Another article from the “Where Peter Is” blog.
This article, while headed in the right direction, is poorly argued. I understand the author’s intention was to be concise, but one can be concise and still be precise or accurate.
The author’s reasoning leaves open the idea that the Church can, in the year 2090 dogmatize the immaculate conception of St. Joseph, due to new studies on the necessary capacities of fatherhood from modern psychological studies. It leaves open the idea that the Church, in the year 2067, can open up the Chalice of Salvation to all of humanity, the unbelieving baptized as well as the believing baptized, due to new understandings which inform us that mortal sin, while possible, isn’t a practical reality anymore, and that the human desire for God expressed in a variety of forms, unbeknownst to them, is a hidden anonymous Christian. It leaves open the idea that Canterbury, in all her studies on gender and human sexuality, is right with regard to same-sex marriage and female ordination (perhaps, only to the diaconate). Oh I know how this works. The author wouldn’t say that gay marriage is right, but you would say that there is within the subjective conscience an elastic pliability to enable this person to be free of mortal sin and still yet living in grace due to severe mitigating factors to culpability. After all, gay lovers share and are nice to each other, aren’t they? Yeah.
He rightly condemn relativism, but his principles don’t merit that condemnation. Why not? Because by suggesting that beliefs can change due to growing awareness, without the defined rule of continuity, the dam keeping absolute truth is cracked and ever breaking more and more. The Church of England loved to cite Newman’s essay in support of female ordination (of course, they didn’t read his rules of continuity correctly), and so they beat us to it. But I’m afraid with the minimalism you give to defend the development of doctrine, you don’t have anything to secure that dam from breaking.
Particularly on the death penalty: The rule of development here cannot be simply “new awareness”, since that would implicate God in sin (Gen 9), as if God himself wasn’t aware of the intrinsic evil of taking a human life who was somehow thought to be “deserving” of it. Now, I could have misread him here (I’ve contacted him, will update in that case), and I hope I did. The only sliver of legitimacy to the Catechism revision is that the Pope prudentially feels that there isn’t a set of circumstances in the world today which justifies the removing of life as a punishment over and against alternative forms of punishment which maintain the life of the criminal. This rationale would permit the legitimacy and God-honoring possibility of the death penalty, given the right circumstances. But the author doesn’t explain, so the reader is left to question.
Fahey would open the door to a David Copperfield Magisterium, where the Pope can get up and Islamicize Christianity, and then force us to think that it had been that way since the beginning! In other words, the Fahey’s and the Fr Spadaro’s of the world would give not just unlimited interpretive control to the Pope, but even control over reality and our epistemic vantage point of said reality. Its grossly exceeding the Christian tradition.
Either the Papacy is demonstrably continuous with the Catholic tradition, or it breaks that tradition….and this has to be knowable by reason, at least potentially.
If we can’t know it and identify this by reason, then the whole edifice of Catholicism is gone. And I say that as one who has, like a child waiting for Christmas, tried and tried to see this happen
Lastly, the author’s view of the Papacy and its indefectibility is far too fragile to handle historical facts. The case of Pope Vigilius, for example, would be devastating to the Papal view espoused in the article.