This doctrine of the excellence of virginity and of celibacy and of their superiority over the married state was, as We have already said, revealed by our Divine Redeemer and by the Apostle of the Gentiles; so too, it was solemnly defined as a dogma of divine faith by the holy council of Trent,[Sess. XXIV, can 10] and explained in the same way by all the holy Fathers and Doctors of the Church. Finally, We and Our Predecessors have often expounded it and earnestly advocated it whenever occasion offered. But recent attacks on this traditional doctrine of the Church, the danger they constitute, and the harm they do to the souls of the faithful lead Us, in fulfillment of the duties of Our charge, to take up the matter once again in this Encyclical Letter, and to reprove these errors which are so often propounded under a specious appearance of truth.

– Pius XII, Sacra Virginitas (1954) §32.

If any one saith, that the marriage state is to be placed above the state of virginity, or of celibacy, and that it is not better and more blessed to remain in virginity, or in celibacy, than to be united in matrimony; let him be anathema.

– Ecumenical Council of Trent, Sess. XXIV, can 10.

Is the equal dignity of all men (homines) founded in nature or in grace? Both. Matter is the principle of individuation and the highest operations of the intellect do not occur through a material organ. The capacity of the intellect to make use of man’s lower faculties, such as the imagination, may be impeded by the imperfect subjection of the body’s matter to its form (the soul) which results from the loss of the preternatural gifts but this privation (a consequence of the Fall) afflicts all men. Moral (and therefore political) questions appertain to the will and intellect as such and thus there can be no pretext for the founding of civil rights and their variation upon supposed biological variation between ‘races’. Any attempt to do so is pagan and materialist.’ Sexism and Racism are false de jure and de facto. Imagine an orchestra of identical musicians with differing instruments. In bodily terms the musicians are identical but they have only ever played, studied and practiced with the individual instrument they play in the orchestra. Their habits and the development of their bodies are entirely framed by the instrument they have grown up with. Nevertheless, each is possessed of the same theoretical capacity and with a perfect instrument and ideal training  unlimited potential. In this fallen world no one is possessed of a perfect instrument and ideal training but it will not always be thus. In fact, in the order of grace everyone is possessed of a perfect instrument and ideal training for “to them that love God, all things work together unto good”. In an unfallen world the equality of all men would be an absolute. In this world (and all possible worlds) it is essentially preserved. Under grace this essential equality is transformed into differing eternal rewards determined by charity. “In the Evening of Life, We will be Judged on Love Alone.” Of course when God crowns our merits He crowns His own gifts but though founded upon grace and the principle of predilection that judgement is not unjust. God’s grace does not conflict with the freedom of man. When we have run the race to the finish it is the equality of our starting place that displays the justice of God. That starting place is nature.


Yesterday I re-read Bl. John Henry Newman’s brutal analysis of Protestants as non-believers. Today it was rather startling to be reminded that so many of them do not even believe in God. I remember once reading a Protestant writer’s analysis of whether Mormons are Christian. I was stunned to read him approach the question through the doctrine of justification. “Do Mormons truly trust in Jesus for their salvation?”. He never even raised the fact that they do not even believe in God! He never considered that, as atheists, Mormons cannot possibly believe in God Incarnate and thus whatever it is to which they attach the name ‘Jesus’ it will not save them from their sins. Listening to Craig’s words above I cannot help but wonder how common this kind of paganism is among the children of the Reformation. See: Feser’s (extremely courteous) response and Hart’s slightly more aggressive (he calls Craig a ‘mono-polytheist’) Greek Orthodox analysis of Craig’s position.

May the most holy, most sacred, most adorable,
most incomprehensible and ineffable Name of God
be forever praised, blessed, loved, adored
and glorified in Heaven, on earth,
and under the earth,
by all the creatures of God,
and by the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ,
in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

There is a potentially serious division among faithful Catholics about how to respond to “The Joy of – ” . I can certainly understand the argument of those, such as Joseph Shaw and Fr Ray Blake, who warn us not to make too much of it, lest we play into the hands of the opposition. By creating the perception that the pope is undermining doctrine, they say, you will strengthen those who wish to undermine doctrine; better to point out, rather, that AL makes no change to canon law, and does not say in plain words, ‘those in invalid marriages can receive Holy Communion if their pastors think it helpful’.

But my question to people who think like this is: “Independently of what we say about the matter, is the pope undermining doctrine or is he not?” If we think that he is, there needs to be an adequate response. Now the New Testament gives us an example of a pope undermining doctrine, and of the adequate response that was made to it.

When St Peter began at Antioch ‘not to walk correctly according to the truth of the Gospel’ (Gal. 2: 14), St Paul did not content himself with preaching the truth that was being undermined. He did not limit himself to saying in sermons or letters that Gentiles could be true Christians without being circumcised. Rather, he ‘withstood’ or ‘resisted’ Peter directly, asking him in public how he could act as he was doing. He realised that a simple statement of doctrine was not enough in those circumstances to keep that doctrine safe.

Pope Francis, unfortunately, is also undermining a truth of the gospel, namely the indissolubility of marriage, by encouraging debate about a matter that has never been uncertain, by praising the most notorious advocate of the heretical opinion, by issuing a document clearly designed not to teach the true opinion, and by giving free rein to those who use this document to uphold the heretical opinion. A striking example of this last thing is the editorial of Fr Spadaro SJ in La Civilta Cattolica, ‘the pope’s magazine’. Fr Spadaro writes: “The exhortation incorporates from the synodal document the path of discernment of individual cases without putting limits on integration, as appeared in the past.” Sandro Magister notes in the article I have linked to that Fr Spadaro is a closer adviser and confidant of the pope, and adds:

The presentation that Spadaro made of it in “La Civiltà Cattolica” was given to Francis to read before it was sent to press. One more reason to take this exegesis of the document as authorized by him, and therefore revealing of his real intentions.

For these reasons, I do not think it will be enough in the present crisis, for bishops simply to repeat the orthodox teaching. That does not particularly bother the other side: ‘pastoral pluralism’, after all, is enough for these people, and they are ready to wait for the rigid bishops to reach retirement age and then to be replaced by more accommodating and joyful ones.

Doubtless, if there were a unanimity or quasi-unanimity of bishops clearly teaching the traditional position, then it would not be necessary to make a protest about AL; but in the absence of that unanimity, a unanimity which already seems impossible, the undermining of marriage will go on, and AL’s part in that will need to be publicly confronted.

So I believe that in the present emergency it will soon be necessary for some bishop, or better, many bishops, to withstand the pope publicly, clearly, respectfully, courageously.


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