Cardinal Merry del Val on S. Paul’s fraternal correction

The case of Ananias and Saphira, and S. Peter’s remarkable and most significant exercise of authority in connection with the sin of those two unfortunate souls is not mentioned by Dr. Oxenham, but he, of course, lays hold, with much eagerness, of the famous incident recorded in the Epistle to the Galatians, when S. Paul rebuked S. Peter. It was not likely that Dr. Oxenham would fail to try and make capital out of that notable event, in support of his contention, as so many Protestants have done before him, wresting the text “as they do also the other Scriptures to their own destruction.” [2 Pet. iii., 16.] Dr. Oxenham, as we have remarked before, [See Introductory chapter.] gives proof here that he has not understood the nature of the prerogative of infallibility which is claimed for S. Peter and for his successors, and very little, too, of the supremacy. Had he understood what we mean by infallibility, he could never have written the following sentence : “For whether S. Peter’s fault on this occasion were one ‘of faith’ or ‘of fact,’ whether his fault were ‘light and venial’ or not, the fact remains that he was in the wrong, that S. Paul withstood him before the Church, and openly rebuked him.” [Page 58.] Now, we have explained elsewhere what is meant by infallibility, and the reader will see at a glance that in order to prove anything against this prerogative of S. Peter, the point which Dr. Oxenham had to establish, was precisely that S. Peter’s fault on that occasion was one “of faith.” That is the kernel of the whole question, unless the true meaning of infallibility, as taught by Catholics, is misrepresented and made to signify something very different to that which is really claimed for S. Peter and for his successors. Dr. Oxenham has not proved the point that concerns us in this controversy, and he could not do so.

But what was the reason of S. Paul’s rebuke and the subject of discussion? The facts are clearly before us. S. Peter was blamed by S. Paul for what he did, and not for what he taught. He was rebuked because “before that some came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles, but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them who were of the circumcision.” [Gal. ii. 12.] It was therefore not his faith, but his manner of acting which S. Paul thought it necessary to censure under the circumstances. Precisely because Peter occupied such a pre-eminent position, his behaviour influenced others, and influenced them in a way which might hamper the conversion of the Gentiles, with whom S. Paul was so especially dealing. And it was on account of S. Peter’s pre-eminent position that S. Paul attached such great importance to S. Peter’s behaviour. S. Chrysostom tells Dr. Oxenham this : “If it had been another Peter,” he writes, “his change would not have had such power as to draw the rest of the Jews with him. For he did not exhort or advise, but merely dissembled and separated himself, and that dissembling and separation had power to draw after him all the disciples, on account of the dignity of his person.” [Hom. in loc.] The Jewish practices, that were not incompatible with the New Law, were not forbidden, and were permitted to the Jewish converts, who clung very naturally to many of their old traditionS. On the other hand, they constituted a yoke which was not to be imposed upon the Gentiles, as S. Peter, speaking of the doctrinal principle, had clearly declared at the Council of Jerusalem. Whether or not S. Peter was really at fault in acting in two different ways, according to his manner of appreciating the circumstances, the fact is that when he was with the Gentiles, “before that some came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles,” [Gal. ii. 12.] and when those Jews did come from James, he feared displeasing or scandalising them, and acted according to their custom, a custom which, presumably, was allowed by S. James. Has Dr. Oxenham forgotten that S. Paul, when he thought that the circumstances justified his doing so, acted precisely on the same principle? Let Dr. Oxenham consider the two texts which I have here placed side by side.

Galatians ii. 3. Acts xvi. 3.
But neither Titus, who was with me, being a gentile, was compelled to be circumcised. And taking him (Timothy) he circumcised him, because of the Jews who were in those places. For they all knew that his father was a gentile.

Here we have S. Paul, out of regard for the Jews, not merely eating according to the Jewish custom, but actually obliging his disciple Timothy to be circumcised, because he was the “son of a Jewish woman that believed, but his father was a Gentile.” The fact of Timothy’s father being a Gentile, and his mother a Jewish convert was not sufficient in S. Paul’s eyes to dispense with the rite of circumcision, because of “the Jews who were in those places.” Whereas, in other circumstances, he did not compel Titus to be circumcised. It was on the same principle that S. Peter acted in Antioch, eating with the Gentiles, in one instance, and separating himself in the other. S. Paul, however, did not consider that the circumstances at Antioch were such as to allow of Peter acting in this way. The two Apostles therefore took a different view of those circumstances. Hence the rebuke. But what has this to do with infallibility? And as to S. Peter’s supremacy, a little attention suffices to show that the whole tenor of S. Paul’s argument to the Galatians, who had calumniated him, constitutes a fresh indication of the supremacy which he acknowledged in S. Peter. For, the force of his reasoning lies precisely in this, that he had resisted even Peter, and blamed his conduct at Antioch, thus placing beyond doubt that he could not be accused of considering the “works of the Law” as necessary in the Law of Christ. S. Paul could not fail to convince his accusers when he showed them that he had not hesitated to protest on one occasion even against Peter’s condescension towards the Jews. And Peter, as they knew, held the most exalted position.

Does Dr. Oxenham imagine that even to-day a Bishop might not expostulate with a Pope, who, in his judgment, might be acting in a way which was liable to mislead those under his own charge, and then write to his critics that he had not hesitated to pass strictures upon the action of the successor of S. Peter? The hypothesis is quite conceivable, and in no way destroys or diminishes the supremacy of the Pope. And yet an individual Bishop does not occupy the exceptional position of S. Paul, a fellow-Apostle of the Prince of the Apostles. Even a humble nun, S. Catherine of Siena, expostulated with the reigning Pontiff, in her day, whilst fully acknowledging all his great prerogatives.

We may conclude this argument with another text from S. Chrysostom, who again steps in to refute Dr. Oxenham’s views about S. Peter. “Observe his (Paul’s) prudence,” writes that Father of the Greek Church, “he said not to him (Peter), thou dost wrong in living as a Jew, but he alleges his (Peter’s) former mode of living, that the admonition and the counsel may seem to come, not from Paul’s mind, but from the judgment of Peter already expressed. For, had he said, thou dost wrong to keep the Law, Peter’s disciples would have blamed him, but now, hearing that this admonition and correction came, not from Paul’s judgment, but that Peter himself so lived, and held in his mind this belief whether they would or not, they were obliged to be quiet.” [Hom. in loc.]

An excerpt from the 1904 book The Truth of Papal Claims: A Reply to The Validity of Papal Claims by F. Nutcombe Oxenham, D.D. by Rafael Merry del Val, D.D., Part III: Arguments against the Supremacy and Infallibility (pp. 70–75). Footnotes inlined, bold emphasis supplied.


Ecclesiastical writers who are not Fathers of the Church

Ecclesiastical writer, in the strict sense and as distinguished from “Father,” is the one who enjoys antiquity but lacks one or another of the three remaining properties required in a Father, that is, holiness, orthodoxy, or approbation of the Church. Especially by reason of the lack of full orthodoxy, the title of Father of the Church is to be refused to some very outstanding ecclesiastical writers, such as Tertullian, Origen, and Eusebius of Caesarea.32 However, in the theological argument from the Fathers or from Tradition, these and other ecclesiastical writers are included on account of the value of their remaining doctrine, in which they are at times far superior to those who are properly Fathers; such is Tertullian in apologetics, Origen in exegesis and generally in theology, and Eusebius of Caesarea in ecclesiastical history.

32 The following are not strictly Fathers: some among the so-called Apologists of the second century, that is, Aristides, Athenagoras, and Tatian (this one on account of his heretical Encratism); likewise Tertullian (on account of his montanist heresy), Origen (who was condemned several times for some unorthodox opinions, such as the preexistence of souls and the universal eschatological rearrangement of the fate of men), Arnobius, Lactantius, Eusebius of Caesarea (who was not sufficiently exempt from Arianism), Rufinus of Aquilea (who indirectly favored Origenism), Theodoret of Cyrus and Theodore of Mopsuesta (for their connection with Nestorianism).

~ Emmanuel Doronzo O.M.I., The Science of Sacred Theology for Teachers, Book Three: The Channels of Revelation, Chapter 2: “Tradition, The Living Deposit of Revelation”, Note 2: “On the Fathers of the Church as a Theological Place”

Dom Guéranger on the Tau of the Te igitur

The initial letter of the first Prayer of the Canon is T, which is equivalent to the Hebrew Tau, and which, by its very shape, represents a Cross.  No other sign could better be placed as a heading to this Great Prayer, in the course of which the Sacrifice of Calvary is renewed.  Thus it was, that when those magnificent Sacramentaries were first of all written, ornamented with vignettes and rich designs of every kind, this Tau was lavishly treated in decoration, and at length came the happy idea of painting a figure of Christ on this Cross, supplied by the Text itself.  By degrees the design got enlarged, until it ended in becoming a representation of the entire scene of the Crucifixion; still, large as it was, it continued to be merely an adjunct to the initial letter only of the Prayer Te igitur.  But at length, a subject of so great importance, was deemed worthy of being treated quite independently of this, and the result was a separate picture.  So that now, there is no complete Missal without an engraving of Christ on the Cross, placed on the leaf facing that on which the Canon begins.  And this can be traced to the simple fact of this little vignette which ornamented the Ancient Sacramentaries.

As to the importance of the Tau itself, we hear mention of it even in the Old Testament; for Ezechiel says, speaking of the elect, that the blood of the Victim being taken, all those whom God had reserved to Himself should be marked therewith on the forehead with the sign of the Tau, and that the Lord had promised to spare all those thus marked (Ezechiel, ix. 46.).  This is explained by the great fact that we are all saved by the Cross of Jesus Christ, which was made in the form of the Tau.  In confirmation also the Bishop marks the Tau with Holy Oil, on the forehead of those whom he confirms.  Our Lord’s Cross was in the shape of a Tau, thus: T.  Above it a piece of wood was placed as a support to the Title affixed, and thus is completed the shape of the cross such as we now have it; for we learn, in St. John, that the cause of Our Lord’s death was placed above the cross: Scripsit autem et titulum Pilatus, et posuit super crucem (S. John, xix. 19).

Notice of what high importance is this one letter which commences the Great Prayer of the Canon.

~ Dom Prosper Guéranger O.S.B., “Explanation of the Prayers and Ceremonies of Holy Mass”, Canon of the Mass (translated by Rev. Dom. Laurence Shepherd)

Doctor Communis on compulsory consent

Objection 1: It would seem that no consent can be compulsory. For, as stated above (Sentences II, D. 25, I-II, Q. 6, A. 4) the free-will cannot be compelled. Now consent is an act of the free-will. Therefore, it cannot be compelled.

Obj. 2: Further, ‘violent’ is the same as ‘compulsory.’ Now, according to the Philosopher (Ethics 3.1), a violent action is one the principle of which is without, the patient concurring not at all. But the principle of consent is always within. Therefore, no consent can be compulsory.

Obj. 3: Further, every sin is perfected by consent. But that which perfects a sin cannot be compulsory, for, according to Augustine (On Free Choice of the Will 3.18), no one sins in what he cannot avoid. Since, then, violence is defined by jurists (Digesta Iustiniani) as the force of a stronger being that cannot be repulsed, it would seem that consent cannot be compulsory or violent.

Obj. 4: Furthermore, domination is opposed to freedom. But compulsion belongs to domination, as is clear in a certain definition from Cicero: for he says that force is the impetus of the dominant thing retaining a thing within foreign boundaries. Therefore, force does not happen to a free will; and thus neither does it happen in consent, which is its act.

On the contrary, That which cannot be, cannot be an impediment. But compulsory consent is an impediment to matrimony, as stated in the text (Sentences IV, D. 29). Therefore, consent can be compelled.

Further, In marriage there is a contract. Now the will can be compelled in the matter of contracts; for which reason the law adjudges that restitution should be made of the whole, for it does not ratify that which was done under compulsion or fear (Sentences IV, D. 29). Therefore, in marriage also it is possible for the consent to be compulsory.

I answer that, Compulsion or violence is twofold. One is the cause of absolute necessity, and violence of this kind the Philosopher calls violent simply (Ethics 3.1), as when by bodily strength one forces a person to move. The other causes conditional necessity, and the Philosopher calls this a mixed violence, as when a person throws his merchandise overboard in order to save himself. In the latter kind of violence, although the thing done is not voluntary in itself, yet taking into consideration the circumstances of place and time it is voluntary. And since actions are about particulars, it follows that it is voluntary simply, and involuntary in a certain respect (Cf. I-II, Q. 6, A. 6). Wherefore this latter violence or compulsion is consistent with consent, but not the former. And since this compulsion results from one’s fear of a threatening danger, it follows that this violence coincides with fear which, in a manner, compels the will, whereas the former violence has to do with bodily actions.

Moreover, since the law considers not merely internal actions, but rather external actions, consequently it takes violence to mean absolute compulsion, for which reason it draws a distinction between violence and fear. Here, however, it is a question of internal consent, which cannot be influenced by compulsion or violence as distinct from fear. Therefore, as to the question at issue, compulsion and fear are the same, for, according to lawyers, fear is the agitation of the mind occasioned by danger imminent or future (Ethics 3.1).

This suffices for the replies to the objections: for the first set of arguments consider the first kind of compulsion, and the second set of arguments consider the second.

~ Saint Thomas Aquinas O.P., Summa Theologiae, Supplement, Question 47, Article 1 (translated by Father Laurence Shapcote)

M. de Meaux on purely arbitrary power

Under a just God, there is no power which by its nature is liberated from all law – natural, divine, or human.

At least there is no power on earth which is not subject to divine justice.

All judges, and even the most sovereign, whom God for that reason calls gods, are examined and corrected by a greater judge. “God is seated in the midst of gods, and there he judges the gods,” (Ps. 81:1) as has just been said.

Thus all judgments are subject to revision by a more august tribunal. God also says for this reason: “When I shall take a time, I will judge justices.” (Ps. 84:3) The judgments rendered by human judges will pass in review before my eyes.

Thus the most sovereign and the most absolute judgments are, like others with respect to God, subject to correction: with this difference only, that it is done in a hidden way.

The judges of the earth pay little attention to this review of their judgments, because it produces no visible effects and is reserved for another life: but it is all the more terrible for that, since it is inevitable. When the time for these divine judgments is at hand, “there will be no help, neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the desert hills” (those remote places from which hidden help often comes) “for God is the judge,” (Ps. 84:7-8) against whom there is no recourse.

“He has in his hand the cup of his vengeance, full of a strong and fiery wine”: (Ps. 84:9) full of a justice that will not be tempered by any sweetening mixture. On the contrary, “it will be mixed withe bitternes”: with harmful and poisoning liquors. This is a second reason to fear the terrible examination of human judgments; it will be done in an age in which justice will be perfectly pure, and will be carried out in its full and inexorable rigor. “This cup is in the hand of the Lord and he hath poured it out from this to that,” and he presents it to be drunk. He presents it to hardened and incorrigible sinners, and above all to unjust judges: “it will have to be swallowed whole, to the very dregs.” For them there will be no more pity: such that this vengeance will be eternal.

~ Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, “Politics Drawn from the Very Words of Holy Scripture”, Eighth Book, First Article, 4th Proposition (translated and edited by Patrick Riley)

On the pre-juridical aspects of Summorum pontificum

Fr. Hunwicke and Mr. Smith appear to echo the same message in their respective articles on Summorum pontificum, whose decennial we were blessed to celebrate a week ago. Both arrive at the conclusion that the most significant contribution of the motu proprio was not the unfolding of the legal consequences of the fact that the Roman Missal of 1962 had never been abrogated. Nay, it was the pronouncement that it could not have been abrogated!

To this end, they both quote the statement made by Benedict XVI in the accompanying letter to the bishops:

What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.

As they then argue in their own ways, this should be understood as a formulation of a pre-juridical principle which, even though it motivated and guided the introduction of the new legislation, does, of itself, follow from the very constitution of the Church. It is a truth immutable by any human authority, a truth which does in fact limit the authority of the Supreme Pontiff.

We tend to agree with this assessment, although it does not come without its own dose of questions and difficulties.

Firstly, it is our impression that the nature and scope of the “What” in Pope Benedict’s statement has not been made sufficiently clear. The provisions of Summorum pontificum restrict it to the last pre-Vatican II Missal, but would not a consistent application of the pre-juridical principles demand that, for example, a pre-1955 Missal be also permitted?

We can foresee two kinds of objections raised against the claim:

1. That the reforms of Pius XII and John XXIII were not so severe that they ought to be considered to constitute divergent formæ of the Roman Rite, in Pope Benedict’s sense of the term. In other words, unlike the rift caused by Paul VI’s Missale Romanum, the Pian and Johannine alterations managed to preserve that which was “sacred and great” about the pre-1955 liturgy, and hence the principle of Benedict’s cannot be invoked.

To which objection we must reply that it seems to be begging the question, since determining the criteria to evaluate which reforms are “severe enough” (so that their preceding usage should be made available as an optional forma) is precisely the issue at stake. Moreover, a similar “continuity” argument, emphasising the similarities between the liturgical usages, may have as well been employed to prove that everything “sacred and great” present in the traditional usages of the Roman Rite has been fully preserved with the Mass of Paul VI, until, of course, it was refuted by Benedict XVI himself.

2. That the pragmatic needs (i.e., majority of the requests of the faithful, the usage preferred by the FSSPX, &c.) required only the 1962 Missal to be permitted.

To which one could reply that if the pre-juridical principles of Summorum do really have a theological basis, and thus sacred liturgical traditions really cannot be abrogated, restricting them by merely pragmatic considerations should not be acceptable.

The actual theological reasons why the underlying theological principles should apply only to the 1962 Missal are therefore not quite clear from our perspective.

Secondly, it is rather strange how much care the Holy Father takes, especially in the accompanying letter, to stress that the 1962 Missal was never abrogated when we consider that the historical fact whether it was or not should not really matter. If it was not abrogated, then Summorum pontificum would be primarily a matter of rooting out misconceptions (but also of restoring justice inasmuch as some were denied their legitimate rights due to the misconceptions). On the other hand, if it was abrogated, it must have been abrogated unlawfully, as the pre-juridical principle suggests, and Summorum pontificum would then be primarily a matter of revoking the unlawful order (restoring justice as such).

In fact, this latter case seems to correlate with what Pope Benedict did with respect to the Divine Office. As Mr. Smith pointed out, the 1970 liturgia horarum was promulgated in much stronger terms than the new Missal, to wit:

We hereby decree that this new book for the Liturgy of the Hours may be put into use as soon as it is published. Meanwhile, the conferences of bishops are to see to the preparation of editions of this liturgical work in the vernacular and, after approval, that is, confirmation, of these editions by the Apostolic See, are to fix the date when the vernacular editions may or must be used, either in whole or in part. Beginning on the effective date for use of these versions in vernacular celebrations, only the revised form of the Liturgy of the Hours is to be followed, even by those who continue to use Latin. For those however who, because of advanced age or for special reasons, experience serious difficulties in observing this new Order, it is lawful to continue to use the former Roman Breviary, in whole or in part, with the consent of their Ordinary, but only when reciting the Office alone. [emphasis supplied]

There is no equivalent formulation in Missale Romanum, the absence of which is probably taken by Benedict to show that the old Missal was not juridically abrogated. Conversely, the old form of the Divine Office, we believe, can be said to have been abrogated. And yet, Benedict did not refrain from allowing its use by Summorum Art. 9, §3:

Ordained clerics may also use the Roman Breviary promulgated in 1962 by Blessed John XXIII.

With respect to the liturgy of opus Dei, there is therefore no “basic legal fact” to be observerd in the sense that the pre-1970 form was never abrogated. But the point is, it need not be observed – once the theological nature of the pre-juridical principle, that is the binding auctoritas of liturgical traditions, is admitted.

Let us give thanks to God for our Holy Father Benedict’s courageous decision. Let us pray that we never fail to be like the rich man, who knows how to bring things both new and old out of his treasure-house. And let us not forget that, even though the glorious traditional liturgies may not be lawfuly forbidden, they may still become irrelevant. It is our duty to prevent such an outcome.

Nuremberg on the NSDAP’s subversion of Christianity

As the first volume of the Nuremberg Trial Proceedings reminds us, the defendants standing before the International Military Tribunal were also accused of attacking Christianity and Christian churches, and of subverting their influence over the German people.

From the text of the Indictment, Count One: The Common Plan or Conspiracy, IV. Particulars of the Nature and Development of the Common Plan or Conspiracy, (D) The Acquiring of Totalitarian Control of Germany: Political, 3. Consolidation of control, para. (c) (2):

The Nazi conspirators, by promoting beliefs and practices incompatible with Christian teaching, sought to subvert the influence of the churches over the people and in particular over the youth of Germany. They avowed their aim to eliminate the Christian churches in Germany and sought to substitute therefor Nazi institutions and Nazi beliefs, and pursued a program of persecution of priests, clergy, and members of monastic orders whom they deemed opposed to their purposes, and confiscated church property. [emphasis added]

Consequently, as part of the Judgment, the Tribunal restated these accussations and connected them with some particular events, “[f]or the purpose of showing the background of the aggressive war and war crimes charged in the Indictment”.

From the text of the Judgment, The Nazi Regime in Germany, The Consolidation of Power (which section is given under the name of Mr. Justice Birkett):

In their effort to combat the influence of the Christian churches, whose doctrines were fundamentally at variance with National Socialist philosophy and practice, the Nazi Government proceeded more slowly. The extreme step of banning the practice of the Christian religion was not taken, but year by year efforts were made to limit the influence of Christianity on the German people, since, in the words used by the Defendant Bormann to the Defendant Rosenberg in an official letter, “the Christian religion and National Socialist doctrines are not compatible.” In the month of June 1941 the Defendant Bormann issued a secret decree on the relation of Christianity and National Socialism. The decree stated that:

“For the first time in German history the Führer consciously and completely has the leadership in his own hand. With the Party, its components and attached units, the Führer has created for himself and thereby the German Reich Leadership, an instrument which makes him independent of the Treaty. . . . More and more the people must be separated from the churches and their organs, the pastor. . . . Never again must an influence on leadership of the people be yielded to the churches. This influence must be broken completely and finally. Only the Reich Government and by its direction the Party, its components and attached units, have a right to leadership of the people.” [all emphasis added]

Eight out of the twenty-two defendants were found guilty on Count One, which included the above-mentioned charges: Hermann Göring, Rudolf Heß, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Wilhelm Keitel, Alfred Rosenberg, Erich Raeder, Alfred Jodl, Baron Konstantin von Neurath.