Clarifications clarify the clarity of the clearness clarified.

I’m torn.  I really am.

On the one hand, don’t you wish they would just stop talking?  Stop writing?

For example, the new guy to head up the Dicastery (yeah, that’s what we call it now) for the Doctrine of the Faith, you know… the one who wrote the creepy book for young people about kissing … recently took a shot at people who are apprehensive about the up-coming Synod on Synodality (“walking together about walking-together-ity”).

For example, Archbp. Fernandez said in July that it is his job to ensure that people “accept the recent Magisterium” (7 July).

“It can happen that answers are given to certain theological issues without accepting what Francis has said that is new on those issues,” Fernández said. “It’s not only inserting a phrase from Pope Francis, but allowing thought to be transfigured with his criteria. This is particularly true for moral and pastoral theology.”

The recent Magisterium.

Fernandez talked to Ed Pentin who about asked him about that “recent Magisterium” thing (11 Sept).  Fernandez responded with

In this case, we are not talking about a deposit, but about a living and active gift, which is at work in the person of the Holy Father. I do not have this charism, nor do you, nor does Cardinal Burke. Today only Pope Francis has it. Now, if you tell me that some bishops have a special gift of the Holy Spirit to judge the doctrine of the Holy Father, we will enter into a vicious circle (where anyone can claim to have the true doctrine) and that would be heresy and schism.

“the doctrine of the Holy Father”

So, there’s the “recent Magisterium” and “the doctrine of the Holy Father”.

Now we read, today (14 Sept.) that Fernandez has responded to criticisms of that “doctrine of the Holy Father” notion, saying he was simply referring to the Lord’s “special assistance” to popes to confirm the brethren in the faith.

So, the “doctrine of the Holy Father” = “the special assistance” that the Successor of Peter has “to confirm the brethren”.

“This is an important clarification,” [Fernandex] contended, “because it is precisely the recent magisterium that engages in dialogue with the current circumstances of the world and the Church, with its culture and challenges. The magisterium is not a mere ‘deposit,’ but is also a living gift that is active through Francis.

“If the magisterium is also able to enlighten us in our pilgrimage at this moment in history,” he added, “we must allow ourselves to be guided by its recent and current interventions, and there is no doubt that this is tantamount to continuing to drink from that bottomless well that is ever-present and ever-relevant Revelation.

However, when Francis appointed Fernandez he wrote in a letter that his role as Prefect was not to go after doctrinal errors but rather to encourage theological dialogue.

Quaeritur: If one disagrees with something of the living-flowing-clarifying “doctrine of the Holy Father”, what’s the Dicastery to do?   What about those who insist on sticking with the “non-recent Magisterium” rather than the “recent”?

To sum up, the role of Successor of Peter is to make things clearer, to “confirm the brethren”.

And the role of the Dicastery is, well, to make things clearer.

Channeling one’s inner Reagan, one might ask, “are things clearer now than they were ten years ago”?

Circling back to the top, I’m torn, I’ll tell you.  I really am.

On the one hand, don’t you wish they would just stop talking?  Stop writing?

On the other hand… no, please, just keep going.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in The Drill, The future and our choices, What are they REALLY saying?, You must be joking! and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Benedict Joseph says:

    Yours articulates my sentiments exactly, but for the sake of history it is essential that they do keep talking and writing. Each syllable articulates not the truth of their notions. How could it? There is nothing there, there. It does manifest the face behind their mask … and that is of most importance. Not even fifty years of erroneous or deprived catechesis makes us groundlings vulnerable to manifest lunacy.

  2. mbarry says:

    I read articles where Catholic figures say they are surprised, concerned and whatever else about the latest spew out of the Vatican, usually from Francis. I see them all the time, even on EWTN with Raymond interviewing the Papal Posse.

    Father, at some point we are going to have to turn around and fight. Hand wringing is useless at this stage.

    This scene reminds me exactly of how the Vatican operates these days. A clear and concise question is answered with double-talk. Pardon the vulgarity in the title.

  3. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    What would “if you tell me that some bishops have a special gift of the Holy Spirit to judge the doctrine of the Holy Father, we will enter into a vicious circle (where anyone can claim to have the true doctrine) and that would be heresy and schism” look like if one tried to represent it as a syllogism?

    Meanwhile, by way of – thought experiment – how about ‘if you tell me that the Apostle St. Paul had a special gift of the Holy Spirit to judge the doctrine of the Holy Father St. Cephas and in faciem ei restiti, quia reprehensibilis erat (Galatians 2:11), we will enter into a vicious circle (where anyone can claim to have the true doctrine) and that would be heresy and schism’?

    Tangentially, I do not immediately see from a very quick browse through the three linked articles (for which, thanks) if he has said all of these things in English, or if someone has translated them from some other language(s).

  4. Cornelius says:

    I read as little of their blatherskite as possible in order to keep my sanity and my blood pressure down, but reading what you’ve posted here really leaves me gobsmacked. PF is being made out by people like Archbp. Fernandez to be an oracle of God, a direct conduit from the HS for new revelation.

    This is so unCatholic it makes me dizzy. It’s just . . . evil, on stilts.

  5. summorumpontificum777 says:

    Are we Catholics, or are we Mormons? Consider the LDS description of their head guy (aka “Prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”) :
    “His voice becomes the voice of God to reveal new programs, new truths, new solutions.”
    Does this or does this not sound remarkably similar to how Team Francis (i.e., Tucho, Spadaro, Ivereigh, Martin et al.) is telling us we must treat our head guy’s utterances?

  6. Not says:

    Maybe if it was required that Pope Francis make all statements and responses in Latin, there would be no confusion.

    But then again ,isn’t that the purpose of Latin?

  7. Sonshine135 says:

    Given the “Doctrine of the Holy Father” or the Doctrine of the One, Triune God, I think I’d take the Doctrine of the One, Triune God. Such a lack of concise speech and writing should not be forgiven without profound and humble apology. There is a sincere lack of humility in these statements, be they off the cuff or not.

  8. Gladiator says:

    I say, let them keep talking and writing and pushing because there will be another conclave eventually. And payback, it’s…

  9. APX says:

    a living gift that is active through Francis.

    This sounds an awful close to what the Mormons say about their Quorum of 12 Prophets.

  10. EC says:

    The monster underneath all of this is a zombified form of positive theology. Leo XIII tried to kill this with Aeterni Patris. He had a lot of success. But the long arm of Pastor Aeternus is what we are dealing with now – the hyperuberultramontanism stuff. What EXACTLY is a pope, and what EXACTLY does it mean for him to teach? I don’t think the answers to those questions are as clear as they seem. And we have Pius IX to thank for ultimately forcing us into a crisis where we do, in fact, need to figure this out. When half of conversations about “controversy x” turn to “I’ll see your apostolic exhortation and raise you an encyclical,” we have a big problem. We need to do theology from principles, and only appeal to “the doctrine of the Holy Father” when there is in fact a really serious problem that… needs CLARIFICATION.

  11. Pingback: FRIDAY EXTRA –

  12. Ohmie says:

    So, what exactly was Archbp. Fernandez trying to do in his statement, and how is it distinguished from attempting to “confirm the brethren in the faith”? It certainly seemed like he was trying to explain what he considered to be Catholic teaching (or why should it be “quite obvious to a Catholic”?). Is the Archbishop pretending to this charism granted only to the Pope? Is there a subtle methodology wherein bishops *can* speak regarding what the Catholic Faith is, without the danger of accidentally confirming their brethren?

    This clearness needs a clear clarification.

  13. JustaSinner says:

    Wow! You’ve got Kamala Harris writing your headlines? What clout, Father!

  14. TonyO says:

    In this case, we are not talking about a deposit, but about a living and active gift, which is at work in the person of the Holy Father. I do not have this charism, nor do you, nor does Cardinal Burke. Today only Pope Francis has it.

    I know that I would never have come up with this kind of explanation of the distinctly papal role in the magisterial authority of the Church. But I wonder what the best way to describe that role really is?

    For one thing, the papal role is not to deliver revelation. The period of public revelation closed with the death of the last apostle. Written revelation is complete.

    And the distinctly papal role is not that of “authentic magisterium”, all of the bishops participate in that role.

    And that itself implies that the distinctly papal role is not “protection from error”, for (i) all of the bishops participate in that just to the extent that they have a magisterial role: it doesn’t protect them absolutely from all error, but then the pope can make mistakes too.

    It isn’t that the pope is the only one that can deliver infallible pronouncements: acting together, the entire college of bishops in ecumenical council do that, too.

    Is Fernandez getting at the fact that the pope is the only one who can deliver an infallible pronouncement acting alone, without the action of the whole bishopric with him? If so, that’s fine, but that operation only holds when he delivers an infallible pronouncement, doesn’t it? And, by the way, one ought to be a little cautious about saying he “acts on his own” in doing this: if we look at the example of Pius IX in his issuing Ineffabilis Deus on the Immaculate Conception, he explicitly grounded his pronouncement in:
    Ordinary teaching of the Church;
    Veneration of Mary as immaculate;
    Roman Doctrine;
    Testimony by the religious orders, the theological academies, and the bishops;
    The Council of Trent;
    The testimonies of Tradition;
    The Fathers and interpreters of Scripture;

    And after doing all that, he also sought out the input of the current Church:

    Accordingly, from ancient times the bishops of the Church, ecclesiastics, religious orders, and even emperors and kings, have earnestly petitioned this Apostolic See to define a dogma of the Catholic Faith the Immaculate Conception of the most holy Mother of God. These petitions were renewed in these our own times; they were especially brought to the attention of Gregory XVI, our predecessor of happy memory, and to ourselves, not only by bishops, but by the secular clergy and religious orders, by sovereign rulers and by the faithful.

    Mindful, indeed, of all these things and considering them most attentively with particular joy in our heart, as soon as we, by the inscrutable design of Providence, had been raised to the sublime Chair of St. Peter — in spite of our unworthiness — and had begun to govern the universal Church, nothing have we had more at heart — a heart which from our tenderest years has overflowed with devoted veneration and love for the most Blessed Virgin — than to show forth her prerogatives in resplendent light.

    That we might proceed with great prudence, we established a special congregation of our venerable brethren, the cardinals of the holy Roman Church, illustrious for their piety, wisdom, and knowledge of the sacred scriptures. We also selected priests, both secular and regular, well trained in the theological sciences, that they should most carefully consider all matters pertaining to the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin and make known to us their opinion.

    Would it not be the height of foolishness to characterize this as “acting alone”. I, for one, would fine it refreshing and heartening to find Francis doing as Pius IX did.

    I don’t think the role of “strengthening the brethren” should be identical to “lead them off a cliff”. Maybe I am just not understanding “strengthen” properly?

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