VIDEO and text of Peter Kwasniewski’s important talk: “The Pope’s Boundedness to Tradition as a Legislative Limit”

Our friends at Rorate have published the text of a talk by Peter Kwasniewski delivered at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Littleton, CO… once the parish of Fr. Jackson, author of Nothing Superfluous (he is moving to Providence, RI).

It is a fine irony that Peter gave this talk where he did, given that Traditionis custodes was extruded upon the world on the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

This is an important talk.  The text is at Roratealong with the footnotes, which are super helpful.  Here below, however, is the video.

I suggest two listenings or viewings (and don’t forget the enriching footnotes in the text). He tackles the issues of the limitations of papal authority and how different groups respond to papal authority, either ultramontanism verging on papalotry or reasonable and respectful resistance.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    This seems to have many good points. There are limits to all positions of authority and people ought to use their brains to determine if what is being said is just and if it can even be done at all. Is Francis provoking the good people of the church? What to do? When do we ignore or push back? Also, the two forms of one rite is very strange and should be undone. God is simple and what we have here with two forms is confusing. Maybe Benedict can do something about it, if I understand correctly, he shouldn’t have accepted the two forms when he became pope.

  2. TonyO says:

    Peter K’s article is well written and thoughtful. Well balanced.

    Can someone please explain footnote 36 to me? This references a quote from Karl Rahner:

    “Imagine that the Pope, as supreme pastor of the Church, issued a decree today requiring all the uniate churches of the Near East to give up their Oriental liturgy and adopt the Latin rite….The Pope would not exceed the competence of his jurisdictional primacy by such a decree, but the decree would be legally valid. But we can also pose an entirely different question. Would it be morally licit for the Pope to issue such a decree? Any reasonable man and any true Christian would have to answer “no.”

    It’s the second sentence that doesn’t make sense to me. The “but” seems off: the first half says the pope would not exceed his area of jurisdiction, the second half says it would be legally valid, yet there is a “but” in between, which SHOULD be preparing something opposed to the first half. “Legally valid” is not opposed to “within his jurisdiction.” Did the quote leave out a “not”, as in “not legally valid”?

    I think that Rahner is actually wrong in how he characterizes this: The pope, as the Patriarch of the Latin Church, has the authority to make quite a number of small changes (e.g. adding saints to the Canon, moving certain feasts); in addition he has authority to make some pretty significant changes to the Latin Rite mass, in order to correct deficiencies that have crept in, even though they don’t represent actual error or concrete “bad” things. The pope, as the Patriarch of the Latin Church, does not have the authority make the same scale of significant changes to the Byzantine Rite. As pope, the Vicar of Christ over the whole Church, he would have the authority to direct the Patriarch over the Byzantine Rite to make changes if needed to repair some sort of doctrinal disorder, but not to make changes that the pope merely “would make things work better” – and ESPECIALLY not in order to make the Byzantine Rite “more like the Latin Rite”.

    My sense is that what Rahner should have said is something more nuanced. The “competence” and “jurisdictional primacy” does in fact extend to the Byzantine Rite, but not with respect to every aspect thereof. Therefore, the pope’s scope of authority does not extend to ANY thing he might want to decree about it.

    I think the Thomistic analysis of law, and of why some laws do not bind, is a better account, and happily explains why the pope would not be able to simply suppress the Byzantine Rite (and the other Eastern Rites) merely on a whim, or merely out of pique that they are different from the Latin Rite. These “reasons” would not hold up in satisfying the requirement be an “ordinance of reason” and “for the common good”. See this for a fuller explanation:

  3. Elizium23 says:

    I am not sure what Canon you read to establish that the Roman Pontiff has limited jurisdiction over the Eastern Rites. My book says it’s “Supreme, full, immediate and universal” (Can. 331 CIC; Can. 43 CCEO).

    As you can see, every single one of the 24 sui iuris Churches acknowledges his power on paper. He could very well legally abolish every Rite except the Roman at the stroke of a pen.

    Who would obey him? The Eastern Catholics will tell you they are “in Communion with Rome, not ‘under’ the Pope” and surely they will mount a protest. Perhaps 5% of them might dare to implement it. I don’t know. But legally invalid is not the way I’d put it.

    So, hate to say it, but I agree 100% with Rahner.

  4. Elizium23 says:

    Let’s put it this way: who laicizes Eastern clergy? Whose tribunal judges Eastern Church members on canonical crimes? Who canonizes their saints?

    If the Roman Pontiff had limited authority over the Eastern Churches, it’d be their patriarchs in charge of this stuff. The fact that the buck always stops in Rome shows you the truth.

  5. WVC says:

    @Elizium23 – you seem to be tracking along the ultra-ultra-Montanist line of thought. If a pope had the perverse desire to abolish all the Easter Rites it doesn’t follow that he actually has that legitimate power. If Christ entrusts his Vicar to care for His Church, it doesn’t follow that he is at liberty to destroy that Church. It’s like the modern and perverted concept of freedom – freedom does NOT mean the freedom to do absolutely anything, including self-destructive acts. Likewise, authority does not simply mean the absolute unqualified authority to do anything, including destroying the very thing upon which one’s authority is based and whose existence and preservation is the ultimate purpose for which the authority was granted.

    If I gave my son a garden, instructed him to grow corn, and empowered him to order everyone else in the household towards that purpose – if he turns around and tells everyone to help him pave a driveway over the garden so he can park his car there – that is not a legitimate use of this authority.

    This is going to be messy, as all things are in Church history, but thanks to Pope Francis and the fight that will probably occur over the next hundred years (and you could probably start this period of turmoil from around the time of Vatican I), the boundaries of Papal Authority will be firmly defined. We may not live to see it, but, like all other serious questions in Church history it takes someone pushing something too far in the wrong direction for the hard work of clarity to finally be undertaken.

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  7. Semper Gumby says:

    Prof K makes many good points.

    – …popes [sometimes] make spectacularly bad decisions or teach that which is ambiguous or male sonans (evil-sounding)…

    – Instead of sola scriptura, it is often solo papa…

    – Papal Oath: I shall keep inviolate the discipline and ritual of the Church just as I found and received it handed down by my predecessors

    – Francisco de Vitoria (1483–1546) likewise says: “If the Pope by his orders and his acts destroys the Church, one can resist him and impede the execution of his commands.” St. Robert Bellarmine (1542–1621) concurs…

    – Those who maintain that the pope has the authority to abrogate or abolish an immemorial liturgical rite and replace it with a new construction show that they have abandoned historic confessional Catholicism in favor of a caricature. It is a reductio ad absurdum of the papacy…

    – …we would still have the right and the duty to strive for its repeal and to resist it in every way open to us. For it would still be a tyrannical use of power by which a hierarch lords it over his subjects and strips them of what belongs to them, and, in fact, seeks ultimately the liquidation of a minority in the Church, much as the Chinese Communist Party, with whom the Vatican has a secret alliance, rounds up ethnic and religious minorities and puts them in “reeducation camps” where they can learn how to be model Chinese citizens.

    Introducing Prof K in the video appears to be Fr. Daniel Nolan, Naval Academy graduate and former Marine Corps officer.

  8. Jones says:

    Attended. But we all know the elephant in the room is Ann Barnhardt’s thesis and not solely hers. He answered questions after, I didn’t have the gumption to stir the pot.

  9. WVC says:

    I’m sorry – but it just strikes me as so obvious that there are limits to Papal authority I’m having a difficult time understanding the ultra-Montanist position. If a pope suddenly decrees that all liturgical garbs are to be replaced with orange and purple Bermuda shorts and issues a new Missal that consists of a 10 minute service that contains an 8 minute long passing of the peace and 2 minutes for a Eucharistic Prayers – nobody would argue that “he has that right as the supreme legislator.” He quite obviously does not have any such right or authority.

    It’s like folks want the pope to be as ridiculous a figure as the Great Prophets of the Mormons. Prof K. gives the very sound, thorough, and well footnoted argument, and he’s spot on, but I’ve yet to hear a reasonable counter to his position that consists of anything other than “the Pope is supreme, who are you? You’re not the pope! You’re just as bad as Martin Luther!”

    Rights do not exist as autonomous entities. The exist only in the shadow of obligations. My kids don’t have a “right” to a good home and an education so much as I have an absolute obligation to provide them a good home and an education. Thus I have all the authority necessary for me to fulfill that obligation. I don’t have any legitimate authority to starve my children to death or to teach them to be misanthropes.

  10. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    In am far from ‘up’ on the current literature on Giovanni Battista Eliano, S.J., but have read of his ‘hands on’ approach in the 16th century in visiting numerous Maronite churches in the Lebanon and Aleppo, buying up old manuscripts (not least, liturgical works) – and then burning them, in the interest of a sort of ‘Latinism’/’Romanization’, which is presumably also evident in the results of the Synod of Qannubin at which he was papal envoy (whether all that was pleasing to the then-current Pope I know not).

    Father John Hunwicke on 5 August noted how “in the 1620s, Papa Barberini aka Urban VIII mucked up the ancient Office Hymns because he wanted them to sound more like Horace. This was the first, deplorable, example of the Roman Catholic Church adopting the deplorable ‘we’ve-now-got-printing-so-we-can-now-impose-our-latest-revolutionary-fad-almost-overnight-on-the-Universal-Church’ syndrome”.

    With C.S. Lewis’s very interesting discussion of thoughts concerning ‘sovereignty’ in the introduction to his 16th-century contribution to the Oxford History of English Literature in mind, it would be good to know more of the 16th-century – and earlier? – roots of (mistaken) formulations of Papal ‘sovereignty’.

  11. Semper Gumby says:

    WVC: “…it just strikes me as so obvious that there are limits to Papal authority I’m having a difficult time understanding the ultra-Montanist position.”

    Some ultra-Montanists are attracted to and need the Strongman. They often experience liberty and freedom (not just anarchy or libertinism, but also rightly ordered liberty) as confusing and enraging. They would rather simply be told what to do along with everyone else- it relieves them of the responsibility of critical thinking and allows perpetual adolescence.

    Some are fascinated by absolutism and rule by decree, which inevitably leads to a cult of personality. Some blame their personal problems on the Other, the Scapegoat, and will submit to any Strongman likely to enact revenge on the Other.

    “It’s like folks want the pope to be as ridiculous a figure as the Great Prophets of the Mormons.”

    Yep, it does appear that way. A disdain for tradition can easily lead to a mindset of Make-Your-Own-Religion. Thus, the self-referential and Wonderful Me tone of Fratelli Tutti; the Gaia worship of Laudato Si; a human sacrifice idol at St. Peter’s; offering millions of pinches of incense, Chinese Christians, to the ChiComs; a slew of bizarre statements on God, the Eucharist, St. Paul and other topics; and the Vatican’s generally abusive behavior toward faithful Christians.

    A new pagan religion is being created at the Vatican, it’s been underway for some time and Ultra-montanism is essential. If one believes that doctrine and tradition are stale and embarrassing, then look to the Strongman: the Act of Creation is Thrilling, the Act of Destruction and Persecution is Thrilling. Also, given the Vatican’s sustained contact with toxic Leftists and its resources, this new paganism could also be considered a new political-religion.

  12. Semper Gumby says:

    The poet William Wordsworth wrote an enthusiastic poem at the beginning of the French Revolution.

    Oh! pleasant exercise of hope and joy!
    For mighty were the auxiliars which then stood
    Upon our side, we who were strong in love!
    Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
    But to be young was very heaven.

    But in the very world, which is the world
    Of all of us, – the place where in the end
    We find our happiness, or not at all!

    Edmund Burke, “Reflections on the Revolution in France:

    When I see the spirit of liberty in action, I see a strong principle at work; and this, for a while, is all I can possibly know of it. The wild gas, the fixed air is plainly broke loose: but we ought to suspend our judgments until the first effervescence is a little subsided, till the liquor is cleared, and until we see something deeper than the agitation of the troubled and frothy surface. I must be tolerably sure, before venture publicly to congratulate men on a blessing, that they have really received one

    To make a government requires no great prudence. Settle the seat of power; teach obedience and the work is done. To give freedom is still more easy. It is not necessary to guide; it only requires to let go the rein. But to form a free government; that is, to temper together these opposite elements of liberty and restraint in one consistent work, requires much thought, deep reflection, a sagacious, powerful, and combining mind. This I do not find in those who take the lead in the National Assembly.

  13. TonyO says:

    Elizium23 says:

    My book says it’s “Supreme, full, immediate and universal” (Can. 331 CIC; Can. 43 CCEO).

    I agree that the pope has the supreme, full, immediate, and universal portion of the power that has been granted to the Church Militant.

    This does not mean that the Church Militant has been granted EVERY POWER. Manifestly, “the Church”, the visible Church here on Earth, does not have the power to suspend the law of gravity. But speaking more close to home: the visible Church here on Earth does not have the power to eradicate one of the 7 sacraments. Nor to reverse an infallible teaching. Nor to erase one of the “orders” of the priesthood of Christ. These are not among the powers GRANTED to the Church. Therefore, that person within the visible Church on Earth who has been given the “supreme” portion of Church authority on Earth cannot do these either. “Supreme” is qualified by the context: the pope is not Christ, he does not rule the universe; nor does he rule the Church as if he could (like Christ could) institute new sacraments or abolish them. He rules the Church as the Vicar of Christ, standing in for Christ with a qualified, limited authority, just as the Church’s authority is limited and qualified: to keep going the Church that Christ constructed. For example, Pope John Paul II stated ex cathedra:

    I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful

    Therefore, neither the Church nor the pope have the authority to ordain women. Which means the “supreme” power that rests in the pope (and the Church) is QUALIFIED by limits, constraints, set by the determination of Christ her head.

    Many of these constraints are referred to as part of the “constitution” of the Church, including (just for example) the fundamental roles of bishops, priests, and deacons. But another is the permitted diversity of Rites. In general, the Church handed over by Christ to his Vicar is an already formed thing, with its own form and nature: the “fullness” of the pope’s authority is the authority to rule it so that it flourishes as THAT KIND of thing, with THAT NATURE with which Christ imbued it. He hasn’t that kind of fullness of power to simply eradicate the Church and start a new one in its place. The powers to run THIS Church are constrained by the nature of THIS Church.

    Elizium, perhaps it would help to make a clarifying point: in saying that the pope “doesn’t have X power”, it is not necessary to think in all cases of a subject matter over which the pope has no power. The “supreme, full” power of the pope may – by being full – extent to EVERY subject matter about which the Church may exercise authority. Therefore, nobody can repudiate a rule by the pope because “X is outside of the subject matters he can rule on”. (E.G. he does have authority to rule on the priesthood, and on Rites, and on sacraments, so it would be wrong to refuse obedience on a rule regarding the sacrament of penance as if “the sacraments” are outside of his jurisdiction.) Instead, consider the limitations standing more in terms of the way in which he can rule. For instance, he can rule the other bishops, but not in every respect: he cannot abolish the whole college of bishops. He can make rulings about sacraments, but he cannot abolish any one of the 7. He can enjoin changes on other Rites, but he cannot force other Rites to become identical to the Latin Rite. So, the fullness of his authority extends the REACH of his power to every subject that the Church can rule, but does not extend to every whim and wish he might have ABOUT those subjects.

  14. TonyO says:

    Semper, those are great quotes. Thank you.

  15. robtbrown says:

    1. That Papal jurisdiction is “full” refers to him having fullness of whatever episcopal jurisdiction there is. His jurisdiction exceeds that of every other bishop, not only in quantity but also in quality.

    That does not, however, mean that Papal Jurisdiction is unlimited.

    2. I am not a fan of theological arguments from tradition. Vatican II, however, provided (unbelievably enough!!!) a better way to approach questions of this ilk. LG 25.2 expanded the authority of the Ordinary Universal Magisterium to include secondary objects of infallibility: not only credendum but also tenendum. This elevated the authority of the OUM, and IMHO can be used to defend both Latin Liturgy as well as text of the Roman Ritw.

    3. JPII did not write “I declare” but rather “Declaramus”–we declare.

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