25 September 2015

Some Disconnected Ruminations on the Long-Term Effects of the Kasperite Heresy

1. Look back over the past two years at the number of vocal texts that have been produced by bishops in defense of the orthodox faith.

I am young.  I have only been Catholic for five years.  But I do not believe that a vocal reaction of this scale was produced by the Episcopate in defense of the faith under the pontificates of either Benedict XVI, John Paul II, or any of their recent predecessors.

2.  Francis is destroying the global perception of Rome's doctrinal pre-eminence.  His habit of speaking freely and incautiously, without authority or clarity, is gradually undoing the ultramontanist cult surrounding the See of Peter, which has plagued the Church since the rise of mass communication, and helped to turn every public utterance into a pseudo-divine oracle.

3.  Francis is the darling of Our Hegelians who believe that the Church never adequately lived up to the Küngian hopes of modernization from the 60s and 70s.  He is releasing the brakes.  He is pushing things forward.  Etc.  The Hegelians in the hierarchy clearly think this way as well.  Are they right?  This depends on what Francis himself intends.

4.  Francis's intentions are inscrutable.  Why?  Because his attitudes and sympathies communicate one thing, and his verbal utterances communicate something else.  He's willing to recite the creed for us, to prove that he's not an antipope.  That's amusing, I admit.  But then he does all these weird things, and he weirdly doesn't do all sorts of things it seems like he ought.  He's a loyal son of the Church, and will stay faithful to the Church's teaching, he tells us.  But he endorses and gives positions of power to men who are emphatically and publicly not faithful to the Church's teaching, not loyal sons of the Church.  At every turn he wants to show his sympathies for the spirit of modern liberalism, which is destroying the Church across the Anglo-European world, but he points out that the core of his message is just a re-affirmation of the social doctrines of the Church.  He's right!  He is a fantastic proponent of the social doctrines of the Church.  But at times in his pontificate these doctrines seem to have become a "disconnected multitude"...  He is better in act than his attitudes and sympathies indicate.  But he is confusing to watch!  And he leaves all manner of things unsaid, which ought to be said.  Who knows what the man is up to.  Does it matter, really?  For a layman, it shouldn't matter much, because most of the things Francis leaves unclear are already abundantly clear if one looks to the proper authority.

5.  Just to put forward a guess: the long-term effects of this pontificate and this doctrinal crisis will be: (1) the dissolution of the cult of papal utterances, (2) the renewal of the sense of absolute doctrinal truths, but at the hands of the episcopate and not through papal teaching (as in Veritatis Splendor), (3) another nail in the coffin of passive lay acquiescence to episcopal and pontifical action, (4) another step toward authentic 'collegiality' of the sort that has not existed in the Roman Church since the middle ages — not a collegiality of episcopocratic conciliarism, but one in which the pre-eminence of the bishop as governor of his local church comes to the fore; and this, not because of the positive action of the Pope, but because of the failures of this pontificate, and the confusion being spread by the Pope's long-term inaction and silence.

6.  Historically, the refinement of the normative modes in which the catholic faith is taught (popularly and problematically referred to as "the development of doctrine"), has almost always been brought about through heresy.  The Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed emerged in response to the great Christological and Trinitarian heresies.  The beautiful distillation of modes of predication proper to the person and natures of Christ was prompted by the gross errors of Nestorius, Eutyches, and Apollinaris.  The explication of the operation of the sacraments and the nature of our justification was brought about by the innovations of the protestants.  The solemn affirmation of the pope's role as guarantor of unity and supreme authority in the Church was brought about in response to the liberal "leveling" of the 19th century...  So many grains of sand, so many pearls of orthodoxy built up to isolate and encase them.

7.  And then there's the question of the SSPX.  If they are canonically re-absorbed, it will mean good things for the Church.  An end to the spectre of the "Spirit of the Council" for those interested in promoting orthodoxy and adherence to tradition.  Another blow to the weird ultramontanism of the papal positivists.  Confusion for the dominant schools of post-conciliar theology.  Another boost for creeping liturgical traditionalism...

Who knows how accurate any of these predictions are, though.