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10/8/2017 4:40 AM
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I found the title of this item almost absurd, in the sense that anyone familiar with the writings of Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI - which I assume most if not all the initial signatories of the CORRECTIO are - would know that he has devoted considerable thought and space in his writings on the nature of the papacy and its limits. That, in fact, 'defenders' of the CORRECTIO ought to cite Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, as this writer does. Which leads me to the idea that some publisher should perhaps anthologize all of his writings on this subject into a book that would constitute the most cogent and apropos criticism of Jorge Bergoglio's misuse and abuse of his office, all the more potent because the principles are expressed in terms that apply to any pope - and Bergoglio just happens to illustrate par excellence how the papacy can be misused and abused.

The 'Correctio Filialis' finds
an involuntary ally in Joseph Ratzinger

by Carlos Esteban

October 7, 2017

When four cardinals made public their respectful petition to the Pope to clarify certain dark points of the exhortation Amoris Laetitia, the famous Dubia, the announcement began a silent debate on issues central to the faith affecting three sacraments and even the very concept of sin.

But the second chapter of this saga, the Correctio Filialis' initially signed by 47 orthodox theologians and Catholic thinkers who have since been joined by many others, raises a new debate in the Church: Is it lawful for the faithful to criticize the teachings of a Pontiff? [Has anyone ever asked why it should be debated now when, in our time, Catholic dissenters have stridently and viciously denounced Paul VI for Humanae Vitae, and John Paul II and Benedict XVI just for being orthodox Catholics and/or rejecting the progressivist line of the 'spirit of Vatican II' paladins? And no one thought then that the act of criticism itself -setting aside the manner of the criticism and the merit or demerit of its content - was wrong, so why all this hullaballoo now that the shoe is on the other foot?

It also ought to be a thoroughly unnecessary debate if Catholics had an essential understanding of the papacy beyond the erroneous pietism that 'it is wrong to criticize a pope' - but then before March 13, 2013, no one really thought the crisis of an overtly anti-Catholic pope would ever come to pass, certainly not in our time. Yet here we are.

In fact, the bulk of the attacks by the court(esan) theologians and their media allies have consisted, not in a response to the very serious accusations contained in the CORRECTIO, but questioning the lawfulness of the measure itself, as well as to disdain it by alluding the small number of the signatories and their supposedly low ranking as theologians (by the criteria of the media and their mindless followers).

But supporters of correction have found a strong ally, albeit quite unintentional as far as we know, in Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

The person, in fact, not the Pope, since we should speak of Joseph Ratzinger [an unnecessary distinction here since Joseph Ratzinger did not cease to be a theologian and ecclesiologist when he became pope - and that what he has said and written about the papacy has been consistent before and after he became pope himself] who already in 1969 argued that criticizing the papal declarations was not only possible, but even necessary, if the Pontiff deviated from the Deposit of Faith and Apostolic Tradition.

Pope Benedict XVI included these same comments in an anthology of his writings published in 2009 under the title 'Faith, Reason, Truth and Love'. In them, the now Pope Emeritus explains literally that

criticism of papal pronouncements "will be possible and even necessary, as long as they lack support in Scripture and the Creed, that is, in the faith of the whole Church. When neither the consensus of the whole Church nor clear evidence in the sources is available, a definitive binding decision is not possible. If it were taken formally, it would lack the conditions for such an act, and therefore its legitimacy would have to be questioned."

The limits of papal infallibility and the obligation of any faithful to resist doctrines contrary to the Deposit of Faith have been themes that seem to have concerned Ratzinger throughout his ecclesial career.

Thus, in 1998, as Prefect for the Doctrine of the Faith, he wrote:

"The Roman Pontiff, like all the faithful, is subject to the Word of God, to the Catholic faith, and is guarantor of the obedience of the Church; in this sense it is servus servorum Dei. He does not make arbitrary decisions, but is a spokesman for the will of the Lord, who speaks to man in the Scriptures, lived and interpreted by the Tradition; in other words, the 'episkope' of primacy has limits fixed by divine law and by the divine and inviolable constitution of the Church found in Revelation. The Successor of Peter is the rock that guarantees a rigorous fidelity to the Word of God in the face of arbitrariness and conformity: hence the martyrological nature of his primacy. "

Serendipitously, one of the recent blog posts by Aldo Maria Valli that I have translated, is a most appropriate complement to the above, starting out as a criticism of the irresponsibility whereby the current pope blathers on just about everything and ultimately citing Benedict XVI’s words on Peter and the Petrine mniistry. He also refers to Josef Seifert’s recent sacking from his professorial chair in the Spanish branch of the International Academy of Philosophy he himself had founded, a dismissal directly reflecting the take-no-prisoners ruthlessness of the Bergoglians towards anyone who does not join their cult…]

The words of Peter’s Successor
Translated from

Sept. 16, 2017

The numerous and always colorful reactions to what Pope Francis says during his inflight news conferences when he returns from one of his apostolic visits abroad (the last one to Colombia last month) prompt a few reflections on the way this pope communicates and the weight given to his personal opinions. Questions which are linked on the one hand to the high profile now taken by the figure of the pope in the public sphere, and on the other hand, to an analysis of the authentic tasks of the Successor of Peter.

For centuries, the Vicar of Christ on earth lived in privacy, spoke little, and few were even aware of what he did say, so that one could be Catholic without even knowing the name of the current pope. And even when popes until the past century (before the Media Age) had a decisive political weight, the way they expressed themselves officially followed set rules and took place through official documents.

Use of the global lingua franca instead of Latin, and much more so, the advent of social means of communication (Pius XI’s first radio message was given in February 1931) completely changed the context by making the pope a global personage often at the center of the news. Contemporaneously, in inverse proportion, his real ability to make an impact was diminished (during John Paul II’s pontificate, the line was that “they applaud the singer, not the song”).

Nonetheless, it is a fact that since the past century, popes had enormously widened their sphere of intervention, and for many decades now, especially after Vatican-II, they have not confined themselves to expressing themselves on faith, morals and Church governance, but on almost every question that touches the lives of individuals and of society.

The pontificate of Bergoglio has accentuated the papal tendency to intervene through the communications media via news conferences and interviews, which lend themselves not only to further broaden the field in terms of subject matter but also to solicit the pope’s personal opinions.

Speaking of everything?
Obviously, when the pope speaks a little bit about everything – especially when he does so during interviews or news conferences – without a text that has been previously well thought out and prepared, the pope, like any other person, could well be superficial in his words and/or commit mistakes. For the competent (i.e., knowledgeable) observer, this is not necessarily bad. Because whoever knows the prerogatives and primary tasks of a pope knows that his thoughts - even if they are about faith and the religious life, when not expressed ex cathedra, or at least, through official documents that are presumed to be very carefully prepared – such thoughts are only his personal opinion.

The problem is that the media system, though thoroughly secular, in dealing with a pope like Francis, whose thinking in many ways is evidently that of the dominant mentality, suddenly become so clerical as to ‘sacralize’ every papal statement. And so, even if reporting a simple papal opinion, and even when the all-too-human pope shows he is insufficiently prepared on a specific question, the words ‘the pope said…’ in customary news reporting has become a kind of ‘seal of authoritativeness’.

A little common sense
How then to put things back on the right track – at least a bit? I am not a theologian and I would not venture into a field in which I am not competent. Let me just note that perhaps one can simply apply common sense. For example, the pope should only intervene on questions which have been studied in depth, and not on those which - he ought to be the first to know - he really has nothing meaningful to say. He would thereby also provide an example of seriousness and humility in a world that already suffers from widespread verbosity and the tendency to intervene always and in some way even if one literally knows nothing about what one presumes to speak on.

I believe that if an authority figure like the pope, faced with a question on a topic about which he does not feel himself sufficiently competent or prepared, simply says “I don’t know”, no one would think any less of him. Rather, he would be contributing an honesty and integrity far better than the impression he would leave by venturing into answers which often result merely in raising the already very elevated level of confusion.

A question of prudence
These arguments about papal communication tie up at this point to the real tasks of the Successor of Peter which today are being lost from sight. It leads me to reflect on some words that Benedict XVI said at a Wednesday General Audience – the catechesis of June 7, 2006, which was dedicated to “Peter, the rock on which Christ founded his Church”.

Having underscored that Jesus’s mandate to Peter came only after the apostle had made his confession of faith (an aspect that must never be ignored), Benedict XVI noted that, at that moment, the prerogatives of Peter were defined clearly:

Peter would be the rocklike foundation on which the edifice of the Church would be built. He would have the keys of the Kingdom of heaven that he could open or close as he deemed right. And finally, he would be able to bind or loosen in the sense that he could establish or prohibit whatever he deemed necessary for the life of the Church, which is and remains the Church of Christ. It is always the Church of Christ, not of Peter.

“It is always the Church of Christ, not of Peter.” [How many times during his pontificate did Benedict XVI reaffirm this bedrock truth!] This awareness, by itself, should compel Peter to express himself exclusively on matters that have to do with his institutional tasks (which are, let us repeat: to be a rocklike foundation, to administer the use of the keys of the Kingdom, to bind and loosen) – avoiding a preoccupation with other concerns and not placing his personal opinions in the foreground.

It has to do with exercising the virtue of prudence. Which does not mean fear, self-censorship or escapism. It means, for the pope, to be aware that you, Peter, are the custodian of a great treasure which goes far beyond your person, and therefore, you are not allowed to banalize your role. Let us listen to Benedict XVI once more:

Then there is the fact that other key Scriptural passages referring to Peter could be read in the context of the Last Supper, during which Christ conferred on Peter the ministry of confirming his brothers in the faith (cfr Lk 22,31s), shows how the Church which was born from the Paschal commemoration that we celebrate in the Eucharist has the ministry that Christ entrusted to Peter as one of its constitutive elements.

These are significances that cannot be taken for granted:
- First, the Petrine ministry is one of the constitutive elements of the Church, but is certainly not the only one.
- Second, Peter is entrusted the mission to confirm his brothers in the faith.

Benedict XVI adds:

This contextualization of the Primacy of Peter in terms of the Last Supper, at the moment when the Eucharist, the Lord’s Pasch, was instituted, also indicates the ultimate meaning of this primacy: Peter, for all time should be the guardian of the Church’s communion with Christ; he must lead the Church to communion with Chris; he must insure that the net is not broken – so that thereby, universal Communion will endure. Only together can we be with Christ, who is Lord of all. Peter’s responsibility is to thereby guarantee communion with Christ, with the charity of Christ, leading the Church to the realization of this charity in the daily life of the faithful.

The pope as custodian
And the example of Joseph

Custodian of the faith and custodian of communion with Christ and with his brothers: (yet) the ‘poor human being’ who becomes pope knows that he is nothing else but a ‘poor human being’. Therefore, his decisions and actions must be seen in that light. Even the way he communicates. But can a custodian’s task wed itself to interventionism, to protagonism, to the tendency to speak about everything by expressing his own personal opinions? Certainly not.

With regard to the concept of custody or guardianship, Pope Francis said some beautiful words in his homily at the Mass inaugurating his pontificate on March 19, 2013, when he said of Joseph, who was the guardian of both Mary and Jesus:

How did Joseph exercise his guardianship? With discretion, with humility, in silence, but with his constant presence and total fidelity even when he did not understand… How did Joseph live his calling to be the guardian of Mary, of Jesus, of the Church? With his constant attentiveness to God, being open to his signs, willingly participating in God’s plan, not his…

And Joseph is a ‘guardian’ because he knows how to listen to God, allows himself to be led by God’s will, and because of this, he is even more considerate of the persons entrusted to him, he reads events with realism, he is attentive to everything around him, and he knows to make the wisest decisions. In him, dear friends, we see how one must respond to God’s calling – with willingness, with promptness – but we also see who is the center of Christian calling: Christ.

We know how much Pope Francis says he is devoted to St. Joseph, and I believe that for him to be inspired by the Universal Patron of the Church as a custodian, would be an optimal idea, even where it concerns the area of communications. [Bergoglio to learn discretion and silence? A consummation devoutly to be wished!]

Broken communion
Finally, with a firm hook onto the ecclesial reality that we are currently experiencing, some considerations on the communion with Christ that Peter is called upon to guarantee.

As you may have learned, an authoritative Catholic philosopher, Josef Seifert, friend of John Paul II and former member of the [pre-Bergoglio] Pontifical Academy for Life, was dismissed from the Spanish branch of the International Academy of Philosophy (an academy founded by him!) because he had expressed some critical evaluations of Amoris Laetitia, particularly Paragraph 303 of Chapter 8, in which, according to Seifert, this pope comes to the point of affirming that, by force of logic, in some circumstances God could demand every kind of evil deed, like adultery thereby contradicting his own commandments. [This read of Bergoglian logic recalls Benedict XVI’s description of the Muslim Allah in the Regensburg Lecture, quoting Western scholars of Islam:

For Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality...(T)he noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, points out that Ibn Hazm went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God'.s will, we would even have to practise idolatry".

The decision to dismiss Seifert was taken by the Archbishop of Granada, Francisco Javier Martínez Fernández, who claims that Seifert, by his statement, “damages the communion of the Church, confuses the faithful, and incites distrust of the Successor of Peter, who ultimately is not serving the truth of the faith but the interests of the world”.
Allow me to note that it is not the lucid and respectful criticisms of Prof. Seifert (which need to be discussed, not punished) but actions like that of the Bishop of Granada which truly damage communion in the Church. And it would be stunning if a sign contrary to this comes from Casa Santa Marta, whose Primary Tenant likes to invoke and encourage ‘parrhesia’.

But on the question of communion, in the Seifert case, there is another reflection to make. Which was done by Prof. Claudo Pierantoni, professor of philosophy at the Universidad de Chile, in a recent essay entitled « Josef Seifert: Pure Logic, or the Beginning of the Official Persecution of Orthodoxy within the Church»

Above all, to say that someone ‘is damaging the communion of the Church’ in any way, one must presume a priori that such a communion – in respect to the subject matter on hand (Amoris Laetitia) – effectively exists within the Church.

Now, what bishop, what priest, what educated person who keeps himself informed about the Catholic Church today, does not know that there is no subject more controversial and more entangled in such terrible confusion as this (AL)? I ask, on which other subject is the ‘faith of the faithful’ more confused by the most contradictory opinions that followed the publication of Amoris Laetitia? …

Some might object that confusion existed before AL. Yes, but the enormous problem with AL is that the currents of relativistic thought and of situational ethics – which the three popes before Bergoglio had sought to stem – have now entered surreptitiously [‘Surreptitiously’? On the contrary – knowingly, and, as the perpetrators seem to think, cunningly!] into the pages of an official papal document.

And it has now come to the point that one of the most important and lucid defenders of the Magisterium in the preceding 35 years, who was personally supported and encouraged in his philosophical activities by John Paul II as one of is most precious allies in the defense of the infallible morals of the Church – Josef Seifert – has now been dismissed and treated as an enemy of communion in the Church…

Equally unjustified and ingenuous, I believe, is to affirm that Seifert “sows distrust for the Successor of Peter”. Bishop Martinez seems to be unaware of something just as evident as what we pointed out earlier: By including in an official papal document statements that contradict essential points of preceding Magisterium and the millennial doctrine of the Church, Pope Francis directly called on himself the profound mistrust of an immense number of Catholic faithful. The disastrous consequence is that this mistrust ends up by striking, in the minds of many, the institution of the papacy itself.

And what is the true cause of this distrust? Could it really be the strong and constant commitment of Josef Seifert to oppose the error of situational ethics – a commitment to which he has dedicated almost his entire life and that of the institution he founded n faithful service to the Church and the Word of God? Or is it not rather the fact that this same error – which is contrary to all of Christian tradition (one reaffirmed in Veritatis splendor, an encyclical as solemn as it is important) – has now been allowed to be insinuated into a papal document?

I think that when Prof. Pierantoni speaks of a communion that is broken by some of the propositions made in AL and of the ‘disastrous consequence’ of mistrust in the papacy, he has put his finger on two painful wounds that deserve to be faced openly (even by whoever will exercise the Petrine ministry after Bergoglio) and that must not be hidden behind reticence, ambiguity and a recourse to verbal laceration and censure.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 10/8/2017 7:48 AM]
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