|"Fortes in Fide" Fr. Noel Barbara - Part I
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|Author:||John Lane [ Mon Jun 18, 2012 1:13 pm ]|
|Post subject:||"Fortes in Fide" Fr. Noel Barbara - Part I|
This is really worth reading. Fr. Barbara was a master of sacred doctrine. With the exception of one or two points (especially his misunderstanding of the responses - quite distinct from each other - of Archbishop Lefebvre and Bishop de Castro Mayer), this text is timeless.
Please offer a pray for the soul of Jim McNally and for the consolation of his wife and children.
"Fortes in Fide" Fr. Noel Barbara
Volume 2, Number 1, circa 1991-1993. Transcribed by the late Jim McNally, R.I.P.
PRELIMINARY REMARKS ON METHOD
The true significance of the council
Respect for sacred doctrine
The honest use of the intelligence
The conscience is not to be stifled
THE EXPRESSION OF A CONTRADICTION
The two texts
The object of "Dignitatis Humanae"
The object of "Quanta Cura": an answer to an objection
Shifts and evasions
WHAT GOD HAS PERMITTED
The process is not inexplicable
Vatican II: the resignation of the Catholic bishops
The lost years
THE RESTORATION OF THE EPISCOPATE AND THE PAPACY
An action founded on doctrine and the law
The duty of bishops towards the universal Church
The Church awaits a pope
Christ is gagged whenever His words are greeted with contempt or wilful deafness, with hypocrisy or indifference. And His words, since the Ascension, are transmitted by the magisterium of the Church: "He that heareth thee, heareth me" (Luke X, 16).
For our part, we make no claim to exercise a "parallel magisterium", nor do we have an absurd intention of forcing our opinions, or those of theologians of our own choice, upon others. The one thing that we shall not cease from saying and repeating is that the Christian conscience is faced with an objective problem, and that this problem must be solved: the certain magisterium of the Church is contradicted by the fundamental proclamations of Vatican II. This contradiction, which everyone admits at least implicitly, creates an essential difficulty which must be settled in favour of one side or the other. Now the faith compels us to settle it in favour of the certain magisterium of the Church. Unless we do that, infallibility is meaningless.
Once again, many people are being tempted to stifle this objective question under personal or sociological considerations. Some have cleverly invented the term "sedevacantist" and apply it to us in a derogatory sense; but we are no more "sedevacantists" than we are "traditionalists". We are Catholics, and it is precisely for that reason that we must insist so strongly on the urgent need to submit to the magisterium of the popes and of the councils.
Let us first clarify our terms before coming to the meat of the matter. The difficulty caused by Vatican II is primarily of the order of material facts: a contradiction between certain statements of this council and other statements of the earlier magisterium. It is a problem of texts, which must be treated strictly in accordance with the rules governing matters of the kind. We reject out of hand every interpretation calculated to cause delay, and every woolly consideration which might deflect us from the question before us.
Next, the texts concerned are all claimed to be the teachings of the magisterium of the Church as such. Now in this matter it is not permissible to relativize, to interpret according to some so-called diplomatic wisdom. We must hold fast to Catholic doctrine. The fundamental rule which that imposes is that no heterogeneous evolution of doctrine is possible. It is not merely a matter of heresy: absurdity too is involved. How can the Deposit of Faith, infallibly entrusted by Christ to His apostles and their successors, change with the times? On the contrary, the doctrine of truth increases homogeneously, always with the same meaning (Const. "Dei Filius" of the 1st Vatican Council, Denz. 1800). No contradiction can legitimately intervene between the magisterium of yesterday and that of today, and if one should exist, it is because the novelty does not originate from the magisterium, in spite of all appearances to the contrary.
Finally, this problem confronts every Christian and it confronts him today; it is not for future generations, for others, for "specialists" to settle. It is a question of faith, and at the same time a question of morals, since it concerns submission to the Roman Pontiff. Can we pretend, like some "conservatives", and like the men of the new church, that the pope can say today in the name of Christ that which his predecessors condemned yesterday in the name of the same sovereign authority? Or even, like the "traditionalists", that it is permissible to disobey him when expedient? In reality, we have no choice but to admit that the man who claims to be the pope and who announces a false gospel cannot be the pope. This conclusion may provoke strong reactions, but in all circumstances, it is obvious that the question concerns everyone, since the pope is the immediate Pastor of each and every member of the Church (Const. "Pastor Aeternus" of the 1st Vatican Council, Denz. 1829).
By the same fact, it is a moral question, not abstract but concrete, affecting the obedience of every layman, priest or bishop. Then - a happy counter-balance which the faith requires us to profess - this question is not impossible of resolution by the ordinary faithful. It is necessarily posed in such terms that every Christian, provided that he is honest and makes a reasonable effort, can answer it with a certain conscience. If it were not so, God would be imposing on the majority a burden too heavy for them, which is incompatible with His sanctity "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able" (I Cor. X, 13). This rejects in advance all subtlety, all false knowledge and every accusation which might be made against us of arbitrarily simplifying the data, through a pretence of Manichaeism or intellectual crudity. The language of the Church is that of simplicity, especially when she is addressing all the baptized.
In this present issue, we have gathered together the essential elements of a case which has already been made, for the most part, but never before presented as a summary and in easily accessible form in "Forts dans la Foi". We would like each one of our readers to make himself acquainted with it with an open mind, concerned solely to understand what is really at stake and with a firm intention to draw from it all its logical consequences, whatever they may be, in order that the glory of God be given its full due.
PRELIMINARY REMARKS ON METHOD
VATICAN II BROUGHT ABOUT A PROFOUND CHANGE. TODAY, THIS IS THE CHIEF PROBLEM IN THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH: IT IS ESSENTIAL TO SCRUTINIZE IT WITH THE GREATEST CARE.
Opposition to the orientations of Vatican II is difficult to find, for a number of easily-understood reasons.
The supporters of the upheaval which occurred at the council, satisfied with the new turn of events, like to present it as an irreversible fact. Their arguments, however, end there, since these men have nothing in common with the traditional doctrinal point of view, which has become totally foreign to them. They draw their inspiration from the fashionable human sciences or from heterodox trends of thought, and ignore Catholic theological criteria. What is more, they have no patience with the idea that Vatican II might have broken with the teaching of the earlier magisterium, so that to put such a problem to them makes no sense, either in theory or in practice.
The "conservatives" and the "traditionalists" make their own contributions to the confusion of the debate. In general they prefer to discuss relative trivia rather than the main issue, and are unwilling to face the fact that several of the fundamental texts of Vatican II explicitly broke with the doctrine previously defined by the Church. On the other hand they unceasingly denounce the abuses, the scandals and the tolerance, even the protection, which these abuses and scandals enjoy in high places. In this way they are led to oppose the directors of the post-conciliar institution, which they nevertheless recognize as being the Catholic hierarchy, so that they are set upon a schismatic course when they reach the end of their endurance.
Others take an interest in the main issue and therefore reason from a doctrinal standpoint. However, through faintheartedness, they either refuse to draw conclusions, or they draw ambiguous ones, allowing it to be thought that the difficulty is merely hypothetical, or even that the solution lies in individual and pluralist options.
To bring the debate back to essentials, it is necessary to proceed methodically, and first of all to deal with an obstacle which is at the source of all the others, the obstacle formed by the pastoral character of Vatican II.
THE TRUE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE COUNCIL
When he opened the council, John XXIII defined the purpose of the work of its participants. He brushed aside at once any particular preoccupation with dogma and assigned to the conciliar fathers the task of doing a pastoral work, that of presenting the traditional truths in a fresh manner, better suited to the times. Thus stress was laid more on the form than on the substance, on language rather than on doctrine.
This point of view is not objectionable in itself. It is indeed laudable to wish to improve the presentation of the message of the Gospel to allow the men who receive it to understand it thoroughly and to become converted more willingly. Pastoral preoccupation is inherent in the function of the magisterium itself, which is not a simple confession of the truth received from Christ, but a confession in order to teach and invigorate men called to salvation. The magisterium of the Church is in the image of that of the Good Shepherd Himself, who is also called the Divine Pedagogue by the Fathers of the Church.
Since Vatican II was assigned a pastoral purpose, many have concluded that the council made no claim to a doctrinal function. However, this easy assumption is baseless. It is vain to set the form against the substance, except in the mind: the briefest sermon, the shortest edifying discourse makes an indissoluble whole, at the same time forms through its language, style and method of exposition, and doctrine through the content that is conveyed. Vatican II did not limit itself to pure exercises in style, which would in any case be inconceivable. The texts which issued from it form so many dogmatic teachings, even if they are expressed in a new style of language.
This new formulation, the work proper to the council, often rejected the traditional expression of the faith, sometimes radically. This fact does not concern only the silences, even the diplomatic falsehoods intended to satisfy the enemies of the Church, particularly Protestants and Communists. It goes much further, becoming in reality a methodology for junction with the world. Certain authors have found very pertinent phrases to describe these moves, such as G. Martelet, who speaks of "a paradoxical union of opposites" ("Les idees maitresses de Vatican II", DDB, 1966). The "aggiornamento" brought about by Vatican II, therefore, was not concerned only with words; above all it altered the presentation of dogma. Moreover, this came about not by accident, but by the faithful application of the programme imposed by John XXIII, who enjoined them in his inaugural discourse to revive doctrine, but "studied and expressed following the methods of research and presentation used by modern thinking". After twenty years of experience of the council, how can we fail to be reminded of St. Paul's warning: "O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding the profane novelties of words and oppositions of knowledge falsely so called. Which some promising, have erred concerning the faith" (I Tim VI, 20-21).
Here we touch on the nub of the whole difficulty. Pastoral care is fundamentally good since it leads to a better presentation of the truths of salvation to the men of a particular culture at a particular moment in history, and thus helps them to welcome the faith. In the Catholic progress from its pastoral beginnings, fidelity to the Deposit of Faith remains intact, above all if the golden rule of all theology and all catechetics is observed: "in the same sense and with the same method" as the doctrine received from the Apostles (definition of St. Vincent de Lerins, adopted by the 1st Vatican Council and also in the anti-modernist oath). But from the point of view which we are setting out here, it is a very different matter. It is the exposition of doctrine itself, and not merely some of its expressions which might perhaps be too difficult to understand, that finds itself modified and that not in order to permit of its better reception by the men of today - so ignorant in religious matters and so exposed to lying propaganda - but in order to conform to the needs of "modern thinking". But what is this modern thinking except that which, since scientism in the 19th century, has been built on atheist rationalism, or which serves as justification for all the secular ideologies? We must surely admit that an enterprise consisting in the revision of all Catholic doctrine in terms of the methods and presentation of a school of thought like this runs a very real risk of deviation.
The result is well known. Contrary to what one sometimes hears, the teaching of Vatican II is not lacking in coherence. In spite of the variety of tendencies to be found in it, it in fact retains its unity of direction, grouped about the aim which inspired it: to bring the Church nearer to the world, by erasing the differences as much as possible, by hiding the earlier condemnations under a bushel, by justifying everything that could be justified and even beyond that, up to the breaking point.
This rupture between Catholic tradition and the doctrines of Vatican II is so deep, and has so altered dogma itself and not only some of its formulations, that the expressions used to describe it have shed all ambiguity: "a change of course in doctrine, a Copernican revolution, a turn of 180 degrees, a new Pentecost", etc. Such expressions, taken from a variety of sources, are a clear sign that a profound change has taken place, apart from accidental modifications. In this change lies the major problem of the Church today.
Now as we have already emphasized, very few people seem to be ready to tackle this subject honestly. Undoubtedly there are motives of the moral order behind this incapacity: the foreseen consequences give rise to fear, and an uncertain faith is soon caused to stagger. But there is also a crippling failure to understand the principles which govern every intellectual step of the Christian, and it is on these principles that we intend to dwell now.
RESPECT FOR SACRED DOCTRINE
In the first place, and this seems to be often forgotten, not only by the apostates but by many "conservatives" and "traditionalists" also, the doctrine of the Church is not an ideology, but the sacred expression of the Word of God. This reminder will appear pointless to some: who, they will ask, is pretending that doctrine is an ideology? Nevertheless, the simple fact of admitting that a particular conciliar statement might have been written for diplomatic purposes, through opportunism or to serve the interests of some political power is already to lose sight of the sacred character of the magisterium. How can a doctrine announced in the name of the apostolic authority, solemnly presented as forming part of the revealed deposit, be reduced at this point to the level of some motion or other of a group of thoughtful democrats? How is it possible to "pretend that the solemn formulas concluding the conciliar texts at the time of their promulgation are no more than stylistic conventional phrases devoid of real meaning?
It is because the doctrine of the Church is that of Christ Himself that adherence to the magisterium is an absolute necessity: "Whenever the word of this magisterium declares that this truth or another forms a part of the body of the divinely revealed doctrine, all must believe with certainty that it is true" (Leo XIII, "Satis Cognitum", 29 June 1896). "All those things are to be believed with divine and Catholic faith which are contained in the Word of God, written or handed down, and which the Church, either by a solemn judgement or by her ordinary and universal teaching, proposes for belief as having been divinely revealed" (Const. "Dei Filius", Denz. 1792).
Once we admit - as we necessarily must unless we are to deny the evidence - the heterodox character of one text of Vatican II or another, it is not acceptable to relativize the matter in any way, since such an attitude amounts to an implicit denial of the authority of the magisterium. We must not lose sight of the fact that the official texts of Vatican II claim the adherence of the faithful in the name of Christ.
THE HONEST USE OF THE INTELLIGENCE
Whenever difficulty arises in the interpretation of texts, it is essential to have recourse to the rules governing such matters. This is a truism, but a reminder is necessary when there is a constant violation of the obligation which it imposes. Many people are all too ready to give free rein to the most fanciful interpretations, to twist if necessary even the most unequivocal expressions, if that will enable them to retain their preconceived ideas. It is a form of dishonesty, often camouflaged under a layer of pious justifications.
On the other hand, the simple fact of respecting the appropriate rules in the analysis of texts (i.e., researching the authentic interpretation of the authority, internal and external criticism) appears to many to be a dangerous subtlety, although in fact it arises from respect for truth, and even a religious respect, considering the nature of the texts concerned. From their point of view, putting forward the hypothesis of discontinuity between the certain magisterium of the past and that which is now presented as the magisterium can appear to be an outrageous move, and disrespectful of authority. It is nothing of the kind, but again it is necessary to say why, which leads us on to recall a few facts on the subject of obedience to the teaching of the Church. The faithful, as we all know, are bound to adhere to what the Church professes. That is the object of the Act of Faith: "I firmly believe ... all the truths which You teach us through Your Church". This adherence must not only be general, virtual, but also, if possible, actual and perfectly conscious.
By such an adherence, the intelligence of the faithful honours Christ's truth - it is the "rationabile obsequium", that is to say the homage of the created reason to that of its Creator, of which St. Paul speaks in his Epistle to the Romans (XII, 1). Thus, not only is the intelligence of the faithful not spurned, but it is directly courted by the magisterium of Christ and of His Church. Passive submission to the message is good for totalitarian parties, but it ill becomes the freedom of the children of God. From them, more is expected. Just as the worship required must be "in spirit and in truth" (John IV, 24) and not purely exterior like that of the pagans, so the welcome given to the Word of God transmitted through the magisterium must be conscious and must form the object of a free act of submission. This submission must be inspired by filial fear, and thus be full of religious respect and of holy eagerness. It remains an act of nobility in all circumstances, even for the least intellectually gifted of the faithful, when they adhere because they know that it is reasonable to adhere.
When the magisterium speaks, even if its teaching displeases us for some reason, it is necessary to submit, exteriorly and above all interiorly, with no hint of murmuring. Of course, it must be an act of the magisterium and not a personal or private utterance of the pope or the bishops. In that case a proportionate respect is required, not an obligation of faith.
THE CONSCIENCE IS NOT TO BE STIFLED
The present difficulty arises from the fact that the intelligence of the faithful is apparently confronted with two statements of the magisterium: two statements in opposition to each other. One is the traditional doctrine of the Church, and the other is the teaching of an ecumenical council confirmed by Paul VI and adopted by his successors. Faced with a contradiction of this sort, the filial reaction of the faithful undoubtedly is to suppose himself mistaken, and to look to his own weakness for the explanation of his doubts. A presumption in favour of authority requires him to assume that the contradiction is no more than apparent. However, if the contradiction is flagrant, this assumption will not long survive. To maintain it artificially and to refrain from making a judgement would be to go against the needs of conscience, which absolutely must emerge from doubt, and so would finally work against the nature of obedience itself.
Under the appearance of piety, such an attitude also disguises a grave infidelity. In fact, the previous magisterium is certain, and we are bound to adhere to it. In theory we could agree to suspend our judgement on the new teaching which contradicts it. However, this new teaching is accompanied by concrete obligations, obligations presented to us in the name of Christ and requiring our submission on precise points (if only in the liturgical or ecumenical sphere, for example). It is necessary in practice to adopt an attitude. While doubt persists on the contradiction between the new teaching and the old, it is normal to follow the new, since the benefit of the doubt is to be given to the existing authority. But there are, as we know, doubts of conscience voluntarily entertained, which in reality conceal certitudes. In this case, to accept the novelties while pretending to refrain from judging, or to refer them to one more knowledgeable than oneself, is no better than a shameful evasion and an immoral act consisting of acting against one's conscience.
The question would appear in very different terms if it were a matter, for example, of opposition between the judgement of a pope and that of theologians, even venerable ones, past or present. In that case, the magisterium would decide and doubt would not be permissible. We could quote the example of Pius XII ruling in liturgical matters against the advice of a few.
Here, however, and let us remember it, we have a very different case, with the certain magisterium of the past in opposition to a teaching also presented to us with the appearances of the magisterium. Since we are bound to accept the dogma of infallibility, since we know that dogma cannot evolve in a heterogeneous manner and since on the other hand we have the rationally acquired certainty of a contradiction which it is impossible to conceal, we can no longer escape the conclusion. That which presents itself to us today as the living magisterium of the Church is not so in reality, despite certain appearances – not all the appearances are there, since the break in doctrine is matched by a break in style. To draw such a conclusion is not to favour a personal opinion against the magisterium. On the contrary, it is to adopt an attitude both coherent from the rational point of view and faithful in practice to the unity of the faith transmitted by the Catholic popes and councils.
THE EXPRESSION OF A CONTRADICTION
BY DECLARING RELIGIOUS LIBERTY TO BE IN CONFORMITY WITH REASON AND REVELATION, VATICAN II CONTRADICTS THE DOCTRINE PREVIOUSLY DEFINED BY THE CHURCH.
There is a contradiction between certain teachings of Vatican II and the irreformable doctrine of the Church. Barring blindness, this contradiction is recognizable by everyone. However, because of its formidable consequences, it is also very difficult to accept and there is a great temptation to ignore it at all costs. That is why, before coming to the proof of the contradiction itself, we have drawn attention to a certain number of obstacles which are at bottom no more than escape routes.
We have no intention, even if we had the space, to count all the numerous points on which Vatican II separated itself from Catholic doctrine. Let us emphasize that one alone is sufficient foundation for what we say. On the other hand, the errors contained in the conciliar teachings are not equally identifiable. There are some, for example, which require a summary of several texts whose exact meaning is not always clear. Lack of intellectual and moral rectitude and ignorance of doctrine are too widespread today to make this type of work easy. Fortunately, we might say, Providence has permitted some of the ruptures introduced by Vatican II to be more radical and thus more easily identifiable. This is particularly the case with religious liberty and we choose to limit ourselves to this subject.
Nevertheless, even in the presence of a text as explicit as "Dignitatis Humanae", some people, inconvenienced by a declaration which evidently is not to their liking, still pretend to deny or to relativize the contradiction. We must therefore do again here what has already been done many times because it is indispensable: to place side by side the Declaration on Religious Liberty issued by Vatican II and the encyclical "Quanta Cura". We shall carefully weigh the wording of the two texts and we shall demonstrate that they are in unyielding opposition to each other. We shall also answer the objections which will certainly be made. Let us state now that "Quanta Cura" is not unique, but is only one of innumerable teachings of the magisterium which oppose "Dignitatis Humanae". We refer to Pius IX's encyclical because of its undeniable obligatory force and because it happens to correspond almost word for word with the declaration of Vatican II.
THE TWO TEXTS
Let us now begin by quoting the two texts and their concluding formulas:
"Dignitatis Humanae" "Quanta Cura"
"The human person has "CONTRARY TO THE DOCTRINE
a right to religious freedom. OF HOLY SCRIPTURE, OF THE
Freedom of this kind means CHURCH AND OF THE FATHERS,
that ALL MEN MUST BE IMMUNE they unhesitatingly affirm
FROM COERCION on the part of that "THE BEST GOVERNMENT IS
individuals, social groups THAT WHERE IT IS NOT
and every human power so RECOGNIZED TO BE THE DUTY OF
that, within due limits, AUTHORITY TO REPRESS BY LEGAL
nobody is forced to act PENALTIES THE VIOLATER OF THE
against his convictions, nor CATHOLIC RELIGION, except when
is anyone to be restrained public order requires it".
from acting in accordance
with his convictions in "In consequence of this
religious matters in private ABSOLUTELY FALSE IDEA OF
or in public, alone or in SOCIAL GOVERNMENT, they do not
associations with others hesitate to favour this
(2,1). ERRONEOUS OPINION, which could
not be more fatal to the
THE RIGHT TO RELIGIOUS Catholic Church and to the
FREEDOM IS BASED ON THE VERY salvation of souls and which
DIGNITY OF THE HUMAN PERSON Our predecessor of happy
AS KNOWN THROUGH THE REVEALED memory, Gregory XVI, called
WORD OF GOD AND BY REASON madness, that "FREEDOM OF
ITSELF. THE RIGHT OF THE CONSCIENCE AND OF WORSHIP IS A
HUMAN PERSON TO RELIGIOUS RIGHT PROPER TO EVERY MAN; AND
FREEDOM MUST BE GIVEN SUCH THAT IT MUST BE PROCLAIMED IN
RECOGNITION IN THE EVERY WELL-ORDERED STATE, and
CONSTITUTIONAL ORDER OF that citizens have the right
SOCIETY AS WILL MAKE IT A to full liberty to manifest
CIVIL RIGHT (2,2). their opinions openly and
publicly, whatever they may
"The Church, be, by word, by printing or
therefore, faithful to the otherwise, without limitation
truth of the Gospel, is by the civil or ecclesiastical
following in the path of authorities" ("Mirari Vos").
Christ and the apostles But in upholding these
when she recognizes THE reckless assertions, they do
PRINCIPLE THAT RELIGIOUS not think, they do not
LIBERTY IS IN KEEPING WITH consider that they are
THE DIGNITY OF MAN AND preaching "a freedom of
DIVINE REVELATION, and perdition" (St. Augustine,
gives it her support. Epist. 105)".
Throughout the ages she has
preserved and handed on the "In consequence, all and
doctrine which she has each of the disordered
received from her Master opinions and doctrines
and the apostles" (12,1). recalled in detail in this
Letter, WE REPROVE, PROSCRIBE
"The whole and each AND CONDEMN WITH OUR APOSTOLIC
one of the points which AUTHORITY AND WE WILL AND
have been enacted in this ORDAIN THAT ALL THE SONS OF
Declaration have pleased THE CATHOLIC CHURCH HOLD THEM
the Fathers of the Council. ABSOLUTELY AS REPROVED,
AND WE, BY VIRTUE OF THE PROSCRIBED AND CONDEMNED".
APOSTOLIC POWER WHICH WE
HOLD FROM CHRIST, IN UNION
WITH THE VENERABLE FATHERS,
WE APPROVE, FIX AND DECREE
IN THE HOLY SPIRIT, AND WE
ORDAIN THAT WHAT HAS BEEN
THUS ESTABLISHED IN COUNCIL
BE PROMULGATED OR THE GLORY
On the one side, "Dignitatis Humanae" teaches positively and on the other "Quanta Cura" condemns it. But do the two texts have the same object? Is the religious liberty proclaimed as a right by Vatican II really the freedom of conscience and of worship condemned by Pius IX? To establish that, we must examine the object of each of the texts.
THE OBJECT OF "DIGNITATIS HUMANAE"
To understand the meaning of the Declaration on religious liberty, we must first shed everything which leads us away from the essentials. VATICAN II DID NOT AIM ONLY AT THE PROCLAMATION OF THE LIBERTY OF THE ACT OF FAITH, which means that nobody must be forced to accept the faith. This liberty, recognized and taught by the Church from the beginning, was affirmed by the declaration of the council: the interior acts of religion "can neither be imposed nor forbidden by any human power" (3,5). But religious liberty is not restricted to that.
In fact, IT DOES NOT CONCERN ITSELF ONLY WITH THE INTERNAL FORUM, THE INTERIOR AND PRIVATE ACTS OF RELIGION, BUT ALSO WITH THE EXTERNAL FORUM, THE EXTERIOR AND PUBLIC ACTS. Its extent is defined thus: "in private as in public, alone or in associations with others". Articles 3 and 4 of the Declaration develop it further: "His own social nature requires that man give "external" expression to these internal acts of religion, that he communicate with others on religious matters, and profess his religion in community" (3,6). "Religious communities are a requirement of the nature of man and of religion itself" (4,1). "These groups have a right to immunity so that they may organize themselves according to their own principles. They must be allowed to honour the Supreme Godhead with public worship, help their members to practice their religion and strengthen them with religious instruction, and promote institutions in which members may work together to organize their own lives according to their religious principles" (4,2). "Religious communities have the further right not to be prevented from publicly teaching and bearing witness to their beliefs by the spoken or written word" (4,3). Obviously the "public worship" rendered to "the Supreme Godhead" does not specify only Catholic worship.
NOR DID THE CONCILIAR TEXT HAVE THE INTENTION OF AFFIRMING THE SOLE LIBERTY OF PRACTISING AND PROFESSING THE TRUE RELIGION. It does not deny man's duty to seek the truth and conform to it when he knows it. On the contrary, it affirms it in several places, just as it recalls the existence of one true religion. But once again, that is not its true object. The exposition of these Catholic truths is often used to save "Dignitatis Humanae" from rejection. It in no way detracts from the specific quality and the novelty of the conciliar text.
The religious liberty defined by Vatican II is neither the liberty of the act of faith, nor the liberty of the true religion, BUT IMMUNITY FOR ALL FROM EVERY CONSTRAINT IN RELIGIOUS MATTERS, the right which every man is to possess to adhere to a religion, to profess it, to practice it and to diffuse it publicly, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER IT BE TRUTH OR ERROR. The only restrictions on this right are the "just limits" explained in article 7 of the declaration: it is a matter of respecting the rights of others, of protection from abuses and the maintenance of peace and public morality. As we can see, this is a more developed version of what Pius IX called "public order".
Concerning the limits of religious liberty, "Dignitatis Humanae" makes use of the expressions "objective moral order" and "common good". Understood in their traditional sense, these expressions would obviously be stronger and more restrictive than "the just limits". In the context of the conciliar declaration, however, they are nothing of the sort. If religious liberty is a natural right, it is an integral part of the objective moral order and of the common good, and these two concepts can in no way limit its use.
Let us emphasize what is clearly seen by simply reading the document. RELIGIOUS LIBERTY IS NOT DEFINED IN TERMS OF TOLERATION BUT VERY CLEARLY AS A RIGHT PROPER TO EVERY MAN, AS A PRINCIPLE VALID EVERYWHERE AND AT ALL TIMES: this is the answer to those who, perhaps without realizing that in so doing they are attacking the dignity of the magisterium, wish to see in the conciliar declaration no more than a circumstantial text intended to obtain more freedom for Christians from a hostile world.
THE OBJECT OF "QUANTA CURA": AN ANSWER TO AN OBJECTION
Let us now turn to the object of "Quanta Cura". Our quotations from the encyclical, particularly the expressions "violators of the Catholic religion" and "freedom of worship" clearly show that the liberty envisaged by Pius IX concerns the public manifestations of religions. On the other hand, the "erroneous opinion" here identified and formulated would have it that the liberty in question should be a right guaranteed by law. On the evidence, Pius IX, following the example of Gregory XVI, condemned liberty in the public external forum in religious matters. The contradiction between "Quanta Cura" and "Dignitatis Humanae" is thus clearly shown to be flagrant. In order to make it clearer still, let us answer the objection in circulation at present.
The objection is stated thus: Pius IX and Gregory XVI condemned a liberty of conscience founded on the liberal concept of the absolute rights of conscience, in man's claim for autonomy in relation to God; it is this concept, and secondarily its effects in the social order which the popes had in mind in the first place and above all; Vatican II for its part teaches a freedom of conscience founded on the dignity of the human person; there are thus no grounds for opposition between the conciliar and the traditional doctrines.
In the first place, we can answer that whatever the cause attributed to it, Pius IX and Gregory XVI on the one hand, Vatican II on the other, were clearly dealing with one and the same matter, religious liberty in the public external forum, one side to call it "madness", the other to assert that it is a natural right. From this alone, the objection cannot be taken seriously. However, it is worth a closer examination, since it is a crushing burden for those who support it.
In fact, the objectors give to the condemnations by Pius IX, and Gregory XVI before him, limitations which they do not possess. Reading "Mirari Vos" and "Quanta Cura", the circumstances in which these encyclicals appeared, the manner in which they were always received in the Church until Vatican II came along to introduce confusion, all prove that the Roman Pontiffs clearly had in mind what liberal Catholics invoked from their own wishes and what "Dignitatis Humanae" teaches precisely as a right supported by reason and Revelation: immunity from every restraint in religious matters, What is more, many interventions of the magisterium exist, all to the same effect. Let us remember particularly Pius XII's allocution "Ci Riesce", which quite as much as "Quanta Cura" can be set point for point against the Declaration on religious liberty: "it must be clearly affirmed that NO HUMAN AUTHORITY, NO STATE, NO COMMUNITY OF STATES, OF WHATEVER RELIGIOUS CHARACTER, CAN GIVE A POSITIVE MANDATE OR A POSITIVE AUTHORIZATION TO TEACH OR TO DO ANYTHING CONTRARY TO RELIGIOUS TRUTH OR TO MORAL GOOD ... Whatever does not respond to truth and the moral law has objectively no right to existence, nor to propaganda, nor to action" (6 December 1953).
The objectors on the other hand think that they can save the conciliar document by insisting on the foundation which Vatican II gave to religious liberty: the dignity of the human person. But what dignity are they talking about? Not the moral dignity conferred by a true and right conscience, since the right to religious liberty is recognized to all, whether they are in truth or error, but as article 2 of the declaration affirms, a dignity which belongs to "the very nature" of man. In a recent commentary on this article, John Paul II insisted on this precise fact: "This right is a human right, and therefore universal since IT DOES NOT ARISE FROM THE HONEST ACTION OF PERSONS or from their right conscience, but from persons themselves, that is to say from THEIR INTIMATE BEING which, in the components constituting it, is essentially identical in all persons. IT IS THEREFORE A RIGHT WHICH EXISTS IN EVERY PERSON AND WHICH EXISTS ALWAYS, even in the hypothesis where it is not exercised or is violated by the very subjects in whom it is innate" (Discourse of 10 March 1984, "La Documentation Catholique", 20 May 84). We do not see how such a definition of the dignity of man can form the foundation of a right to religious liberty. Obviously it gives to every man the right to be respected for what he is, an intelligent and free creature, but it does not give to those who are in error the right to act as they please: "RIGHT IS A MORAL FACULTY, and as We have said, and it cannot be too often repeated, IT WOULD BE ABSURD TO BELIEVE THAT IT BELONGS NATURALLY AND WITHOUT DISTINCTION TO TRUTH AND TO LIES, TO GOOD AND TO EVIL" (Leo XIII, encyclical "Libertas Praestantissimum", 20 June 1888). The use which Vatican II makes of the expression "the dignity of the human person" is thus wholly improper and deceitful. To justify it, they pretended that it had been borrowed from Pius XII. He, however, when speaking of the dignity and rights of the human person, always intended its application in the sense of the true and the good. Vatican II on the contrary states this dignity as an absolute, equal for all men, saints or sinners, Catholics or slaves of a false religion, an absolute which, in its final consequences, is the ruin of faith and morals. In these conditions, it is useless to affirm here and there that man has a duty "to seek the truth in religious matters ... so that he may form judgements of conscience which are sincere and true" (3,2) since it is stated elsewhere that the right to immunity "continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it" (2,5). This is TO ASSIGN A DUTY AND AT THE SAME TIME TO PROCLAIM THE RIGHT TO REFRAIN FROM DOING IT. That is the juxtaposition of a truth and an error. The perversity of the one is in no way effaced by the affirmation of the other.
There are indeed grounds, therefore, to set the conciliar doctrine in opposition to the traditional doctrine. Let us repeat, the two texts quoted, confirmed by their contexts, have the same object, religious liberty in the public external forum. As a result, comparison between "Dignitatis Humanae" and "Quanta Cura" is straightforward. On one side, religious liberty is stated to be a doctrine inscribed in the natural law and implicitly contained in the Deposit of Faith; on the other, an erroneous opinion which could not be more dangerous for the Church and the salvation of souls. According to one, societies are bound to install religious liberty by law; according to the other, the very idea is denounced as madness. The contradiction is such that it is absurd to deny it. Instead, there are some who are tempted to relativize it and to minimize its gravity.
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