12 October 2015

A Close Reading of Pastor Aeternus (3)

(Today I continue my close reading of the dogmatic constitution Pastor Aeternus, promulgated by Bl. Pope Pius IX at Vatican I.  The last post is here, and a full index of this series is here.)


[The first two chapters established the basis of the primacy, its institution, and who possesses it.  Now the council fathers turn to more technical issues—the nature of the primacy and what it entails for the Pope.]

Therefore, resting on plain testimonies of the Sacred Writings, and adhering to the plain and express decrees both of our predecessors, the Roman Pontiffs, and of the General Councils, We renew the definition of the Ecumenical Council of Florence, 

[The remainder of this paragraph is a direct quotation from the decree of the 6th Session of the Council of Basel/Ferrara/Florence, which was promulgated at Florence, under the authority of Pope Eugene IV, on 6 July 1439.  The full text of the decree can be found here.  It is immediately preceded by this line: "But the souls of those who depart this life in actual mortal sin, or in original sin alone, go down straightaway to hell to be punished, but with unequal pains."]

in virtue of which all the faithful of Christ must believe that the Holy Apostolic See and the Roman Pontiff possesses primacy over the whole world, and that the Roman Pontiff is the successor of Blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and is the true Vicar of Christ, and the Head of the whole Church, and Father and Teacher of all Christians; and that full power was given to him, in Blessed Peter, by Jesus Christ our Lord, to pasture, to rule, and to govern the Universal Church; as is also contained in the acts of the General Councils and in the Sacred Canons. 

Hence we teach and declare that, by the appointment of our Lord, the Roman Church possesses a superiority of ordinary power over all other Churches, 

[Note that the Council again speaks of the Roman Church (ecclesia Roma), and then shifts to the Roman Pontiff.  This serves to emphasize that the authority and jurisdiction of the Pontiff is a result of his possession of the See of Rome, and is inseparable from it.]

and that this power of jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff, which is truly episcopal, is immediate; 

[N.B. The Roman Pontiff's jurisdiction is immediate, i.e. it is not mediated through the other bishops.  The Pope is not the bishops' bishop, but is one bishop among many, though a bishop whose care of souls and jurisdiction extends immediately to all the faithful.  In other words, where every other bishop is pastor of his own flock, the Pope alone is pastor of the whole flock of the Church Militant.]

to which all, of whatever rite and dignity, both pastors and faithful, both individually and collectively, are bound, by their duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, to submit, not only in matters which belong to faith and morals, but also in those that appertain to the discipline and government of the Church throughout the world, 

[Note that the faithful are bound to submit not only in matters of faith and morals, but also with respect to Church discipline and government.]

so that the Church of Christ may be one flock under one Supreme Pastor through the preservation of unity both of communion and of profession of the same faith with the Roman Pontiff. 

[Again the twofold unity of the Church is stressed: a unity of communion and of the professed faith.]

This is the teaching of Catholic truth, from which no one can deviate without loss of faith and of salvation.

[In other words: There is something which is "Catholic truth", and no one can deviate from it without the loss of faith and of salvation, and the above-mentioned stuff about the Roman Pontiff is part of that "Catholic truth".]

But so far is this power of the Supreme Pontiff from being any prejudice to the ordinary and immediate power of episcopal jurisdiction, by which Bishops, who have been set by the Holy Spirit to succeed and hold the place of the Apostles, [10] feed and govern, 

[We notice that the Council Fathers seem to talk a lot about the Pastors' office of "feeding" the flock.  How are the Pastors feeding the sheep?  We think first of Jeremiah: "Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts."  And then of course we think of Christ's words as reported by St. John: "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."  From this it is reasonable to suppose that the Pastors feed their flock with the words of the Gospel, i.e. the Catholic Faith, and with the flesh of Christ, i.e. the Sacraments (and especially the Eucharist).]

each his own flock, as true Pastors, that this their episcopal authority is really asserted, strengthened, and protected by the supreme and universal Pastor, in accordance with the words of St. Gregory the Great: "my honor is the honor of the whole Church. My honor is the firm strength of my brethren. I am truly honored, when the honor due to each and all is not withheld."

[In other words, the Pope does not dominate (or, as the Greek would have it, κατακυριευειν, "lord it over") his brother Bishops.  This teaching is a perfect outgrowth of the words of Christ, as reported by St. Matthew: "But Jesus called them to him and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.' " Hence the Pope's title, Servus Servorum Dei.]

Furthermore, from this supreme power possessed by the Roman Pontiff of governing the Universal Church, it follows that he has the right of free communication with the Pastors of the whole Church, and with their flocks, that these may be taught and ruled by him in the way of salvation. 

[This is the basis of the Pope's universal teaching authority, traditionally exercised through encyclical letters, bulls, and other decrees.]

Therefore, we condemn and reject the opinions of those who hold that the communication between this supreme Head and the Pastors and their flocks can be lawfully impeded,

[Throughout the history of the Church, secular rulers have frequently prohibited the publication of papal decrees within their territories, usually when the decrees are inconvenient to them politically or offensive to their own moral or religious views.  The French and Austro-Hungarian empires were especially bad in this regard, effectively cutting off the local population from papal jurisdiction.]

and those who make this communication subject to the will of the secular power, so as to maintain that whatever is done by the Apostolic See, or by its authority, for the government of the Church, cannot have force or value unless it be confirmed by the assent of the secular power.

And since, by the Divine right of Apostolic primacy, the Roman Pontiff is placed over the Universal Church, We further teach and declare that he is the supreme judge of the faithful, 

["Who am I to judge?"  Of course, when Francis said this line he intended something more like "Who am I to condemn?", implying that someone with contrary inclinations who is still struggling to live an upright moral life should not be condemned for their contrary inclinations.]

and that in all causes, the decision of which belongs to the Church, recourse may be had to his tribunal, and that none may re-open the judgment of the Apostolic See, for none has greater authority, nor can anyone lawfully review its judgment.

[The key here is the Council Fathers' point that there is no superior judge in the Church Militant to whom papal judgments can be appealed.  This does not mean that the popes simply have absolute authority over the Church, but that there is no tribunal in the Church Militant competent to review them.]

Therefore, they stray from the right course who assert that it is lawful to appeal from the judgments of the Roman Pontiffs to an Ecumenical Council, as if to an authority higher than that of the Roman Pontiff. 

[The council applies the previous principle to Ecumenical Councils.  For the past millennium, the heresy of Conciliarism, which makes the judgments of Ecumenical Councils supreme in the Church, has been recurring problem.]

If anyone, then, shall say that the Roman Pontiff has the office merely of inspection or direction, 

["Inspection or direction", i.e. the authority merely to inquire into the operation of the other particular churches and to offer direction or advice on the correction and improvement of their affairs.]

and not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the Universal Church, not only in things which belong to faith and morals, but also in those which relate to the discipline and government of the Church spread throughout the world;

[Note the recurring tetrad: faith, morals, discipline, government.]

or assert that he possesses merely the principal part, and not all the fullness of this supreme power; or that this power which he enjoys is not ordinary and immediate, both over each and all the Churches and over each and all the Pastors and the faithful; let him be anathema. 

[This is the third definition given in Pastor Aeternus.  It establishes the following points:

  1. The Roman Pontiff does not possess merely the office of universal inspection or direction in the Church.
  2. The Roman Pontiff possesses the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the Universal Church.
  3. The Roman Pontiff possesses this power of jurisdiction in things which belong to faith and morals.
  4. The Roman Pontiff possesses this power of jurisdiction in things which relate to the discipline and government of the Church throughout the world.
  5. The Roman Pontiff possesses not merely the principle part of this power (in combination with others), but its fulness.
  6. The power possessed by the Roman Pontiff is ordinary and immediate.
  7. The power possessed by the Roman Pontiff extends to all the Churches, their Pastors, and all the Faithful.]

(To be continued... A complete index of this series can be found here.)