Sunday, October 15, 2017

On Filial Submission to the Roman Pontiff

Contra: The Charge of Ultramontansim

Why is it that papal critics rashly jump to the accusation of ultramontanism if you defend the pope against their criticism?

How many times have I been told, "you know, the Pope is not infallible in _everything_ he says?" I'm like, "duh. Yes, I know that. Say hello to my little friend, Mr. Straw Man. You two seem to know each other already."

Saying that we should receive papal teaching, whether infallible or not, from a standpoint of filial submission is not, I believe, ultramontane. Saying that we should presume the most generous interpretation that is in accord with Tradition is not, I think, ultramontane.

Can you believe Pope Francis wrote this?? "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' ... 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 [or random laity on the internet]."

Oh wait, he didn't. That was Pope Piux XII in Humani Generis, 20.

Baltimore Catechism
148. Did Christ intend that the special power of chief teacher and ruler of the entire Church should be exercised by Saint Peter alone?

Christ did not intend that the special power of chief teacher and ruler of the entire Church should be exercised by Saint Peter alone, but intended that this power should be passed down to his successor, the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, who is the Vicar of Christ on earth and the visible head of the Church.

Code of Canon Law
Can. 752 Although not an assent of faith, a religious submission of the intellect and will must be given to a doctrine which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops declares concerning faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim it by definitive act; therefore, the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid those things which do not agree with it. (my emphasis)

One could go on. Our Tradition is firmly in the camp of preferring filial submission to the Pope. The fact that the Pope, when not speaking ex cathedra, _can_ be wrong does not change this basic posture or give one license to unrestrainedly level public criticisms and suggestions or outright claims of promoting heresy.

Our response, when the Pope teaches something that challenges our own understanding of faith and morals, should be to question our own understanding rather than the Holy Father's. It should be to generously try to interpret what the Holy Father is teaching within the context of Tradition.

It should not be to rattle off an anxious and accusatory article or blog post, start blabbing about our concerns and criticisms all over the internet, start demanding "clarification," creating "open letters" and collecting signatories, and so on. Posting "public theses" on the "door" of the internet is a distinctly Protestant act, not Catholic.

And so I think those who are inclined to do such need to be much more reticent: more reticent in their criticisms of the hierarchy--especially the pope; more reticent in how they choose to criticize (i.e., using proper ecclesiastical channels if there is real concern, rather than the internet), and more reticent in their completely unjustifiable accusations of ultramontanism when they are challenged for such behavior.