There is a piece at Jesuit-run Amerika. I was going to post about it earlier, but a theologian friend of mine sent me an email about it with some analysis. With his permission I repost some of what he wrote with judicious edits:
[There] is a piece in America Magazine, a despicable Jesuit publication. The author of it is unknown to me, but his argument is not. [Back in the day many of us] students heard about the various degrees of doctrinal authority that are ascribed to papal documents by theologians. In this post at America, the author tries to explain that between magisterial teachings which oblige belief/assent on the part of Catholics, there are papal/magisterial teachings that require our thoughtful consideration and conscientious reflection even though they do not reach the high-water mark of magisterial teachings that oblige belief or assent. The author observes that these “instructions” from the Magisterium cannot just be tossed into the dustbin simply because they do not OBLIGE a full assent on our part, and/or because we do not agree with them. This is a truism in Catholic theology, of course. But from this springboard, the author wants to return to a doctrinal question introduced by Karl Rahner, i.e. the status of a “pastoral constitution”, in this case Gaudium et Spes of Vatican II. Again, back in the day, many liberal “theology” professors insisted that GS was a pastoral Constitution and not a dogmatic Constitution, such as Lumen Gentium. Back in the day, again, Rahner was god, so if Rahner said it, it must be true.
Let’s jump ahead in the America article. The author’s real gripe is with my new heroine, Maureen Mullarkey, and with Congressman Paul Gosar, because they diss Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ out of hand on the basis of his incompetence as a scientist/economist. The America author argues that no Catholic should do this. To his credit, he also points out to liberals that some among them are quick to dismiss papal/magisterial teachings that they don’t like, so the problem is not one that pertains only to conservatives/traditional Catholics.
So far, ok. But in discussing Rahner’s article in Theological Investigations, vol. 10, in which the German Jesuit addressed the “pastoral constitution” matter, the author of the America article points to Rahner’s insistence that the Holy Spirit guides the Church’s pastors, and that therefore Catholics should not dismiss non-binding magisterial teaching out of hand. THIS is what I don’t like. Now, of course credo in spiritum sanctum, and of course I believe that the Holy Spirit guides the Magisterium and pastors, as well as theology teachers who hold a missio canonica (cfr. Donum veritatis, n. 22). And I welcome the caveats that the author of this article sees Rahner attaching to his proposition that the Holy Spirit guides the pastors of the Church in the promulgation of pastoral constitutions and instructions, even when they are non-binding. There is nevertheless a sort of liberal bias at work in this article. First, the author points out Rahner’s praise for certain (here unspecified) instructions from among St John XXIII’s writings (and I somehow doubt that the author has Veterum Sapientia in mind). This praise, coupled with the fact that the occasion of this article is the censoring of Maureen Mullarkey and Congressman Gosar for their opposition to Laudato, tilts the bias in the article toward the green, socialist, mushy Left. Missing here is any praise of, say, Familiaris Consortio, or even the observation that St John Paul II’s virtual condemnation in Evangelium vitae of capital punishment also constitutes a non-binding teaching. Liberals like to remind us that non-binding magisterial teaching is STILL important only when the teaching in question pleases them (ok, conservatives sometimes do this too).
In the end, the America article is not very helpful because, except for platitudes and generalities, it does not and cannot tell us how we are to make sense of the kind of non-binding magisterial instructions that are all the more frequent in the post-Vatican II Church and in what I call the “post-doctrinal era” that we now inhabit. But that won’t stop liberals from jumping up and down about them. So let’s not allow the theological gobbledygook to scare us. [Do I hear an “Amen”?]
And we are going to see a lot more of this too, as we hear more and more third category teachings described in Ad tuendam fidem. Libs are going to wag their fingers at us and tisk and say “Neener neener neener! You have to give consee-eent!” And all we will have is, “Yes, but there are levels of assent… so go square that circle! Neener neener neener!”
When libs start paying attention to Veterum sapientia or Veritatis splendor or Humanae vitae … I’m just sayin’….
Again, when I am elected Pope, and take the name of Pius X-II (“Pio Decimo Secondo” – or maybe “Clement Ganganelli”), We shall not give interviews or press conferences. We shall disallow the Lord Cardinals from speaking to the press without permission. We shall disappear into the Apostolic Palace for lengths of time so long that the press will begin to speculate that We may have died. Our encyclicals will be limited to five pages in Latin. And Our first act as Supreme Pontiff will be to suppress the Jesuits. But I digress…