Fr Hunwicke on papal infallibility and saints

A little deep for me, but maybe some of my readers will have read the relevant documents he cites in this post.   But interesting, nonetheless.  An excerpt:

Theologians of distinction can be listed who have taught that Canonisation is an infallible act of the Papal Magisterium. But, with regard to those who wrote before 1870, is there not a prior question that has to be asked? The Church had then not defined (i.e. put limits, ‘fines‘, to) the dogma of Papal Infallibility. The terms of Pastor aeternus are (to the chagrin of Manning and the palpable relief of Newman) extremely limited. Therefore, can we be sure that those earlier theologians really were categorising canonisation as infallible in the sense of the word infallible as defined with all the limitations of the 1870 decrees? Or, because of the limits imposed by that definition, might they have used a different term had they needed to develop their arguments within the confines of what Pastor aeternus lays down? Is this why Benedict XIV accepts the possibility of arguing that what a Roman Pontiff decrees may be infallible, but still not be de fide? After 1870, I surmise, that possibility may not be open to us: because the scope and function of the term infallibilis have changed to imply that a proposition is of faith. Am I right?

In assessing the arguments of such pre-1870 writers, should we pay attention to the general extent which they assert when talking about the authority of the Roman Pontiff? That is: if a writer is generous in his estimate of the fields to which papal infallibility extends, should we be less willing to assume that he is writing in terms of something like the limited 1870 definition, than we would be when considering a writer who is very much more sparing and circumspect in associating infallibility with papal interventions?

As a consequence of this, when we turn to theologians who wrote later than 1870, and who argued that papal canonisations are infallible, should we not subtract from the arguments with which they sustain their conclusions the mere citation, qua authorities, and without further discussion, of those earlier theologians? In other words, should not the event of 1870 have the effect of pruning back some previous theologically luxuriant growths?

And there is another question raised by the Definition and Practice of Papal infallibility which the pontificate of B Pius IX bequeathed us. It implies an assumption that the Roman Pontiff is acting with the morally unanimous, collegial, assent of the whole ecclesia docens. I know that, for SSPXers, Collegiality is a dirty word; but B Pius IX and Pius XII wrote to the bishops of the entire world seeking their counsel before defining the two Marian Dogmas (‘Is it definable? Is it opportune to define it?’) and … well … I’m just an ordinary Catholic … the praxis of those two pontiffs is good enough for me! But do Popes seek the counsel of all their Venerable Brethren before canonising?

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Fr Hunwicke on papal infallibility and saints

  1. Pingback: Fr Hunwicke on papal infallibility and saints | Catholic Canada

  2. Rev22:17 says:

    Deborah,

    From your quotation: Theologians of distinction can be listed who have taught that Canonisation is an infallible act of the Papal Magisterium.

    Yes. I’m not aware of any “infallible” decree establishing this, but does seem to be the longstanding sense of the church and thus “infallible.”

    From your quotation: Therefore, can we be sure that those earlier theologians really were categorising canonisation as infallible in the sense of the word infallible as defined with all the limitations of the 1870 decrees?

    Yes, I see no reason why not. The word “infallible” in theological use means, quite simply, not subject to further reform or compromise, and thus binding on all members of the church.

    From your quotation: Is this why Benedict XIV accepts the possibility of arguing that what a Roman Pontiff decrees may be infallible, but still not be de fide? (emphasis and boldface in original)

    I don’t think so. Rather, the dogmatic constitution Pastor aeternus on the papal office states that a statement promulgated by the Roman pontiff ex cathedra (“from the chair;” that is, in his official capacity as the president of the magisterium) is intrinsically “infallible” if it “defines” either theological or moral doctrine. Catholic moral doctrine is NOT “de fide” (“of the faith”), but rather rooted in Natural Law. Thus, a moral doctrine defined in an ex cathedra papal decree would fall into this category.

    From your quotation: After 1870, I surmise, that possibility may not be open to us: because the scope and function of the term infallibilis have changed to imply that a proposition is of faith. Am I right? (emphasis in original)

    No, for the reasons that I explained above.

    From your quotation: But do Popes seek the counsel of all their Venerable Brethren before canonising?

    Probably, but how significant is a canonization, really, as an article of faith? If the pope decrees, ex cathedra, that Jane Smith is a saint, what is the real impact on one’s faith? Folks who have some sort of attachment to Jane Smith might start asking Saint Jane Smith to intercede in prayer, but they are typically relatively few in number. For the rest, it is of little real import since nobody was disputing the fact that Jane Smith was in heaven in the first place. Thus, seeing the news, most of us say, “Okay, what’s next?” and move on. Of course, those who have some attachment also might then propose “Saint Jane Smith” as the name for a parish, a prayer group, a school, or some other Catholic organization or institution, and any such institution previously named “Blessed Jane Smith” immediately changes its name to “Saint Jane Smith” to reflect the official status.

    Norm.

    • Benedict Marshall says:

      Wouldn’t it damage the credibility of the Church if they canonized Marcial Maciel?

      Just asking a hypothetical from the point of perspective of a layman who hasn’t the time to read a wall of text.

      I would not think I can be a part of a church that venerates bad people.

      So, what happens if people discover something like “The Really Authentic Secret Diaries of St. So-and-so” that basically exposes themselves as a sham? Can the pope “unsaint” them? I can’t think of “saints” who wrote a discovered secret diary, other than Mother Teresa, and she’s not even a saint.

      Didn’t that happen with Saint Christopher (Who is actually Saint Mina)? And Saint Philomena?

      What would have happened if Mother Teresa was canonized a saint, and it turned out she was a confirmed apostate around the time she died? Can that process be undone?

      • Rev22:17 says:

        Benedict,

        You asked: Wouldn’t it damage the credibility of the Church if they canonized Marcial Maciel?

        I have no idea who Marcial Maciel was, but the church has never said that any specific individual is NOT a saint.

        But, that said, I’m not aware of any case in which the church canonized anybody whose deeds were notoriously evil in the absence of a public conversion that was equally well known.

        You asked: So, what happens if people discover something like “The Really Authentic Secret Diaries of St. So-and-so” that basically exposes themselves as a sham? Can the pope “unsaint” them?

        There is neither precedent nor process for negating a canonization, but the process of canonization is also very thorough — it begins with a comprehensive investigation of the person’s life, including whatever “paper trail” of diaries and other writings that the person leaves behind, and the process proceeds only if the investigation yields a satisfactory result. After that declaration, it usually takes two confirmed miracles for beatification and a third for canonization.

        You wrote: I can’t think of “saints” who wrote a discovered secret diary, other than Mother Teresa, and she’s not even a saint.

        With respect to St. Teresa of Calcutta, it appears that you are confusing the spiritual drought that St. Teresa of Avilla called a “dark night of the soul” for a lack of faith. In fact, this sort of experience is common among many saints — especially among the mystics.

        You wrote: Didn’t that happen with Saint Christopher (Who is actually Saint Mina)? And Saint Philomena?

        No. In the liturgical reform after the Second Vatican Council, the magisterium determined that many of the saints who had been added to the Roman calendar over the later centuries, including Saint Christopher and Saint Philomena, simply are not of universal (that is, global) importance. Thus, the magisterium decided to remove them from the general liturgical calendar of the Roman Rite, with the consequence that the respective festivals are no longer celebrated universally, while allowing dioceses and religious orders to add any of these saints that they hold to be of particular importance to their proper calendars and thus to continue to observe their festivals. This decision did not disturb any private devotions to any of these saints, and there was no expectation that anybody would remove the statues of St. Christopher from the dashboards of their automobiles.

        Unfortunately, at that time, some media outlets got the story wrong and published banner headlines wrongly asserting that those removed from the calendar were no longer recognized as saints. In fact, that was never accurate. The magisterium of the Catholic Church has been consistent in saying that the saints removed from the liturgical calendar are still saints. Thus, it is still permissible to add them to proper liturgical calendars of dioceses and religious orders, to include them in the Litany of Saints where it appears in the liturgy, and to name parishes, seminaries, and other Catholic organizations and institutions after them.

        Norm.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s