Without humility, there is no Catholic faith

Today is the 76th Anniversary of the Election of Pope Pius XII

Pope Pius XII venerates the Cross
Pope Pius XII venerates the Cross

Editorial — Rome, March 2, 2015:  In the English language, we are blessed with the capacity of using the honorific capitalization to vary the signification of words.  Thus we can say that the church of which we are members is at the corner of Maple and Main street. Or we can say, that the Church of which we are members was founded by Christ Jesus.  The first signifies a mere building, the second the Mystical Body of Christ.  The same goes with the word, “faith”, though many Catholics in the English language are beginning to forget this.  When we speak of the “Catholic faith” we say something different than when we speak of the “Catholic Faith”.  The latter refers properly to the teachings of our holy religion, and as a metonymy — that is, the poetic usage by which a whole thing is named by a part, as in the prayer:  “Lord, I am not worthy that Thou should come under my roof”,  the word “roof” refers to the whole house: the body being the house of the soul, metaphorically — so when we say, “the Catholic Faith”, the expression can can also indicate the Catholic Religion itself, not just its doctrines.

But when we say, “the Catholic faith”, we ought to refer properly to the supernatural virtue of faith, as a Catholic should have it — there is no other way to have it — namely, to believe all which God has publicly revealed, and this in the same sense and understanding as it has always been understood by the Catholic Faith.

Thus, when we say, “Without humility, there is no Catholic faith”, we are speaking about the interior disposition of individuals, not of a distinction of Churches.

God gives grace to the humble, but to the proud He hardens His Heart

Though God can do all things, and though God can convert even the most hardened of sinners, as His Mercy can alone accomplish in such exceptional circumstances, everyone easily recognizes that it is very foolish to put one’s hope in such, as if such could be presumed.

Take for example the case of driving in a snow storm with a gas tank near empty.  As one goes down the highway, one sees a sign for a gas station in the little town one is passing, and there is an exit to get off the road.  The station is open, other cars are filling up.  Yet, one knows that there is a gas station at home, and that though the needle on the gas gauge is getting near empty, there is a theoretical possibility of arriving home without stopping to fill up, since in all previous times one has nearly arrived home, by a few miles.

Now a reasonable person would consider the danger of being stranded even a few miles from home in a snow storm, and conclude that the prudent thing to do was to stop for gas at this little town now.  Such prudence would be humble and an expression of humility, because one would recognize that one’s personal inclination to be optimistic about outcomes CANNOT and DOES NOT change the objective realities of the distance to reach home or the rate of consumption of gasoline by one’s car.

For this reason, it is unrealistic to presume that God will give grace to a proud man.  For a proud man will not draw close to God, will not recognize his need for God’s mercy and providence and protection.  Hence, he will not pray with sincerity to ask for help.  A proud man does this because he is not attentive to the reality that HIS SOUL cannot arrive at the destination of Heaven without God’s grace and that HIS HEART needs sufficient grace right now to make it to the next stop on his path in life.  Nor does he recognize that HE CANNOT produce grace of himself and must seek it from God.

Humility is the essential disposition of Catholic faith

Pope Pius XII greets a little girl.
Pope Pius XII greets a little girl.

The entire Catholic Faith, that is Catholic Religion, is founded upon humility, because IT ALONE accepts all which God has revealed.  IT ALONE puts into practice all which God has commanded and requested and prefers.  IT ALONE has never swerved from the right path of truth in doctrine and practice in regard to all matters of religion.  IT ALONE rejects entirely the pride of the world, the pride of the flesh and the pride of the devil.  The pride of the world which believes it can live without God; the pride of the flesh which believes man can achieve everything by himself, the pride of the Devil who believes he has every right to comport himself as God and dictate to the earth.

It is for the sake of humility, and preserving this spirit, that the Catholic Faith has ever taught, in all Her rites, that the priest is to face God during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, that man is to kneel or prostrate himself at communion, that the Eucharist is to be received on the tongue; that the Priest alone is the minister of the Sacraments.

The proud man denies this; the ally of the proud seeks to turn the Catholic away from this, by whatever art or strategem.

Cardinal Pacelli kneeling before God
Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli kneeling before God, with the cappa magna.

Vatican II’s “magisterium”?

If we speak, not in metaphors, not with words used improperly or in a broad sense, then we speak properly and in a strict sense.  When we do this, we use words as they should and speak in a scientific manner.

In this sense, therefore, “magisterium” means the office of teaching; and “teaching” means the exposition of authoritative truth with the obligation of its acceptance.

Thus, speaking properly, no one says that a poet, when reciting poetry, teaches.  Nor that a friend at the bar, reciting local gossip teaches.  Likewise, when speaking of  different ways in which one might encourage, instruct, do, write, etc., without any judgement of which is better or obligatory, such as in all pastoral discussions, no one should say that there is any teaching being handed down.

Thus, if a mechanic should say that an engine could be repaired in any of a number of ways, listing each way and placing no judgement upon them as to their utility, he has not taught anything in the strict sense of “teaching”.  He has merely listed possibilities.  In this sense a phone directory does not teach, because it only lists phone numbers.

For this reason, “teaching” in the strict sense DOES NOT APPLY to the Second Vatican Council.  For unlike all previous councils it promulgated no Creed, decreed no Canons, and Anathematized no errors or heresies.  Thus, willing to not impose anything with the obligation of holding it for all times and places, its documents did not rise to the level of “magisterial teaching” in the proper sense.

The Sophistic Use of Vatican II

A sophistry is a form of argumentation which tricks the listener or reader into accepting a conclusion which is not logically validated by the terms or propositions of the argument.

For example:  A dog has a bark; this tree has a bark: this tree is a dog.

Aristotle wrote an entire treatise on all the possible forms of erroneous argumentation in his work entitled The Elenchae.

Let’s consider, therefore, the most common sophistic argument used in regard to Vatican II:

Proposition 1: Vatican II is an ecumenical council.  Proposition 2: Ecumenical councils are extraordinary expressions of the authentic magisterium of the Church.  Conclusion 1:  Therefore, Vatican II’s teaching is infallible.  Conclusion 2:  Therefore, all Catholics who reject any part of its teaching are heretics.

In this illation, there are 2 propositions, both of which are true.  But there are 2 conclusions which are false.

It is true that Vatican II is an ecumenical council. That is a historical fact, which the documents and historical record confirm.

It is true that Ecumenical councils are extraordinary expressions of the authentic magisterium of the Church.  No one denies that.

But for the first conclusion to be true, there would be required something more.  Since to illate or conclude that Vatican II’s teaching is infallible, one needs to demonstrate 2 things, (1) that every act of the authentic magisterium of the Church is infallible and (2) that Vatican II exercised the authentic magisterium.

However, according to Cardinal Journet, in his book, The Church of the Incarnate Word, the authentic magisterium of the Church is not always infallible.  Because, in theological terms, used properly, “authentic” does not mean infallible, it means that a thing originates from the author which it should have.  And thus the phrase, “authentic magisterium of the Church” means nothing, properly, but that the teaching comes from those whom Our Lord Jesus Christ gave the authority to teach.  Thus, one cannot say that the teaching of the United Nations is an act of the authentic magisterium of the Church, since Our Lord did not give the United Nations the authority to teach.

However, just because the Holy Father and Bishops in communion with him have the sole capacity to authentically exercise the magisterium of the Church does not mean that they must or do in fact exercise it.  Just as a man with the capacity to speak or write or think, does not in every act speak or write or think.  Nor is he obliged to.

Now since teaching requires that one hand down a truth with the obligation to accept it as true, inasmuch as Vatican II did this it did formally teach, and its teaching is authentic. But if it did not oblige catholic to accept it in such wise that non-acceptance was branded by the Council with the note of heresy, that is, in such wise that the counter teaching was condemned as erroneous or heretical, then a Catholic cannot sin by the sin of heresy or schism in rejecting it.

Yet this is manner in which Vatican II taught.  And thus the above illation is false in its 1st conclusion, and thus false in its second conclusion.

But to understand this, let us, in fine, examine the historical record.

With what obligation did Pope Paul VI promulgate Vatican II

The act of promulgation of all of the Documents of the Second Vatican Council was taken by Pope Paul VI, on December 8, 1965, in the Apostolic Brief, In Spiritu Sancto, the English, Italian, Spanish & Portuguese translations of which can be found at the Vatican website.  The only canonically valid text, however, is the Latin, which is missing from the Vatican Website.

However, it is found at Documenta Catholica Omnia, in PDF format.

Here is the key phrase, which indicates the level of obligation by which all Catholics must accept Vatican II’s teaching:

Mandamus autem ac praecipimus, ut, quae synodaliter in Concilio statuta sunt, sancte et religiose ab omnibus Christi fidelibus serventur ad Dei gloriam, ad Sanctae Matris Ecclesiae decus et ad hominum universorum tranquillitatem et pacem.

Here is our unofficial English translation:

Moreover, we command and precept, that, what have been laid down synodally in Council, are to be kept by all of Christ’s faithful in a holy and religious manner for the glory of God, for the ornament of Holy Mother Church and for the peace and tranquility of each and every man.

Significant, here, is that NOTHING is said regarding the obligation of accepting under any threat of punishment.  Therefore, Paul VI established no punishment for not accepting it.  Therefore, the only deviation that could be committed would be a moral one or a spiritual one.  But all this, as Cardinal Journet observes in his book, The Church of the Incarnate Word, is the same as regards a fallible curial document, which, if one were to find any error in it, one would be obliged in conscience to reject it on that point and to inform the Holy Father of the error.

Thus, so long as one does recognize that Vatican II is an ecumenical council, that its fathers had the authority to teach, that they did not impose anything by establishing a disciplinary canon or anathematizing an error or heresy, and that Pope Paul VI in his promulgation of it wished it to be accepted with the same religious respect as as Curial document, as much as regards its non-definite character, one accepts it in a catholic manner, religiously and holily.  But that does not mean, that upon discovering some error, one must accept it as a whole as something worthy of religious or holy respect, since “to accept something as a whole” means to consider the thing as a moral whole, in which everything is affirmed as true, even if false.

Humility recognizes Vatican II for what it was, Pride as something else

Humility, the virtue which inclines us to regard things as they are and NOT as we want them to be, requires, thus, that we recognize Vatican II for what it was, not something more or less.

In the sophism or false argument presented above, we see a common argument used to convince that Vatican II was something more than it intended itself to be.  If we were to accept that, we would be proud.  We would by our own private judgement be raising Vatican II to a level which it did not claim for itself.

Contrariwise, if we were to reject Vatican II as not being of the Church or being wholly in error, we would be proud.  For we would by our own private judgement be lowering Vatican II to a level which it does not deserve.

Humility thus preserves the Catholic faith of the individual regarding questions which concern Vatican II. And it is only through such humility that the Catholic Faith can purdure in the soul of a believer.

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One thought on “Without humility, there is no Catholic faith”

  1. That was beautiful, Brother. So clear and so Catholic. Pius XII was ‘My Pope’ as a child in old Catholic School of long ago. I remember a beautiful hymn we used to sing in the morning for him! I hope you do not mind if I put it here.

    An army of youth, flying the standard of truth.
    We’re fighting for Christ the King!
    Heads lifted high. Catholic Action our cry,
    And, the Cross our only sword.

    On earths battlefield, never a vantage we’ll yield.
    As onward and on we swing.
    Comrades true, dare and do,
    For the Queens white and blue,
    With our Cross as our sword,
    For Christ the King.

    Happy Anniversary, Holy, Holy Father.
    I think you are a Saint!

    Thank you, Brother. Your article is like the way things used to be explained, with
    Clarity building on logical truths.

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