Ever since the 20th century, the Catholic Church’s Ecumenical movement has effected a massively different outlook on the scene of the world. From the 19th century backwards, Catholics believed that non-Catholics, and especially non-Christians, had no sure hope of attaining eternal life in Jesus Christ. Oh yes, I realize that Pope Pius IX speaks to the exceptional possibility of salvation outside the visible bounds of the Catholic Church (i.e. invincible ignorance and perfect contrition/charity under the auspices of God’s grace), but for the most part, if you were not a Catholic, your soul was in great danger of hell fire if you did not repent and enter into the Church through the holy bath of Baptism. Certainly, from the 17th century backwards, there was an even stronger sense that all who are without the Church and die in their sins will be damned. And yet, today we have Catholic scholars, high clergyman, and theologians professing to hold that, in the end, all men will be saved. Oh yes, they make sure they do not assert so blatantly that this is a certain fact of revelation, but a reasonable hope. Continue reading
On the 4th of February 4th of 2019, Pope Francis and Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque both signed a document on Human Fraternity which contains the following statement:
Freedom is a right of every person: each individual enjoys the freedom of belief, thought, expression and action. The pluralism and the diversity of religions, colour, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings. This divine wisdom is the source from which the right to freedom of belief and the freedom to be different derives. Therefore, the fact that people are forced to adhere to a certain religion or culture must be rejected, as too the imposition of a cultural way of life that others do not accept”
Some folks have claimed that this is heretical. Catholic theologian Dr. John Lamont, for example, says that this statement is “a clear, public repudiation of the Catholic faith”. Although not directly saying that Pope Francis intended to repudiate the Catholic faith, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, in an article entitled “The Gift of Filial Adoption“, attempts to emphasize that Christianity is the only religion willed by God.
Is the statement from this document necessarily heretical? This article will attempt to say that it is not necessarily heretical. However, that does not mean I am here arguing that Pope Francis intended an orthodox meaning necessarily. I am only here to demonstrate that the words, as stated, can be understood in an orthodox manner. Other theologians have already attempted to interpret it in an orthodox manner. For examples, see Dr. Chad Pecknold and Fr. Zed. Without belittling the statements of these intellectual giants, I intend to bring more evidence to this direction. Understand, however, that I’ve no particular benefit from defending the orthodoxy of the current Pope, nor do I seek that as a goal. In fact, I’ve wanted him to be put under Episcopal trial since the first year of his pontificate in order to be held accountable to the dogmas of the Catholic Church. What Cardinal Gerhard Müller’s recent Manifesto of Faith was great, but it is simply not good enough. With that said, if and when we do criticize the Pope, however, we should be as accurate as the sun is bright, and make sure there is no hole in our traps through which our opponents can escape with the trickery of words. And this is precisely why Pope Francis is so dangerous. He is not the sort of man who could easily be caught in a position like Arius, who made it clear what he was negating (i.e. the deity of Christ). Heretics such as Apollinaris, Eutychios, and Nestorios were great because you could actually discern what they were saying and negating. In our modernistic and psuedo-intellectual hierarchy today, we do not have the benefit of such clarity (see my article dissecting the mentality of Pope Francis)
Let me first begin by setting the stage of this joint document. In the first place, this was not an invitation from the Middle East for Francis to swoop in like the revivalist George Whitefield and begin open-air preaching to the populace on the necessity of conversion to Christ in order to escape the fires of hell. I wish he would do that, but that is clearly outside the intention of both the Pope and his hosts in the Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates . Rather, as the subtitle of the document suggests, the context was for World Peace and Living Together. The very opening begins with “In the name of God who has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity, and who has called them to live together as brothers and sisters“. It goes on to mention innocent human life, the poor, the destitute, tortured, orphans, widows, refugees, victims of war, persecution, and injustice, etc,etc. It is quite plain that a Catholic Pope and Muslim Imam speaking to this are quite outside the purview of any evangelistic context through which one side is seeking to convert the other. This is very *down to earth*, in other words. It is far more basic to earthly peace than vital to everlasting happiness with God. The title, Human Fraternity, is precisely referenced in one particular line: “In the name of human fraternity that embraces all human beings, unites them and renders them equal“. There you have it. This document is speaking to the equal rights of all human beings that should be respected in order to best live out our time in the midst of religious, cultural, ethnic, and racial differences. Unless the orthodox Catholic wants to insist, contrary to religious liberty, that we should discriminate unbelievers as less-deserving of freedom, there isn’t a whole lot of exhortation to become Christian to be expected from this document. That is not the intention, nor the goal of it. The goal is stated very clearly in the middle of the document:
“In the name of God and of everything stated thus far; Al-Azhar al-Sharif and the Muslims of the East and West, together with the Catholic Church and the Catholics of the East and West, declare the adoption of a culture of dialogue as the path; mutual cooperation as the code of conduct; reciprocal understanding as the method and standard” and “call upon ourselves, upon the leaders of the world as well as the architects of international policy and world economy, to work strenuously to spread the culture of tolerance and of living together in peace; to intervene at the earliest opportunity to stop the shedding of innocent blood and bring an end to wars, conflicts, environmental decay and the moral and cultural decline that the world is presently experiencing.”
The goal of the document is to reach dialogue, tolerance, peace, cooperation, and understanding. This is not out of the blue, either. It is not news to anyone in the know that there has often been conflict, hostility, persecution, and even massive casualties caused by the friction created between Catholics and Muslims (at least). And for us Catholics, we shouldn’t see this as a horrible thing. As we shall see, this concept has been clearly taught in the Universal Catechism of the Catholic Church. How should Muslims coexist with Catholics, is the question. This is why the document goes on to speak of the protection of different persons of diverse religions, etc,etc. We aren’t expecting to be told we should suppress one or the other.
Now, I will dedicate the rest of this to the section that everyone keeps talking about. It begins with this:
“Freedom is a right of every person: each individual enjoys the freedom of belief, thought, expression and action”.
It is important that we see that this is the ground of the following comments to come afterwards. Freedom is the right of every person. This is none other than what the Catechism says. In paragraph 2106, the CCC states:
In the years of 2014 to the present, the question of whether Catholics can re-marry after divorce has become much more talked about in light of the two Synods on the family and their subsequent Apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. I cannot go into the details about what Pope Francis communicated with this document, but I can give a basic summary. Amoris Laetitia (Eng. The Joy of Love) reaffirms the Church’s moral doctrine on the purpose of human sexuality and conjugal relations, even explicitly referring to the need to appropriate the message of Pope St. Paul VI’s Encyclical Humane Vitae. The document also states that there are “no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family” (251). On the matter of Catholics who have married in the Church but who have subsequently divorced and contracted a civil “marriage” while the first spouse is still alive, Pope Francis makes clear that this is contrary to the demands of the Gospel, and is objectively out of harmony with the Church’s understanding of marriage (303). To those who insist that they should be able to openly demand recognition, respect, and good-standing of their 2nd “marriage” as if it were awarded to them out of mercy, the Pope says they should be considered as persons seeking to flaunt an objective sin, and should consequently be subject to hearing the gospel again in order to be converted, or separated from the community in excommunication (297). With that said, the Pope still opened the door for Catholic “re-married” divorcees to receive Holy Communion (305, fn 351), not on the basis that re-marriage is acceptable or objectively good, but rather that, on a case by case basis, certain persons who are involved in these objectively sinful and unlawful relationships can be free even of grave and mortal guilt, thereby landing them in the venial category of transgressor. Causes for this are said to be difficult and complex circumstances which mitigate against a person’s level of culpability, reducing the severity of their guilt and sin before God (302). Continue reading
Without a doubt, the current state of affairs in Catholicism, and the Papacy in particular, has struck one of the greatest challenges for her apologists. Many people are driven to think there is a massive problem with the coherence of Catholic ecclesiology with regard to the Papacy. The problem can be illustrated by citing one of the Catholic Church’s most astute contemporary theologians today. Continue reading
There is a report going around, of which I have no further confirmation other than a post from a blog site entitled “The Stumbling Block” (access the post here), which states that +Steven Lopes, Bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter, has made an intervention into the ministry of a certain Ordinariate priest, Fr Vaughn Treco, in order to request a recantation of the content of a certain homily he gave in the recent past. Bishop +Lopes insisted he renounce or he would lose his position as Pastor of the parish and would require Catechesis on the theology of the 2nd Vatican Council. I encourage all of you to listen to the sermon for yourself, and then read my take away below. Continue reading
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
“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.