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Pastor Aeternus & Resistance


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Dear Catholics of TIA,

Thank-you for all of the hard work you put into your website; it has served as a sort of cultural "catechism" for me.

A passage in Chapter III of Vatican I's Pastor Aeternus was recently brought to my attention, and I have been troubled over how I should interperet it. The section of the document is titled, "On the Power and Nature of the Primacy of the Roman Pontiff." The relevant extracts are in italics:

Hence we teach and declare that by the appointment of Our Lord the Roman Church possesses a sovereignty of ordinary power over all other Churches, and that this power of jurisdiction of the Roman pontiff, which is truly episcopal, is immediate; to which all, of whatsoever rite and dignity, are bound, by their duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, to submit, not only in matters which belong to faith and morals, but also in those that appertain to the discipline and government of the Church throughout the world; so that the Church of Christ may be one flock under one supreme pastor, through the preservation of unity, both of communion and of profession of the same faith, with the Roman pontiff. This is the teaching of Catholic truth, from which no one can deviate without loss of faith and salvation.

If one must obey the Pope in matters "which appertain to the discipline and government of the Church", and if "no one can deviate" from this "without loss of faith and salvation", does this mean that such groups as TIA, the SSPX, various independent chapels, and the like, are in a state of schism, and out of the way of salvation?

If, as traditional Catholics, we suspend obedience to the Pope in such areas as acceptance of the new Mass, and other areas where we disagree with him in his "discipline and government of the Church", do we fall under this condemnation?

I know that you have posted many quotes from eminent Saints and Doctors regarding resisting bad Popes (here, here and here). Does Pastor Aeternus nullify their, and yours position?

I am most perplexed by this finding, and any clarification you can give would be gratefully received.

     Sincerely,

     T.L.

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TIA responds:

Dear T.L.,

Thank you for your amiable initial words.

The text you sent us refers to the Pope's power of jurisdiction. The Pope has three main powers: to teach, to sanctify and to govern. The power of jurisdiction is directly linked to the power to govern. In the text you quoted, Pastor Aeternus is dealing only with the latter power.

TIA’s position of resistance is turned toward the bad teachings of the conciliar Popes. We defend, based on the Saints and Doctors of the Church - as you know - that we should resist a Pope who teaches error or heresy. This is a position that directly concerns the power of teaching of the Pope, not his power of jurisdiction.

We neither deny the Pope’s power to sanctify, which is his power of orders, of making new bishops and priests and of ministering the Sacraments, nor do we deny his power of jurisdiction. We admit the conciliar Popes have jurisdiction over the universal Church. This is why we accept the Bishops the Pope names for the dioceses around the world; we follow the rules of fasting established by the Pope; we observe the days of obligation decreed by the Pope and the American Bishops, etc.

We say again, the text you quoted does not pertain to Pope's power of teaching. It concerns his power of jurisdiction, which TIA does not deny. So, the censure contained in it does not apply to us.

Areas of intermingled powers

In some areas these three powers intermingle. This is the case when a conciliar Pope decrees that a man is a saint or a blessed when he is not. Here the main power involved is the power of teaching, of presenting someone as a model of Faith and Morals to be imitated. In parallel, however, he uses his power of jurisdiction to decree that that man should be included in the Catholic Martyrology, and that a Mass should be said to him in the Diocese where he lived or in the whole Church, depending upon whether the man is a blessed or a saint.

Now, you could ask whether, in one of these cases of the intermingled use of powers, the condemnation of Pastor Aeternus applies to us, as when we resist a papal decision of beatification or canonization.

Let us suppose, for example, the case of Antonio Rosmini, declared a blessed by Benedict XVI. The main power exercised in that act is the power of teaching. Since we resist it because we believe the Pope is teaching error, we also indirectly resist his power of jurisdiction. But we do so with the emphasis placed on his teaching. In the case of Rosmini, we say: "Since Rosimi has 40 theses of his doctrine condemned by the Church and never publicly retracted his errors, he cannot be a blessed." We do not say: "You do not have power to name someone a blessed." To the contrary, we accept his jurisdiction. We say: "You have the power, but in this case your act is baseless, because Rosmini is not a model of Faith." So, the emphasis is not our denial of the power of jurisdiction, but our resistance to his power of teaching.

It seems a consistent position, given that the Pope's power to teach, that is, his mission to keep the Faith, has precedence over preserving valid Sacraments (the power of orders) and maintaining unity in the Church (the power to govern).

This position does not appear to be one of schism either. We do not want to make a parallel Church. We want the conciliar Popes not to destroy the Catholic Church and construct another church different from what the Catholic Church always was. This is not a position of schism. It rather appears that schismatics would be those who want to make a Church different from what the Church was for more than 1,960 years.

We hope this analysis answers your questions.

     Cordially,

     TIA correspondence desk
Posted June 7, 2011

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