Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Peeling Away the Silence

December 3rd, 2016, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Sometimes there are articles so worthwhile, that just to quote from them leaves too much unsaid.  Therefore I have taken the liberty of reproducing an entire article from The Catholic Thing,” which is a source of much solid and thoughtful consideration. In reparation, I will make a donation and apology, and remove this post if they ask; however, I would consider it neglectful to omit it entirely or to use poorer word choices than the author, Father Mark A. Pilon uses.  Instead, I have simply shown in red-italic a few of the lines which “grabbed” me, but I left them in context. Hopefully, it will give us all an opportunity to realize what dangerous and unusual times we live in now, with such events transpiring; possibly such exposure will help to peel away the silence, our own included.  There is a note at the bottom of the article regarding how to support The Catholic Thing. Please do!

The Dangerous Road of Papal Silence

“The letter of the four Cardinals to Pope Francis, and the decision to go public with this document certainly constitute a stunning affair in the history of the Church. When has anything like this ever taken place? There’s the sad history of Ignaz Von Dollinger, which eventually led to his excommunication, but Dollinger was simply a priest-historian, and no Cardinals ever joined his challenge to Vatican I’s solemn teaching on papal infallibility.

This present event is a dramatic challenge to Pope Francis who, ironically, has several times called for a shaking up of the Church. The Cardinals are all well respected and strong supporters of the papal primacy and the papal office of teaching. Their letter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is a sincere effort to gain some clarity on positions advanced in Amoris Laetitia. For their troubles, the head of the Roman Rota has openly threatened them with the loss of their status as Cardinals.

It’s worth noting that only one of the five questions posed for clarification by the Cardinals had to do with admitting divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to the Eucharist. In a way, the other four questions point to even more significant problems relating to the existence of intrinsically evil acts, the objective situation of grave habitual sin, and the critically important formation of an objectively true conscience.

The five dubia were very carefully and succinctly written and followed the traditional method of presentation of such questions to the Holy See. They ask the pope to explain how certain statements in Amoris Laetitia were to be understood in the light of the authoritative teachings of his predecessor Pope John Paul II as found in Familiaris Consortio 84 (reaffirmed in Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 34, and Sacramentum Caritatis, 29 (dubium 1); Veritatis Splendor 79 (dubium 2); (Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts (dubium 3); Veritatis Splendor 81 (dubium 4); Veritatis Splendor 56 (dubium 5). These texts are foundational for the Church’s teaching on moral principles, for an upright confessional practice, and for sacramental discipline.

The letter’s authors insist that their only intention is to remove the confusion: “theologians and scholars have proposed interpretations that are not only divergent, but also conflicting. . .thereby provoking uncertainty, confusion and disorientation among many of the faithful.”

Cardinal Burke, in an interview with the National Catholic Register, stated that they chose to go public only after they learned that the pope had decided not to respond, which decision is a stunning response from the Chair of Peter. One might almost call it reckless, given the very real potential for dividing the Church. Indeed, Cardinal Burke addressed this possibility in the interview when he stated that the letter “has also been undertaken with the greatest respect for the Petrine Office, because if the Petrine Office does not uphold these fundamental principles of doctrine and discipline, then, practically speaking, division has entered into the Church, which is contrary to our very nature.”

Pope Francis already had an agenda for “reshaping” the Church in certain areas of discipline when he came into office, as seems clear from the speed with which he announced the Synod on the Family. It was a perplexing event. His predecessor, Saint John Paul II, had convoked a Synod on the same topic and had issued a brilliant exhortation, Familiaris Consortio.

It was even more telling that little in the preparatory documents, or in the exhortation following the Synod, seemed to have much reference to that earlier exhortation. In retrospect, that Francis had it in mind to alter certain determinations of that earlier Synod and John Paul II’s exhortation appears all but certain.

Now, it is not only Catholic scholars like the eminent philosopher Robert Spaemann who in 2015 recognized that “This pope is one of the most autocratic [popes] that we have had in a long time.” In a recent Reuters article, “Pope Francis the manager – surprising, secretive, shrewd,” Philip Puella argues that Pope Francis, whom he admires and strongly supports, is more like an autocrat than a typical, saintly pontiff. For instance, Puella says “Francis likes to break rules and then change them once the shock has died down.” And that “after he was elected, he appointed trusted people to lower or mid-level positions in Vatican departments, where they can be his eyes and ears.”

Looking back, the pope’s invitation to Cardinal Kasper to speak to the bishops months before the first Synod on the Family seems almost certainly now to have been a bit of management. The pope was behind the proposed change from the beginning and was determined to provide access to the sacraments by the divorced and remarried, even if the Synod Fathers did not support it – which they didn’t.

Pope Francis certainly had no mandate from the Synod Fathers to make such a drastic alteration in the Church’s sacramental discipline. Quite the opposite, which should have suggested he would be entering dangerous waters should he choose to do so. But he did, nonetheless, and has since tried to portray his critics as fundamentalist, legalistic, and rigid Catholics, who are troubled and are troubling the Church.

The upshot of all this, as Australian Cardinal George Pell remarked in a lecture in London earlier this week, is that “a number of regularly worshipping Catholics” are “unnerved by the turn of events.” More seriously, there is now widespread confusion about the role of conscience in Catholic moral thought.

Well, now four cautious and conscientious churchmen have openly sought a solution to all this turmoil. Cardinal Burke suggested what might follow if the pope remains silent:  “There is, in the Tradition of the Church, the practice of correction of the Roman Pontiff. It is something that is clearly quite rare. But if there is no response to these questions, then I would say that it would be a question of taking a formal act of correction of a serious error.”

This really would be quite awful, forcing Church leaders, priests, and lay people into taking sides – a kind of practical schism. Let’s pray it never comes to this. But to avoid such divisions and worse, Pope Francis will now have to do something.”


Note from Robert Royal: I’ve heard from many of you – far more even than I expected – that The Catholic Thing is the first thing you look at online every morning. (Me too, but for different reasons.) Lots of you also express a sense of urgency about knowing what’s happening in the Church. Our staff and team of writers are committed to bringing you the very best news and analysis in the coming year. But we can only continue to do our jobs if you do your part. We’ve made great progress towards meeting our end-of-year target, but we still need many more of you to act. Lots of people complain about what’s going on in the Church and the world. Here’s a chance to do something. If you haven’t already, please, right now, make your tax-deductible online donation nowno amount is too small, or too large – or if you prefer, write a check, to assure the future of The Catholic Thing. – Robert Royal


14 Responses to “Peeling Away the Silence”

  1. Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    A number of Catholic believers in Christ Jesus have already made worthwhile contributions to the necessary effort to peel away the silence. Aapparently, Father Pilon’s is the most recent.

    Unfortunately, like in the American Political World, we have heard about the accusations and name calling against those who respectfully exhort Pope Francis to clarify publicly. Who knows if Father Pilon or any other people featured in The Catholic Thing will also be maligned.

    For years we have been aware of attacks against the faith, morality and mission of Christ’s Church from forces both within and outside the Church. Never ever would we have imagined to find ourselves in today’s situation in which this silence is so heartbreakingly evident of serious problems.

  2. militia says:

    This article convinces me I have to take the time to read Familiaris Consortio, carefully.

  3. raymondfrice says:

    So a letter from 4 cardinals is shaking up the church and all the other cardinals say nothing?? There will always be positions in the church that take time and study to arrive at what the Holy Spirit is doing. Ambiguity can lead to study and further insight. Francis wants us to work!! and think!!

  4. raymondfrice says:

    And pray!!!

  5. Diane Harris says:

    …and what about being faithful to Christ? to the Law of God, which no one, not even the Pope, has the power to change?

    Luke 16:17-18 “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one dot of the law to become void. Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”

    Galatians 1: 6-9 “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel– not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, If any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.”

    This doesn’t require “work” or “thinking.” It requires obedience, faithfulness.

  6. raymondfrice says:

    How many centuries did it take for the Church to fully understand the dogma of the Immaculate Conception?? I don’t find it cited in scripture and only promulgated infallibly in 1854. I think one has to understand the history of the development of theology.

    PS; In scripture can be found any number of quotations that appear to support ANY position held by anyone anywhere. The Bible contains the truth but how is the truth applied?? The Bible also supports the position of killing an incorrigible adolescent. Do we kill them and then cite scripture??

  7. Diane Harris says:

    Raymond, I am shocked at your understanding of the development of dogma. First, what makes you think the Church today does “fully understand the dogma of the Immaculate Conception”? The ever-deepening of faith and of theological understanding does not end with a declaration of dogma, nor does it begin with the declaration of dogma. The biblical reference to the words of the Angel Gabriel “Hail full of grace” have been seen to represent a unique status for the Blessed Mother. Whether a dogma was defined in 100AD or in 1854 is actually irrelevant. The Church has always believed. Declaration of Dogma depends on that continuity of belief, and becomes necessary when a particular belief, always held, becomes threatened. The idea of Mary as the Ark, the pure Ark, the pure Tabernacle worthy to hold the Divine Presence was not a new idea in 1854. Moreover, the requirement of purity for a Tabernacle reverberates into the discussion of the present time, that adulterers (unconfessed, unrepentant) must not presume to receive the Sacred Species into an adulterated Tabernacle.

    Your other error in the above comment is your idea that an exceptional phrase or verse might be found which leads to an extraordinary interpretation, although you have not quoted chapter and verse. Surely you know that the bible is taken in its entirety, in the sense in which it is wholely written. To take a single verse out of context demeans the Sacred Scriptures. Now, I realize that you might say that is what I did by quoting Luke and Paul in Galatians, but not so. There are multiple places in the Bible that have almost the same words or are at least totally consistent with the clear interpretation. Your question about “how is the truth applied” also has a clear answer — through the teaching of the Church over two millennia. To reverse, undo, or disclaim prior teaching is not the job of any pope. His role is to protect the Deposit of Faith, not to change it.

    Finally, without preventing reasonable discourse, I’d like to point out that it is the role of this website to support those two millennia of Church Teaching, and the ambiguity (NOT a good thing) and confusion caused by writings such as Amoris Laetitia (and Laudato Si as well) do no favor to the deepening of faith or theology. No wonder so many people, previously thought to be righteous Catholics, are now taking the opportunity to foment dissent with untrue or wanton opinions. I thank God for the courage of the Four Cardinals, and the thousands of priests and prelates who are standing up for Truth, as beacons to the Lay Faithful.

  8. Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    Hi raymondfrice,

    I think it is a mistake to infer only 4 Cardinals are concerned about THE JOY OF LOVE. In fact if one were to scroll up and click on the Declaration To Fidelity….which Ben has provided a link, I believe one would discover the hundreds and thousands of both lay and clergy who have been inspired by the 4 Cardinals’ letter to declare fidelity to the Church’s unchanging teachings.

    Also, raymondfrice, you write “In scripture can be found any number of quotations that appear to support ANY position held by anyone anywhere. The Bible contains the truth but how is the truth applied?? The Bible also supports the position of killing an incorrigible adolescent. Do we kill them and then cite scripture??” My first thought about your sentences is that the Magisterium has the authority from the Lord Jesus, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to preserve and proclaim that sacred deposit which has been divinely revealed.

    Perhaps a rereading of DEI VERBUM will prove beneficial.

    If you, raymondfrice, resonate with the apparent change in Church teaching and its application ( discipline ) being promulgated regarding marriage, divorce, remarriage without the declaration of nullity, and reception of Holy Communion, then please offer your reasons for accepting this apparent change based on Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and The Teaching Authority of the Church( the Magisterium ). I exhort you, however, to keep in mind that:
    “This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed.”

    Personally, I have found The Declaration of Fidelity to the Unchangeable Teachings of the Church to be what we need in this troublesome period in the Church’s Life.

    Hopefully the silence will be peeled away!

  9. Ben Anderson says:

    In scripture can be found any number of quotations that appear to support ANY position held by anyone anywhere.

    This is a flat out false and dangerous belief.

  10. raymondfrice says:

    Ben: weak argument.

  11. raymondfrice says:

    I made a mistake in my presentation. Dogma does not change but the understanding of basic dogma often goes through a period of development that can be ongoing.

  12. Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    Theological Method, Development of Doctrine and Evolution of Dogmas are not one and the same.

    Particularly pertinent to peeling away the silence is discernment whether the controversial footnote in THE JOY OF LOVE repeats the modernist attempt to make ancient roots of Church Doctrine evolve according to the contemporary liberal spirit of the times; all of which was condemned by Saint Pope Pius X.

  13. Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    “Now it is by a species of compromise between the forces of conservation and of progress, that is to say between authority and individual consciences, that changes and advances take place. The individual consciences of some of them act on the collective conscience, which brings pressure to bear on the depositaries of authority, until the latter consent to a compromise, and, the pact being made, authority sees to its maintenance.”

    It would be very helpful If some reader with solid understanding of the late 19th century, early 20th century modernist crisis and the reasoning and teaching used by Saint Pope Pius X to condemn would comment as to whether what we are facing is an attempt to evolve doctrine according to the liberal spirit of the times regarding marriage, divorce, irregular marriage and reception of Holy Communion.
    Thank You

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