Rorate Caeli

The inspiration of Pope Pius XII

All recognize in Pius XII an intelligence out of the ordinary, a memory of iron, a singular aptitude for foreign languages, and a notable sensibility. It has been said that he was an accomplished diplomat, an eminent jurist, a great theologian. This is all true, but it does not explain it all. There was also within him a continuous effort and a firm will to give himself to God, selflessly and with no concern for his own poor health.

The true motivation for his behavior was this: all originated out of love for his Lord Jesus Christ, an out of love for the Church and for mankind. He was in fact, above all, the priest in constant and intimate union with God, the priest who found the strength for his incalculable labor in long periods of prayer before the Most Holy Sacrament, in silent conversation with his Creator and Redeemer. Whence his Magisterium, as well as all his other activities, derive their source and impulse.
Benedict XVI
November 8, 2008

34 comments:

beng said...

CANONIZE HIM FOR PETE'S SAKE!!!

Kevin said...

So the canonization decree is signed?

John McFarland said...

"His" magisterium? For a while there, His Holiness was doing pretty well at sounding like a Pope of the Church's first 1930 years; but at the last moment the mask slipped. Or is it not a slip but a reminder where all the piety really ends for him -- in and for man.

Jordanes said...

Mr. McFarland, it is common and uncontroversial for Catholics to refer to a particular pope's magisterium. How you can see the term "his Magisterium" as evidence that Pope Benedict XVI is a heretic is beyond me.

Anonymous said...

...The true motivation for his behavior was this: all originated out of love for his Lord Jesus Christ...

Just wondering, is there any other "Lord?" Shouldn't Benedict XVI be saying "our Lord?"

Anonymous said...

SANTO SUBITO !!

Do it at same time as John Paul II !

Because where did John Paul get Totuus Tuus, if not from Pius XII ?

Jordanes said...

Just wondering, is there any other "Lord?"

No, you can be assured that there is no other "Lord," nor does the Holy Father's statement suggest that there is, as anyone can see who isn't sifting and parsing his words to try to find some fault, no matter how slight or trifling, or even some apparent fault.

Shouldn't Benedict XVI be saying "our Lord?

No. He's referring to Pius XII's personal relationship with his Savior. Just because Jesus is Our Lord doesn't mean He is not simultaneously the Lord of individual Catholics. Our would you presumptuously take Our Lady to task for referring to "God MY Savior" instead of "God OUR Savior"?

Anonymous said...

The modernists have generally abused language, especially since V2. This is most effective and dangerous to the Faith when subtle (as opposed to the blatant theft of a word, e.g. "gay".) I can think off-hand of two words which have been co-opted by the modernists: magisterium and charism. Any modern document containing these words should set off alarm bells in the reader's mind. Does magisterium mean that which is taught, or the power/authority to teach? Modernists seem to like the former, and use this impressive-sounding word to dress up their novelties. HH uses it ambiguously here. Of course, ambiguity is a hallmark of V2; lack of same is a hallmark of the authentic Magisterium. Louis

Jordanes said...

Does magisterium mean that which is taught, or the power/authority to teach?

Yes, it does. You can't separate the two, especially when it comes to the Pope.

It's amazing the lengths some people will go to find fault with a completely uncontroversial and entirely accurate statement of the Vicar of Christ.

Anonymous said...

It almost sounds as if Benedict XVI were describing Pius XII as a Saint....which everyone with sense knows that ie was/is.
It was a beautiful discourse, and totally pro-Pius XII. So I hope that put an end to the gossippy liberal dissidents who have stated that Benedict XVI doesn't want to beatify Pius XII because he represents "pre-Vatican II popes", or "because he doesn't want to upset the Jews" etc.

Neither, especially the last, should have any influence into the beatification/canonization process for Pius XII.

Pius XII was recognized as a saint by milions of Catholics when he was still alive, and by many milions more since his holy death.
I hope Benedict XVI signs the decree declaring Pius XII "Venerable Pope Pius XII" before Christmas, with beatification in 2009. What a wonderful gift to the Church!

Although a good man and holy man, John Paul II doesn't come close to Pius XII.

PreVat2 said...

The two greatest Popes of the 20th century are, without question, Pope St. Pius X and Pius XII. Please Lord, canonize this great Pope quickly!

As to John Paul "the Great?" Not even close.

John McFarland said...

Jordanes,

I would be interested in any pre-conciliar examples you can adduce of the use of "his" magisterium with reference to the teaching of a particular Pope (e.g., something like St. Pius X's magisterium in Pascendi), as opposed to "his" in the sense of every pope's.

It is of course not self-evident that "his magisterium" is meant in a subjectivist and historicist sense. But how many times must one see unusual and equivocal formulations before one gets at least a teensy bit uncomfortable?

To use my favorite example, isn't it odd that the Holy Father begins his analysis of love in Deus Caritas Est with eros, while admitting that the term only gets used a few times in the Septuagint, and those on the lips of the bad woman in Proverbs? And this in an encylical that describes its topic as "Christian love." This is "his" magisterum indeed; formulated by him with little if any relation to the traditional doctrine of the Church regarding love.

John McFarland said...

As regards beatification, not to mention canonization, let me offer a prophecy. The Jews do not want it to happen, and so it will not happen. It has been sidetracked because of their pressure, and it will stay sidetracked because of their pressure. The Holy Father's praise of Pius XII is just to maintain folks like the denizens of this blog in the conviction that he is Really On Our Side.

But he is really on the side of making his peace with the forces that run the world. If those forces are more or less nice to us, so much the better But if their secularity is not so nice? Well, he'll make his peace anyway, under cover of a few mild complaints about their manners for the benefit of the Rorate Caeli crowd and likeminded folks. Remember his tremendously courageous insistence that the EU Constitution admit that the EU used to be Christian? And what happen when in effect they spat in his face? Nothing.

Back when the Republican presidents were waltzing us around on abortion, at least we got President Reagan on closed-circuit TV on January 22 saying that he was 100% behind us although sad to say he wouldn't be able to make it in person for the eighth year in a row. The Pope doesn't work even that hard. But why should he, when as much as he does seems to work just fine.

Anonymous said...

"As regards beatification, not to mention canonization, let me offer a prophecy. The Jews do not want it to happen, and so it will not happen. It has been sidetracked because of their pressure, and it will stay sidetracked because of their pressure. The Holy Father's praise of Pius XII is just to maintain folks like the denizens of this blog in the conviction that he is Really On Our Side."

I cut/pasted this because:
1) I was surprised the blog moderator posted it.
2) It is among the most cynical comments about the Pope I have ever read.

Obviously this contributor has not read the speech of Cardinal Bertone on Thursday during a Pontifical Gregorian University seminar or Pius XII, defending the holy Pope and condemning his detractors (the Jews) by name. Those who were there said that the Cardinal read both the extremely pro-Pius XII greeting of Benedict XVI (which made a surprising swipe at the Jews...which they will be no doubt outraged over), and then read his own discourse. During the reading of his own speech, witnesses said that the Cardinal became red-faced with rage at the Jews for the calumny and slander they have instigated against the holy memory of Pius XII. So to did another Archbishop who gave a speech. So too last week did Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezuemolo, a Vatican diplomat who condemned the Jews for their anti-Pius XII slanders and all but told them that Pius XII will be beatified and to "mind your own business". So in other words, these pityful Jews are not gonna stop the Pius XII express to the altars as Blessed Pius XII.
Basically the Vatican, including the Pope have said to the Jews " Back Off!!!"

And the story as per a rabbi about Benedict XVI saying he was considering suspending Pius XII cause for 7 years for experts ...someone else there said it never happened. Benedict XVI ignored the whole issue when the rabbi brought it up....which infuriated the Jews present.

John McFarland said...

Jordanes,

But if you need something more point blank in order to start wondering about the Pope's magisterium, how about this remark from a 1996 talk by then Cardinal Ratzinger, defender of the orthoox faith, to the Mexican bishops' conference?

"I believe that neo-scholastic rationalism failed in its bid of trying to reconstruct the “preambula fidei" through a purely rational certainty."

Can you square this kind of talk with Humani Generis? Vatican I? ST I, q.2, aa. 2-3? Romans 1?

But not to worry: here is his endorsement of the faith without Romans 1:

"In conclusion, as we contemplate our present-day religious situation, of which I have tried to throw some light on some of its elements, we may well marvel at the fact that, after all, people still continue believing in a Christian manner, not only according to [liberal theologians']substitute ways or forms, but also according to that full and joyous Faith found in the New Testament of the Church of all time."

The joyous faith -- sans the dogma that the existence of God can be proven from things that are made.

Son of Trypho said...

As the probable only (technically) Jewish reader on this site I have to comment on a few things -

Firstly, alot of the comments here are referring to "the Jews". Its fair to say that SOME Jews are highly critical of Pius XII's pontificate. It seems a little unfair to use the term "the Jews" because it seems to lump all of us together which is unfair and innacurate/ignorant. Not all Jews are the same or hold the same opinions - much like Catholics and every other group of people. Can we please use a little more distinction when referring to people?

Secondly, McFarland's comments seem to indicate that he thinks Jews run the world which is just plain wrong. Although flattering that he has a high opinion of Jews it does no credit to those who subscribe to this position because it is demonstrably false. Its a type of conspiracy theory and its unfortunate that people buy into it. Its sort of like some Jews who argue that Pius XII didn't do enough because he was happy to see Jews perish in the Holocaust...
(offensive and demonstrably false.)

Thirdly, as to the issue at hand - as I have noted before - to my mind, there is little that would have been achieved by more direct appeals towards those who were inclined to participate with the Nazis in the first place.

If these people could not determine that they were acting in an evil manner I'm unsure that anything further would have swayed them. Their actions were already completely in contravention of Catholic Christianity and their respect for the Pope would have been limited and they would not have been swayed in my opinion.

I think alot of the motivation for the criticism is wrongly formed - it is driven by emotion and grief and is a culmination of centuries of perceived (and real) oppression and a lashing-out against this so to speak.

Jews have alot to be critical against the Church for, but this is not an issue where it is correct to blame Pius XII because Pius XII did actually work to save some Jews.

I think he is considered a representation of the Christian Europe of the past which was oppressive and anti-Jewish and subsequently a focus of criticism.

I understand the requests to examine the archives/documentation, but if Catholics determine that Pius XII was a saint then good for you. If he is in touch with the Father I hope he would pray for me.

John McFarland said...

Anonymous Denouncer of My Cynicism,

I hope that you're right on the Vatican's getting up on its hind legs about Jewish criticism of Pius XII. But don't bet the ranch on it.

Also don't overate its significance. It would be nice to beat off Jewish slander, but all the Vatican is really protecting is Pius the humanitarian. As for "his" magisterium, the current Pope's whole theological career has been in opposition to the spirit and letter of encyclicals of Pius XII, which were the last defense of the true Faith before the conciliar deluge. He's willing to say nice things about Pius when he's in hermeneutic of continuity mode; but that's only a fairly small part of the time.

As for cynicism, what do you make of the Pope's criticisms of theological relativism, when he himself is manifestly a theological relativist? Did not Vatican I teach doctrine regarding papal authority that is inconsistent with collegiality? Did not previous popes in the most vehement and authoritative fashion denounce secularism, freedom of religion, and ecumenisim? Can the notion that we shouldn't be converting schismatics and heretics and Jews be squared with the Lord's injunction to teach all nations, and the Church's perennial understanding of the same before Vatican II? But the Pope accepts and indeed embraces all these errors; and being a learned man, knows that by pre-1962standards they were errors.

Perhaps this is not cynicism. Perhaps the Pope really believes that the fact that "his" magisterium, like Pius XII's magisterium and Pius IX's magisterium, were all propounded by men in white soutanes living in the Vatican and meeting the challenges of their respective particular times and place. But do YOU believe that that is "continuity"? And if you do, can you explain to me what's the difference between you and a liberal relativist?

Jordanes said...

I would be interested in any pre-conciliar examples you can adduce of the use of "his" magisterium with reference to the teaching of a particular Pope (e.g., something like St. Pius X's magisterium in Pascendi), as opposed to "his" in the sense of every pope's.

I'm not aware of any pre-Vatican II examples of someone referring to a particular Pope's magisterium, and it may well be something that became common usage only after the Church's latest general council. But there's nothing objectionable in it. If you think there is, you are more than welcome to suggest an alternative convenient way to refer to the body of authoritative teaching of a particular Pope.

It is of course not self-evident that "his magisterium" is meant in a subjectivist and historicist sense.

Yes, it's not self-evident, or evident at all.

But how many times must one see unusual and equivocal formulations before one gets at least a teensy bit uncomfortable?

The term "his magisterium" is neither unusual nor equivocal.

To use my favorite example, isn't it odd that the Holy Father begins his analysis of love in Deus Caritas Est with eros, while admitting that the term only gets used a few times in the Septuagint, and those on the lips of the bad woman in Proverbs?

No, it's not odd at all.

And this in an encylical that describes its topic as "Christian love." This is "his" magisterum indeed; formulated by him with little if any relation to the traditional doctrine of the Church regarding love.

Yes, you've said all that before, and you didn't establish your assertion then either.

As regards beatification, not to mention canonization, let me offer a prophecy. The Jews do not want it to happen, and so it will not happen. It has been sidetracked because of their pressure, and it will stay sidetracked because of their pressure.

Many vocal Jews tried to prevent the canonisation of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, but they failed and the Church proceeded with her canonisation. It will take a bit longer with Pius XII, because the Church will want to build a solid case to defend him against the inevitable outrage and splutterings that will break out when he is canonised, but Pius XII will in due time be beatified and probably eventually canonised.

The Holy Father's praise of Pius XII is just to maintain folks like the denizens of this blog in the conviction that he is Really On Our Side.

But that is just something we Catholics believe about the Successor of St. Peter: no matter his individual sins and failings, he is always "Really On Our Side." Jesus said so.

Did not Vatican I teach doctrine regarding papal authority that is inconsistent with collegiality?

No.

Did not previous popes in the most vehement and authoritative fashion denounce secularism, freedom of religion, and ecumenisim?

Yes.

Can the notion that we shouldn't be converting schismatics and heretics and Jews be squared with the Lord's injunction to teach all nations, and the Church's perennial understanding of the same before Vatican II?

No.

But the Pope accepts and indeed embraces all these errors

I don't think he does. For example, I note that he recently composed a new prayer for the conversion of the Jews to be used in the Good Friday liturgy service in the extraordinary use of the Roman Rite, which isn't the kind of thing someone who believes we shouldn't be converting Jews would do -- and note that the traditional prayers for the conversion of heretics and schismatics has not been changed at all.

"I believe that neo-scholastic rationalism failed in its bid of trying to reconstruct the “preambula fidei" through a purely rational certainty."

Can you square this kind of talk with Humani Generis? Vatican I? ST I, q.2, aa. 2-3? Romans 1?


It is well-known that the Holy Father finds Neo-Scholasticism unsatisfactory, but that he is unimpressed with Neo-Scholasticism's bid to reconstruct what St. Thomas called the preambles of the faith through a purely rational certainty does not mean he does not believe what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about God's existence being rationally knowable and provable without the assistance of divine revelation. He thinks Neo-Scholasticism's approach to the question failed, but he has never said, that I'm aware of, that there is no approach to the question that succeeds at all.

I wonder if you have considered the possibility that the Holy Father might have a better grasp of the Faith and of Catholic theology than you do. I mean, I haven't the slightest doubt that he understands the faith and theology far better than I ever will. But you talk as if you are a greater and more reliable authority on the faith than the Holy Father, fit and able to judge him.

beng said...

To that anonymous who shouted "SANTO SUBITO" and anyone who wish JP2 to be canonized.

Please read this article from This Rock Megazine written by Father Brian W. Harrison:

http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/2003/0310fea2.asp

Anonymous said...

+! Dear Brothers,

I was surprised to read the many comments reflecting my own reservation and even shockingly detached comments by the Holy Father about Pp Pius XII posted here. It is quite sad to read the Holy Father's characterization of His predecessor. I did not yet read the readers' observation but I also found his comments revealing his being troubled, that made him to give a detached, aloof assessment of the late holy pope. In fact any reason in this brief comment to suggest recognition of holiness to be seen was left to the very end. Benedict reveals his own priorities when he starts with and spends time and space to be given to intellectual aptitudes and similar traits in H.H.Pp.Pius.
Almost being apologetic to talk about the essence of the holiness of Pius XII in this brief space.
It is my strong intuition that our present Holy Father is overly concerned with what others might or do hold about Pope Pius. He seems to speak from a position of being very troubled which is why he sounds detached and aloof in assessing the holy pope for his readers. He begins also with the pope's intellectual aptitudes, suggesting his own priorities.

I have closely read this present pope's autobiograophical summary, Miles Stones. In it I found his journey taking shape in an anti-Roman environment, which he absorbed, and even admitted this as a form of German pride. We cannot forget that V2 is more his creature than anyone else' besides claimed by John XXIII.

As Mr McFarland suggested he is wedded to v2 and he defends it as proof of "continuity," I wish I could find evidence for that belief.

Yet he may beatify the holy pope, I say this, because several times I was observed the present Holy Father to make several successive public statements to prepare the world for what he wanted to follow with action.

But seeing him troubled may prove him only to be prepared to make public statements of praise, short of "offending Jews" with beatification.

That brings me to tell the "only" Jewish reader above, that he is, as most Jews are, too self-conscious. He feels targreted for no reason and certainly for no personal good reason:

You must answer the question,
"Where are the Jewish voices today seeking honor and recognition, not to say beatification for this Giant Catholic Christian Pope of whom the New York Times in 1942 wrote that "Pp Pius XII is the only voice speaking up for the Jews." What can any reader make of this one Jewish reader's closing remark: "If he (Pius XII) is in contact with ____, may he intercede for me!"
But to close this note, unfortunately the modern popes themselves created the climate in which popes are critiqued and evaluated readily today and, Jordanes should not take criticism of popes, who have taken on to themselves the world's communication patterns and behaviors but at the same time doing little in challenging, let alone witnessing to the World the most elemental basics of Our Holy Faith. In fact many Catholics are troubled for recent popes plunging rhemselves into and embracing the world by leaving the Flock unguarded and unsupported.

But I pray daily along with the SSPX bishops for Pope Benedict, who is and is considered since Catholic Prophet Malachi, as the "Olive Branch." May he bring peace among us Traditionals, and unify the Church within the Tradition in the Faith and in Charity.

Mr McFarland said many penetrating points, even if sounding harsh, the truth he spoke, should be listened to rather than proudly cast aside. Let is pray for each other as the world around us getting darker by the minute, since we have the Lord Jesus our only Savior and only Light!

Jordanes said...

It is quite sad to read the Holy Father's characterization of His predecessor.

What gave you the greatest sadness? Was it when he said Pius XII had an intelligence out of the ordinary? Or were you upset when he said he had a memory of iron and a singular aptitude for foreign languages? Or perhaps you strongly disagree with the Holy Father's statement that Pius XII was a great theologian?

Could it be his praise of Pius XII's continuous effort and a firm will to give himself to God, selflessly and with no concern for his own poor health? Were you saddened when the Pope said Pius XII behavior and teaching all originated out of love of Jesus Christ, love for the Church, and love for mankind? Did you become downcast when Benedict insisted that Pius XII was the priest in constant and intimate union with God, who derived his strength from spending vast amounts of time adoring the Blessed Sacrament?

Please explain to me what would make a Catholic sad to hear Pius XII's saintliness and spiritual virtues lauded as our Holy Father has?

I also found his comments revealing his being troubled, that made him to give a detached, aloof assessment of the late holy pope.

I think you're reading an awful lot into his remarks. I can't imagine how one could discern from the Pope's words that he is troubled. Nor does his assessment strike me as detached or aloof.

In fact any reason in this brief comment to suggest recognition of holiness to be seen was left to the very end.

There's nothing odd or inappropriate about mentioning the less important matters first, getting them out of the way so one can put the spotlight on the important matters, as the Pope did.

It is my strong intuition that our present Holy Father is overly concerned with what others might or do hold about Pope Pius.

Or more likely, it is the 50th anniversary of the death of Pius XII, and the Holy See has decided to mark that notable interval by holding a convention for the purpose of recalling and celebrating Pius XII's magisterium -- for it is at that convention where the Pope made the quoted remarks.

What can any reader make of this one Jewish reader's closing remark: "If he (Pius XII) is in contact with ____, may he intercede for me!"

I'm not sure why you altered what Son of Trypho said. He said, "If he (Pius XII) is in touch with the Father I hope he would pray for me." Why the blank instead of "the Father"?

What one can make of that comment is that Son of Trypho is Jewish and has been becoming more and more fond of the Catholic faith. He has posted comments at other Catholic weblogs and mentioned that he has been studying the faith and evidently is contemplating conversion. If Son of Trypho does convert, it is entirely appropriate that he would be seeking Pius XII as a heavenly benefactor. The pontiff so instrumental in the conversion of the Chief Rabbi of Rome would surely help a Jew who asks Pius XII to pray for him. I would not be surprised if he has helped many a Jew come to faith in the Messiah, the Lord Jesus.

But I pray daily along with the SSPX bishops for Pope Benedict, who is and is considered since Catholic Prophet Malachi, as the "Olive Branch."

It is always good to recall that the alleged prophecies of Pseudo-Malachy have given us the English noun "malarkey." These are the same "prophecies" that mistakenly enumerate an antipope in the papal succession.

Son of Trypho said...

To the poster who referred to me;

firstly, I cannot possibly know the fate of men's souls after death - only the Divinity can know this conclusively (and provide knowledge on it). So with regards to Pius XII, if he is with the Father, then I would hope that he would pray for even me.

secondly, with regards to your question about the Jewish voices etc. If the reference was to 1942 and the average Jew of that time who read that headline was 25, then they would be 91 years of age today. That would suggest that most of that generation of Jews are long gone from this world.

The problem as I see it is that Jews after that generation have seen Pius XII as representative of "old Europe" - a European civilisation which was hostile towards and often persecuted Jews. He himself did not do this, but I think some Jews project their modern concerns back onto him.

I personally think Pius XII is unfairly treated on this topic and besides it is a concern for the Catholic church, not world Jewry to determine if he is a saint or not.

As to Benedicta of the Cross - is this Edith Stein? I have no objections to her being canonised and indeed, am proud of her outstanding abilities as a Jewish Christian (she was quite the intellectual) - I have no problem with that issue. I think some other Jews see the relationship with Christian Europe through the prism of pre-modern history where conversion was rewarded. It all comes down to identity and self-realisation - I have no problem with the late Cardinal Abp of Paris either.

As to your comment about self-conscious etc. I am concerned that people sometimes speak about Jews as a monolithic entity. Jews do not think or act as one group and it is unfair to suggest or imply that we do. As to why we are self-conscious today - simply because it is dangerous to be Jewish in Europe (and large parts of the rest of the world) today. For the most part this is not because of Christians but rather your major rival which threatens us all.

Jordanes said...

Mr. McFarland, it will help a great deal if you do not conclude that someone who disagrees with you is, to mention several examples, ignorant of the traditional doctrine of the Catholic faith, doesn't know what Neo-Scholasticism is, doesn't know that Leo XIII (not XII) and St. Pius X were Neo-Scholastics and promoted the same, or believes that the Pope is always right. Just because I defend the Pope from a misinterpretation of something he said doesn't necessarily mean that I agree with what he said, and it is a mistake for you to presume so. I request that next time you ask me what I think rather than telling me. I can assure you that you do not have the ability to read my mind.

John McFarland said...

Jordanes,

You are quite right about my being out in front of my database as to what you do and don't know. My apologies.

But one thing I'm pretty confident about is either that you don't understand that "neo-scholasticism" is a straw man, or that you show remarkable equanimity about the Pope's appeal to that straw man in his 1996 address.

"Neo-scholasticism" is particularly a straw man as regards the proofs for the existence of God as for the attributes of God knowable by unaided human reason. Either you believe that such matters can be proven by human reason, or you don't. There's no room for some notion that neo-scholasticism has an unreasonable or excessively rationalistic or otherwise uncool theory on these matters.

Finally: if you are knowledgeable about these things, how can you defend the obvious movement from what was always taught to what is now being taught?

Anonymous said...

John McFarland,
Please explain what you mean by a 'straw man'. thanks

John McFarland said...

Anonymous, re straw man:

Wikipedia offers the following accurate definition: "A straw man argument is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position. To 'set up a straw man,' one describes a position that superficially resembles an opponent's actual view, yet is easier to refute. Then, one attributes that position to the opponent."

Actually, however, Cardinal Ratzinger in his 1996 address went this one better. He set up the straw man called "neo-scholasticism" and didn't even bother to explain what it was; he just said that it was a failure, and pretty much left it at that. In particular, he didn't explain if or how we could still prove the existence of God by unaided reason, per the perennial doctrine of the Church.

Anonymous said...

Mr. McFarland,
Ok I understand your use of 'straw man'. Your use is the 'informal fallacy' sense only and not meant to refocus the argument or 'proof by exhaustion' - wrt: Wikipedia.

'Neo-scholasticism' was first put forth by Pius X1(?) and Leo X111. It was/is a method to use medieval philosophy, esp. St. Thomas, and apply it to our modern world - current and relevant for modern issues. E.G. refute Monism, relativism, proof of God, support for revelation. wrt: Wikipedia. N.B. no add mixture of modern philosophy.


I have to assume that is what the Pope referred to when he said it was a failure? Doesn't seem like a straw man to me? What specific 1996 address are you citing? I would like to read it myself and understand your line of reasoning.

Thanks.

John McFarland said...

Anonymous,

I don't have a full text of Cardinal Ratzinger's address; it was published in the Wanderer back then, but I've lost or thrown out my copy. But you can find a very close analysis of it in www.sspxasia.com under Library of Catholic Documents, SiSiNoNo, no. 24, Jan. 1998. There are also two numbers in March and May 1999 devoted to a careful review of the first volume of the then Cardinal's autobiography, Milestones.

A passage in the Milestones review bears on neo-scholasticism. The internal quotes are from the Cardinal.

"Ratzinger [as a seminarian] loved St. Augustine, but never St. Thomas Aquinas: 'By contrast, I had difficulties in penetrating the thought of Thomas Aquinas, whose crystal-clear logic seemed to be too closed in on itself, too impersonal and ready-made' .... This aversion was mainly due to the professor of philosophy at the seminary, who "presented us with a rigid, neo-scholastic Thomism that was simply too far afield from my own questions" (ibid.). According to Cardinal Ratzinger, whose current opinions appear unchanged from those he held as a seminarian, the thought of Aquinas was 'too closed in on itself, too impersonal and ready-made,' and was unable to respond to the personal questions of the faithful."

The reviewer is scandalized:

"This opinion is enunciated by a prince of the Church whose function it is to safeguard the purity of the doctrine of the Faith! Why, then, should anyone be surprised at the current disastrous crisis of Catholicism, or seek to attribute it to the world, when those who should be the defenders of the Faith, and hence of genuine Catholic thought, are like ... gardeners who cut down a tree they are supposed to be nurturing? What can it mean to stigmatize St. Thomas as having a "too impersonal and ready-made" logic? Is logic 'personal'?"

I'm pretty scandalized, too. Would you get much sympathy for demanding an embryology or fluid mechanics or calculus less rigid, and more open to your personal needs? Aren't the gospels themselves pretty rigid -- and the penalties for disobeying them more rigid still?

Do you think what God wanted to do for young seminarian Josef Ratzinger -- and the rest of us faithful was to scratch our particular intellectual and emotional itches?

Philosophy is neither medieval nor ancient nor modern; it is true or false. St. Thomas lived 1225-74, if memory serves, but the truth he teaches will live forever. Philosophy is neither bread nor wine: it is not best when young, nor does it improve with age. It is either true or false. Nothing else about it matters.

But if you don't believe that, it would seem that you have the Pope on your side. Whether you have the first 1930 years of the Church on your side is another question.

***

While we're at it, here's some more traditionalism from the Cardinal's autobiography:

"For the most part, only after World War II did we begin to understand that the Jewish interpretation [of Scripture], too, in the time 'after Christ,' of course possesses a theological mission of its own."

Of course.

But maybe out of all of this we can understand why the neo-scholastic proofs of the existence and attributes of God were for Cardinal Ratzinger a failure. Could it be simply that it didn't turn him on, scratch him where he itched, pick your metaphor?

Jordanes said...

But one thing I'm pretty confident about is either that you don't understand that "neo-scholasticism" is a straw man, or that you show remarkable equanimity about the Pope's appeal to that straw man in his 1996 address.

One thing that would help is to examine the entirety of the 1996 address, looking at the passage quoted in context. I have not seen the whole of that address, and before I could conclude that he is presenting a straw man of Neo-Scholasticism, I would have to see the full context. I do know from my reading, however, that Cardinal Ratzinger found Neo-Scholasticism rather to “cerebral” and too systematic. I’m more inclined to a Neo-Scholastic approach, though I know that the faith cannot be wholly comprehended within any Catholic theology.

"Neo-scholasticism" is particularly a straw man as regards the proofs for the existence of God as for the attributes of God knowable by unaided human reason. Either you believe that such matters can be proven by human reason, or you don't.

I have not come across anything that would cause me to think the Holy Father does not accept the dogma taught emphatically at Vatican (“If anyone shall say that the one true God, our Creator and Lord, cannot be certainly known by the natural light of human reason through created things, let him be anathema.”). He thinks a Neo-Scholastic approach to rational proof of God’s existence doesn’t work, but I would disagree, unless perhaps his concern is that Neo-Scholasticism’s answers are, or can seem to be, too “canned.”

There's no room for some notion that neo-scholasticism has an unreasonable or excessively rationalistic or otherwise uncool theory on these matters.

I’m hesitant to equate Neo-Scholasticism, or identify it too closely, with the Catholic faith -- they aren’t exactly the same thing. I do think Neo-Scholasticism expounds upon and explains the content of the faith with greater clarity and precision than any other theology I’ve encountered so far. But of course I am still learning.

Finally: if you are knowledgeable about these things, how can you defend the obvious movement from what was always taught to what is now being taught?

If I see, or have been shown, that what is now being taught is not reconcilable with what was always taught, I won’t try to defend the indefensible. I think that sometimes what is now being taught doesn’t essentially conflict with what was always taught, and a reconciliation of the apparent contradictions might be possible. But there’s no doubt that much is now being taught or being done that is flat-out wrong, particularly in the realm of “ecumenism” and interreligious dialogue, but also in biblical hermeneutics, church discipline, and especially in the liturgy. Still, I am loath to accuse a Pope of misteaching or misgoverning, and if at all possible (sometimes it’s not possible) I try to opt for interpretations of what they say and do that does not necessitate a verdict of guilty. I think we owe it to him as Christ’s Vicar and St. Peter’s Successor.

Anonymous said...

Mr. McFarland,
I will read the articles you site. From what you shown so far, Cardinal Ratzinger had a bad professor that turned him off of St. Thomas. I will have to read the entire 1996 to frame the context.

However, you are correct, a man of his position and learning could do well by the church to uphold her Doctors in a more favorable light. Perhaps he could read Bonadventure!

Jordanes said...

The Holy Father's postdoctoral dissertion was on St. Bonaventure's theology of history, so we know he has read and apparently appreciates St. Bonaventure.

Also, after his election, Benedict began delivering a series of allocutions at his Wednesday audiences focusing on individual Apostles and Fathers of the Church, upholding them in a very favorable light.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jordanes, I think it significant that you and I are unaware of pre-V2 use of the term 'his magisterium'. I think it is traditional to speak of a certain pope's teaching as his doctrine. Not all of a pope's doctrine is authoritative. When it is, it becomes the doctrine of the Church. Most of the time, popes teach as private doctors. Applying the term magisterium blurs the distinction, and clouds the issue of the nature of the obligation we are under as regards the doctrine in question. This is one technique of modernists seeking to effect change through a warped understanding of obedience (i.e., whatever the pope says today, goes.) I suppose some of us appear to be straining at gnats, but words need to have meanings. Fr. Hesse (RIP) implied that definition of terms is paramount when he said (I paraphrase) that language is a prerequisite for philosophy which is a prerequisite for theology. Louis

Anonymous said...

http://www.sspxasia.com/Documents/SiSiNoNo/1998_January/Cardinal_Ratzinger.htm

SiSiNoNo article 24
(From Christ's teaching to answer a simple yes or no, the rest is from the devil)

Mr. McFarland,
I read the article and encourage all to do so.
I agree, the soft talk is not really Catholic (yes Jordanes it can be argued that it is Catholic) as it denies telling the faithful what we are to believe. There is no Catholic 'meat' in it and turns people to other forms of spirituality (my past experience). Add to that the sin of omission. Add to that encouragement to read false teachings. Add to that syncretism. What were you saying about the straw man?

It reminds me of what an old Franciscan priest said to me, “V2 is a whole lot of talk about nothing”.

Now I understand your position better. I still need to read the 1996 address to be sure none of this is taken out of context. I will also read Iota Unum so amply quoted in this article.

John McFarland said...

Let me offer a few more (unfortunately pretty disorganized) points to those with whom I seem to have struck a few sparks.

As regards neo-scholasticism, ask yourself why it is that Pope Leo XII wrote Aeternis patris, and what he says in it. Consider also the similar things that St. Pius X says. The point is that in philosophy and theology, by their lights, St. Thomas is the gold standard: everything else is at best inferior, possiblly dangerous, and even possibly poisonous.

Were they wrong? Were there even then, philosophies more in sync with the Catholic faith?

Or have things changed? Have philosophies come along since St. Pius's death that are more in synch with the Catholic faith?

Cardinal Ratzinger's 1996 address doesn't seem to say that. What does it say?

In all important respects, Thomistic theology is Augustinian theology presented with what one spiritual writer has called St. Thomas' "austere precision." St. Thomas never wrote any like the Confessions; but there's nothing in the principles behind the Confessions that you won't find in St. Thomas. So one might fairly ask, what is the gripe of Cardinal Ratzinger (and presumably Pope Benedict) with St. Thomas, given the oft-expressed admiration of His Holiness for the Doctor of Grace? Is the problem with the Angelic Doctor, or with His Holiness?

In the 1998 SiSiNoNo review of Cardinal Ratzinger's autobiography, it is made clear that Father Ratzinger's dissertation claimed to find a subjective element to the concept of revelation: revelation most always be to SOMEONE; and the clear implication is that differences in the recipient affects the content of what is revealed. But that is not how the Church has traditionally spoken of revelation; it sounds more like the subjectivist philosophies of more recent times.

So one wonders: did Father Ratzinger really find these modern-sounding ideas in St. Bonaventure? And if he did, does that reflect the fact that St. Bonaventure saw something that St. Thomas didn't, or that St. Bonaventure's insight doesn't appear in St. Thomas's account of revelation because it wasn't really a good insight?

(As regards St. Bonaventure, I think it fair to say that he was a very great saint and doctor, but certainly not in St. Thomas's league as a theologian, and still less as a philosopher.)

The notion that there are complimentary theologies in the Church has been common since Vatican II, but I am skeptical that this is really the case. Until very recently, essentially all Catholic theology was scholastic, and had been for centuries. There were significiant differences on a number of issues; but other than some Franciscans, few would deny that St. Thomas' nearest competition, the Franciscan tradition whose greatest figures was Duns Scotus, was no better than a distant second. If you read old books on theology, you will find them talking quite unself-consciously about "the treatise" on revelation, or the Trinity, or the Church, as if the theology of each important topic were a single work on which all theologians were collaborating.

This is no longer the case. What has changed? And why has it changed? And was that change a good thing?

As regards the Pope's admiring remarks on saints and fathers in his Angelus addresses: just what does he say? Does he talk about the things of God the way that those he supposedly admires talk about the things of God? And if not, what does he say? He admires Pope Pius XII, but mostly as a humanitarian. He claims that he was a precursor of Vatican II; but that's a tough case to make about the author of Humani generis.