahner's idea of the "anonymous Christian." Ratzinger has been--for practical purposes--a lifelong supporter of this idea, while claiming to "nuance" it. Bergoglio as well is a whole hearted supporter. We see the practical results of this belief in the well known incident in which Cardinal Ratzinger of the CDF persuaded a Lutheran lady (Sigrid Spath, a German language translator for the Vatican) not to become a Catholic, claiming that she could do more for both churches if she remained a Protestant. One wonders, of course, about Ratzinger's estimate of the value of leading a life informed by participation in the sacraments (in the Church) versus a life lived within a Protestant sect which is, beyond verbal formalities, not even Christian. The incident speaks volumes regarding Ratzinger's own faith and understanding of faith (which we have repeatedly maintained is Lutheran, not Catholic) as well as the shallowness of his historical understanding.

Place against this the equally well known incident in which Bergoglio, as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, advised an Anglican bishop (Tony Palmer) not to convert and later, as Francis, instructed that Palmer be buried not only as a Catholic but as a Catholic bishop. It should hardly be surprising, then, that, speaking of a Benedict initiative, Pope Francis 'dismissed Anglican branch as quite unnecessary'. Here we see not a lack of continuity--indeed, there is a real inner continuity at work--but rather a difference of "style and temperament." Ratzinger showed himself more sensitive to those Paul referred to (in the context of eating food sacrificed to idols) as "people with weak consciences." That's all. Ratzinger, no doubt, regarded the Anglican ordinariate as an ecumenical outreach that might bear ecumenical fruit in the future--despite the fact that his theological fellow travelers regarded it not only as unnecessary but even as offensive. Ratzinger has always seen himself as playing a deeper game of unification rather than of confrontation, which also explains his outreach to Catholic traditionalists. It's really politics or strategy/tactics, rather than theology.

Likewise regarding the notion of the institutional church "subsisting in" the Catholic Church. I submit that this concept too is an expression of Rahner's notion of the "anonymous Christian." However, this notion in turn is ultimately derived from the Teilhardian notion of all humanity being drawn up in unity--and recall that both Ratzinger and Bergoglio have been lifelong fans of Teilhard--in a Gnostic cosmogony of which Ratzinger and Bergoglion see the Eucharist as an expression. Ut unum sint, so to speak. This in turn plays into the idea which both men embrace that "all may be saved," which Ratzinger/Benedict actually alluded to with his reference to his fellow Gnostic de Lubac in his final encyclical, Spe salvi. (Cf. section 14. Characteristically, Ratzinger/Benedict disguises the subversive meaning and intent of what he's seeing by using the euphemistic phrase "salvation has always been considered a “social” reality," accompanying it with a pastiche of scriptural passages ripped out of context.)

The upcoming "Youth Synod", with its inclusion of atheists and other non-Christians, is a further manifestation of this line of thinking. All humanity is Church in the Modernist cosmogony.


  1. Subsists indicates no change which is why the change.

    They modern motto of the Church is;

    Everything is different, nothing has changed.

    It was a prudential mistake to change the definition of the Church fromThe Perfect Society to the Mystical Body as things Mystical are more difficult to clearly define - they have no clear borders between those who are Catholic and those who ain't. so, MCCA (Make Catholicism Clear Again)

    And the claim that other communities make-up the Church because they putatively retained thus and such when they schismed is a direct repudiation of, among others, Pope Leo XIII who taught in Sapientiae Christianae #22 It follows as a consequence that whatever things are manifestly revealed by God we must receive with a smiliar and equal assent. To refuse to believe any one of them is equivalent to rejecting them all, for those at once destroy the very groundwork of faith who deny that God has spoken to men, or who bring into doubt His infinite truth and wisdom.

  2. Regarding what you refer to as "other communities" who "schismed," I'm not sure I understand entirely. There have certainly been Christian communities that carried on the true faith for centuries while out of contact with Rome--Maronites, "Thomas" Christians in India, etc. Beyond that, I wouldn't necessarily want to equate all jurisdictional disputes--which would be "schismatic" in the proper sense--with serious theological differences. For example, from my standpoint I regard some of the theological positions adopted by Eastern Orthodox as much more serious than their disputes over jusrisdictional matters, since I don't regard the current governance of the Latin Church as revealed in all particulars. I think my view is in accord with the best theological views as well since, for example, while there has been a lot of loose and irresponsible talk of SSPX being "schismatic," in fact that has never been promulgated as the official position of Rome and is less likely that ever to be the official position.

    On the other hand, I don't regard Protestants generally as Christian in the correct sense of the word. Rather, I regard Protestants as essentially gnostic sects that use some of the language of Christian faith while espousing thought systems that are fundamentally opposed to the very structure of Christian faith.

    Naturally, there's a lot more that could, and should, be said and even, perhaps, distinctions that could be made regarding particular instances. At the same time, the current crisis in the Latin Church should give pause for reflection. For example, if since Vatican II the Latin Church has arguably espoused theological positions--and I use that expression to distinguish from dogmatic positions--then we need to ask: is it possible that other troublesome theological positions were adopted in the past with less dissension than we are currently experiencing, but with consequences that have helped lead us into the current crisis.

    To say that all this is a can of worms is undoubtedly an understatement.

  3. ABS was referring to the prots who spilt off from the One True Faith and, supposedly kept some sacraments.[; now, we are being told they are part of the Church of Christ.

    Older texts are correct in identifying the truth that one must be Catholic to be a Christian ('The Church of Christ..." E. Sylvester Berry, STD) but we aren't supposed to be mean and say that out loud.

    As to the SSPX, it seems to me they are a museum quality example of a schism in that they have their own Bishops operating in the jurisdictions of legitimate Bishops and Mons Lefebvre was saying in the 1970s that his priest had universal jurisdiction. He created a petit ecclesia and they aint ever coming home. Fellay may desire to return but his flock will not follow him back to Rome and with Francis having created over 40% of the Cardinalate the next Pope may be even worse than Our Pope and Our Cross, Francis

    They SSPX are Neo-Orthodox with Mass and Sacraments but they have no Pope.

  4. I believe there are more complications than you're acknowledging, and which might lead you to revise your view re SSPX. For example ...

    Cardinal Burke--a pretty mainstream guy--said this in an interview:

    "Cardinal Burke: There is a very serious division in the Church which has to be mended because it has to do with, as I said before, fundamental dogmatic and moral teaching. And if it’s not clarified soon, it could develop into a formal schism.

    "CWR: Some people are saying that the pope could separate himself from communion with the Church. Can the pope legitimately be declared in schism or heresy?

    "Cardinal Burke: If a Pope would formally profess heresy he would cease, by that act, to be the Pope. It’s automatic. And so, that could happen."

    Of course, this raises two questions: 1) What's "formal"? and 2) could a pope circumvent this by cleverly avoiding being "formal" about his heresy while relentlessly promoting it in "pastoral" fashion? Large sectors of the Church are already joining the Eastern Orthodox re marriage and potentially worse.

    I agree with Cardinal Cajetan in this regard:

    Cajetan points out that the famous axiom "Ubi Petrus, ibi
    Ecclesia" [Where the Pope is, there is also the Church] holds true only
    when the Pope acts and behaves as the Pope, because Peter "is subject to
    the duties of the Office"; otherwise, "neither is the Church in him, nor
    is he in the Church."
    (Apud St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, IIa
    IIae, Q. 39, Art. 1, ad 6)

    Fr. Weinandy has recently pointed out that that is in accord with the teaching of the ancient bishop, apostolic father, and martyr St. Ignatius of Antioch (d. c. 107 AD), "Where Christ is, there is the Church". (Letter to the Smyrneans, 8). If the pope is not with Christ, can he be with Christ's Church? Nothing in the New Testament suggests that a false shepherd remains a shepherd.

    The famous Dominican theologian Francisco de Vitoria (c. 1483 – 1546)

    also stated that the faithful must resist to his face a Pope who "publicly destroys the Church." (De Comparata Auctoritate Papae et Concilio, cap. XXVII apud Victoria).

    Finally, the ancient papal oath also suggests all of the above:

    "Accordingly, without exclusion, We subject to severest excommunication anyone -- be it ourselves or be it another -- who would dare -- who would dare to undertake anything new in contradiction to this constituted evangelic Tradition and the purity of the Orthodox Faith and the Christian Religion, or would seek to change anything by his opposing efforts, or would agree with those who undertake such a blasphemous venture." (Liber Diurnus Romanorum Pontificum, Patrologia Latina 1005, S. 54)

    The oath makes it clear that a magisterium that contradicts former magisterium is not magisterium, for the pope is sworn to put himself outside the Church if even he contradicts what he has received from his predecessors. The ancient papal oath, therefore, foresees the possibility that even a pope may become a heretic or schismatic by violating either dogma or the rites of the Church handed down by

  5. I'm afraid you've lost me on this:

    "even if he were an arm of the devil the Pope would have authority over us."

    1. This amounts to saying that Christ died on the cross, instituted his Church, then potentially--and in the current case actually--abandoned those who believe in him to the power of the Evil One. You even seem to state that in such case the Devil has legitimate, divinely instituted, authority over the faithful. That's unacceptable to me.

    2. In making that assertion you decline to address the very weighty authorities that I cited.

    3. I can't follow what you could possibly mean by stating that resisting unlawful exercises of authority is "cowardly." Nor do I accept that there is "no difference" between the claims to authority of the US Government and those of the Church. This is a false analogy. Further, SSPX has done the Church an immense service by preserving the traditional liturgy, while the rest of the Church (except for those rare instances where the Roman Canon is used) has lapsed into gnostic celebrations, as described by Ratzinger and others.

    4. Re the case of Honorius, the case is not as clear cut as you suggest:


    "However, Pope Leo II's letter of confirmation of the Council interprets the council as intending to criticize Honorius not for error of belief, but rather for "imprudent economy of silence".[7] Leo's letter states: "We anathematize the inventors of the new error, that is, Theodore, Sergius, ... and also Honorius, who did not attempt to sanctify this Apostolic Church with the teaching of Apostolic tradition, but by profane treachery permitted its purity to be polluted."[1] The New Catholic Encyclopedia notes: "It is in this sense of guilty negligence that the papacy ratified the condemnation of Honorius." Persons such as Cesare Baronio and Bellarmine have challenged accusations that Pope Honorius I taught heresy.[8]"

    This seems to me to be a very different case from that of Bergoglio--who is aggressively and relentlessly attempting to transform the Church into the Gnostic cult envisioned by the Nouveaux Theologiens.

  6. The Condemned Conclusions of John Wycliffe

    8. That if the pope is fore-ordained to destruction and a wicked man, and therefore a member of the devil, no power has been given to him over the faithful of Christ by any one, unless perhaps by the Emperor.

    The point ABS was trying to get at is that Honorius was Pope unto he returned to dust. He wasn't deposed

    The SSPX is a petit ecclesia and its members are also heretics vis a vis the doctrines of Vatican i and that is not surprising as schism is proximate to heresy and as for the Roman Rite it can be heard at the Old Catholic Church in Florida but it is of Tradition that one cannot hear Mass apart from this Bishop.

    SSPX are the very vagus Bishops condemned by Trent

  7. The 8th conclusion doesn't support the point you think it does, nor does it contradict the points that theologians, saints, and fathers of the church have made from Ignatius of Antioch to the present. Wycliffe's contention was that "a wicked man" by the fact of his moral turpitude lacks authority, no matter his office (unless perhaps a secular office, apparently). But the authorities I cited were not saying that moral turpitude in general is what deprives a pope of authority; rather, they were saying that the specific act of attacking the Church through heresy is what deprives a pope of authority. Yes, that is ALSO an act of moral turpitude, but it is a specific act rather than a general state. Thus, no one claimed that Burke was a Wycliffite. Nor have Cajetan, Ignatius, Aquinas or any others been condemned for their views. It's totally mainstream theology, which is why Bergoglio proceeds in a devious way.

    I would also dispute that SSPX bishops are vagus bishops. But I refer you to their arguments regarding the failure of the Roman authorities to follow Canon Law in suppressing their organization as well as the state of necessity.

  8. ABS, you seem to think that only the bishop of Rome is a successor of the Apostles, that other bishops are not or are simply the bishop of Rome's flunkies. I think you need to do some serious reflection on ecclesiological matters. As I said, and I really meant it, this is a can of worms.

    Another issue that is raised is this. If we have a pope in our own day proposing and promoting error, who is to say this hasn't also happened in the past but that the errors of the past were widely accepted rather than opposed? I suggest that there is a standard by which to judge these things--the Apostolic Tradition.

  9. "Our Pope and Our Cross is Pope until he is deposed"

    That may be your opinion, but it's not the view of the best authorities on Canon Law and theology. I recommend the following article for your reading pleasure: A canonical primer on popes and heresy. The author, btw, is strongly anti-SSPX. His conclusion, after lengthy analysis, is that "such a catastrophe [a pope becoming a heretic], Deus vetet, would result in the loss of papal office." Cardinal Burke, a world class expert on Canon Law, knew what he was talking about. That settles it for me--you're wrong on this.

    The same article explains why your use of the example of Honorius is also misguided:

    "Heresy is not, therefore, say, the failure to defend effectively specific truths of Revelation (though that might be negligence per Canon 1389); moreover, privately-held heretical views, even if they are leading to certain observable actions, are not in themselves actionable under law (Canon 1330)."

    This is exactly what Honorius was accused of, post mortem. The case of Honorius is also, therefore, easily distinguished from that of Bergoglio, who is aggressively, effectively, and relentlessly advancing heretical views under the cover of "pastoral" measures. Cardinal Mueller, while still head of CDF, openly and bluntly stated that this view itself--that a pastoral measure can contravene doctrine--is itself heretical.

    Your assertion re there being no state of emergency shows no understanding of the SSPX contention. That being the case, I won't respond. I will add that the screed from your email friend suffers the same defect.

    Lefebvre did NOT set up a rival episcopacy, nor did he or his successors deny the authority of the various popes who have followed V2. The fact that Ratzinger rescinded the illegal excommunications of Wojtyla demonstrates that the Vatican recognizes that there is no rival episcopacy and that Wojtyla was wrong in claiming that Lefebvre had performed a "schismatic act". So does the continued cooperation in canonical matters over the decades--SSPX has regularly cooperated with the Vatican in these matters, and this continues under Bergoglio.

    In all that you write, you oversimplify complicated matters that you have apparently not researched.

  10. Perhaps the best way to close out this series of comments, in which I attempt to do simple justice to Marcel Lefebvre, is to quote from an Ed Pentin interview of Aloysius Schneider, which was excerpted by Fr. Z. Be it noted that my impression has always been that Fr. Z has until very, very recently been a determined and unyielding opponent of SSPX. So:


    What are your views on the Society of St. Pius X? Do you have sympathy for their position?


    Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis on various occasions spoke with understanding towards the SSPX. It was particularly at his time, as Cardinal of Buenos Aires, that Pope Francis helped the SSPX in some administrative issues. Pope Benedict XVI once said about Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre: “He was a great bishop of the Catholic Church.” Pope Francis considers the SSPX as Catholic, and has expressed this publicly several times. Therefore, he seeks a pastoral solution, and he made the generous pastoral provisions of granting to the priests of the SSPX the ordinary faculty to hear confessions and conditional faculties to celebrate canonically marriage. The more the doctrinal, moral and liturgical confusion grows in the life of the Church, the more one will understand the prophetic mission of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in an extraordinary dark time of a generalized crisis of the Church.

    Maybe one day History will apply the following words of Saint Augustine to him:

    “Often, too, divine providence permits even good men to be driven from the congregation of Christ by the turbulent seditions of carnal men. When for the sake of the peace of the Church they patiently endure that insult or injury, and attempt no novelties in the way of heresy or schism, they will teach men how God is to be served with a true disposition and with great and sincere charity. The intention of such men is to return when the tumult has subsided. But if that is not permitted because the storm continues or because a fiercer one might be stirred up by their return, they hold fast to their purpose to look to the good even of those responsible for the tumults and commotions that drove them out. They form no separate conventicles of their own, but defend to the death and assist by their testimony the faith which they know is preached in the Catholic Church” (De vera religione 6, 11).