Friday, February 11, 2011

The Disciplinary Infallibility of the Church: The Novus ordo Missae Cannot be Strictly Heretical

"The prayers prescribed or approved for universal use in public worship cannot be opposed to any revealed truth.  Hence the axiom, Lex orandi est lex credendi,--the rule of prayer is the rule of faith."

The following is taken from Sylvester Berry, D.D., The Church of Christ (1927), Ch. XVI: "The Extent of Infallibility," pp. 503-9 (available from the ITOPL collection).  



Alexander said...

It would therefore be right to say that the Church cannot approve of a discipline that is positively harmful (contradicting the faith) but could approve of something that is inferior or ambiguous.

Ambiguity, I think, would not fall under a positive harm because it needs to be explicitly denying a revealed truth but it would be nonetheless harmful in some way.

davidforster said...

This seems to cover the Latin Editio Typica of the Novus Ordo, which is indeed approved for universal use.

I would question whether it applies to the vernacular translations of the Novus Ordo, which are indeed approved by Rome, but for local use. So the ICEL mass might contain heretical translations, say, or indeed (which heaven forbid) be invalid.

Serious question has been raised over the years about how the reformed ordination rites, in particular that for the consecration of a bishop, can be valid - on the grounds that the form of the sacrament does not signify the effect of the sacrament. The principle explained by Dr Berry would imply that, much as we might wonder, we cannot accept its invalidity, while accepting the validity of the authority approving it. Might the vernacular translations be defective? The thought is awful, but if a marriage annulment can be accepted as invalid, there's no reason an ordination cannot be.

Back to the principle itself. I wish there was support for this reasonable principle from a higher authority than Dr Berry. Although it's reasonable, the time he wrote could lead to suggestions of Hypermontanism (Ultra-Ultramontanism, seeking to extend papal authority and indefectibility beyond legitimate limits). Is there anything from Bellarmine, or the scholastic commentators, to this effect?

Don Paco said...

Yes, and I would add that there may even be other elements that are not merely 'ambiguous', but very clear, yet accidental, problems:

For example, there are liturgical elements which clearly and unambiguously represent a failure to profess the Catholic faith: such is the case with the Offertory Prayers. There is little ambiguous there. It is just utter impoverishment. A Jew can pray it and not know that it is a Catholic prayer (and this was done on purpose, for ecumenical reasons, among other motives).

Secondly there are other elements that in themselves are not harmful to the faith, but are guilty of more than just failing to profess the faith; they are liturgical acts or gestures (or lack thereof) that accommodate modern errors. For example, receiving Sacred Communion in the hand. This is something that historically took place universally in the Early Church, and thus is not inherently evil, but due to our historical context (we used to do it on the tongue out of reverence, and now there are people who wish to eliminate it out of hatred for the traditional Catholic faith), they connote or at least accommodate pernicious doctrines or attitudes (we need not to have reverence for the Sacred Host, we are equal in dignity to the ordained priest, this is not really anything sacred, etc.).

In any case, these problems are grave--one need only to look at the fruits of the liturgical reform. Yet, pace some of our friends from the SSPX and sedevacantists, these problems do not amount to heresy. Thus, they bypass the Church's disciplinary infallibility. The enemies of the Church have learned to attack her without needing to affront her infallibility--this is impossible to overcome.

Don Paco said...


That is a very good question, and I'm not sure how to answer it. It would all hinge on whether those translations are in fact "universal discipline," and it seems they are not. Yet one must also point out that several dubia have been submitted to the Holy See on whether it can be held that Masses said with these translations are ipso facto invalid, and the response has been a clear negative.

But I do wish to note something about your comment that you wish this came from a higher authority than Berry. This is not just Berry's doctrine. It is the unanimous doctrine of the (approved) theologians. I am not aware of any approved theologian that denies it. I can later post more pages from different authors of ecclesiology textbooks (in particular, the Latin manuals, rather than just English works, which aim at a more popular readership) to show that it is in fact a well-established principle that enjoys the consensus of the theologians. And I should note that, in theology, the consensus of the theologians on matters of faith and morals is infallible.

There is a discussion going on in the Quaestiones Disputatae forum regarding this issue. I invite you to join us and continue the conversation there!!forum/quaestionesdisputatae

M.T. Chair said...

Thank you for posting this. It proves that the Novus Ordo Church cannot be the Catholic Church. One poster commented: "...these problems do not amount to heresy. Thus, they bypass the Church's disciplinary infallibility." But the Church's infallibility does not mean that she is incapable only of imposing *heretical* laws or liturgies, but that she is incapable of legislating *any errors* whatsoever--not just not heresy. Fr. Berry refers to "errors of doctrine," not only "heresy."

John Daly's talk "The Impossible Crisis", available in both audio and written format on the internet, presents a formidable challenge to whoever believes the Novus Ordo Church to be the Catholic Church.

Don Paco said...

Dear M.T. Chair,

Your reasoning does not seem follow. You seem to be saying this:

Major: Disciplinary infallibility (according to Berry) means that the Mass is free from all error.

Minor: Don Paco claims that the Novus ordo Missae is free from heresy.

Conclusion: The Novus ordo Missae is not free from all error.

Sorry, but this seems to be a complete non sequitur. Maybe I didn't understand you correctly. Would you please explain yourself?

Also, would you care to point out for us a single doctrinal error in the Novus ordo Missae. (And I do not mean 'ambiguities', 'ommissions', or 'dangerous' texts or rubrics--we all know those are there--but plain errors. The best sedevacantist theologians, such as Cekada, have not done so convincingly in their massive volumes on the New Mass; it would be interesting to see if you could.

M.T. Chair said...

Dear Don Paco:

Please forgive me if I misunderstood your point, but the way I understood it was that you were saying that the infallibility of the Church prevents ONLY heresy from being legislated. Thus, the minor premise in your previous post should be corrected to read: "Don Paco claims that the Novus ordo Missae is free from heresy ONLY." And then my conclusion would follow.

Two errors in the New Mass in terms of gestures/acts (as opposed to text) would be, at least to my mind, the failure to require Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist to undergo ablutions after distributing Holy Communion, which is a sacrilege (this omission IS part of the official rubrics, no?) as well as having moved the genuflection after the consecration from immediately after the consecration to after the elevation (implies Lutheranism).

We have seen since 1969 that the New Mass most definitely causes a loss of Faith and piety in the faithful -- the very thing which the Church's infallibility in her disciplinary laws is meant to prevent. It will not do, therefore, to reduce the Church's disciplinary infallibility to what amounts to not much more than an academic exercise, because the purpose of this infallibility is certainly practical.

Scamandrius said...

I wish Don Paco would respond to M.T. Chair. (Obiter - I think Fr. Berry is a good priest.)

Tony said...

Dr. Romero,

This passage from Fr. Berry does not spell out the conditions for the pope to be infallible in disciplinary decisions. It more or less states that universal displinary laws fall under the secondary object of infallibility without going into detail on the conditions necessary for infallibility to be engaged, so to speak. Vatican I outlined the conditions necessary for the pope to be infallible, but this was only for Faith and Morals. There is no Church definition that covers infallibility in disciplinary matters. Therefore, I can be of the opinion that a pope can make disciplinary laws that are not infallible.

Don Paco said...

Anthony, your conclusion does not follow from your premises. The fact that the magisterium has not defined a given doctrine does not mean that doctrine is not certain or that it is open to debate. What is affirmed by the universal consensus of approved theologians is also certain in theology, and is not debatable. One clear example is "Baptism of Blood."

Don Paco said...

PS, I have not yet researched the conditions for disciplinary infallibility, but seeing that the traditional (approved) theologians affirm it, I affirm it as well, since they know better than I.

Tony said...

Dr. Romero,

I don't think that the conditions for disciplinary infallibility are themselves necessarily required as premises in demonstrating that the pope is infallible in disciplinary decrees. Look at how Fr. Berry himself explains it. Nowhere does he go into details into these conditions.

Don Paco said...

Ok, Tony, I agree, but I'm not sure what you are intending to argue by saying that.

Tony said...

I am arguing that it is possible that there is a condition (or conditions) missing in some of the more controversial legislative acts post-Vatican II (e.g., Missale Romanum) that make them fallible.

I was reading a recent issue of The Angelus in which a reprint of a SI SI NO NO article spoke about the post-VII canonizations and how it is possible that they may indeed not be infallible.

The Church has yet to define these conditions for disciplinary acts as it did at Vatican I in regards to Faith and Morals.

Don Paco said...

Anthony, ok, good point. So you are not debating the main issue, which is whether such disciplinary infallibility exists, but only whether such and such disciplinary acts (e.g., NO Mass) are infallible.

Regarding your issue, I have a text in another post (in French, sorry) that has Paul VI admitting that the texts of the New Mass are "susceptible to theological qualifications of varying value," which is a strong indication that he did not intend to exercise disciplinary infallibility when promulgating the New Mass. The quote is at the end of the post, although the whole text is very enlightening.

Yet, disciplinarily infallible or not, I still disagree with Cekada that there are heresies in the texts of the NO Mass. There are ill sounding texts, but the texts that he cites are not heretical. And I haven't found any heresies myself, although I have found plenty of disturbing texts. Still, as you know, heresy isn't the only thing that can be wrong with a Mass, and the NO Mass is replete with those other problems--in fact, the absence of heresy makes it more deceiving.

Tony said...

Dr. Romero,

I agree that one would be stricken to find a strictly heretical verse in the Novus Ordo Missae. Your analysis is a sound one. However, what do you think of my analysis above where I defined evil and its relation to the New Rite of Mass?

Don Paco said...

Your analysis regarding the evils of the Mass as privations is thought-provoking... I like it, but I have to think about it.

MaestroJMC said...

Would that analysis strictly entail that the Novus Ordo is evil as a whole, or that it merely contains evils?