Sunday, February 25, 2024

What counts as magisterial teaching?

Popes speak infallibly when they either proclaim some doctrine ex cathedra, or reiterate some doctrine that has already been taught infallibly by virtue of being a consistent teaching of the ordinary magisterium of the Church for millennia.  Even when papal teaching is not infallible, it is normally owed “religious assent.”  However, the Church recognizes exceptions.  The instruction Donum Veritatis, issued during the pontificate of St. John Paul II, acknowledges that “it could happen that some Magisterial documents might not be free from all deficiencies” so that “a theologian may, according to the case, raise questions regarding the timeliness, the form, or even the contents of magisterial interventions.”  Donum Veritatis explicitly distinguishes such respectful criticism from “dissent” from perennial Church teaching.

The clearest sort of case where such criticism would be justifiable would be if a pope himself says something that appears to conflict with the Church’s traditional teaching.  This has happened a handful of times in Church history, the clearest examples involving Pope Honorius I and Pope John XXII.  The Church has always acknowledged that in these rare cases, it can be justifiable for the faithful respectfully to reprove a pope.  I have written on this matter elsewhere (here and here) and direct the interested reader to those articles.

Several documents issued during the pontificate of Pope Francis have, according to his critics, exhibited “deficiencies” of precisely the sort Donum Veritatis says can be criticized in this way.  There is, for instance, Amoris Laetitia, which appears to allow, in some cases, absolution and Holy Communion for those in invalid marriages who are sexually active and lack firm purpose of amendment.  There is the 2018 revision to the Catechism, which gives the impression that the death penalty is intrinsically wrong when it characterizes it as “an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.”  Most recently, there is Fiducia Supplicans, which allows for blessings for same-sex and adulterous couples.  In these particular respects, these documents appear to conflict with the traditional teaching of the Church.

I have written on these controversial documents elsewhere, and what I want to address here is a different issue.  Suppose one or more of these magisterial statements is indeed problematic in just the ways the critics allege.  It seems that what we would have in that case is magisterial teaching that is, to borrow the language of Donum Veritatis, “deficient.”  But in a recent article at The Catholic Thing, Fr. Thomas Weinandy has proposed what appears to be an alternative interpretation.  Commenting on Fiducia Supplicans, he suggests that such deficient teaching is not truly magisterial after all, and for that reason not binding on the faithful.  Here is the relevant passage:

St. John Henry Newman provides criteria for judging what is true and what is erroneous doctrinal development (a “corruption”)… Newman presumed that all pontifical teaching or teaching from bishops concerning doctrine and morals is magisterial.  I propose that any pontifical teaching or teaching from bishops that overtly and deliberately contradicts the perennial teaching of previous councils and pontiffs is not magisterial teaching, precisely because it does not accord with past magisterial doctrinal teaching.

The pope or a bishop may be, by virtue of his office, a member of the magisterium, but his teaching, if it contradicts the received previous magisterial teaching, is not magisterial.  Such false teaching simply fails to meet the necessary criteria.  It possesses no ecclesial authoritative credentials.  Rather, it is simply an ambiguous or flawed statement that attempts or pretends to be magisterial, when it’s not.

End quote.  This might at first glance seem odd.  If teaching on faith or morals is presented by the magisterium of the Church, isn’t it, by that very fact, magisterial in nature?  But it seems to me that what Fr. Weinandy is getting at can be illuminated by way of an analogy with what St. Thomas Aquinas says about the nature of law.  Aquinas famously distinguishes several kinds of law, the two most relevant for present purposes being natural law and human law.  The natural law, of course, has to do with morally binding precepts grounded in human nature and discoverable by unaided reason.  Human law, by contrast, is man-made rather than discovered or grounded in nature. 

But human law is necessary in order to give precision to the application of natural law.  For example, we can know by natural law that it is wrong to steal or damage someone else’s property.  But how exactly to determine what counts as another person’s property can in some cases be difficult.  For example, if someone homesteads some piece of land, how deep under the ground do his property rights extend?  How much of the airspace above the land does he have a right to control?  Does he have the right to drain stormwater onto adjacent land, or to prevent it from draining onto his own?  And so on.  Human law is needed in order to resolve such questions so that property owners can know what they can reasonably expect of one another and how to resolve disputes between them.  To the extent that human law applies and extends the natural law in such a way, it is binding on us, just as natural law is.

However, such law is binding on us only to that extent.  Indeed, for Aquinas, strictly speaking, it doesn’t even count as law if it is not consistent with natural law.  He writes: “Every humanly made law has the character of law to the extent that it stems from the law of nature.  On the other hand, if a humanly made law conflicts with the natural law, then it is no longer a law, but a corruption of law” (Summa Theologiae I-II.95.2, Freddoso translation).  And since it is not law, it lacks the binding force of law.  Suppose, for example, that some purported law was passed by Congress that permitted people to steal the property of those of some particular race or ethnicity, or abolished private property altogether.  Because such a measure would positively contradict the natural law, it would on Aquinas’s analysis not count as a genuine law at all, and for that reason no one would be bound to obey it.

Law, on this understanding, cannot properly be understood except teleologically, by reference to the end or purpose it serves.  Human law, to be true law, must facilitate the application of the natural law.  Hence, when it deviates from this end, it fails to be true law.  It is in such a case mere pseudo-law, or at best a failed attempt at law.  Attempting to make such laws is like attempting to make tea but forgetting to put the teabag into the hot water, or by running the water through coffee grounds.  Even if the person making it intended it to be tea or even thinks of it as tea, the result will not in fact be tea.

This analysis, as I say, gives us an analogy by which we can understand Fr. Weinandy’s thesis.  Like human law, magisterial acts have a teleology, an end or purpose for which they exist and apart from which they cannot properly be understood.  That purpose is to convey the deposit of faith, draw out its implications, and apply them to concrete circumstances.  When they facilitate that purpose, we have genuine magisterial teaching.  But should some act, even an act by a pope, be contrary to that end, then the result cannot be a genuine magisterial act, any more than a human law that contradicts the natural law can be a true law, or any more than hot water run through coffee grounds can be true tea.

Suppose, for example, that a pope were to teach that Christ had only one will, as Pope Honorius appeared to do in the letter that led to his condemnation for aiding and abetting the Monothelite heresy.  On Fr. Weinandy’s interpretation, the correct thing to say is not that this was a genuinely magisterial act, albeit one that was in error.  The correct thing to say is that this was not a genuinely magisterial act, but rather at best a failed attempt at carrying out a magisterial act.  It was a kind of misfire, because a truly magisterial act always facilitates conveying the deposit of faith, and Honorius’s act did the contrary of that.  In Fr. Weinandy’s view, the novel teaching in Fiducia Supplicans is another misfire, an attempt at a magisterial act that fails insofar as it is contrary to the deposit of faith.

I would suggest that yet another way to understand Fr. Weinandy’s position is that he is, in effect, interpreting the word “magisterial” as what philosopher Gilbert Ryle called a “success word.”  A success word is a word that describes an act or state that must be successful if it is to be carried out or exist at all.  For example, if you can be said genuinely to have proved something or to know it, then it must in fact be true.  You can’t really have known something that turns out to be false, but at most only have thought that you knew it.  Nor can you prove something that is false, but at most only try to prove it.  By contrast, “believe” is not a success word, because you can believe something even if it is in fact false.

“Magisterial,” on this interpretation, is also a success word.  If some thesis is in fact contrary to the deposit of faith, then it cannot be genuinely magisterial, any more than a false statement can be known or proved.  At most it can wrongly be thought to be or intended as magisterial, just as you can think you know or intend to prove something that is in fact false.

If it seems bold to say that the Church can in some cases attempt a magisterial act and yet fail, it is worth pointing out that there is a sense in which Fr. Weinandy’s thesis is actually less bold than what Donum Veritatis itself says.  For again, Donum Veritatis says that it is possible for “magisterial documents” and “magisterial interventions” to be “deficient” even with respect to their “contents,” and not just their form or timeliness, and for that reason open to legitimate criticism by theologians.  This seems to imply that a thesis can be genuinely magisterial and yet nevertheless mistaken and open to correction by the faithful.  Fr. Weinandy’s positon, by contrast, implies that a genuinely magisterial act cannot be mistaken or open to such correction.  Whatever one thinks of his position, it is hard to see how it is in any way less respectful of magisterial authority than Donum Veritatis is.


  1. I read Weinandy's piece some weeks ago, and my first thought was: to a non-Catholic outside observer, this renders the doctrine of Papal infallibility (and more broadly the RC doctrine of infallible teaching authority) utterly unfalsifiable. Any contradiction between teachings, no matter how blatant, could be dismissed as unproblematic on the grounds that one of them was not genuinely magisterial. Weinandy's view would pretty much take the 'no true Scotsman' fallacy and enshrine it as a key component of Catholic ecclesiology. (To be fair to Weinandy, I've seen others put forward a similar proposal, according to which the Vatican I declaration re: papal infallibility is viewed as having an implicit addendum, according to which the criteria for a genuinely ex cathedra statement include lack of contradiction with previous infallible statements. Again, would render the doctrine empirically unfalsifiable.) I suppose some would see that as unproblematic, but for any Catholic apologist trying to defend papal infallibility on historical grounds to someone who is not already convinced, it will inevitably come across as a desperate capitulation.

    1. No more unfalsifiable than the infallibility of the Church.

    2. I don't think this renders the dogma of papal infallibility unfalsifiable. The dogma proposes that the pope teaches infallibly when he makes certain kinds of pronouncements, not just any pronouncement concerning faith or morals. If the dogma is true, we would expect -- and so we in fact find -- that no pope has ever made the kind of pronouncement described by Vatican I's dogmatic definition which contradicts reason or the Catholic tradition. Vatican I's dogmatic definition would be proven false if a pope, "in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, define[d] a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church" that contradicted reason or settled Catholic teaching.

      Pope Francis has made many heretical pronouncements, in speeches, off-the-cuff remarks, and even in official ostensibly magisterial texts, but none of these pronouncements has even pretended to be a dogmatic definition. Which is to be expected, because one of the defining features of modernist "Catholicism" is precisely the denial that the Church can teach anything infallibly. So in no hypothetical universe would we be likely to find a modernist pope issuing heretical dogmas, though they might (indeed, in Pope Francis one already has) made other kinds of pronouncements that are heretical. If there exists a universe (so to speak) where a pope falsifies Vatican I's dogma, that pope will almost certainly not be a modernist.

    3. Falsifiability is not a characteristic property of truth according to Catholic philosophy. That’s a more Popperian invention. Our epistemic categories do not subsist in things as things: probabilities do not exist in the world, nor does genus and species.

      Apologetics around papal infallibility is not geared for success on merely epistemic grounds because the functions of papal infallibility are not even primarily epistemic much less a form of epistemic security. It’s better to defend it on grounds of the papacy’s functions and what infallibility actually insured.

    4. Yeah, this is a thorny question. I think the deeper issue than unfalsifiability (which just seems to be warmed-over verificationism, in this case applied to theology), is that it seems to evacuate much of the content from the Church's teaching on its own indefectability vis-a-vis its authoritative teachers.

      More to the point, while I have certain sympathy with Weinandy's position, it's not entirely clear to me how infallibility and indefectability are preserved by a particular grace of God rather than by a theological technicality if this end's up being the route we go down.

      Perhaps his thesis would only apply to non-infallible magisterial statements (such as Avery Dulles's third and fourth levels of magisterial teaching)?

    5. Falsifiability is a response to and direct rejection of verificationism, not a version of it. The point in this context is not that an unfalsifiable statement is meaningless or cannot be true; the point is that we have little reason to believe a claim if there is, in principle no evidence that could count against the truth of the claim. It is true that an infallible body of teaching will not be contradictory. But if I am asking whether a body of teaching is infallible, a position that says apparent contradictions are not even evidence against its infallibility leave me unable to determine whether the claim of infallibility is plausible in light of the evidence.

    6. I have suggested something similar to Weinandy’s thesis in the past (though with some distinction). I offer that the underlying principle of the thesis is that the Church has only one source for its inspiration of truths that cannot be known by natural reason unaided, and the same source as protection for all truths she proposes: God. Hence at least in some sense, there can only be one “Magisterium”, i.e. only one “the teaching authority”, it is “the teaching authority of the Church”, and that single authority is merely used in the hands of various different human teachers it is not “their” magisterium individually, but unitedly, and the union is not merely with the present bishops, but also with the college of bishops going back to the Apostles.

      If the Church has spoken authoritatively (i.e. magisterially) in saying X in the past (and this includes BOTH speaking definitively in terms of a dogmatic pronouncement of Councils or popes, or speaking less-than-definitively by popes and bishops), then that past action is an action of the (one) Magisterium. In general: by being an action of the Magisterium, it is binding not only on the lay faithful, it is binding on the current men who also hold magisterial office. They cannot be exercising the ONE Magisterial office by speaking in opposition to the Magisterium by saying “not-X is the true teaching”. Hence it is a given that in any later pronouncement by bishops on subject X, we should (even must?) understand them as attempting to teach and confirm X, or (as an alternative) that they are simply mis-informed on subject X and therefore they don’t understand the Church has taught X, and so their new attempt at teaching is a failed effort. This would seem to be a perfectly reasonable explanation of what happened with Pope John XXII when he proposed an idea at odds with prior teaching on saints enjoying heaven (whether you hold he was merely proposing it as a suggestion, or attempting to propose it as “a teaching”.) It would also fit perfectly with the many, many instances in which Pope Francis shot his mouth off on something, out of lack of information, and the Vatican had to back-track his error.

      I qualified this by saying “in general”. The reason I did is: what happens if the Church’s prior teachers got X wrong, they taught X not infallibly, but fallibly, and the current teacher wants to correct that by saying “the old teaching was X, but that was in error and I am here correcting it”? Can that happen? I think a pope (or ecumenical council) could in theory do this, because this is what “taught fallibly” means, but not by being ambiguous about the earlier Church teaching X. That is, if a pope wants to overturn a prior teaching, he has to address the error EXPLICITLY as being an error. He can’t mumble his way around it and say “well, the old teaching was mostly fine, I am just refining the expression of it a bit” or the like. He can’t overcome the nature of the prior teaching’s preferential hold on our assent otherwise than by being explicit that the old teaching no longer holds any binding authority on our assent, because it was wrong. So, for example, because Francis explicitly said that his new expression on the death penalty was meant to be consistent with prior teaching, by doing so he formally eliminated the possibility that he is trying to overturn an erroneous prior teaching, and we are to understand the new teaching in light of the old. And to the extent a pope’s comments are confused and obscure on whether they overturn a prior Church teaching, just to that extent they CAN’T be taken to authoritatively teach a contrary position.

    7. Yep, my bad. Got my philosophy of science epistemologies mixed up.

      Re. falsifiability, I would add that even if we accept Weinandy's thesis, it doesn't make infallibility unfalsifiable as such. We can still appeal to whether or not it is consistent with Scripture, with the Church's self-understanding since the time of the Apostles, etc. After all, this is how we try to determine the veracity of other disputed theological doctrines, and we don't typically consider them unfalsifiable. It's just that we are simply closing off one (of several) means of falsification.

    8. Tony,
      I don't think that your example of the death penalty works. It is not just Christians who hold that "there is nothing intrinsically unjust about the death penalty for mass murder" is a principle that can be known by natural reason unaided. Were a pope to declare ex cathedra against that principle, or any principle that can be known by natural reason unaided, it would have profound consequences. It would not invalidate the early ecumenical councils but it would certainly invalidate Vatican I and beyond and likely invalidate more than that.

    9. Papal infallibility seems to admit one of two interpretations, one rather extraordinary, the other banal.

      The extraordinary interpretation asserts that when the pope speaks ex cathedra, he speaks truthfully. This would entail that the pope is unable to err in such a setting, because he is protected in some extraordinary manner from erring (say, by some kind of divine assurance). So, from the epistemic point of view, we have some means of knowing something is taught ex cathedra independently of knowing the truth of the thing taught. We first know that something is taught ex cathedra, and then, presumably, accept on faith the thing taught. This seems odd. Since the pope is not innovating, what he teaches must be independently verifiable. It must be something any competent theologian can, in principle, check or conclude on his own, and draw out of the deposit of faith himself. Thus, the faith accorded to infallible teaching does not exceed the faith already accorded the deposit of faith from which it is drawn, and, if you wish, the faith accorded to reason, which does the drawing out of the implication out of what is already believed. So, even in this extraordinary case, it seems that the assurance of infallibility concerns the successful exercise of reason in drawing out the implication taught. In other words, it is almost like what we are able to conclude independently is given a final blessing of certainty.

      The banal interpretation is where we simply define papal infallibility to be the case where the pope doesn't err. The question then becomes: is he erring, or is he speaking truthfully? Epistemically, we judge that the pope is speaking ex cathedra only after we have already determined the correctness of his teaching independently of his authority as pope. And in that sense, papal infallibility seems rather boring, nothing special, because the claim of infallibility adds nothing to our certainty.

      Now, if the first case admits the possibility that a teaching presented as infallible is not actually infallible, that we can be mistaken about its infallibility, that we only thought it was infallible (we were wrong about the "success word"), then we don't actually have the case that we can know something is taught infallibly before we have certainty that what is taught is correct. Indeed, we collapse into the second case.

    10. Tim, I am having trouble understanding your objection. Can you be more expansive about it?

      I am not suggesting that the ONLY thing a pope cannot do (magisterially) is contradict prior teaching. He cannot contradict the law of contradiction, either, for example.

      The issue of whether (or how, or to what extent) a pope can assert a teaching that appears contrary to known laws of nature is a problematic one at best, and not addressed by Weinandy's thesis or my comment on it. All we are saying something about is specifically a limitation on the pope as to prior Church teaching. And the limitation applies to bishops generally, not just the pope.

      If an existing Church teaching is a fallible teaching, and is acknowledged as a fallible teaching by the relevant parties (e.g. in teaching documents of CDF, and listed so in Ludwig Ott) then it can be reversed, and a pope or council trying to change it can do so, but (I suggest) cannot do so by being mealy-mouthed about it being in error, and by being ambiguous about how we should view the prior teaching.

      And a pope cannot issue a teaching, invoking the conditions of infallibility (i.e. issuing the teaching as ex cathedra) where the prior teaching teaching to be reversed is already taught INfallibly. It's not that "the pope is not allowed to", it's that he is unable to push something out like that.

      If your point is that there are doubts about some teachings, as to whether the Church has taught them only fallibly, or has taught them fallibly, that does potentially raise some difficulties, but ONLY raises them as an actual problem if the teaching plausibly gives the appearance that it was taught infallibly, AND the pope (or bishops) try to reverse it. There is NO ACTUAL PROBLEM if the pope or bishops explicitly say "my new formulation is meant to be consistent with the older teaching", that doesn't create any epistemic worries for whether the older teaching was only taught fallibly: fallibly or infallibly for the older teaching, the new one is to be received in coordination with the older, not as reversing it. I was saying that PF's death penalty teaching matches this, since he explicitly said he was not reversing older teaching.

      If you are offering an alternative scenario of "what if", and if you presuppose that the death penalty IS in fact morally licit under the natural moral law, then I cannot accept a hypothetical that the pope succeeds in issuing an ex cathedra assertion that rejects that truth to create an epistemic conundrum. Yes, any such ex cathedra assertion "would have profound consequences". But Catholic teaching is that God will not allow such an event to happen, so it's not a "Catholic problem" until you can point to it having ACTUALLY happened. (Which nobody can, since it never happened.)

    11. Tony,
      I may have phrased that comment badly. The "what if" scenario would be a document from the Pope containing all the standard formulae associated with an ex cathedra pronouncement purporting to explain clearly (not mumbling) why a doctrine that seemed to be taught infallibly by the Church previously was not in fact so. If the doctrine being discussed were a principle of natural law (or, as you rightly comment, a law of logic such as the law of contradiction), that is the scenario in which the consequences would be profound.
      The death penalty IS morally licit under the natural moral law. That follows from the clear teaching of Scriptures themselves and it follows from the principle of proportionality in punishment. In this "what if" scenario, the correct response would be to reject Vatican I.

      I do not think that this "what if" scenario will occur. As a Protestant, I don't have the same conviction that you do that God absolutely will not allow such an event to happen. I do think it highly unlikely, because its profound consequences are obvious. You mentioned a scenario in which a Pope addressed the teaching EXPLICITLY as being in error, in contrast to the ambiguous mumbling of Pope Francis's discussion of the death penalty. I claim that if any Pope explicitly (and with the formulae associated with ex cathedra pronouncements) issued a document that capital punishment was absolutely illicit, then the correct response would be to reject Vatican I rather than to reject a principle of natural law. Accepting my hypothetical does not commit you to denying Catholicism. Neither you nor I think that the protasis will ever come about but for different reasons.

    12. Fair enough, Tim.

      I note that so far all prior popes (and nearly all bishops), even those with estrangements in thinking, mostly wanted the Church to remain in force, and as a result, they didn't want or feel comfortable issuing a teaching that obviously, on its face, contradicts prior dogmatic teaching or clear natural laws: even apart from divine protection, they had too much invested to accept the consequences of such departures from reasonableness. it is notionally possible that we will at some point get a pope or a bunch of bishops who formally want to wreck the Church, and in that case I believe that God's promise to the Apostles (and Peter) means that regardless of their intentions or actions, God will not let them completely wreck the Church, she will withstand their efforts. (And I don't think Protestants disagree with Catholics on this point, either.) As a Catholic, I believe that God extends this protection also to the bishops' and popes' teachings, not just the mere existence of the Church as a whole. While this is indeed a larger claim than the claim usually accepted by Protestants, it is not a claim of an essentially different order of divine action; for example, God could carry out protection of the Church herself by protecting the teachings as well as protecting certain practices and institutional structures (and people in their faith.)

  2. I guess the problem I have is that it effectively makes magisterial teaching non-falsifiable. If I, a private individual, judge that a particular teaching is not magisterial, then I don't need to listen to it.

    Could not Luther say the same thing? "This appears to be a teaching of the Magisterium, but it contradicts various things the Church has said, so is in fact not". Cardinal Eck claimed this made Luther a heretic like Arius, but I'm not seeing how this would be much different than Fr. Weinandy's position.

  3. So Donum Veritatis itself is a failed attempt at magisterial teaching...Oui?

  4. It would seem that most here are laboring under a kind of neo-ultramontanism. It’s not clear to me how high FS’ teaching is, magisterially speaking. And in his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk, Newman said that one could in conscience disobey a papal order to, say, endorse teetotalism. Nevertheless, I look forward to the next pontificate.

  5. This reminds me of a safety instructor who came to our plant and said you can easily bring your accident rate to zero by firing people the second before they have an accident.

  6. WCB

    So unless a Pope uttered the magic words "This is ex cathedra", nothing a Pope writes or says means anything really. OK. Got it. Everybody gets to pick and choose what is magisterial or not.


    1. Technically, it's more complicated, as a Pope saying "This is ex cathedra" is not sufficient for one to verify infallibly that the statement is infallible. There are multiple necessary conditions for infallibility, and none can be adequately metricized. Of course, the Orthodox church doesn't deal with this nonsense, nor does it deal with the Papal soap opera, but that's neither here nor there for most Catholics, who are here for the soap opera.

  7. It strikes me that a lot of this discussion just misses the practical problem at play with the current pontificate. It is not that he says things which are heretical or contrary to Church teaching, but he gives pastoral directives regarding the sacraments that seem to be grounded in bad or heretical theology.

    From a practical perspective as a practicing Catholic, this seems to me to be worse than the situation surrounding Honorius. Monothelitism is sort of abstract. Not to downplay christological heresy, but I can go about my day without it changing much whether or not Christ had one or two wills, and the issue of the Pope apparently affirming the wrong answer is something I can just section off mentally and go about my day.

    But a pastoral directive is not itself a doctrine or statement of faith and morals, but it’s more immediately relevant to my life as a lay Catholic or a priest attempting to faithfully administer the sacraments. Regardless of the stated justification, I still have to do something with Pope Francis telling me that I must work to abolish the death penalty. Neither Donum Veritatis nor Fr. Weinandy give any explanation for that part. Does a pastoral directive that is motivated by bad theology mean I am not obligated to follow it?

    There seems to be a “facts on the ground” component to the problematic elements of Pope Francis’ pontificate whereby it is not the teaching of heresy or immorality, but the establishment of practices which encourage immoral behavior or are implied to be justified by heresy.

    1. This comment, right here. The death penalty kerfuffle would be an exception, but that’s reconcilable with orthodoxy. The issues with certain interpretations of Amoris and, especially, with FS are that, even of what is directed is technically okay, the reasoning is borderline sophistical. This really is Honorius redux, except that hapless pontiff was a dupe. By no means am I accusing the present Holy Father of malice, but I think that he’s letting his Ignatianism get the better of his doctrine.

  8. One does not make tea by putting a tea-bag into hot water.

  9. "WCB

    So unless a Pope uttered the magic words "This is ex cathedra", nothing a Pope writes or says means anything really. OK. Got it. Everybody gets to pick and choose what is magisterial or not.


    I'm afraid I agree with this. I consider myself a conservative Catholic, but I have to say many of my fellow conservative Catholics seem to be spreading an acid that will ultimately undermine Church authority and render the Pope a cipher, to be listened to only if he agrees with the listener's pre-existing concept of magisterial feeding.

    1. I was quoting from Anonymous above. I don't actually know what 'WBC' means. But I'm guessing now it's a coarse expression.

    2. WCB

      No. WCB are my initials, nothing more.


    3. Ha Ha! Maybe Maolsheachlann got it right after all.

  10. Fr. Weinandy's thesis causes the following problem: if apparently magisterial teaching can fail to be magisterial for substantive reasons, then we have no grounds for believing any apparently magisterial teaching is, in fact magisterial. Who's to say that earlier apparently magisterial statements of the church that unmarried but sexually active couples cannot receive absolution aren't actually deficient and that Amoris Laetitia is actually the successful magisterial teaching? Who's to say that the Church's earlier statement that homosexual unions cannot be blessed was not actually a corruption and that fiducia supplicans is not the successful magisterial statement?

    Even where there is no tension between past and present purported magisterial statements, there is no way of telling whether any given pronouncement was actually magisterial. For any attempt to judge by an earlier magisterial statement leads to a vicious regress.

    Finally, the proposal is inconsistent with Vatican I's teaching on the necessary and sufficient criteria for an ex cathedra statement. All of the criteria are purely procedural or formal in nature and are content neutral. This destroys the analogy between natural and human law, where the success of the latter depends on the substance of the purported law.

    1. If everything taught is infallible provided it doesn't contradict a previous infallible statement, then it's the statement that comes first that would be magisterial. It does make it really difficult to interpret documents as legitimately developing a teaching as opposed to contradicting it.

    2. And how can you tell that the first statement was infallible? Not on the basis of the formal conditions of the statement's promulgation, which Fr. Weinandy claims (contra Newman and Vatican I) are not sufficient conditions for successful magisterial teaching.

      I understand that Fr. Wienandy suggests a first-in-time rule, but there is no in-principle reason why we should accept the first-in-time rule if the mere act of formally valid promulgation is not itself a reason to accept a teaching as magisterial.

    3. if apparently magisterial teaching can fail to be magisterial for substantive reasons, then we have no grounds for believing any apparently magisterial teaching is, in fact magisterial.

      No, I don't think it presents the kind of problem that you are suggesting. Weinandy's position on a restraint on magisterial later efforts is ONLY when those later magisterial efforts are (or seem to be) in conflict with older teaching. His position doesn't create any difficulties at all for other magisterial teachings that are not under such appearance of conflict. It's not like you can say "I am uncomfortable with this teaching, so I can disregard it because it is not magisterial", that's not a feasible outcome (not an honest one, anyway) from the position asserted. It would require, first, noting that the new teaching appears to be in conflict with the Church's prior teaching. Secondly, (for any decent Catholic) it would require a positive, strenuous effort to see if there is any way to enable the two to co-exist. And if the conflict still remains, then (as is consistent with what is in Donum Veritatis), you would address your concerns with the bishop for him to resolve or correct you. If that bishop was the one to initiate the new teaching that seems in conflict, he may well help clarify the teaching to dissolve the apparent conflict, or maybe he will correct his own teaching to get rid of the conflict. If he FAILS to address the problem, then what you have left are legitimately held reservations about the new teaching. The bishop teaching the new teaching does not impose an obligation on you to adhere to the new teaching in a manner WITHOUT reservation, except by dealing with the causes of those reservations. That, I suggest, is an aspect of the "teaching office" as such.

      If we get into a situation where different bishops are saying opposing things, that is a difficulty operationally, in that the uneducated Catholic may not know which one to follow. But such a difficulty clearly existed during the Arian crisis, and that situation didn't undermine the theory of the magisterial office of the Church. The good bishops insisted they had the right of it by referring to what had been taught of old, and that is what settled the issue in Council. In effect, they too were relying on the same principle as Weinandy urges, but doing so at the bishop's level.

  11. I don't think most Catholics really care.

  12. Isn't this an example of "No true Scotsman" fallacy?
    A magisterial teaching is not truly magisterial if it says things that obviously contrast with the idea that magisterial teaching is infallible. But this really, really sounds like a way to rationalize the fact that the dogma of Papal infallibility is not standing the empirical proof.

  13. I’m sorry, but this is unbelievably bad. Apparently were thrown back on our private judgement note to determine what kind of development is authentic, eh? Very Newmanian (not!). It’s incredible what this pontificate is doing to top theologians.

    Probably the best take I’ve seen on the subject is the twelve-point “manifesto” released by John Finnis, Robert George, and Peter Ryan. You should address that, Ed.

  14. It makes it really difficult to read any magisterial document with that interpretation as opposed to believing, for example, that the pope is prevented from teaching error by the Holy Spirit. Maybe traditionalist Catholics are right to reject parts of Vatican II as non-magisterial for contradicting previous teachings on religious liberty for example.

  15. Two things have given me great comfort in dealing with the current pontificate (and to some degree the situation since V2 in general, and actually even further back). They may also help for other philosophically-minded people.

    The first is that the object of faith is *formally* God Himself and His Self-Revelation in the God-Man Jesus Christ. The individual dogmas are only the material object of faith. If we ask ourselves what it is we believe as Catholics, the simplest answer is God Himself. We begin to dimly glimpse God through faith, which is (we hope) the seed of What it is we're going to see clearly in Heaven, that which is Happiness Itself.

    Compare this with another subject, like arithmetic. The formal object of arithmetic is its principles of addition, multiplication, etc, and how they relate to each-other. The material object is the infinite number of sums themselves. Now, in arithmetic, one can be mistaken about a particular sum, or simply have no idea about the answer (what is 3987823*12723?), while still grasping arithmetic itself. Similarly, one can be honestly mistaken about a particular dogma of faith -- material heresy -- without thereby losing the principle of faith, viz. an intellectual apprehension of God Himself.

    OTOH, if one deliberately and obstinately, as it were, denies a particular sum (say that 2+2=4), one thereby denies the whole of arithmetic, because if 2+2=5 then none of the principles of arithmetic can stand. Similarly, if one is formally heretical, the principle of assenting to what God has revealed is destroyed.

    The upshot of this is that, basically, while you should obviously have a good grasp of the faith, you don't need to sweat about being right about every last detail. Prudence should govern your actions, as with everything. Virtue lies in the mean: don't be ignorant, but don't be too fastidious either. You almost certainly have more things to attend to.

    The second 'insight' is that producing documents in great quantity is not the purpose of the Church. (Leo XIII and his coke habit perhaps deserve some blame for people thinking otherwise :-D.) The primary end of the Church is sanctification through its sacraments, along with teaching God's People (which can be something as simple as a mother explaining to her 7-year old that lying is wrong -- that is an action of the Church) and governing them (that is, helping them attain their true end). Again, once you grasp this, you stop caring so much about whatever the document factory happens to be churning out in the current year zero. And remember that until a couple of centuries ago, most Catholics wouldn't know about the death of a Pope for many months.

    1. To be fair to you, that is probably how things work out for most catholics. How several faithful of good will i know are ignorant of several basic theological things while being probably way superior to me at my best on the spiritual and ethical sides is sure amusing.

      Of course, a sincere desire of knowing Our Lord and His faith better is aways present on these persons, before anyone gets the wrong idea.

    2. My comment obviously assumes one is already well-catechized. I'm not suggesting people slack off on learning about the faith, at all. My point is simply that knowledge of God Himself and what He has revealed is what the faith is. It's not, formally, a list of propositions.

      Again, I am not discouraging people from learning about the faith; I'm simply advising people that knowing every last material aspect of the faith is not necessary.

    3. I did not intend to say that you did imply that, but compared to us, more theology types, there sure is the impression that people slack off on learning. I admit that i still find weird how some questions are not interesting to several way spiritual faithful i know.

      Your point is also true of course. Even the pope Benedict XVI, hardly a slacker in theology, insisted that catholicism is a encounter with Christ, the theology is part of that.

  16. I know Newman is considered the cat's pajamas but when Infallibility was declared he lamented the then Pope had serve too long and he hoped for his death or that he be driven from Rome.

    He also refused to accept The Syllabus as Magisterial and strove diligently to undermine it.

    Does St Vincent of Lerins have Leprosy?

    Few desire to touch him or his Commonitorium.

    1. Pope Francis is a fan of St. Vincent, so be careful what you wish for.

      I don’t know what you’re on about regarding the Syllabus: Newman absolutely accepted it as magisterial but argued, correctly, that the magisterial aspect was found in the documents cited by the Syllabus, not in the theses themselves (see his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk).

      Also, I’m pretty sure that you’re incorrect about his response to infallibility; I recall that Newman wanted the pope driven from Rome *before* the definition, which was quite moderate, and which Newman later defended.

    2. I am on about J.H. Newman not accepting the syllabus as magisterial; " is not an official act because it is not signed..."

      He goes on at length finding fault with it, disagreeing with it and claiming the Syllabus contains a dozen errors.

      The letter is easy available on line for free and the clear meaning of what he says is it is not magisterial and it is riven with errors.

      “But we must hope, for one is obliged to hope it, that the Pope will be driven from Rome, and will not continue the Council, or that there will be another Pope. It is sad he should force us to such wishes.”
      (Newman’s Letter to Fr. Ambrose St. John, 22 August, 1870)

      “We have come to a climax of tyranny. It is not good for a Pope to live 20 years. It is anomaly and bears no good fruit; he becomes a god, has no one to contradict him, does not know facts, and does cruel things without meaning it.” (Quotations taken from the Diaries of John Henry Newman, v. XXVI).

      This was said after the Infallible Teaching of Vatican on Infallibility was declared and we are supposed to rely on his criteria for how to judge what are to obey or oppose when it comes to the Magisterium?

      Some of the faithful might find it handy now to identify a Saint who prayed for the death of a Pope or that he be driven from Rome or they might end it handy to oppose, not an infallible teaching from Vatican 1, but teachings from a Pastoral Council which Felci Pericles say is not binding unless the document itself states that it is binding.

      O, and why could they not oppose other Infallible teachings if this Saint did?

      MY question is- What where they thinking when they made Him a Saint and what is the USCCB, and others thinking by suggesting he be named a Doctor of the Church?

    3. What they were thinking when they declared him a saint, and what they will think when they declare him a Doctor of the Church, is that he was the greatest Catholic theologian since Aquinas and the Apostle to Modernity.

      You refer to some “letter” when Newman criticizes the Syllabus. Well, I’ve read his Letter (to the Duke of Norfolk) in which he makes his thought on the Syllabus quite plain and public. Newman is completely correct. The individual theses of the Syllabus are not in se authoritative. The document refers to various ecclesiastical documents of varying weight.

      Regarding Newman’s reaction to Vatican I, you do not seem to recognize the secrecy with which the proceedings were carried out. Newman was quite content to accept the definition of papal infallibility, to which he personally held, when the circumstances surrounding the Council and the meaning of the definition had been clarified. Newman submitted to the Council, and he explains his meaning publicly in his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk.

  17. Anon:
    Apparently were thrown back on our private judgement note to determine what kind of development is authentic, eh?

    I guess the problem I have is that it effectively makes magisterial teaching non-falsifiable. If I, a private individual, judge that a particular teaching is not magisterial, then I don't need to listen to it.

    These and several other comments here miss the mark, by a lot.

    "The Magisterium" HAS ALWAYS spoken with some variability and with different degrees of assertiveness about various teachings. Bishop X says X1, Bishop Y says X2 that is similar but not QUITE the same, and you had to think about them before you knew where to stand. And bishop Z came along and said something that sounded very wacky-opposed to X1 and X2, but said it a lot, lot softer than X or Y spoke, and you (eventually) had to decide that he was being more suggestive than assertive - but only by reading between the lines and such. There are a virtual infinity of nuanced ways the bishops have described divine foreknowledge, and described grace, free will, and predestination, which are not ALL perfectly in alignment, but we don't despair that as a body they no longer participate in the magisterial office or are not protected by the Holy Spirit. The vast majority of what the Church has taught, she has taught as non-infallible teachings, to which we still hold deference as Church teaching, with VARYING levels of reservation based on so many factors: the length of time the Church has said it without changing the phrasing, the kinds of documents in which it is repeated, the forcefulness of the language used in presenting (or insisting) on it, how many different bishops have said it, and on and on and on. This JUST IS the state of Catholic teaching, it has always been thus, we aren't dealing with a new phenomenon here. The bishops don't go around quoting each other lockstep in perfect synchrony.

    Weinandy has merely made explicit a point that is implicit in all of that: Magisterial teaching that precedes a present magisterial teacher BEARS WEIGHT on the present teacher and on how we take the present teacher's comments. He cannot divorce himself from the weight of the past magisterial teaching without divorcing himself from the magisterial source itself.

    Modernists in the Church would like us to believe that anybody who says of a new idea "this is a development from the old teaching" is, perforce, engaging in development, and we cannot tell that it isn't. That's BS, and anyone who isn't infected with modernism needn't credit the idea with any merit at all. Vincent of Lerins' comments about development are fine when read in fullness, and from them we can indeed tell what isn't development: when the new idea requires that we repudiate the past teaching, its NOT.

    1. Great response, thanks.

      But watch as people ignore your arguments and repeat theirs, with different phrasing.

    2. This hardly refutes the point. The authentic Magisterium of the Church is not a matter of one’s private judgement, whether one agrees that it doesn’t contradict or not. There is no difference between Weinandy’s thesis and radical traditionalism, even Lutheranism.

    3. Bellomy here, I'm getting an error logging in on my phone.

      Assume I'm dumb and not malicious, but as Anonymous pointed out I don't see how this refutes the point here. You are describing how Magisterial teaching is SUPPOSED to work, but if the Pope speaks on a matter of faith and morals ex cathedra, I don't see how I can justify not submitting to the teaching EVEN IF I, PERSONALLY, DON'T SEE HOW YOU RECONCILE IT WITH TRADITION.

      I don't see how you can then say Luther said anything wrong when he claimed his issue was that a later Council contradicted an earlier. That's just him enacting Fr. Weindandy's principles and putting them in practice - unless I'm missing something.

      Erick Ybarra has pointed out that he admits the Assumption does not have an evidential trail going back to the Apostles, yet he accepts the Assumption of Mary. Why? The Church says so.

    4. You are describing how Magisterial teaching is SUPPOSED to work, but if the Pope speaks on a matter of faith and morals ex cathedra, I don't see how I can justify not submitting to the teaching EVEN IF I, PERSONALLY, DON'T SEE HOW YOU RECONCILE IT WITH TRADITION.

      This would be a difficulty, but ONLY if the pope speaks ex cathedra, seems to contradict an earlier dogmatic teaching, and fails to clarify how the new teaching is compatible with the old.

      In point of fact, this hasn't happened, so the difficulty is a theoretical one, rather than an actual, present problem. And it is a theoretical difficulty that Catholics decline to accept can become actual.

      In actuality, what we have been seeing are teachings, not ex cathedra, which are new and are either difficult to square with older magisterial teaching, or apparently impossible to square with prior magisterial teaching. In THIS context, my comments help us out, because the Magisterium has said it's OK to receive the new teaching with reservation. Non infallible teachings are in the group that we hold WITH reservation. What I am pointing out is one nitty gritty detail: the prior teaching, and its incompatibility with the new one (whether real or only apparent) JUST IS the reservation that colors our reception of the new teaching.

      I don't see how you can then say Luther said anything wrong when he claimed his issue was that a later Council contradicted an earlier.

      Have you looked at his supposed contradictions? I admit that I have not looked at HIS list, but I have looked at supposed contradictions offered by others, and they don't impress me. Either they are differences without being contradictions, or they are changes in practice but not in doctrine, or they are developments of doctrine but not flat out contradictions, etc.

      The point is not that people could never initially (and mistakenly) read a new dogmatic de fide teaching as being against an old dogmatic de fide teaching, but if they apply the (required) lens of a Catholic, which includes openness to revealed truth and a willingness to hold your concerns in abeyance until you can seek clarification, you don't just assume your first-glance reading is final. Take what happened when the Church clarified earlier teaching on Christ. We go from the revealed "Christ is God" and "Christ is man" to the more complete "Christ is the divine Second Person who took on a created human nature in the hypostatic union". To find in that change a contradiction does not represent honest and open heart to the teaching Church.

      If you want to assert that popes HAVE contradicted (in ex cathedra declarations) prior infallible teaching, then we disagree as to historical points, AND if you were correct the Church's claimed structure would already be in ruins, so it wouldn't matter whether Weinandy's theory was helpful or harmful.

    5. Bellomy again.

      I guess my issue here is that you correctly point out that this is a theoretical problem Catholics decline to accept CAN become actual.

      I agree, because, like you suggest with Luther, if it appeared TO ME such a thing happened I would have to assume that MY interpretation of the teaching was wrong. What looks like a contradiction to ME is in fact not.

      Fr. Weinandy, on the other hand, would not assume that, unless I misunderstand him. He would say that the ex cathedra teaching is in fact only SEEMINGLY an ex cathedra teaching, but in fact isn't, because he interprets the teaching to have contradicted earlier tradition.

      My issue with this is that, as other commenters have pointed out, this seems to invalidate the purpose of a Magisterium in the first place. Apparently we are bound to use our private judgment to determine if a teaching should be followed after all, even if - this is the critical point - the Magisterium says that a teaching MUST be followed. Really, ? Well according to *my* judgment it contradicts past teaching, so I guess not.

      Thus the difference between Fr. Weinandy and Luther is that thus far Fr. Weinandy is better at interpreting Magisterial documents than Luther, but principally their approach is the same.

    6. I agree, because, like you suggest with Luther, if it appeared TO ME such a thing happened I would have to assume that MY interpretation of the teaching was wrong. What looks like a contradiction to ME is in fact not.

      No, it's not that simple. I mean, yes, that would be the default initial response, in most situations. But NOT ALL. If a bishop today comes pushing Nestorianism, I absolutely don't have to say "well, just because it looks contradictory to me doesn't mean it is, I have to accept it. No. The Church condemned Nestorianism, but still some bishops adhered to their preferred heresy, and still spouted it. Their flocks were right to reject these heretical bishops' teaching after the Church had condemned the heresy. And any Catholics in later centuries who find their bishop spouting the same error.

      My issue with this is that, as other commenters have pointed out, this seems to invalidate the purpose of a Magisterium in the first place.

      No, it means that the authority exhibited by the bishops in having the teaching office is not exhibited in a simple, straightforward manner where we accept everything they say on the faith because the Holy Spirit protects every utterance from error. The possibility of error (at the non-infallible level) along with the very CATEGORY of "religious submission of mind and will" that is defined NOT to be without reservation, guarantee and require that we must use our minds in adhering to the Magisterium. The Magisterium DOES speak in non-infallible teachings, but not absolutely without the possibility of error, and this implies reserved adherence to what they teach in this way. Reserved adherence is, per se, nuanced.

      Fr. Weinandy, ...would say that the ex cathedra teaching is in fact only SEEMINGLY an ex cathedra teaching, but in fact isn't,

      I don't know if Weinandy explicitly spoke to the hypothetical scenario of an ex cathedra pronouncement B that directly contradicts earlier ex cathedra pronouncement A. If he did, he should have (like I do) deny the hypothesis and simply remind us that God does not allow it, so it cannot happen. If you hypothesize rather, that B sort of contradicts A, or "may seem to" under some readings, or contradicts in some other less-than-obvious way, well, that's going to obviously imply that there are multiple readings of B and a Catholic has to accept one that doesn't contradict A. And THAT is not a problem for the category of magisterial teaching and how we are to receive it - the Church's teaching on magisterial authority intends that we behave this way. If the teacher meant for the faithful to not take that (non-contradictory) sense of his teaching B, but meant instead for us to take B in the directly contradictory sense, then (i) he would have to intend nonsense, (ii) he failed to make his intention clear by failing to clearly enunciate the contradiction he intended, and (iii) he failed precisely because God would not let him. So, again, it's not a problem with "magisterial teaching" as a category.

    7. There is only one possible problem area left: those doctrines taught infallibly, not by special pronouncement, but by the universal agreement of the bishops throughout the world: if we hypothesize that the pope asserts of some teaching C that "it only appears to have been taught infallibly through the ordinary magisterium of the bishops", says that C had not actually been taught infallibly, but rather fallibly, and then asserts a contrary doctrine ~C. (1) It hasn't happened, and (2) it is not beyond the realm of future Catholic development that the Church eventually declare that this scenario, too, is something God will not permit. In fact, one might hypothesize that Francis's own declaration that his change to the Catechism (on the death penalty) is meant to be consistent with prior teaching is, precisely, an intervention by God that prevented just such a scenario - it positively leaves room for all Catholics to take an interpretation of his new phrasing that is consistent with the immemorial teaching.

    8. Bellomy here.

      So you seem to be trying to move the discussion to lower Magisterial pronouncements, or else saying that Fr. was only ever talking about levels of authority below infallibility, in which case, nothing that Fr. says is even particularly interesting; of course we need to use our judgment about whether or not a teaching that isn't guaranteed by the Holy Spirit to be true is in fact true.

      So what I mean is this: If Fr. Weinandy is merely proposing that when we judge a Church teaching at a level BELOW that of infallibility we must do our due diligence to ensure it lines up with the perennial teaching of the Church, I agree. I would go so far as to say that he isn't proposing anything new.

      What I took Fr. Weinandy to be saying is that even if a Pope or council were to explicitly invoke the infallible charism when pronouncing a teaching, if such a teaching did not - by *my* judgment - line up with the perennial teaching of the Church, it was not in fact an actual Magisterial teaching, merely an attempted one.

      This claim is much more radical, but it is also as far as I can see the only new thing Fr. would be adding to the discussion. If he didn't mean that, what he's saying is quite unremarkable. If he did mean that, I still think this would pretty much break the Catholic paradigm for the reasons I have already given.

    9. if such a teaching did not - by *my* judgment - line up with the perennial teaching of the Church,

      If you want to get into "cases", let's get more specific: do you mean "did not line up with the perennial infallible teaching of the Church"? That is, did it contradict prior ex cathedra or conciliar dogmatic teachings? Let's get more specific still: it explicitly and directly contradicted prior dogmatic teachings? The latter, of course, is what any Catholic would say can't happen, so we reject the hypothesis. So, if you are again proposing the case where the new teaching MAY be understood to contradict the old teaching, or may not, depending on how you read it, we're obligated to read it as consistent with the old teaching.

      The only case left is where the new teaching, not directly and explicitly, but implicitly and by inference, certainly and necessarily contradicts prior dogmatic teaching - by your reading of it. Is that the case?

      And, shall we also suppose that you have done due diligence in that situation? Taken every pathway you can take to understand the teaching in the best possible light (as consistent with past teaching)? Prayed (and fasted) and begged for God's help, patiently and with steadfastness? Then gone to other teachers for help, without success? Then gone to your bishop for help, without hearing an answer that resolves the difficulty? Asked your bishop to submit a dubium to Rome to clarify the issue, and that too did not achieve a clarification?

      I know that it's fun to try to sort out hypotheticals that create worst-case scenarios to see if there is a theoretical resolution. But there's always the risk that you run into a scenario that God simply decides he won't allow to come into existence. Take Martin Luther: What I know of his history (admittedly thin) is that he did not follow a due diligence path like the above. And he manifestly did not - before his ultimate break with the Church -actually understand some of the Church's teachings. If he had submitted his problems, it is entirely plausible that somebody would have pointed out "but the Church doesn't actually teach that old canard, let me show you..."

      I took Weinandy to be referring primarily to non-infallible new teachings, since infallible ones are so, so rare. That might not be new, precisely, but it still seems to be a point lost on the super-ultramontanists.

    10. Bellomy here.

      I suppose you're right, but in this case I don't really get what people are talking about about when they discuss this as if it's a new thesis, something even Dr. Feser does. At best it seems like a reminder that we need to interpret things with a hermeneutic of continuity, a famous Pope Benedict line.

      It would only mean something new if Fr. Weinandy meant it to apply to infallible pronouncements, but even you seem to think that isn't what he meant.

      So I guess I agree with Fr. Weinandy but I don't really get why this is being treated like any sort of unique or new perspective on anything.

    11. Bellomy, I can understand your lack of enthusiasm for what is billed as "a new insight" but comes off as just the old.

      Because I believe that the underlying principle lies (implicitly) in the existing teachings of the Church on how we should accept her teachings (at various levels), I lean toward calling this a ho-hum mere clarification of what had been implied all along. So while I would tone down Weinandy's comment

      The pope or a bishop may be, by virtue of his office, a member of the magisterium, but his teaching, if it contradicts the received previous magisterial teaching, is not magisterial. Such false teaching simply fails to meet the necessary criteria. It possesses no ecclesial authoritative credentials.

      However, I could see calling it "new" by adjusting / modifying Weinandy's comment to suit my take on it:

      The pope or a bishop is, by virtue of his office, a member of the magisterium, but his teaching, if it contradicts the received previous magisterial teaching, [it] only carries the presumptive authority of a magisterial teaching to the extent that it explicitly takes on the role of pointing out the error in the old and clarifying the correct treatment of the issue. Otherwise, presumptively it is stated by the bishop in igornance of the old teaching, and is not "magisterial". Such false teaching simply fails to meet the necessary criteria. It possesses no ecclesial authoritative credentials.

      This would leave open the theoretical possibility of a new teaching by the pope to explicitly change / reverse the old by correcting it (without our saying "that's not magisterial"), while leaving us able to say of Bishop Bill's weird comment (that doesn't mention correcting any old errors), "that's not magisterial, he apparently never read the Canons of Lateran IV".

      Weinandy might take issue with my modifications - they are mine, not his.

  18. Pope Francis is a fan of St. Vincent, so be careful what you wish for.

    He SAYS he is, and quotes him, but he doesn't take Lerins' thought to heart. Francis also quotes St. Thomas Aquinas, but abuses his works also. To repeat: if you want to take an old teaching, and clean it up and set it onto a firmer path via true development, you EXPLAIN and CLARIFY how the new teaching is consistent with the old in principle, but tweaks or advances or improves upon it. That's development. Nobody who isn't a shill selling snake oil thinks Francis issues clarity and explanation. Every time he talks he confuses, obscures, and muddies. Even his defenders agree he is confusing.

    Let us grant the possibility - for the sake of argument - that in 200 years, some great theologian bishops have come along and have taken Francis' documents and have shown (a) how/where they fit with ancient teaching, (b) how they differ from ancient teaching in minor ways; and (c) how the differences can be used to clean up and improve on the old, by setting them in a more solid framework that explains even more, even better, and are consistent with the underlying principles that the ancient teaching was intended to protect. This is what we would say of that situation: "These LATER bishops have done the work of development, by showing in (c) how to clean up and improve upon the ancient teaching, they are developing doctrine. Francis's effort can be called 'a nice try' or 'not entirely wrong' or 'the motivating condition' that eventually brought us to true development." (Note that heresiarch's errors were, also, the motivating conditions that led us toward achieving the concrete developments of the doctrine of the Trinity, of Christ's 2 natures, etc.) It isn't development if nobody can see it (or explain it) as carrying forward from the old teaching, preserving its essentials and improving upon it where it was lacking.

  19. In the end, the Church exists to deliver the faith and the sacraments to the world in support of the Great Commission.

    But, the *-Orthodox communions are also capable of delivering all the sacraments, so it is not the sacraments which differentiate the Catholic Church as that Church retaining the fullness of Christ's ecclesiology.

    What makes the Catholic Church distinct is her Magisterium, and what makes the Magisterium important is that it is the only principle ever enunciated by which plumbers, washerwomen, and well-read-theologians are (in principle) capable of discerning the True Content of the Christian Religion, in every century, and ask for clarification if something is confusing, and come away with principled and well-founded confidence that they've got it right, proportionate to their ability to understand it.

    Every alternative Epistemology-of-Faith does not, even in principle, make this possible.

    So it is the Magisterium that justly attracts the faithful to the Catholic Church, even when the Anglicans have better hymnody, and the Greek Orthodox a more stable liturgy, and the Baptists, better barbecue. And it is on the basis of offering a workable Epistemology of Faith that the Magisterium enables the Catholic Church to be the Church in a fashion that no other Christian communion can imitate.

    All of that ^^^ is the context in which I offer this critique: I do not see how the principle articulated by Fr. Weinandy, and elucidated by Ed, here, can produce a usable Epistemology-of-Faith in a fashion which remains distinguishable from the Protestant and *-Orthodox epistemic paradigms: The very ones which the Catholic paradigm claims to surpass!

    For, it seems to me that,
    whereas the Protestants require the individual to interpret their Bible in order to first locate the doctrinally-correct denomination and join it, in order to then be taught correct doctrine;
    whereas the *-Orthodox require the individual to figure out which ecumenical councils are real, and which ones are "robber councils," in order to first locate the doctrinally-correct communion and join it, in order to then be taught correct doctrine and receive valid sacraments;
    by contrast,
    the Catholic paradigm tells us: "Find the successor of Peter. Now find the bishops in communion with that guy. Now learn how that church's Magisterium works, and heed that." It is objective, appealing to external facts with real witnesses (much like the Resurrection itself). It thus offers us an objective process for identifying the seat-of-unity; and from there, the faith around which we must unify.

    It does not require me to fall back on my own utterly-insufficient capacity for theological reasoning, my own utterly-insufficient knowledge of Scripture and Patristics, and my own utterly-unreliable heart, to pre-approve my teacher for the duty of teaching me.

    At least, it seems to work that way, until-and-unless we become authorized to reject what would otherwise be Magisterial teachings as non-Magisterial, on the basis of our own theological judgment!

    But if that codicil is injected into the system, I do not see how we have not just fed the Catholic Epistemology-of-Faith a poison-pill.

    I am a dummy, sometimes.

    So, I grant that I may be missing something here.

    But that's how it looks to me, at first reading. Perhaps I'll come to different conclusions after a few more read-throughs.

    (Feel free, though, to call my attention to whatever y'all think I've missed.)

    1. R.C., I like much of what you have said here, it is well articulated.

      Now learn how that church's Magisterium works, and heed that." It is objective, appealing to external facts with real witnesses (much like the Resurrection itself). It thus offers us an objective process for identifying the seat-of-unity; and from there, the faith around which we must unify.

      I would respond to this with a clarification about the body of NON-infallible teaching of the Magisterium, and how it presents to us.

      First, every single bishop participates in the magisterial office. It's not just the pope, or the Vatican's offices of this and that. Second, every time a bishop speaks in a teaching voice, he engages the magisterial office. Every sermon he gives. Every article or essay he publishes. Every decision he renders that speaks (even implicitly) to a teaching. It's ALL magisterial in the sense that it comes from a teacher who is an authoritative teacher endowed by God with the mission to teach in Christ's name, and is protected by the Holy Spirit as to teaching faithfully and truly. That's what it means to be a successor to the Apostles.

      However, not every thing that every bishop says while teaching is correct. This is manifest from many things, but most simply: heretic bishops have taught error. (And we could know (now) that they taught error because THE CHURCH has condemned those teachings.) So, no matter what else, our epistemic framework MUST DEAL WITH this fact: bishops are protected from error by the Holy Spirit, but bishops err in teaching, sometimes.

      The answer is that the kind of protection granted by the Holy Spirit is not of such a nature as to make it so that every teaching utterance by a bishop is true, it is a different kind of protection. The protection instead protects the Church's magisterium as a whole so that taken all together, the Church teaches well and truly, and over time winnows out error. This kind of protection allows that any individual bishop can be in error in a teaching, and so can some groups of bishops, and even (rarely) most of the Church for a limited time. But when the Magisterium as a whole teaches the same message, and does so stably and persistently throughout the ages, this we can rely on.

      Thus in speaking of our duty to adhere to magisterial teaching, in regards to that body of teaching that is understood to be non-infallible teaching (which is MOST of the body of teachings of the Church), the Church says of it that give it not the UNreserved adherence that we give to infallible dogmas, but a lesser kind of adherence that is called "religious submission of mind and will". Since it is specifically not unreserved adherence, that means it is reserved, i.e. we reserve room for later adjustments to the teaching. And, she tells us that this kind of adherence is capable of degree, ("according to the mind of the teacher") because it is subject to variation depending on the degree to which the magisterial teachers have taught this teaching universally (i.e. most or all of the bishops vs just a few), the manner in which they issue the teaching (whether in formal documents or in informal venues, with different levels of formality), whether stated unvaryingly (with the same phrasings), and persistently (over a long or short time). The Magisterium teaches that these factors condition our adherence to the teachings.

    2. It is, thus, the Magisterium’s own teaching that we, the faithful, have as one of our duties to sift and examine and thoughfully attend to those factors that affect the sort of adherence we give to their teachings. It isn’t over-stepping our role to (generally) put statements in the creed on a higher level than statements in a papal exhortation, and to put a papal exhortation above my local bishop’s homily on Good Shepherd Sunday, in terms of deference and adherence. This has little worrisome complication when all the teachers we receive a teaching on are pretty much in agreement.

      It becomes very complicated when different teachers teach in highly different manner, with phrasings that appear to be in conflict, and this trouble doesn’t go away when some of the teachers are long dead while others are now alive and teaching, precisely because one of the factors stated is universality (it isn’t limited only to current teachers) and another is the persistence with respect to the same teaching (and same phrasing). But the complication isn’t due to our claiming a role that belongs to the Magisterium, it is stated by the Magisterium to be part of our role. And when we come out with hard and grave problems of discernment, which we cannot solve on our own because of conflicting evidence, it is the role of the bishops to help resolve those problems by clearer teaching – or by declaring that you are not yet bound to assent precisely on account that the teaching is still uncertain.

      It does no good to cite the fact that by doctrinal development, the Church can adjust or even correct older teaching: the obligation to now adhere to the newer version of the teaching and give up reliance on the older version itself comes with the clarification of the truth, i.e. with the explanatory force of the newer version showing what needed to be preserved in the old, why it could be refined, and how the new teaching does all that. St. Augustine gave us the motto “faith seeking understanding”: Catholics are not fideists who believe contrary to reason, we believe AND seek to make that belief reasonable. It cannot be reasonable for the Church to demand unreserved assent to a new teaching that contradicts an old teaching AND refuse to explain why, while retaining the above criteria applying to religious submission: the contradiction is, itself, a basis for reservation until it is explained in detail, precisely because we also give (and ought to give) our assent to the bishops who taught of old.

  20. WCB

    Mark 10, Luke 12, 14, 18, Matthew 19.

    Sell all you have and give to the poor.

    Well, the magisterium does not demand we all follow the commands of Jesus.

    John 14:15
    If you love me, keep my commandments.


  21. Well, the magisterium does not demand we all follow the commands of Jesus.

    They shouldn't try to apply Jewish doctrine to Gentiles, who have homes and are commanded by Jesus (via Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles) to work and provide.

    There's a reason we don't have to keep the OT law anymore, even though Jesus commanded the rich man to keep them. Just because Jesus commanded something doesn't mean he said it to us.

    1. WCB

      Mark 10
      28 Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.
      29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's,
      30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

      Sell all you have and give to the poor was not a Jewish practice. It was a command of Jesus, who we are told is a third person of a trinitarian God.

      And if we take Peter's comments here, the apostles did leave all to follow Jesus.

      Context my friends.


    2. Yes, Peter the Jew. And the other apostles, who were Jews. And they passed this onto the church at Pentecost, which were all Jews. Jesus initially refused to speak to the woman from Caanan, and said he was sent to the house of Israel, which were Jews.

      Whereas Paul, when speaking to the Corinthians (not Jews) tells them to eat the Lord's supper at home. He tells the Ephesians (not Jews) to work so they will be able to give to those in need. And on and on. At no point does Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, even hint at a suggestion they should sell all they have. And what Paul is saying is the commandments given to him by Jesus.

      Context is what I'm trying to get you to see. Only Jews are ever told by Jesus or an apostle to sell everything they have. Quote me Paul commanding Gentiles to sell everything and then we can talk.

    3. WCB

      Mark 16
      14 Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.
      15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
      16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

      The Great Commission. No, not just for Jews alone. Here we see a little change in the way things are done by God's command.


    4. Just to note, Kevin. WCB is not a Christian and does not interpret the Bible the way Christians do. So his quoting biblical texts means little or nothing. There is no point in engaging.

    5. I know he's not, just wanted to give him a final shot at intellectual honesty. Guess he would rather pretend he knows what the Bible says and to whom it says it for some reason. Guess I should go build an ark since God commanded it.

    6. WCB

      Luke 12
      12 In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

      Note the word disciples. Which is a translation of a word derived from Greek for student. That is the followers of Jesus.

      Luke 12
      32 Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
      33 Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.

      Jesus commands his followers to sell all they have and give to the poor. To gain entrance to the coming Kingdom Of Heaven.

      This is not a Jewish habit unless you mean those Jewish apocalyptic non-canonical writers of Jesus's time. These words are clear, and unmistakable. For years I have seen apologists of various stripes try to mischaracterize the commands of Jesus as to this requirement as a price to gain a place in the coming Kingdom of Heaven. Yes, I do not read the Bible the same way as the Christian apologists do, as they try to avoid admitting Jesus commanded what Jesus obviously did command. And why he commanded that. To gain admittance to the Kingdom Of Heaven that was coming, soon, soon, oh so very soon.

      And yet, apologists bother us non-believers with claims of absolute morality, which allegedly us atheists lack. And what could be more absolute than commands to sell all we have and give to the poor by a trinitarian God?


    7. You keep repeating your error like that will give it more weight.

      Every disciple of Jesus that he preached to was a Jew. He said he was sent to the house of Israel. He initially refused to speak to the Caananite woman until she referred to herself by the dog analogy Jesus used. Everyone at Pentecost who sold their possessions was a Jew.

      Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, never once even hints that they are to sell all their possessions.

      So many atheists latch onto what you think are "Gotcha!" issues, when in reality they are just ignorant. You correctly point out Jesus obviously commanded it, yet you ignore who he obviously commanded it to, which was obviously not Gentiles. You are very selective about seeing the obvious. Why is that?

      Per the prophecy of Daniel, the kingdom was indeed to come very, very soon. When you read Paul, and see the full measure of why Christ died, which was offering the free gift of salvation to even those Gentiles who were complete strangers to Israel, then it becomes obvious why the kingdom being established was delayed. Paul says this dispensation of grace was hidden in God.

      And per the prophecy of Daniel, there are seven years remaining in the prophesied time prior to the kingdom, which are described in Revelation. Nothing has gone missing, no lies were told, nothing was disproven. It's all right there to read.

      You can disagree or not care all you want, but you can't pretend that believers are "avoiding" what Jesus said, when they are doing exactly what he said through Paul by NOT selling out. They aren't avoiding anything, other than looking foolish by trying to apply doctrine not intended for them. They simply know the material.

      I'm done now. Hopefully you will find a glimmer of wisdom and acknowledge you've been speaking in complete ignorance, and cease that behavior.

    8. WCB


      Every disciple of Jesus that he preached to was a Jew.

      Luke 12:1
      In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

      No where does it say that all of this necessarily were Jewish.

      And again, Mark 16
      15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

      Mark 10
      21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

      No where does Jesus say that this command to sell all you have and give to the poor is rescinded.

      Long ago, when I first got on to Internet and argued religion at a;lt.atheism with Christians, I thought that if I was a Christian i would read the gospels, the commands of Jesus and God and follow those commands to the letter. And beyond. Taking no chances of failing, or quibbling with these commands. And the commands to sell all are plain and clear. Plus supporting verses are clear. A rich man cannot be saved.

      Over the years, I have seen many, many excuses from supposed Christians who have no intention of following the commands of Jesus while claiming loudly to be true Christians.

      Luke 14
      33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

      No more quibbling, please.


    9. Matthew 27
      57 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.

    10. WCB

      So Joseph Of Arimethea did not follow the commands of Jesus. That does not give us permission to likewise not follow the commands of Jesus.


    11. WCB,

      I don't know who this "us" is, because there is only one of you. Jesus told the rich young man he had to give up his own particular obsession with money in order to be a follower. It seems you think that Jesus is also speaking to you personally, so I would advise you to follow his command to you. Stop obsessing about money.

  22. In addition to the theological problems with Fiducia Supplicans, there is a practical problem of a very serious nature regarding putting any of FS into practice. To see why, read the following article you can find at the Catholic365 website: "The Unconscionable Pastoral Malpractice of Fiducia Supplicans".

  23. As others have better articulated, this thesis seems to me quite non-catholic in spirit. If i have to figure out which teachings are magisterial or not, them things get quite confusing, the magisterial seems way less important, for them i aways needs to consult Sacred Scripture and Tradition when the Magisterial speaks. Sureci do need to do that alot nowdays, but this is contingent, while this thesis seems to make it a necessary thing.

    And besides, how much of what the pope polemics is magisterial anyway? If things are very ambiguous in the texts and everyone high in the hierarchy denies that the teachings are changing, them it is sure the case that the pope is not doing what his critics are afraid that he is close to doing. Perhaps it will take a while to we to see how everything works out, but we be there.

    1. As others have better articulated, this thesis seems to me quite non-catholic in spirit. If i have to figure out which teachings are magisterial or not, them things get quite confusing,

      Talmid, let me ask you: In the early Church, after the Church had condemned Arianism and then Nestorianism, suppose your bishop is unattentive to the later development and veers toward Nestorianism, but not in a blatant way, just vaguely. You know (from Apostolic teaching) that Jesus is truly on person, the one Son of the Father, one in substance with the Father, and you know that Nestorianism has been condemned. But your bishop is stating things much like Nestorianism, without actually coming out and flatly saying "I believe that Jesus is really two persons." Do you
      (a) simply and fully accept what your bishop is saying, because he is the bishop; or
      (b) not simply but with reservation you receive what your bishop is saying because he is your bishop but what he says sounds difficult or impossible to square with the Church's condemnation of Nestorianism.

      If you select (b), (which is what I think is the better answer), now ask yourself: is your bishop's comments "magisterial"? Why or why not.

      And besides, how much of what the pope polemics is magisterial anyway?

      That's part of the issue: a teacher teaches every time he addresses the topic on which he is a teacher. (Except when he expressly denies teaching in a specific commentary, such as when Benedict said that he was engaging in speculation.) He may teach more or less formally, more or less urgently, more or less intensely, with more or less insistence, etc. But that's all "teaching". The office of "teacher" covers all that a bishop teaches of Christ, not just some of it. When Christ designated his Apostles to teach in His name, he didn't say "but only when you speak from a certain chair" or similar limitations. When they teach the Christian message they are teachers. When they are teaching, they are participating in the Magisterial office.

      But at the same time, the source of the magisterial office and the source of the protection of their teaching is God, who is one, and who cannot teach opposing "truths". So, if the Magisterium has taught X persistently in the past, for a new bishop to come along and start teaching "not-X" merely in opposition (not in clarifying development), there must be some way to distinguish the manner in which this bishop's teaching "participates" in the magisterial office that sets it apart from the teachings of bishops who continue to teach X.

    2. If things are very ambiguous in the texts and everyone high in the hierarchy denies that the teachings are changing, them it is sure the case that the pope is not doing what his critics are afraid that he is close to doing.

      And that is implicit in what Fr. Weinandy is saying: If a new teaching is obscure and confusing, but the teacher declares that he IS NOT changing the immemorial doctrine of the Church, then we are required to try to resolve the ambiguity in favor of consistency with the old doctrine. There is a preferential interpretative paradigm that applies here to how the faithful "read" the new teaching - even if doing so doesn't arrive at precisely the same result that the teacher thought he was trying to get at: it's his own confusions responsible for that disconnect. If he means to reject and correct the old teaching, he has to NOT say "this is consistent with the immemorial doctrine".

      But if the new teacher's assertions are apparently contradictory to the old teaching, without clarification about the apparent contradiction, and he is silent about whether he means to teach consistently with the old or to reverse it, we are left with the fact that our (right and proper) adherence to the old teaching in religious submission constitutes adequate basis for not receiving his new teaching eager acceptance. Any more than we would receive the ideas of a new bishop trying to foist some neo version of Arianism on us. Religious submission of mind and will takes into account things like long persistence of a teaching, and conformity with other doctrines, and thus it is harbors a critical faculty as well as receiving a teaching in Christ's name.

    3. Interesting points, Tony, i can get the idea better now. Thanks!

      Your point on the second comment is spot on, i and Fr. Are both closer that what i saw before.

  24. "A math teacher may be an authority on math, but his teaching, if it contradicts established truths about mathematics, is not authoritative." True, of course, but not particularly interesting. If the magisterial authority of popes and bishops is purely conditional on its agreement with prior magisterial teaching, then it's no more special than the math teacher's authority over the subject of math, and (were he to make a novel assertion about quadrilaterals, for instance) would be judged in exactly the same way: whether his new theory accorded with established theory. In that scenario, it's really not a special kind of authority at all: it's just ordinary human knowledge. It's not a perfect analogy (since scientific paradigms are capable of fundamental revision), but it's not far off.

    Also, the appeal to Thomas's theory of law makes things worse, since Thomas's view on that subject is quite radical (really, it constitutes a form of eliminativism about human law), and suggests that the magisterium is nothing but a human attempt to align with a deeper metaphysical reality... which is fine, unless you care about giving the Catholic Church as an institution a unique status, in which case it's disastrous.

    Really, the fundamental problem is that the things conservative Catholics believe about the Church and its magisterium are simply false, and are being objectively falsified before their eyes, so the only option is to resort to ever more elaborate mental gymnastics—including turning to the very arguments Protestants marshaled against the Church in the 16th century. And Weinady's position is, at bottom, Protestant, only it posits the individual's interpretation of church dogma as inviolable instead of their interpretation of scripture.

    1. " the magisterial authority of popes and bishops is purely conditional on its agreement with prior magisterial teaching, then it's no more special than the math teacher's authority over the subject of math"

      That is a unnusual statment. A math teacher has no authority really, any conclusion he proclaims will be accepted because of the arguments he uses, nothing besides.

      Compare with the proclamation of any dogma and you see something very diferent.

  25. I want to point out an issue for those who worry that the faithful applying their own understanding of earlier teaching to "judge" some new teaching by a bishop: It is inherent in the Church's mantle of teaching and our obligation to respond with adherence, that we use our minds in doing so. I mean this in more than one way.

    First, we cannot adhere to the teaching until we actually understand what is being taught. For if if the teaching is in some other language that we don't understand, we cannot meaningfully adhere to it, the most we could do is to respect it in the form of "I would be prepared to adhere to it if I came to understand that language."

    Secondly, and more to the point: when the Church has set out erroneous teachings that are condemned, she leaves it in our hands to RECOGNIZE instances of the condemned error and reject them. This means not only recognizing (rare) instances of later attempts to teach the error in the EXACT expression that was condemned, but also recognizing newer versions of the error that amount to the same thing, just in different clothing. It is ridiculous to expect that we must wait for the Church to come along and re-tackle the error with formal denunciations for each and every new phrasing of the same old error before we reject those new phrasings for old error. No, she wants us to use us to use our minds to grapple with the error being taught anew, piece together its real meaning with its implicit connections and inferences, and determine "what it means" in substance, to be able to comfortably say "no, that's effectively Arianism, which we know is error". Otherwise we would have to wait for official, formal, papal, ex cathedra denunciation of each erroneous phrasing of the error before we could reject that new phrasing...and heresiarchs would simply go on re-phrasing heresy every 10 minutes. And in net result there would be no place in the Church for any teacher other than the pope - no bishops, no theologians, no doctors, no mystics, no parish mass homilies, etc.

    What if the new teaching is not obvious? If a bishop teaches something that looks somewhat like Arianism, but there is real ambiguity of the matter, where it is indeed not possible to reliably state that the new phrasing implies the old error, then there is also real room for suspended judgment (i.e. reservation) in the way you receive it: to the extent that the bishop really meant something other than Arianism, you accept that, and to the extent that what he meant Arianism, you reject that. This is using your mind in conformity with the Magisterium. It isn't supplanting or replacing the Magisterium.

    1. There is an interesting article which the online version of First Things magazine has already commented on regarding what the next Pope needs to do. It does mention Pope Francis's strengths before mentioning some of the same weaknesses noted on this blog site.

  26. All this does is render the Magisterium completely useless. It's just another ridiculous attempt to justify the grave sin of dissent.

  27. Time to change topics

  28. This is from Pastor Aeternus, a prelude to the famous paragraph dogmatically defining Papal infallibility:

    5. The Roman pontiffs, too, as the circumstances of the time or the state of affairs suggested, sometimes by summoning ecumenical councils or consulting the opinion of the Churches scattered throughout the world, sometimes by special synods, sometimes by taking advantage of other useful means afforded by divine providence, defined as doctrines to be held those things which, by God's help, they knew to be in keeping with Sacred Scripture and the apostolic traditions.

    6. For the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles. Indeed, their apostolic teaching was embraced by all the venerable fathers and reverenced and followed by all the holy orthodox doctors, for they knew very well that this See of St. Peter always remains unblemished by any error, in accordance with the divine promise of our Lord and Savior to the prince of his disciples: "I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren."[60]

    Isn't this the best support for Fr. Weinandy's thesis?
    The notion of staying inside the previously established doctrine is a pre-requisite for infallibility to even exist in the first place.