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 Does the Church "judge internals"? 
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New post Does the Church "judge internals"?
Both sides of the current debate on Amoris Laetitia agree with the proposition that "the Church does not judge internals." By this they appear to mean that subjective responsibility is never judged, but only bare actions, devoid of human, rational will. According to such a notion, no human act can be known as such; rather only acts of a human can be known. Anybody with the slightest familiarity with Catholic moral philosophy will immediately see the absurdity of such a stand.

No proof is ever offered for this nonsense, of course. It's merely presented as though it were a commonplace. Yet all Catholics with the use of reason are aware that every priest is trained to judge subjective guilt, and those with a modicum of learning know that the Code of Canon Law lays out norms for assessing guilt, and that in the absence of subjective guilt no act is punished by the law. If you commit some heinous act, but it turns out you were sleep-walking and entirely without responsibility, you're not punished. This is common sense, of course, and it is amazing to see it gainsaid by men who write with a tone of authority.

What the Church does not do is "read hearts." This is an entirely different matter than not judging "internals" at all. The Church judges internal, or subjective, intention and responsibility, but she does so rationally and therefore based only upon what is externalised. What our friends are confused about is the mode of such judgements. They do not distinguish what is judged from how.

St. Pius X, in the encyclical that one would expect traditional Catholics almost to know by heart, refers to those who,
feigning a love for the Church, lacking the firm protection of philosophy and theology, nay more, thoroughly imbued with the poisonous doctrines taught by the enemies of the Church, and lost to all sense of modesty, vaunt themselves as reformers of the Church; and, forming more boldly into line of attack, assail all that is most sacred in the work of Christ, not sparing even the person of the Divine Redeemer, whom, with sacrilegious daring, they reduce to a simple, mere man.

Though they express astonishment themselves, no one can justly be surprised that We number such men among the enemies of the Church, if, leaving out of consideration the internal disposition of soul, of which God alone is the judge, he is acquainted with their tenets, their manner of speech, their conduct.

How can he judge that the Modernists are "feigning" their love for the Church, a very clear assessment of motive, and then proceed to declare that he is "leaving out of consideration the internal disposition of soul"? The answer is simple - the sainted Pontiff is absolutely judging internals, but only by the usual means, the external acts that display what men think and desire. What he eschews is the illuminist notion that the Church has some special light that would enable her to observe souls directly. Judgements of motive are indirect, being inferences from externally verifiable data, but they are judgements of the subjective state all the same. When you say that somebody is feigning their love for the Church, you are certainly judging what is by nature internal, but at the same time all sane men know that such judgements are inferred from what is visible, not seen directly.

St. Robert Bellarmine, Doctor of the Church, expresses this with his usual clarity and precision, in relation to formal heresy in individuals. He writes, "men are not bound, or able to read hearts; but when they see that someone is a heretic by his external works, they judge him to be a heretic pure and simple, and condemn him as a heretic."

Another Doctor of the Church, St. John Chrysostom, seems almost to be writing against that paralysing modern liberalism which always and exclusively interests itself in the supposed good of the individual, and never so much as pauses to weigh the common good.

Chrysostom, Homily XXIII on Matthew.

MATT. VII. 1. "Judge not, that ye be not judged."

"What then? Ought we not to blame them that sin? … if this were to obtain, all would be lost alike, whether in churches, or in states, or in houses. For except the master judge the servant, and the mistress the maid, and the father the son, and friends one another, there will be an increase of all wickedness. And why say I, friends? unless we judge our enemies, we shall never be able to put an end to our enmity, but all things will be turned upside down.

"What then can the saying be? Let us carefully attend, lest the medicines of salvation, and the laws of peace, be accounted by any man laws of overthrow and confusion. … In this place, then, as it seems at least to me, He doth not simply command us not to judge any of men's sins, neither doth He simply forbid the doing of such a thing, but to them that are full of innumerable ills, and are trampling upon other men for trifles."

"Beware of false prophets, for they will come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." Behold together with the dogs and swine another kind of ambush and conspiracy, far more grievous than that. For those are acknowledged and open, but these shaded over. For which cause also, while from those He commanded to hold off, these He charged men to watch with exact care, as though it were not possible to see them at the first approach. Wherefore He also said, "beware"; making us more exact to discern them.

Chrysostom, Homily XLII on Matthew:

MATT. XII. 33 "Either make the tree good, and his fruit good, or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt; for the tree is known by his fruit."

"For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." Here again He indicates His Godhead, which knew their secrets: and that not for words only, but also for wicked thoughts, they shall suffer punishment; and that He knows it all, as God. And He saith, that it is possible even for men to know these things; for this is a natural consequence, that when wickedness is overflowing within, its words should be poured forth through the lips. So that when thou hearest a man speak wicked words, do not suppose only so much wickedness to be in him as the words display, but conjecture the fountain to be much more abundant; for that which is spoken outwardly, is the superabundance of that which is within.

The question of Jorge Bergoglio's personal faith is a matter to be assessed in the light of the common good, and based upon his own free, deliberate, words, actions, and omissions. Those who proceed as though the main - or even an important - interest is to avoid any injury to poor Jorge Bergoglio's good name, display a contempt for the common good which is entirely anti-traditional, and which is based upon the very pith of liberalism. He chooses his words, his symbolic actions, and his omissions. He chooses not to live in the Papal apartments; he chooses not to call himself "Roman Pontiff" but rather "Bishop of Rome" and other titles; he chooses to omit much of the ceremony and style of the Roman Pontificate. He also chooses not to profess Catholic doctrine, and instead continually to scandalise the world with his shocking, unCatholic, commentary. If we think he's a heretic, that's his own fault, and he can fix the problem any time he chooses.

Archbishop Lefebvre was immune to the liberalism that seems to have engulfed so many traditional Catholics since he died. He didn't assess Karol Wojtyla's faith upon the false balance which gives undue weight to the good of the individual, he regarded the question primarily from the perspective of the common good. That is why he could form the judgement that Wojtyla did not have the Catholic faith, was "not a Catholic," and also why he was reluctant to commit the Society of St. Pius X to his own judgement of the vacancy of the Holy See, for that question too he beheld in the light of the common good. He feared disunity, even schisms, and held off making any unnecessary declarations.

One might think that Bergoglio's status is not certainly that of a public heretic, and for that reason provisionally and with diffidence continue to recognise him as pope. But what is entirely illegitimate and counter-productive is to invent novelties about the very fundamentals of moral philosophy, against the clear tradition of the Church, so as to try to rule out of court those who have formed a different judgement. The Archbishop didn't behave like that, and for those who admire him and seek to imitate him, his example is luminescent.

In Christ our King.

Tue Jun 13, 2017 2:59 pm
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