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Friday, September 12, 2014

Neo-Catholicism Refuted in 1881!

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Neo-Catholicism Refuted in 1881!

Unfortunately for the Neo-Catholics, evidence once again shows that the positions of the so-called “radical traditionalists” are nothing more than the perennial teachings of the Catholic Church. In an 1881 article published in The Month and Catholic Review, the Rev. Michael Gavin responded to a lengthy attack on papal infallibility launched by a Protestant named Dr. Littledale. As it turns out, Dr. Littledale was as well informed on papal infallibility as most modern Neo-Catholic apologists. Fr. Gavin goes about setting the poor Dr. Littledale straight on several points, some of which could also serve as a lesson to our Neo-Catholic friends. I’ll now list a few Neo-Catholic whoppers, with quoted rebuttals from Fr. Gavin.


The Pope, Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Always Acts for the Good of the Church

Indeed, this is one of the oldest Neo-Catholic talking points. In most everything the Pope does, they tell us he can really do no wrong. And if he appears to do wrong, it is because we ourselves have not humbled our minds and wills and truly understood the serene wisdom behind the Pope’s latest confusing words or apparently scandalous actions. Fr. Gavin disagrees:

The Pope may do a stupid or an imprudent act productive of damage to souls; he may even, in his private capacity, subscribe an heretical creed…

Papal Excommunications are Infallible

In an overzealous attempt to discredit Archbishop Lefebvre for all time and make his future rehabilitation by Rome impossible, some Neo-Catholics have put forward the idea that anyone who is excommunicated by a Pope and dies in that state is damned for all eternity. To the contrary, Fr. Gavin reaffirms the “radical traditionalist” notion that popes can be wrong on this matter:

It is further alleged by Dr. Littledale, that Liberius condemned St. Athanasius as a heretic. Even supposing he did, theologians allow that the Popes can make mistakes by condemning the innocent or acquitting   the guilty, and be a monster of iniquity in addition, and still remain infallible in the only sense in which the Council of the Vatican declares him to possess this privilege. In judgments about persons, the Roman Pontiff can go wrong : for informers may mislead him, false documents may be introduced, and the like, without detriment to his Infallibility.

The Pope, by Virtue of His Infallibility, Can “Develop Doctrine” by Issuing Changes or Corrections to Prior Church Teaching Which We Must Submit to in Humble Obedience

And now for the coup de grace! We have heard Neo-Catholic apologists tell us, ad nauseam, that any papal pronouncement on a matter of doctrine must be submitted to out of obedience. Even, they tell us, if said pronouncement appears to change the meaning or contradict a previous dogma or doctrine. They then shamelessly hide behind Cardinal Newman’s “development of doctrine” idea, using Newman to stand for the proposition that a dogma or doctrine can somehow “develop” into something entirely new. Of course they won’t admit the new idea is actually “new” even though neither they, nor the Vatican for the last 50+ years, can satisfactorily explain how the new and old teachings can be reconciled. To combat this utterly confusing and unworkable view of the “development of doctrine,” I’d like to end with Fr. Gavin’s excellent and crystal clear explanation of the limits to Papal Infallibility which, surprisingly enough, perfectly coincides with the “radical traditionalist” position. Enjoy.

From Fables About Papal Infallibility by the Rev. Michael Gavin, 1881:

…The Catholic Church, as Dr. Littledale remarks, maintains that   its teaching now is exactly   what it has been from the beginning. Yes ; its teaching never contradicts what it has authoritatively taught in other ages, but it may be on certain points much clearer, fuller, more explicit now than ever it was before. The belief of Catholics is ever the same, that is, the Church never denies what she has once taught, nor can she ever teach, or by her universal practice sanction in matters of faith or morals, what she may hereafter deny or repudiate. The prerogative of Infallibility has been granted to her simply and solely that   she may guard and   faithfully transmit the body of doctrine entrusted to her on the death of the last apostle. Catholic theologians teach that no new revelation affecting the. doctrine that binds on the belief of all has been given to the Church since the hour when St. John yielded his virgin soul to God. The Church can neither add nor take one jot or tittle from that body of truth which as a sacred heirloom was left to Peter and the Apostles, by them to   be banded on to their successors until the second coming of our Lord. That doctrine is found in the books of the Old and New Testament, which the Church regards as the Word of God, and in tradition, that is, in those unwritten sayings received by the Apostles from the mouth of Christ, or which the Apostles themselves have mentioned at the direct inspiration of the Holy Ghost, Who has kept them sound and intact in the Church. It would be impossible for sayings and truths to pass from mouth to mouth during   a long period without   being much changed   in   the process were it not for the perpetual assistance of the Holy Spirit; that overshadows clergy and people in subjection to the Roman Pontiff, guarding   them through   him, and because   of their union with him, from all error in faith.

Dr. Littledale admits   that   when heresies   have arisen   in the Church, the Supreme   Pontiff and   Bishops in communion with him have examined   Scripture and the writings of the Fathers.     Every practice and creed is sanctioned or condemned according to the relation   that   it bears to the faith as handed down by the Apostles. From   the First   Council of Nice, in 325, to the Council of the Vatican, in 1870, the same truth is ever inculcated, that the assistance of the Holy Ghost bas been promised to the successors of St Peter, not that they might find out some new doctrine by some fresh revelation, but that they might religiously guard and faithfully explain the Apostolic revelation or the deposit of faith entrusted   to their keeping. Novelty is suspected and shunned, antiquity is followed and prized.

Our faith is Identical with that professed by the Apostles. They   clearly   recognized   all the   dogmas   that   ever   have been   defined, or   that   ever   can   be   defined,   by   Pope   or Council. They taught   them all to their disciples, though not necessarily in all the fullness of form in which they are viewed now. It is quite true that from time to time the Church defines some truths which Catholics in previous ages were not obliged to. Believe. Before 1854 it was not an article of Catholic faith that our Lady was sinless in conception; nor before July 1870, that the Pope, singly and apart from his brethren in the Episcopate, is ever free from error when he teaches the whole Church on points of faith or morals. Yet nowhere is the Church's oneness of belief seen more clearly than in these supposed diversities, which we consider as development of doctrine. The Church is not dead. She is made up of living members. She is a living body. Since the Church lives, growth is the very law of her life. But this growth, while it implies development and expansion, forbids all change. The growth of a body is the best proof of its life and health. As ages glide by, the full force, consequence, and meaning of the truth, hitherto imperfectly apprehended, is brought out by the labour of theologians, the discussions of the schools, the writings of the Fathers, and the decrees of Councils. "Such   development is nothing but the new form, explanation, or carrying out of what in substance was held from the first, what the Apostles have said but have not recorded in writing, or would necessarily have said in our circumstances, or if they had been asked, or in view of certain uprisings of error, and in that sense really portions of that legacy of truth of which the Church in all her members, but more especially in her hierarchy, is the divinely appointed trustee.”1

It belongs to the Church from time to time, as she thinks fit, to tell the world all that is bound up in any truth of Catholic belief which without such declaration would either be hidden or misunderstood. In brief, all that the Church does is to draw forth, illustrate, make clear, confirm, or apply to particular concrete instances, what has been already revealed. The Church can neither discover, nor add, nor change. Whole and entire she has received a body of truth from her Founder, whole and entire she will keep it. That doctrine which the Church has to guard in itself never changes and never increases; our knowledge of it may grow clearer, and does increase. We willingly allow that certain doctrines now declared of Catholic faith were not clearly recognized by certain portions of the Church. Either they were not clearly contained in Scripture, or the voice of tradition seemed indistinct. The Church meanwhile kept silent. It is not always prudent to exercise an act of supreme authority. Her theologians read, and wrote, and discussed, missioners preached, holy souls prayed. Circumstances arose that compelled her to speak with no wavering voice. The Church can never define what was at any time unknown to the whole body of the faithful. She may and   she does define certain doctrines which portions of the Church, even in communion with Rome, have either doubted or denied. Once Rome speaks, controversy ceases; to the teaching of the Supreme Pontiff all bend, and from his ruling there is no appeal   The two hundred millions of Catholics now spread   all   over the earth have all one faith. They believe what the Apostles held, though not with that clearness, preciseness, definiteness which the Apostles possessed because of their extraordinary endowments. Those that come after us can never be asked to hold anything at variance with what the Church now teaches, or with what she sanctions   by her universal practice. For them the truths of faith may be far clearer than for us, their reach may be more widely seen, their connection more fully grasped ; what are now considered only safe and probable opinions, may .here­ after be binding on the belief of all as necessary portions of the Creed. But never can the Church, through the mouth of Pope or Council, contradict what she has once taught, or permit, as Dr. Littledale falsely asserts, doctrines which are not developments at all, but   blank contradictions   of the ancient   faith. Heresies will always exist, and usages and tenets will ever be in vogue in certain portions of the Church which she can never allow. For these the Church is not responsible. Her doctrines are taught by her universal practice, by the solemn definitions of her Head, by the daily, hourly, and no less binding teaching of her ordinary magisterium-the Bishops of the Catholic world in union with the Holy See. Nor can the Pope, as Dr. Littledale may suppose, at his caprice and good pleasure make such and such a doctrine the object of a dogmatic definition. The Pope is tied up and limited to the Divine revelation, and to the truths contained in, legitimately flowing from, or necessary to the guardianship of that revelation. The Pope is bound by existing creeds and preceding definitions. In matters of faith and morals the Pope cannot change or sanction at his arbitrary decision. He is merely trustee and guardian of the doctrine our Lord gave, which by the Divine assistance   will always be safe in the keeping of the Pope.

Rev. Michael Gavin, 1881

[i] Cardinal Newman's Letter to the Duke of Norfolk, First Edition, p. 105. VOL. XXIV. {NEW SERIES.)


Last modified on Tuesday, September 16, 2014