BUX “We are in a full crisis of faith!” Wherein Fr. Z muses on the times.

don nicola buxSome of you will remember those commercials years ago where some guys, sitting with friends is a loud restaurant, says something like, “My broker is Joe Bagofdonuts.  Joe says…”, and suddenly the entire restaurant is dead still with everyone leaning in, straining to hear.

When Msgr. Nicola Bux speaks we should listen.  Edward Pentin, arguably the best English language Vaticanista right now, interviewed Msgr. Bux (of the famous Bux Protocol™) at the NCRegister.

Monsignor Bux: We Are in a Full Crisis of Faith

To resolve the current crisis in the Church over papal teaching and authority, the Pope must make a declaration of faith, affirming what is Catholic and correcting his own “ambiguous and erroneous” words and actions that have been interpreted in a non-Catholic manner.

This is according to Monsignor Nicola Bux, a respected theologian and former consulter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith during Benedict XVI’s pontificate. [NB: former… but keep in mind that he had served under Benedict in that role, which tells you a great deal]

In the following interview with the Register, Msgr. Bux explains that the Church is in a “full crisis of faith” and that the storms of division the Church is currently experiencing are due to apostasy — the “abandonment of Catholic thought.”

Msgr. Bux’s comments come after news that the four dubia cardinals, seeking papal clarification of his exhortation Amoris Laetitia, wrote to the Pope April 25 asking him for an audience but have yet to receive a reply.

The cardinals expressed concern over the “grave situation” of episcopal conferences and individual bishops offering widely differing interpretations of the document, some of which they say break with the Church’s teaching. They are particularly concerned about the deep confusion this has caused, especially for priests.

“For many Catholics, it is incredible that the Pope is asking bishops to dialogue with those who think differently [i.e. non-Catholic Christians], but does not want first to face the cardinals who are his chief advisors,” Msgr. Bux says.

“If the Pope does not safeguard doctrine,” he adds, “he cannot impose discipline.” [Tell that to the priests in that that diocese in Nigeria.]


PENTIN Monsignor Bux, what are the implications of the ‘doctrinal anarchy’ that people see happening for the Church, the souls of the faithful and priests?

BUX The first implication of doctrinal anarchy for the Church is division, caused by apostasy, which is the abandonment of Catholic thought, as defined by St. Vincent of Lerins: quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus creditur (what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all). Saint Irenaeus of Lyon, who calls Jesus Christ the “Master of unity,” had pointed out to heretics that everyone professes the same things, but not everyone means the same thing. This is the role of the Magisterium, founded on the truth of Christ: to bring everyone back to Catholic unity.

St. Paul exhorted Christians to be in agreement and to speak with unanimity. What would he say today? When cardinals are silent or accuse their confreres; when bishops who had thought, spoken and written — scripta manent! [written words remain]— in a Catholic way, but then say the opposite for whatever reason; when priests contest the liturgical tradition of the Church, then apostasy is established, the detachment from Catholic thought. Paul VI had foreseen that “this non-Catholic thought within Catholicism will tomorrow become the strongest [force]. But it will never represent the Church’s thinking. A small flock must remain, no matter how small it is.” (Conversation with J. Guitton, 9.IX.1977). [A small flock… sigh…]

PENTIN What implications, then, does doctrinal anarchy have for the souls of the faithful and ecclesiastics?

BUX The Apostle exhorts us to be faithful to sure, sound and pure doctrine: that founded on Jesus Christ and not on worldly opinions (cf. Titus 1:7-11; 2:1-8). Perseverance in teaching and obedience to doctrine leads souls to eternal salvation. [NB] The Church cannot change the faith and at the same time ask believers to remain faithful to it. She is instead intimately obliged to be oriented toward the Word of God and toward Tradition.

Therefore, the Church remembers the Lord’s judgment: “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” (John 9:39). Do not forget that, when one is applauded by the world, it means one belongs to it. In fact, the world loves its own and hates what does not belong to it (cf. John 15:19). May the Catholic Church always remember that she is made up of only those who have converted to Christ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit; all human beings are ordained to her (cf. Lumen gentium 13), but they are not part of her until they are converted.

PENTIN How can this problem best be resolved?

BUX The point is: what idea does the Pope have of the Petrine ministry, as described in Lumen gentium 18 and codified in canon law? Faced with confusion and apostasy, the Pope should make the distinction — as Benedict XVI did — between what he thinks and says as a private, learned person, and what he must say as Pope of the Catholic Church. [I believe JPII did the same before B16 did.] To be clear: the Pope can express his ideas as a private learned person on disputable matters which are not defined by the Church, but he cannot make heretical claims, even privately. Otherwise it would be equally heretical.

I believe that the Pope knows that every believer — who knows the regula fidei [the rule of faith] or dogma, which provides everyone with the criterion to know what the faith of the Church is, what everyone has to believe and who one has to listen to — can see if he is speaking and operating in a Catholic way, or has gone against the Church’s sensus fidei [sense of the faith]. Even one believer can hold him to account. [I have in mind a figure in the Church whom St Augustine describes as homo spiritalis.] So whoever thinks [Card. Rodriguez! Etc!] that presenting doubts [dubia] to the Pope is not a sign of obedience, hasn’t understood, 50 years after Vatican II, the relationship between him [the Pope] and the whole Church. Obedience to the Pope depends solely on the fact that he is bound by Catholic doctrine, to the faith that he must continually profess before the Church.

We are in a full crisis of faith! Therefore, in order to stop the divisions in progress, the Pope — like Paul VI in 1967, faced with the erroneous theories that were circulating shortly after the conclusion of the Council — should make a Declaration or Profession of Faith, affirming what is Catholic, and correcting those ambiguous and erroneous words and acts — his own and those of bishops — that are interpreted in a non-Catholic manner. [In June 1968 Paul issued with an Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio his great “Credo of the People of God“.  More on that below.]

Otherwise, it would be grotesque that, while seeking unity with non-Catholic Christians or even understanding with non-Christians, apostasy and division is being fostered within the Catholic Church. For many Catholics, it is incredible that the Pope is asking bishops to dialogue with those who think differently, but does not want first to face the cardinals who are his chief advisors. If the Pope does not safeguard doctrine, he cannot impose discipline. As John Paul II said, the Pope must always be converted, to be able to strengthen his brothers, according to the words of Christ to Peter: “Et tu autem conversus, confirma fratres tuos [when you are converted, strengthen your brothers].”

In 1967 the Church was being torn apart by wild ideas.  As an example of the chaos take the infamous “Dutch Catechism”.  Paul VI, talking Charles Journet, saw that the Church at the time was in a state of disaster.  He therefore called for a Year of Faith for 67-68 (much like Benedict did later).  At the end of the Year, Paul issued his “Credo of the People of God”, a text crafted on the basis of the Nicene Creed and expanded by Jacques Maritain and amended by the Holy Office.  Paul’s “Creed” is non-liturgical.

Paul VI pronounces the "Credo of the People of God" - 30 June 1968

Paul VI pronounces the “Credo of the People of God” – 30 June 1968

In his introduction to the text of the “Creed”, Paul, in his Apostolic Letter, wrote… and see if this doesn’t dovetail with what Msgr. Bux asked for (i.e., profession of faith in troubled times):

3. [W]e deem that we must fulfill the mandate entrusted by Christ to Peter, whose successor we are, the last in merit; namely, to confirm our brothers in the faith. With the awareness, certainly, of our human weakness, yet with all the strength impressed on our spirit by such a command, we shall accordingly make a profession of faith, pronounce a creed which, without being strictly speaking a dogmatic definition, repeats in substance, with some developments called for by the spiritual condition of our time, the creed of Nicea, the creed of the immortal tradition of the holy Church of God.

4. In making this profession, we are aware of the disquiet which agitates certain modern quarters with regard to the faith. They do not escape the influence of a world being profoundly changed, in which so many certainties are being disputed or discussed. We see even Catholics allowing themselves to be seized by a kind of passion for change and novelty. The Church, most assuredly, has always the duty to carry on the effort to study more deeply and to present, in a manner ever better adapted to successive generations, the unfathomable mysteries of God, rich for all in fruits of salvation. But at the same time the greatest care must be taken, while fulfilling the indispensable duty of research, to do no injury to the teachings of Christian doctrine. For that would be to give rise, as is unfortunately seen in these days, to disturbance and perplexity in many faithful souls.

Alas, I think that Paul himself contributed to that confusion, especially by signing off on the liturgical reform that went waaaaay beyond what the Council had mandated.  The general impression was, “If the way we say Mass can be so profoundly changed, then anything, even doctrine, can be changed.”

Consider the times.  What Paul did happened in the turbulent revolution years of 67-68.  Humane vitae, was issued then.  Turbulent years and crazy stuff is coming up now.  Protests not unlike those of the 60s are taking place.  There is an even more horrible “sexual” revolution going on, in which human nature itself is debased in what Card. Sarah rightly calls diabolical “gender theory”.  Now there seems to be a movement to nullify the teaching of Paul’s greatest accomplishment, Humanae vitae, afoot and also the Magisterium of John Paul II.

I had thought that at the end of the most recent Year of Faith, Benedict XVI would issue something very much like Paul VI’s “Credo of the People of God”.  But he resigned before the Year of Faith ended.

Were Francis to take up the entirely reasonable call to issue a “profession of faith” along the lines of what Bux called for, he would be following in the footsteps of Paul VI and he would also fulfill something that, I believe, Benedict XVI could have, should have, would have done in 2013.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. chantgirl says:

    Thank God for some straightforward honesty. Perhaps we can begin to move on from the phase in which we hear that everything is great, the Church is ALIVE! and we are living in some new springtime of the sunshine of the love of VII, to the phase in which we honestly assess what is happening and do something about it.

    On my better days, the knowledge of how dire things are compels me to pray, sacrifice, and attend to my state of life. On my worse days, I admit entertaining the idea of suing certain prelates for breach of contract for not teaching the faith, or maybe contributing to the delinquency of minors. Yes, I know that vengeance is the Lord’s, but sometimes I think that financial penalties are the only thing that will get anyone’s attention.

  2. Kathleen10 says:

    At one time it seemed the effort, a very active one, was simply to change the church to what innovators felt was a more “modern” church, which would bring in even more people.
    We were wrong. That cannot be the case.
    The “innovators” were in fact “destroyers”, and this is their goal, the destruction of our church and our faith. Whatever concept these people have of God, it is not the same concept we have.
    The effects are rippling outwards in society like tsunami waves, and the world suffers.
    The confrontation between believers and unbelievers is coming. This time of obvious apostasy cannot stand, God will surely not allow it to stand. These are dire times, but we are not orphaned.
    Jesus, be near to us. Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us. All the angels and saints, pray for us.

  3. Benedict Joseph says:

    You could make an analogy with infection, of gangrene but it is inadequate. How does one drawback from madness those in a state of total disorientation that they not only believe totally true, but in which they glory and in which they find refuge for their personal perverseness?
    There are harsh realities that need be clearly faced, which will require an admonition of the greatest potency and will by consequence be misinterpreted as disobedience, even sacrilege.
    What is transpiring cannot go on. The ecclesiastical structure – priests, religious and members of the episcopate – cannot be preserved from a mighty correction when souls are being lost and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is misrepresented.
    Saint Teresa of Jesus said “I would give my life to save a single soul.” We have over a billion Catholics who have been abandoned by those who say they have pastoral responsibility, but exhibit exactly the opposite. There are individuals of significant authority who need radical reform of disposition or they have to go.

  4. LarryW2LJ says:

    “Obedience to the Pope depends solely on the fact that he is bound by Catholic doctrine, to the faith that he must continually profess before the Church.”

    Thanks for posting that line, Fr. Z. The Holy Spirit answered my prayer through you, and calmed my troubled soul.

  5. Pingback: VVEDNESDAY CATHOLICA EXTRA | Big Pulpit

  6. Unwilling says:

    detachment from Catholic thought


  7. Pingback: BUX “We are in a full crisis of faith!” Wherein Fr. Z muses on the times. | Fr. Z’s Blog | Trump:The American Years

  8. Thomistica says:

    Interesting themes in this posting.

    Very astute: “For many Catholics, it is incredible that the Pope is asking bishops to dialogue with those who think differently, but does not want first to face the cardinals who are his chief advisors.”

    And this is fascinating: “Paul issued his ‘Credo of the People of God’, a text crafted on the basis of the Nicene Creed and expanded by Jacques Maritain and amended by the Holy Office.”

    I had never heard this about about Jacques Maritain. Maritain was in some ways a torn figure; apparently he was unfortunately not entirely on board with the views express in Humanae Vitae, though I assume he came around entirely. His Peasant of the Garonne, which I read some decades ago, is a truly brilliant critique of the stormy times in which it was written and pertinent to the present.

    Another thread from this posting: “To be clear: the Pope can express his ideas as a private learned person on disputable matters which are not defined by the Church, but he cannot make heretical claims, even privately. Otherwise it would be equally heretical.” One problem with this Pope is that he shows no marks of being “learned”. I can’t think of a single statement about matters theological or pastoral that will endure from this papacy, other than those that have created so much controversy. He has surrounded himself with the likes of a Spadaro, for whom 2 + 2 =5.

    Part of the problem here is that the philosophical training of seminarians has been supplanted, it seems, by emotivism and something awfully close to sola scriptura. Without a tradition of interpretation of scripture, and without a strong philosophical formation, anything goes. An antidote would be restoration of a really thorough immersion in Thomism in the seminaries and in Catholic universities and colleges. I don’t care if people go off and become Catholic phenomenologists or Scotists. But there was a genius to the Leo XIII’s affirmation of Aquinas, regardless what one thinks of the so-called manualist tradition, or its caricatures.

  9. Nan says:

    Thomistica, while it may be true in some places that seminaries teach emotivism and sola scriptura, it isn’t true everywhere. In the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis, St Paul Seminary teaches strong Catholic men how to be solid Catholic priests. This year 10 men were ordained.

    Both major seminary and college seminary are populated with men from the local area and other dioceses, with the major seminary hosting men from both U.S. and foreign seminaries as well as local religious orders. The result is a seminary overflowing with men, some housed in a former convent at the Pro Ecclesia Sancta parish.

    A suburban parish is having Missa Cantata on a Saturday morning in a couple of weeks, sung Latin Mass in the Extraordinary Form followed by refreshments and a conversation about what just happened. This, in a parish whose pastor was ordained 4 years ago. Good, solid priest.

  10. Thomistica says:

    Thanks, point taken. It’s important to remember the positives in these times of so many negatives.
    I had in mind what must inevitably be the case at many (most?) seminaries. And especially at very many seminaries of the kind that fostered the mindsets that we see in many who are in the hierarchy. Either that, or whatever good training they got just didn’t sink in.

  11. Roy Hobbes says:

    E.F. Hutton. That’s who had those commercials so many moons ago. Very nostalgic reference, as I remember them well from my childhood.

  12. erick says:

    This calls to mind paragraph 675 of the CCC, which sees in the “Church’s ultimate trial …a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth.”

    I pray that this is not what we are witnessing.

  13. Nan says:

    Thomistica, we can’t look back, only forward. Think of the many seminarians who wanted, and were provided, Birettas, the priests studying the Extraordinary Form, the men discerning their vocations, the families praying for their son’s vocations, the growth of the seven Sisters program, the parishes with confession every day or nearly every day, the solid priests, especially those in squishy dioceses, the sacrifices families make to send the kids to Catholic school or to homeschool, the children attending daily Mass, the parishes with all male altar servers, the hordes of boys serving at those parishes, there are so many signs of faith all around us.

    If you don’t think solid training sank in, pray for those priests. I view holiness in a priest as analogous to oil in a car so it needs to be at a certain level to be effective, and it gets used up. It comes from prayers of the faithful, so please pray for priests so they can continue their many sacrificial acts.

  14. Mary Ann says:

    Paolo VI – “Noi crediamo nella Chiesa Una, Santa, Cattolica ed Apostolica”

  15. Cornelius says:

    A rare burst of honesty and plain speech from someone in Holy Orders. Remarkable, refreshing, give us more! We thirst . . .!

  16. Mike says:

    Erick, I think it’s absolutely what we are witnessing… except that we cannot know whether this is the ultimate trial.

    Based on the Fatima messages I am inclined to think it is not the ultimate trial for the Church. It may, however, be the ultimate trial for you or me. Loins girt and lamp in hand would seem a good posture.

  17. jameeka says:

    What a great last paragraph in that Msgr Bux interview.

  18. anna 6 says:

    What a refreshing interview!

    One of the many negative aspects of Benedict’s resignation during the Year of Faith was that there was no post synodal exhortation, but rather, Pope Francis used the forum to write his Evangelii Gaudium instead. I had looked forward to one on faith since the exhortation B16 had done on the Eucharist was so good.

    The Year of Faith was a very important initiative, but after February of that year it was all but forgotten.

  19. dowd says:

    Hearing the straight forward truth is most heartening in these times of apostasy and confusion even emanating from the Pope himself. Will there be any faith left when Christ comes again? It would seem the devil used his 100 years of freedom most effectively.**

    ** Pope Leo XIII vision: https://www.romancatholicman.com/our-lady-of-fatima-1917-2017-why-100-years-matters/

  20. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    I wonder whether one factor leading to the present crisis is not the lack of *interior life* among both the clergy and the laity. This interior life is the subject of a book by Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard O.C.S.O, called _The Soul of The Apostolate_. (Pope Saint Pius X wrote that he read the book over and over so often, that it had a permanent place on his bedside table.)

    The interior life might be described as the cultivation of a frequent, if not constant awareness of the Presence of God in one’s everyday life, and with that awareness, frequent, if not constant prayer – if only in the “darts” the saints used to send up to God: “Jesus, I love you; save souls,” “My God, have mercy on us!”; “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul.” It often consists of _Lectio Divina_, in which the soul retreats to a quiet room or chapel, and reads a passage from Sacred Scripture, and meditates upon it for a brief time, and then has a *conversation* with Our Lord about the matter in the passage read, and about one’s points of meditation. The interior life would also consist of quiet times in prayer, especially in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, during which the soul offers prayers of praise, adoration, thanksgiving, and also converses *heart to heart* with our God, as earthly friends do, sharing their hopes, struggles, victories, joys, needs, and doubts. And listening to God, as well, by remaining silent and paying attention to what He might be saying to us. And the interior life would describe an inclination always to do the Will of God at every moment of our lives, and to maintain a constant desire and disposition to seek and fulfill His will, instead of our own wishes. And the interior life also consists of the habit of avoiding sin and cultivating the virtues, with the help of God’s grace. (This latter would seem to be the only wall left standing among the ruins of the entire concept of a Christian interior life. And this alone, – by itself – is not enough. There *must* be a loving *relationship.*)

    I have read that during the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s a significant number of good men were dismissed from the seminaries for being “P.O.D.” (“pious and overly devotional.”). But “P.O.D.” might well describe a person with an active interior life! And with an absence of priestly teaching and example, many of these practices that build up the interior life seem to have gone by the wayside among the laity, as well.

    All of this is very sad. I believe it’s so important for Christians to try, with the help of God, to develop a sound and vibrant interior life of their own, and to encourage others to do the same.

  21. Legisperitus says:

    It seems as if we were living in another universe just over four years ago, when I was actually hoping for a Pope Ranjith.

  22. chantgirl says:

    Nan- It sounds like you live in a diocese which is a spiritual oasis! Many dioceses are much closer to a barren wasteland, and it seems that this is foremost a leadership issue. Where we have good bishops, we tend to get better priests over time, and the faithful grow in holiness. Where we have poor bishops, vocations dry up and the faithful languish, becoming holy, if they do, despite lacking a spiritual father.

    It seems that the Church is experiencing feast or famine- in countries and dioceses with good bishops and priests, flourishing, and in countries and dioceses without good leadership, extinction. Perhaps we will see various nations annihilated (spiritually) as Our Lady warned at Fatima.

    I can’t thank Msgr. Bux enough for this interview, as he says what so many have been thinking but could not utter aloud. Hopefully his candor is contagious.

  23. Mike says:

    Lots of wisdom in this comment. Thank you!

  24. Mike says:

    I was hoping for Ranjith too. What a missed opportunity!

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