Monday, May 25, 2015

Pope: "I Feel Like Saying Something Which May Sound Heretical..."

Please don't

Must the Vicar of Christ speak this way?

Seriously, must he?

In a May 23rd video address to a Christian unity gathering sponsored by the John 17 Movement, Pope Francis said:
I feel like saying something that may sound controversial, or even heretical, perhaps. But there is someone who ‘knows’ that, despite our differences, we are one. It is he who is persecuting us. It is he who is persecuting Christians today, he who is anointing us with (the blood of) martyrdom.
I'm not now going to get into a discussion of if or when ecumenism becomes heretical, except to say that in fairness, Francis isn't really saying anything here that modern Church sources going at least as far back as Vatican II haven't already said or at least implied. And obviously, this was no solemn Papal pronouncement or document.

But the wording still disturbs. Does the Pope believe that for the contemporary Church the term "heresy" has meaning? If not, then I suppose that would be heretical. But if so, why is he using the word in that way? Clearly, he doesn't believe his (and the modern Church's) version of ecumenism is heretical. But then why does he say that it might sound heretical? How and to whom exactly? Wasn't this matter "settled" by numerous statements and official documents starting with Unitatis Redintegratio?

Now, one might say, the Pope is merely using a common turn of phrase--"this may sound heretical but I like the Designated Hitter rule" or whatever--but he's the Pope, for goodness sake, and he's speaking about issues--Christian unity and the alleged primacy of the Catholic Church, among other things--that have always been at least implicitly partly about what can and cannot be said in truth by faithful Christians and Catholics so as to be in conformity with Scripture and Christian tradition--in other words, what can and cannot be said without being heretical.

Yes, the Pope is being casual and imprecise (as he so often is) and even flippant (as he so often is) about theological terminology. But that's precisely the problem.

And of course this is against a background of the contemporary Church being rife with actual heresy.

Is this the worst from this Pope? Of course not. But that's partly because the list of these sorts of things is so long by now.

Do I take it seriously?

Yes and No.

Which, by the way, is the same answer I would give to the question of whether I take this Pope seriously.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you for reading and for the link.

      A few points:

      1. Unlike a few of my Traditionalist betters I don't think the Pope in that video said anything heretical, close to heretical or even new (for him or the Church). My point was rather about his bizarrely casual wording and manner of speaking. I think I made this very clear in the piece.

      2. That said, I think Akin's piece is itself bizarre for many reasons, among them its unnecessary length and a few strange mistakes in logic. I hope this doesn't offend you but I think Akin and those like him make Catholicism seem like a Dear Leader cult--with Akin as one of the Dear Leader's somewhat loony defenders. :)

    2. Oh, don't get me wrong. I think Akin has achieved self-parody exit velocity with this one.

      Me, I'm just staggered that this has become the new normal. The Vicar of Christ says highly weird things several times a week, and we all just shrug and go on with our lives.

    3. Yeah, or write 60,000 word (or whatever it was) defenses of them. But you're exactly right and you put it very well. And it's become the new normal in only two years. Quite a feat.

  2. The Pope is wrong to speak casually and imprecisely, as he often does.

    The assertion that non-Catholics who die rather than deny Christ are Christian martyrs is NOT heretical. There are several bloggers who have made themselves ridiculous by branding this assertion as "indifferentism."

    1. I pretty much agree although I think he did say a bit more than that.

    2. Now, some of the quotes from the Magisterium:

      Council of Florence (Ecumenical XVII)

      -Salvation does not Exist Outside of the Church Even for Those who Have Shed their Blood for Christ

      Synod of Laodicea (363-364 AD)

      -The ‘Martyrs’ of the Heretic are Aliens from God

      Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe

      -Non-Members of the Catholic Church Cannot be Saved, Even if they Shed Their Blood for the Name of Christ

      Saint Cyprian of Carthage

      -The Blood Shed by a Schismatic does not Wash Away the Stain of Sin
      -The Torments Suffered by a Schismatic do not Serve as a Crown, but rather a Chastisement for his Perfidy
      -The Baptism of Blood is Useless to a Heretic

      Saint Augustine

      -Those who, as Schismatics, do not Lead a Christian Life, do not Die as Martyrs
      -Those who Rebel against the Body of Christ cannot presume to be persecuted for His Sake
      -If a Schismatic Dies Guilty of Sacrilege how may He be Baptized by his Blood?
      -The Same Furnace which Purifies the Martyrs, Reduces Heretics to Ashes

      Benedict XIV

      -Even if a Heretic Dies for one Article of the True Faith, He may not be Considered a Martyr

      For each of the above, D-B then expands on the topic with quotes from the original source. To show you how that works, the bit from the Council of Florence (which, by the way, featured the temporary reunion of the schismatic Orthodox and the presence of Eastern Orthodox bishops) above expands to:

      Council of Florence (Ecumenical XVII):

      It firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart “into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt 25:41), unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fasting, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church. (Denzinger-Hünermann 1351. Council of Florence, Decree in Behalf of the Jacobites, February 4, 1442)

      OK, how about that Synod of Laodicea?

      Synod of Laodicea (363-364 AD):

      Canon 9: The members of the Church are not allowed to meet in the cemeteries, nor attend the so-called martyrs of any of the heretics, for prayer or service. […]
      Canon 34: No Christian shall forsake the martyrs of Christ, and turn to false martyrs, for they are aliens from God. Let those, therefore, who go after them, be anathema. (Synod of Laodicea, The Canons, Canon 9/34)

      Finally, they add a critically important supplement to the above with resources on so-called invincible ignorance, which has quite often been abused to morph into a kind of catch-all means of salvation for heretics and schismatics. Great stuff:

      Saint Thomas Aquinas:

      Neither living nor lifeless faith remains in a heretic who disbelieves one article of faith. […] if, of the things taught by the Church, he holds what he chooses to hold, and rejects what he chooses to reject, he no longer adheres to the teaching of the Church as to an infallible rule, but to his own will. […] A heretic does not hold the other articles of faith, about which he does not err, in the same way as one of the faithful does, namely by adhering simply to the Divine Truth, because in order to do so, a man needs the help of the habit of faith; but he holds the things that are of faith, by his own will and judgment. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica II-II q. 5, a. 3)

      Seattle kim

  3. Can't there be someone that yanks the camera and microphone away?..

  4. Thank you Seattle Kim for assembling all the pertinent quotes in one place