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Objection: The Book Previews of the New Papacy Contains Heresy

Steps of this Controversy

catholicFirst accusation - In a undated letter posted October 19, 2004, Fr. Robert Savage from the Provincial Residence of the Salesians of Don Bosco, New Rochelle, NY, accuses TIA of denying that Our Lord has two natures in one person. He bases the accusation on a sentence in the "Word to the Reader" by Mrs. Ellyn Miller in the book Previews of the New Papacy, in which the expression "human person" referring to Our Lord was used in passing. (click here to read Savage's first letter)

catholicFirst response -  In a November 9, 2004 letter, Atila Guimarães answers Fr. Savage observing that the "Word to the Reader" makes no pretensions to theological scholarship, and that the dogma of the two natures of Our Lord in one person was clearly accepted in the ensemble of the piece. He added that the small improperty of terms would be corrected in the next edition of the book and on TIA's website (click here for Guimarães' response).

catholicSecond accusation -  In a letter pre-dated November 8, 2004 (posted November 12) addressed to Atila Guimarães and Marian Horvat, Fr. Savage, without acknowledging Guimarães' first response, explicitly accuses the "Word to the Reader" of heresy and recommends doing "all that is possible to dissociate yourselves from any connection with this error" (click here for Savages's second letter).

catholicThird accusation -  In a letter to Mrs. Ellyn Miller also pre-dated November 8, 2004 (posted November 12), Fr. Savage accuses her of "false teaching" of heresy based on the same argument he made in the second accusation (click here for Sauvage's third letter).

catholicSecond response -  In a letter dated November 22, 2004, TIA's Vice-President Mrs. Ellyn Miller responds, showing the lack of good sense and good faith present in Fr. Savage's accusation (click here for Miller's response).

Overwhelmed by work and changes in its website filing system, TIA was only able change the controversial expression human person to human nature some days ago.

It seems that Fr. Savage, taking advantage of this involuntary delay, is preparing further steps to harass TIA. This is the reason why today, September 21, 2005, we post the full details of the controversy on our site to warn our readers about this tempest brewing in a teacup.

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Fr. Robert Savage’s first accusation

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Below is the text from the "Word to the Reader" to which Fr. Savage objected

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Read the "Word to the Reader"

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TIA’s first response by Atila Guimarães

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Montebello, November 9, 2004

Rev. Fr. Robert Savage, SDB
148 Main Street
New Rochelle, NY 10802

Rev. Fr. Robert Savage,

In response to your undated letter (posted October 19, 2004) regarding the “Word to the Reader” by Mrs. Ellyn Miller in the book Previews of the New Papacy, which you downloaded from our website, I would like to make the following observations:
1. You took from the text the excerpt: “Everything about Him [Our Lord] reflected the royalty of His human person,” in which you stated you founded some mistake.

2. You did not specify what the mistake would be.

3. You only mention as a point of reference the accepted doctrine that Our Lord Jesus Christ has both the divine and human natures in His one person.

4. You did not give any further argument nor did you present any logical deduction from the mentioned doctrine that would apply to the case.

5. Instead, you introduced what seems to me an innovation in such doctrine when you stated that Our Lord has a human nature, but “not a human personality.” I wonder what you mean by this imaginary contradiction.

6. Therefore, logically speaking, your letter is confused and no response is required to satisfy your demand.

7. Benevolently speaking, however, let me try to guess what you were attempting to express.

8. Since you mentioned that there would be a “false teaching” in the quoted phrase (n. 1), I can only suppose that you imagine that Mrs. Miller denied the doctrine of the double nature of Our Lord when she expressed her admiration for the royalty of Jesus Christ’s “human person.” No, she did not deny it. In the phrase that explains the one you transcribed and follows it immediately, she stated: “And, at times, anyone who closely observes that supreme dignity can glimpse traces of the divine dignity that shone through His royal and human dignity.” Also in the next paragraph, she affirmed: “When I see the Progressivist Church …. I do not see in it the image of the human and divine royalty of Jesus Christ.” Therefore, the doctrine of the double nature of Our Lord – divine and human – seems sufficiently affirmed, without any theological pretension, in several texts.

Furthermore, Mrs. Miller is not teaching anything, she is just introducing a book written by friends that she judged a timely work. So, there is no “false teaching,” as you tragically asserted.

9. There is only a minuscule impropriety of terms when she employs “human person” referring to Our Lord. Even though a lady can say this and anyone of good sense understands that she is only expressing her admiration for Our Lord, I made a note to advise her to substitute the expression “human person” with “human nature” in an eventual next edition of Previews of the New Papacy. Regarding our website, shortly I intend to change the expression accordingly.

10. If this is what you wanted, I am pleased to be of some assistance.

11. Allow me a final observation. If you, with your lengthy theological formation, were unable to express yourself clearly in pointing out an error you imagined in her text, why can’t you show a little more forbearance with a lady who does not have the same formation when she incurs a similar lacuna?
Respectfully, I thank you for your attention,

     In Jesu et Maria,

     Atila Sinke Guimarães

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Fr. Savage’s second accusation

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Fr. Savage’s third accusation

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TIA’s second response by Ellyn Miller

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Los Angeles, November 22, 2004

Rev. Fr. Robert Savage, SDB
148 Main Street
New Rochelle, NY 10802

Fr. Robert Savage,

You are a very bungling man, dear Fr. Savage!

You mixed up the dates. Regarding your correspondence, you sent a letter to Dr. Marian T. Horvat and Mr. Atila S. Guimarães without a date, Mr. Guimarães answered you on November 9 and you should have received his letter November 11. But in your reply to him, instead of dating your reply November 11 or 12, you pre-dated your letter with November 8, even thought the postmark is dated November 12. The same thing happened with the letter you sent to me: pre-dated November 8 and postmarked November 12. This play of dates you make is curious, and doesn’t give a good impression. Were you trying to avoid facing the arguments of A.S. Guimarães? I’m not sure if I should think of you as a theoretical scholar living in the clouds unaware of the date when you write your letters, or as a fearful and tricky man.

You mixed up the authors. In your first letter to the aforementioned lady and gentleman, you accused them of a “false teaching” in the “Word to the Reader” in their book Previews of the New Papacy. But you didn’t have the care to check who was the author of the piece you were criticizing. They didn’t write it. I did. This second mix up gives the impression that you don’t read the documents you censure to the end. A lack of seriousness in procedure, dear Fr. Savage!

You mixed up the doctrine. Next, you accused me (and them) of an error/heresy in my use of the expression “human person” to praise the royalty of Our Lord Jesus Christ. You implied I would be denying that Our Lord has the divine and human natures in one single person. But in the phrase that follows right after the one you selected to launch your accusation against, I made it clear that I was referring to “the divine dignity that shone through His royal and human dignity.” In the next paragraph I reaffirmed “the human and divine royalty of Jesus Christ.” These statements show as clearly as I can that I accept the doctrine that Our Lord has two natures – divine and human – and is only one person. If you would have had the care to read the whole paragraph from which you extracted a phrase, you would understand that there is no doctrinal error in it. But once more, you didn’t read it.

You mixed up the intentions. You also didn’t read Guimarães' answer (n. 8) (or else you read it and want me to think that you didn’t), in which he clearly demonstrated that I didn’t have any intention to deny the mentioned doctrine. My intent was not to employ the expression “human person” in a technical-theological sense, but in the current meaning of a man who, in addition to being God, is also a human being, an individual of the human genre. The lack of any theological pretensions on my part is quite obvious in my “Word to the Reader.” But you didn’t have the common sense to realize this, and inappropriately assumed that I would be pronouncing a dogmatic thesis. Doing this, you revealed a lack of objectivity and, again, either a great superficiality – making an accusation without carefully reading both my document and Guimarães’ explanation – or a remarkable bad faith – reading them and ignoring their arguments in order to pursue your uncharitable accusation. Such behavior doesn’t correspond to the Catholic way a priest should treat the faithful.

You mixed up the accusation. As a theologian, you should know that there is no heresy without the denial of a truth of the Catholic Faith and without pertinacity in the one who supports it. Therefore, the single use of the expression “human person,” which I wrote referring to Our Lord, without denying but rather reaffirming the doctrine of the two natures and one person, can at most be qualified an “impropriety of terms,” never a heresy. In the next edition of Previews of the New Papacy, the expression “human person” will be changed to “human nature,” and shortly it also will be changed on our website. So, I don’t have any intention to support even an impropriety. You had already received this explanation in Mr. Guimarães’ letter (n. 9), which you did or did not read, but nonetheless continued to insist on your absurd accusation. This is not a procedure of someone concerned with the orthodoxy of the Catholic Faith. Rather it is the behavior of an obsessive man who doesn’t seem to know what he is talking about.

You mixed up your own explanation. I must say that your explanation about the person of Our Lord didn’t seem very clear to me. If you would have said: “Look, my good lady, the hypostatic union is a mystery and no human mind understands it. So, let’s use only the terms human nature and divine nature when referring to Our Lord and avoid the expression human person because it can cause doctrinal complications.” This would be fine! You would have revealed good sense and intelligence. But no, you implied in your letter to me that you understand the mystery. And from that assumed high plane, you stated that Our Lord “is not a human person” and does not have a “human personality.” Whosoever would use such words differently would be a heretic. Period.

How would these affirmations translate for a simple faithful lay woman like me? Are you saying that, 2000 years ago, the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, who walked the streets of the Holy Land, was a phantom figure? Didn’t He have human personality, Fr. Savage? How could He be a true man without a human personality? Wasn’t He the human individual who was born of the Most Holy Virgin Mary? It seems to me that to be a “true Man” as we profess in the Creed, Our Lord should have all the human characteristics in the very apex, and therefore also a human personality. The fact of being simultaneously “true God” does not reduce His human being, as implied in your letter. Otherwise, His Redemption would be debased. By using the words person and personality only in their technical-theological meaning, without any further explanation and without considering their various common uses, you didn’t explain anything. You are just running in circles tripping over the terms. To be honest, in your explanation the only thing that became clear to me was your stubbornness in condemning the people you should be instructing.

You mixed up your language. Please, Fr. Savage, don't use “hypostatatic” instead of hypostatic, and don’t misspell “Devine Person” (twice), because some fellow theologians of your school may consider these improprieties as heretical, and make you lose a lot of time in response.

Finally, you mixed up the exercise of your courage. If you are so concerned with the purity of the Catholic doctrine, instead of attacking a simple lady who is just trying to defend Holy Mother Church against bad ecclesiastical examples, like those exposed in Previews of the New Papacy, why don’t you exercise your courage to go against so many theologians and Prelates who are favoring Modernism and Progressivism inside the Catholic Church? The heresy of such movements is not an old heresy of the fourth century, but a present day danger for the Church and all of us. It was justly qualified as “the synthesis of all the heresies.” You have plenty of heresies to go against, dear Fr. Savage. Do this, and I will believe that your zeal is really sincere.

     Receive my prayers for that and my respect for your priestly dignity.

     Ellyn Miller

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