The Catholic Thing
HOME        ARCHIVES        IN THE NEWS        COMMENTARY        NOTABLE        DONATE
If There Is a Pope . . . Print E-mail
By Bevil Bramwell, OMI   
Sunday, 27 January 2013

Well, there is. What follows from that fact? First of all he is not an isolated figurehead or a religious figure who is far away in another country. That would be the Protestant view and the common cultural view in the United States. Rather in the Catholic Church, Christ “rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. ”(Vatican II) In the Church, we speak of the mystery where, in reality: “The bonds which bind men to the Church in a visible way are [the] profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical government and communion.”

In the same document (the Constitution on the Church), the Council was very specific about the relationship between the faithful and those in the government of the Church: “In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent.” Now, in the United States, we know that this does not happen in the majority of cases. So are any bishops animated enough to teach on this point? Is this even seen as an issue? The answer would certainly explain the hierarchy’s failure to reach people before the election.

Bishops do speak, of course. But why the reticence to explain what their speaking implies? An issue for another time perhaps, because then the Council continues:

This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will.

Remember this the next time someone tries to push something different by invoking the Council. And point out the specific mention of the magisterium of the pope – pace all those who erroneously think that we only offer religious submission to formally infallible teachings. Also, there is nothing in there about American exceptionalism. Political parties superseding what the pope teaches says is not even mentioned once.

Given the need for this relationship of “special reverence,” where is the immersion in papal teaching in the American church that Vatican II was expecting to occur? Where are all those helping the faithful towards religious submission of mind – all the bishops, the clergy, the religious superiors and religious? Am I leading too cloistered a life to see the tens of millions of U.S. Catholics being trained on evenings and weekends in the meaning of the latest encyclical?

Granted we live in a Protestant culture, but why do we have to fall so completely for Protestant parochialism? This widespread bias denies part of the nature of the Catholic Church, and a large part too. Most Americans Catholics live with paltry knowledge of the faith because dioceses have left them with the notion that they know enough just the way they are. What could our wonderful American people possibly learn from Familiaris consortio or Verbum Domini?

The reciprocal relationship of communion between the faithful and the pope is basic to Catholicism. Unfortunately, we have had at least fifty years of the Church being out of the education business once people are confirmed – and of a Church being afraid to ask people what they believe. This smacks of Protestant individualism. Church officials seem to be furthering Unitarianism rather than Catholicism and doing remarkably well, if a bystander might comment.

What is at stake is communion in truth, where the Holy Father is at the center pointing to Christ, the Word, the source of all truth. This communion does not consist of individuals occasionally imagining that they are in union with the pope, but rather of individuals who actually know what he says in his ordinary magisterium and then join themselves to the truth (the Word) by their religious assent to what he says.

This union is personal rather than impersonal, close rather than distant, and based on truth rather than imaginings. It relies on everyone knowing what the pope says in substantial detail. The people in large part will only learn that from their pastors. Since the United States is not under occupation or ravaged by epidemics, dioceses are free and able to do their part in sustaining the communion of the faithful with the Holy Father – or not.

Papal teaching also holds a privileged place because it has a formidable consistency and clarity. One looks in vain for the same level of scholarship and knowledge of the intellectual tradition from other world figures, theologians or writers. We have been blessed with popes who are intellectual and spiritual giants at a time when few bishops and no academics can hold a candle to them.

In this time of frightening intellectual mediocrity, when more people will listen to a movie star than a pope – and many Church officials treat this as harmless – the value of truth for human society itself needs to be very clearly explained. Then perhaps papal documents will not stall at the water’s edge.

 
 
Fr. Bevil Bramwell is a member of Oblates of Mary Immaculate and is Undergraduate Dean at Catholic Distance University. He has published Laity: Beautiful, Good and True and The World of the Sacraments. 
 
 
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

Rules for Commenting

The Catholic Thing welcomes comments, which should reflect a sense of brevity and a spirit of Christian civility, and which, as discretion indicates, we reserve the right to publish or not. And, please, do not include links to other websites; we simply haven't time to check them all.

Comments (31)Add Comment
0
...
written by Michael Paterson-Seymour, January 27, 2013
This was no new teaching of Vatican II

One has only to look at Clement XI’s Vineam Domini Sabaoth of July 16, 1705, insisting that “respectful silence” is no substitute for religious assent to the teaching of the Supreme Pontiff.

Such constitutions do not have a sell-by date.
0
...
written by JRW, January 27, 2013
Your quote from Lumen Gentium is an excellent reference. It comes from the section on the bishops and is preceded by this sentence: "In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent." What is the correct response of a layperson (or priest) when a pope or bishop discusses matters of public policy, which may or may not flow clearly from Church teaching on faith and morals? In some cases, such as the HHS mandate, the link to faith and morals is obvious. In other cases, such as calls for a stronger world government, or particular measures on the environment, the link is not obvious at all.
0
...
written by bill bannon, January 27, 2013
JRW,
Lumen Gentium is incorrect historically even implying that Bishops are Christ's mouthpiece in every single case of morals. Google "Exsurge Domine" by Pope Leo X from 1520 AD in which any Catholic who opposes burning heretics as being against the Holy Spirit ( art.33 condemned) is excommunicated latae sententiae. Now the entire Church believes that coercion in religious conscience is wrong. And now Popes will not only condemn burning heretics, they oppose verbally all executions while letting the catechism affirm it in rare hypothetical cases. Welcome to the hermeneutic on continuity which really isn't Benedict's real position. He gave that to the Rota on December 22, 2005 when in reference to approaching Vatican II with a "hermeneutic of reform", he defined that as a "combination of continuity and discontinuity at different levels".
Let's go back to 1520 and you and Michael (above your post) are told to believe in burning
heretics as not opposed to God by the Pope under threat of automatic excommunication. You give him religious submission of mind and will and the Inquisition comes to your town and you and Michael are enlisted to help prepare a fire setting to burn a heretic. You help with collecting the hay from religious submission of mind and will. You help burn a heretic who is deemed dangerous to souls...but....zoom up to the 21st century where you trust the ideological descendants of that heretic with: A. your heart transplant...B. or fixing your car brakes...and so do all Catholic Bishops.
Catholicism is Christ's mouth when Catholicism takes the trouble to use infallibility clearly in morals as required by canon 749-3.... not maybe infallibility....not probably infallibility...manifestly infallible. The right wing schisms in Catholicism always overstate what was infallible in past documents and many of them are on the internet. The ordinary papal magisterium can be wrong in morals. That's not me. That's Ludwig Ott in the Intro (section8) to his "Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma" which intro at least is free online.
0
...
written by Wolfgang Grassl, January 27, 2013
Compliments, Father Bramwell. American Catholics of all directions tend to be "casino Catholics." The "left" will not accept the sanctity of life and of the family, the protection of private property, and the legitimacy of hierarchical structure whereas the "right" cannot accept magisterial teaching on economic activity, war, or the death penalty. Both make recourse to their "prudential judgments" where the obsequium religiosum believers owe to the Church requires assent to the entirety of her teachings. Ross Douthat's latest book, "Bad Religion", is right in classifying this as a modern heresy.
0
...
written by Dennis, January 27, 2013
"...dioceses have left them with the notion that they know enough just the way they are". Change 'dioceses' to 'bishops' and you're correct.
0
...
written by bill bannon, January 27, 2013
Wolfgang,
That simplicity of always obeying leads to bizarre historical results and means you would have helped burn heretics post "Exsurge Domine" 1520 and you would refuse to burn them now as per Vatican II on non coercion in conscience matters. You would in no cases accept interest on a loan after the Council of Vienne in 1311 but after the 1830's when the Vatican said moderate interest takers were not to be disturbed, you could do that very thing.
0
...
written by Wanda, January 27, 2013
bill bannon: Heretics were not just "deemed dangerous to souls", they really WERE dangerous to souls, and everyone knew it, from the Pope right on down to the lowest Catholic beggar. Your indignant protest against Catholic obedience is really based on the common modern cant that our ancestors were just too, too ridiculous, and got themselves in a lather over things that everyone knows were completely harmless and innocent. This cast-iron prejudice against anything non-modern is pretty common today, and not restricted to just religious matters. The same prejudice 200 years from now will provide a wide field of ridicule for our descendants, when they marvel over 21st century examples of children and their families enduring the equivalent of being publicly exposed in the stocks for the crime of drawing a picture of a gun or pointing a finger and saying "Bang!" As for killing heretics, I'll remind you that Europe was governed by kings who were only too willing to command their soldiers to do exactly that. It's hardly the case that clergy were the source of villainy and everyone else was lily-white. There was far less "freedom to choose" in ANY matter than the well-fed liberal of today would think respectable.
0
...
written by Fr. Bramwell, January 27, 2013
Bill B you need to look at Ratzinger's explanation of the Profession of Faith when he was Prefect. you can find it in Origins for example. That would correct some of your mistakes. It would also show you why there is an ordinary magisterium.

As to your historical errors, what was a way of punishing in one age when the Church and the State were so tightly interrelated that disruption of one meant disruption of the other would not apply today anyway. There is historical contingency and the Church has always recognized it.
0
...
written by bill bannon, January 27, 2013
Wanda and Fr. Bramhall,
So you both would have burned heretics in certain centuries under obedience....am I correct?
Yes or no?
0
...
written by D, January 27, 2013
@bill bannon

"Wanda and Fr. Bramhall,
So you both would have burned heretics in cejrtain centuries under obedience....am I correct?
Yes or no? "

I am not Wanda or Fr. Bramhall, but if I held the position that included burning heretics that the Church had found too dangerous to leave loose, the answer to your question would be yes, just as I would be willing to take a life in war, in self-defense, or another justified situation. This takes into account the points made by Wanda and Fr. Bramhall.

You wanted an answer to your question, and Wanda and Fr. Branwell are probably wiser for not answering it, knowing from previous experience how uncharitable you can be and not wanting to add fuel to such, but so be it if you decide to give me an earful. I will gladly offer it up to God. Good night.
0
...
written by Chris in Maryland, January 28, 2013
Returning to Fr. Bramwell's point, which is about the receptiveness and obedience of The Church in the USA to the Pope today...U.S. Catholics have had two extraordinary pontiffs, and the current one is perhaps one of the most gifted teachers in the history of the Church, a towering intellect, with profound insight and extraordinary courage of conviction, tempered with meekness and humility, sensitivity and fatherly loving-kindness. What a gift. It seems that many U.S. Bishops and "Catholic" institutions operate to filter The Pope out. Pope Benedict is a gift, unopened by The Church in the U.S. As to those doing the filtering on this side of the pond, the words 'foolish' and 'sinister' come to mind.
0
...
written by Louise, January 28, 2013
Bill B, the Church's position is that capital punishment is not inherently evil. That was the teaching of the Church then and now. Pope Leo was pointing out that in the circumstances of that time capital punishment for heresy was not unjust and executioners could have a clear conscience similar to how Blessed JPII pointed out that there are some circumstances today when capital punishment could be just. Circumstances change but the teaching does not. Heresy can more easily be overcome today since we can all read and know what the Church teaches. As Fr. B points out, heresy back then also touched on political issues and could be compared to a sort of treason in the political realm so it had a double effect.

The same is true for usury. Usury has always been inherently evil. But what is the unjust taking of interest in our time? Money has a time value that it did not always have. So if you lend someone money today with no interest you are actually losing money. Today, an example of an unjust taking of interest would be loan sharking. Again, the teaching doesn't change but the circumstances do.
0
...
written by Gian, January 28, 2013
Bill Bannon,
It is not punishing the thoughtcrime that is the evil of the present age.
cf Chesterton in the Man who was Thursday-The greatest criminal now is the entirely lawless modern philosopher.
0
...
written by bill bannon, January 28, 2013
D,
    If you are going to accuse someone of being uncharitable based on past experience, please use your full surname and cite the evidence...both of which would be charitable in that context.  

Louise,
     Execution is not inherently evil for actual criminal behaviour like a heretic leading an armed insurrection per Genesis 9:5-6;  but for the non criminal heretic according to John Paul II in section 80 of "Splendor of the Truth", both torture and "coercion of the spirit" are intrinsically evil which means they are not susceptible of the "historical contingency" explanation of Fr. Bramwell though he could apply it to the usury issue based on the alleged change in the nature of money.
      My position as opposed to John Paul II's is that killing heretics was allowed in the Old Testament ( Deut.13) ( so cannot be intrinsically evil) but it is not allowed in the New Testament nor by many saints in the first thousand years of the Church several of whom sound like John Paul II:
      Saint John Chrysostom  (Homily 46 on Matthew, no. 1): "He does not therefore forbid our checking heretics, and stopping their mouths, and taking away their freedom of speech, and breaking up their assemblies and confederacies, but our killing and slaying them."
       St. Cyprian of Carthage: " If you attempt to defend religion with bloodshed and torture, what you do is not defense, but desecration and insult. For nothing is so intrinsically a matter of free will as religion." (Divine Institutes V:20)

        John Paul II and St. Cyprian are in the "intrinsically evil" camp but St. John Chrysostom is more accurate that killing heretics qua heretics is forbidden by Christ in the new covenant whereas God allowed it to the Jews in Deuteronomy 13 regarding the prophet or dreamer who would lead Jews to worship other gods and was to be stoned.  Burning in the Bible was only for two sexual sins not for the false prophet.
       The first millenium of Catholicism was generally against killing heretics.  It's the second millenium that was generally for it and it was a millenium that would have shocked many saints of the first millenium.  Aquinas would have shocked Chrysostom.
       Religious submission of mind and will in the non infallible requires its adherents to submit to section 80 of "Splendor of the Truth" which says that coercion of the spirit and torture are intrinsically evil which means they are bad in all periods of history..."historical contingency" doesn't work with intrinsic evils.  LG then makes you and Father submit to an inaccuracy because Deut.13 allowed killing false prophets.  Chrysostom however had the true idea: allowed in the OT, killing heretics qua heretics is not allowed by Christ which is also implied by Paul in Titus 3:10...
"warn a heretic once and then a second time, after that have nothing to do with him."
0
...
written by bill bannon, January 28, 2013
Louise,
It is the position of John Paul II that "torture" and "coercion of spirit" are intrinsic evils in section 80 of "Splendor of the Truth" which rules out historical context exemptions. If you execute a heretic for murder, that is not an intrinsic evil. But if you execute him for heresy, John Paul says that is an intrinsic evil. Burning also is a torturous death which John Paul would rule out but scripture in the OT does not align with him. St. John Chrysostomnwas correct: it is Christ in the parable of the wheat and weeds who rules out killing heretics lest you also uproot wheat...as in Joan of Arc's case.
0
...
written by Manfred, January 28, 2013
I am sorry, but I cannot imagine all the huffing and puffing on this subject. The causes of the rupture in the discipline in the Chuirch comes from three primary causes:
The invention of the contraceptive Pill in 1960.
The failure to teach on Hell in any document of Vat. II.
The massive opposition against Humanae Vitae in 1968 by theologians, bishops, priests and the laity.
John Paul had warned the bishops in an Ad Limina visit that if they did not obey him, their priests and laity would soon not be obeying them.
0
...
written by bill bannon, January 28, 2013
Manfred,

Vatican II
Lumen Gentium
Chapter VII, section 48

" Since however we know not the day nor the hour, on Our Lord's advice we must be constantly vigilant so that, having finished the course of our earthly life,(255) we may merit to enter into the marriage feast with Him and to be numbered among the blessed(256) and that we may not be ordered to go into eternal fire(257) like the wicked and slothful servant,(258) into the exterior darkness where "there will be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth".(259) For before we reign with Christ in glory, all of us will be made manifest "before the tribunal of Christ, so that each one may receive what he has won through the body, according to his works, whether good or evil"(260) and at the end of the world "they who have done good shall come forth unto resurrection of life; but those who have done evil unto resurrection of judgment"
0
...
written by Manfred, January 28, 2013
@Bill Bannon:
You quote Lumen Gentium "but those who have done evil unto resurrection of judgement" I am a new catechist. Please be specific as to what "evil(s)" must I perform so as to warrant "resurrection of judgement:.
Thank you.
0
...
written by Louise, January 28, 2013
Bill, I do not read the phrase of Pope Leo as justifying coercion or torture but merely making a statement that heresy is an extremely grave evil and the state can treat it as such. Don't extend beyond what he is saying. Execution differs from coercion and torture. Certainly execution could involve torture but they would be two different actions and torture is not necessary to execution.

We should be careful not to be sort of anachronistic in our arguments and judge past actions by current standards as Wanda points out. There is a development in society based on progress in technology etc. "Cruel and unusual punishment" is a moving standard.

Bl JP II does not make the statement that you attribute to him, nor is it correctly inferred, "But if you execute him for heresy, John Paul says that is an intrinsic evil." That is your own analysis and i would say a faulty one.
The Church's teaching develops but does not biforcate and go in the opposite direction.

Pope Leo's statement is not inconsistent with the teaching on capital punishment as developed by Bl JPII . Bl JPII recognizes that there are still evils grave enough to qualify for capital punishment if needed for the protection of society but he also recognizes that technology has advanced in most places to the point that society can usually protect itself without resorting to capital punishment.

The question about whether heresy qualifies as an evil that should be punished by the state is null in today's situation since we no longer have the sort of unity of belief that historically existed in some countries.

As to torture and coercion, if you have an example of their approval per se in a magisterial document i would be interested to see it.
0
...
written by bill bannon, January 28, 2013
Louise
I never mentioned Pope Leo at all...not once.
John Paul II stated that "coercion of the spirit" and "torture" are intrinsic evils but you are saying that burning people for heresy or killing them without burning is not coercion of the spirit. We are on two different planets. Good luck. Only the infallible is infallible. The non infallible like section 80 of "Splendor of the Truth" does not have to be reconciled with other documents UNLESS you think every encyclical is furtively infallible. Check with professors in a nearby Catholic college or with the Abbot of a nearby monastery and ask him if section 80 is infallible. It can't be. It states that slavery is an intrinsic evil and God gives permanent chattel slavery to the Jews in Leviticus 25:44 onward.
Therein is Father's historical contingency....prior to culture having prison buildings, slavery was both prison and debtor solution in nomadic settings.
You can't kill heretics because Christ said so and Paul implied it twice. Bye.
0
...
written by bill bannon, January 28, 2013
Manfred,
You moved the goal post when reproved.. You said Vatican II failed to teach on hell in any document. Stop the unresearched criticisms of Vatican II.
0
...
written by sam, January 28, 2013
I would like to know if this teaching about religious submission existed prior to V2. Does anyone know? Furthermore, it does seem to erode the importance/need for the gift of infallibility if non-infallible things need to be assented to also. I am on the fence on this issue. Also, I just read an article that persuaded me that v2 was not infallible. Even John 23rd and Paul 6 indicate that it the documents are not infallibe unless they are reiterating already infallible statements.
0
...
written by Louise, January 28, 2013
Bill, i think we both agree that we should not burn heretics today.

When i am faced with a papal statement such as Leo's, my first attempt is to give it the benefit of the doubt and see if it can be seen in some way to fit within the constant teaching of the church rather than just fall back to the position that it must not be part of it.

0
...
written by Louise, January 28, 2013
I would like to clarify to the list that my use of the term "circumstances" in a post or two was in no way to imply that circumstances can change the inherent evil of an act. It was a clumsy way of referring to the fact that we should always be sure that we are correctly understanding the action that has been condemned in the past so that we correctly recognize it in the future or vice versa.
0
...
written by Fr. Bramwell, January 29, 2013
Wow! A really busy site! I am not sure that the problem of anachronism is fully appreciated. No one stands outside of history and so can compare Chrysostom and JPII on judicial grounds. When JPII makes a statement, in his ordinary magisterium, then it applies from then on - not backwards. When heretics were burned, we were not there. We were not in the mindset of the time. To us looking back it is regrettable and brutal but our view is completely irrelevant. Those people have already done what they have done. God will judge them. We can barely, I say barely, imagine the perception of the unity of Church and state at that time. Our historical situation, with a strong separation between Church and state and a changed juridical climate when burnings are not used as punishment any more anyway for anything means we cannot judge them. We can barely understand them let alone judge them.
0
...
written by Manfred, January 29, 2013
One last point, Fr. Bramwell. I am reading Roberto DeMattei's book on Vat II and I am at the point of the protest against Humanae Vitae, and the "Curran Statement" which was published in the N.Y. Times two days after the encyclical was issued. Some 200 theologians signed the protest including Fr.Charles Curran of Catholic U., and their point was that the Pope had it wrong. Many in the hierarchy either publicly or privately challenged the teaching. DeMattei makes the point that never in the history of the Church had so many persons who held offices and had responsibility in the Church ever challenged a pontiff before.
0
...
written by Cyril Kellett, January 29, 2013
There seems to be some confusion here on the idea of giving a "religious submission of mind and will." Some seem to be suggesting that the instruction that we give such submission is also a guarantee that every one of these teachings will be correct. That cannot be the case, because Lumen Gentium is specifically talking about giving such submission to the Holy Father when he is NOT teaching infallibly. A papal bull is not necessarily an infallible document, unless I am mistaken. The religious submission we give comes from the confidence that in union with our bishops we form the very community that Christ intended, and in disunion we damage such community. No pope is right about everything, but we are an assembly (ecclesia) around the pope nonetheless. Father Bramwell, am I mistaken here? Isn’t it the case that there is NO guarantee that the everyday leadership of the pope will be morally perfect? But isn’t it rather the case that his teaching is to be followed with religious submission because he is Peter among us. Peter made mistakes, as St. Paul would attest. But Peter was always Peter, the rock, on which the ecclesia as Christ intended it was built. It is Christ’s Lordship we recognize in giving our religious submission to papal leadership on faith and morals, it is not the perfection of the pope.
0
...
written by Fr. Bramwell, January 29, 2013
What is your point Manfred? Either the pope has ordinary magisterium or he does not. In the Catholic Church he does.
0
...
written by Manfred, January 29, 2013
Whoa, Fr. Bramwell,I am on your side! DeMattei is in full support of the Pope on Humanae Vitae. The Pope could not err even though the Majority position of the "birth control" commission supported a change in Church teaching and many (most?) of the West assumed the change was coming. The reaction I allude to above was mostly due to the anger of theologians making the wrong call. Even Hans Keung, not very recently, admitted that H.V. was infallible teaching even though Keung thought the Pope got it wrong. I have heard sermons from sound priests, such as yourself, where the priest pointed out that this teaching, which took so much out of Paul VI, both emotionally and physically that he never wrote another encyclical, dying ten years later, is proof once again that the Church is Divine and the Pope is infallible on matters of Faith and morals.
0
...
written by Graham Combs, January 30, 2013
There have been days for this convert when the Holy Father, and specifically this Pontiff, has been a main reason why I remain the Church. And I didn't see that one coming...
0
...
written by Nick from Detroit, January 31, 2013
Mr. Bannon,
In your reply to Louise you stated as a fact that "I never mentioned Pope Leo at all...not once."
You are mistaken, I'm afraid. It was you, the day before (January 27th,) in your reply to JRW (the third comment in this thread,) who wrote the following: "Google 'Exsurge Domine' by Pope Leo X from 1520 AD [sic] in which any Catholic who opposes [...]."
I am unfamiliar with Section 80 or Pope Leo's "Exsurge Donine", so, I will have to read them first. But, I'm inclined to agree with the statements of Fr. Bramwell and Louise, so far.
God Bless!

Write comment
smaller | bigger

security code
Write the displayed characters


busy
 

Other Articles By This Author

CONTACT US FOR ADVERTISERS ABOUT US
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner