Rorate Caeli

Three New Offerings on 7th Day Adventism, Vatican II, and Our Lady

Another busy week of research and writing is coming to a close, and I wanted to share with the Rorate Caeli audience some of the fruits of this week's labor.

In Dies Domini: Is Saturday the True Sabbath?, an essay published in the current issue of From the Housetops, the Seventh-Day Adventist argument is considered and refuted from both Scripture and Church History. Why do we worship on Sunday, when God specifically commanded us to keep holy the seventh day, which is Saturday? The catechisms all admit: the Church changed the observance of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. But how can the Church do this, when God Himself said that the seventh-day Sabbath was an "everlasting covenant," and "a perpetual sign"? The essay will undoubtedly be of interest, even to those who do not interact with Seventh-Day Adventists, as it goes into some detail describing the Divine Logic of worshiping Christ as God on the eighth day, not the seventh.

As part of an on-going series of articles that attempt a Traditional Catholic interpretation of the Vatican II documents, Gaudium et Spes: A Traditionalist Reading looks at a wide range of opinions on this lengthy document - from liberals to conservatives to Traditionalists. Is this document heretical? Harmful? Rambling, but still innocuous? Out-dated? Of particular interest to readers of this blog will be the discussion in this essay about Cardinal Ratzinger's famous statement: Gaudium et Spes represents a "countersyllabus":

What does it mean that Gaudium et Spes is a "countersyllabus"? Ratzinger's words are basically self-explanatory: the Syllabus addressed a politico-religio-historical situation by taking a hard-line approach, what Ratzinger would consider a kind of fortress mentality. How does the Church relate to this kind of world? According to Pius IX, She doesn't relate to it; She cuts Herself off from it and raises the bastions (to anticipate another of Ratzinger's statements). But in the time between the Syllabus and Gaudium et Spes, according to Ratzinger, that particular world-situation had been changing: we had the "new ecclesiastical policy of Pius XI" which "produced a certain openness toward a liberal understanding of the state"; likewise, "exegesis and Church history adopted more and more the postulates of liberal science"; perhaps more significant, "liberalism, too, was obliged to undergo many significant changes in the great political upheavals of the twentieth century." Did the Syllabus still speak to the current situation, or was there need of a reappraisal? Apparently the council fathers felt that such a reappraisal was necessary.

But in what way is GS a "countersyllabus"? How is it a "revision"? Perhaps the answer lies in the orientation of GS - the willingness of the Church to say to the Modern World, "We've already condemned these principles, but now let's talk about why they must be condemned - let's 'dialogue' on these subjects."

Certainly GS did not revoke the Syllabus or turn it on its head; in fact, in many ways GS reaffirmed the teaching of the Syllabus on several points. For example, GS approaches the Modern World precisely with the assumption that human reason is not the "ultimate standard by which man can and ought to arrive at the knowledge of all truths of every kind." (Syllabus, n. 4) GS rejects the idea that "the faith of Christ is in opposition to human reason and divine revelation not only is not useful, but is even hurtful to the perfection of man" (ibid., n. 6), and for this reason the Church continues to recognize Her mission to bring the truth of Divine Revelation to the world.

Ratzinger's words, ultimately, must be understood in the sense that GS is the complement to the Syllabus. The English dictionary gives the definition "contrary" or "opposing" to the word "counter" (as in "countersyllabus") as its primary meaning, and this seems to be how Ratzinger's words are inevitably interpreted: GS is the contrary-to-the-syllabus document. But the word has a secondary meaning as well: "corresponding" or "complementary." Taken in this light, Ratzinger would be saying that GS is the corresponding-complement-to-the-syllabus.

Finally, Jon Field gives us the fourth part of his Mary as Mediatrix of Grace: A Trinitarian Approach series. This installment shows in what way both the Church and Our Lady function as spiritual mothers - or rather, how they together function as one spiritual mother. That is to say, the motherhood of Mary is not something in addition to the motherhood of the Church - they share single motherhood. Field explains how this can be:

How can Mary and the Catholic Church both be one Mother? This at first glance seems to be a muddle. The answer lies in the fact that the Catholic Church (considered as the Bride of Christ) is an extension of the perfections of Mary, the ultimate Bride of Christ. Every perfection that can be found in the Saints from the beginning of the world to the end of time are just faint participations in the perfections of Mary. These perfections of the Saints add nothing new to the Church, since Mary possesses them fully under her Son. Therefore Mary (as the Bride of Christ) contains the fullness on the perfections of the Church within her. In this way, Mary could be said to be, in a certain sense, the Church herself!

In fact, according to several Fathers, she sums up all the "perfections" of the Church in her own person; she is the Catholic Church (considered as bride - not head) in miniature. St. Thomas of Villanova writes:

As at the creation of the world all creatures were condensed into man who is therefore called microcosm (the little world), so at the restoration of the world all the perfections of the Church and the Saints have been gathered in one in the Blessed Virgin. Hence Mary may be called the microcosm of the Church, for she by herself is more precious and more worthy than the whole universe. (In Fest. Nativ. B.M.V., Conc. 3, n. 8, quoted in Mother of God, Mary in Scripture and Tradition [Augustine Publishing Co., 1987], pp. 27-28)

This statement would not be true if Mary did not possess all the Church's perfections. If Mary, let us say, possessed only the perfections of humility and charity in their fullness, and the martyr Saints of the Church possessed the perfections of patience and fortitude in their fullness, then the martyrs being added to the Church, under Mary, would increase the perfection of the Church; would add something to the perfections of Mary. But if Mary contains all the perfections in a supreme way, then none of the other members of the Church can increase those perfections in themselves.

Of course these perfections are "increased" by being multiplied in many members rather than just one. But the point is that the perfections themselves are not increased one iota.

To put it in more philosophical language, Mary contains the perfections of the Church intensively but not extensively. It is true that the more members that are added to the Church the more that perfection increases extensively. But the perfections are not increased in themselves; they are not increased intensively. If I teach the mathematical truth to children that 1+2=3, that truth will pass from my mind into many minds. In this sense the truth will be increased (accidently) as it is multiplied in many minds. But the truth itself (substantially), 1+2=3, will remain itself; it will not be increased or perfected at all!

In the same way, Mary as first member of the Church under her Son, passes on her perfections to the rest of her children. We receive those perfections and participate in them in various ways without in any way increasing them. Just like Creation adds nothing to God, so the Church adds nothing to Mary. Every perfection that the Church has (considered as bride alone) participates in Mary, just like every perfection in the universe participates in God.

We can conclude that the Church can not be viewed as an entity apart from Mary or alongside Mary. We do not have two Mothers, but rather one. That mother is Mary, whose maternal mediation is extended to us through the Church. In other words, the Church is our Mother precisely because she is the extension of the work of Mary. Her work is not something "other" than Mary. The Church does not "mother" us half the time, and Mary the other half. It is not a co-ordinated effort - like two horses pulling a cart; rather it is a sub-ordinated work like an author writing a letter through the instrumentality of a pen. Both the author and the pen do the whole work, the former acting through the latter. In like manner we do not have two "part time" mommies sharing work shifts. Rather the Church "mothers" us all the time - from baptism to death - but as an extension of Mary's motherhood. Therefore every grace that is mediated to us through the Church is a grace mediated by Mary. Mary acts in the Roman Catholic Church as a mother to us. That is why we call the Roman Catholic Church our Mother! We can truly say with Saint Clement, "One only Mother Virgin. Dear it is to me to call her the Church" without in any way denying that Mary is the Mother Virgin; rather by saying so we are affirming it!

Field also tackles the difficult question of how the Church can be called "Mother," when the Church is made up (hierarchically) entirely of fathers. A related question is dealt with: how can Mary be said to mediate grace to us when mediation is the work of the priest? Is Mary a priestess? This installment is arguably one of the most well-presented and interesting contributions from Field to date.


  1. I must say that the attempt to defend the indefencible by re-interpreting the former Cardinal Ratzinger's own very clear words, as though there were some arcane, gnostic, elitist, hidden meaning, is not only pathetic Neo-Catholicism (and therefore actually Liberalism) at its rank worst, but a "fundamental misunderstanding of the use of the English language", to quote one philosopher.

    It shows the mediocrity of the author, when he attempts an argument of continuity with Tradition for "Gaudium et spes" (and I suppose, by extension, the Decree on Religious Liberty) through a tendentious interpretation of the English translation of Ratzinger's words. In German, the term for "Counter-Syllabus" is either "Gegen-Syllabus" or "Antisyllabus". Both words connote an absolute opposition and contrariness. Thus, we may say without hesitation, that the argument for "continuity" fails in its first principle.

    All this is in addition to the fact that Ratzinger's own argument (repeated as Pope Benedict XVI), that somehow the opposite teaching can evolve out of what was clearly a Magisterial teaching document (the Syllabus of Errors), and not a merely disciplinary document, is at least material heresy. It is Modernism par excellence. The Syllabus of Errors gave a clear summary of perennial Catholic doctrine, some of which is irreformable.

    For any one, even a Pope, to suggest that modern Liberalism, or a confessionless, secularist State, or Americanism, or any of the other John Courtney Murray heresies, is some thing hunky-dorey, is an offence demanding an auto da fe.

    We would do well to recall the famous description of the Holy Catholic Church, of which Cardinal Ottaviani was fond: "Semper eadem!"

  2. My latin is quite poor. Translate that saying to english please.

  3. With respect to the complementarity of Gaudium et Spes and the Syllabus (and I think Ratzinger has had many more caveats about GS than you allow), you should consider his remarks to the Roman Curia on 5 December 2005:

    "In the 19th century under Pius IX, the clash between the Church's faith and a radical liberalism and the natural sciences, which also claimed to embrace with their knowledge the whole of reality to its limit, stubbornly proposing to make the "hypothesis of God" superfluous, had elicited from the Church a bitter and radical condemnation of this spirit of the modern age. Thus, it seemed that there was no longer any milieu open to a positive and fruitful understanding, and the rejection by those who felt they were the representatives of the modern era was also drastic.

    "In the meantime, however, the modern age had also experienced developments. People came to realize that the American Revolution was offering a model of a modern State that differed from the theoretical model with radical tendencies that had emerged during the second phase of the French Revolution.

    "The natural sciences were beginning to reflect more and more clearly their own limitations imposed by their own method, which, despite achieving great things, was nevertheless unable to grasp the global nature of reality.

    "So it was that both parties were gradually beginning to open up to each other. In the period between the two World Wars and especially after the Second World War, Catholic statesmen demonstrated that a modern secular State could exist that was not neutral regarding values but alive, drawing from the great ethical sources opened by Christianity.

    "Catholic social doctrine, as it gradually developed, became an important model between radical liberalism and the Marxist theory of the State. The natural sciences, which without reservation professed a method of their own to which God was barred access, realized ever more clearly that this method did not include the whole of reality. Hence, they once again opened their doors to God, knowing that reality is greater than the naturalistic method and all that it can encompass. . . .

    "In his First Letter, St Peter urged Christians always to be ready to give an answer (apo-logia) to anyone who asked them for the logos, the reason for their faith (cf. 3:15).

    "This meant that biblical faith had to be discussed and come into contact with Greek culture and learn to recognize through interpretation the sepaseparating line but also the convergence and the affinity between them in the one reason, given by God.

    "When, in the 13th century through the Jewish and Arab philosophers, Aristotelian thought came into contact with Medieval Christianity formed in the Platonic tradition and faith and reason risked entering an irreconcilable contradiction, it was above all St Thomas Aquinas who mediated the new encounter between faith and Aristotelian philosophy, thereby setting faith in a positive relationship with the form of reason prevalent in his time. There is no doubt that the wearing dispute between modern reason and the Christian faith, which had begun negatively with the Galileo case, went through many phases, but with the Second Vatican Council the time came when broad new thinking was required.

    "Its content was certainly only roughly traced in the conciliar texts, but this determined its essential direction, so that the dialogue between reason and faith, particularly important today, found its bearings on the basis of the Second Vatican Council.

    "This dialogue must now be developed with great openmindedness but also with that clear discernment that the world rightly expects of us in this very moment. Thus, today we can look with gratitude at the Second Vatican Council: if we interpret and implement it guided by a right hermeneutic, it can be and can become increasingly powerful for the ever necessary renewal of the Church."

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  5. Hermen your neutics just turned left. There ain't no right.

    This is counter-syllabus Ratzinger we're talking about here.

    In case you don't know it, "dialogue" is the only eight-letter four-letter word in the English language and, also, the only non-translatable.

    Also, Janice, beware: it also produces, bad breath, flat chests, and crooked toes.

  6. You know, I thought the stated purpose of VII and thereafter was to make the Church's teaching more accesible, easier to understand, for the plebs in the pews.

    It hasn't has it? It has done quite the opposite as has the NO Mass and the GIRMwhatever.

    I really wish I could recall the term we used for this thing in law school...when a piece of legislation does exactly the opposite of its intended purpose...hmmmm. I have seen, heard, and read judges and attorney's try this stuff on with the secular law, and believe me, no-one buys it, not really, not even those arguing the point.

    Just before a statute or a higher court decision is rendered void / overturned as unworkable and frustrating its stated purpose, the linguistic and mental gymnastics reach their most admirably bizarre. Stare decisis only goes so far before it turns into an excerise in the irrational. Are we at the point where words mean whatever anyone wants them to mean?

    Sometimes, that duck, really is just a duck.

    It's as if some bright spark attempted to codify all North Carolina common law on voidable contracts, produced a statute entitled "Voidable Contract Codification Act of 2006" and a few years later no one, neither judges, contract lawyers, the public, nor anyone could apply it, because no one was sure what it meant: the old melange was, well, just that, but aside from a few outliers, you pretty much know were you were and what to EXPECT...and there is the key, a persons reasonable expectations.

    The best minds try and cannot understand / reconcile / harmonize some of the documents produced with what came before. What would a reasonable pleb in the pew (such as I) conclude from this in light of the stated purpose of the documents was to make the Church and her teachings less, not more, "arcane and mysterious".

    Too many of the documents of the Second Vatican Council have failed of their essential purpose [ah! thats the phrase I was looking for] and ought to be blue penicled in their entirety without imputing guilt or wrongdoing to any party.

    It's time to move on, but we can't until a certain generation relents or dies.

    I'm 37. God willing, I will wait them out.

  7. Ah, S-P, may I introduce a quibble:

    The law term you finally remembered probably covers the territory technically, but for we landlubbers who have never sailed the seas of litigation (am I related to Dean Swift?), the problem is that too many of the documents of Vatican II have succeeded in their original purpose. Let's not forget who led that brigade: Bugnini & Co., Ratzinger and epigones, and the Weenie Montini.

    Only the innerleckchuls (see Flannery O'Connor) in the pew would buy any of the crap that has been disgorged from that maw.

  8. How intriguing to find this post when searching for both 7th-day and 8th-day as search terms. Whether we choose to worship God on one day or the other, the vital thing is that God is looking for those who will worship him in spirit and in truth. Our own slant on the 8th-day is neither adventist, nor non-adventist. It is another approach to the entire concept of what day is the perfect day to worship and commemorate the sacrifice of our lord and saviour, Jesus Christ. God bless you all.


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