Wednesday, March 15, 2006
New Oxford Review on Collegiality & Lack of Ecclesiastical Discipline
The US Bishops response to a group of dissenting politicians who signed a declaration denying the authority of the Church shows that this is still the modus of Church discipline.
Is it not time to abandon this disciplinary experiment and return to the time tested practice of active protection of the faith from error? Perhaps Pope Benedict XVI's will fall back on his germanic heritage and exercise the discipline the Church so sorely needs today.
From an article by David Palm in the New Oxford Review:
Now, the peculiar feature of the pontificate of Paul VI was the tendency to shift the papacy from governing to admonishing or, in scholastic terminology, to restrict the field of preceptive law, which imposes an obligation, and to enlarge the field of directive law, which formulates a rule without imposing any obligation to observe it. The government of the Church thus loses half its scope, or to put it biblically, the hand of the Lord is foreshortened….
Two things are needed to maintain truth. First: remove the error from the doctrinal sphere, which is done by refuting erroneous arguments and showing that they are not convincing. Second: remove the person in error, that is depose him from office, which is done by an act of the Church’s authority. If this pontifical service is not performed, it would seem unjustified to say that all means have been used to maintain the doctrine of the Church: we are in the presence of a brevatio manus Domini….
The origin of this whole brevatio manus lies quite clearly in the opening speech of the Second Vatican Council, which announced an end to the condemnation of error, a policy which was maintained by Paul VI throughout the whole of his pontificate. As a teacher, he held to the traditional formulas expressing the orthodox faith, but as a pastor, he did not prevent the free circulation of unorthodox ideas, assuming that they would of themselves eventually take an orthodox form and become compatible with truth. Errors were identified and the Catholic faith reiterated, but specific persons were not condemned for their erroneous teaching, and the schismatic situation in the Church was disguised and tolerated….
The general effect of a renunciation of authority is to bring authority into disrepute and to lead it to be ignored by those who are subject to it, since a subject cannot hold a higher view of authority than authority holds of itself….
The renunciation of authority, even as applied to doctrinal affairs, which had been begun by John XXIII and pursued by Paul VI, was continued by John Paul II. (Iota Unum: A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church in the XXth Century)
Amerio cites the amazing testimony of Cardinal Oddi, who spoke to a gathering of Catholics United for the Faith in the 1970s. Amerio shows, in his answer, that refusal to exercise discipline in the Church has at its heart a philosophical shift:
The Prefect for the Congregation of the Clergy was insistently asked why the Holy See did not remove those who taught error, such as Fr. Curran, who had for years been openly attacking Humanae Vitae, and who teaches the licitness of sodomy. Why was it that the Holy See did not correct and disavow those bishops, such as Mgr Gerety, who depart from sound doctrine and protect those who corrupt the faith? The Cardinal replied that “The Church no longer imposes punishments. She hopes instead to persuade those who err.” She has chosen this course “perhaps because she does not have precise information about the different cases in which error arises, perhaps because she thinks it imprudent to take energetic measures, perhaps too because she wants to avoid even greater scandal through disobedience. The Church believes it is better to tolerate certain errors in the hope that when certain difficulties have been overcome, the person in error will reject his error and return to the Church.”
This is an admission of the brevatio manus…and an assertion of the innovation announced in the opening speech of the council: error contains within itself the means of its own correction, and there is no need to assist the process: it is enough to let it unfold, and it will correct itself. Charity is held to be synonymous with tolerance, indulgence takes precedence over severity, the common good of the ecclesial community is overlooked in the interests of a misused individual liberty, [and] the sensus logicus and the virtue of fortitude proper to the Church are lost. The reality is that the Church ought to preserve and defend the truth with all the means available to a perfect society. (ibid.)
Read full article: here
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