Monday, August 31, 2015
Saints weren't born saints, and anyone who has become a saint has done so with lots of help. There is a regrettable tendency in our political culture and its institutions to limit the help as a normative matter to what goes on in private, if at all.
In the Catholic tradition, however, the entire socio-political order, including the state, was -- and should be -- understood to have its service to perform in helping to bring people to the natural and the supernatural common goods. Getting to heaven should not be despite humanity's best efforts at building impeding social barricades -- quite the opposite! The state and the Church should cooperate with each other, without confusing one with the other, for the sake of the salvation of souls.
One of the principal arguments for withdrawing the socio-political structure from a role in helping people to realize the supernatural common good is the assertion, popularized by Fr. Murray, that the state is a "know nothing" when it comes to the supernatural. The state need not, however, be a know-nothing.
In the paper linked here, "An Essay in Christian Constitutionalism: Building in the Divine Style, for the Common Good(s)," I answer the question "What would a Christian constitution, in a predominantly nation, look like?" The paper was prepared for a conference at Rutgers University School of Law, at which Islamic and Jewish answers to the same question, mutatis mutandis, were discussed.
My paper argues that true Christian constitutionalism, that is, Catholic constitutionalism, is a project of building in the divine style, to which there is no real alternative over the long arc of history.
Sunday, May 17, 2015
A blog dedicated to Catholic legal theory is surely an apt forum in which to explore the causes and consequences of lawlessness in the Catholic Church. Today's lesson comes to us from the Diocese of St. Petersburg, where His Excellency Robert Lynch has served as Ordinary since 1996. First, a little background.
Yesterday, Bishop Lynch took to his blog (here), "For His Friends," to celebrate his ordination yesterday of five new priests for the Diocese, the largest class of ordinands there since 1991. I join Bishop Lynch in giving thanks for these new priests of Jesus Christ, all of whom began their studies for the priesthood during the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. Here, in part, is what Bishop Lynch had to say to his new priests yesterday:
We don’t teach what we believe as well as we should. We rely perhaps too heavily on old methods of communication and put too much reliance on traditional vestige, hierarchy of orders and judgment. We often hide in the clothes of the past as well as some of the ideas of the past, disregarding the fact that to today’s younger generation not only are these things devoid of meaning and anachronistic but also some can suggest tendencies that may not otherwise be present.
Talk about weird! What "tendencies that may not otherwise be present" is the Bishop talking about at an ordination? Moving on (because there is nothing to see here), to whom does the Bishop refer as "hid[ing] in clothes of the past?" Is the simple choice to wear the traditional vestments of the Roman Rite to "hide?" And don't forget that "some . . . ideas of the past" are also apparently a refuge for those wishing to "hide!"
Was the Archbishop of Miami, His Excellency Thomas Wenski, "hid[ing]" when he celebrated a Pontifical Solemn High Mass according to the Usus Antiquior (here)? Those who have had the privilege of spending time with Arbishop Wenski, who "rides a Harley" (here), can attest that he is no "hid[er]." His public stances on disputed matters of policy have been courageous, and he frequently celebrates Mass in Haitian Creole.
If anyone had any doubt about Bishop Lynch's agenda at the ordination and otherwise, his letter in this link gives it all away. His Excellency has a long history of despising the Traditional Latin Mass (see here), and his letter of April 20, included in full in the link above, virtually breathes contempt for the faithful devoted to the Traditional Mass.
But I said this post was to be about lawlessness, and indeed it is. Bishop Lynch's endless tactics and strategies for making the traditional Latin Mass all but unavailable in his Diocese are in clear violation of the juridical norms set out by Pope Benedict in Summorum Pontificum (here). Pope Benedict made clear that he knew that many Bishops were impeding the celebration of the Traditional Mass under the indult permission allowed since 1984 in Quattuor abhinc annos by Saint Pope John Paul II, and for that very reason Summorum removed Bishops from the loop, so to speak. The permission of the local Bishop is not required for the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass in public (or in private). Bishop Lynch's specious logic for suppressing the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass where it is now celebrated and for consolidating its celebration in the Vietnamese Mission parish has the support of no Roman legal norms currently in force. We are witnessing unvarnished antinomianism. I do hope that the good people of the Diocese of St. Petersburg will receive due relief and remedy from the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, but I am not hopeful.
Why am I not hopeful? Consider these words that Bishop Lynch also spoke to the ordinands he cautioned not to "hide:"
Style your ministry after Pope Francis. Ever the teacher, he is a master of the use of the gesture which captures the hearts of the world. Why, because he acts like most of us think Christ would act. He speaks with authority only when he has to but with wisdom and understanding and openness. He doesn’t hide behind rich vestments and vestiges of power and privilege but leads by example using words only when absolutely necessary. When Raul Castro can suggest that this Pope is truly an ambassador for God, we least of all, should never take him for granted.
Did every Pope until Francis "hide?" And is it true that Pope Francis "use[s] words only when absolutely necessary?" But who am I to judge?
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez, the theologian widely acknowledged to have been the lead ghostwriter of Pope Francis's much-praised apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, recently gave an interview that is remarkable for the crudity of its categories, the tendentiousness of its contentions, and, above all, what it portends for the silent lambs. The Archbishop's way of talking about the Church is so far from what one would expect from a serious theologian and vir Ecclesiae, it's difficult, for me at least, not to despair at the significance of this man's being one of the advisors on whom the Holy Father is reputed to rely the most.
The interview is here, and those who care about how we should love the Bride of Christ should be scandalized by the mentality it bespeaks and the future it all but promises. Keep in mind that its all-but-named target at one point is the recent and utterly unprecedented suggestion (here) by Cardinal Muller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, that a new role for the CDF would be to provide a "theological framework" for this pontificate. As readers will recall, Cardinal Muller was one of Pope Benedict's last senior appointments in the Roman Curia.
The point Archbishop Fernandez is keenest to drive home is that there will be "no turning back:"
The pope goes slow because he wants to be sure that the changes have a deep impact. The slow pace is necessary to ensure the effectiveness of the changes. He knows there are those hoping that the next pope will  turn everything back around. If you go slowly it's more difficult to turn things back. . . .
[Interviewer] :When Francis says he will have a short pontificate doesn't this help his adversaries?
The pope must have his reasons, because he knows very well what he's doing. [SIC] He must have an objective that we don't understand yet. You have to realize that he is aiming at reform that is irreversible. If one day he should intuit [sic?] that he's running out of time and doesn't have enough time to do what the Spirit is asking him, you can be sure he will speed up.
So, to recap: The Pope will go slowly to make irreversible changes until he "intuits" that he needs to hurry up if he's to succeed in making irreversible changes.
Now, as the larger context of the interview makes unmistakable, Pope Francis of course doesn't commit the mistake of thinking that all in the Church is changeable. Acknowledged as unchangeable, in fact, are the existence of the Petrine office and of the College of Bishops. And so:
The Roman Curia is not an essential structure. The pope could even go and live away from Rome, have a disastery in Rome and another one in Bogota, and perhaps link-up by teleconference with liturgical experts that live live in Germany. Gathered around the pope, in a theological sense, is the College of Bishops in order to serve the people."
This concatenation of wild possibilities gives a new image to ultramontanism. But ultramontanist it is, despite the cultured veneers provided by a newly minted theology of papal popularity. According to Archbishop Fernandez over and over in the interview, the decisive fact is that "the people are with him" "and not with his few adversaries." "[M]ost of the People of God love Francis."
And why shouldn't they? Here comes perhaps the most breathtaking part of a tightly integrated interview that is indeed programmatic in the extreme. It comes in the explanation of why there is "no turning back:" "If and when Francis is no longer pope, his legacy will remain strong." Why, other than nostalgia?
[T]he pope is convinced that the things he's written or said cannot be condemned as error. Therefore, in the future anyone can repeat those things without fear of being sanctioned. And then the majority of the People of God with their special sense will not easily accept turning back on certain things. [emphasis in the preceding par. added]
[Interviewer:] Don't you see the risk of 'two Churches'?
No. There's a schism when a group of important people share the same sensibilities that reflect those of a vast section of society. Luther and Protestantism came about this way. But now the overwhelming majority of the people are with Francis and they love him. His opponents are weaker than what you think. Not pleasing everyone does not mean provoking a schism.
[Interviewer:] Isn't this idea of the pope having a direct rapport with the people something risky, while the Church's ecclesiastical class feels marginalized?
But the Church is the People of God guided by their pastors. Cardinals could disappear, in the sense that they are not essential. The pope and the bishops are essential. Then again, it is impossible that everything a pope does and says will please everyone. Did everyone like Benedict XVI? Unity does not depend on unanimity.
[Interviewer:] Do you think a conclave would re-elect Francis today?
I don't know, possibly not. But it happened . . . .
Yes, it happened. But the creeping infallibility asserted with arresting breadth and clarity in the quoted language should cause the faithful -- whether they consider themselves liberals, conservatives, or, better, just plain Catholic -- to sit up and pay attention and, I dare say, to object.
For example, Pope Francis has never purported to speak ex cathedra, and so how can it be that in his own view, as reported by a most-trusted advisor, nothing he has "said" -- and he says a lot -- can possibly be in error, such that what he has "said" necessarily can be "repeated" ad libitum by the "People of God."
There are changeable elements in the Church visible, and those can indeed be changed. There are unchangeable elements in the Church visible, and those cannot be changed. What, then, is the point of the "they love Francis" populism in service of a creeping infallibilism? Well, perhaps a confusing of the changeable and the unchangeable? What does it mean to "hurry up," as the Archbishop said Francis would, to make "irreversible" changes in what is, ex hypothesi, changeable? The truly unchangeable cannot be changed, even by a Pope in hurry. The authentic theology of the sensus fidelium (cf. Archbishop Fernandez's "special sense," above) is not about the success of demagoguery and Machiavellian politics in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, not about the large numbers who "love [Francis]" and how comparatively few and "weaker" are Francis's "adversaries." Nonetheless, Archbishop Fernandez is more or less content to contend as follows: "This pope first filled St. Peter's Square with crowds and then began changing the Church."
As the Archbishop insisted, Pope Francis "knows very well what he's doing."
Saturday, May 9, 2015
I recalled the other day (here) Jacques Maritain's observation that "it was five hundred years ago that we began to die." Maritain made that observation in 1927 (in Primaute Du Spirituel, which was published in English in 1930 under the title The Things That Are Not Caesar's), so by now it's been nearly six hundred years since the patient began to die. Maritain promptly changed his tune from the one he sang in 1927, of course, and, without benefit of Tradition, defended throughout the rest of his long life a state no longer formed and united on the basis of "a common profession of faith" but, instead, on the basis of a "minimal unity" (Integral Humanism 262, 261 (1934-35; Eng. 1996)). Maritain supposed that such a minimal principle of unity would be more than enough to protect the human person's "extraterritorial " rights and privileges, that is, those that correspond to the rights of God. In 1966, however, reading the "signs of the times" (so to speak), Maritain cautioned that "the great reversal" of which he had been the advocate depended upon this: that "it is no longer the human which takes charge of defending the divine, but the divine which offers itself to defend the human (if the latter does not refuse the aid offered." (The Peasant of the Garonne 4 (1966; Eng. 1968)). Is it the divine defending the human that Pope Francis has in mind when he would have us genuflect before man (see here), while he himself does not genuflect or kneel before the Blessed Sacrament (at least not in public)? Can humans who do not take charge of defending the divine right anticipate that the divine will succeed in offering aid to humans, whose existential freedom of choice remains intact, after all? Even in 1934-35 Maritain recognized that "[t]he Christian knows that the State has duties to God and that it should collaborate with the Church." (Integral Humanism, 265). Does "the Christian" any longer "know" as much? If not, what will become of those "extraterritorial" rights and privileges? Well, just look around at how "the great reversal" is working out its own internal logic one issue (or several) at a time, more and more often in courts of law -- this "territory" at the expense of higher "territory."
Thursday, May 7, 2015
If I were a legislator (which would never happen, because I would never be elected to anything -- though I was in fact elected class president many times back in the day), I would never vote in favor of killing people as punishment. But the Catholic prelates who like to oppose the death penalty have not made the case, at least not that I've seen, that death is *never* proportionate punishment. The argument about "self-defense" is a separate matter, even if the Catechism confuses the two. It's easy to grandstand against capital punishment, but it's difficult, at best, to show that Catholic moral theology condemns capital punishment per se.
Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Whenever I have occasion to size up the worthiness of particular examples of professional advocacy for "healing" in a "polarized" Church (e.g., here), I have to ask what the advocates do and what they advocate (if only implicitly) with respect to the Traditional Latin Mass. Many lovers of "unity" love little more than to vilify Catholics who are devoted to the Mass as it was celebrated until its reform by committee in the 1960s. The tolerance necessary for unity often runs out when it comes to how Catholics prayed until they were forced to stop praying that way, as Cardinal Ratzinger saw:
For fostering a true consciousness in liturgical matters, it is also important that the proscription against the form of liturgy in valid use up to 1970 should be lifted. Anyone who nowadays advocates the continuing existence of this liturgy or takes part in it is treated like a leper; all tolerance ends here. There has never been anything like this in history; in doing this we are despising and proscribing the Church's whole past. How can one trust her at present if things are that way? [Ratzinger, Spirit of the Liturgy (2000)].
Opponents of polarization in the Church should ask themselves if they are living in the spirit of openness required by Pope Benedict XVI almost eight years ago in the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. The current Roman Pontiff's derision of those devoted to the traditional liturgy is too well-documented to need demonstration here, and so the following paragraph from Pope Benedict's remarkable letter accompanying Summorum is more timely than ever for those of us who would seek unity in the Church:
I now come to the positive reason which motivated my decision to issue this Motu Proprio updating that of 1988. It is a matter of coming to an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church. Looking back over the past, to the divisions which in the course of the centuries have rent the Body of Christ, one continually has the impression that, at critical moments when divisions were coming about, not enough was done by the Church’s leaders to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity. One has the impression that omissions on the part of the Church have had their share of blame for the fact that these divisions were able to harden. This glance at the past imposes an obligation on us today: to make every effort to enable for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew. I think of a sentence in the Second Letter to the Corinthians, where Paul writes: “Our mouth is open to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return … widen your hearts also!” (2 Cor 6:11-13). Paul was certainly speaking in another context, but his exhortation can and must touch us too, precisely on this subject. Let us generously open our hearts and make room for everything that the faith itself allows.
Sunday, May 3, 2015
I've been exploring the theme that what Rome does under the title of the "God of surprises" isn't all that surprising. Keeping in mind Pope Francis's canonization of Pope John XXIII, his canonization of Pope John Paul II, his beatification of Pope Paul VI, and his recent announcement of a Jubilee Year (complete with Indulgences and everything), consider the following journal entry written by Yves Congar OP on 18 November 1965:
[Pope Paul VI] gave a speech in which . . . [he] spoke, in a fairly developed fashion, about what will come after the Council. He also announced a Jubliee Year, and the opening of the beatification process for Pius XII and John XXIII. This announcement saddened me. Why this glorification of popes by their successors? Are we never, then, to get out of the old Roman habits? At the moment when aggiornamento is announced, things are done that do not accord with it.
Yves Congar, My Journal of the Council 845 (Eng. trans. 2012). Congar, who was impressive in many respects, gave himself no little credit for much of what he thought was the good stuff that happened at Vatican II. One wonders, therefore, what Fr. Congar would make of Pope Francis's fulfilling to the letter the pattern he criticized, and by which he was "saddened," already in 1965? Is it a "surprise" that Pope Francis has given what are, at best, elliptical accounts of why the beatification cause of Venerable Pius XII remains stalled?
Continuing in the vein of the crisis in the Church, the larger context includes the breathtaking (but not entirely surprising) decline in Christianity's place in the world in the decades immediately ahead. The global projections, made by the Pew Research Center, are here For example, by 2050 Christians will lose their majority in the population in the following countries (among several others): Republic of Macedonia, Australia, United Kingdom, France, New Zealand, and the Netherlands. If current trends continue, Muslims will outnumber Christians after 2070. In the United States, the Christian population will decline from 78.3% in 2010 to 66.4% in 2050.
All of these and the many other developments reported by Pew will be greeted by many as good news indeed, but only Christians indifferent to the unique saving power of Christ cannot but be troubled by the diminishing presence and action of Christians in a world whose daily headlines already reveal a scandalous lack of Christian ways of doing and of forbearing.
My principal thesis at the recent Scarpa Conference was that the Church is in crisis (not in "springtime") and that worthwhile Catholic legal theory must start from the facts of crisis (not of the false facts cultured by the spurious optimism that says, for example, that closing parishes by the dozen is the way to ensure a "lively" Catholic future), if it is to be relevant (as it surely should seek to be):
My contention, then, is that the Church is in crisis and that the various denials (which I have just cataloged and refuted) are variously untenable. My further contention is that Catholic legal theory worthy of the task must start from, or at least work toward, agreement that the Church is in crisis, and not more or less idly await the adventitious intervention of the paradoxically predictable “God of surprises.” My still further and more specific contention, as I have already indicated, is that it’s the Roman regime of novelty since 1965, summed up under the crisis-occluding monicker “God of surprises,” that is the biggest impediment to genuinely Catholic theorizing about law. An institutionalized expectation of an orchestrated series of surprises is a counter-incentive to work with the inheritance the Church bequeathed to us until the Second Vatican Council became, alas, the alpha-point of ecclesiastical history.
Perhaps the biggest novelty, at least relevant to Catholic legal theory, is that false summum bonum called “dialogue.” Worship of “dialogue” is so far-flung today, more so than Mass-attendance, that we need to be reminded to recognize that (as Romano Amerio explains), “the word dialogue represents the biggest change in the mentality of the Church after the council, only comparable in importance with the change wrought by the word liberty in the last century. The word was completely unknown and unused in the Church’s teaching before the council. It not does occur once in any previous council, or in papal encyclicals, or in sermons or in pastoral practice. In the Vatican II documents it occurs 28 times.” (Amerio, Iota Unum, at 347). Which, I might add, is twenty-eight times the number of times the Social Kingship of Christ is mentioned in the documents of the same Council. And what did Christ command his disciples to do? To go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19), that is, to evangelize, and “[i]n Scripture, evangelization proceeds by teaching not by dialogue. Christ’s last command to his disciples was matheteuein and disaskein, which literally means make disciples of all nations.” (Id. at 351) Not only does the concept of dialogue lack scriptural foundation, it rests upon the mistaken assumption that all are capable of dialogue. As Socrates taught, on matters of gymnastics, one should consult an expert on gymnastics, etc. (Id. at 349) The Church is in sole possession of the authority to teach as Christ did at Matthew 7:29: “with authority.” In 1971 in presenting the Holy See’s “Instruction on Dialogue” to the press, Cardinal Konig explained that “dialogue puts the partners on an equal footing.” (Id. at 355 n.17) Q.E.D. So much for “with authority.
As Rick Garnett was careful to note here and here, there is indeed a place for dialogue, indeed a moral exigence for it. My stated objection to "dialogue" was that it has eclipsed, in much of we hear from ministers of the Church and from many others who have followed their lead, the ultimate goal of the Christ's Mystical Body: the salvation of souls, which is not the outcome of dialogue but of discipleship, and discipleship is the fruit of successful evangelization. Dialogue is sometimes, indeed often, a necessary and desirable means, but it's not the end.
My focus at the conference was on the "auto-demolition" -- the self-destruction -- of the Church, and I do indeed believe that that phenomenon is the one most to be feared. But I certainly agree with John Breen (here) and others that the troubles in the Church are also traceable to "cultural" influences. But that only leads me to observe that (as the young Jacques Maritain once wrote), "it was five hundred years ago that we began to die." The Church's long-diminishing influence on the culture has had its disastrous effect, including in Vatican II's insistence that the Church must conform herself to the culture in various ways. The Church that should transform the culture is being transformed by the culture (in part) because of her very own failure to transform that culture into one that seeks, rather than seeks to destroy, the Church. The result is that culture is every day having its way with the one thing that could tell it (the culture) to straighten up and fly right. (Cf. Leo XIII, Letter Testem Benevolentiae to the Archbishop of Baltimore, 1899). If we hadn't begun to die five-hundred years ago, the culture would more help than hinder the evangelizing work of the Church today.
We are in what Bernard Longeran referred to as the long cycle of decline. Which is why I also said at the conference that today the world needs the Church in her fullness "more than ever" (though I recognize that that need was, in some deeper sense, always already infinite).
I'll close for now with some bracing words from Pope Paul VI, who had his good days and his bad days:
Enough of internal dissent within the Church! Enough of a disintegrating interpretation of pluralism! Enough of Catholics attacking each other at the price of their own necessary unity! Enough of disobedience described as freedom!
So spoke, in 1975, the Pope who had solemnly closed the Second Vatican Council just a decade earlier, anticipating that "new springtime" that would turn out to be a winter the likes of which the Church in her long history has hardly ever seen. I have never tried to count the number of times Paul VI tried to console himself late in life by publicly stating "We have kept the Faith," but I'm sure someone somewhere has done that little-consoling research.
Thursday, April 30, 2015
As so many generous contributors to MOJ have already recorded here, the Ninth Annual Scarpa Conference, held at Villanova Law last week, offered a welcome opportunity to ponder, probe, and pray about (and for) that for the sake of which those engaged in "Catholic legal theory" are laboring. I remain overwhelmed by the gifts that true generosity of intellect and spirit delivered one week ago.
MOJ has served for more than a decade now as a crucible for refining both questions and answers about what Catholics who care about the common good, and therefore about law, should be doing. My own sense, reached with sadness but openness, is that true care for the common good today cannot shrink from acknowledging that the Church labors in the throes of a crisis. We can (and must) debate and determine the sources and causes of the crisis, but crisis it is, and any refusal to acknowledge the crisis for what it is should be prepared to demonstrate, beyond a reasonable doubt, how (with a few exceptions) the unwinding of the institutional Church from shore to shore gives witness to that "new springtime" one hears about all the time. I comprehend that souls can be saved even as institutions collapse, but where, exactly, is the evidence of spring in the visible life of the Catholic Church in the United States?
My principal point at the recent conference at Villanova was that Catholic legal theory worth its salt must recognize and fathom, first, what the culture needs, for the salvation of souls, and, second, how the Church's ministers must re-shoulder a burden that was sidelined by a bizarrely elitist preference (since 1965 or so) for "dialogue" instead of evangelization undertaken in the fullness of charity.
Catholic legal theory must start from what the world needs, and my submission is that what the world needs from the Church is, first (and last), a Church who cares more visibly and effectively for the salvation of souls, rather than so much about (say) equal wages for equal work (no doubt a matter of great importance for the jurisdiction of the civil ruling authority). In my view, Catholic legal theory isn't worth the name Catholic unless it be about saving souls, and the salvation of souls begins, if at all, in this world and under its principalities.
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
One last reminder that those interested in the "Catholic legal theory" project will have the opportunity to hear several MOJ contributors tackle the project's aspirations, hopes, and challenges this Friday, April 24, at Villanova Law School. The program for the event is here: Scarpa Conference. The event is open to the public, and CLE credit (including one in Ethics) will be available to attorneys who register and attend.
A good and rewarding time is sure to be had by all, as I expect that the unity in diversity that animates the project will be enveloping.