Sunday, November 19, 2006

The "T" word

ONSIDER the following heart-sinking exchange at NLM over the pro multis debacle:
If the Holy Father approves, that ought to be sufficient. Paul VI approved the existing translation, so it is valid. If Benedict XVI approves the new (and more felicitous) translation, it will be valid. Is that not after all why we have a Holy Father, that the Church may avoid the confusion arising from personal interpretation?
john m | 11.18.06 |

Does that mean that truth changes from Holy Father to Holy Father?

Rev.Hunter | 11.19.06 |

No, he's merely saying that one Pope said the one was valid; another said the other was valid. Paul VI, in confirming the validity of "for all," did not say that "pro multis" was invalid; Benedict XVI, if he prefers "pro multis," this does not imply that he thinks "for all" is invalid. There is no contradiction involved....

Pastor in Valle in the course of some very helpful sleuthing on the track of pro omnibus, raises more disturbing material, which I’d either forgotten about or hadn’t registered:

I had a memory that in Ecclesia de Eucharistia, the encyclical of John Paul II on the Eucharist, that he had used pro omnibus for the words of consecration over the chalice even in the Latin text...

Can anybody doubt that solum magisterium is the operative norm in sections of the Roman Catholic Church today? Recently I referenced Dr Geoffrey Hull’s essay A Protohistory of the Liturgical Reform, which includes a vignette of the late John Paul II's subjective and postivistic attitude to liturgical rites; well, here he is, apparently, re-writing scripture to favour the universalist theories adumbrated by fashionable theological opinion. I really don't think it's possible to exaggerate how profoundly shocking and troubling this is.

If the liberation of the Mass is the essential condition of rebalancing the Church – the sine qua non - at another level it seems to me that some kind of major teaching document on Tradition and Magisterium is urgently required, on the basis that the only means of moving those who now appear to think that the Catholic Faith is whatever the present Pope/latest Council says it is (and who, in a sense, can blame them?) - is a Pope himself telling them otherwise. Last year's Christmas address to the Curia was encouraging, but pitched at dog-whistle level as far as the wider Church is concerned. I despair of ever seeing such a thing, for all the obvious reasons - but I’m convinced that the submergence of any clear, general understanding of what Tradition is, and what it’s for, is at the root of everything . I don’t think it’s only neo-catholics who suffer from this disability – I’m sure numbers of “traditionalists” exhibit it too, in a somewhat different sense.

I find the following analogy helpful. No doubt somebody will rush to deprive me of it on the basis of superior learning and understanding, but here it is:

JUST AS WE SPEAK of faith in two senses: the content of the faith (doctrine) and the supernatural virtue of Faith (the power, given by God, of believing the doctrines), so we can think of Tradition in a similar way:

1) The content of Tradition (as "incarnated" especially in the Liturgy).
2) The organ of Tradition – Magisterium, which exists to guard and faithfully transmit the deposit of Faith as present in Scripture and Tradition (in the former sense). It is by this "power" of the Magisterium (analagous to the virtue of faith) that Our Lord guarantees the indefectibiliy of the Church in everything necessary for salvation. It does not extend to anything new. It only enables the Magisterium to frame definitive formulations of what is already present in Tradition in order to make it more explicit, to remove doubt or settle a controversy by excluding an erroneous interpretation. Such acts of the Magisterium in turn build up the objective content of Tradition.

This doesn't mean that only the Pope and the Bishops have any responsibility for handing on the Faith and its practice; that responsibility belongs in a sense to all the faithful who as well as living it, are obliged to defend it from disruption and attack; the point being that an identifiable objective content exists to be handed on. These "norms" of Tradition should be present and operative in the forms and practices handed down and lived day-to-day in the Church. Consequently, they can never be considered as mere legal prescriptions.

Now, no-one would ever think of dividing the virtue of faith from the content of faith, in order to pit one against the other - but that's exactly what happens today in the case of Tradition. So, although it's perfectly correct to speak of "living Tradition"and of the Magisterium as a "living" organ of the Church (just as the virtue of faith is "alive"), liberals, modernists and especially neo-conservatives are all guilty of using and understanding this expression in a false and misleading sense, to indicate merely "the present, living occupants of the Magisterial office". What this false understanding of the term "living Magisterium" implies, and is intended to imply, is a level of possible opposition between the Magisterium "as represented by its living occupants" and the Magisterium as represented in Tradition.

"Tradition" in this one-sided conception, is deprived of objective content and reduced to little more than "the Pope of today telling us what he understands from yesterday". This, it goes without saying, “reduces the perennial ordinary Magisterium of the Church to a nullity” (Fr Parsons). This is precisely what the movement called "Traditionalist" exists to correct, not by deprecating the "organ" of Tradition but by reasserting the objective content of tradition to which the organ is ordered, and for the custody and transmission of which it exists.

In the absence of such a correction, we will continue to drift ever closer to the parody of Catholicism propagated by the Protestants - a kind of deterministic, totalitarean autocracy, having very little visible connection with the historic Faith


Anonymous said...


Wonderful stuff here on your blog - many Novus Ordinarians would do well to read some of it and get a Catholic education.

John said...

I never knew that JP II had actually said Mass in Latin using the words "pro omnibus".
Are you really sure of this?
I find it really disturbing - along with several other things which JP II did.

Moretben said...


Fr Zuhlsdorf has shed more light on this: see post on Nov 21st.

Anonymous said...

John, et al; no, as far as I know he never used the words in the Mass: they simply occur in the on-line Latin version of the encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, and how they got in there is a mystery. Perhaps Fr Reggie Foster could shed some light on it.
Moretben; I agree with you very strongly about Tradition and the creeping use of the current magisterium. I have heard 'sentire cum ecclesia' as an argument against traditionalism, whereas in fact it ought to have the opposite force, meaning something like Chesterton's 'Democracy of the Dead'.