“Another Pope John XXIII”? The Futility of the Liberal Cargo Cult

Quick catch up first. There have been a couple of comments to the post about the NCP meeting that deserve highlighting. You will remember that at that meeting Bishop Robinson received popular acclaim for his conspiracy theory that “George Pell was transferred from Melbourne so he could get the red hat so he would become an elector of the pope… to ensure we do not have another Pope John XXIII”.

William Tighe has this to say on the liberal hope of a new “John Frum Bergamo”:

This idea of a friend of mine seems to characterize well enough the form of “Catholic dissent” that we have been seeing on this thread and elsewhere:

CARGO-CULT CATHOLICISM

“It struck me that avant garde Catholics believe in a sort of Cargo Cult. Cargo Cult followers (or some of them) believe in a John Frum who will one day come to bring them all they want. John Frum stands for John Frum [From] America (believed to be derived from American missionaries or soldiers who introduced themselves as “John from America”). Leftist Catholics like … believe in John Frum Bergamo. John Frum Bergamo (John XXIII) was prevented (they think) only by death from bringing in married priests, women priests, homosexual marriage and so on. One day (they believe) another John Frum will come to give them all these things. It never occurs to them that the John XXIII of history was a fairly conventional figure in many ways, who certainly went no further than, say, Congar or de Lubac.”

To this, John Beeler, a newcomer to the the commentary table, aka “The Young Fogey” (see his blog here), added:

Brilliant! Been hearing such from them for years: ‘The next Pope will…’ Yes, such liberals believe in a far more powerful papacy than Pius IX did. The difference with Anglicans is while in Anglicanism everything is subject to change by majority vote, the Cargo Cultist Modernists believe in a sort of ultramontane caricature, a Santa Claus who can invent new doctrine with a wave of his hand and give them the liberal Protestant church they want.

Then there was the real John XXIII, a Italian naturally traditionalist at heart. The real J23: ‘Step up the teaching and use of Latin in seminaries. Religious orders, don’t ordain homosexuals.’ Oh, and he believed real Roman Catholic doctrine about papal power: ‘I can’t change that. I’m only the Pope.’ (Actual quote from Pius IX.)

John Frum Bergamo is as real as the Easter Bunny.

Well, all this reminded me of something I heard from one of my Lutheran Seminary lecturers many years ago (among whom there was, incidentally, an expert on the New Guinea Cargo Cult phenomenon, as he had been a seminary lecturer there for a number of years and had studied this). It was a story that was, apparently, told by Prof. Herman Sasse, and which, it seemed, stuck in the memory of the faculty at Luther Seminary. I searched for documentary evidence on the internet to back this story up, but discovered in fact that the source was the same: Sasse (it is here, if you want to find it, on page 147 footnote 31):

“During the First Session of the Second Vatican Council a lady turned up in Rome and asked for an audience with the pope to discuss with him the question of the ordination of women to the Catholic priesthood. She was Dr. Gertrud Heinzelmann, a lawyer at Lucerne, the famous centre of the Roman Church in Switzerland. Pope John, who was otherwise kindness and patience personified, lost his patience. ‘Tell that suffragette that I shall never receive her. She should go back to her homeland.’ Why did the good pope, who was otherwise prepared for a dialog even with the worst enemies of the Church, give such a harsh answer? Could he not have replied something like this: ‘Tell my daughter that the ordination of women is against the Word of God’? This was his argument when the Archbishop of Canterbury declared such ordination to be against the tradition of the Church. Could he not have referred her for further information to one of his theologians? John was not an intellectual like his predecessor. He was not a great theologian either. But he was, as his ‘Journals’ show, a great pastor. Every pastor knows, or should know, that there are cases, when a discussion is impossible and the only answer to a question can be that ‘Begone, Satan!’ which Jesus spoke not only to the devil (Matthew 4.10), but also to his faithful confessor, Simon Peter (Matthew 16.23).” Sasse, “Ordination of Women”, in The Lutheran 5.9 (3 May 1971): 3.

Odd that that story is never told by anyone other than Sasse. One wonders where he heard it or what his source was. Was he, perhaps told about it by someone who was there? The fact is, however, that it has something of the ring of truth about it… A bit disappointing for the Cargo Cult, though, to have their bubble burst like that.

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43 responses to ““Another Pope John XXIII”? The Futility of the Liberal Cargo Cult

  1. Christine

    Very interesting observations, especially by Sasse. I have always found Pope John XXIII a very sympathetic persona, pastorally speaking but I, too, discovered after doing my own research that he was hardly the radical that some people wanted to make him after the Council.

  2. Thanks! Correction: an Italian naturally traditionalist at heart…

  3. Arabella

    Hello David,

    We were discussing something similar on CathPews a couple of weeks ago –
    http://members7.boardhost.com/CathPews/msg/1279346871.html

    A Pope John 23 would have us praying novenas, detesting our sins, saying the Rosary and retaining Latin “as a most effective bond, binding the Church of today with that of the past and of the future in wonderful continuity.”

    • Tony

      Arabella,

      It seems to me that you’re taking a ‘snap shot’ of PJ23 and assuming that he would not have ‘moved on’ in 50 years.

      It may be that, looking back, we can see that many of his views were, by today’s standards, quite ‘orthodox’ (insert preferred descriptor) but his impact at the time was extraordinary. He was, to put it mildly, an agent of change.

      I think its safe to speculate that if he (or another ‘John Frum’) arrived on the scene today he’d also have a similarly impact on today’s church … well, as safe as it is to speculate about any such thing.

      • Gareth

        Tony: He was, to put it mildly, an agent of change.

        Gareth: There is the point right there Tony.

        Was Pope John XXIII REALLY an agent of change or is it simply part of his legend that has built up over the years and milked for all its worth by those who like to think of him as something that he really was not.

        That is the point of Arabella’s posts. A deep analysis of the writings of John XXIII suggests that he championed little or nothing of the ‘change’ that some people in the Church would lead us to believe.

        In fact, I have been at times stunned at some of his edicts, which included forbidding any woman from entering the altar.

        Would the same people that point to him as their inspiration still be so in awe of him if they truly knew it probably more stringent than John Paul or Benedict ever was?

        Dont get me wrong, he was surely a very holy man but one considering such posts that Arabella has referred us to, one wonders if the
        real Roncalli would really be fond of being a ‘poster boy’ for the ‘spirit of Vatican II’ supporters – clearly I think not.

        • Gareth

          Further to this, I would add that I would hardly consider John XXIII ‘an agent of change’.

          He made no ‘changes’ to Catholic doctorine in his Papacy whatsoever.

          The only significant doctorinal action he made during his Papacy was to add the patriarch St. Joseph’s name to the Sacred Canon of the Mass

          He was conservative and orthodox in his theology and condemned ‘modernism’ in the encyclical Ad Petri cathedram – reminding Christains of their serious duty to fight such false principles.

          He never signed one document of the Second Vatican Council, which was purely pastoral in nature.

          It is drawing a long bow to claim that John XXIII was an ‘agent of change’.

          • Nonsense Gareth. His Papacy was extraordinary. I’m old enough to remember. It’s no ‘theory’; it was felt ‘on the ground’ all over the Catholic world.

            But the notion of ‘agent of change’ comes through loud and clear in the Vatican’s own biographical notes.

            Here:

            He convoked the Roman Synod, established the Commission for the Revision of the Code of Canon Law and summoned the Second Vatican Council … He launched an extensive renewal of the Church …

            And here:

            When on October 20, 1958 the cardinals, assembled in conclave, elected Angelo Roncalli as pope many regarded him, because of his age and ambiguous reputation, as a transitional pope, little realizing that the pontificate of this man of 76 years would mark a turning point in history and initiate a new age for the Church … Less than three months after his election he announced that he would hold a diocesan synod for Rome, convoke an ecumenical council for the universal Church, and revise the Code of Canon Law. The synod, the first in the history of Rome, was held in 1960; Vatican Council II was convoked in 1962; and the Pontifical Commission for the Revision of the Code was appointed in 1963.

            Again, his pontificate marked a turning point in history and initiated a new age for the Church.

            Agent of change is a fair description.

            • Gareth

              Tony,

              If John XXIII was such an agent of change, produce even one quotation from him to back him up.

              I think an honest review of his writings and viewpoints will reveal that he was nothing of the sort and would probably turn in his grave if he knew he was being used as a poster boy for something he wasnt.

              A classic example is his writings on moral theology. Try looking up the Moral theology of John XXIII on Wikipedia. Although moral theology is not the be all and end all of theology, ]\a careful examination of the moral theology of John XXIII tends to deconstruct his reputation, given that he was highly critical of abortion, artificial insemination, divorce and the ordination of homosexual seminarians.

              Like most things to certain Catholics, John XXIII is a construction of their imagination.

              Traditionally minded Catholics should claim him back for what he truly was – an orthodox Pope.

              • If John XXIII was such an agent of change, produce even one quotation from him to back him up.

                Why? I’ve provided substantive evidence to back my assertion.

                … and would probably turn in his grave if he knew he was being used as a poster boy for something he wasnt.

                Sure. Whatever side of the fence you’re on.

                Like most things to certain Catholics, John XXIII is a construction of their imagination.

                ‘Certain’ Catholics? LOL

                Traditionally minded Catholics should claim him back for what he truly was – an orthodox Pope.

                And an unprecented (in modern times) agent of change.

                In my view, one of the characteristics of great leaders is that they are not easily pigeon-holed in any contemporary camp — ‘traditionally minded’ or ‘liberal’ or whatever label you choose.

        • In fact, I have been at times stunned at some of his edicts, which included forbidding any woman from entering the altar.

          Earlier this week, more than 50,000 young altar servers from around the world flocked to Rome for a gathering with Pope Benedict XVI. It’s a regular event, but this year there was a twist: For the first time, altar girls outnumbered the boys roughly 60-40. Source.

          Times change. Even Popes move on … eventually.

      • It seems to me that you’re taking a ‘snap shot’ of PJ23 and assuming that he would not have ‘moved on’ in 50 years.

        Aha! The “What-if” school of history is nothing other than retrospective “John Frumism”! “What if John 23rd was around today? Surely he would support the ordination of women, married priests, democratic election of bishops etc.”

        • The ‘what-if’ of “John Frumism”(!) is a ‘school’ mostly of your imagination, David.

          I see people looking back at that time with nostalgia because it was so exciting and wishing that ‘spirit’ (however you deride it) was alive today.

          But specific speculation about what ‘he might do if he were here today’ is not a ‘school’ in any substantive sense so to ‘burn it down’ is no great achievement.

          The ‘school’ of more traditional or conservative (insert your own descriptor) Catholics intoning memories of their ‘poster boy’ Popes is just as common and just as useful.

          Notwithstanding all that, you can’t cherry pick the legacy PJ23 and make him fit your own 2010 world view. The big picture of PJ23 was as an agent of change, change that reverberated in every pew.

          It is perhaps a measure of his stature that he’s claimed as a ‘liberal’ champion and, more recently, a champion of orthodoxy. In truth he is neither (or both?).

          • Gareth

            I think part of the problem with John XXIII’s image is down to the mass-media.

            To begin with, John XXIII was Pope in a simpler, more optimistic era,
            and he benefited from a far less sceptical press.

            Accordingly, John XXIII consistently received far more favourable coverage from the secular and Catholic press.

            Journalists tend to favor reform, to welcome change of almost any
            kind; change is new, and “new” is, quite literally, what makes
            “news.”

            The media depicted John XXIII as an “innovative, radical Pope”
            because Vatican II (as the council came to be colloquially known) was
            perceived as pushing the Catholic Church to “catch up with all of us
            . . . enlightened, educated, progressive people,”

            Compare this to our more contentious, time, where many world leaders are subjected to a more probing media examination.

            And that is not to mention that many of the devicisive issues such as abortion, feminism, homosexuality etc etc were not in the limelight at all in Johns time.

            Recent Popes have been depicted as ‘bad conservatives’ by the press, even though on many social issues they were very liberally minded, even more so than John XXIII.

            I challenge any person to re-examine the writings of John XXIII like I have myself and they will be deeply surprised that his deeply conservative moral and litirgical views are in deep opposition to so many of the Catholics that champion him and the ‘spirit of Vatican II’.

            The REAL J0hn XXIII simply would not recognise the brand of Catholicism championed in his name,

            • Tony

              The REAL John XXIII is dead. Any speculation about what he might or might not ‘champion’ today is pure speculation and, as is often the case, reflects on the speculator rather than the REALITY.

              IMHO of course!

  4. William Tighe

    “During the First Session of the Second Vatican Council a lady turned up in Rome and asked for an audience with the pope to discuss with him the question of the ordination of women to the Catholic priesthood. She was Dr. Gertrud Heinzelmann, a lawyer at Lucerne, the famous centre of the Roman Church in Switzerland. Pope John, who was otherwise kindness and patience personified, lost his patience. ‘Tell that suffragette that I shall never receive her. She should go back to her homeland.’ ”

    Now there’s a John XXIII I can love and venerate!

  5. Matthias

    I have always admired John XXIII especially after his efforts at saving Jewish children from the Nazis. I heard a story that he was meeting with some Rabbis and as they went to go through the door ,they stood aside to let him in but he said
    No Old Testament before the New”

  6. What a grand excercise in ‘Staw Man’ logic, David.

    You characterise a position or a whole (imaginary) group in a certain way then (look, no hands!) you demolish that position!

    Money for old rope.

    It would be just as easy for me to characterise you and William and others in a certain way and demolish it too. I could have some fun doing it and, in the right forum, I’d get self satisfied agreement, but does it reflect the truth?

    The first problem is the notion of some homogeneous group who all think in a certain way. It’s most common label* is probably ‘liberal’ but William gives us ‘avant garde Catholics’.

    The labels are deliberately imprecise because that’s what is needed when constructing a straw man.

    But let’s humour the idea.

    Let’s say the Catholica represents the forum of ‘avant garde Catholics’. I’ve been reading and participating in Catholica since day one and from time to time there is a ‘John Frumism’ expressed. Mind you, I’ve heard this from the other end of the spectrum too, but that just muddies the waters.

    I’d say that it represents 10% of the wide variety of opinions expressed, maybe 20% at most.

    Even if we narrow this perception down to the Debien article, we don’t know if it was the ‘John Frumism’ in +Robinson’s address that attracted the applause or other aspects of the talk or perceptions of the man outside of what he said.

    You amaze me, David. You are so hot when it comes to criticising the media and others for the way they distort the truth and take cheap shots — a worthy project too, IMO. Yet you use the very same techniques!

    * In my experience, these labels are used by all on the spectrum of Catholic opinion and, especially when used as a rhetorical weapon, are all servants of division, not truth.

    • You amaze me, David. You are so hot when it comes to criticising the media and others for the way they distort the truth and take cheap shots — a worthy project too, IMO. Yet you use the very same techniques!

      What can I say? It takes one to know one?

      • Fair enough David and I actually like Sentire because of the ‘edge’ you bring to provoke discussion.

        But it does make your upset over ‘Tim isn’t “quitting”’ look a little unconvincing when scanning your own headlines!

  7. Gareth

    There is a growing consensus that the REAL Pope John XXIII has been hijacked…

    Is it safe to say that he really would not recognise or support those within the Church that love to use him to promote their ‘spirit of Vatican II’ brand?

    Was the real Pope John XXIII in reality more a smiling, rolly-polly man with views as orthodox/traditional as any traddy minded Catholic?

  8. Peregrinus

    I think you are, or perhaps I should say William is, drawing a very long bow, here, David. It’s clear that Robinson admires John XXIII and would like to see another pope in the same mould, but nowhere is he reported as saying that he expects such a pope to ordain women, celebrate homosexual marriages, and so forth. Those who can only grasp a one-dimensional caricature of Robinson’s position cannot conceive that he could admire a pope for anything else, but perhaps that tells us more about them than it does about Robinson.

    No, if you want an example of cargo-cultery you can find it much closer to home. On this very blog, in fact, right here: http://scecclesia.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/pope-excludes-women/

    In that thread we find our very own Gareth lamenting “this softly softly reform the reform and achieve nothing business from Papa Joe and Papa Karol” and “whimpering asking the faitfhful to stop discussing things”. He looks forward to a pope who will offer “straight down the line ex-cathedra prouncements” because he is “serious about his flock being loyal and true”.

    True, Gareth is speaking tongue-in-cheek (probably – it can be difficult to tell, sometimes). But he is speaking in support of William, who has been calling for the pope to provoke a schism (“and soon!”) – something which, quite clearly, would never cross the minds of either John Paul II or Benedict XVI. Gareth may be tongue-in-cheek, but I don’t think William is.

    Indeed, we saw plenty of quite serious cargo-cultery when John Paul II died. Many commentators expressed the hope that Cardinal Ratzinger would be elected in his place (which of course happened) and they happily sketched out for our edification the sort of hammer-of-the-heretics that they expected and hoped him to be (which of course didn’t happen).

    If you think about it, cargo-cultery would be a particular temptation for ultramontanists. And I think it’s fair to say that conservative Cathlolicism is more strongly characterised by ultramontanism than is more progressive Catholicism.

    • Gareth

      You would argue with God if he put fowward an argument, wouldn’t you Pere?

      • Peregrinus

        Of course I would. It’s my inner Jew at work.

        Besides, if God wants an argument, who are you to say that he mustn’t have one?

        • Tony

          Besides, if God wants an argument, who are you to say that he mustn’t have one?

          Ah … [biting virtual tongue] … well … [resisting temptation] … ahem …

          No comment

      • Peregrinus

        There, but for the grace of God, goes God.

    • If you think about it, cargo-cultery would be a particular temptation for ultramontanists. And I think it’s fair to say that conservative Cathlolicism is more strongly characterised by ultramontanism than is more progressive Catholicism.

      Well, yes, that would be the logical conclusion, I’m just saying that in fact it works both ways. Certainly, for myself, I wish to plead innocence with regard to such ultramontanism or “John Frumism”.

      As a newcomer to the communion of the Catholic Church – a communion which I sought precisely because in it alone could I find communion with the Roman pontiff (or was it the other way round? ie. I wanted to be in communion with the Roman Pontiff because only in that way could I be in communion with the Catholic Church?… both at the same time, I guess) – I am perhaps a little dismayed to see that so many Catholics of all stripes act as if the only possible solution for any range of problems currently facing the Church is some act or pronouncement of the Bishop of Rome.

      On the contrary, most of our solutions can be sought much closer to home: in our diocese (our “local Church”), in our parish, in our homes, and in our own personal devotion and discipleship to Christ our Lord.

      When I became a Catholic, I was asked by some Lutheran brothers and sisters “What if the next pope should change everything? What if he were to allow the ordination of women? Where would you go then?” – as if the reason I chose communion with the Holy Father/Catholic Church was because he/She agreed with me and not the other way around! To these people I answered that I would be obedient and docile to the teaching of whomever sat on the throne of Peter, because of the authority of the Petrine office.

      But in any case, the duty of the one who holds the Petrine Office is to preserve the Catholic Faith, and that is what counts. Whatever “side” any particular Catholic may be on, they must surely realise that this is the sole purpose of the universal teaching office. All Catholics are entitled to look to the Bishop of Rome for such guidance and are duty bound to receive such guidancewith docility; but any Catholic who looks to the Bishop of Rome to pull doctrinal rabbits-out-of-hats to solve their own personal analysis of “whats-wrong-with-the-Church” is grossly mistaken!

      What came across to me in the very short snippet of Bishop Robinson’s address reported by Noel Debien (and granted, such a small snippet may indeed falsify what Robinson was actually getting at, although the tone of the rhetoric would lead me to think that Debien reported accurately) was both a hope and a fear: a hope that Pope “John Frum” would one day come and solve everything, and a fear that conservative carinal electors such as +George are dertermined to prevent such hopes from ever becoming a reality.

      A healthy Catholic attitude toward the election of the Papacy would be to acknowledge that of course there is more than just a small element of politics in ALL papal elections, but at the same time to trust that the Holy Spirit will always produce the Pope which the Church needs. And, as the case of Blessed John XXIII himself shows, God can indeed always suprise us, no matter what the College of Cardinals intended with their choice!

      • Gareth

        David: To these people I answered that I would be obedient and docile to the teaching of whomever sat on the throne of Peter, because of the authority of the Petrine office.

        Gareth: That is interesting David.

        I once read a Sermon by St Alphonsus Ligouri who preached that if ever we openly knew that the Pope feel into or preached clear heresy, we are not obliged to listen to him.

        In this speech, St Alphnosus gave clear permission to the relevant Bishops to even declare him a heretic and dispose of the Pope.

        The moral of the story is that theologians have consisently taught that Popes are servants not masters of Church teaching/magesterium etc and the authority of magesterium overrides the authority of the Petrine office.

        Of course, people’s (including many Catholics) perception of the Papacy is far different from how the Pope actually operates.

        Pope’s do not make up Church teaching at the drop of a hat. The majority of what the Popes do is often with the particpation and consent of his fellow Bishops.

        As for church practices that seem to be approved by the Pope which may not necessarily fall under ‘heresy’ but which some Catholics may not necessarily feel comfortable with (classic examples receiving communion in the hand or female altar servers), I am going to be a ‘rebel’ and say I would cite with the Catholic tradition, rather than the Pope.

        I am going to be rebellious and agree with those from the opposite end of the Catholic perspective and say that the last 40 years has proven that in certain Church practices seemingly supported by the Pope’s proves (just why on earth did John XXIII call a Council again??) that the Pope’s are indeed human beings that although never falling into full-blown heresy, they do at times seemingly support (perhaps through naviety) certain practices that leaves the average Catholic wondering just where the Holy Spirit is truly doing in Rome.

        • Peregrinus

          Mmmm. But is there not a strong element of subjective personal preference here, Gareth? You’re quite steamed up about the early church [i]not[/i] celebrating mass facing the people, but positively dismissive of the early church celebrating mass on Saturday evening. How do you decide which practices are “tradition” which you will side with against the pope if necessary, and which are dispensible? Is there anything at work here other than, if Gareth likes it, it’s “tradition”, but if he doesn’t, it isn’t?

          I’m not seeking to wind you up; I ask the question respectfully.

          You’re quite right about doctrine; the pope’s authority is not to teach what (say) Joseph Ratzinger believes, but to teach what the church believes, and that involves him listening – [i]really[/i] listening – to bishops (and theologians, and the church at large). And not just present bishops, theologians, etc, but the legacy of what bishops and theologians have believed and taught in the past. Hence, I think, St. Alphonsus’ point that the church could, in the extreme case, ignore and even depose a pope who attempted to teach his own (erroneous) view as that of the church. (I haven’t read the sermon you refer to, but I think that must be where he is coming from.)

          When it comes to practices, however, like whether we engage in interreligious dialogue and on what terms, or whether we receive communion under both species, we are not dealing with the pope’s teaching authority but with his jurisdiction – his power to govern.

          The Catholic view is that this governing power, like teaching authority, is conferred by Christ (“what you bind in earth is bound in heaven, and what you loose on earth is loosed in heaven”). The scriptural foundation for this is quite separate from the foundation for teaching authority (and for infallibility). The teaching authority and charism of infallibility is an authority and charism [i]of the church[/i], which the church exercises through the pope (and through the college of bishops); in that sense it is intrinsically consultative; it’s absolutely not something that the pope exercises in isolation. The pope is, in effect, the organ or instrument by which the church acts.

          Not so when it comes to jurisdiction. The pope’s jurisdiction is what allows him to tell another bishop what to do, e.g., to tell him that he must use the Roman Rite rather than some other rite, or that his priests must not celebrate mass more than once per day except in certain conditions. While it might be prudent and wise for the pope to consult bishops (and others) and take their views into account, it’s not [i]intrinsic[/i] to the exercise of jurisdiction in the same way that it is for the teaching authority. The pope isn’t telling bishops the consensus or corporate view of the church as to what rite should be used or how often mass should be said; the whole point of the governing power is that it comes into play when there isn’t a consensus, corporate view.

          Hence questioning the pope’s jurisdiction is a much more radical challenge to Catholic ecclesiology than is questioning the exercise of his teaching authority. If you look at the protestant reformation, so far as the pope was concerned it was his jurisdiction that they attacked, rather than his teaching authority. So you’re in slightly surprising company!

          • Gareth

            Pere: How do you decide which practices are “tradition” which you will side with against the pope if necessary, and which are dispensible.

            Gareth: A good question, but it is not that hard really.

            It is sometimes interesting to note that many practices that would be included here, the Pope(s) actually never supports them at all.

            Classic examples: communion receieved on the tongue or religious wearing clerical dress.

            Most people don’t know practices in the Catholic Church on these matters are being carried out in defiance of their Popes.

            • In this speech, St Alphnosus gave clear permission to the relevant Bishops to even declare him a heretic and dispose of the Pope.

              But, Gareth, St Alphonsus was never Pope and his opinion was only that, an opinion. It is not one which I share. The Bishop of Rome, according to the ancient teaching of the Church and the clear teaching of Vatican I, cannot err in teaching on matters of faith or morals (nb. That’s in matters of teaching – nothing to say he cannot personally err in either!).

              To argue the contrary is to stand with the Protestants, who indeed argued this very thing.

              • Gareth

                But St Alphonsus was a Doctor of the Church, whom the holy Pius IX on recieving the Doctor’s ordination ring, took of the ring of St Peter and replaced with St Alphonsus.

                WOWWW – imagine that!!!

                Indeed a Pope in his official capacity can not err, but they can err in many, many other things. Even the first Pope got a few things wrong !!

                Whilst we are on the subject of a certain Pope, they can even naively and mistakenly call a Council that can lead to bad fruits for the Church (a view held by Malcolm Muggeridge)

                Pope’s outisde their official teaching capacity are only human beings and not the be all and end all.

                The last forty years tend to suggest that Catholics would be better off trusting in Catholic tradition, than some of the personal errors of the Popes.

                • William Tighe

                  I agree with Gareth here — and remember the remarks of the late Cardinal O’ Connor of New York who, asked in an interview, in which he had just declared that WO was an impossibility, what he would do and would he change his mind if “the pope” authorized WO, replied “no” — going on to say that any pope who did such a thing would have fallen into heresy and would ipso facto cease to be pope.

  9. David, I can’t find it on my blog, so I must have left it as a comment somewhere on yours! – quite a while back I wrote something about Joachimism, with its heterodox theory of three ages: that of the Father, the Old Testament; that of the Son, the New Testament (incl. the Church); and that still to come, of the Holy Spirit, and the “Eternal Gospel”, which would be an age of freedom. This was all meant to be ushered in by a Papa Angelicus (Angelic Pope) – can anyone help me track down what, um, I wrote and have now lost, somewhere on the Internet?

  10. (How embarrassing…)

    Found it, via Google, on my own blog! FWIW, since it is sort of relevant:

    *******

    I recommend readers to attend to the inestimable Fr Z’s reading of good Pope Benedict’s third General Audience address about St Bonaventure, in which the Supreme Pontiff, referring to Bonaventure’s theology of history, demonstrates how Joachimism is false, and how, just as Bonaventure’s wisdom defeated the Franciscan spirituals of his day, so we should avoid the error of those who ceaselessly invoke the “spirit of the Council” while pretending that what we need is to sweep away all hierarchy and doctrine.

    Joachimism, of course, is the belief that history is divided into three eras, and that, just as the era of the Father and of the Old Testament and of the Jewish Church is over and gone, so too the era of the Son and of the New Testament and of the Catholic Church is past, and (heralded by St Francis) what has now come is the third and final era, that of the Spirit and of the “Eternal Gospel” and of spiritual men, with no Church anymore.

    The parallels between Joachimism and the nonsense dissenters promulgate about the “spirit” of Vatican II and even Vatican III (their hoped-for, fondly imagined future Council at which everything restrictive will be abolished and everything forbidden be allowed) are obvious. Even the way that self-styled progressives have hijacked Bl John XXIII, who was no liberal, parallels the Joachimite belief in a Papa Angelicus who would drastically change the Church.

    Consider the dismissive way that “progressives” consider everything in the Church from the age of Constantine (when allegedly she was corrupted by power – already a current debate in the time of Dante) till 1965 to be clericalist, obscurantist and corrupt… consider their hope for a future Utopia (indeed, a No-Place), when their project of mocking and rejecting all Catholic truth and practice will be complete.

    But the Pope repeats forcefully what Bonaventure so rightly said: Opera Christi non deficiunt, sed proficiunt – the works of Christ fail not, but they prosper. Indeed new good things arise, and old things are revitalized: the wise steward brings forth things both old and new from the garner. Christ’s work will never fail, but in every age flourish anew, just as St Francis and St Dominic were raised up in their day, revitalizing the Church, ancient but ever-new, with their own innovative charisms, yet in substantial continuity with the past.

    Here is the philosophical rejection of the hermeneutic of rupture, and the affirmation of the hermeneutic of continuity. Here is one central message of this Papacy, guided by the thought of St Bonaventure that the young Ratzinger diligently studied long years before. It would be mad and self-contradictory to imagine building a new Church, and condemning the old: in such a case, Christ’s promises would have failed, and we’d be better off being Jews.

    After all, the theology of history presented by Abbot Joachim of Fiore smacks of Tritheism not orthodox Trinitarianism: there are not three gods, each better than the next, but one God in three Persons, Whose final Word is Christ, and Whose Holy Spirit reveals to us the depths of Christ’s message without changing it. Similarly, all newfangled attempts to reject 1600 years of Church history as evil are frankly laughable, and evidently self-contradictory: and to work for a wholesale rejection of doctrine and practice is just to be another Protestant, five hundred years too late.

    The Pope speaks:

    We know, in fact, how after the Second Vatican Council, some were convinced that everything should be new, that there should be another Church, that the pre-conciliar Church was finished and that we would have another, totally “other” Church. An anarchic utopianism! And thanks be to God, the wise helmsmen of Peter’s Barque, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II, on one hand defended the novelty of the council and on the other, at the same time, defended the uniqueness and continuity of the Church, which is always a Church of sinners and always a place of grace.

    The Church is one and the same, always both ancient and new: as Hermas wrote in the subapostolic age, in The Shepherd, she appeared to him a beautiful woman, the spotless Spouse of the Lord, appearing both young and old, for such she is:

    For she had appeared to me, brethren, in the first vision the previous year under the form of an exceedingly old woman, sitting in a chair. In the second vision her face was youthful, but her skin and hair betokened age, and she stood while she spoke to me. She was also more joyful than on the first occasion. But in the third vision she was entirely youthful and exquisitely beautiful, except only that she had the hair of an old woman; but her face beamed with joy, and she sat on a seat. (3rd Vision, Chapter X)

    He notes further that she appeared to him at first as old and frail, not because she was, but because he was mired in sin; then she appeared old but partly young as he gradually sloughed off his spiritual blindness and folly; only when he had regained righteousness did he perceive her truly. Let fools attend! It is our faults that make us spurn the Church of the Living God, to our peril.

    Sancta Mater Ecclesia is beautiful, without spot or wrinkle, but she has the white hair of the old, betokening her age, which yet not makes her frail, but rather the Lord renews her youth as the eagle’s. The works of Christ do not fail, but prosper.

  11. (The quotation from the Pope ends with the words “a place of grace”.)

  12. Gareth

    Pere: You’re quite steamed up about the early church [i]not[/i] celebrating mass facing the people, but positively dismissive of the early church celebrating mass on Saturday evening.

    Gareth: Mmm, I am not sure how you reached this conclusion from my post, but my point was that we have to be very careful about implementing Church practices in the year 2010, simply because we think the early Church practiced it.

    For one, what really was practiced in the very early Church (1st to 3rd) can at times be sketchy.

    The example I used (and I think a very good example) is that around the 1970s, it was sold to us that the early Church said Mass with the priest facing the people and this therefore must a good thing for our age. Well, ironically only twenty years later it was found out that there is absolutely no historical evidence whatsoever that the Church did anythink of the sort. The Ratzinger Report notes that the Church did and always has celebrated the Mass facing east and it is fairytales to suggest otherwise.

    I don’t deny that Mass was celebrated in the very early Church (as the Bible confirms – making Seventh Day Adventists the only Protestant Church true to the Bible on the matter) on a Saturday evening, but I think one would find this was phased out as early as the third or fourth century.

    My point about Mass on Saturday is that the Saturday Vigil Mass was instituted to help those who had to work on Sundays, such as hospital workers and others. It was never meant to be a mere substitution for Sunday Mass

    The issue with Saturday Vigil Masses is the way it is looked upon as a way out of hauling one out of bed on a Sunday morning or attend secular activities for many Catholics (indeed I thought like this in my teenage years!!), especially when the same person can sleep in on Saturday mornings

    • Peregrinus

      Pere: You’re quite steamed up about the early church [i]not[/i] celebrating mass facing the people, but positively dismissive of the early church celebrating mass on Saturday evening.

      Gareth: Mmm, I am not sure how you reached this conclusion from my post, but my point was that we have to be very careful about implementing Church practices in the year 2010, simply because we think the early Church practiced it.

      In general, the fact that the early church followed a particular practice is strong evidence that there is nothing inappropriate or improper in that practice. That’s highly relevant when we consider whether to follow that practice today. Nobody suggests that we have to do with the early church did with respect to the vigil mass, but the fact that the early church did it is a powerful counter-argument to claims that the vigil mass is suspect, or inappropriate, or intended for special cases only, or a “substitute” for some more authentic celebration of mass.

      The example I used (and I think a very good example) is that around the 1970s, it was sold to us that the early Church said Mass with the priest facing the people and this therefore must a good thing for our age. Well, ironically only twenty years later it was found out that there is absolutely no historical evidence whatsoever that the Church did anythink of the sort. The Ratzinger Report notes that the Church did and always has celebrated the Mass facing east and it is fairytales to suggest otherwise.

      You oversimplify. There is not a simple binary choice between facing the people and facing east unless the alter is located at the eastern end of the church. But the altar doesn’t have to be located at the eastern end of the church, and in the early church it frequently wasn’t. Hence it may be possible both to face east and to face the people, and this was often done. We even have an example of an alter located at the western end of a church, where both priest and people faced east – the people with their backs to the altar (and the priest).

      The modern liturgical focus is not on facing east but on facing the altar. You can quibble whether that is appropriate, but I for one am perfectly happy with it, and so is the pope. The very large number of people who say they favoured the older practice because it involved facing the tabernacle is evidence that the significance of the eastward posture had largely been lost even on those who favoured it, and indeed that the eastward posture was misleading them as to the true nature and focus of the mass.

      I have no objection to the ad orientem posture. Personally, I quite like it. My problem is where it leads to this kind of distorted understanding.

      My point about Mass on Saturday is that the Saturday Vigil Mass was instituted to help those who had to work on Sundays, such as hospital workers and others. It was never meant to be a mere substitution for Sunday Mass

      You’re making this up, or believing something that somebody else made up and relayed to you.

      The vigil mass was not introduced “to help those who had to work on Sundays”. It may have been welcomes as something which would help them in particular, but it was (re)introduced because it was found that there was no reason in doctrine, theology or tradition why the Sunday eucharist could not be celebrated using the method of reckoning days used by the apostles. Nothing to do with Sunday workers.

      The vigil mass is not intended to be a substituted for Sunday mass because it isn/t a substitute – it is the Sunday mass, fully and completely. There is no rule of God or man which says that the start of the 24-hour day must be reckoned from midnight, and more than the start of year has to be reckoned from 1 January (and, in fact, the church reckons it from the first Sunday in Advent). It was not the Jewish practice to reckon from midnight, it was not the practice of the early church, and it is not the practice of the church today.

      The issue with Saturday Vigil Masses is the way it is looked upon as a way out of hauling one out of bed on a Sunday morning or attend secular activities for many Catholics (indeed I thought like this in my teenage years!!), especially when the same person can sleep in on Saturday mornings.

      That’s your inner puritan speaking, Gareth. There is no objection to sleeping in on Sunday mornings. It is a day of rest, after all!

      • Gareth

        Pere: In general, the fact that the early church followed a particular practice is relevant when we consider whether to follow that practice today

        Gareth: Pere, you are misguided here.

        The early Church worshipped on a Saturday because it was the Sabbath and the official day of worship. The Catholic church gradually adopted Sunday as a day of worship, and over time, it took on the characteristics of the Sabbath being a day of rest.

        Hence one that attends Mass on a Saturday evening is fulfilling their duty of attending Sunday Mass, not because Saturday is the day of worship or because the early Church did it, but because the Saturday vigils are in place as for what we are required to do on a Sunday.

        Sunday is still the day that Catholics are required to keep Holy and worhsip God.

        The fact that the early Church just happened to worship on the Saturday is not relevant at all on what we consider relevant today.

        Pere: You can quibble whether that is appropriate, but I for one am perfectly happy with it, and so is the pope

        Gareth: I would be careful about thinking you know what the Pope is happy with as the Ratzinger is the only time he has put forward his views on the matter.

        Pere: There is no objection to sleeping in on Sunday mornings. It is a day of rest, after all!

        Gareth: If you are happy to admit you bum around on a Sunday morning watching the Footy Show like the reast of Australia or surfing instead of attending weekly Sunday catechism as prescribed by Pius X, that is fine with me.

        It is God who we will have to give account of our lives.

        • Peregrinus

          “The early Church worshipped on a Saturday because it was the Sabbath and the official day of worship. The Catholic church gradually adopted Sunday as a day of worship, and over time, it took on the characteristics of the Sabbath being a day of rest.”

          This distorts the truth, Gareth. The church never worshipped on Saturday, the seventh day; from the very beginning it worshipped on Sunday, the first day, because this was the day of the resurrection. (It seems likely that early Jewish Christians observed the Sabbath as a day of rest, and of participation in Jewish worship, while participating in Christian worship on Sunday.)

          But, as David has pointed out, the early church reckoned the first day (and every other day) as starting at sunset and continuing until the following sunset. In this they followed the Jews, who used (and still use) this method of reckoning the days.

          The church never abandoned this method of reckoning the days; this is why the Easter Vigil is celebrated when it is. This is why Matins, which you rise in the middle of the night to celebrate, is considered the first liturgical hour of the new day, not the last hour of the old day. This is also why the resurrection, which from the gospels can be seen to have happened between sunset on Saturday and sunrise on Sunday, is taken as having occurred on Sunday. Nobody asks whether it occurred before or after midnight-by-the-clock because, as David again points out, the attribution of any significance to midnight-by-the-clock is artificial.

          Ironically it is, not Saturday evening mass, but Sunday morning mass which grew up to suit people’s convenience. The early church didn’t observe a Eucharistic fast, but once the practice came in it was found that keeping the fast was burdensome if you didn’t celebrate until the evening. Celebrate in the morning, however, and you can get mass out of the way nice and early before heading home for your pop-tarts. Sunday morning mass therefore grew up at least partly as a way of avoiding a burdensome Eucharistic fast in favour of a token fast.

      • here is no rule of God or man which says that the start of the 24-hour day must be reckoned from midnight

        In fact, biblically speaking, we can say that there is a “rule of God” that the day starts with sunset of the evening before – check out Genesis One. The Jews have always timed the day from sunset rather than from dawn or (the rather artificial) “midnight”. Recently at the JCMA Conference, it was a simple matter of determining “whose” day it was: for the Muslims, Friday began after Sunset Thursday, for the Jews the Sabbath began after Sunset Friday, and for Christians the Lord’s day began after Sunset Saturday. Everyone understood this and regarded it as perfectly natural.

        A great comment was once made by Eugene Peterson, the American protestant spirituality writer. He said something along the lines of “God gets to work on the day just when we are going to bed, and when we wake up, he has been hard at it for half the day already, and invites us to join his work.” I like that.

      • Arguing with G … Gareth again, Pere?

  13. Christine

    The vigil mass is not intended to be a substituted for Sunday mass because it isn/t a substitute – it is the Sunday mass, fully and completely.

    Exactly.

    To be sure it was not reintroduced to help those who work weekends but it is certainly a boon in that regard. Nurses, doctors, police officers, firefighters and all those who work odd hours now have another option.