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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

On the Implicit Heresy of Pope Francis: A Clarification

Written by  Father Brian Harrison
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On the Implicit Heresy of Pope Francis: A Clarification
Dear Mr. Matt,
Please allow me to comment on some secondary fallout from the online version of my recent Remnant article in which I lamented Pope Francis' shocking insinuation, in his homily for the Feast of the Holy Family, that our Lord himself committed sin at age 12 by remaining in Jerusalem without his parents' knowledge.

A couple of the many commentators on my article, while agreeing entirely with my criticism of the Pope, accused me in turn of heresy, and even blasphemy, because I offered the opinion that 
the Child Jesus "sometimes temporarily 'blocked out’ his divine omniscience" from "his developing human knowledge . . . so as to share more fully in our human learning experiences".
 Those readers evidently assumed I was ascribing ignorance to the 12-year-old Jesus, and concluded that I was thereby implying the Nestorian heresy that he was a human (not a divine) person.

 Well, even if the assumption were true, that conclusion would not follow. The great traditional theologian Ludwig Ott (in his masterly Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, TAN books edn.,p. 165) says it is not de fide that Christ's human knowledge was free from positive ignorance and error, only theologically certain. Therefore, denial of that truth would not be heresy (much less blasphemy), but only theological error. (On the other hand, Ott, along with other approved theologians, does affirm on p. 168 that our Lord's total freedom from both personal and original sin is de fide; which I am afraid means Pope Francis' recent homily was implicitly heretical. Our Lord's perfect sinlessness is also taught in a string of magisterial statements referenced in Denzinger, and is affirmed three times in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: cf. ## 467, 540, and 612.)

 In any case, the above assumption is not correct. When I said the Child Jesus "temporarily blocked out" certain things from his mind, I did not mean he was temporarily ignorant of them, i.e., simply did not know them. Consider your computer. At least 99.9% of the information it "knows" cannot be on the screen at any given moment. It's stored on the hard drive. Likewise, at least 99.9% of what you and I know is not consciously present to our minds at any given moment. Right now, as I write this and as you read it, our minds are conscious of pretty much only one topic - the human knowledge of Christ. But we all have a vast storehouse of knowledge of other things that we can 'bring up' at another time by the use of our free will.

Our Lord had both a human and a divine will. If he used either or both of them to temporarily 'block out' some knowledge from his immediate human consciousness, that would not diminish the perfect knowledge of all reality which he enjoyed from the moment of conception onward through the Beatific Vision, any more than a cloud passing over the sun diminishes in any way its own immense store of light and heat. As Sacred Scripture tells us, the Divine Child actually "grew" in wisdom (Lk. 2: 52); and as Ott also points out (pp. 167-168), the consensus of approved theologians is that this means his human intellect acquired knowledge through ordinary human experience of certain things he already knew through the Beatific Vision (and, probably through infused knowledge as well - cf. Ott, p. 167).

This is a difficult area of Catholic dogma wherein the Church allows theologians liberty to explore how this growth in Christ's acquired, experiential knowledge might have worked at the psychological level. The comment in my article - and its clarification in this letter - are simply offered as theological speculations in that area.

 Fr. Brian W. Harrison, OS, STD,
St. Louis, Missouri

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