Pope Francis under the test of Bishop Gasser’s Relatio


Below, I’ve typed out a few excerpts from the relatio of Bishop Gasser at the Vatican Council (1870). I am running through the thought experiment of whether Pope Francis’s magisterial teachings pass the canon of the relatio, particularly the portions which I’ve reproduced. At the forefront we have (1) Amoris Laetitia and (2) the Death Penalty revision (CCC 2267). I know there have been many who have made it clear that the Pope was not speaking with the supreme authority of St. Peter, and thus not ex-cathedra infallible. However, something which Gasser pointed out is often missing in today’s thinking. Notice how Gasser says that the “dogmatic judgments” of the Roman Pontiff are infallible, and then follows it with saying that there have been “thousands and thousands” of these “dogmatic judgments”. That would certainly be contrasted with many Catholic theologians today who insist on there only being 2 instances of Papal Infallibility, one on the Immaculate Conception in Ineffabilis¬†Deus (1854), and the other on her assumption into heaven in Munificentissimus Deus (1950). Notice that Gasser gave his relatio in 1870, so that means that those theologians who say that there have only been two instances of Papal infallibility would have to conclude that Gasser’s saying that there have been “thousands and thousands” infallible dogmatic judgments should have really just said one-time. This is truly interesting, since this relatio was central to the discussions on the meaning of papal infallibility at the Council. The relatio was made to the general congregation of Bishops. In fact, Dom Cuthbert Butler, whose two-volume work on the Council is the most complete history written in English, said that Bishop Gasser was “the most prominent theologian of the Council”. This relatio has been a source of authoritative reference in theological treatments and manuals down unto the present day. In particular, the 2nd Vatican Council’s document Lumen Gentium, which includes a treatment on the hierarchical organization and authority of the Church, cites Gasser’s rlation four times in the chapter on the Magiterium. This chapter only had 24 lines of text and the references to the relatio make up half of all of them. Needless to say, this relatio is the best guide to properly interpret the treatment on the infallibility of the Pope in Pastor Aeternus. And yet, we hardly get the idea that there had only been 1 single exercise of Papal infallibility. Quite to the contrary, the relatio asserts there had been thousands. The consequence of this is that the more and more narrow modern theologians have become in explaining the conditions of Papal infallibility, the more and more they steer away from the historical understanding as it was had by the Bishops at Vatican I. You hear this when people say that the Pope is only infallible when he speaks in such highly decorative manners with all the right words and actions and warnings, etc,etc. While this is appreciable, I think it is absurd to think that the infallibility of the Pope, ordained to be the help and sustainer of unity in the Church catholic, had only been exercised once in nearly 1800 years after the birth of the Church. In fact, it is absurd. Continue reading

Right and Reason: Capital Punishment


Holy Phinehas Impales Sinner


From the beginning of recorded history the state has used capital punishment rather freely, often excessively. If the death penalty is out of all proportion to the crime, the state does wrong in using it. We are speaking of it here only as applies to very serious crimes, and as murder and treason, which all who approve of capital punishment acknowledge as its proper sphere. The state exists to maintain justice, and one of its chief purposes is the prevention and punishment of crime. In receiving its authority through the natural law, the state also receives from Him the right to use the necessary means for attaining to its end. The death penalty us used as such a means. It fulfills the retributive function of punishment by re-establishing as far as possible the balance of outraged justice and is thought to be the only effectual punishment against the most serious crimes, especially those committed by criminals already under life sentence. By its very nature capital punishment cannot be corrective. But correction, desirable though it be in a punishment, is not absolutely necessary; in the most serious crimes the claims of retribution and deterrence are so imperative that the corrective aspect must be sacrificed, if necessary. If capital punishment often fails as a deterrent, the fault may lie rather in the way it is administered than in the nature of the punishment itself. The law’s long delays can empty the lesson of all its meaning. To be an effective deterrent, punishment should be swift, summary, and sure. Certainly, enough time must be allowed to gather evidence and to give the accused a fair trial, but in their effort to protect the criminal our judges, lawyers, and juries can lose the proper sense of civic responsibility.

Though the state has the right of capital punishment, it need not exercise the right if it can protect itself from criminals in another way. In former ages life imprisonment for all major criminals was impossible because the jails did not exist. If the state can prove that it can effectively handle crime without the death penalty, it may be argued that it not only need not but should not use it

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Where Peter Is…..or is not? – Response to Paul Fahey


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. Continue reading