08 April 2015

Brief Dialogue on Dignitatis Humanae

When it comes to the question of religious liberty, where can we find the clearest expression of principles? 
—The clearest expression is found in the teaching of the whole church.  In documents like these

What makes Dignitatis Humanae such a concern? 
—That it seems to contradict that teaching, because it seems to prioritize the human rights to self-determination and freedom of conscience over the rights of God to be worshipped in truth, and of society to promote true religion. 

Is Dignitatis Humanae clear in its declaration of this novelty, in its grounding the novelty in the apostolic faith, or in its rejection of the prior teaching?
—No. It isn't clear about any of this. 

Then should we assume that Dignitatis Humanae is in agreement with what has always been taught, everywhere, by all? 
—Yes, we should. 

Does the document even expressly say this about itself?
—Yes, it says: "...it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ."

Does Dignitatis Humanae grant that the common good has priority over religious liberty and freedom of conscience?
—Yes, it conditions the right of religious liberty on the preservation of public order.

Does Dignitatis Humanae state that the foundation for the declaration is the fact that man has a duty to pay homage to God, and that the dignity of human nature requires that this homage be done freely?
—Yes, it does.

In these points is Dignitatis Humanae in agreement with the magisterium of the Church?
—Yes, it is.

Is Dignitatis Humanae useful for elucidating these things? 
—No, it is not. 

Why is it not useful?
—Because the principles and reasoning of the document are scattered and hidden within it, and its main rhetorical features echo the rhetoric of those who have contradicted the consistent magisterium of the Church on these matters for several centuries.

Are there other reasons?
—Yes, beyond its confused structure and bad rhetoric, Dignitatis Humanae leaves its principles so vague that they can be taken in any number of absurd and heretical ways.  Evidence of this is seen in the fact that Dignitatis Humanae is widely understood to be the Church's formal mandate that states should have indifferentist policies toward religion.  The document fails to give sufficient voice to balancing principles which rightly limit religious liberty and freedom of conscience.

By contrast, are the previous expressions of the magisterium on questions of freedom of conscience and religious liberty useful for elucidating these things? 
—Yes, many of them are. 

Then, should we ignore Dignitatis Humanae in favor of the previous statements on this subject? 
—Yes, we should.

Is it wrong to ignore a particular magisterial text in favor of other, clearer and more authoritative magisterial texts?
—No, it cannot be wrong, since this is done constantly, is unavoidable and even prudent.

02 April 2015

In Honor of the Mass of the Lord's Supper

[From the Council of Trent's solemn Decree on the Sacrifice of the Mass]

On the institution of the most holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Forasmuch as, under the former Testament, according to the testimony of the Apostle Paul, there was no perfection, because of the weakness of the Levitical priesthood; there was need, God, the Father of mercies, so ordaining, that another priest should rise, according to the order of Melchisedech, our Lord Jesus Christ, who might consummate, and lead to what is perfect, as many as were to be sanctified. He, therefore, our God and Lord, though He was about to offer Himself once on the altar of the cross unto God the Father, by means of his death, there to operate an eternal redemption; nevertheless, because that His priesthood was not to be extinguished by His death, in the last supper, on the night in which He was betrayed,--that He might leave, to His own beloved Spouse the Church, a visible sacrifice, such as the nature of man requires, whereby that bloody sacrifice, once to be accomplished on the cross, might be represented, and the memory thereof remain even unto the end of the world, and its salutary virtue be applied to the remission of those sins which we daily commit,--declaring Himself constituted a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchisedech, He offered up to God the Father His own body and blood under the species of bread and wine; and, under the symbols of those same things, He delivered (His own body and blood) to be received by His apostles, whom He then constituted priests of the New Testament; and by those words, Do this in commemoration of me, He commanded them and their successors in the priesthood, to offer (them); even as the Catholic Church has always understood and taught. For, having celebrated the ancient Passover, which the multitude of the children of Israel immolated in memory of their going out of Egypt, He instituted the new Passover, (to wit) Himself to be immolated, under visible signs, by the Church through (the ministry of) priests, in memory of His own passage from this world unto the Father, when by the effusion of His own blood He redeemed us, and delivered us from the power of darkness, and translated us into his kingdom. And this is indeed that clean oblation, which cannot be defiled by any unworthiness, or malice of those that offer (it); which the Lord foretold by Malachias was to be offered in every place, clean to his name, which was to be great amongst the Gentiles; and which the apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, has not obscurely indicated, when he says, that they who are defiled by the participation of the table of devils, cannot be partakers of the table of the Lord; by the table, meaning in both places the altar. This, in fine, is that oblation which was prefigured by various types of sacrifices, during the period of nature, and of the law; in as much as it comprises all the good things signified by those sacrifices, as being the consummation and perfection of them all.