A Response to the Tornielli/Walford papolatrous attack on the Four ‘Dubia’ Cardinals

17_06_29_screenshot_magisterA 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.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. THREEHEARTS says:

    mike hurcum asks for an explanation of a scriptural passage, Simon was renamed Peter, the rock of the Church. Then during Christ’s passion he denied Christ was therefore Peter guided by the Holy Ghost, the Divine Eternal Spirit of supernatural love and sanctifying grace?

  2. Mike says:

    Infalliblity is not impeccability.

  3. chantgirl says:

    They can’t have it both ways. If we have to take every utterance of the Pope as infallible, there would be a lot more dubia floating around out there. Francis has said some pretty questionable things about contraception (in response to Zika), the annihilation of souls, and various scriptural interpretations.

    Also, doesn’t AL itself say that not all of these matters need to be settled by Rome, but could be decided by local bishops’ conferences? Which is it? We have Francis himself seemingly giving wide latitude to the bishops’ conferences, and then we have the underlings expecting that everyone give assent to a teaching that no one can seem to understand and agree on. We can’t give assent to a teaching that is not clear, nor one that overturns constant prior church teaching.

  4. Benedict Joseph says:

    “Carefully considered.”
    Is this not the task of a tribunal?
    The current apparatus provides for cases to be “carefully considered” in the extreme given the tales I’ve been told – and in the extreme from the complaints one hears. It is a rather exacting process – indeed one “carefully considered.”
    What exactly is fueling this need to magnify “carefully considered?” When does “carefully considered” find its terminus?
    Could it be that it is found only when the outcome is confected to one’s satisfaction?
    If that be the case, it appears to me that this “carefully considered” enterprise could be an offense against justice, charity and the truth.
    If this is the case, how could such be cloaked in the mantle of simple credence, let alone justified by the perennial Magisterium of Christ’s Church?
    Some should be grateful only five dubia where offered and await a simple response.
    Arise! Emerge from beneath desk.

  5. Andrew says:

    In the end, Stephen Walford accuses the four Cardinals of being “standard bearers for the rejection of this papacy.” In his opinion, questions are strictly “verboten”. Anyone asking a question is guilty of rejecting the papacy. So much for “dialogue”.

    He goes on: “The abuse from many, including those who run websites and Traditionalist blogs aimed at the Holy Father … is nothing short of satanic. You are their role models and that is an intolerable situation. In reality, there is NO CONFUSION but only outright rejection and defiance towards the legitimate Pope and his magisterial teachings.”

    So, according to this theologian, asking questions amounts to “defiantly rejecting the magisterial teaching of the Pope”. Unless you are a Lutheran, I suppose, in which case you are free to reject the Pope and get a worm hug, all the same.

  6. donato2 says:

    The more I hear and learn of the efforts to make permanent a purported teaching that the divorced and remarried can receive communion, the more pathetic the efforts seem to me to be. “The Pope said so in through a nudge and a wink in a letter somewhere or something, end of discussion and you will be fired or demoted if you don’t get with the program.” There is not even the pretense of rational argument concerning the substance of the issue. What is the chance that an illogical purported teaching will endure through brute force? Answer: No chance at all.

  7. Aquinas Gal says:

    Stephen Walford is an author, not necessarily a theologian. His statement is incoherent. For example:

    “In the desire for the unity of the Church around Peter, it is essential to affirm the pope has the authority – ratified in heaven – to make disciplinary changes for the good of some divorced and remarried souls, and so I ask you to bring to an end this situation by accepting the constant tradition of the Church that popes are free from error in matters of faith and morals,” he says.

    So he glides from “disciplinary” changes to saying that the pope is free from error in “faith and morals.”
    Well, that was a neat sleight of hand. The problem is, the Church’s discipline about divorce and remarriage can’t be changed without changing the doctrine underlying it about the sacrament. And that is what the concern is all about.

  8. Lavrans says:

    If every word from every pope must be obeyed and must be considered guided by the Holy Spirit, let us all dig up every word from past popes and apply the same principle on these liberals.

  9. tzard says:

    I have sometimes mused that perhaps Pope F’s whole agenda is that we should *not* listen to his (or perhaps any Pope’s) every utterance but stick to the libraries of information we already have. I kind of envy the days before the telegraph.

    Then again, I can’t be sure of his intended audience, since his documents are no longer addressed to particular peoples (bishops, priests, the faithful, etc…) like they used to be.

    As a mere layperson, I find solace in writings of the previous 2 Popes and the many writings of the saints and other holy Men throughout the years.

    I do remain concerned about those many, many sheep who are being led astray. For me, the only solution is prayer.

  10. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    Lavrans wrote: “If every word from every pope must be obeyed and must be considered guided by the Holy Spirit, let us all dig up every word from past popes and apply the same principle on these liberals.”

    Right on! And I have some words right here! From the Council of Trent. Canon 6.

    “Si quis dixerit divortium dirimere matrimonium, ideoque ab illo rite celebrato licere utrique cuma alia persona contrahere, a.s.)”

    If anyone says divorce annuls marriage, wherefore after a divorce has been lawfully performed, it is licit for either spouse to contract a marriage with another person, let him be anathema.”

    Also, the Council of Trent: “The more the holiness and divinity of this heavenly sacrament are understood by a Christian, the more diligently ought he to give heed that he approach not to receive it but with great reverence and holiness, especially as we read in the Apostle those words full of terror, ‘He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself.’ Wherefore he who would communicate ought to recall to mind the precept of the Apostle, ‘Let a man prove himself.’ Now, ecclesiastical usage declareth that necessary proof to be, that no one conscious to himself of mortal sin, how contrite so ever he may seem to himself, ought to approach the sacred Eucharist without previous sacramental confession.”

    So. There you have it.

    The Council of Trent recapped what Jesus and the Apostles taught.
    I believe it.
    That settles it.


  12. Gerhard says:

    A”worm hug” – (noun, neuter, singular) = to betray the Son of Man with a kiss.

  13. Gerhard says:

    Our very good priest (ex French Army chaplain, who mainly says Mass in the EF) has commented that many ask whether our Bishops are ignorant and stupid. His response is that they are not, but their wills have been perverted.

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