Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Dogma, Heresy and Tuas Libenter

There is a good deal of confusion for many people about exactly what doctrines are considered dogmas. Pope Pius IX, in the Vatican Council makes it simple for us.

Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council, Session 3, Chapter 3, Paragraph 8, AD 1870: “Wherefore, by divine and Catholic faith all those things are to be believed which are contained in the word of God as found in Scripture and tradition, and which are proposed by the Church as matters to be believed as divinely revealed, whether by her solemn judgment or in her Ordinary and Universal Magisterium.”

Clearly he is holding all of these teachings on the same level. To deny a doctrine, once we see that it belongs to either the Solemn Magisterium or the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium, would be heresy, would mean that we do not have the Divine and Catholic Faith.

There are some who deny this simple fact, by misapplying the words of a letter of Pope Pius IX to the Archbishop of Munich-Freising seven years earlier in Dec. 21, 1863:

Pope Pius IX, Tuas Libenter (Denzinger): “While, in truth, We laud these men with due praise because they professed the truth which necessarily arises from their obligation to the Catholic faith, We wish to persuade Ourselves that they did not wish to confine the obligation, by which Catholic teachers and writers are absolutely bound, only to those decrees which are set forth by the infallible judgment of the Church as dogmas of faith to be believed by all. And We persuade Ourselves, also, that they did not wish to declare that that perfect adhesion to revealed truths, which they recognized as absolutely necessary to attain true progress in the sciences and to refute errors, could be obtained if faith and obedience were given only to the dogmas expressly defined by the Church. For, even if it were a matter concerning that subjection which is to be manifested by an act of divine faith, nevertheless, it would not have to be limited to those matters which have been defined by express decrees of the ecumenical Councils, or of the Roman Pontiffs and of this See, but would have to be extended also to those matters which are handed down as divinely revealed by the ordinary teaching power of the whole Church spread throughout the world, and therefore, by universal and common consent are held by Catholic theologians to belong to faith.

“But, since it is a matter of that subjection by which in conscience all those Catholics are bound who work in the speculative sciences, in order that they may bring new advantages to the Church by their writings, on that account, then, the men of that same convention should recognize that it is not sufficient for learned Catholics to accept and revere the aforesaid dogmas of the Church, but that it is also necessary to subject themselves to the decisions pertaining to doctrine which are issued by the Pontifical Congregations, and also to those forms of doctrine which are held by the common and constant consent of Catholics as theological truths and conclusions, so certain that opinions opposed to these same forms of doctrine, although they cannot be called heretical, nevertheless deserve some theological censure.”

It is because of this last sentence that the heretics say: “Universal and Ordinary Magisterium doctrines are indeed of the Catholic Faith, but they are not dogmas!” But upon closer inspection, we will see that this is an erroneous conclusion based on misapplication of the words of Pius IX.

Let’s break it down piece by piece.

In the first of the two paragraphs, Pius IX expressly says, of the faith and obedience due to defined dogmas: “…it would not have to be limited to those matters which have been defined by express decrees of the ecumenical Councils, or of the Roman Pontiffs and of this See, but would have to be extended also to those matters which are handed down as divinely revealed by the ordinary teaching power of the whole Church spread throughout the world, and therefore, by universal and common consent are held by Catholic theologians to belong to faith.”

The pope said "DIVINELY REVEALED" and "belong to faith" i.e de fide.

He states that doctrines, which obtain universal consent in the ordinary teaching power of the Church are due the same faith and obedience, which is due to defined dogmas. While there may be more labour involved in determining which doctrines those are (since one would be obliged to read the positions of many Fathers to determine universality), it is nevertheless binding on Catholics to accord these doctrines, once they have been identified, the same reverence due to those dogmas, which have been formally defined. How could a person withholding faith and obedience to one of these doctrines thus identified, then, not be punishable by Divine anathema, just as one who denies a defined dogma? Can a person willfully deny a divinely revealed teaching and still be Catholic?

The heretics proceed to offer the following sentence from the next paragraph in a vain attempt to prove that it is not heresy to deny a doctrine of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium.

“…and also to those forms of doctrine which are held by the common and constant consent of Catholics as theological truths and conclusions, so certain that opinions opposed to these same forms of doctrine, although they cannot be called heretical, nevertheless deserve some theological censure.”

Not heresy. That’s right I see it. But did you read it carefully enough?

“…common and constant consent of CATHOLICS as theological truths and conclusions…”

Where does this say anything about the teaching authority of the Church? Of theologians? And most importantly of divine revelation? Nope, sorry. What Pius IX is clearly saying here is that a person cannot be called heretical for denying the common and constant consent of Catholics, which includes laity as well as theologians, bishops and priests. He is saying nothing about denying the teaching authority of the Church.

So one last time, a nice quick comparison of the two:

“…divinely revealed by the ordinary teaching power of the whole Church spread throughout the world, and therefore, by universal and common consent are held by Catholic theologians to belong to faith.

“…common and constant consent of CATHOLICS as theological truths and conclusions…”

Common means widespread, and constant means it can be found in any age. But this does not mean that it is professed by ALL men of every age. And how interesting is it when we condense these two paragraphs? See below:

Pope Pius IX, Tuas Libenter: “And We persuade Ourselves, also, that they did not wish to declare that that perfect adhesion to revealed truths […] could be obtained if faith and obedience were given only to the dogmas expressly defined by the Church. […] it would not have to be limited to those matters which have been defined by express decrees of the ecumenical Councils, or of the Roman Pontiffs and of this See, but would have to be extended also to those matters which are handed down as divinely revealed by the ordinary teaching power of the whole Church spread throughout the world, and therefore, by universal and common consent are held by Catholic theologians to belong to faith.

“…it is not sufficient for learned Catholics to accept and revere the aforesaid dogmas [did everyone catch that?] of the Church, but that it is also necessary to subject themselves to the decisions pertaining to doctrine which are issued by the Pontifical Congregations, and also to those forms of doctrine which are held by the common and constant consent of Catholics as theological truths and conclusions, so certain that opinions opposed to these same forms of doctrine, although they cannot be called heretical, nevertheless deserve some theological censure.”

In the first paragraph he is specifically explaining that not only formally defined dogmatic definitions "belong to faith" but also the ordinary teaching power of the whole Church spread throughout the world (Ordinary and Universal Magisterium).

In the second paragraph, he is teaching that even those doctrines which DO NOT belong to faith must be given the assent of the will, lest we incur some censure.

So in short, if you go against the common and constant consent of Catholics, you are censurable but not a heretic, not denying a teaching the "belongs to faith". If you go willfully against the Ordinary and Universal teaching authority or Magisterium of the Church, you are denying a divinely revealed dogma, and a heretic.

For an example of such a doctrine, read about the Church Fathers' unanimous consent concerning the Scripture's teachings on the cosmos.


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