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 John XXII and the Souls of the Just (Hughes) 
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New post John XXII and the Souls of the Just (Hughes)
Excerpt from A History of the Church, Vol. III. The Revolt Against the Church: Aquinas to Luther, by Philip Hughes. Sheed and Ward, New York, 1947. Imprimatur from 1946, Benardus Cardinalis Griffin. Pp.154-155.

For his last hours, ere he passed from this world, at ninety years of age, were given to a theological controversy, and one which his own act had begun. In this controversy, about the state of souls in the interval between death and the General Judgement of Mankind at the end of the world, the pope took a line that went against the general body of received opinion and tradition. The peculiar ideas which he championed were forth in three sermons, preached at Avignon on all Saints' Day, 1331, on December 13 of the same year and on the following January 5. In these sermons John XXII declared that the souls of the just do not enjoy the intuitive vision of God (in which consists their eternal heavenly reward), until after the last day, they are again united with their bodies; and also that neither the souls of the lost nor the devils are yet in hell, but will only be there from after the last day.

These sermons of the aged pope astonished the theological world, at Avignon and elsewhere. The startling news of this papal innovation, in a matter belonging to the sphere of doctrine, was speedily conveyed into Bavaria by the cardinal Napoleone Orsini, who had long been secretly planning and hoping for John's deposition. There, Ockham and his associates gladly fashioned it into a new weapon against the pope. He had already, they said, repudiated one point of the Christian faith, to wit the belief in the absolute poverty of Our Lord and the Apostles: now, he was repudiating a second. It was the way heretics had always acted; little by little they come to deny the whole body of traditional belief. John, now obviously heretical to all the world, could not any longer be regarded as pope.

The pope's own attitude to the controversy he had occasioned is of the greatest interest. Significantly, he made no attempt to use his pontifical authority to support what he had said in his sermons. Quite the contrary: as one who had been doing no more than express and opinion which he considered to be as good as any other, and who, quite evidently, is surprised at the chorus of dissent, he now set theologians of various schools to examine the whole question and to report. Notable among them was the Cistercian cardinal James Fournier, one day to succeed John as Benedict XII. He was an extremely competent professional theologian, and without difficulty he clearly showed that the opinion of John XXII had scarcely any support and that the body of tradition was firm against him; on the other hand, in the controversy against those who, like Ockham, were beginning to denounce the pope as a heretic, Fournier noted first of all that, so far, the Church had never expressed its mind on the question by a definition, and next that in these three sermons John XXII had made no claim or pretence whatever to be doing anything more than preach a sermon to the particular congregation which at the moment filled the church; the pope had spoken as a private simply as any bishop or priest might have spoken, as a private theologian, and not as the pope laying down a definition of doctrine for the assent of the whole Christian Church.

But the controversy continued to rage for the short remainder of John's life. The new head of the Friars Minor, the successor of the excommunicated Michael of Cesena, with a sycophantic misunderstanding of the situation, became a most enthusiastic advocate of the pope's unusual views; and, unfortunately for himself, declaimed them at Paris, where he immediately fell foul of the greatest body of theologians in the Church. The university discussed the theory, found it contrary to the general teaching, and as such reported it to the pope. Then John XXII fell into his last illness. On December 3, 1334, from his sick bed, he made a public explanation, and a submission of what he said to the teaching of the Church. He believed, he said to the assembled Cardinals, that "the souls of the just, separated from their bodies, but fully purified from sin, are in heaven, in paradise, and with Jesus Christ, in the company of the angels, and that, according to the common law, they see God and the divine essence face to face, clearly, as far as the state and conditions of a soul separated from the body allows this." But this qualified retraction the pope explicitly submitted to the Church's decision. And the next day he died. Benedict XII closed the controversy by the bull Benedictus Deus, of January 29, 1336, in which he defined, as the teaching of the Catholic Church, that the souls of the just (i.e. the souls of those who leave this world with no stain upon them that needs purifying, and those souls also which, after death, have been purified in purgatory) immediately see the divine essence by an intuitive and even facial vision, and this before they are reunited with their bodies, before the general judgement. Moreover, the souls of the lost are in hell from the moment of death (For text of definition, see DENZINGER, nos. 530-1).


Thu Feb 27, 2014 9:03 pm
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Joined: Sun Jan 29, 2012 2:21 am
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Location: California, USA
New post Re: John XXII and the Souls of the Just (Hughes)
In any case, I found this passage incredibly interesting. A lot of it sounds familiar, doesn't it? John XXII said one thing, and the entire Church was all over him. They made it a big deal, noted he didn't try to foist it on everyone, and he eventually qualified what he said. Compare this to the conciliar popes, who have foisted Vatican II and the new liturgy on everyone, ignored and even persecuted those who say they are out of line with what the Church has always said, and certainly do not retract or qualify their statements.

One cannot claim that we may not know of a retraction or qualification, either, since, in the year 2014, I have just provided an account of an episode that took place in 1336, with dates and names of minor historical figures.


Thu Feb 27, 2014 9:04 pm
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