Rorate Caeli

Discussing or Ignoring Thomas Pink’s Interpretation of Dignitatis Humanae

One of the most difficult of the doctrinal points at issue between the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) and the Holy See is the question of religious liberty. The Second Vatican Council’s teaching on this   point in Dignitatis Humanae seems to be in clear opposition to the traditional teaching. In 2011 we posted an intervention on the question by Prof. Thomas Pink, in which Pink proposed a reading of Dignitatis Humanae in accord with tradition. At the time, the chairman of the Latin Mass Society, Joseph Shaw, now a Rorate contributor, hailed Pink’s intervention as “truly important article,” and a blogger well acquainted with the SSPX called it a “a game-changing intervention,” that reframed the debate.

Prof. Pink has since developed his argument further in a number of papers (most of which are available here). But what effect has Pink’s thesis actually had on the debate?

There has been a certain amount of discussion of his thesis. From a liberal perspective Fr. Martin Rhonheimer of the Opus Dei argued against Pink’s thesis in an article for Nova et Vetera (available via exlaodicea), and Prof. John Finnis responded to him in the “Reflections and Responses” section of a collection of essays in his own honor to which Pink had contributed. From a traditional perspective Dr. John Lamont criticized Pink’s position— a criticism to which Pink responded (in footnote 10 of this paper). Recently, Fr. Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist., defended Pink’s position in a four-part essay on The Josias.

But it is hard to elude the impression that Pink’s interpretation has not yet had the effect on the debate  that was predicted for it. To our knowledge no SSPX theologian has addressed Pink’s argument, nor have seen any of the theologians of the CDF refer to it. This is perhaps not entirely surprising. The SSPX has for so long made it’s opposition to Dignitatis Humanae, as interpreted by Archbishop Lefebvre, a pillar of its mission that it would be very difficult for it to adopt another interpretation. And as for the CDF theologians— they would be very reluctant to concede the right of the Church to coerce in religious matters for which Pink argues.