Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Preliminary Response to Ron Conte Jr.'s "Heresy of Magisteriumism"

I have read an interesting article by the schismatic Ron Conte, who is subject to heretical religious superiors, namely the antipopes of the 20th century and of Vatican II, in which he proposes a new "heresy", the "heresy of Magisteriumism". Some of his points are addressed below. Note that he is right about many things, but he leaves a lot of important things out and leaves room for deadly errors to creep in. Specifically, the most deadly error that may ensue from reading this man's article is this: "Dogmas may be lawfully "interpreted" in a manner contrary to how they are proposed by the Solemn Magisterium of Holy Mother Church." Such a belief is heresy in opposition to the following dogmatic definitions of Pope Pius IX:
Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council, Session 3, Chapter 4, #14, ex cathedra: "Hence, too, that meaning of the sacred dogmas is ever to be maintained which has once been declared by Holy mother Church, and there must never be any abandonment of this sense under the pretext or in the name of a more profound understanding."

Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council, Session 2, #14, ex cathedra: "Likewise I accept Sacred Scripture according to that sense which Holy mother Church held and holds, since it is her right to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the Holy Scriptures; nor will I ever receive and interpret them except according to the unanimous consent of the fathers."

Speaking of the Magisterium, Mr. Conte fails to adequately make a very important distinction between the various levels of Magisterial authority exercised by members of the clergy, so it behooves the reader, before delving into this article, to read another, entitled "What is Sound Catholic Theology?". Mr. Conte's words appear in red and my responses to him, in which I will correct his false assertions, eliminate his ambiguities or add what he has left out, will appear formatted as above.

[...] One of the most severe of these heresies, and among the most difficult to eradicate, is Magisteriumism.


Now those who hold to the heresy of Magisteriumism tend to believe some or all of the following heretical ideas, at least in some form.
The idea that the Magisterium is above Tradition and Scripture

The root of the Magisterium heresy is found in the over-emphasis and exaltation of the Magisterium of the Church, to such an extent that Tradition and Scripture, as well as the role of the ordinary faithful, are diminished and deprecated. This is expressed in a number of different ways and has a number of effects, as this article will describe.

In truth, the Catholic Christian Faith is based on Tradition first, Scripture second, and Magisterium third, so that, of these three pillars of the Faith, the Magisterium is not first or preeminent above the others. Tradition preceded Scripture and Scripture flowed from Tradition and is confirmed by Tradition. And the Magisterium, as the guardian and interpreter of the Divine Revelation of Tradition and Scripture, is its servant, not its Master. The Master and Lord over Tradition and Scripture is the Most Holy Trinity, from which all Divine Revelation proceeds. Exalting the Magisterium above Tradition and Scripture gives the Magisterium a role which only God can have, therefore, Magisteriumism is a heresy which can lead to idolatry.

What Mr. Conte is doing here, whether he realizes it or not, is he is leaving open the possibility for error. Namely, a person might draw the erroneous conclusion that one may go to Scripture of Tradition when he is unsatisfied with what he reads in the Solemn Magisterium. The truth is that to St. Peter ALONE was it given to DEFINE the faith.

St. Luke 22:31-32 (Douay Rheims Challoner): “And the Lord said: Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren.”

St. Luke 22:31-32 (Latin Vulgate): “ait autem Dominus Simon Simon ecce Satanas expetivit vos ut cribraret sicut triticum ego autem rogavi pro te ut non deficiat fides tua et tu aliquando conversus confirma fratres tuos

Notice that when Christ warns St. Peter of Satan’s desire, “that he may sift you as wheat”, the Vulgate records this as vos, the plural for you, yet when he talks about the prayer for the unfailing faith (unfailing and infallible mean the same thing), he uses “thee”, from the Latin te, the singular form.

What we learn from this is that it is St. Peter and his successors, to whom the office of DEFINING THE FAITH, that is defining the correct understanding of Scripture and Tradition, belongs.

Therefore it is unlawful for a Catholic to propose that this verse from Scripture dogmatically means this, or that piece of Tradition is a divinely revealed dogma, UNLESS it has already been proposed by the Church as such in the Solemn Magisterium or in the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium, lest he schismatically call others who disagree with his self-proclaimed dogmas heretics (as does Mike Bizzaro).

"The idea that the Magisterium is above reproach or correction by the faithful

They idolize the Magisterium, so that, when anyone criticizes or disagrees with even an ordinary teaching of the Magisterium, or a non-doctrinal decision of the Pope or Bishops (which they confuse with magisterial decisions), they are convinced that such a person is disloyal to the Magisterium and therefore unfaithful to God. They see the relationship between the Magisterium and the faithful as that of Master and servant, so that the faithful are merely to obey and believe whatever the Magisterium teaches; anything else is sinful. They don't believe that the Magisterium is ever in need of correction. They think that the faithful should listen to the Magisterium, but that the Magisterium has no need to listen to the faithful.

In truth, the Magisterium is a gift which God gives to the whole Church. The Magisterium is exercised by the Pope and the Bishops, but it belongs to the whole Church, since it is a gift to us all. Also, just as the Son of man came to serve, not to be served, so also do the Pope and the Bishops exercise the Magisterium to serve the faithful, not so as to dominate or rule over them.
The problem here is that Mr. Conte has failed to adequately distinguish between the various levels of Magisterial authority, namely the Solemn Magisterium, the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium and the Ordinary Magisterium. Only the Ordinary Magisterium is subject to correction, and even then it is not subject to correction by the Faithful, but by a decision of the pope. The belief that the Solemn Magisterium or the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium may be corrected by ANYONE is HERESY, in opposition to the following dogmatic definition of the Solemn Magisterium:
Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council, Session 3, Chapter 3, #8:, ex cathedra: “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.”

As this dogma undeniably states, Scripture and Tradition are indeed the basis for the dogmas of Faith, but no understanding of these two sources of revelation may be held as dogmas until the Church so “confirms the brethren” in such an understanding (solemn judgment – Solemn Magisterium), OR until the Church (Fathers) has shown to be unanimous in such an understanding (Ordinary and UNIVERSAL Magisterium.)

The idea that the faithful can only learn the truths of the Faith from the Magisterium, not from Tradition or Scripture directly

They know that the Magisterium teaches from Tradition and Scripture, but they also think that the faithful cannot reliably learn the truths of the Faith from Tradition and Scripture themselves. They say that we should only believe what the Magisterium teaches. They compare anyone who tries to learn directly from Tradition or Scripture to the Protestants, who try to understand Scripture themselves and so fall into error. For them, the Magisterium stands between the faithful and the Deposit of Faith (Tradition and Scripture), so that the faithful only access the truths of the Faith through the Magisterium.

In truth, the faithful are obligated by the moral law to learn directly from Tradition and directly from Scripture, while being guided in their understanding by the teachings of the Magisterium. For the faithful have always learned first from Tradition, and second from Scripture, and third from Magisterium. In the early Church, there were very few, if any, magisterial documents, and very few definitive teachings of the Magisterium. They learned the faith as it was handed down to them by the words and examples of fellow Christians, not only the Apostles and Bishops, but every Christian down to the least little child. They lived the faith based on their own imperfect understanding of ineffable Divine Revelation, just as all the faithful throughout history have done. One does not attain to a perfect or complete understanding of Divine Revelation by claiming to believe and to have understood all that the Magisterium teaches.
Anybody who claims to UNDERSTAND all the Magisterium teaches is phony. The Magisterium teaches about God, and nobody can ever understand God fully, because nobody has an infinite intellect. That being said, we certainly CAN believe all that the Church teaches in the Solemn and Ordinary and Universal Magisterium, and WE ARE BOUND TO. To deny this is heresy, as shown above.”

The idea that the teaching of the Church is nothing other than the teachings of the Magisterium

They believe that there are no teachings in the Catholic Faith, which we ought to believe, other than the teachings of the Magisterium. And they think that every teaching of the Magisterium has been written down in various magisterial documents, so that if anyone says to them that something is the teaching of the Church, they reply by asking which document contains that teaching. If there is no magisterial document, then they do not accept that it is a teaching of the Church, even if it was clearly taught by a Saint, a Doctor of the Church, a Father of the Church, or was the practice of the Church for hundreds of years, or is clearly taught in Sacred Scripture.

In truth, the teaching of the Church is everything taught by Sacred Tradition, even those truths that have never been taught by the Magisterium, and everything taught by Sacred Scripture, even those truths that have never been taught by the Magisterium. The Magisterium teaches from Tradition and Scripture, but it has not and will never explicitly teach every truth of the Faith found in Tradition and Scripture. And the Magisterium has no teachings of its own; all its teachings are of Tradition and Scripture.
There is danger lurking in the above paragraphs of Mr. Conte yet again. The danger is that a person may be tempted to believe that ANYTHING that has been considered “tradition” at one point or another may be true, or that any teaching of a Saint or Doctor can be true, - or at least not heretical, even if the Solemn or Ordinary and Universal Magisterium CONTRADICTS IT. This is simply not true, however.

For a simple example, consider St. Cyprian. At one point he wrote a long treatise in defense of what he viewed as the “tradition” of the Church, wherein the baptisms administered by heretics were invalid.

St. Cyprian, Epistle 73, #12: “Therefore, dearest brother, having explored and seen the truth; it is observed and held by us, that all who are converted from any heresy whatever to the Church must be baptized by the only and lawful baptism of the Church, with the exception of those who had previously been baptized in the Church, and so had passed over to the heretics.”

But he was later contradicted in this by rulings of the Solemn Magisterium.

Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, Session 8, 1439, ex cathedra: “The minister of this sacrament is a priest, who is empowered to baptize in virtue of his office. But in case of necessity not only a priest or a deacon, but even a lay man or a woman, even a pagan and a heretic, can baptize provided he or she uses the form of the church and intends to do what the Church does. The effect of this sacrament is the remission of all original and actual guilt, also of all penalty that is owed for that guilt. Hence no satisfaction for past sins is to be imposed on the baptized, but those who die before they incur any guilt go straight to the kingdom of heaven and the vision of God.”

Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Session 7, Canons on Baptism, Canon 7, ex cathedra: “If any one saith, that the baptism which is even given by heretics in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, with the intention of doing what the Church doth, is not true baptism; let him be anathema”

That is not to say that a person who does not hold the Faith of Christ is sanctified. The effect of baptism is indeed remission of all sins, but it does not get applied to a person who receives it until his dispositions are correct, that is until he is subject to the whole law of Christ (which includes being IN the Church - St. Matthew 18:17), as defined later by the Council of Trent.

Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Session 7, Canons on Baptism, Canon 7, ex cathedra: “If any one saith, that the baptized are, by baptism itself, made debtors but to faith alone, and not to the observance of the whole law of Christ; let him be anathema.”

Of course anybody out of communion with the Holy See is not observing the whole law of Christ.

St. Cyprian was in error. Remember that Christ expressly gave the unfailing faith to St. Peter, not to all the Apostles, and so we have one concrete example of a case where the Magisterium MUST be preferred to a teaching of Saints or Doctors (in this case a FATHER of the Church), as Pope Benedict XIV (14th) himself decreed:

Pope Benedict XIV, Apostolica Constitutio, 1749: “The Church's judgment is preferable even to that of a Doctor renowned for his holiness and teaching.”

This article may be expanded to cover more of Mr. Conte's points as time permits, but I'm confident that what has been said thus far is sufficient to allay any possible errors that may stem from reading his careless and inadequate treatise.

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