As bad as the sexual abuse in the Church has been, the official misjudgment about Maciel is even more serious. Benedict called Maciel “a false prophet” (p. 39) and such he was.
But this psychopathic incestuous child molester and thief not only fooled tens of thousands of Catholics, he deceived the pope. Pope John Paul II called this false prophet “an efficacious to youth.” But Maciel did not deceive everyone. Jason Berry was right in his judgment; John Paul wrong.
Therefore the pope’s discernment of a religious founder and the movement he sets in motion is not reliable. In fact, it is worth nothing. Catholics must rely on their private judgment as to whether a religious figure is doing the work of the Holy Spirit or an evil spirit.
When the False Prophet comes at the end of the world, will he too deceive the pope and receive approbation from the Vatican? It is a chilling thought to those who take seriously the sayings in the New Testament about the end of the world.
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch as to deceive (if possible) even the elect.
And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.
And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
When the False Prophet comes at the end of the world, will he too deceive the pope and receive approbation from the Vatican? It is a chilling thought to those who take seriously the sayings in the New Testament about the end of the world.
Leon, I’d put my money on “yes,” for several reasons. Insitutionalized Christianity across the board has become with intellectual and ideological fashion; mainline Protestantism is dead because of it, and the Catholic bishops are zombies because of it.
Frankly, I’m willing to bet that Benedict will be the last truly Christian Pope. Why? Have you looked at the list of possible replacements (i.e., the College of Cardinals)? You talk about a motley crew of zombies, especially those from the “developed” world? Wow!
I’d add one other comment: John Paul was not Benedict. John Paul was raised in a religious environment which featured a lot of esoteric spirituality, especially regarding Mary and Poland being the “Christ of the Nations.” Criticizing Catholic leaders wasn’t part of the culture. Benedict was raised in a much more intellectually active church with less of a bunker mentality.
It’s the difference between being a religious Polish Catholic and a religious German one.
“Therefore the pope’s discernment of a religious founder and the movement he sets in motion is not reliable…”
But no one claims it is. Papal Infallibility can be expressed as “The Pope can’t teach heresy.” But Popes can be fooled by deceivers just like any of us. It happens all the time. Likewise Popes can be sinful or foolish, though we haven’t had any like that in a while.
If Maciel (or the “false prophet”) had espoused any change in doctrine, then the Pope’s internal alarm bell would have gone off. If it didn’t, then we would have something big to worry about. Possibly the whole theory of our faith would be invalidated.
Whatever God permits… God’s prudence is His providence, which includes everything, even—or especially—evil. St. Albert the Great said there is not even our thoughts fall outside divine providence. In theological context, the Maciel case appears to be a tremendous blessing in disguise. There are multiple reasons, but two come to my mind: 1) “Hitting bottom”: It pushes a negligent hierarchy (especially in Latin America) to wake up. 2) It undermines the tendency to idolize Founders of religious institutes. The same is true of idolatry of popes. Alexander VI, in the opinion of his biographer (Ludwig Pastor), was allowed by God to occupy the seat of Peter, in order to teach the faithful that faith is never to be placed in the Church’s ministers, but only in God. Both benefits are graces that strongly contribute to our purification.
Unfortunately, a lot of people do claim that the discernment of a founder’s charism is infallible. At one point the Legion’s defenders were using precisely this argument to try to derail both the criticism of Maciel and the growing demand for a reform of the Legion’s constitution. Thankfully that gambit did not prevail, but the argument itself is not without precedent.
For example, the highly respected (and often quoted) _Dogmatic Theology_ of Msgr. Van Noort states:
“the object of infallibility is twofold: there is a primary and a secondary object. … The secondary object of infallibility comprises all those matters which are so closely connected with the revealed deposit that revelation itself would be imperilled unless an absolutely certain decision could he made about them. … the following individual matters belong to the secondary object of infallibility: 1. theological conclusions; 2. dogmatic facts; 3. the general discipline of the Church; 4. approval of religious orders; 5. canonization of saints.”
This might be dismissed as nothing more than Msgr. Van Noort’s personal opinion, except that Cardinal Ratzinger seems to have relied rather heavily on Van Noort’s logic in composing the official and highly important CDF “Doctrinal Commentary on the Concluding Formula of the Professio fidei”. And the same logic that led Ratzinger to declare canonizations to be an infallible act of the magisterium also leads inexorably, as Van Noort declares, to the conclusion that papal approval of a religious order’s constitution is an infallible act:
“The Church was endowed with infallibility that it might be forever a trustworthy teacher of Christian truth and perfection. But it would certainly not be, if it could approve, by a definitive decision, a constitution opposed to the gospel or to the natural law … for when an order is solemnly approved, it is recommended to the whole Church as a fit means for acquiring perfection …”
In that light one must consider this except from the papally approved constitution of the Legion:
“Regard these Constitutions as the specific charism given by God to the Congregation, especially in all that refers to her nature, her specific objectives, her own methods of apostolate, her spirituality and her ascetic and sacramental means of spiritual perseverance. All of this uniquely constitutes the raison d’etre of the Congregation and bears the seal of divine assistance received by the Founder and the judgement of the Church.”
Of course in Legion parlance “the Founder” is not Jesus Christ but “Father” Maciel, whom we now know to have been a drug-addled sociopath, swindler, and rapist.
but Maciel also taught heresy within his organization, and the Church refused to look at it and see it for what it was and is because of the recruitment, the money, and the pseudo-vocations. and the Church is still doing that. the worst thing about Maciel is not his crimes, it is his use of the Church for building his own cult.
Leon, as you say, “Maciel did not deceive everyone. Jason Berry was right in his judgment; John Paul wrong.” Unfortunately, a lot of people who should have known better chose to believe John Paul and to vilify Jason Berry and others like him. I am reminded of Fr. Neuhaus’ appalling 2002 hit piece in First Things, in which he thoroughly trashed Berry and Renner as the lowest sort of scandal-mongering scum while lauding Maciel to the skies as the embodiment of “uncomplicated faith, gentle kindness, military self-discipline, and a relentless determination to do what he believes God has called him to do.”
In the process, however, I do think Neuhaus accurately presented us with the correct two alternatives for our understanding of this situation.
“[T]he charges against Fr. Maciel and the Legion are false and malicious and should be given no credence whatsoever. … It counts as evidence that Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and others who have looked into the matter say that the charges are completely without merit. It counts as evidence that Pope John Paul II, who almost certainly is aware of the charges, has strongly, consistently, and publicly praised Fr. Maciel and the Legion. … The suggestion that they are either deliberately deceiving or are duped is totally implausible.”
“[T]he Vatican is a sinister and oppressive institution. Its stated concerns for confidentiality and fairness are … code language for secretiveness and evasion. Statements of church officials are never to be taken at face value, and certainly never to be given the benefit of the doubt … systematic mendacity is assumed. That the Pope consistently and strongly supports Fr. Maciel and the Legion is only evidence that he has been duped–or, the reader is invited to infer, that he is party to a cover-up.”
Since we now know that the former alternative is completely untenable, by Fr. Neuhaus’ own logic we are left with the latter alternative as the only one that makes sense.
The alleged infallibility of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church reminds me of nothing so much as Professor Trelawney in the Harry Potter series.
In case you haven’t read the books, Professor Trelawney is a goofball who is into spiritualist mumbo jumbo and completely full of nonsense, but she does actually have a gift, and every once in a while (totally unknown to her) she sorta goes into a trance and blurts out a genuine prophecy.
Likewise, the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church praises Maciel, allows “pink palace” seminaries, does little or nothing about the abuse crisis, stands idly by while “reformers” abuse the liturgy and the translation of the Bible, reliably falls for every stupid liberal political idea proposed to them … but, every once in a great while, they issue an infallible decree.
The problem with Neuhaus’ choice is that he deliberately demagogued the second choice in favor of the first. By stating the case the way he did, he acutally was saying, “No serious Catholic can believe Berry’s and Renner’s claims.”
Of course, history bears out Neuhaus’ second conclusion.
The problem is that most Catholics do not want to confront the history of their own church. They cite Chesterton’s quote about “Those who know history will appreciate Catholicism,” or something like that,” but Chesterton was dead wrong on that subject.
The other problem is that the adult converts (like Neuhaus, Mark Shea, Dwight Longenecker, Jimmy Akin, etc.) have so much personally invested in their choice to become Catholic that they cannot confront its faults, let alone the seamier aspects of its history. They must believe *everything* or *nothing.*
That, frankly, is the behavior of a totalitarian mindset.
BTW, Crowhill, you’re spot on.
Father Michael Koening
Christ makes the Church infallible in her essential teachings for His glory and our salvation. Left to ourselves, we human beings would corrupt the teaching of Our Lord beyond recognition, and His message would be lost (and never mind appealing to the Bible, as which books constituted Sacred Scripture remained subject to debate throughout Christianity’s first four centuries, and was only settled by the teaching authority of the Church). Beyond this protection, the Church, in her Pope, Bishops and faithful IS NOT infallible. Terrible mistakes can be and have been made. That the essential teachings on faith and morals are preserved from error provides a sure standard against which the behaviour, governance, prudential decisions and provisional teachings of our leaders can be judged. Christ provides a frame of reference about which we can be absolutely confident.
Fr. Koening, I would agree with you except for one point: The president of the German bishops’ conference effectively denied publically that Christ received God’s anger against sin on the cross (instead, it was an “act of solidarity with mankind”), and was never publically contradicted, let alone reprimanded, by Benedict. What does that tell you? If Church leaders who are responsible for teaching the faith do not know the fundamentals of basic Christianity, then how does “infalliblity” protect them?
One problem with all this is that the Magisterium’s claims to infallibility have been so radically expanded in recent years that it is becoming increasingly difficult for many sincere Catholics to handle it in good conscience.
As pope, JP2 added a new section to canon law and the profession of faith expanding the claim of infallibility to a whole new category of “definitive” teachings–teachings which are not known to be contained in the deposit of faith received from the Apostles (and in many cases clearly could not be) but are nevertheless to be treated as if they were. As head of the CDF, Cardinal Ratzinger gave a number of examples of these allegedly infallible teachings, including “the legitimacy of the election of the Supreme Pontiff or of the celebration of an ecumenical council, the canonizations of saints (dogmatic facts), the declaration of Pope Leo XIII … on the invalidity of Anglican ordinations …” And Van Noort, whom Ratzinger seems to be following in this, adds (among other things) the approval of the constitutions of religious orders–which leads us straight into the abyss of Maciel and the “Legion of Christ”.
One might be tempted to dismiss these expansions as mere opinion, or as some kind of harmless misunderstanding that will eventually be corrected– except for the fact that Ratzinger has quite clearly stated that one cannot do this and remain a Catholic. On the contrary, “there is no difference with respect to the full and irrevocable character of the assent which is owed to these teachings”, whether we’re talking about apostolic dogma or the more mundane “definitive” teachings such as those listed above. Furthermore, with respect to such “definitive” teachings: “Whoever denies these truths would be in the position of rejecting a truth of Catholic doctrine and would therefore no longer be in full communion with the Catholic Church.”
So if you don’t believe that Josemaria Escriva is at this moment in heaven interceding for the faithful before the Throne, or that the “Eighth Ecumenical” was truly an Ecumenical Council (despite the fact that all its acts and decrees were subsequently declared null and void by the Pope)–or even if you do believe it, but not with the same “full and irrevocable assent” as you accord to the Church’s dogmatic teachings on the Trinity or the Atonement or the Real Presence–then you are out the the Church just as surely as if you were a Lutheran or a Baptist.
Of course most people have no idea that any of this stuff is going on behind the scenes, and for obvious reasons the hierarchy aren’t in any hurry to educate them about it. But for those of us who pay attention and take such things seriously, this continual tightening of the screws can take a serious toll.
Father Michael Koening
Joseph, as you know, I was very perturbed over the Zollitsch fiasco and even wrote to the Congregation of Bishops. However, that was one Bishop. We have the infallible teachings concerning the atonement that make clear Zollitsch was wrong. In like manner, those same teachings enable us to criticize Pope Benedict for his lack of action in this matter. Infallibilty is not inspiration and does not guarantee that a pope will teach what he should. It is rather a protection insuring that a pope will not teach (as absolutely binding and irreformable manner) anything false.
I do share Sardath’s concern over what seems to be a “creeping infallibilism” in the Church. A minimalist (but I hope still orthodox) view of the Church’s infallibility seems to me reasonable and defensible. I find the expanded version more of a challenge.
>The other problem is that the adult converts (like Neuhaus, Mark Shea, Dwight Longenecker, Jimmy Akin, etc.) have so much personally invested in their choice to become Catholic that they cannot confront its faults, let alone the seamier aspects of its history.
There is definitely a kind of “convert psychosis” that affects a lot of adult converts. They seem to forget everything they used to know, and in an effort to fit in with the adopted group they go overboard — accepting too much, too eagerly.
Sardath — I have a friend who is a lifelong Lutheran, but an ecumenically minded sort of guy, and very sympathetic to Catholic claims.
His position is that whenever any kind of union or reconciliation seems possible, Rome ups the ante. It’s as if what they want is complete and unquestioning submission of the will and intellect. That sounds a little too dramatic and Jack Chick-ish for my tastes, but sometimes ….
Crowhill and Sardath, what you are describing, I believe, exemplifies a totalitarian mindset: You must believe what we say as we say it. This shouldn’t be surprising regarding Catholicism; after all, the Index was only abolished in 1966! Besides, Catholicism behaved very much like a totalitarian state before the Nazis and Communists existed (you could say the same regarding Cromwell’s rule in England and Calvin’s in Geneva).
It wouldn’t be surprising if the “creeping infallibilism” is a direct consequence of JPII’s papacy. After all, the Church in Poland was regarded with unquestioning esteem and loyalty by Polish Catholics. And, let’s face it, JPII lived under totalitarian regimes for most of his life (Poland before WWII was run as a military dictatorship).
Follow the money!
I agree, “totalitarianism” is not too strong a word for it. And of course this goes back a long way. There is an oft-repeated story from the middle ages about an abbot who, knowing nothing about cabbages, ordered his monks to plant the new cabbages upside down. As a result all the cabbages died–and, one suspects, so did a good number of the monks as well when they ran out of food that winter. Of course many of the monks were wiser in the ways of cabbages than their abbot, and they knew full well what consequences they faced from obeying his instructions; yet with their food supply and possibly their lives hanging in the balance, not one of the monks defied the abbot, or even tried to correct his ignorance. Why? Because the voice of the abbot was the voice of God, and if the abbot in his ignorance commanded acts that would cause their starvation then it must be God’s will that they starve. Go thou and do likewise!
In fact, both the Nazis and the Communists–by their own admission–consciously modeled their methods of operation on those of the Church, including the systematic use of propaganda, informers, secret police, and torture as instruments of social control and coercion. And of course it was the Church which originated the notion that “error has no rights”–a viewpoint with which other totalitarian ideologies wholeheartedly agree.
For a while there was reason to hope that this sort of thing was on its way out after Vatican II, but now it is coming back into vogue again; and, yes, it was JP2 and Ratzinger who deliberately brought it back as a way of regaining magisterial control over the anarchy and excesses of the post-V2 era.
I am frequently appalled at how blatantly and dishonestly the Vatican and its apologists have twisted the V2 documents into saying the exact opposite of what they intended. For example, Vatican II explicitly embraced the notion of a “hierarchy of truths”; and this was clearly meant as an invitation for theologians to begin identifying which Catholic teachings were necessarily non-negotiable and which could be subject to an “agreement to disagree” among Christians of good will. Now we are told that this is not what the Council meant at all, and that in fact *all* the truths of the Catholic faith are non-negotiable, and absolutely mandatory for anyone who wishes to be in communion with the One True Church. And the practical effect of this is indeed to return to the pre-V2 definition of ecumenism, which is that the only legitimate route to Christian unity is for the “damnable heretics and schismatics” to repent of their errors and return in abject submission to Holy Mother Church!
Sardath, can you cite sources saying that the Nazis and Communists pattered their MO after the Church? I would be very interested in this.
It is widely known that the SS were modeled after the Jesuits.
“Himmler did not hesitate to borrow extensively from the Jesuits in the structure and ritual of the SS. With their strict moral code, the Jesuits had been the “stormtroopers” of the Counter-Reformation, and so close were some of the parallels between the Society of Jesus and Himmler’s SS that Hitler called Himmler ‘my Ignatius Loyola’ after the Society’s founder.”
(Gordon Williamson: The SS: Hitler’s Instrument of Terror, 1994)
Like the Jesuits, the SS were an elite dedicated corps who would do whatever the Leader called them to do.
The Jesuits also have a doctrine of “corpse obedience” that is, the individual has no more will than a corpse has when he receives an order from a superior.
I think this doctrine of corpse obedience is different from the rational obedience that the Fathers and Thomas taught, and even in the 17th century this doctrine caused Protestants to have grave fears about the Jesuits.
We also have the admission from Hitler’s own mouth as conveyed by Hermann Rauschning, an early Nazi who broke with the party and published a book in 1939/1940 (variously titled “Hitler Speaks” and “Voice of Destruction”) containing conversations he and others had with Hitler from 1932 to 1934.
On p. 52 he quotes Hitler as saying:
“I’m a Catholic. Certainly that was fated from the beginning, for only a Catholic knows the weaknesses of the Church. … The Catholic Church is a really big thing. Why, what an organization! It’s something to have lasted nearly two thousand years! We must learn from it. Astuteness and knowledge of human nature are behind it. Catholic priests know where the shoe pinches.”
On pp. 239-240:
“I have always learned a great deal from my opponents. I studied revolutionary technique in the works of Lenin and Trotsky and other Marxists. And I got illumination and ideas from the Catholic Church, and from the Freemasons, that I could never have obtained from other sources. … I learned above all from the Jesuits. So did Lenin, for that matter, if I remember rightly. There has been nothing more impressive in the world than the hierarchical organization of the Catholic Church. I have taken over many elements of it in the organization of my party. … The Catholic Church is a model above all in its uncommonly clever tactics and its knowledge of human nature, and in its wise policy of taking account of human weakness in its guidance of the faithful. I have followed it in giving our party program the character of unalterable finality, like the Creed. … The Church has realized that anything and everything can be built up on a document of that sort, no matter how contradictory or irreconcilable with it. The faithful will swallow it whole, so long as logical reasoning is never allowed to be brought to bear on it.”
“Now we are told that this is not what the Council meant at all, and that in fact *all* the truths of the Catholic faith are non-negotiable, and absolutely mandatory for anyone who wishes to be in communion with the One True Church.”
Please excuse an ignorant newcomer to the conversation, but who is doing the telling in “now we are told”? And where?
What I take to be the original understanding of the conciliar text is indicated by a 1968 document of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Joint Preparatory Commission which proposed continuing discussions on “possible convergences of lines of thought … between the Anglican distinction of fundamentals from non-fundamentals and the distinction implied by the Vatican Council’s references to a ‘hierarchy of truths’ …”
But a shift away from this approach had already been signaled by Rome in 1971, when the General Catechetical Directory declared, “This hierarchy does not mean that some truths pertain to faith itself less than others, but rather that some truths are based on others as of a higher priority, and are illumined by them.”
Similarly, the 1994 “Introduction to the Catechism” warns: “Cardinal Ratzinger said several times … that the ‘hierarchy of truth’ does not mean ‘a principle of subtraction’, as if faith could be reduced to some ‘essentials’ whereas the ‘rest’ is left free or even dismissed as not significant. The ‘hierarchy of truth’, he said, ‘is a principle of organic structure.’ It should not be confused with the degrees of certainty; it simply means that the different truths of faith are ‘organized’ around a center.”
In this view, then, the “hierarchy of truths” is to be understood not as a basis for ecumenical discussion, but rather as an organizing principle for more effective apologetics and catechesis–in other words, it is not about seeking common ground with non-Catholic Christians, but about drawing them into the Catholic Church and indoctrinating them into the Catholic faith. That’s a huge difference.
Furthermore, as Cardinal Levada, current head of the CDF, has written, “If the interrelatedness of all of the doctrines regarding both faith and morals is not perceived, one can be left with the impression that it would be possible to accept one or other doctrine, and leave the rest aside.” Presumably, then, a correct understanding of the “hierarchy of truths” leads to the opposite conclusion–i.e., that it is *not* possible to accept some doctrines and leave others aside, but rather one must receive them all, without exception.
From this it is only a small step to the position espoused in 2000 by Cardinal Ratzinger in the CDF document “Dominus Iesus”, where Protestant churches are “not Churches in the proper sense” at all, and even the Eastern Orthodox are judged to “suffer from defects” because they do not accept all the dogmas of the Roman Catholic faith, most especially “the Catholic doctrine of the Primacy, which, according to the will of God, the Bishop of Rome objectively has and exercises over the entire Church.”
The bottom line in “Dominus Iesus” is that the Church “must be primarily committed to proclaiming to all people the truth definitively revealed by the Lord, and to announcing the necessity of conversion to Jesus Christ and of adherence to the Church …” The price of that adherence, as is made clear in canon law and Ratzinger’s “Doctrinal Commentary”, is “full and irrevocable assent” to each and every dogmatic or “definitive” teaching of the Church, and “religious submission of intellect and will” to the rest. Moreover, the latter–while a lesser obligation than “full and irrevocable assent”–nevertheless does not allow one to formulate one’s own understanding of the issue, or to appeal to the claims of one’s own conscience, or to engage in any form of public disagreement; as Cardinal Ratzinger made clear in his “Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian”, even with respect to these non-dogmatic and non-definitive teachings the most one can do is to withhold one’s interior assent, and to “suffer for the truth in silence”. Rome has spoken; the case is closed.
You can read “Dominus Iesus” here:
the “Doctrinal Commentary” is here:
and the “Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian” is here:
I’ll give those some thought!
Tony de New York
• “For a while there was reason to hope that this sort of thing was on its way out after Vatican II, but now it is coming back into vogue again; and, yes, it was JP2 and Ratzinger who deliberately brought it back as a way of regaining magisterial control over the anarchy and excesses of the post-V2 era.”
What a NON-SENSE.