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A Letter from London (2)
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Michael Davies
Published in The Remnant, September 15, 2001

In the 31 July issue Mr. Guimarães informs us that he has refuted a number of criticisms that I made of his article published in the 31 May issue. The meaning of “refute” is to prove a person to be in error or an opinion to be false or erroneous. He has not done so in a single instance. Before refuting the arguments contained in his response I must point out that he is wrong in claiming that I explained to readers the importance of the position I hold, or that I have assumed leadership positions. I have never considered myself to be a person of any importance, and the only leadership position (in the singular) that I hold is that of President of the International Una Voce Federation, which, in fact, is not a position of leadership but that of a full-time unpaid secretary. My “leadership” at present consists principally of booking rooms for delegates to our forthcoming General Assembly in Rome.

Mr. Guimarães states that my article contained one in insinuation and four attacks against him. Pointing out to someone that they are in error does not constitute a personal attack. I am always very grateful when someone brings errors that I have made to my attention. In my recent book, The Wisdom of Adrian Fortescue I mentioned (pages 37-38) how the members of Father Fortescue’s small parish increased dramatically with the influx of Irishmen whose families had been in the service of the Crown prior to the proclamation of the Republic in 1922. Their lives would not have been safe had they remained in Ireland. It was pointed out to me that until 1 January 1949 the King continued to be Ireland’s Head of State with a Governor General in Dublin. I did not consider this correction to be in any way an “attack” upon me, and I shall correct my error in subsequent editions of the book. Mr. Guimarães does not have the least hesitation in criticizing the Pope or Cardinal Ratzinger for what he considers to be their errors, and he should not be so hypersensitive when attention is drawn to his own mistakes.

And now for what Mr. Guimarães refers to as the “insinuation” and “four attacks”.

1. The Insinuation.

As regards “the insinuation”, I stated that it would be alarming if anything coming from the CDF was not totally orthodox as we would then be in the same position as Protestants and have no certain way of know what is true and what is false. The Pope is not going to make an infallible pronouncement on all the doctrinal or moral problems that present themselves as the years pass. The consensus of theologians is that the only two pronouncements that are certainly ex cathedra are the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. When, however, the Pope makes an authoritative pronouncement on a matter of faith or morals we can be morally certain that he is correct. The same can be said of pronouncement by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Take, for example, the question of in vitro fertilization. Despite the anguish of couples who are unable to have a child in the normal manner the CDF tells us that under no circumstances can the process be resorted to by Catholics. The matter is settled for us, which is not the case with Protestants who have no such authority to settle the matter for them.

If this and similar decisions of the CDF can be called into question by laymen then we are in the same position as Protestants. When the CDF issues a document it may not say all that needs to be said on the subject in question, it may not say what it says as clearly as could be the case, but we can be morally certain that it contains no doctrinal error. I am sure that Mr. Guimarães cannot cite a single doctrinal error in any pronouncement by the CDF. He refers to the Accord of Augsburg. To the best of my knowledge, this is not a CDF document and the approval of the CDF merely guarantees that it contains no heresy, no denial of de fide teaching. Is there such a denial in the Augsburg accord? If my memory serves me rightly, it was denounced by one Lutheran Synod as a surrender to Catholicism.

Mr. Guimarães cites three documents on homosexuality issued by the CDF on the question of homosexuality to justify his claim that the documents of the Congregation are not always totally orthodox. He alleges that they “cross over the moral boundaries that consider homosexuality a vice against nature and seem to give free rein to this depravity in the Church.” I consider this claim to be as distasteful as it is ridiculous. To state that the Magisterium of the Immaculate Bride of Christ could publish documents giving free rein to depravity in the Church displays complete ignorance of the nature of the Church Christ founded, and brings the traditionalist movement into disrepute. My impression of this section of his book is that he has started with a conclusion and extracted a few passages from their context to justify it.

The only document of the three one that I have in my files is the 1986 Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons. A distinction must be made here between the teaching of the Church concerning homosexual acts and the pastoral care of those who are tempted to commit or actually commit those acts. In the latter case one could argue that the policy suggested might be too tolerant, but if the teaching of the Church is clear the orthodoxy of the document would not be in question. In the Letter to the Bishops it is stated that:
“The Church, obedient to the Lord who founded her and gave to her the sacramental life, celebrates the divine plan of the loving and life-giving union of men and women in the sacrament of marriage. It is only in the marital relationship that the use of the faculty can be morally good. A person engaging in homosexual behavior therefore acts immorally.”
This seems a clear statement of the Catholic position to me. Is this teaching contradicted or even omitted in any of the documents that Mr. Guimarães cites? I doubt it. Having read what he has to say in his book concerning the document that I have cited my reaction is that he has by the use of a few quotations torn from their context totally distorted its clear message that homosexual acts are intrinsically evil and that no pastoral measures can ever be undertaken which give the impression that they are not. I will cite just one more passage:
“All support should be withdrawn from any organizations which seek to undermine the teachings of the Church, which are ambiguous about it, or which neglect it entirely. Such support, or even the semblance of such support, can be gravely misinterpreted. Special attention should be given to the practice of scheduling religious services and to the use of church buildings by these groups, including the facilities of catholic schools and colleges. To some, such permission to use Church property may seem only just and charitable; but in reality it is contradictory to the purpose for which these institutions were founded, it is misleading and often scandalous. In assessing proposed legislation, the Bishops should keep as their uppermost concern the responsibility to defend and promote family life.”
Neither of these passages appear in Mr. Guimarães' book. Under no circumstances will I get into a debate on homosexuality with him. It will take up enough of my time to deal with his misrepresentation of Dominus Jesus. I would urge readers to obtain a copy of the 1986 Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, and decide for themselves. I am sure that those who do so will agree with me that by no possible stretch of the imagination can it be seen as giving free rein to depravity in the Church.

2. Are the Catholic and Jewish religions identical?

In his 31 May article Mr. Guimarães assures us that Cardinal Ratzinger alleges that the Jewish creed does not differ from the tenets of Catholic doctrine. He bases this absurd allegation on part of a sentence that he read in a secular newspaper, allegedly quoting l’Osservatore Romano. If he would provide us with the entire paragraph in Italian from the Vatican paper I would comment further, but without this I will waste no more time discussing this ridiculous and insulting allegation.

Mr. Guimaraes cites statements allegedly made by Cardinal Lustiger of Paris. What Cardinal Lustiger says is completely irrelevant to the charge he made against Cardinal Ratzinger and so I shall ignore it. He asks why, if Cardinal Lustiger can be criticized why cannot Cardinal Ratzinger be criticized? Anyone with even the most elementary knowledge of Catholic doctrine will know that pronouncements made by individual diocesan bishops such as Lustiger, Bernardin, or Weakland do not represent the Magisterium. Statements made by Cardinal Ratzinger in his capacity as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith are Magisterial statements. Just as is the case with the Pope, when speaking in his capacity as a private theologian Cardinal Ratzinger could err.

3. Heresies in Judaism.

I explained to Mr. Guimarães that he was wrong in referring to the multiple heresies of the Jewish creed (whatever that might be) since only baptized Christian can be heretics. He responded that I am right – hardly a refutation – but then brought up the topic of alleged Jewish infiltration into the Church, and wanted to know whether I believe that “Judaism and Masonry have been plotting for ages to destroy Christendom and the Holy Church.” This has nothing whatsoever to do with the point I raised. I stated that Jews cannot be heretics, a fact that he accepts, and so I am right and he is wrong – end of discussion. I hope that if we reach the point of discussing Dominus Jesus Mr. Guimaraes will stick to the points at issue and not depart on irrelevant tangents.

4. Schismatic Churches.

The next point that I will deal with is what Mr. Guimarães describes as “The appropriate title for schismatic Churches.” I pointed out to him that to the best of my knowledge it has not been the usage of the Holy See to refer to the orthodox as schismatics for a century or more, and that the Venerable Pius IX invited the Orthodox Bishops to takes there places at the First Vatican Council. As he cited no papal texts designating the Orthodox as schismatic I presume that he accepts that, once again, I am correct. He states that as he is just a layman and not a member of the Holy See his obligation is to be truthful to his Catholic readers and not to be courteous with the schismatics. In referring to them as schismatics, he informs us, he is remain faithful to the teaching that he received at his high school in Brazil, and statements that he has found in certain theological textbooks.

“Thus,” he continues, “the affirmation that the Church has not used the expression ‘for a century or more’ does not correspond with reality. Only after Vatican II did these norms disappear, in order to favor ecumenism. Therefore, Mr. Davies is exaggerating in his affirmation that the norms have not been is usage for a century or more. They stopped being applied around forty years ago. His indignation at my obedience to traditional norms seems to reveal that he also sympathizes emotionally with the new norms of Vatican II.”

My critique of Mr. Guimarães was far from emotional and did not express indignation. Being British, I endeavor never to be emotional or indignant about anything but sport. Nor did I state that: “The Church has not used the expression (schismatic) for a century or more.” I stated that it has not been the usage of the Holy See to refer to the Orthodox as schismatics for a century or more. Members of the Church, such as the theologians he cited, may use the expression “schismatic”, but individual theologians cannot be described as “the Church”. I am afraid that, being objective and not emotional, I must describe the claim of Mr. Guimarães that the term “schismatic” stopped being applied around forty years ago as nonsensical. In my response to him I cited A Catholic Dictionary (TAN Books - available from The Remnant Bookstore), which, under the entry “Schismatic”, states that the term can be applied only in an improper sense to those brought up in a schismatic church who are not, in fact, a party to the sin of schism”. This dictionary was first published in 1931, not quite within the last forty years. Father Adrian Fortescue is among the greatest authorities in the English-speaking world on the Eastern Churches (Orthodox and Uniate). In his article “Orthodox Church” in the Catholic Encyclopedia, he points out that the term “Orthodox” was used long before the schism of Photius not in opposition to the West but as the antithesis of the Eastern heretics—Nestorian and Monophysites. In his book The Orthodox Eastern Church, first published in 1907 (and thus prior to the past forty years) he writes:
“The other point is the use of the word Orthodox. Since the schism I have called the people in union with the Ecumenical Patriarch so. Of course the name then has a special and technical meaning. Orthodox in its real sense is just what we believe them not to be. But, in the first place, it seems impossible to find any other name. Eastern is too wide, the Copts and Armenians form Eastern Churches. Schismatic involves the same difficulty, besides being needlessly offensive. We do not in ordinary conversation speak of Protestants as heretics. The name, commonly in use, Greek, is the worst of all. The only body that ever calls itself, or can with any sort of reason be called the Greek Church , is the Established Church of the Kingdom of Greece; and that is only one, and a very small one, of the sixteen bodies that make up this great communion...And then courteous and reasonable people generally call any religious body by the name it calls itself. We have no difficulty in speaking of Evangelicals in Germany, the Church of England at home, and the Salvation Army everywhere.”
One might note, en passant, that both the authors cited by Mr. Guimaraes use the erroneous term “Greeks” in reference to the Orthodox. Father Spirago informs us that: “The followers of Michael Cerularius call themselves the Orthodox Greeks...” They most certainly do not. This will be my last word on the subject which concerns a matter of usage and not doctrine. As a courteous and reasonable person I will refer to the Orthodox Eastern Churches by the name they give themselves. If Mr. Guimarães chooses to do otherwise that is his prerogative. Needless to say, as I made clear in my original reply, I consider them to be schismatic.

5. Father Feeney

As regards the question of "No salvation outside the Church," I can assure Mr. Guimarães that I am aware of the fact that this is the teaching of the Church and was not invented by Father Feeney. I have been studying the dogma since 1979 after I read the celebrated article “The Boston Heresy Case” in Hamish Fraser’s Approaches No. 64 of Easter 1979 which I would like to see reprinted. Hamish paid tribute to the zeal and erudition of Father Feeney, sentiments with which I certainly concur, and makes it clear that the question of “The Dogma”, as it has come to be called, was simply an excuse to come down on Father Feeney for rocking Boston’s ecumenical boat. Unlike Mr. Guimaraes I have met members of the St. Benedict Center, including Brother Francis, whose erudition I also admire.

In my response to Mr. Guimarães I referred specifically to “the teaching of Father Feeney on no salvation outside the Church”, i.e. that it is literally true that only baptized Christians who die in Communion with the Holy See can be saved. Mr. Guimaraes tells us that there can be exception to this rule and therefore he does not accept the teaching of Father Feeney. He would, presumably, agree with me that Jews who are convinced that the old covenant still prevails and are perfectly sincere and conscientious in their observance of the Jewish law can be saved.

I will include by stating that I do not deny the presuppositions that Catholic conservatives and traditionalists hold. I do have the least doubt that the opinions that I express represent those of mainstream traditionalist Catholics.

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