A particular friend in one of my threads, as he is wont to do, upbraided me for my critical commentaries on the “developments” which have taken place in moral and dogmatic theology in the last many decades (though, if you inquire enough, I go further back than that, even pre-Tridentine). He insisted that no violation of dogmatic theology has been committed since the 2nd-Vatican Council, and, more pointedly, the current Pope has only remained faithful to the depositum fidei as handed from the Apostles and onward in their successors. I actually happen to agree with him (at least, in sum, if not in particulars), but that doesn’t mitigate me from anything I’ve said or written prior to. Below is my response to him, particularly with regard to how explicit change in dogma has not been the weapon of today’s attack on Christian revelation. Catholics need to recognize that they are spinning their wheels, grinding their gears, and labor needlessly in a continuous hamster wheel if they think that explicit and objective violation of dogmatic teaching is what threatens the Church today. We need an accurate assessment of the actual problem on the same intellectual terms of those who foster this “paradigm shift”, with its illegal appeal to Newman’s essay on the Development of Doctrine (see my article here on Cardinal Cupich’s appeal to Newman in a lecture to bolster his theory of “paradigm shift”) Otherwise, we are going to only affirm the proponents-of-change since we prove incompetent on understanding their positions, and we will be left to launching bombs at a straw-city. Below is my whack at what may describe the precise sphere of degradation in orthodoxy which not only has pervaded the scene of the Church for many years now, but will continue to garner strength and development in the coming years, which is also my response to said friend.
“Let me provide you an example which I think will help set a backdrop for this discussion on Amoris Laetitia, the Death Penalty, German Protestants being able to receive communion, the the Assisi prayer meetings, etc,etc.
Let’s say a Pope (forget Francis for the sake of example) woke up one morning and, after having cafe con leche with bread/butter, and after reading that portion of the gospel where Jesus scheduled to dine at the residence of the wicked tax collector Zachheus, he felt extra merciful and decided that the current state of Eucharistic discipline, hitherto already overly “rigid” and “exclusive”, needs to undergo a developmental process using the hermeneutic of the mercy of Jesus. The Pope settles it in his mind that he will not change any doctrine whatsoever, since the Modernists, albeit having some admirable ideas, failed at doing so. Not a change of doctrine, but a development of doctrine into something that welcomes the sinner, etc,etc.
The Pope then writes the following decree:
‘Due to the changes which have occurred in world societies, economic systems, cultural melting pots, and religious indifferent-ism, the plane of culpability across cultures, continents, and all lands has undergone a shift in posture. Today, changes in climate have effected the ability to make concrete choices without unnecessary irritations from the rise of heat, which would serve as a global mitigating circumstance to sinning. Likewise, the demon of Capitalism has stretched so far and wide that not only are poor citizens marginalized so much as to reduce the culpability of their pleas and complaints, but also the politicians who implement the ideologies themselves are often deceived by the notion that their intentions are wholesome and protective of society. All of these serve as mitigating circumstances for our human race. We have to recognize that we are a wounded race, and we are the lost penny or sheep that has lost its way.
Moreover, the ideology of “religious dogma” matters near nothing when so many people across the world are trained and taught to believe different things, and often see enough virtue in the lives of their superiors to gain the sure motives of credibility. To expect everyone to be able to sit down at a desk and have a Catholic or a Christian be able to spell out the one and only way that God is to be worshiped is simply not feasible. The development of this reality began with the tower of Babel, and has progressed into a near practical impossibility of uniformity. Of course, this is not to relegate the matters of doctrine to complete indifferentism, but it is to acknowledge that people, at times, and especially in our day, remain fixed in their opinions, often due not to ill-will or a decision to fight-against-God, but rather to causes for which they are least responsible for.
In addition, we cannot ignore the spirit of the 2nd Vatican Council which taught us that the Holy Spirit has not failed to use the elements of sanctification outside the boundaries of the Catholic Church to provide access to eternal redemption. This idea was further developed under my predecessor St. John Paul II, who spoke more on how the Spirit is permeating the whole race and there is that spark in all of us for the divine. In continuity with the rationale which grounded the Assisi prayer meetings, and in continuity with the nuance of Dominus Iesus, produced by then Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, I propose that all peoples today are practically outside the realm of mortal sin, and, at worst, labor in venial sin towards the great Good. The internal desire for the only One who can quench the thirst of our hearts, as St. Augustine taught us so well, has permeated the whole of creation, and we are seeing this explicitly nowadays.
Therefore, given that the human race is practically enveloped in either sinlessness or, at worst, venial sin, and given that all are “anonymous” Catholics due to the interior desire of the heart of man, I propose that there no longer be any canon forbidding another human being from the sacred Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in holy Mass. The gate blocking the Garden of Paradise has been, due to the mercy of our God, and known by us in the Church through the development of doctrine, has been, at least temporally, taken out of the way, and there no longer needs to be a stiff arm against any creature from the abode of eternity.’
Notice here, friend, all that the Pope would be doing is no different (in the underlying logic, though not as expanded) than what has already been done in Germany with Protestant-communion; no different than what has already been thought of in Amoris Laetitia; no different than what has already been thought of in the revision of the death penalty. At least, the basic fiber of logic on the “how-to” is extremely similar, dealing almost always on the elasticity of the subjective person.
What is the commonality? Completely strip the movable conditions wherein X was considered right or wrong, and then you can maneuver whether X is feasible to continue or whether we can completely abrogate it.
The men of the Vatican are not dunces. They are far more clever than any of the Thomistic manualists who continue to cite Fr. Lagrange or Scheeben or Denzinger. They know exactly what to do, and how to do it, and how to say it, and how to frame it, and how to pass through the technical cones of orthodox dogmatic theology.
And yet, what worse corruption in the Church could there be other than to open the Chalice to all of humanity, which is a practical universalism, on the basis of maneuverable conditions and ‘development of doctrine’? I am sincerely asking. For if this be our resolve, what then becomes of the gospel of our Lord, whose first motion was to confront the world and demand repentance away from sin to righteousness and a full blown adherence to belief in the specified content of his message? Would it not be the case that, as St. Paul said, this ‘paradigm shift’ would empty or drain out the power of the Lord’s cross? I certainly am afraid it will. What say you?”