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Cardinal Napier arrives for morning session of extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at Vatican

Cardinal Napier shows the right way to do this sort of thing

In his usual trenchant style, our friend quiavideruntoculi has offered some reflections on some aspects of magisterial authority and why now, is appears to him, that some bishops preach heresy. Let us examine these.

He sets out three phenomena which in his view have prevented Bishops teaching heresy. These, we should note, are randomly assigned, with no evidence to support them. Be that as it may, let us take them together. The first, the fact that Bishops are required to have studied some theology, is true, so we must assume that it is not this, but the other two criteria which have been undermined. The second is little less than a slander on our Bishops. We are airily informed from a position of something like omniscience that ‘some (few) bishops believe in God’. It seems to me that whatever credibility might attach to this line of thought falls away here. Any Catholic who begins from the assumption that his fathers in Christ believe in Christ less than he does, begins in rebellion; by all mean make a striking point to attract attention – if one must – but do not do so by insulting the faith of men who have devoted their whole lives to a Church of which you have been been a member for a few years; this is unworthy. And certainly do not go on to attribute venial motives to them in order to explain away your own postulate – which is that our bishops teach heresy and did not, in your own opinion, do so previously, but only for selfish reasons.

We then get to more assumptions which ignore the way the Church works. It is supposed that we, able to identify heresy when those set by God above us to do such things do not perceive it, should correct them. What, one might ask, are the canonical provisions for this? Do we email the Pope and tell him that as far as we are concerned he’s a miserable heretic? There is, in QV’s post a great deal about what we, as individuals ought to do, how we will decided what is heresy, how we will decide how to react to it, and how it is up to us as individuals to do what the Church wants. There is no mention here of Canon Law or the due processes of the Catholic Church, simply a Protestant style of reasoning whereby we, as individual sinners, have the right to judge our fathers in Christ.

What then, we might ask, when we have so judged and found the Church wanting, should we do when the Church disagrees, and when those qualified to pronounce on the Pope do not agree that he is an heretic? To that, there appears no answer offered. But I suppose if one can agree to believe all that the Church confesses, and find almost every bishop venial and the Pope an heretic, there is no real need to provide an answer – the sensus fidelium will surely rise up to recognise one’s own superior wisdom – after which someone else will rise up to denounce one, and so on and so forth. We know where this line of thought leads – from the time of Diotrophes, throught Arius and Luther and beyond, it leads to schism and disunity.

Quite what it is leads some to think, not least after the last Synod, that the Cardinals are simply going to roll over and disregard centuries of settle teaching, I don’t know, is their faith so weak? Loud as such critics are when it comes to liberals disregarding Church teaching, they seem prepared to do so themselves – even before there is a need to do so. Have faith, pray, and pray some more. An end to clamouring that one’s one definitions of the fulness of the faith are infallible, where those of the Holy Father are manifest heresies. If this is what passes for Catholic obedience, we are indeed in a parlous place.

Of course there is a huge irony here. In the sort of Church favoured by QV, his attitude would be denounced and he would find himself under censure, indeed, in his favourite of all eras, he might even have been burned at the stake. Fortunately, whether he sees it that way of not, this is not how the Church now behaves

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