Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Pope Francis: Guarantor of Orthodoxy?

At his weekly General Audience in St. Peter's Square today, Pope Francis, recalling the dramatic events of the 2014 Synod on the Family and apparently wishing to quell any doubts which might still be lingering in the minds of the gathered faithful, made the following statement:
Everything happened cum Petro et sub Petro, that is, in the presence of the Pope. That is a guarantee of freedom and trust for all, and a guarantee of orthodoxy.
After reading those words, I couldn't shake the feeling that I had seem them somewhere before. I recalled the Pope had used them, almost verbatim, in his opening remarks to the Synod Fathers, but that wasn't it. There was another time, unrelated to the Synod. But when? I browsed a few blogs, answered a few emails, and my mind began to wander. I looked up to the little wooden statue of Our Lady I keep next to my workspace, remembering how glorious the recent Feast of the Immaculate Conception had been. And then it hit me: the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate (FFI).

It was back in June of this year, during a meeting of the FFI and Pope Francis in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, that the Pope said:
The Church guarantees orthodoxy through the Pope.
This meeting was the first and, to my knowledge, only meeting between the Holy Father and the Friars since their order had been placed under Apostlic Visitation and, thus, under the complete control of Commissioner Fr. Fidenzio Volpi, whose mission, according to his own words, is "to demolish everything and rebuild." Pope Francis made the statement in the context of his providing the rationale behind closing down the theological institute of the FFI and requiring that all actual and future seminarians be educated in the pontifical theological faculties of Rome - the apparent implication being that the brothers need not be concerned for the doctrinal soundness of the education their seminarians would receive because, as he put it, "the Church guarantees orthodoxy through the Pope." 

It is worth noting that, since that meeting, several of the of the FFI religious houses have been closed, the regional superiors of the order have been deposed, the Friars themselves have been prohibited from publishing any articles or books for public consumption, and meetings of the lay movement have been banned in some places. Similar measures have been taken against the Franciscan Sisters, who were accused of becoming "radicalized" in their Catholicism - whatever that should mean.

Now, I'm certainly no expert on the doctrine of Papal Infallibility, so take everything I write here cum grano salis. But I do recall a specific clause included in the formulation of that dogma at the time of its promulgation:
For the Holy Spirit was promised to the Successors of Peter not so that they might, by His revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the Apostles. (Constitutio Dogmatica Prima de Ecclesia Christi (Pastor Aeternus), Cap. IV, Romani Pontificis Infallibili Magisterio, §6)
That is to say, the power of infallibility has not been granted by the Holy Spirit to the Pope so that he may declare a new and hitherto unknown doctrine, - even, nota bene, even if such a doctrine should appear to come at the express behest of the Holy Spirit Himself ("by His revelation")  - but only that he may, by the assistance of the Holy Spirit, more ably defend the Depositum Fidei as handed down by the Holy Apostles from the constant attacks of those who would corrupt and destroy it.

I am not suggesting that Pope Francis is ignorant of this all-important caveat. But this recognition, in turn, raises the question: What, exactly, does he mean? He's said it now on more than one occasion, so we can be fairly certain it's not a matter of poor translation.

Lest you get sidetracked, gentle reader, you would do well to ignore all the times you've heard that we must 'listen attentively to the promptings of the Holy Spirit,' that 'God of Surprises,' who wants so much to lead us to 'new' and 'unexpected' destinations beyond the 'confines of doctrinal clarity' - for recalling this will only make it seem as though Pope Francis is preparing to invoke infallibility in precisely those terms which are expressly forbidden by Pastor Aeternus. And this, we have been assured by numerous Vaticanists, is most emphatically not the case.

And, obviously, he does not mean that heterodoxy and heresy are magically transformed into orthodoxy the moment they are spoken in the presence of the Pope, as that would be patently absurd.

But what, then, does he mean?

Perhaps none of us will know until October 2015.

1 comment:


    Penance Penance Penance
    to avoid Divine vengeance
    for not showing any remorse
    and trying our will to enforce

    The reign of the Impostor has arrived
    the Church, of TRUTH is being deprived
    the whole world hangs on his lips
    while being readied for a total eclipse

    The true followers of Christ
    trying to pull off the heist
    are persecuted for non-compliance
    and being countered with defiance

    When it will seem that all is lost
    everything sacred has been tossed
    God will deliver us from our agony
    and reign forever in all His Majesty

    A M E N

    Rita Biesemans, December 19 2013


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