A collection of personal reflections. Copyright © 2005-2011 K. Gurries

Friday, January 21, 2011

A New Syllabus of Errors?

Catholics are becoming ever more aware of the post-conciliar confusion spread by various forces within the Church supporting a false theology of rupture in contrast to an authentic hermeneutic of continuity.  Msgr. Pozzo (Secretary, Ecclesia Dei Commisssion) had recently given a conference that highlighted a number of specific errors with respect to the heremeneutic of rupture or what he also refers to as the para-Conciliar ideologyMsgr. Gherardini's recent book includes an appeal to the Pope to settle the post-concilar confusion in a definitive manner.  Now we are beginning to see Bishops step forward that are calling for doctrinal clarification in the wake of all the confusion -- including the formal condemnation of errors with respect to the mis-interpretation or mis-application of the official texts of Vatican II.  Bishop Athanasius Schneider has in fact called for the equivalent of a new Syllabus of errors.

What would such a "syllabus" look like?  Which specific errors might it include?  Would it be accompanied by a new Papal Encyclical (similar to Quanta Cura,1864)?  Will it suffer the same risk of mis-interpretation and mis-application as the original Syllabus?  The Syllabus of 1864 contained a list of modern errors compiled and formulated by the Vatican from various Papal Allocutions, Encyclicals and Apostolic Letters given during the Pontificate of Pope Pius IX.  If a new Syllabus is to follow this pattern it will likely contain a listing of many erroneous (condemned) propositions taken from the Papal magisterium in recent years.  Therefore, I think we could gather some hints of what it may contain by looking at the various statements and doctrinal notes of clarification already issued by the Holy See in recent years.  The following points of doctrine (in no particular order) are certainly good candidates for such a syllabus:

1) Therefore, the theory of the limited, incomplete, or imperfect character of the revelation of Jesus Christ, which would be complementary to that found in other religions, is contrary to the Church's faith. Such a position would claim to be based on the notion that the truth about God cannot be grasped and manifested in its globality and completeness by any historical religion, neither by Christianity nor by Jesus Christ. (Dominus Iesus, 6)

2) To introduce any sort of separation between the Word and Jesus Christ is contrary to the Christian faith... Jesus is the Incarnate Word — a single and indivisible person... Christ is none other than Jesus of Nazareth; he is the Word of God made man for the salvation of all... In the process of discovering and appreciating the manifold gifts — especially the spiritual treasures — that God has bestowed on every people, we cannot separate those gifts from Jesus Christ, who is at the centre of God's plan of salvation. It is likewise contrary to the Catholic faith to introduce a separation between the salvific action of the Word as such and that of the Word made man. With the incarnation, all the salvific actions of the Word of God are always done in unity with the human nature that he has assumed for the salvation of all people. The one subject which operates in the two natures, human and divine, is the single person of the Word. Therefore, the theory which would attribute, after the incarnation as well, a salvific activity to the Logos as such in his divinity, exercised “in addition to” or “beyond” the humanity of Christ, is not compatible with the Catholic faith. (Dominus Iesus, 10)

3) There are also those who propose the hypothesis of an economy of the Holy Spirit with a more universal breadth than that of the Incarnate Word, crucified and risen. This position also is contrary to the Catholic faith, which, on the contrary, considers the salvific incarnation of the Word as a trinitarian event. (Dominus Iesus, 12)

4) Although participated forms of mediation of different kinds and degrees are not excluded, they acquire meaning and value only from Christ's own mediation, and they cannot be understood as parallel or complementary to his. Hence, those solutions that propose a salvific action of God beyond the unique mediation of Christ would be contrary to Christian and Catholic faith. (Dominus Iesus, 14)

5) Those theses are contrary to Catholic faith which "deny the unicity of the relationship which Christ and the Church have with the kingdom of God." (Dominus Iesus, 19)

6) It is "contrary to the faith to consider the Church as one way of salvation alongside those constituted by the other religions, seen as complementary to the Church or substantially equivalent to her, even if these are said to be converging with the Church toward the eschatological kingdom of God." (Dominus Iesus, 21)

7) The interpretation of those who would derive from the formula subsistit in the thesis that the one Church of Christ could subsist also in non-Catholic Churches and ecclesial communities is therefore contrary to the authentic meaning of Lumen gentium. (Dominus Iesus, note 56)

8) With the coming of the Saviour Jesus Christ, God has willed that the Church founded by him be the instrument for the salvation of all humanity (cf. Acts 17:30-31). This truth of faith does not lessen the sincere respect which the Church has for the religions of the world, but at the same time, it rules out, in a radical way, that mentality of indifferentism “characterized by a religious relativism which leads to the belief that ‘one religion is as good as another'”. If it is true that the followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation. (Dominus Iesus, 22)

9) Inter-religious dialogue, therefore, as part of her evangelizing mission, is just one of the actions of the Church in her mission ad gentes. Equality, which is a presupposition of inter-religious dialogue, refers to the equal personal dignity of the parties in dialogue, not to doctrinal content, nor even less to the position of Jesus Christ — who is God himself made man — in relation to the founders of the other religions.  Indeed, the Church, guided by charity and respect for freedom, must be primarily committed to proclaiming to all people the truth definitively revealed by the Lord, and to announcing the necessity of conversion to Jesus Christ and of adherence to the Church through Baptism and the other sacraments, in order to participate fully in communion with God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Thus, the certainty of the universal salvific will of God does not diminish, but rather increases the duty and urgency of the proclamation of salvation and of conversion to the Lord Jesus Christ.
 (Dominus Iesus, 22)

10) In accordance with Catholic doctrine, it must be held that «whatever the Spirit brings about in human hearts and in the history of peoples, in cultures and religions, serves as a preparation for the Gospel (cf. Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 16)».  It is therefore legitimate to maintain that the Holy Spirit accomplishes salvation in non-Christians also through those elements of truth and goodness present in the various religions; however, to hold that these religions, considered as such, are ways of salvation, has no foundation in Catholic theology, also because they contain omissions, insufficiencies and errors regarding fundamental truths about God, man and the world.  Furthermore, the fact that the elements of truth and goodness present in the various world religions may prepare peoples and cultures to receive the salvific event of Jesus Christ does not imply that the sacred texts of these religions can be considered as complementary to the Old Testament, which is the immediate preparation for the Christ event.  (CDF, Notification on book by Father Jacques Dupuis, 8)

11) The search for Christian unity has not a few obstacles before it. In the first place, to be rejected is an erroneous view of ecumenism, which induces to a certain doctrinal indifference that attempts to level, in an a-critical Ireneism, all "opinions" in a sort of ecclesiological relativism.  (Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Brazilian Episcopal Conference, September 10, 2010)

12) Union with the Catholic Church is the goal of ecumenism—one could put, “we phrase it that way”. Yet the very process of working towards union works a change in churches and ecclesial communities that engage one another in dialogue, in actual instances of entering into communion do indeed transform the Catholic Church by way of enrichment. Let me add right away that when I say enrichment I am referring not to any addition of essential elements of sanctification and truth to the Catholic Church. Christ has endowed her with all the essential elements. I am referring to the addition of modes of expression of these essential elements, modes which enhance everyone’s appreciation of the inexhaustible treasures bestowed on the Church by her divine founder.  (Cardinal Levada, Address given at Queen's University in Kingston, March 6, 2010)

13) Basic decisions, therefore, continue to be well-grounded, whereas the way they are applied to new contexts can change. Thus, for example, if religious freedom were to be considered an expression of the human inability to discover the truth and thus become a canonization of relativism, then this social and historical necessity is raised inappropriately to the metaphysical level and thus stripped of its true meaning. Consequently, it cannot be accepted by those who believe that the human person is capable of knowing the truth about God and, on the basis of the inner dignity of the truth, is bound to this knowledge.  It is quite different, on the other hand, to perceive religious freedom as a need that derives from human coexistence, or indeed, as an intrinsic consequence of the truth that cannot be externally imposed but that the person must adopt only through the process of conviction.  (Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Roman Curia, December 22, 2005)

14)  In this regard, it is helpful to recall a truth which today is often not perceived or formulated correctly in public opinion: the right to freedom of conscience and, in a special way, to religious freedom, taught in the Declaration Dignitatis humanae of the Second Vatican Council, is based on the ontological dignity of the human person and not on a non-existent equality among religions or cultural systems of human creation.  Reflecting on this question, Paul VI taught that «in no way does the Council base this right to religious freedom on the fact that all religions and all teachings, including those that are erroneous, would have more or less equal value; it is based rather on the dignity of the human person, which demands that he not be subjected to external limitations which tend to constrain the conscience in its search for the true religion or in adhering to it».  The teaching on freedom of conscience and on religious freedom does not therefore contradict the condemnation of indifferentism and religious relativism by Catholic doctrine; on the contrary, it is fully in accord with it. (CDF, Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding Participation in Political Life)

15) In fact, in the proper sense, sister Churches are exclusively particular Churches (or groupings of particular Churches; for example, the Patriarchates or Metropolitan provinces) among themselves.  It must always be clear, when the expression sister Churches is used in this proper sense, that the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Universal Church is not sister but mother of all the particular Churches.  One may also speak of sister Churches, in a proper sense, in reference to particular Catholic and non-catholic Churches; thus the particular Church of Rome can also be called the sister of all other particular Churches. However, as recalled above, one cannot properly say that the Catholic Church is the sister of a particular Church or group of Churches. This is not merely a question of terminology, but above all of respecting a basic truth of the Catholic faith: that of the unicity of the Church of Jesus Christ. In fact, there is but a single Church, and therefore the plural term Churches can refer only to particular Churches.  Consequently, one should avoid, as a source of misunderstanding and theological confusion, the use of formulations such as «our two Churches,» which, if applied to the Catholic Church and the totality of Orthodox Churches (or a single Orthodox Church), imply a plurality not merely on the level of particular Churches, but also on the level of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church confessed in the Creed, whose real existence is thus obscured.  Finally, it must also be borne in mind that the expression sister Churches in the proper sense, as attested by the common Tradition of East and West, may only be used for those ecclesial communities that have preserved a valid Episcopate and Eucharist.  (CDF, Note on the expression "Sister Churches", June 30, 2000)

16) Contrary to many unfounded interpretations, therefore, the change from “est” to “subsistit” does not signify that the Catholic Church has ceased to regard herself as the one true Church of Christ. Rather it simply signifies a greater openness to the ecumenical desire to recognise truly ecclesial characteristics and dimensions in the Christian communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church, on account of the “plura elementa sanctificationis et veritatis” present in them. Consequently, although there is only one Church which “subsists” in one unique historical subject there are true ecclesial realities which exist beyond its visible boundaries.  (CDF, Commentary on the Document: Responses to some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church)

17) It should be made clear that the word "participation" does not refer to mere external activity during the celebration. In fact, the active participation called for by the Council must be understood in more substantial terms, on the basis of a greater awareness of the mystery being celebrated and its relationship to daily life…The beauty and the harmony of the liturgy find eloquent expression in the order by which everyone is called to participate actively. This entails an acknowledgment of the distinct hierarchical roles involved in the celebration. It is helpful to recall that active participation is not per se equivalent to the exercise of a specific ministry. The active participation of the laity does not benefit from the confusion arising from an inability to distinguish, within the Church's communion, the different functions proper to each one. There is a particular need for clarity with regard to the specific functions of the priest. He alone, and no other, as the tradition of the Church attests, presides over the entire eucharistic celebration, from the initial greeting to the final blessing. In virtue of his reception of Holy Orders, he represents Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, and, in a specific way, also the Church herself.  (Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis)

(To be continued...) 


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January 23, 2011 2:46 PM  
Anonymous John McFarland said...

Mr. Gurries,

The problem with the items in your proposed syllabus of errors is that in general they do one of two things: they either teach a mitigated progressivism, or their rebukes to progressivism are really no rebukes at all.

Dominus Jesus still teaches that there are elements of the faith outside the Faith, which is not the doctrine of the Church.

So ecumenism is still inconsistent with the Savior's injunction to teach ALL that I have commanded you.

So the Holy Father's criticisms of relativism are at odds with his own relativism, as witnessed in his address (at Subiaco?) the day before his predecessor died, in which he said that there is no truth that is not historically determined.

I have no doubt that the authors of these pronouncements do not understand -- or do not want to understand -- their implications. But their basic tenor is, objectively speaking, still progressivist, and still gives aid and comfort to the enemies of the Cross of Christ.

Men can indeed twist any pronouncement.

But the Church's traditional way of dealing with that problem was to formulate its teachings in a way that only those in transparent bad faith could misconstrue it. As Fr. Pagliarani in effect observes, the resistance to the teaching of Trent was not because the dissenters misunderstood that teaching, but because they understood it all too well.

Unfortunately, one can hardly say the same of the teachings of Vatican II. They are at best unclear; and as explained by the Holy Father and other devotees of Vatican II, they remain unclear.

March 10, 2011 6:03 AM  

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