Ordination of Father Hunwicke
06 December 2017
So PF’s letter to a bishop in Argentina has been published in the AAS. Naturally, people are worried about the status which this might confer on it. Does it turn the letter concerned into a Magisterial document to which we are obliged to exhibit respect (obsequium)? And all that.
I am not going to get into questions such as the different weight to be accorded to different levels of papal documents; or how to construe a papal document which either obviously or apparently contradicts another document of the same Magisterial level. You can find that sort of stuff elsewhere. And the great Father Zed has done the Church Militant another immense service by printing a detailed analysis of the situation by a noted canonist. The gist is: even an Apostolic Letter printed in AAS does not cancel Canon 915 (unless it explicitly and in due form says that it does).
We are in a new situation under PF, and new hermeneutical methods are both needed and implied. I offer some thoughts … you might call them the tentative reactions of a Plain Simple Man.
It is an objective and undeniable fact that Amoris laetitia has been interpreted in diametrically contradictory ways. Some bishops, some conferences, take the view that it has changed nothing of the teaching contained in previous Magisterial documents. Some bishops, some conferences, believe that it has opened up the possibility of giving the Sacraments to unrepentant public adulterers. A sound and common sense principle is A doubtful Law is no Law. As Cardinal Mueller has pointed out, in a very grave matter a change can only be made in law or doctrine by an explicit statement, with accompanying reasoning, making clear beyond all doubt that a change is being made. Sending Von Schoenborn down to a Vatican News Conference to smile sweetly at Diane Montagna and say “It’s a Development!! Read Newman!!!” hardly meets this criterion.
If Amoris laetitia itself is of no effect, clearly a letter (even if it subsequently appropriates to itself the grandiose term ‘Magisterial’) which purports to interpret AL, can hardly rise much above the level of nugacitas.
Vatican I defined that ex cathedra statements of the Roman Pontiff are irreformable ex sese and not e consensu Ecclesiae. By implication: it has not been defined that lesser papal statements are ex sese irreformable. Thus, it is lawful to take into account what conferences and individual bishops say in interpreting Amoris laetitia. That document is reformable and any force it may eventually after a few decades acquire will depend on the consensusof the Church.
A fortiori, the same is true of the note that Cardinal Parolin has so unwisely attached to the text of “the Argentine letter” in AAS. One of the cheapest and nastiest tricks of the current regime is its facile habit of plastering labels reading “Holy Spirit” or “Magisterium” onto any ill-considered novelty it wants to force down the throats of its unwilling fellow Christians.
Another objective and undeniable fact: although instructed by his Employer to “strengthen your brethren”, PF has not replied to Dubia, even when submitted by patres purpurati. Quite obviously, it cannot be argued that he has taught, clearly, explicitly, and as definitivetenendum, any of those contents of the document Amoris laetitiawhich have caused such puzzlement.
In other words, the Petrine Ministry appears currently to be in the state which Blessed John Henry Newman neatly described as Suspense. I suggest that a general pastoral conclusion to be drawn from all this is that ordinary straightforward Christians have better things to do with their time than worrying about the precise status of ambiguous statements. Better, richer, more God-given things. Qualia essent …
Open a bottle of wine.
Compose a limerick in English about Cardinal Kasper.
Do the Times Latin Crossword in under five minutes.
Play forfeits with your wife/husband.
Incorporate into a ‘Vergilian’ eclogue (with goats and shepherdesses galore) Cardinal Mueller’s recent brilliant apercu that the Church is not a Field Hospital but a Silicon Valley.
Recite the Quicunque vult and make an Act of Faith.
Cram yourself full of baklava and/or halva.
Listen to the Kyries of the Missa Papae Marcelli.
Go to Ashmole and commune with Menander or Benedict XIV or both.
Walk down the river from Sandford Lock to Abingdon and count the species of waterfowl.
Convert the encyclical Pascendi Dominici gregis into Homeric hexameters.
Shoot a magpie or two or three or four.
Find a priest who will take a stipend to offer the Mass Salus populi for the Ecclesia Dei adflicta.
Kai, as Aristotle might have put it, ta loipa panta.