Saturday, January 14, 2023

Benedict XVI, Cardinal Pell, and criticism of Pope Francis


In the wake of the deaths of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Cardinal George Pell, it has emerged that each of them raised serious criticisms of aspects of Pope Francis’s teaching and governance of the Church.  How might the pope respond to these criticisms?  As I have explained elsewhere, the Church explicitly teaches that even popes can under certain circumstances respectfully be criticized by the faithful.  Moreover, Pope Francis himself has explicitly said on several occasions that he welcomes criticism.  It seems clear that the criticisms raised by Benedict and Pell are precisely the kind that the pope should take the most seriously, given the teaching of the Church and his own views about the value of criticism.

First, what are the criticisms?  In the case of Benedict, we know about them via the new book written by Archbishop Georg Gänswein, who was the late pope’s longtime aide.  For one thing, Benedict had reservations about Pope Francis’s controversial exhortation Amoris Laetitia, and in particular was concerned that “a certain ambiguity had been allowed to hover in that document.”  And he was surprised that Pope Francis never answer the dubia issued by four cardinals who were seeking to resolve these ambiguities.  For another thing, Benedict thought the restrictions imposed on the celebration of the Latin Mass by Pope Francis’s Traditionis Custodes were “a mistake” that “jeopardized the attempt at pacification” of traditionalists within the Church.  He also thought that Francis had misstated Benedict’s own intentions in giving wider permission for the Latin Mass in Summorum Pontificum.  Gänswein has said that Traditionis Custodes caused Benedict heartache. 

Cardinal Pell was far more blunt.  In the last article he wrote before his death, he criticized the current Synod on Synodality’s working document as “one of the most incoherent documents ever sent out from Rome,” a “toxic nightmare” full of “neo-Marxist jargon” and “hostile in significant ways to the apostolic tradition.”  But it has also been revealed that Pell was the author of an anonymous memo that circulated among the cardinals during Lent last year, critical of the current state of the Church.  Summing up teaching and governance under Pope Francis, the memo asserts that “commentators of every school, if for different reasons… agree that this pontificate is a disaster in many or most respects; a catastrophe.”  It then goes on to address in detail various doctrinal controversies, financial scandals, failures to support loyal Catholics and human rights in China and elsewhere, and needless alienation of traditionalists and others within the Church.

As I document in the article I referred to above, both the tradition of the Church and the recent teaching of the magisterium show that the clearest sort of case where a Catholic might respectfully raise criticisms of some papal statement or action is when it appears to conflict with binding past teaching.  Pope Francis can hardly disagree with this, for he has expressed a willingness to hear out challenges even to Church teaching itself.  In particular, in the exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate, he says that “doctrine, or better, our understanding and expression of it, is not a closed system, devoid of the dynamic capacity to pose questions, doubts, inquiries.” 

Now, if the faithful can raise questions, doubts, and inquiries even where expressions of Catholic doctrine are concerned, then a fortiori they can raise questions, doubts, and inquiries where apparent conflicts with Catholic doctrine are concerned.  For example, they can do so with respect to the problematic “ambiguity” in Amoris Laetitia referred to by Benedict XVI.  How could this possibly not be permissible, by Pope Francis’s own lights?  That is to say, how could it be permissible to “pose questions, doubts, inquiries” about perennial Catholic teaching on marriage and the Eucharist, but not permissible to pose them about a passage in a recent exhortation that fails clearly to reaffirm that traditional teaching?

Pope Francis has also more than once explicitly said that he personally can legitimately be criticized.  In 2015, in response to criticisms raised against some of his remarks on economic matters, the pope said:

I heard that there were some criticisms from the United States.  I heard about it, but I haven't read about it, I haven't had the time to study this well, because every criticism must be received, studied, and then dialogue must be [sic] ensue.  You ask me what I think.  If I have not had a dialogue with those who criticize, I don't have the right to state an opinion, isolated from dialogue, no?...

Yes, I must begin studying these criticisms, no?  And then dialogue a bit with this.

Similarly, in 2019, when asked about criticisms raised against him by American Catholic laymen, churchmen, and media outlets, Pope Francis said:

First of all, criticisms always help, always, when one receives a criticism, immediately he should make a self-critique and say this: to me, is it true or is it not true, until what point?   Of criticisms, I always see the advantages.  Sometimes you get angry, but the advantages are there…

Criticism is an element of construction and if your critic is not right, you [must be] prepared to receive the response and to dialogue, [to have] a discussion and arrive at a fair point…

A fair criticism is always well received, at least by me.

And through Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni, the pope made it clear that “he always considers criticisms an honor, particularly when they come from authoritative thinkers.” 

The reference to “authoritative thinkers” calls to mind canon 212 of the Church’s Code of Canon Law, which affirms the right of Catholics publicly to express their opinions about matters affecting the Church, especially when they have relevant expertise.  The canon states:

The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires.

According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.

Now, apart from the pope himself, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Cardinal Pell had about as much “knowledge, competence, and prestige” vis-à-vis ecclesiastical matters as it is possible for anyone in the Church to have.  Moreover, they had special expertise with respect to the specific matters they commented on.  Benedict was one of the most eminent Catholic theologians of the age, had been the longtime Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and, of course, had been pope himself.  He had also, in his younger days, flirted with the more liberal position on Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried that some think is reflected in Amoris, only to change his mind about it.  His opinion on that particular theological matter thus carries enormous weight.  So too does his opinion about liturgical matters and Vatican relations with traditionalist groups in the Church, about which he also had a longtime interest and special expertise, and which he dealt with extensively as head of CDF and as pope. 

Cardinal Pell, meanwhile, had a doctorate in church history, years of experience as an archbishop, and was a member of Pope Francis’s own Council of Cardinal Advisors.  He could be expected to know the current state of the Church, and how it compares to previous eras in Church history, as well as anyone.  He had also for years been Francis’s Prefect for the Secretariat for the Economy.  Thus, no one could speak with more authority about the financial matters addressed at length in the secret memo which he has now been revealed to have authored.

In short, if ever there were criticisms that Pope Francis and his defenders ought to take seriously and consider prayerfully, it would be those leveled by Benedict and Pell.  Let us pray that the Holy Father does so.

Related posts:

The Church permits criticism of popes under certain circumstances

Aquinas on St. Paul’s correction of St. Peter

When do popes teach infallibly?

Papal fallibility

80 comments:

  1. Re Canon 212's "According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful" ... what does "prestige" have to do with the right/duty to manifest/make known one's opinion on these matters?

    I can see why a duty of office might oblige some more than others, but that's not a matter of "rights" is it?

    How do I know if I am "prestigious" enough to have the right to express, however implicitly, this adverse opinion about Canon 212?

    One would like to think that the truth of what someone says is what really matters, not the prestige of who is saying it. Is that too idealistic?

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    1. @ pab,

      Prestige is not something that you wield but is something that others feel for you that makes them desire to pay attention to you and be instructed by you. It is not a negative quality and it is earned but is not properly sought.

      Oxford Languages Google definition of the term "prestige":

      "widespread respect and admiration felt for someone or something on the basis of a perception of their achievements or quality."

      People in prestigious positions in the Church did not raise themselves to those positions.

      Tom Cohoe

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    2. The direct answer to your question is the same as with most "how do I know" questions that pertain to the spiritual life: the virtue of prudence. That being said, it seems like there are a couple other things underlying your questions.

      It seems to me that this canon is actually placing a positive moral obligation on people with more "competence, office, and prestige" than the average person. Like, if you or I were to visit Rome and got in line to see the pope, in the 30 or whatever seconds you get to spend with him, it's probably not terribly worthwhile use of time to ask him your questions about this particular point in canon law.
      Now, if you're a respected (prestigious) canon lawyer and the Vatican commissions you and as a group to do some potential revisions to canon law, that's a lot different. You do have a duty in that circumstance to do your best to clearly lay out all the ways you think canon law could be improved,

      Also, I wouldn't say that your questions actually even rise to the level of adverse opinion. Questions pertaining to clarity aren't "criticism" per se, particularly when you recognize that you're a lay person and canon law is written with a particular kind of language that you might just not be well versed in. That's not necessarily a knock on the canon itself. Again, if you're a canon lawyer and your criticism isn't "how is this supposed to be interpreted" but instead "nobody who actually swims in this water really knows what to make of this" that's much more substantive.

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    3. A person who others will listen to has more power to speak than a person who others will ignore. Power obliges right use.

      Delete
    4. Prestige is defined by Merriam-Webster as "standing or estimation in the eyes of people : weight or credit in general opinion." This definition works in the context of this paragraph.

      You can be competent and knowledgeable, but if you have a reputation for bending the truth to suit your biases, have a tendency to cause scandal, or regularly flout orthodoxy, you wouldn't have the prestige necessary to raise these opinions.

      Now, sometimes, one's reputation might be slandered by evil rumors. But all else being equal, one's prestige is based on objective facts such as these, and Catholics ought to be discerning when determining the trustworthiness of a particular authority.

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    5. All good points thanks, even if (with respect) somewhat off my main point, which remains ...
      that Canon 212 seems to be saying that one's mere *right* to "to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful" is linked to their prestige. Not the weight that others might place upon one's opinion, but their very right to manifest and make known one's opinion.

      In other words, Canon 212 seems to be legitimising a response to someone like me, in manifesting or making known myopinion, of the kind of "how dare you, unprestigious one, to manifest your opinion".

      If we were looking for the bases of a mentality that told victims of various kinds of abuse to keep quiet, this (aspect of Canon 212) might be one of them.

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    6. @ pab,

      You are ignoring paragraph 1 of Canon 212, which is:

      "The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires."

      See that word "free" in there? It is written into Canon Law that you are free to air your concerns to your priest. That is _your_ particular right.

      "Not the weight that others might place upon one's opinion, but their very right to manifest and make known one's opinion."

      You are just contradicting the right guaranteed to you in paragraph 1. Your lack of prestige does not take that right away. Whatever the basis is for your fear, in my opinion it receives no support from Canon 212.

      Tom Cohoe

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    7. pab, is the following logical inference valid?

      If (p and a and r) then (s and t)

      Therefore

      'p then 's

      Delete
    8. pab,

      Do you think that someone who has a tendency to lie or make exaggerated claims should be allowed to publicly criticize the Church?

      Delete
    9. Dear Anonymous,

      Re my supposed ignoring paragraph 1 of Canon 212: that para (and isn't it para. 2 not para. 1?) concerns making known "to the pastors of the Church their needs".
      ...
      Whereas "my" issue, of "the right ... to make their opinion ( on matters which pertain to the good of the Church) known to the rest of the Christian faithful" (as per para 3. of Canon 212) is obviously somewhat related but essentially distinct. It remains the qualification of this right (of making opinions more broadly known) according to one's "prestige" that disturbs me.

      Delete
    10. Dear Anonymous,

      Re "the (validity of the) following logical inference", I guess not so. (I "guess"" because I am not 100% familiar with your notation ... what is 'p versus p? but I expect it doesn't matter because ...)

      However, Canon 212's cojunctive antecedent/precondition is qualified by the "According to ...", i.e. it *does* connote a negative implication when one (or more) of the antedecent conjuncts is not satisfied.

      More generally, it's ironic, noting of course that "prestige" is not a quality of one''s self but rather of others' appreciation of one, to reflect on the "prestige" commanded by Christ and His disciples among the movers and shakers of their time. So prestigious as to be outlawed and crucified.

      I can easily imagine the Pharisees wishing they'd had a Canon 212.3 with which to try to silence Our Lord. Maybe they did.

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    11. @ pab,

      Yes it is paragraph 2, not 1.

      Paragraph 3 is about matters pertaining to "the good of the Church", not "the good of wrongdoers". Nothing in Canon 212 specifies "high prelates". Only "the Christian faithful" are distinguished. Paragraph 3 also specifies attention to "the dignity of persons". Is it too much to see that Christian faith is the faith of good people and that prestige increases the "duty" of the Christian faithful?

      Bad people can be Christians, but I do not think their badness is encompassed within Christian faith. Insofar as their behaviour is bad, I do not think Canon 212 refers to their freedom, right, or duty to the good of the Church at all. E.g., giving cigarettes to minors is not a freedom, right, or duty to the good of the Church according to Canon 212. Someone judging of such a matter would have to be bad himself to judge in protection of such behaviour by the provision of Canon 212. We cannot cause bad judges to cease to exist, but I don't think that the Christian faithful in general would accept such abuse of Canon 212.

      Tom Cohoe

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    12. @ pab,

      Prestige is a quality of self which others can sense and is part of how we know one another. It can be faked, of course, but others can sense that as well. The hypocritical Pharisees had only fake prestige and their hold on people was through servile fear, not filial fear. Denying an obvious and earned prestige is an injustice in itself.

      BTW, the software category "Anonymous" is not a quality of me. I am Tom Cohoe. I can be found and approached in Williston, North Dakota in its single Catholic Church during Eucharistic Adoration on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 PM to 4 PM and can usually be distinguished as the person with a pile of books beside him.

      Your addressing me as "Anonymous", using the software category as my identity, rather than my name, reminds me of Papalinton's excuse for avoiding drawing my attention to the fact that he is responding to my argument.

      :-)

      Tom Cohoe

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    13. Hey, I have a quick question for Tom Cohoe (whom I would otherwise have habitually called Anonymous, following the function of the software, were it not for his last post!):

      Earlier, he asked (or, was that a different "Anonymous?" I note it wasn't signed at the bottom) about the form of a syllogism, as follows:
      - - - -
      ...is the following logical inference valid?

      If (p and a and r) then (s and t)

      Therefore

      'p then 's
      - - - -

      I wanted to ask: Do these letters represent particular properties being discussed in the conversation? Or were they randomly selected?

      For example, does "p" mean "you have the Prestige," and "r" mean "you have the Right?" (If so, what on earth could "a" and "s" and "t" stand for?)

      Finally, does the notation `p mean "NOT-p"? I'm guessing that's what it means from context, but I wanted to be sure.

      Thanks.

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    14. @ R.C.

      That 'Anonymous' was not me. I always sign my posts 'Tom Cohoe', except by inadvertence, in which case I claim it as soon as I realise that I did not sign it.

      Tom Cohoe

      Delete
  2. I should think that knowledge and competence confer the right, and prestige imposes the duty. If I were to ‘manifest to the sacred pastors’ my opinions, I would have a hard time finding anyone to hear me. Men like the late Pope and the late Cardinal, being already personally known to the hierarchy as both learned and experienced in matters of the highest importance to the Church, have a duty to speak – and the Pope and Curia have a duty to listen to them, and either to accept their correction, or give their grounds for refusing it. Our present Pope has been seriously deficient in performing his part of this particular duty.

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  3. Everybody has the right to criticize everything. Whether a criticism is to be taken seriously has nothing to do with the prestige of the author, but with the strength of the arguments presented.

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    1. @ Walter Van den Acker,

      "Whether a criticism is to be taken seriously has nothing to do with the prestige of the author, but with the strength of the arguments presented"

      This says very little. Arguments don't lie on a table for strength-meters to be applied to them. A right to criticise is pretty weak where you may be tarred and feathered by a force that doesn't like your criticism.

      You do always retain free will. Meanwhile the prestige of a person is much simpler than the words of dispute with each disputant representing a finite band of followers not willing to give up the idea that its argument is the "strongest".

      The earned prestige of a person is much simpler. The Pope, previous popes, high advisors to the Pope - none of them raised themselves to therefore _earned_ prestige.

      You do not have to listen to these people who have earned prestige, but many will.

      Most Catholics will not accord you earned prestige as your stance against the Catholic Church works against it.

      Sorry, my friend. It might not seem fair - but it is.

      :-)

      Tom Cohoe

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    2. Tom

      People only earn prestige if their arguments are good. That's all that matters.
      I know many, including the Catholic Church, have tarred and feathered people whose criticism they did not like, but I dream of a world in which there is no tarring and feathering, just civil discussion and people agreeing and disagreeing without fear of whatever.

      Delete
    3. @ Walter Van den Acker,

      It is not only argument that can earn prestige. Acts based on true charity, or their lack, may be more important to whether or not prestige is earned.

      "I know many, including the Catholic Church, have tarred and feathered people whose criticism they did not like, but I dream of a world in which there is no tarring and feathering, just civil discussion and people agreeing and disagreeing without fear of whatever."

      Come on Walter. This is a little funny. Based on your one sided attempts to tar and feather the Catholic Church, your dream seems to be more about a discredited or non-existent Church than about civility in discussion.

      (-:

      Tom Cohoe

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    4. Tom

      I have bever tarred and feathered thé Catholic Church but I have often criticized it, with arguments.
      Prestige based on acts is fine, but it has nothing to do with whether someone's criticism is justified or not.

      Delete
    5. Everybody has the right to criticize everything.

      This may represent a legal standard, i.e. nobody is to be punished under civil law for criticizing anything he wants to criticize. But it certainly does not represent the Catholic position on behavior by Catholics. To be specific: criticizing officially declared Church dogma in a manner repudiating even its basic truth (rather than, say, criticizing incompleteness or confused phrasing) is expressly NOT ok for just everyone to do. In fact, it is not OK even for a pope with immense prestige. And Catholics should not think or feel that they are free to criticize just anything: to the extent that they DO feel that way, to that extent they fail to have a Catholic faith.

      Whether a criticism is to be taken seriously has nothing to do with the prestige of the author,

      It is fair to point out that a claim by an author should be evaluated primarily on its own merits rather than on the merits of the author as a person. A good man can make a mistake, and a bad man can say something true.

      However, all the same, all of us must make choices as to what claims to even pay attention to enough to go through the effort of evaluating them. Nobody can give ALL claims of all commenters equal weight and evaluate ALL of them independently of who said them. Every person must subject what they hear to a filter that weeds out things that are not worth their time and attention. For that purpose, the prestige (insofar as recognized by the hearer) of the person who makes the assertions is a proper element of that filter: a person ought to give some individuals more of their attention, and give others less of their attention, in deciding what to submit to evaluation.

      Furthermore, the prestige of the speaker or author also ought to be an element of the evaluation, at least in this manner: a speaker / author who is known to be precise in limiting what facts he claims to have substantiation for ought to be given more credit
      in regards to a statement that (so far) has not been substantiated, than a speaker who is known to be sloppy and given to exaggeration regarding claims of facts. The prestige (or lack thereof) of the author works in other, similar ways in evaluating what he says.

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    6. Tony

      I know that it doesn't represent that Catholic position, that's why I said that the Catholic Church has, at times, "tarred and feathered" people whose criticism they did not like.
      But it is stil something worth pursuing.

      I basically agree with the rest of your post in that some people have more authority to speak on certain matters than others. A biologist has more authority to speak on evolution than a plumber.
      Still, the plumber can offer criticism that is worth hearing.

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    7. @ Walter Van den Acker,

      "I have [n]ever tarred and feathered the Catholic Church but I have often criticised it, with arguments"

      Oh well, then, Walter, the Catholic Church has also never tarred and feathered anyone, not even metaphorically, as it is an institution and never does anything to people except through good spiritual influences. Bad things done by members of the Church are done through their free will choices as individual people. The Church per se would not be criticised by right thinking Christians, so your longstanding criticisms of the Church must be from the point of view of someone outside of it, yet you are apparently a baptised Christian fallen so far from your faith that you deny it. My point remains that you choose to criticise the Church in an unbalanced way. That would certainly affect the quality of your argument in general and your prestige in particular.

      (-:

      Recognize that you have fallen from the truth, confess sincerely, and be absolved from your sinful, willing choice, freely made, to go the wrong way. Follow the guidance of Canon 212, which is wholly addressed to the Christian faithful, and nowhere specifically to high prelates.

      (-:

      Come back to the Life, Walter.

      Tom Cohoe

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    8. Tom

      I am probably mistaken about lots of things, but I haven't "fallen" from anything.
      I was indeed a baptised Catholic but that was not my choice and I can't choose to come back to "the Life" because doing so would be a lie. Beliefs are not something one can choose.
      Now, maybe my criticism of the Church is unbalanced, and if you really have an argument to show this, I will of course withdraw my criticism.
      But only if there are good arguments to do so, which has been my point all along.

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    9. @ Walter Van den Acker,

      How are you to know whether there are good arguments to withdraw your criticism? You, a finite argument processor, cannot have heard them all, especially the absolutely simple ones.

      Tom Cohoe

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    10. Tom

      I cannot know this with absolute certainty, but that holds for everyone.
      Has Ed read or heard all counterarguments to his position?
      So perhaps there is an absolutely simple argument against his position that he hasn't heard about.
      I have been arguing my position for a long time now, and, so far, I haven't encountered any good argument that my criticism is wrong, but of course, one day there may be some, in which case I will withdraw it.
      If you can be open enough to do the same, we might actually have a good discussion. Otherwise it will be a watse of time.

      Delete
    11. @ Walter Van den Acker,

      But Walter, you cannot entertain the concept that I _can_ choose what to believe.

      Tom Cohoe

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    12. Tom

      You cannot choose what to believe anymore than I can.
      If you don't think that's true, just choose to become an atheist for a few hours.

      Delete
    13. @ Walter Van den Acker,

      Funny Walter, but your humour does not otherwise make a case.

      I'm sorry. I'm sure we will talk again.

      Tom Cohoe

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    14. Tom

      The very fact that you think this is funny shows that I did make a case, so nothing to be sorry about.

      Delete
    15. @ Walter Van den Acker,

      👍

      Tom Cohoe

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    16. "Belief" is a human act of assent to a proposition that has a funny character: First, it isn't belief if the truth of the proposition and the basis for it is manifest, e.g. by a mathematical proof - for then the assent would be the assent of "knowledge" and not belief. At the same time, order for it to be "belief" proper and not "opinion", (both of which are kinds of assent to something not known), the assent of belief exceeds the incomplete direct evidence for its truth, whereas with an opinion the assent is itself partial, i.e. a reserved assent, because the mind allows for the possibility that more evidence might lead against the proposition. Belief is a sort of assent that isn't constrained by that lack of sufficient evidence for proof.

      On the one hand, it is true that a person doesn't "choose" what they believe - at least in a sense: people aren't able to turn on or turn off a belief like they can turn on or off their various actions. It's more like preferences: you can't just decide to believe some proposition X because you would like to, today, just as you can't just decide to like tomato soup today where yesterday you despised it.

      Yet beliefs ARE susceptible to our choices in other senses: for example, a person can avoid a belief by choosing to refuse to think about the matter and refusing to weigh even the incomplete evidence in its favor. Many people avoid considering a possible life-after-death in a serious way, for a number of reasons, and by avoiding thinking about it, they avoid what might have led to their believing in it.

      Also, the assent of faith, while it by is something moving you via grace to assent, is not normally moving you irresistably so that you perforce MUST assent. It is quite other: the movement of grace can be resisted, and a person can thus WILL to not believe who in all other respects had everything ready and available by which to believe.

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    17. Tony

      If a person 'chooses' to refurse to think about something, he does so for a reason and that reason is ultimately beyond the person's control. Otherwise you end up with an infinite regress, because you would have to argue that the person refuses to think about the reasons to reject the reasons he has for not refusing to think about the reasons why he refuses to think about ....

      In the end, there can be no real choice.

      Anyway, even if what you say is true in some (or even most) cases, it isn't always true.
      I can assure you that I personally have never refused to think about 'the matter' and i have always considered a possible life-after-death in a serious way.
      I actually became an atheist because I considered and thought about all those things and found them false. No you could encourage me to reconsider so that i might end up finding them true, but that's what i have been doing for most of my life. I have basically the very same background knowledge as you (or Ed), but I reach different conclusions. And that is not my fault. Maybe i am not smart enough to understand the arguments in favour of the Christian faith, but being not smart enough isn't my fault either.
      "You can't just decide to believe some proposition X because you would like to, today, just as you can't just decide to like tomato soup today where yesterday you despised it" is completely true, but you should ask yourself why this is so. Only after you have done so and have come up with a decent answer you have a basis for your claim that beliefs ARE susceptible to our choices in other senses.
      Instead of simply saying my comments are funny, just think (and don't refuse) about why you cannot choose to become an atheist for a day.

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  4. As a Protestant, I'll try to defend the language here. One of the reasons, surely, for not wanting *all* criticism to be public is not to scandalize the faithful, or keep them in an incessant boil of controversy and doubt. Since you're willing to be idealistic, let us suppose that prestige in the relevant sense might have best accrued to those who have the greatest reputation for caring about and knowing the truth. And it is those, perhaps, who are most likely to make the point in a way that gets the attention of the right people and does not scandalize the church or give a sense that people are easily or freely doubting the pope / church. Prestige, in other words, has to be built up, and would not be lightly spent, and so it can be reasonable to desire it from people who take it on themselves to publicly criticize the pope. (Contrast: your cousin's best friend on twitter, who freely criticizes without any prestige.)

    Just an attempt. Of course, I have great skepticism (to say the least) about the whole system, but it seems to me that maybe this language is defensible while remaining idealistic?

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  5. Nice post Prof Feser!
    I concur with almost everything.
    I do think that Dubia should have been cleared!
    However I think that the case for the Latin Mass would do well if it were to be presented without the purpose of "appeasing traditionalists" because it tends to create the image of being held to ransome and traditionalists being traditionalists ought to know better then that. Being in the appeasing business of liberals or traditionalists usually doesn't go well. And a case should be evaluated on its merits.
    Pope Benedict XVI always referred to the latin mass as one of the treasures of the Church, I think a very strong argument could be formed on the basis of that it self. And ultimately it should not be restricted is my opinion.
    There are some criticisms not of the mass it self but with the circumstances surrounding it. Many right wingers try to frame it as a right wing issue when in fact it absolutely is not and many people of even neutral political persuasions love the latin mass and it's beauty.
    Attempts by some traditionalists to campaign against Mass in other languages also doesn't help. Lots of efforts were taken in many areas with regards to translations and words in order to remain true to the substance of the Eucharistic celebration. An example being my mother tongue Konkani. Some people prefer to be able to properly understand the meaning of what is being celebrated so that they can focus and concentrate their mind. And there is also the risk of being swayed or distracted if you don't understand.
    I think that one should take the criticisms of Arch Bishop Di Noia on this point seriously. He is also one of the most respected theologians in recent times renowned for his orthodoxy.
    I also concur completely with all of Cardinal Pell's points.
    A very timely post.

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    1. Thank you, Norm. You articulated my thoughts better than I could have done. “Pacifying” those who like the TLM sounds like giving a baby a soother, which entirely ignores the integrity and efficacy of the thing itself.

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  6. Prestige is important up to a point. I am a Catholic and a philosopher but not well-known. I can make an argument but comparatively few people will care. If John Finnis or Robert Spaemann (RIP) or Alasdair Macintyre were to make that same argument, their distinguished track record as serious and influential thinkers would virtually ensure that they would have an audience ready to engage. A sensible and reasonable person will recognise this, and take account of it. Not every voice will be heard equally, so when a Ratzinger or an Avery Dulles, for example, speaks, they would do so knowing that their words would carry weight that yours or mine would not.

    By the bye, I looked up the Latin original of Canon 212 - it gives "praestantia" for the English "prestige". Lewis & Short suggests that "preeminence, superiority, excellence" are the best equivalents. So, for example in Canon Law controversies, I tend to look at what Prof Ed Peters has to say. He is a professor in the subject, has a doctorate, has served in various offices, and is a Refendary of the Apostolic Signatura. He has, I would think, praestantia in this field, and his view carries a weight that mine would not.

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  7. Yes, just as much as he deigned to answer the dubia of the four Cardinals. Many who dared criticize Bergoglio openly were either ignored, distanced or demoted.

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  8. The Latin is 'praestantia', which means excellence of one kind or another: e.g. someone who had suffered for the faith would as such have more praestantia than someone who hadn't, even though he might have no office and no academic degree.

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  9. I have great appreciation for Pope Benedict, have read half dozen of his books, and one of my children was named after him. However, I have to say much of my memory of his pontificate will be marked by his voluntary resignation. The entire problem of Pope Francis only happen because he stepped away. Something I will never understand.

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  10. "Now, if the faithful can raise questions, doubts, and inquiries even where expressions of Catholic doctrine are concerned, then a fortiori they can raise questions, doubts, and inquiries where apparent conflicts with Catholic doctrine are concerned. For example, they can do so with respect to the problematic “ambiguity” in Amoris Laetitia referred to by Benedict XVI. How could this possibly not be permissible, by Pope Francis’s own lights? That is to say, how could it be permissible to “pose questions, doubts, inquiries” about perennial Catholic teaching on marriage and the Eucharist, but not permissible to pose them about a passage in a recent exhortation that fails clearly to reaffirm that traditional teaching?"

    This is easily answered. Francis himself either privately disagrees with some aspects of Catholic teaching or wants to cultivate that appearance. So of course criticizing Catholic doctrine is perfectly fine by him. But criticizing conflicts with Catholic doctrine is, particularly where the pope appears to be embracing them, is criticizing the pope. This is, if not explicitly, at least in practice taken to be much worse than entertaining heresy.

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  11. Why Pope Benedict XVI tried to hide his real thinking about Pope Francis even explicitly saying that Francis was his legit successor, while it was clear that he disagreed with him on most crucial issues - to maintain the appaerance of a peaceful Church? The only refreshing truth is being spoken by Georg Gänswein and cardinal Pell these days...

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    1. Why do you believe that a Pope that makes any mistakes is illegitimate?

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  12. To put things in perspective it's worth remembering that Pope Benedict helped engineer Vatican II and Pope Francis sees his mission as loyalty to this thing. Many of the conservatives who most dislike Pope Francis also happen to like aspects of Vatican II, for instance, its untraditional teaching on religious liberty. The spirit of the Council was keenly felt at the time and was understood as openness to the world. It was followed by John Paul II and his horrendous gatherings at Assisi and visits to mosques. Francis' provocations are no worse and have the same genealogy.

    Now conservatives get excited because Pope Benedict criticised his successor. What did he have to say about the damaging actions of predecessor he canonised? Now some of these Capital T "Traditionalists" are attacking the constitution of the Church and the Papacy, in the name of "tradition". At the same time, they attack the post-Tridentine Church with Gallicanist arguments, yet they hate Archbishop Lefebvre, who was the most Roman bishop in France. Sick.

    The neo-Orthodox Gallicanists, like the Jansenists, want to stay inside the Church physically - even nutters like Vigano know how silly they would look "outside" with a garage for a Cathedral. It's time to put the blame where it lies: Vatican II. It's also time to admit what will soon be unavoidable - the recognition of the greatness of the bishop who provided, not just a proper vision, but the practical means for realising it, which provoked Rome into allowing many things that had been meant to disappear.

    This Council, like that of Constance, incorporated a confusion that the Church has not yet resolved, but will - just as it did with Constance.

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    1. Tell me you've never read Vatican II's documents without telling me you've never read Vatican II's documents.

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    2. It's a rare feat to be unfair to everybody on all sides.

      Calling the only bishop in the world to expose McCarrick, the only bishop on earth to warn the people against the totalitarian schemes of the WEF and CCP (with which the Vatican is fully aligned), the only bishop to warn against the mass murder via Remdesivir and Midazolam and the maiming, killing bioweapon injections--to call such a hero a "nutter" betrays precisely that disorientation that Our Lady called "diabolical."

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    3. @ Fr VF. Excellent comment, Fr.

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    4. Mister Geocon, it could be dangerous to read all of Vatican II's documents in one go when its come to picking on it. There's no shortage of elements Vatican III will have to fix in view of the confusion among 90% caused by Vatican II texts themselves. The spirit of the times inside and outside the Church (which the Council ought to have dealt with, and would have, if Archbishop you-know-who and others in the preparatory commissions had been allowed to finish their work), did the rest.

      How about this definition of the Mass, truly "pregnant" with possibility?: "Therefore the eucharistic celebration is the center of the assembly of the faithful over which the priest presides. Hence priests teach the faithful to offer the divine victim to God the Father in the sacrifice of the Mass and with the victim to make an offering of their whole life".

      Or that the Church is now only the "general means of salvation", rather than the only means; that "the Church of Christ" "subsists" in the Catholic Church and in "elements" outside it? There are many others that chime along with the spirit of the times that good shepherds would have warded off.

      Yes, I know that all these texts can have charitable interpretations.Like Popes Honorius and John XXII, the Council has not renounced the faith, just created problems for the faithful (in among its good work). No Pope during the Council or since has admitted any recognition of these issues (and there are many other problematic phrases in its documents). The solution is for Rome to be more, not less Roman. All this junk is foreign to it. And since when could Romans not speak clearly?

      Nothing that distinguishes the Church today from the post-Tridentine Church was seen or heard of, or desired, in any Catholic country in Southern Europe, in France south of Lyon, Iberian America or the Philippines, before 1965. Rome has fallen to the barbarians a second time. Let us pray for it to rise up again.

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    5. Miguel,

      The problem here is that people like you take one line out of context and then use it to "prove" that the Council is full of errors. You're like a New Atheist who takes a single line from Scripture and uses it to spin a narrative about how evil and stupid Christianity is. It's embarrassingly bad.

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    6. Mister Geocon, the problem is that this quote (like many others) is not taken out of context. It comes from the first section of Presbyterorum Ordinis, dealing with priests as ministers of the Eucharist. The section does not mention transubstantiation or the Mass as Christ's propitiatory sacrifice. Instead, in relation to religious buildings: "...where is worshipped the presence of the Son of God our Saviour, offered for us on the sacrificial altar for the help and consolation of the faithful". This is where the decree provided a summary of Catholic doctrine on the Mass. Yet essential chunks are avoided. Is this just the Church playing nice guy because it felt like it for the first time in its history when central doctrines are questioned, rather than proclaiming them all the louder, or something else? It's "something else" of course.

      Of course this is not a denial of Catholic doctrine, but the absence of clarity when clarity was urgent, and measly, world-appeasing word choices like "presence", rather than real presence, is grubby. In a time when the real presence and the most important meanings of the Mass are denied or marginalised, to minimise such truths is to feed the sheep to the wolves. Can you see the difference between this and Trent (13th and 22nd sessions)? I don't get any pleasure out of pointing out where the Church has messed up (as some critics of Vatican II do), but we'll get nowhere if we believe that a crisis going back more than fifty years can be put down to Pope Francis.

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  13. It's interesting to note here in Australia that both the Premier of the state of New South Wales and the Premier of Victoria refused a state funeral for Cardinal Pell, even though having held the offices of Archbishop of Melbourne and subsequently Archbishop of Sydney and having been the highest Vatican office-holder from Australia.. He was not well-liked in this country due to his abysmal response to the victims of child sexual abuse by the clergy. His 'Melbourne Response' was a travesty of injustice.

    Equally interesting, is that both Dominic Perrotet, Premier of New South Wales, and Daniel Andrews, Premier of Victoria, are both practising Catholics.

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    1. Don't be ridiculous. Daniel Andrews, inter alia, is manifestly pro-abortion. This places him outside the Church. The fact that bishops and the Vatican have not declared him so is something for which they'll have to answer to God. Perrotet, the Premier of NSW, is pro-life. But he's also weak and wavering. He'll have to answer for that, too, as will I myself for my own misdeeds, of course.

      Re. Pell's "Response", I understand it was the first time any bishop in the world produced a procedure for the victims of clerical sexual crimes to be heard and processed. But I'm sure Monday morning quarterbacks would have come up with far better procedures. Perhaps you could supply us with your own which no doubt as such a concerned Catholic you outlined at the time and sent of to Archbishop Pell?

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    2. Equally interesting, is that both Dominic Perrotet, Premier of New South Wales, and Daniel Andrews, Premier of Victoria, are both practising Catholics.

      It would be much more interesting if we knew, for example, that both of these premiers were practicing Catholics in the real sense, i.e. that they believed what the Catholic Church teaches including the teaching about abortion and artificial contraception, and that they publicly upheld that teaching (just for one example). A person who publicly advocates for laws that permit abortion is not really a "practicing Catholic".

      Well, oddly enough, Dominic Perrotet is pro-life and voted that way in a public way, contrary to political pressure on him. However, Daniel Andrews is opposite, publicly favoring laws allowing abortion.

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    3. Prof Feser writes:
      "Now, apart from the pope himself, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Cardinal Pell had about as much “knowledge, competence, and prestige” vis-à-vis ecclesiastical matters as it is possible for anyone in the Church to have."

      This declarative statement on his 'prestige' would face serious moral, ethical and existential challenge by the vast majority of the Australian people and be demonstrably found wanting. The bar of 'prestige' for this man is as low as one could get; it lay on the ground.

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    4. You're probably right, Anon, given most Aussies, including Catholics, are completely under the sway of the mass media. Even the ones who go to mass on Sundays get nothing of any substance from their parish priests. And these days they are the products of an appallingly pathetic standard of Religious Education. No wonder the vast majority quit the Faith the moment they leave school. Given the tripe they were fed, and the boring Masses they had to suffer through, I can hardly blame them. So, yes, Pell probably has low prestige amongst the ignorant masses and the fashionable class. You know what? So did Our Lord.

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    5. @ Nobody to address here,

      "This declarative statement on his 'prestige' would face serious moral, ethical and existential challenge by the vast majority of the Australian people and be demonstrably found wanting"

      This would be "the vast majority" that falsely wanted a false and unjust conviction of Cardinal Pell for a sexual crime that he could not have committed? Shame on you for your hatred.

      I also wonder how you discovered what the "vast majority" of Australians would find anyway. Polling some anti-Catholic site raging with hatred would not reveal it, but polling a minority aligned with your prejudice reminds me of Papalinton's despicable anti-Catholic distortions.

      Tom Cohoe

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    6. The Anonymous posting at January 16, 2023 at 9:49 PM, was me, Papalinton. It was an inadvertent default that it was published as anonymous .

      And let me say, Tom Cohoe, it was not "a false and unjust conviction of Cardinal Pell for a sexual crime that he could not have committed".
      His original and justified conviction was overturned in the High Court of Australia on a technical point.
      Before a re-trial commenced after the High Court decision, one of the two boys Pell abused in the sacristy, had subsequently died (committing suicide no less through an overdose). <a href="https://www.latrobe.edu.au/news/articles/2020/opinion/how-george-pell-failed-sex-abuse-victims><b>HERE</b></a> is the most recent up-dated chapter of Pell's appalling involvement.
      Look and learn, Tom.

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    7. What "technical point" is that, P? That a man is deemed innocent until proven guilty? Or that in criminal cases in common law legal regimes the standard of proof is "beyond reasonable doubt"?

      Now I'm sure in all your concern for justice for all parties you'll have done this, but just in case, I invite you and all those who stand with you to do what I've done. Go to St Patrick's Cathedral Melbourne Australia with the scenario of the accusers under one arm and a stopwatch (available on your mobile) in your other hand. Click the stopwatch at start. Walk from the beginning of the nave (ie just before the steps up to the free-standing altar) at a processional pace down the aisle of the nave, out the West door, try to ignore the fact that maybe the Archbishop might have stopped on the steps to chat with some congregants, thus separating himself from the liturgical procession (but not from his personal assistant priest at the time, Fr Charles Portelli), as was his continual practice, not disputed. Just go with the slowly moving procession around the Cathedral, which ended in the very sacristy of the alleged deed. Click your stopwatch off. You can do this. Or at least you could when I did it a few years back. Tell me how it was physically possible for the Archbishop, on the first Sunday after his enthronement, to excuse himself from the parishioners at the West door, get round to the cathedral sacristy, be surprised to find two young choir boys there (one of whom, before he sadly died, denied to his mum that he was ever sexually abused by any priest) swigging altar wine, think "Great! I'll rape these two young lads" and do both deeds which the complainant said took a couple of minutes (!!), and cover up the fact - getting the boys (one of whom denied this ever happened, it needs to be reiterated) out of there and zipping up, as it were - before the liturgical procession arrived in the very same room.

      The timing shows up the flimsiness of the accusation. We are asked to believe that with a bevy of people about to descend on the room in a time unknown to me in the moment, but possibly just seconds away, I can rape two boys (one of whom denied to his mother that he was ever sexually abused, I need to repeat this) dispatch them, zip myself up and get away with it.

      Put up or shut up.

      As to your reference to the RC's now released findings: B.S. Pell "should have known"... Rubbish. For a year in 1980, I lived in a room in a boarding school next to a creep, but a personable chap, that was getting boarders drunk and abusing them on a nightly basis. The walls were concrete so admittedly sound proof. I had no idea what was going on, only finding out years later. Ex-priest and no fan of Pell Paul Bongiorno admitted on national radio that he lived with then Fr Pell and the serial sex offender Fr Ridsdale, but that he had no idea what this creep (but also himself abused, mind you, which shows up the perpetuating nature of this evil) was doing on a regular basis.

      A traveller records that In St Mark's square in Venice in the 17th century, when he arrived off the boat and asked about the commotion, that a sex offender was being garotted. Perhaps we should return to the higher standards of that older Church?

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    8. @Papalinton,

      "It was an inadvertent default that it was published as anonymous"

      Yeah sure. I caught you.

      "His original and justified conviction was overturned in the High Court of Australia on a technical point."

      That is false. His unjust conviction may have been received for retrial by the High Court for a technical reason, but the unjust conviction was unanimously overturned because the High Court saw multiple failures of justice and of plain sense in the eagerness of Australians following a vicious media campaign, full of hate, to convict falsely and unjustly.

      But sacrificing an innocent man is no bar to you in your hatred. Your bar lies on the ground along with your integrity.

      You mention a suicide by a false witness, as if perhaps the fact he was trawled for and coached couldn't have weighed heavily on his mind. Shame on you for your tricky misdirection.

      Then, typically for you, an opinion piece supposedly contains the "latest news". Cardinal Pell admitted that, in the light of what we have learned to date, the methods used at that long past date 49 years ago were inadequate, and that he, along with many others did not act sufficiently. But this is twisted into the "latest news" in your desperate attack on truth.

      Tom Cohoe

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    9. Paps is a fundamentalist Atheist. For him no Christian can do good or ever be falsely accused and all Atheists are sinless.

      He won't back up his claims. He posted them just to troll.

      Pell was clearly innocent and clearly railroaded.

      Facts dinnae care about yer feeling wee down under man.

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    10. BTW I would like to make a prediction. In his attempt to re-try Cardinal Pell. Paps will assume he is guilty and challenge us to prove him innocent.

      Why? Cause Gnu Atheists love to shift the burden of proof. But in western civil and criminal law. One is innocent till proven guilty and no rational jury or judge could have found him guilty in the first place.

      The overturning of his conviction was just.

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    12. @Infinite Growth.

      Wrong.

      https://www.amacdonaldlaw.com/blog/2016/may/what-is-the-difference-between-innocent-and-not-/

      "When you've been charged of a crime, you are assumed to be innocent until proven guilty. By the end of a criminal trial, you will either be declared "guilty" or "not guilty." Technically, the court never declares someone "innocent" because it is not necessary to prove actual innocence in order to be acquitted. The prosecution's job is to convince the jury that the defendant is guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt." Going the extra step of proving actual innocence is not required in order to avoid conviction."

      This appears to be the same in Australia.
      https://www.mondaq.com/australia/crime/1016172/the-difference-between-proving-someone-is-innocent-and-being-found-guilty-beyond-reasonable-doubt

      "An accused person does not have to prove that he, or she is innocent of the crime with which they are charged. Rather, it is up to the prosecuting authorities to prove a person is guilty, to the standard that there is no other logical explanation, taking into account all of the facts."

      So wrong.

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    13. That last Anon baggin on Infinite Growth was mae.

      Dinnae want people thinking I'm Paps.

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    14. @Son of Ya'Kov The courts do declare someone is innocent when the evidence shows it could not have been him. The Circuit Court of Los Angeles in 2004 declared Michael Jackson "innocent" and not "not guilty" when it was demonstrated that he couldn't have molested children (later posthumous charges nonwithstanding).

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  14. Once Benedict died, the title of emeritus is no longer appropriate as it only pertains to living people. As such, Benedict should be referred to as Pope Benedict XVI; not Pope Emeritus Benedict.

    Actually, I'm not even sure that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was accurate since there were not 15 emeriti before him, so perhaps Pope Emeritus Benedict by itself was appropriate. In any case, the bottom line now is that he is to be remembered and properly identified as Pope Benedict XVI.

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    1. I feel that we should not treat "emeritus" as if it were a term that gets added into the title to become "pope emeritus", rather it is a qualifier OF the title. The analogue that justifies putting "emeritus" together with the man who was pope is that of a bishop named James who retires in good standing. He doesn't cease to be a bishop, but he does cease to be the bishop ordinary of that particular see of City X. Hence he is not "Bishop Emeritus James" simply speaking (he is still a bishop simply speaking), he is bishop emeritus of X and his title would then be "James, bishop emeritus of X". So, I suggest that while he was alive, the proper reference would be "Benedict, pope emeritus". As there is no other pope emeritus with the name Benedict, he needed no added "XVI". If there his successor had taken the name Benedict XVII and then resigned, Ratzinger could be distinguished as "Benedict XVI, pope emeritus". Now that he is dead, the proper reference is simply "Pope Benedict XVI". Until he is declared a saint, at which it becomes Pope St. Benedict XVI, even if not all of the prior popes Benedict are canonized: the "XVI" still modifies the "Benedict", not the "St."

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  15. I just want to say at the risk of sounding like a total kiss up Professor Feser is the gold standard for charitably and rationally criticizing the Pope in public.

    The absence of bitterness and rage goes a long way to persuading Francis' kneejerk defends to take a second look.

    Note a kneejerk defender would be the sort who if Francis was seen punching Cardinal Burke in the face would write a long-winded article over at WherePeterIs complaining about how Burke assaulted Pope Francis' innocent knuckles with his wicked noise.

    Ok that is an obvious exaggeration, but you get the point. Sometimes Francis' actions can be defended and sometime IMHO they just can't.

    In the latter case charitable criticism is warranted. Bitter criticism serves the Devil.

    Cheers.

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  16. The one thing that can be confidently said is that, despite his protestations to the contrary, Pope Francis not only does not enjoy criticism he punishes those who dare to criticise him or disagree with any of the Pope's theological musings.

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    1. He doesn't seem in the least troubled by Archbishop Vigano. Perhaps his hide is thicker than you believe.

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  17. Er, isn't the selection of Pope meant to be guided by the Holy Spirit, so that it is impossible not to get the 'correct ' one? A Pope may to all appearances be a disaster, but this must surely be a consequence of our
    extreme epistemic limitations. How can the faithful rail against what God has wraught?

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    1. That's a common misconception. The Church doesn't actually say we have to believe God actively guides the papal selection process to a particular conclusion.

      It's more of a "trust that God can write straight with crooked lines" sort of thing.

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    2. @ Freethinker,

      "Er, isn't the selection of Pope meant to be guided by the Holy Spirit, so that it is impossible not to get the 'correct ' one?"

      No.

      Tom Cohoe

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    3. Thank you for the information provided by the first 'Anomymous' above, though it is a pity that it was not expanded upon. No thanks at all though for the usual completely unhelpfull response from house sociopath Tom Cohoe.

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    4. The Holy Spirit guides the Church in various different ways, and the differences are not trivial. For example: regarding the Bible, the Catholic understanding is that the Holy Spirit "guided" each human writer so that the human writer did not make mistakes in what he was asserting. Also, that guidance meant the human writer did not "leave out" anything the Holy Spirit wanted included. But at the same time, the human writer did really use his own mind and heart to craft the telling of the individual episodes, and to craft the interweaving of themes and principles, so as to convey his own thought as well as to convey what the Holy Spirit intended be conveyed.

      In a different way, God inspired various prophets to convey God's very own words, at certain times: the prophets were merely repeating what God said to them, mere mouthpieces for God's chosen words. The prophet had no hand in "crafting" anything about these transmissions. While at other times the prophets were speaking in their own voice to warn of errors and such.

      In a lesser way: God steps in to protect from (outright) error when an ecumenical council defines a dogma: God does not guarantee that the dogma so defined is stated in the clearest and best manner in which it can be stated. God is not the direct author of the words chosen to define the dogma, and the resulting definition might end up unclear or ambiguous with respect to some point.

      God also protects the entire teaching body of the bishops, but NOT in such a way that each bishop is protected from error. Rather, God's action is indirect, so that overall, and over enough time, the entire body of the teachings will point in the direction of the truth, but included in that large body of teaching will be individual components of erroneous teaching.

      God oversees the election of popes not so as to direct the cardinals to select the man that is best fit to lead the Church, but in a minimalist way - God only guarantees this much: the pope chosen will not cause the ultimate destruction of the Church. He might do grave damage to her in the meantime. The cardinals might pick a real stinker of a bishop to be pope, and God's oversight need not prevent this.

      The express rules governing the election of the pope make it clear that the cardinals CAN do things that are manifestly wrong in their behavior in the consistory, including this: they are able to vote not for the man they believe is the best choice, but for someone else, whom they want for other reasons than that he would be the best choice. They are able to (wrongly) extort votes via promises, and while this would be gravely sinful, the votes would still be real and valid. There are any number of ways a cardinal could vote against his conscience, and some ways the whole college could end up voting for a truly awful pope.

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    5. Tony, the only infallible thing about the process to produce a new Pope is that it will inevitably do so till the end of time (Vatican I). Our Lord prayed for Peter's faith, giving him a personal guarantee of faith, till the end of time (Vatican I). How is that compatible with your "God only guarantees this much..."?

      If we did not have the infallible declarations of the Popes with general councils, and without them, whatever the generality of bishops taught would be a moot point. Best leave them to be the unsung heroes. Not sure why you keep insisting on collegial infallibility, especially these days..

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  18. Tony

    Only if God (or the Holy Spirit) wants a truly awful pope.

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  19. @Walter:

    It is true of ALL of our bad actions that God lets them occur if they are within his providential plan for the created order: when someone sins, God permits that in the sense that God allowed for that sin in designing the overall good of creation. So, if the cardinals elect a truly awful pope, and at least some of those cardinals do so from bad motives where they know the guy they are voting for is going to be a bad pope, God allows these sins in the same way that he allows any other sins or just plain imprudent choices.

    God is not, in such cases, the cause of cardinals' sins in choosing a bad man. And in that sense, at least, God does not WANT them to sin by making such choices. God might even be interiorly urging them to choose a good man, but they ignore or reject His urging. If God is urging a cardinal to vote for X, and the cardinal rejects that urging and votes for Y, it is (at best) only under a very constrained and qualified sense that "God wants" Y to be pope.

    There is no proper sense in which we can conclude from the fact that "God allowed Y to be elected pope" that therefore "Y must be the best pope for the Church".

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  20. Tony

    The 'proper sense' is that Y is the best pope for God's providential plan for the created order. If the Church is also part of this provide,tial plan, then in that sense, Y is the best pope for the Church.

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