A Lack of Historical Verification
Published in The Wanderer, February 24, 2000
Quo Vadis, Petre, by Atila Sinke Guimarães, translated and edited by Marian Horvat, Ph.D., Tradition in Action, Inc., Los Angeles, CA 90023, 96 pp., paperback.
This book has something of a Y2K-alarm quality, in this case concerning the Catholic Church. Accept it 100%, and you will fear doctrines crashing to the ground, heretics and unbelievers taking over and leading Catholics into false worship, and a general collapse of orthodoxy and a rout of Catholic loyalists.
On the other hand, the book offers reasons for a genuine concern, just as the actual Y2K alarm did. I say that to make sure no one thinks this book should be simply overlooked or dismissed. It should, however, be looked at more closely than some might, and with more realistic perspective, so if concern is justified it will be then result of a complete analysis and in only the degree that such analysis justifies. A surface reading of Quo Vadis, Petre? would send some into the catacombs instantly, pulling a rock over the entrance behind them. It is important that nothing that is more in the mind of either the author or his reader than in reality should lead to that.
For example, it is important to realize that the author sometimes uses words – for example “martyr” and “saint” – univocally, when they should be taken equivocally. Surely that is the case when the author is disturbed by Pope John Paul II’s use of the term “martyr of peace” in reference to the late Yitzhak Rabin, or when the Pontiff uses the word in regard to countless who were persecuted under Communism. He is likewise disturbed by the Pope’s calling “saints” those who, though of other ecclesial communities, gain entrance into “the communion of salvation.” Obviously, the Pontiff is not using the words “martyrs” and “saints” in any formal, defined way, that is, those who are proved to have died specifically defending their faith in Christ, or those found by the Catholic Church worthy of canonization.
Yet the author is alarmed enough by the Pope’s words to speculate that we might be asked to consider Photius and Cerularius (Eastern schismatics) as “saints;” or that other ecumenical developments might find us forced to acknowledge Luther or Hus or others of heretical belief as raised to similar honor. Adding to his worry is talk of lifting various censures and excommunications, as for example against the two patriarchs mentioned above. The fact is, there is great doubt about the excommunication of Cerularius, which actually was pronounced by envoys of Pope Leo IX after that Pope was dead. Scholars have longed questioned
the validity of that penalty on that score.
Regardless, there is no solid or substantial reason to fear that the Catholic Church is about to bestow recognition of either the formal title martyr or saint on those who denied or withdrew from her authority over the centuries. It takes a similar stretch to find something sinister even hinting of betrayal of Catholic truth in the Pope’s words regarding the fifth centennial of Luther’s birth.
Author Guimarães joins John Paul II’s use of the title “doctor” for Luther in a letter on the centennial, and the use of the phrase “common master” by Jan Cardinal Willebrands (to whom the Pontiff was writing) to suggest the Church might be on the verge of recognizing Luther as a “common master” or “common doctor” in the sense such titles are used for Thomas Aquinas. It is obvious, however, the Pope speaks of “Doctor Luther” in respect for the degree that was rightfully his; and Willebrands seems to use “common master” to mean Luther’s own explanations must be considered by both sides in reflections in the Catholic-Lutheran dialog concerning justification.
Guimarães finds the Holy Father’s use of the phrases “profound religiosity” and “moved by an ardent passion for the question of eternal salvation” regarding Luther as not only “surprising” but in contradiction to “the perennial teaching of the Church.” Of course, that is not so. Even were the Pope mistaken in the judgment those phrases express, they could not amount to contradicting Catholic doctrine, since the character and conscience of Luther (whether favorable or the contrary) cannot amount to doctrine. What the author is doing is extrapolating from what he finds improper eulogizing of Luther to suggest or even establish a case that surrender to Luther is either happening or is about to. That would, indeed, be a cause for great alarm, but only if one accepts Guimaraes’ Evel Knievel leap of logic, in both cases a leap that doesn’t succeed.
If one takes some of the author’s statement at full-face value, then panic is sure to
result. But of course such a reader will have been misled. Guimaraes puts at odds (or attempts to) teaching by Pius IX in the Syllabus of Errors and that of “Your Holiness [John Paul II], which was supported by Vatican II.” The author is writing here of Pius IX’s condemnation of assertions that anyone “is free to embrace and profess that religion …. he judges to be true” and a corollary, “in the cult of any religion, men can find the road of eternal salvation and achieve the same eternal salvation.” Guimaraes is not as specific about the doctrines of the present Pope and Vatican II that he finds in contradiction, so we can only theorize in that regard.
At the outset, we find again that unfair and illogical use of words that support the author’s thesis. When Pius IX condemns the idea of freedom to embrace any religion of choice, he is almost certainly talking about moral freedom; whereas when the present Pope and Vatican II talk about freedom in this regard they are talking about freedom from force and improper, oppressive coercion. In other words, two entirely different concepts are here being treated as one.
No one has a moral right or freedom to accept any religion other than that which is revealed, though some in ignorance may do so; on the other hand, one has the right to be free from the torture or oppression by force in regard to his conscience in that respect. That is clearly expressed in the first chapter of Dignitatis humanae, which goes on to stress the personal responsibility of each person to seek religious truth. Pius IX was not addressing that question in his Syllabus of Errors, but rather prevailing philosophies and propositions that indeed did amount to the error of indifferentism.
The author of this book comes close to, if not reaching, an accusation of John Paul II for participating in that error with the forthcoming listing of “new martyrs.” Again, we are asked to accept Guimaraes’s flawed understanding of terms and meanings.
What the Council (Vatican II) did say of other religions is that some possess certain elements of salvation, which it explains belong properly to the Catholic Church, which alone enjoys such elements fully and completely. One could hardly deny this without denying the validity of Baptism other than done within the True Church.
The author is much bothered about pan-Christian meetings and/or discussions, viewing such as movements toward replacing of all religions, including the Catholic one, with a single “Pan-Christianity.” This storm of worry, it seems to this reviewer, is similar to that which beset the boat of Christ shared with His Apostles, whose panic Our Lord attributed to a failure in faith. If the Catholic Church is indefectible, which our faith tells us it is, then it surely will not be replaced by a new church that is compounded of both truth and
Guimarães foresees a possible new council that will be an instrument for defectibility. Since it would be likely that non-Catholic participation would be invited, an invitation Protestants might well accept. His readers should know, however, that Lutherans were invited into participation in the Council of Trent; in the fact the possibility of their coming was paramount in the choice of a site for that council. But the followers of Luther rejected the invitation. Delegates were sent to Lutherans on behalf of the council’s renewal in 1562; again the Lutherans balked, even though safe conduct was pledged them.
The eminent Fr. Clement Raab, O.F.M., records this concerning the 15th session:
“A new letter of safe conduct for the Protestants was made public. This letter afforded to all Germans, and in particular to all adherents of the Confession of Augusburg, the fullest security in coming to Trent, in staying there, in making proposals, in negotiating with the Council, in presenting any article of the Creed in writing or orally, supporting the same with passages taken from Holy Scripture and the Holy Fathers.
It cannot be known whether any Lutherans would have taken part, since the Council had to be peremptorily adjourned for two years because of events in Germany. When Trent was renewed in 1562, the Lutherans could not be interested even by the envoys sent to them (as mentioned above).
"The Protestants were finally assured that they would not be punished on account of their religion; that they would be at perfect liberty to return home when it pleased them; that they could leave the city and return to it at their own discretion” (The Twenty Ecumenical Councils of the Catholic Church)."
The point is that non-Catholic participation in meetings, even councils, with Catholics is not necessarily the sort of “Y2K” disaster that Guimaraes seems to foresee.
The author claims to be only offering respectful inquiries to the Holy Father in this book. But I think what I have presented above could put that claim in doubt. It certainly did so for me. The contents and tone in this work suggest the author is presuming to teach Pope John Paul II, to suggest he is either unaware or complicit concerning what is really treason going on. It seems very unlikely the author would be ready to accept any reply from the Holy Father that was not in fact a full admission to and an acceptance of the conclusions of the situation as presented in the book.
In that case, the Pope would be accepting this blanket summary by Guimaraes: “The reality is undeniable: At the Council the men who directed the Vatican erred.” The fact is, the present Pope was an active participant at the Council, and seems to have concluded what Guimaraes concludes is in error, not the Council, or even the men “who directed the Vatican,” chief of whom of course, was Pope Paul VI. No amount of subjective interpretation of the Council’s statements, whether by “progressive” or “conservative,” can be an impeachment and conviction of the Council’s teachings, as error.
The Council must be allowed to stand on what it stated, not on what men and women say of it, or like or dislike about it. And it is obvious there are such kind of interpretations of Vatican II in this book.
The so-called meeting of Peter and Christ at Rome, with the question “Quo vadis?” being asked by Christ of Peter, is totally unverified historically. It remains on the level of legend. So, too, for much of this book. It remains in the area of speculation, some of it perhaps with a degree of accuracy, but none of it as proved and certain fact. Let the reader beware.
Articles in the Polemic
“A Lack of Historical Verification”
by Mr. Frank Morris
“From the Wrong End of the Binoculars”
by Mr. Atila S. Guimarães
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