Showing posts with label Vatican. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vatican. Show all posts

Monday, September 23, 2013

Resources to get unedited stories from the Vatican

Several people have been asking me about the statements the media make from Vatican press releases. So I thought I ought to share some resources I use to counteract the mainstream media distortions.

For a daily email, you can go HERE to sign up with Vatican Information Service.

If you have a tablet, I recommend The Pope App for Android or iPad.

Given the media's rather suspicious reporting of the Pope, I recommend these highly.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Reflections on Radical Traditionalism: Why it is a Danger

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves.” (Matt 23:15)

Preliminary Disclaimer

As always, one needs to recognize there is a difference between the person who prefers the liturgy and the discipline of the time before Vatican II but respects the authority of the Pope to make changes for the good of the Church and the radical who claims that the Pope who makes such changes is in error. This article deals with the second group, not the first group.


I’ve seen the comments on blogs, heard it from friends. The claim that the Vatican, in “going after” radical Traditionalists and disciplining them are wasting time on groups “too small to matter” and should be going after Modernists instead.

I have two quarrels with this claim. The first is a logical objection. The second is an objection to the claim that the Radical Traditionalists are harmless or less harmful.


The Logical Problem of the Claim: Affirming the Disjunct

Ironically, the claim that the Vatican should be going after Liberals or Modernists is essentially the same fallacy used by Doug Kmiec to propose Obama as a “pro-life” candidate.

    1. We can either do [A] or [B]
    2. People are doing [B]
    3. Therefore they are not doing [A]

The problem is, of course, “Either [A] or [B]” are not the only options, and the fact that the Church does [B] is no proof they are neglecting [A]. This is the fallacy of Affirming the Disjunct. The problem is just because condition [B] exists, does not mean that condition [A] cannot exist as well. Kmiec made this error in arguing we can either seek to end Roe v. Wade or we can help women seeking abortions, and arguing those opposing Obama sought to end abortions therefore those opposing abortion are not in favor of helping women.

This is of course nonsense.

However the defenders of the radical traditionalists make the same error. They assume the sanctions invoked against the radical traditionalists means nothing is being done against the modernists. The enthymeme of this argument is that “it can’t be both [A] and [B]” which needs to be proven, but is usually bypassed by the argument from silence (“I never hear of the Church disciplining liberals, therefore they don’t.”) and when evidence is provided, the fallacy of “moving the goalposts” is used (“The Church never disciplines liberals!” “What about Milingo or others?” “That’s not enough!”)

The only way to avoid the fallacy is by first providing proof that the condition is exclusively [A] or [B]. However, this is never done. Rather it is merely assumed. Examples in favor of the argument are promoted. Examples which show the condition is not exclusively [A] or [B] are ignored.


Are Radical Traditionalists In Fact Harmless?

Let’s make no mistake here. The Liberal dissenters are indeed doing wrong and need to be opposed. However, the liberal dissenters are not a group who are likely to deceive the Catholic who is seeking to do what is right and to follow the Church teaching. The teachings of Hans Küng, Charles Curran, Joan Chittister do not appeal to the person seeking what they must do to be faithful. They appeal to the person who is seeking an excuse to disobey.

However, the Radical Traditionalists are also dangerous because they can mislead the person who is looking for the way to follow the true Church. Consider, for example, the case of Gerry Matatics, who entered the Church in 1986, became a Radical Traditionalist in 1992 and is now proclaiming the Post Vatican II Church is heretical and that Pope Benedict XVI is most likely not the true Pope (the logic of his syllogisms are terrible by the way, assuming what needs to be proven). Matatics is an extreme example of what one seeking to be faithful can become. However, less extreme cases are common indeed.

Becoming what one condemns

The problem I see with the Radical Traditionalist is that while the subject matter of their dissent is different from those of the Liberal Modernist dissenter, the form of their nature is chillingly similar.

  • A position is staked out in opposition to what the Magisterium holds
  • Documents are selectively cited seeking to show a contradiction of the present Magisterium with past popes or councils
  • The conclusion is made that the present Magisterium is in error.

There is a serious problem with this view however, whether the one who makes use of it is modernist or radical traditionalist, and that is the fact that it all centers on the personal interpretation of the selected documents. Whether it is the so-called “Spirit of Vatican II” or whether it is a radical traditionalist focusing on a 19th century condemnation of religious indifferentism to claim that the relations between Catholics and others must be eternally acrimonious, both refuse to recognize the authority of the Magisterium when it comes down on a side contrary to what one holds.

Thus, instead of recognizing the possibility of erring personally, the error is thus automatically assumed to be on the part of the Church. Ironically, both sides will recognize the disobedience of the other side, but not their own disobedience. It’s as if Christ never said in Matthew 7:

1 “Stop judging, that you may not be judged.

2 For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.

3 Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?

4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye?

5 You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.

Quite frankly, when both sides make use of judging the other of refusing to obey the magisterium on a specific topic, but refuse to obey on their own areas of contention, they do behave hypocritically.

Appeal to an Ideal(ism)

Fundamentalism is often used as a slur, and is used so broadly that it is almost worthless as a descriptor. Generally speaking it associates “fundamentalist” with “right wing politics.” However, in the most general sense, Fundamentalism can be understood as holding there was once a time when religion was practiced perfectly (or at least better), and to be perfect, one must go back to the practices of this time. Now of course the appeal to the practices to be followed can be real (such as the traditionalistic “Pre-conciliar” view) or to a fictional (such as the claims of some liberals that the early Church was “pre-hierarchical”).

The Problem is the issue of conditions which were different. If the Church in the 13th century was the pinnacle of Christendom, we certainly need to recognize that the circumstances at this time were certainly different than they are in the 21st century and practices of the Church in the sense of discipline could not even remotely be handled the same way. Similarly, the appeal of some radical traditionalists who misuse the axiom lex orendi lex credenda (The Law of prayer is the law of belief) of St. Prosper of Aquitane to say that the changing of the liturgy led to a collapse of beliefs and heretical priests. This can be demonstrated as a post hoc fallacy by pointing out a few facts. Dissenting priests were present before Vatican II and the 1970 missal. Humanae Vitae which was widely dissented from was written before the 1970 missal (in 1968 to be precise).

If the change of the liturgy caused the change of belief, then it is not demonstrated by the evidence. Indeed, the appeal to “go back” to before Vatican II or before the current form of the Mass is based on an idealism which forgets the growing disillusionment with authority in the 1950s. It overlooks the assimilation of Catholics into mainstream society in the 1950s and 1960s, and it overlooks the general rejection of authority in Catholic, Protestant and entirely non-Christian nations in the mid to late 1960s. Instead they submit an idealistic sequence:

  1. Before Vatican II, the Church was strong
  2. After Vatican II, the Church was weak
  3. Therefore Vatican II caused the Church to weaken

Of course if there is any other reason besides Vatican II which caused this, the alleged cause-effect is wrong.

The Authority to Bind and Loose

It has been a doctrine of the Catholic Church that the authority to bind and to loose. It is de fide (a matter of faith which is not to be contradicted by one who claims to be a faithful Catholic) that Peter had primacy of jurisdiction over the entire Church and that this primacy extends to his successors. This primacy is not just over matters of faith and morals but also over the matters of discipline and government of the Church (See Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma pages 279, 282, 285). Pope Pius XII made clear in the encyclical Humani Generis that the idea that the Pope must only be obeyed on matters of ex cathedra is an error. He says:

20. Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such Letters the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Teaching Authority. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: "He who heareth you, heareth me"; and generally what is expounded and inculcated in Encyclical Letters already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine. But if the Supreme Pontiffs in their official documents purposely pass judgment on a matter up to that time under dispute, it is obvious that that matter, according to the mind and will of the Pontiffs, cannot be any longer considered a question open to discussion among theologians.

In other words, when the Pope teaches in a binding manner using the ordinary magisterium, he must be heeded.

The Pope has authority to interpret Scripture and Tradition, and we do believe that when he teaches authoritatively as Pope and not as a private theologian, we are to obey.

Here then is the irony of the Radical Traditionalist who claims to be the followers of true Catholic teaching. To defend their rebellion against Vatican II, they must violate the de fide teaching of the Catholic Church on exactly who has the final right of interpretation. The radical traditionalist who accuses the Church of today of being riddled with “the errors of Protestantism” is actually performing the same act they find so offensive when done by Luther and others in rejecting the Catholic teaching due to their own interpretation and their own decision of what is to be given credibility.

Thus the dissenter (Traditionalist or Modernist) does not evaluate his or her belief based on the Magisterium teaching, but evaluates the Magisterium teaching based on his or her belief. This makes the Teaching authority of the Church superfluous. When it agrees with the dissenter it is unnecessary. When it disagrees with the dissenter, the teaching authority is wrong.

Why the Radical Traditionalist IS a Danger to the Church

The Catholic who is seeking to follow the Catholic faith and knows the authority of the Popes and the long line of consistent teaching is rather unlikely to consider a dissenter like Küng to be a voice of authority. One looking for an excuse to dissent might use his sophistry to justify disobedience, but one seeking to obey the Church would not.

What makes the radical traditionalist dangerous is the fact that he claims to be following the true teaching of the Church. Like an anti-Catholic seeking to “rescue” a person from the Catholic Church and takes Scripture out of context to do so, the radical traditionalist has often cited old Church documents and compared them with new Church documents. He plays upon the faithful individual’s recognizing that there is indeed rebellion and disobedience in the Church, and leads them to think that it is the fault of “modernists” and “freemasons” within the Church [Prior to the end of the Cold War, Communism was also invoked] who have infiltrated the Church to teach error. Much literature of slanderous character has been published accusing Blessed John XXIII and Paul VI of being freemasons. Such literature is seldom repudiated by the officials of the SSPX.

When you consider that the SSPX has seminaries which teaches formally that one can disobey the Magisterium when it goes against their judgment on the grounds that if they disagree they are tainted with heresy, you can see the danger of such a system for the would-be faithful Catholic and see why the Magisterium must oppose them and not leave them be.

Radical Traditionalists are Not Misunderstood when they are Opposed

I have no doubt that a good percentage of the Catholics who prefer the Mass of the 1962 missal (See The Reform of the Reform? for a balanced view of the issue) are indeed faithful Catholics. They may not like the current form of the Mass and attend the legitimate Extraordinary Form when they can, but they accept the authority of the Magisterium and oppose rebellion.

Radical Traditionalists on the other hand are in disobedience to the Magisterium. There obedience only follows as long as the Magisterium does as they think right. When they say “Do not listen to Rome, listen to me” they are indeed a danger to the Church. It is wrong to think of the issue as “All they want is the Latin Mass. Why not go after the Liberals who support abortion?” As I pointed out in the beginning of this article, this is the fallacy of Affirming the Disjunct. The Church is indeed going after them with some strong actions indeed even if it is not always handled as we would personally like. However, the existence of the liberal dissent does not justify traditionalist dissent.


The dissenter, whether modernist or traditionalist, might be quite sincere in their disobedience. They might actually believe the Church is wrong. So here is the rub: If the Catholic Church believes it must teach as it does, and the dissenter disagrees with the Church then there are two options:

  1. They are wrong and the Church is right. In this case, they must reevaluate their position and cease to be in error.
  2. They are right and the Church is wrong. In this case, the dissenter must reevaluate their relationship with the Church they believe to be teaching error

If the obedience to the Pope as the successor of Peter is a de fide position and the Church teaches something the dissenter believes is wrong, then either the dissenter is in error or the Church is not protected from error… which would mean the Catholic Church is not the Church Christ promised to protect.

If the Radical Traditionalist decides to remain within the Church while refusing to accept the authoritative teaching of the Magisterium, it is really a case of Cafeteria Catholicism.

Friday, October 9, 2009

What the Vatican Congratulation to Obama Means

Sources: Catholic Culture : Latest Headlines : Vatican congratulates Obama on Nobel Peace Prize;

I figured I'd post this preemptively as I know some people will try to spin this as "Vatican loves Obama… US bishops out of touch" or else as an accusation that the Pope "betrayed" faithful Catholics.

This is not a carte blanche endorsement of the Obama administration.  This is an acknowledgement of one area where the Obama administration and the teaching of the Catholic Church coincides (peace and the opposition to war).

It makes sense in context when one reads the Pope's statement on war, from yesterday:


VATICAN CITY, 9 OCT 2009 (VIS) - Yesterday evening in the Auditorium on Rome's Via della Conciliazione Benedict XVI attended a concert entitled "Young people against war (1939-2009)", played by the "InterRegionales Jugendsinfonie Orchester" conducted by Jochem Hochstenbach. The programme included compositions by Gustav Mahler and Felix Mendelsshon-Bartholdy and texts by Johan Wolfgang Goethe, Heinrich Heine, Paul Celan and Berthold Brecht, as well as two poems by children imprisoned in the Theresienstadt concentration camp, read by Michelle Breedt and Klaus Maria Brandauer.

The concert, called to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the outbreak of World War II, was organised by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Commission for Religious Relations with Judaism, the German embassy to the Holy See and the European "KulturForum" of Mainau.

At the end of the concert the Holy Father made some brief remarks, expressing his joy at having been able participate in this initiative which, he said, "using the universal language of music, ... seeks to encourage young people to build the future of the world together, drawing inspiration from the values of peace and the brotherhood of man".

"This evening the tragedy of World War II returns to our memory, a terrible page of history steeped in violence and inhumanity which caused the death of millions of people, leaving the winners divided and Europe to be rebuilt. The war, instigated by National Socialism, affected many innocent peoples in Europe and on other continents, while with the drama of the Shoah it particularly affected the Jewish people, who were victims of a planned extermination. Yet calls for reason and peace were not lacking from many sides. Here in Rome, the heartfelt cry of my venerated predecessor Pius XII rang out. In his radio message of 24 August 1939 - on the very eve of the outbreak of war - he decisively proclaimed: 'nothing is lost with peace. Everything may be lost with war'. ... May the recollection of those sad events be a warning, especially to the new generations, never to yield to the temptation of war".

Pope Benedict then went on to mention the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, "an eloquent symbol of the end of the totalitarian Communist regimes of Eastern Europe", he said. "Europe and the entire world thirst for freedom and peace. Together we must build true civilisation, not founded on force but on the 'fruit of our victory over ourselves, over the powers of injustice, selfishness and hatred which can even go so far as to disfigure man'".

"The ecumenical movement", he concluded, "can help to build [this civilisation], working together with the Jews and with all believers. May God bless us and grant humankind the gift of peace".


War may at times be unavoidable when another party seeks aggression and we have no choice but to fight or suffer a great injustice, but war should never be sought out.  If a just and peaceful path can be found which avoids war, it is the way Christians are called to follow.

So for those out there seeking to claim "abortion isn't as important as other issues," for those who want to accuse the Pope of "betraying the Church," you speak falsely.  We have a great body of work of the Church, including that of the current Pope which stands firmly for the right to life.

It merely means, as I said above that the reason Obama was awarded the peace prize was an issue which is compatible with Church teaching. 

No more, no less.