Monthly Archives: July 2017
When a Pope Taught Heresy
It becomes daily more pertinent to ask whether a reigning Pope can teach heresy. I understand that the consensus among theologians of repute is that it is indeed possible, and has in fact happened. The names of Popes Honorius and Liberius come to mind, and then there is the case of Pope John XXII in the 14th century.
Pope John had some very dodgy ideas about the Beatific Vision, and insisted on airing them repeatedly. He argued that only Our Lord and Our Lady, whose souls are already united with their bodies, can truly see God, and that everyone else has to await the general resurrection.
This novel idea caused quite a furore. An English (or possibly Welsh) Dominican from Oxford University, Thomas Waleys, denounced the Pope’s teaching from the pulpit of the Dominican church in Avignon, where the Popes were residing at that time. He was imprisoned by the Inquisition at Pope John’s request.
While the Franciscans gave qualified support to Pope John’s proposition, the Dominican theologians of the university of Paris, heirs of St Thomas Aquinas, strongly protested against it, and before his death a year later John XXII retracted his error and stated the following:
We confess and believe that souls separated from their bodies and fully purged from guilt are above, in the kingdom of heaven, in paradise and with Jesus Christ, in the company of the angels, and that according to the universal law, they see God and the divine essence face to face and clearly, so far as the state and condition of a separated soul permits.
His successor Pope Benedict XII, in the doctrinal constitution Benedictus Deus settled the matter for good: the souls of the blessed dead do indeed “see the divine essence by intuitive vision and even face to face”.
Most of the above I gleaned from Warren Carroll’s The Glory of Christendom, the third volume of his history of Christendom. But Dr Carroll doesn’t say what happened to Fr Waleys, so I had to do some digging to find out.
It’s not an edifying tale. Even though Pope John XXII had withdrawn his own thesis, Fr Thomas was held prisoner for over a year without trial, and was then under a sort of house arrest for 10 more years. On his release, he returned to England where in 1349 he described himself as “broken down by old age”. I hope this brave and unfairly-treated Dominican is now enjoying the divine essence “face to face and clearly”.
This is the view from just outside our room at the Locanda agli Angeli
in Gardone Sopra, Lake Garda ,where we attended the 25th summer
symposium of the Roman Forum. More about that symposium in
Setting the World to Rights
This is written in haste. It will be my last blogpost for the next couple of weeks, as we are off to Lake Garda for the annual summer symposium of the Roman Forum—the organisation set up by the late Dietrich von Hildebrand. This year’s theme will be “Setting Right a World Turned Upside Down: Transformation in Christ Versus a Sickness Unto Death”.
A tall order, you might think, and you would probably be right. But let Professor von Hildeband’s successor as director of the forum, American historian John Rao, explain further what it’s all about…
Two commemorations will provide an extremely joyful framework for the Roman Forum’s next Summer Symposium in Gardone Riviera. 2017 will mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of this annual spiritual, academic, fraternal, and strategy-planning program of indispensable importance to the traditionalist world internationally. It will also be the tenth anniversary of Summorum pontificum, with all that that motu proprio has contributed to the advance of the cause of the “Mass of the Ages”.
But these joyful commemorations are also calls to a two-fold meditation. One of these involves an honest assessment of present realities in comparison with the hopes placed in the project and document in question. The second concerns a serious appraisal of what we have done and have yet to do in order to fulfill the goals specified by them.
Unfortunately and in all too many respects, 2017 threatens to be a much more troubled moment in Catholic time than twenty-five or ten years ago. The erratic character of the current pontificate—and fears for what may follow it—are proving to be extraordinarily disturbing not just to the cause of the Faith but to that of human Reason as well. One has the sense of a “free fall”, with the “salt” having lost its savor and churchmen happily encouraging an international political and social world suffering from a “sickness unto death” to continue smiling as it dies. Gardone, 2017 will address this problem thoroughly.
It would be foolhardy for the Roman Forum to insist that it has done everything that it possibly could have done on behalf of the truth. Nevertheless, it is absolutely convinced that the path that it has taken since its foundation in 1968 and that of the Symposium twenty-five years ago provides the best means for serving both Faith and Reason.
That path was laid out for us by Professor Dietrich von Hildebrand through his concern for rooting all of our work in an ever-deeper study of the theology of the Mystical Body and the exalted understanding of “transformation in Christ” that this probing of the full significance of the Incarnation yields. It is that Christological approach, closely connected with devotion to the Sacred Heart, that has made the Roman Forum so eager to work to cure our world’s “sickness unto death” by insisting upon the need to infuse all aspects of natural life—philosophical, political, economic, familial, fraternal, artistic, sportive, culinary; the serious and the festive together—with that Catholic teaching and grace that correct their flaws and raise them up in a hymn of praise to God. It is this approach that caused von Hildebrand already in 1970 to insist that the Roman Forum fight for the restoration of a liturgy that does not turn its back against the God who alone can save us all. And Gardone, 2017 will insist upon the validity of this Christological path, in all realms of human activity, as the sole, infallible guide to choosing the fullness of life instead of naturalist, secularist death.
There will be sung Mass every day in the Vetus Ordo. The food is wonderful, and the company stimulating. I hope to come back mightily refreshed.