A few days ago Vatican Insider, at La Stampa, run by the ultimate Italian weather vane Andrea Tornielli, supplied a piece against the Four Cardinals of the Five Dubia (and against anyone who agrees that more clarity is needed) by one Thomas Walford. Walford’s piece has the feeling of a collaborative effort in papolatry. Of course it was published simultaneously in Italian and in English… because that happens all the time. Right?
Today, Sandro Magister at Settimo Cielo supplied a piece which analyzes the Vatican Insider project. It is published anonymously. The reason for anonymity is that the writer is a cleric (I had a text this morning saying who it is), and in the present lib-dominated environment of mercy a cleric who writes like will be crushed like a bug.
A good question (itself a response to Walford) is in the piece’s title: “If it were so easy to resolve the dubia, then why hasn’t the Pope responded?”
In a nutshell, Walford proposed (inter alia) that virtually anything that the Pope says in his ordinary Magisterium, he says with the aid of the Holy Spirit, and that it must be accepted by the faithful.
Anonymous Cleric (my title for him) responds (my rapid translation – surely Magister’s own will soon be available):
B) The arguments of the formal order refer to some affirmations of the Magisterium about the Petrine primacy and reach the conclusion that “Pope Francis – being the beneficiary of the charisma of the Holy Spirit, which helps him also in the ordinary Magisterium (as St. John Paul II taught) – legitimately made reception of holy Communion possible on the part of the divorced and remarried whose cases have been carefully considered.
I will try to respond to these arguments, beginning with the second series, on account of the fact that they are logically decisive: in fact, if all the acts of the Magisterium were always clear and perfect and enjoyed – for the mere fact that they were pronounced by the Pontiff – infallibility (without considering, for example, the tone of the document, the circumstances in which it was pronounced, the fact that a teaching could be relatively new or repeated, etc. etc.), or if every “flatus vocis” [mere, insignificant word] of the Roman Pontiff ought to be considered dogma and should require, always and in any case, the internal assent of the faithful, the question would be closed from the get-go.
In reality, the Magisterium of the Church certainly constitutes a unique body (containing that which the Church proposes to us for belief), of which, nevertheless, not all affirmations have the same value; in other words, not all the pronouncements – even if authentically proposed – require the same level of assent. The “dubia” of the Cardinals serve also to clarify what weight there can be in an answer in the course of the interview on an airplane and in a private letter to some bishops (indicated by Mr. Walford as if they were definitive interpretations), neither published in the Acta Apostolica Sedis. Certainly both were pronouncements of the Pope, but, as Lumen gentium 25 affirms, the level of adhesion must be deduced “from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.”
Let’s ask ourselves, by way of an example: “Do the papal interviews on an airplane or do private letters of a Pontiff require – in and of themselves – the same level of assent as the teaching on contraception proposed by documents such as Casti connubi, Humanae vitae, Familiaris consortio, etc. or can one entertain some uncertainties in the face of the aforementioned interviews or letters”? The response to this is given by the Magisterium itself, beginning with the instruction Donum veritatis in 1990 “On the ecclesial vocation of the theologian”, which is also cited by Mr. Walford:
It can happen, however, that a theologian may, according to the case, raise questions regarding the timeliness, the form, or even the contents of magisterial interventions. Here the theologian will need, first of all, to assess accurately the authoritativeness of the interventions which becomes clear from the nature of the documents, the insistence with which a teaching is repeated, and the very way in which it is expressed. […]
In any case there should never be a diminishment of that fundamental openness loyally to accept the teaching of the Magisterium as is fitting for every believer by reason of the obedience of faith. The theologian will strive then to understand this teaching in its contents, arguments, and purposes. This will mean an intense and patient reflection on his part and a readiness, if need be, to revise his own opinions and examine the objections which his colleagues might offer him. If, despite a loyal effort on the theologian’s part, the difficulties persist, the theologian has the duty to make known to the Magisterial authorities the problems raised by the teaching in itself, in the arguments proposed to justify it, or even in the manner in which it is presented. He should do this in an evangelical spirit and with a profound desire to resolve the difficulties. His objections could then contribute to real progress and provide a stimulus to the Magisterium to propose the teaching of the Church in greater depth and with a clearer presentation of the arguments.
Moreover, Pope Francis, at §2 of Amoris laetitia, writes:
“The complexity of the issues that arose revealed the need for continued open discussion of a number of doctrinal, moral, spiritual, and pastoral questions. The thinking of pastors and theologians, if faithful to the Church, honest, realistic and creative, will help us to achieve greater clarity.”
That’s a taste.
The Anonymous Cleric, in effect, dismantles the collaborative attack mounted by Tornielli over the name of Mr. Walford.