Truly, it is hardly possible to describe how great are the evils that flow from divorce. Matrimonial contracts are by it made variable; mutual kindness is weakened; deplorable inducements to unfaithfulness are supplied; harm is done to the education and training of children; occasion is afforded for the breaking up of homes; the seeds of dissension are sown among families; the dignity of womanhood is lessened and brought low, and women run the risk of being deserted after having ministered to the pleasures of men. Since, then, nothing has such power to lay waste families and destroy the mainstay of kingdoms as the corruption of morals, it is easily seen that divorces are in the highest degree hostile to the prosperity of families and States, springing as they do from the depraved morals of the people, and, as experience shows us, opening out a way to every kind of evil-doing in public and in private life.

Further still, if the matter be duly pondered, we shall clearly see these evils to be the more especially dangerous, because, divorce once being tolerated, there will be no restraint powerful enough to keep it within the bounds marked out or presurmised. Great indeed is the force of example, and even greater still the might of passion. With such incitements it must needs follow that the eagerness for divorce, daily spreading by devious ways, will seize upon the minds of many like a virulent contagious disease, or like a flood of water bursting through every barrier.

– Leo XIII, Arcanum (1880)

Radcliffe-769273Holy communion for divorced and subsequently remarried Catholics is soon to be authorised according to Cardinal Walter Kasper, life-site news reports.

Kasper has touted this position since 1993, when, as Bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, he allowed divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion after “serious examination” of their conscience.

Whether this is really on the cards is therefore rather suspect.




10_12_26_Burke_02A day with Mary is something I’ve been meaning to attend for a while. It’s a day of eucharistic adoration and devotion to Our Lady run by the Franciscan friars of the Immaculate.

Recently there has been an investigation into the order, because of discontent on the part of some of the friars regarding the use of the extraordinary form of the mass. The first we heard was that the Pope had ordered that only the novus ordo mass should be said.  Then their founder was removed. Now apparently, the seminary has been closed, the activities of the friars’ lay movement has been suspended. Ordinations of new priests has been stopped for a year and members must swear an oath agreeing that the modern Roman rite is an “authentic expression of the liturgical tradition of the Church.”  

Wow. For an order which has never contradicted the Church on faith or morals, this is really quite astounding.

Please pray for the Franciscans of the Immaculate.

On a related note, Cardinal Burke has also been sacked from the congregation of Bishops – Vincent Nichols has been appointed.

Kyrie Eleison.

One of the frescoes of the Ecumenical Councils...

I’ve been looking at The Church in Council by Norman Tanner SJ. Fr Tanner is perhaps the leading authority on ecumenical councils in the English-speaking world. It’s curious, therefore, that he seems keen to get rid of as many as he can. Vatican II, he says, extended the meaning of Church beyond ‘the Roman Catholic community’, and therefore made it a moot point whether any council could be called ecumenical without the participation of ‘other Christian churches and communities’. The Eastern Church, we learn, was not represented ‘in any proper sense’ at any post-1054 council – a fact which would no doubt have surprised the Byzantine Emperor and the Patriarch of Constantinople in 1439, not to mention the other bishops and patriarchal delegates who had gathered at Florence. Trent, Vatican I and Vatican II don’t even reach the dignity of general councils of the Western Church; since the ‘churches of the Reformation’ were absent, they are better seen as ‘general councils of the Roman Catholic church, rather than of the Western Church’. This ‘removes the necessity of Trent and Vatican I being given an absolute status’ (but apparently not of Vatican II being given it!) So much for the holy Sacrifice and for papal infallibility; they will apparently have to enjoy only a ‘relative status’, whatever that might be.

He is quite keen on the role of the emperor in the early councils, as it provides a precedent for lay involvement. Likewise, in the Empress Irene at Nicaea II, as a precedent for female involvement. Likewise in the fact that the early councils were held in ‘Asia’. And he also likes the fact that Constantine wasn’t baptised at the time of Nicaea I, as this provides a precedent for influences on ecumenical councils from outside the visible church.

I can’t help wondering if his ideal council would be one held in Mumbai under the presidency of a Muslim woman, and which would solemnly condemn Humanae Vitae. But I may be wronging him.

1. Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See and, as laws may determine, on the bishop.

2. In virtue of power conceded by the law, the regulation of the liturgy within certain defined limits belongs also to various kinds of competent territorial bodies of bishops legitimately established.

3. Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.

– Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium

I went to Mass for the Assumption last week in St Mary’ Cathedral, Newcastle upon Tyne. I was a little late due to unforeseen traffic problems. It appears the priest (an elderly gentleman) has some sort of difficulty with his eyes. He seems to have taken this as the green light to invent almost the entire text of the Mass. He exercised the distressing option in the Novus Ordo of giving little talks before every reading. He did not read the Gospel himself but had a layman do so. All the orations were invented on the spot as was the preface. The Eucharistic Prayer was, I think, variations based on number 2. The priest decided to say “for all” and not “for many” in the words of consecration making it impossible to go and receive communion. It seemed likely from the tone of the priest’s invented orations and semonettes that his use of “for all” represented a taste for the heresy of universalism.  He also asserted that St Luke had made up the Magnificat and that these were not really the words of our Blessed Lady. He used the Apostles’ Creed instead of the Roman Liturgical Creed (another distressing option in the Novus Ordo). When there are so many Arians around the use of the Apostles’ Creed is a wholly inadequate safeguard of orthodoxy as well as a totally random innovation. At the end he processed out singing from memory Immaculate Mary complete with the verses about the Pope and the restoration of Mary’s Dowry.

The overall impression was of a man wholly confused as to what is and is not Catholic doctrine and what is and is not acceptable behavior in a Catholic Priest. It is absurd that someone should have served out their priestly life in such a state, it is also a cause of great scandal to the faithful. In general, England is in a far better condition (especially in the South) than mainland Europe but the scourge of ‘extraordinary ministers’ (supposedly justified by the obsessive compulsion to administer the chalice to the laity) is a serious obstacle to renewal. Hexham and Newcastle has generally been very good for the extraordinary form. It is good to see that Fr Brown has been moved to St Joseph’s in Gateshead. One hopes he will resume his daily low Mass which suffered from the inaccessibility of St Mary’s Forest Hall. Sadly the longstanding Missa Cantata at St Dominic’s Newcastle had perished because the Dominican Friars now stationed there refuse to celebrate the authentic liturgy of the Roman Church.

By a Feeneyite I mean one who holds that to be in a state of grace it is necessary not just to have an explicit faith in Christ and the Holy Trinity but also to be right about what visible society is the Church founded by Christ (if any follower of Fr Feeney should chance to read this, I apologise if I have characterised his position wrongly.) The passages in St Thomas that raise this question come in his treatment of the virtue of faith, and in particular whether one who disbelieves one article of faith can have supernatural faith in another article. The statement that perhaps most strongly supports the Feeneyite position is in the De Caritate, article 13 ad 6 :-

The formal object itself [formalis ratio obiecti] in faith is the first truth manifested by the teaching of the Church, just as the formal object of a science is the proofs that establish the conclusions; and so just as someone who knows by heart some geometrical conclusions doesn’t have the science of geometry if he doesn’t assent to the conclusion on account of the arguments that prove them… so the one who holds things that belong to the faith while not assenting to them on account of the authority of Catholic doctrine does not have the habit of faith.

The discussion in the Summa 2a 2ae q. 5, a. 3, apparently written a year or two later, is slightly different, though very similar:-

The formal object of the faith is the first truth insofar as it is manifested in sacred Scripture and the doctrine of the Church. Thus, whoever does not adhere, as to an infallible and divine rule, to the doctrine of the Church which proceeds from the first truth manifested in sacred Scripture does not have the habit of faith, but  holds those things which are of faith by some means other than by faith [he then gives the same illustration about knowing the conclusion of a science and not the proofs.]

The difference is that the treatment in the Summa introduces the Scripture into the discussion of the formal object of faith. That might seem to provide room for one who wanted to argue that for St Thomas it was possible for some person to have faith without explicitly adhering to the Catholic Church; they don’t have the whole ‘rule of faith’, but they have enough of it – the First Truth revealed in Scripture – to make an act of faith.

The problem with this is that a formal object is indivisible. The whole point of talking about formal objects is that they are what make an act a certain kind of act rather than another kind of act. If you could take something away from the object and still have the same kind of act – in this case, an act of faith – then clearly the original object wasn’t the formal object at all. And whenever St Thomas speaks of the formal object of faith, whether or not he mentions Scripture, he always mentions the Church. You can’t take away inhering to the Church as to an infallible rule and still have an act of faith, for St Thomas (in theory you could, but not in the actual order of things willed by God.)

And yet, according to the Holy Office, an implicit desire for membership of the Church can be enough to ground an act of faith. Are these two positions reconcilable? Can someone who is not a Catholic and who has not resolved to become a Catholic nevertheless be adhering to the Catholic Church as to an infallible rule?

I think he can, provided that he admits that the Church founded by Christ is infallible and that it still exists, even though he is confused about where it is. Similarly, one can have trust in the veracity of one’s mother even if one should be unsure which of two identical twins is one’s mother (unlikely, I know, but that doesn’t lessen the force of the analogy.) It is sufficient if one has a definition of one’s mother that per se distinguishes her from every other person (e.g. ‘the woman who gave birth to me’), even if at the moment it does not allow one to pick her out here and now. If both twins make the same statement, for example about when one was born, and one believes it, then one can be said to be believing it on account of the veracity of one’s mother even though one doesn’t know who one’s mother is. On the other hand, if they make contradictory statements, it would not be reasonable to accept either of them for as long as one remained in doubt as to which woman was one’s mother; one would be running the risk of disbelieving one’s mother; one could no longer be said to be adhering to her words as to an infallible rule.

To apply the analogy to Christendom. If someone adheres to a doctrine taught by the Catholic Church and by various separated bodies, it seems possible that one is adhering to it on account of the infallible authority of the Catholic Church, even if one cannot empirically identify the Catholic Church. On the other hand, where the Catholic Church and the other bodies make contradictory statements, if someone assents to the statement made by the non-Catholic body, he cannot be said to be adhering to the Catholic Church as to an infallible rule, and therefore, according to St Thomas, he cannot have faith. John Henry Newman in 1840 wanted to believe everything taught by the Church founded by Christ, only he wasn’t sure where that Church was. But I think it very likely that he had supernatural faith.

Criticisms welcome.

Not in the 1960’s, according to Mgr Ronald Knox:-

Within the lifetime even of the younger of us, we have seen in England and in many other parts of the world a complete apostasy of the human conscience on matters relating to sex. We have seen an attempt, successful, unfortunately, in many minds, to substitute pleasure for duty as the chief end of the married state. And because the Catholic Church, almost alone now in her protest, obstinately insists that the marriage tie is indissoluble, and that the use of marriage is unlawful when artificial conditions render it unfruitful, the Catholic Church is becoming the object of a fresh attack, destined, I think, to be no less bitter than any of the attacks which have gone before it (“Reboam” in ‘A Retreat for Priests’, first published in 1946).