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A Letter from London
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Michael Davies
Published in The Remnant May 31, 2001

I have had several letters asking when the explanation of Dominus Jesus (DJ) that I mentioned in my 15 December column will appear. As I mentioned in that column, its appearance is dependent upon my International Una Voce Federation responsibilities, which, at the moment, are very time-consuming, particularly in view of our forthcoming General Assembly in Rome in October. Even the task of booking rooms for delegates from twenty-six countries takes up a great deal of time, not to mention the correspondence involved with the applications from four more countries which have applied for membership. My Newman book occupies ten to twelve hours of every day; I have to go to Germany in May, guide the Remnant Pilgrims in England in June, and give four or five lectures at the Von Hildebrand Symposium in Italy in July. Preparing these lectures invariably takes up at least a month of my time. This year’s symposium will be particularly interesting, as we are dealing with Vatican II and its aftermath. What all this means is that with more than a little bit of luck I might just about be able to deal with DJ in August.

One of the principal insights that brought Newman into the Church was his realization that Our Lord would not have left His Church without some certain way of knowing what is true and what is not true when differences of opinion arise among the faithful. No such authority exists within the “broad Church” of Anglicanism. Anglicans are at present debating the possibility of ordaining homosexual men to the priesthood, and the question will be settled by a majority vote, as was the question of ordaining women. There is no authority to which an appeal can be made for a definitive answer. In the Catholic Church we have the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), which has published about three dozen documents since Vatican II clarifying Catholic teaching on a range of topics, such as the “Ordination of Women,” “Procured Abortion,” “The Mystery of the Church,” “Homosexuality,” and “Infant Baptism.” I have read about a dozen of them, and as far as I could see, with my admittedly limited knowledge of theology, they are totally orthodox. It would be very alarming if anything coming from the CDF was not totally orthodox. If documents emanating from the CDF are to be subjected to the judgment of laymen, the we would be in the same position as Protestants. I find the very idea that a Declaration of the CDF approved by the Supreme Pontiff in forma specifica should be criticized by those claiming to be traditional Catholics to be completely incongruous. A traditional Catholic accepts the authoritative doctrinal teaching of the Holy See with an inner assent based on the high supernatural authority of that See, even though such documents are not infallible. It is a characteristic of Catholic liberals that they feel they have the right to call into question any teaching of the Holy See apart from ex cathedra pronouncements. It is, of course, legitimate to make a respectful request for a clarification of documents of the Holy See, as Chris Ferrara did, although he was somewhat unrealistic in putting forward sixty-four questions. Had he put forward six, or better still one or two, he might have received a response. It is an undeniable fact that the chance of letters to anyone in authority in Church or State receiving a reply diminish in proportion to their length

Although I will not be able to comment on Mr. Guimarães’ critique of DJ before August, I must express my profound disagreement with three items in his “Bird’s Eye View of the News” in the 31 March issue of The Remnant. The first concerns his criticism of Cardinal Ratzinger for stating that the Jewish faith “for us is not another religion but the foundation of our own faith.” Mr. Guimarães has not even provided us with a complete sentence, and so perhaps he would be kind enough to publish a longer extract from the report so that we can put these words into their correct context. If he is suggesting that His Eminence believes that the Catholic and Jewish religions are identical, I can only describe such a suggestion as ludicrous. I would also point out that there are no heresies in the Jewish creed (whatever that might be), as only baptized Christians can be heretics.

The Cardinal is perfectly correct in stating that the Jewish religion is the foundation of our own faith. The Old Covenant is the foundation of the New Covenant, the Mass developed from Jewish rituals, the major part of our Bible consists of the Jewish Scriptures, which are cited on countless occasions in the New Testament and in our Missal and in the Breviary.

Mr. Guimarães also claims that in DJ Cardinal Ratzinger affirmed that Catholics make up a single “Church of Christ”with Protestants and Schismatics. I can only conclude that there are two texts of the Declaration in circulation, as no such affirmation appears in the version that I have. Perhaps he would provide us with the passage in which this statement can be found. Such an affirmation would, of course, be blatantly heretical.

My third objection is his reference to the Orthodox Churches as Schismatic. They are, of course, schismatic, but, to the best of my knowledge, it has not been the usage of the Holy See, as a matter of courtesy, to refer to the Orthodox as schismatics for a century or more, In A Catholic Dictionary (TAN Books – available from The Remnant Bookstore) under the entry “Schismatic,” citing Jugie’s Dogmatic Theology, vol. I, p. 17, it 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.” Heretics and schismatics brought up in their own religious communion who accept its teaching in good faith are only material heretics or schismatics, and therefore incur no guilt.

It is particularly reprehensible to term the Orthodox Churches as schismatic, in view of the fact that they are authentic particular Churches. A word of clarification may be necessary here: A particular Church is a diocese. Although one speaks of the American Church, the French Church, the Australian Church, one should, in fact, refer to the “Churches” in these countries, i.e., the dioceses within those countries. Diocesan Bishops are answerable to the Pope and not to their National Episcopal Conferences. Thus Archbishop Laisé of the Diocese of San Luis in Argentina asked Cardinal Ratzinger if he had the right to reject the practice of Communion in the hand in his own diocese, even though it had been approved by the Episcopal Conference of Argentina. His Eminence replied that, of course, this was his right.

The question then arises as to what is the status of an authentic particular Church, i.e., a diocese, if it rejects communion with the Pope, or if its bishop is excommunicated. The schism of Michael Cerularius, Patriarch of Constantinople, was formalized in 1054 when he was object of a canonically dubious excommunication by legates of Pope Leo IX, who handled the situation very badly. Two of his prelates were excommunicated, but no other Eastern bishop was ever has been. The great Church of Constantinople itself was not, and never has been excommunicated. The answer to the question is that, providing that the Apostolic Succession, the Seven Sacraments, and acceptance of the Nicene Creed are preserved, these Churches remain authentic particular (though schismatic) Churches. When the schism of Photius (died 891) was healed, the separated Eastern churches (dioceses) were recognized as fully Catholic by Rome, together with their bishops. This was also the case with the reconciliations at the Council of Lyons in 1274 and Florence in 1439. The separation of East and West has been definitive since 1472. If a reconciliation between the Catholic Church and Orthodoxy ever takes place, the Eastern Churches will certainly be accepted as authentic particular Churches, with recognition of the bishops ruling them at the time.

An obvious distinction must be made between the Orthodox Churches and bodies such as the Church of England or the Lutheran Church, which have neither the Apostolic Succession nor the Seven Sacraments. This distinction is made admirably clear in DJ, where these bodies are denied the title “Churches,” but are termed “ecclesial communions.” The self-styled “Archbishop of Canterbury” was furious about this and considered DJ a serious setback in ecumenical relations, which I am pleased to say it is. Why the Vatican wastes time and money on a dialogue with the Anglicans since they introduced priestesses and bishopesses is a mystery to me. In making this distinction between the Orthodox Eastern Churches and the Protestant denominations, DJ is in the direct tradition of Pope Pius IX. When this great Pope convoked the First Vatican Council in 1868, he wrote “to all Bishops of the Churches of the Oriental Rite not in communion with the Apostolic See” (not to “the Eastern Schismatics”) and invited them to come to the Council in their capacity as bishops of authentic particular Churches:
“Since, with the advice of our venerable brethren, the cardinals of the holy Roman Church, we have recently announced and convoked an ecumenical synod, to be celebrated in Rome next year beginning on the eight day of December, dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, we again direct our voice to you. With still greater earnestness of heart, we implore, remind, and beseech you, so that you may wish to come to this general Synod, just as your predecessors assembled at the Second Council of Lyons, held by Blessed Gregory IX, our memorable predecessor, and at the Council of Florence, celebrated by Eugene IV, our predecessor of happy memory. As a result, with the revival of the former laws of harmony and with the restoration to vigor of the peace of patristic times, that heavenly and salutary gift of Christ which withered away in the course of time,[1] the serene radiance of the desired union may begin to shine on all after a long period of dark sorrow and the black, depressing gloom of longstanding discord.”[2]
His reference to the “predecessors” of these Eastern Bishops coming to the Councils of Lyons and Florence, convoked by his predecessors, cannot be interpreted as anything but an acceptance of the authenticity of their succession. The generous invitation to the Venerable Pius IX was, alas, rejected by the Orthodox. In most cases they have not responded to the warmth and courtesy of recent Popes in their efforts to achieve reunion. In many cases, they term us schismatics and refuse to recognize the validity of our sacraments. This does not justify Catholics behaving with the same lack of courtesy and charity. Before unity can be achieved, there are also number of doctrinal differences that would need to be solved. These are listed comprehensively in A Catholic Dictionary – entry “Orthodox Eastern Churches.” In the same dictionary, see also: “Orthodox, Cerularius, Photius.”

Before writing my analysis of Mr. Guimarães critique of DJ, I would like to ask him to state whether he accepts the doctrine of Baptism of Desire, or whether he agrees with the teaching of Father Feeney that there is “no salvation outside the Church.” If the latter, much of his criticism of DJ would be quite understandable.

1. Letter 70 (220 in some editions) of St. Basil the Great to Pope Damasus (PG 32:434).
2. Council of Florence, Decree of Union with the Greek Church, Laetentur caeli, July 6, 1439 (Mansi 31:1027).
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