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INTRODUCTION to Reply to Roberto de Mattei:

OnePeterFive, founded by Mr. Steve Skojec and currently edited by Mr. Timothy Flanders, is a conservative Catholic web site with traditional Catholic sentiments and intellectual sympathies, however it remains in its fundamental first principles a conservative publishing forum. Its hope is to unite various conservative and traditional Catholic groups against the current Vatican corruption of Catholic faith, morals and worship under Pope Francis the Philistine. The problem is that Mr. Flanders does not know the essential difference between a conservative and a traditional Catholic. That being said, it explains why the web site does not permit reader comments on its published articles. Conservative Catholics cannot weather the criticism from Traditional Catholics.

OnePeterFive has over the last three months (June through August 2022) published a series of articles by conservative Catholics defending the political theory of Catholic Ultramontanism which in its current ideological expression is grounded upon the false belief that the pope is the proximate rule of faith for all Catholics. This is a grave error. The proximate rule of faith for all Catholics is DOGMA. All Catholics are subject to God's revealed TRUTH and God's revealed TRUTH is the only weapon possessed by faithful Catholics against an abuse of authority. 

The three articles in question are:

 

Defending Ultramontanism by Mr. José Antonio Ureta, June 20, 2022

 

Ultramontanists: Godfathers of the Trad Movement by Professor Roberto de Mattei, July 28, 2022

 

Against Traditionalist Neo-Gallicanism by Mr. Luiz Sérgio Solimeo, August 25, 2022

 

The most important of these three articles is by Roberto de Mattei who is a well known conservative Catholic historian. He may or may not be a member of Tradition Family and Property (TFP) but he is a great admirer and long time supporter of Dr. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, the founder of the TFP.  The other two articles are written by members of the TFP. The general theme of the articles is the same. The three authors may not be necessarily working in concert but the suspicion that they are is justifiable. The purpose of these three article defending Untramontanism is ultimately to attack Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò who began as a conservative but has developed into a true defender of the Catholic faith and tradition. Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò has concluded that Vatican II council must be completely discarded and its Novus Ordo worship condemned. These are of course fighting words against the heresy of Neo-modernism that cause conservative Catholics to recoil in fear. These articles are an attempt to undermine Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò's influence among conservative Catholics. Willingly or not, Mr. Flanders has become an abettor of this grave error and which he will not retract or correct. Suffice to say, no saint in the history of the Catholic Church has ever come from the ranks of conservative Catholicism!

The article below is a reply to Dr. de Mattei because, 1) he is the only influential member of the group and 2) his article directly professes in unequivocal language the grave error that pope stands above DOGMA.

 

 

Dogma is the Proximate Rule of Faith:

A Reply to Roberto de Mattei

Roberto de Mattei’s article, “Ultramontanists: Godfathers of the Trad Movement,” is an attempt to claim the mantle of Catholic tradition (“Trad Movement”) for “ultramontanists” against false traditional “neo-Gallicanians” who come in two varieties: the German “synodalists” and the “neo-traditionalists, especially from the Anglo-Saxon area.” This argument is developed from two quotations defended by Dr. de Mattei. The first is an undocumented attribution to Pope Pius IX and the second is taken from Joseph de Maistre.

“I am Tradition.”

Blessed Pius IX, unknown attribution

 

“If it were permitted to establish degrees of importance among things of divine institution, I would place hierarchy before dogma, so indispensable is it to the maintenance of the faith.”

Joseph de Maistre, “Lettre à une dame russe sur la nature et les effets du schisme”

 

I will credit to Dr. de Mattei for identifying the essential problem but not for its clear exposition or the right conclusion. He does provide needed qualifications to these quotations but accepts them essentially true as written. Both quotations are serious errors and there can be no defense of the Catholic faith unless corrected.

The essential problem for Catholics since Vatican II has been professing and defending the true faith. So, what is faith and what constitutes the rules of faith to guide us? Faith is the principle cause and sign of unity in the Church, for “without faith it is impossible to please God.” De Mattei correctly says, “Sacred Scripture and Tradition constitute the remote norms of our faith,” but he then follows de Maistre's error and says, “the next regula fidei (the proximate rule) is represented by the teaching and judging authority of the Church, which has its apex with the Pope. Hierarchy comes in this sense before dogma.” This is affirming that the pope is the proximate rule of faith for the pope alone stands in potentia to the Church's Magisterium and the attribute of infallibility. The first problem is that this is not true. Dogma is the proximate rule of faith. It also obscures the fact that the pope, the papacy and the Magisterium are all part of divine revelation and therefore the proper subject matters of dogma. This error is a common error but an error nonetheless. It is an error held by nearly all conservative Catholics, Sedevacantists or Sedeprivationists, and is unfortunately common error among traditional Catholics especially among clerics formed in the SSPX. This error leads to many subsequent errors and leaves the faithful Catholic defenseless because divine truth is the only weapon against an abuse of authority. 

The faith is believing what God has revealed on the authority of God the revealer. 

If anyone says that divine faith is not to be distinguished from natural knowledge about God and moral matters, and consequently that for divine faith it is not required that revealed truth should be believed because of the authority of God who reveals it: let him be anathema
Vatican I

 

“This faith, which is the beginning of human salvation, the Catholic Church professes to be a supernatural virtue, by means of which, with the grace of God inspiring and assisting us, we believe to be true what He has revealed, not because we perceive its intrinsic truth by the natural light of reason, but because of the authority of God himself, who makes the revelation and can neither deceive nor be deceived.”
Vatican I

God is both the formal cause of faith as to what a Catholic believes and the why he believes it. The remote rule of faith is divine revelation found in both Scripture and Tradition, the formal object of divine faith. It should not surprise anyone to learn that the proximate rule of faith is also divine revelation, that is, dogma, which is divine revelation infallibly defined typically in the form of a categorical proposition which constitutes the formal object of divine and Catholic faith.

“Wherefore, by divine and catholic faith all those things are to be believed which are contained in the word of God as found in scripture and tradition (remote rule of faith), and which are proposed by the church as matters to be believed as divinely revealed, whether by her solemn judgment or in her ordinary and universal magisterium” (proximate rule of faith).
Vatican I

We know that Dogma is the proximate rule of faith from reason, and from theological expositions on the nature of dogma, and from the Magisterial authority of the Church. From reason we can conclude Dogma is the proximate rule of faith from the canonical definition of heresy which is taken almost verbatim from St. Thomas:

St. Thomas (II-II: 11:1) defines heresy: “a species of infidelity in men who, having professed the faith of Christ, corrupt its dogmas”. The right Christian faith consists in giving one's voluntary assent to Christ in all that truly belongs to His teaching. There are, therefore, two ways of deviating from Christianity: the one by refusing to believe in Christ Himself, which is the way of infidelity, common to Pagans and Jews; the other by restricting belief to certain points of Christ's doctrine selected and fashioned at pleasure, which is the way of heretics. The subject-matter of both faith and heresy is, therefore, the deposit of the faith, that is, the sum total of truths revealed in Scripture and Tradition as proposed to our belief by the Church.
Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907


Heresy is “the corruption of dogmas” while “the right Christian faith consists in giving one's voluntary assent to Christ in all that truly belongs to His (Christ's) teaching.” These “teachings” are found in “the sum total of truths revealed in Scripture and Tradition as proposed to our belief by the Church.” What the Church, by her “teaching authority” (i.e.: Magisterium) “proposes to our belief” is called Dogma. Those who keep Dogmas and do not corrupt them are called the faithful, those who do corrupt them are called heretics. 
 
This difference represents a clear division in the “Tree of Porphyry.” It is the division that establishes a species from a genus. As the article points out, “The subject-matter of both faith and heresy is, therefore, the deposit of the faith,” that is, “the sum total of truths revealed in Scripture and Tradition as proposed to our belief by the Church.” The species difference is that the heretic breaks the rule of faith while the faithful keep it. This establishes that Dogma is the rule of faith not by argument but by fact of an essential definition which is the best of all definitions because it is the most intelligible. The Magisterium is necessary but insufficient means by which we know Dogma, but it is the Dogma itself which is known. It is the what that we know and therefore the rule of faith. If you exchange the terms “Magisterium,” or “hierarchy” or “pope” for Dogma, even though the they have the same object, there cannot be a clear distinctive division because there exists no species in the genus of Church's Magisterium, hierarchy or pope. As Fr. Chad Ripperger,FSSP correctly said in his book, The Binding Force of Tradition, “it is not the Magisterium as such that is the rule of faith, but the definitions of the Magisterium that are the rule.”


Every heretic who is reconciled to the Church must make an abjuration of heresy and a profession of faith.  The profession of faith is the Creed which is essentially a litany of dogmas. Ecumenical councils historically begin with the common recitation of the Credo and an affirmation of the dogmatic declarations of previous councils. What these ecumenical councils are doing is affirming the Catholic faith by renewing its dogmatic canons, the proximate rule of their faith. Directly cited at Vatican I Council was the Fourth Council of Constantinople:

“So, the fathers of the fourth council of Constantinople, following the footsteps of their predecessors, published this solemn profession of faith: The first condition of salvation is to maintain the rule of the true faith. And since that saying of our lord Jesus Christ, You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, cannot fail of its effect, the words spoken are confirmed by their consequences.”
Vatican I

 

The Council Fathers at the fourth council of Constantinople, after affirming all the dogmatic canons of the each of the first seven ecumenical councils individually said:
 

If we wish to proceed without offence along the true and royal road of divine justice, we must keep the declarations and teachings of the holy fathers as if they were so many lamps which are always alight and illuminating our steps which are directed towards God. Therefore, considering and esteeming these as a second word of God, in accordance with the great and most wise Denis, let us sing most willingly along with the divinely inspired David, The commandment of the Lord is bright, enlightening the eyes, and, Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my paths; and with the author of Proverbs we say, Your commandment is a lamp and your law a light, and like Isaiah we cry to the lord God with loud voice, because your commands are a light for the earth. For the exhortations and warnings of the divine canons are rightly likened to light inasmuch as the better is distinguished from the worse and what is advantageous and useful is distinguished from what is not helpful but harmful.
Therefore we declare that we are preserving and maintaining the canons which have been entrusted to the holy, catholic and apostolic church by the holy and renowned apostles, and by universal as well as local councils of orthodox [bishops], and even by any inspired father or teacher of the church. Consequently, we rule our own life and conduct by these canons and we decree that all those who have the rank of priests and all those who are described by the name of Christian are, by ecclesiastical law, included under the penalties and condemnations as well as, on the other hand, the absolutions and acquittals which have been imposed and defined by them.”
Fourth Council of Constantinople.


Here we have the Church in council declaring that dogmatic canons are referred to as “lamps which are always alight and illuminating our steps which are directed towards God.”  They are to be “esteemed” as “a second word of God.” They are “canons which have been entrusted to the Church by the “apostles and the councils.” Consequently, they are the “rule (of) our own life and conduct by these canons.”

The Council of Florence said, “we offer to the envoys (of the Armenians) that compendious rule of the faith composed by most blessed Athanasius, which is as follows:


Whoever wills to be saved, before all things it is necessary that he holds the catholic faith. Unless a person keeps this faith whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish eternally. The catholic faith is this, ......  Those who have done good shall go into eternal life, but those who have done evil shall go into eternal fire.
This is the catholic faith. Unless a person believes it faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.
Athanasian Creed

Pope St. Pius X authoritatively taught:

“The purpose of this is, then, not that dogma may be tailored according to what seems better and more suited to the culture of each age; rather, that the absolute and immutable truth preached by the apostles from the beginning may never be believed to be different, may never be understood in any other way.”
Pope St. Pius X, Oath Against Modernism

 

“The dogmas the Church holds out as revealed are not truths which have fallen from heaven. They are an interpretation of religious facts which the human mind has acquired by laborious effort.” CONDEMNED

Pope St. Pius X, Lamentabili, 22

 

Dogma as the proximate rule of faith is affirmed by many theologians.  For example, Fr. Norbert Jones teaches clearly what dogma is:

Modernism is condemned because it virtually destroys Christian dogma by denying that the dogmas of faith are contained in the revelation made by the Holy Spirit to the Catholic Church and subsequently defined through the supreme authority of the same Ecclesia docens{1}. Once the Holy Spirit, speaking through the supreme magisterium{2} of the Church, defines a doctrine as de fide{3} the dogma in question remains, both in se{4} and in its external formula or terminology, unchanged and unchangeable, like God, Whose voice it communicates to us, in the shape of definite truth. Modernism tells us quite the reverse.

1.      Ecclesia docens -- i.e., 'the teaching Church.'

2.     Magisterium = 'teaching authority.'

3.     De fide = 'what is of faith.'

4.     In se = 'in itself.'

Rev. Father Norbert Jones, C.R.L., Old Truths, Not Modernist Errors, Exposure of Modernism and Vindication of its Condemnation by the Pope, 1908, (footnotes in original)

 

The Magisterium is the teacher, Dogma is what is taught. Dogma is then called the “formal object of divine and Catholic faith” and as the rule of what we are to believe. As Fr. Jones says, when the “supreme magisterium of the Church, defines a doctrine as de fide the dogma in question remains, both in se and in its external formula or terminology, unchanged and unchangeable, like God, Whose voice it communicates to us, in the shape of definite truth.”
 
Dogma communicates to us the 'voice of God.' The claim that we must turn to the “living magisterium” to interpret Dogma is ridiculous because Dogma is the interpretation of the revealed doctrine by the divine Magisterium. To ask the “living magisterium” to explain Dogma is analogous to the Pharisees demanding from Jesus a “sign” after He just performed a miracle. The miracle itself is the sign and if that sign was unacceptable no other would be given. Dogma is the whatness of our faith. The proper understanding of dogma requires proper definition and grammar, not theological competency.

The causes of this error are not simply an error of ultramontanists but follows from common misunderstandings regarding the nature of the Church, the Magisterium, the pope and his office, from muddled or equivocal definitions none of which are viewed from the perspective of God and God's revealed truth, that is, the perspective of dogma.

Authority, Infallibility and Indefectibility are divine attributes. The Church is founded by God; Jesus called it “His Church.” The Church is a divine institution and therefore possesses these divine attributes. The attributes are powers that permit the Church to accomplish its purpose. St. Pius X says in Pascendi:

“Every society needs a directing authority to guide its members toward the common end, to foster prudently the elements of cohesion, which in a religious society are doctrine and worship; hence, the triple authority in the Catholic Church, disciplinary, dogmatic and liturgical” (emphasis his).  

This “triple authority” corresponds respectively to the three-fold divine attributes God has endowed His Church: authority, infallibility, and indefectibility. The purpose of the “directing authority” (i.e., disciplinary) requires the attribute of Authority to direct the Church “toward the common end” which are “doctrine” (dogmatic) requiring the attribute of Infallibility, and “worship” and the sanctification of the faithful (liturgical) requiring the attribute of Indefectibility. The exercise of “authority” outside of these ends, or in opposition to these ends, cannot be done with any legitimacy because it cannot be an act of reason. No Catholic can morally give obedience to any law, command, directive, or any exercise of authority that harms the faith or leads to the loss of salvation of souls. 

Suffice to say, Infallibility is primarily and essentially an attribute of the Church. It is an attribute of the pope only accidentally and secondarily in the function of his office under specifically defined conditions for specifically defined ends. We know those conditions and ends from the dogma defined at Vatican Council I. We also know from dogma defined at Vatican I that the Magisterium is the teaching office of the Church that teaches truth without the possibility of error. Only the pope stands in potentia to the Magisterium and whenever the Magisterium is engaged in actus, it is one and the same Magisterium for every pope from St. Peter to the present day. When the pope teaches by virtue of his grace of state, that is, by his personal magisterium, he is worthy to be heard with respect by virtue of his exalted office but if he should say or do anything that is directly or indirectly against dogma he must be “withstood to the face.” He cannot be followed for we must “obey God rather than man.”

The pope is not the proximate rule of faith. He is the essential but insufficient material and instrumental cause of dogma because he alone stands in potentia to the Magisterial powers of the Church. It is the dogma that is divine revelation that constitutes the proximate rule. To claim that the pope is the proximate rule reduces dogma to a human approximation of divine truth that must be perpetually revised in light of development by a “living magisterium” which progressively distills the revealed truth from human accretions while never reaching its term, or an even worse error, making the divine attributes of the Church the personal attributes of the pope which is a form of idolatry.  

How should the term “living magisterium” be understood?

Wherefore, as appears from what has been said, Christ instituted in the Church a living, authoritative and permanent Magisterium, which by His own power He strengthened, by the Spirit of truth He taught, and by miracles confirmed. He willed and ordered, under the gravest penalties, that its teachings should be received as if they were His own. As often, therefore, as it is declared on the authority of this teaching that this or that is contained in the deposit of divine revelation, it must be believed by every one as true. If it could in any way be false, an evident contradiction follows; for then God Himself would be the author of error in man. “Lord, if we be in error, we are being deceived by Thee” (Richardus de S. Victore, De Trin., lib. i., cap. 2) ……….
For this reason the Fathers of the Vatican I Council laid down nothing new, but followed divine revelation and the acknowledged and invariable teaching of the Church as to the very nature of faith, when they decreed as follows: “All those things are to be believed by divine and Catholic faith which are contained in the written or unwritten word of God (remote rule of faith), and which are proposed by the Church as divinely revealed, either by a solemn definition or in the exercise of its ordinary and universal Magisterium (proximate rule of faith)” (Sess. iii., cap. 3). Hence, as it is clear that God absolutely willed that there should be unity in His Church, and as it is evident what kind of unity He willed, and by means of what principle He ordained that this unity should be maintained, we may address the following words of St. Augustine to all who have not deliberately closed their minds to the truth: “When we see the great help of God, such manifest progress and such abundant fruit, shall we hesitate to take refuge in the bosom of that Church, which, as is evident to all, possesses the supreme authority of the Apostolic See through the Episcopal succession? In vain do heretics rage round it; they are condemned partly by the judgment of the people themselves, partly by the weight of councils, partly by the splendid evidence of miracles. To refuse to the Church the primacy is most impious and above measure arrogant.” (De Unitate Credendi, cap. xvii., n. 35).
Pope Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum

 

The Magisterium is a truth of divine revelation and is described by Pope Leo XIII as “living” and “permanent” and “must be believed by everyone as true” because, if not true then “God Himself would be the author of error in man.” It is God “the author” who is “living” and “permanent” and therefore His Magisterium communicates to the faithful the “living” and “permanent” (Fr. Norbert Jones said), 'voice of God' for the purpose of “unity in His Church” which is primarily a unity of faith and for this end, God has established His Magisterium for the “unity to be maintained.” 

It did not take long for the partisans of error to move from a “living” God to a “living” changeable revelation. “Tradition and the living Magisterium” in the 1908 Catholic Encyclopedia was written by Rev. Jean Bainville who said:

“Hence it will be understood that the living magisterium searches in the past, now for authorities in favour of its present thought in order to defend it against attacks or dangers of mutilation, now for light to walk the right road without straying. The thought of the Church is essentially a traditional thought and the living magisterium by taking cognizance of ancient formulas of this thought thereby recruits its strength and prepares to give to immutable truth a new expression which shall be in harmony with the circumstances of the day and within reach of contemporary minds. [.....] There is, therefore in the Church progress of dogma, progress of theology, progress to a certain extent of faith itself, but this progress does not consist in the addition of fresh information nor the change of ideas. What is believed has always been believed, but in time it is more commonly and thoroughly understood and explicitly expressed.”

The Catholic Encyclopedia, “Tradition and the Living Magisterium,” entry written by Fr. Jean Bainvel

 

This is the error of Neo-modernism that postulates a radical division between the form of dogma which is the divine truth and the matter of dogma which is the human words used to express that truth. They hold that the dogma must perpetually undergo purification from its human accretions to reach a more perfect expression of truth.

 

“In theology some (i.e., Neo-Modernists) want to reduce to a minimum the meaning of dogmas; and to free dogma itself from terminology long established in the Church and from philosophical concepts held by Catholic teachers, to bring about a return in the explanation of Catholic doctrine to the way of speaking used in Holy Scripture and by the Fathers of the Church. They cherish the hope that when dogma is stripped of the elements which they hold to be extrinsic to divine revelation, it will compare advantageously with the dogmatic opinions of those who are separated from the unity of the Church and that in this way they will gradually arrive at a mutual assimilation of Catholic dogma with the tenets of the dissidents.”

Pope Pius XII, Humani Generis

 

A little over 50 years after Bainville's encyclopedic entry, Pope John XXIII said the same thing in his opening address at Vatican II Council. The entire purpose of the Council was to “give immutable truth a new expression which shall be in harmony with the circumstances of the day and within reach of contemporary minds.”

It is therefore not surprising to find that Fr. Bainville also is the author of the book, “Is there salvation outside the Catholic Church” in which he said:

We see that a soul may belong to the Church in desire, without suspecting at all that there is such a thing as a Church… Is it not this desire that we spontaneously recognise in the case of our separated brethren, for example, in the case of Anglicans and the orthodox Russians, when we see them adhering to Christ by faith and by works of faith, yet all the while in invincible ignorance of the exclusive rights of the Roman Church? They are faithful sheep, yet they wander, unconsciously it is true, in the midst of a strange flock; but we regard them as members of the true flock of Christ because at heart, despite their errors, they are in the sheepfold of Christ. The same is the case, other things being equal, with those who live outside all visible relation with Christ of any of the Christian sects.”

Fr. Jean Bainville, Is There Salvation Outside the Catholic Church? (Chap. 6, pp. 57-58)

 

Every dogma on what is necessary for salvation was reformulated into a meaningless formula in the name of a “living magisterium.” We arrive at salvation by implicit desire and no longer are divine faith, the sacraments, or submission to the Roman pontiff necessary as necessities of means for salvation.

If Pope Pius IX ever said, as de Mattei affirms, “I am tradition,” he should have repented of it. The sources of revelation are Scripture and Tradition which constitute the remote rule of faith. The pope cannot affirm an identity with divine revelation or its source for the pope, the papacy and the Magisterium are all without exception part of divine revelation. The source of divine revelation is God and God alone.

The end of the divine Magisterium is Dogma. Dogma is divine revelation defined by the Magisterium which constitutes the formal object of divine and Catholic faith. Dogma is the proximate rule of faith. It is an error to hold the pope and the Church hierarchy as the proximate rule of faith. They are the means. Dogma is the end. The means cannot be greater than the end. The pope is the necessary material and instrumental cause of dogma but God, and God alone, is the formal and final cause of dogma.

Once the nature of dogma is understood and its authority as the proximate rule of faith understood, the errors of conservative Catholicism, sedevacantism, and “German synodalism” become manifest. Dealing with a heretical pope is no more a problem than Jesus Christ dealing with the heretic Caiaphas. The nature of immemorial ecclesiastical traditions, which are the objects of dogmatic canons and included in the Tridentine profession of faith, can no longer be regarded as merely disciplinary matters open to the free and independent will of the legislator. It becomes easy to see how and why our immemorial traditions are necessary attributes of the faith by which alone it can be known and communicated to others. The Philistines of Vatican II are then seen for heretical Neo-Iconoclasts destroying the images of our faith. Vatican II is clearly seen as a work of the ordinary magisterium of churchmen based upon their grace of state for the infallible Magisterium that God empowered His Church was formally repudiated from the beginning of this Council to its end. Obedience is then properly governed as a subsidiary virtue under the virtue of Justice and directly regulated by the virtue of Religion. The claims of mere ecclesiastical faith are dismissed. Regarding the schismatic Orthodox as sola traditio becomes a muddled and unnecessary construct. Indefectibility which primarily is the power of the Church to offer acceptable worship to God and sanctify the faithful is seen in its proper light and known to have been never absent from the Church adhered to by Catholics faithful to tradition. Sedevacantism becomes a hopeless concept because it leads to a church that not only has no pope, no papacy, no Magisterium but no material or instrumental causes to correct these permanent deficiencies.  

We live in difficult times but our duty is clearly set before us. We must keep the faith. The Catholics at Nicaea who professed their divine faith in the divine Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary against the heretic Nestorius did not have the benefit of dogma. They became instrumental evidence of immemorial tradition which ultimately led to the Magisterial dogmatic definition of this revealed truth. We now have the benefit of their sacrifices. Future Catholics will have the benefit of our sacrifices to defend Catholic truth when divine revelation is dogmatized professing the faith with clarity and condemning modern errors. We should direct our prayers to this end for as Dom Guéranger said:

“The definition of a revealed dogma is one of the greatest benefits God can accord His Church. All of the truths which Jesus Christ taught are life and light, and their explicit declaration in the course of centuries each time brings to Christianity a new degree of strength and splendor. The sentiment of faith must therefore cause the faithful to desire development of the Creed, in order to enter more and more into possession of the truth which the Son of God brought to earth. The happiness of Heaven will consist in seeing the whole truth; the increasing richness of the Symbolum of revealed dogmas joins us ever closer to it here below.” 

Dom Guéranger, The Pontifical Monarchy

 

But even now, we have sufficient dogmatic canons, if we understand them at the proximate rule of our faith, to serve as “lamps which are always alight and illuminating our steps which are directed towards God.”

 

David Drew

Ss. Peter & Paul Roman Catholic Mission

York, PA

 

 


 

Ultramontanists: Godfathers of the Trad Movement: Roberto de Mattei 7-28-22

The crisis the Church is experiencing today is certainly unprecedented in its characteristics, but it is neither the first nor the last in history. Think, for example, of the attack suffered by the Papacy in the years of the French Revolution.

In 1799 the city of Rome was invaded by General Bonaparte’s Jacobin army. Pope Pius VI was taken prisoner to the city of Valence, where he died on August 29, after long-suffering hastened his death. The town hall of Valence notified the Directory of Pius VI’s death, adding that the last pope in history had been buried.

Ten years later, in 1809, Pius VI’s successor, Pius VII, old and infirm, was also arrested and, after two years of imprisonment in Savona, was taken to Fontainebleau, where he remained until the fall of Napoleon. Never had the Papacy appeared so weak before the world. But ten years later, in 1819, Napoleon had disappeared from the scene and Pius VII was back on the papal throne, recognized as the supreme moral authority by European rulers. In that year 1819, Du Pape, the masterpiece of Count Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821), was published in Lyon, a work that had hundreds of reprints and anticipated the dogma of papal infallibility, later defined by the First Vatican Council.

De Maistre: Ultramontane Counter-Revolutionary

Joseph de Maistre is a great defender of the Papacy, but it would be wrong for anyone to make him an apologist for the despotic pope or dictator. Today there are some traditionalists who blame ecclesiastical abuses of power on intransigent Catholics of the nineteenth century. These ultramontanes and counter-revolutionaries, we are told, attributed excessive power to the pope, enthusing beyond measure about the dogma of infallibility. This overreaction resulted in sympathy with those Gallican Catholics who denied infallibility and the universal Primacy of the Pope, and with those liberal or semi-liberal Catholics who, while not denying in principle the dogma of infallibility, considered its definition inappropriate. Among them was the Archbishop of Perugia Msgr. Gioacchino Pecci, later Pope under the name Leo XIII, who, once elected, was the first modern Pope to rule in a centralizing manner, imposing as almost infallible the political and pastoral choice of ralliement with the French Third Republic.

The dogma of infallibility proclaimed by Pius IX accurately defines the limits of this extraordinary charism, which no religion possesses, outside of the Catholic religion. The Pope in the Church cannot do whatever he wants, because the source of his power is not his will. The Pope’s task is to transmit and defend, through his Magisterium, the Tradition of the Church. Alongside the Pope’s extraordinary Magisterium, which has its source in ex cathedra definitions, there is an infallible teaching that flows from the conformity of the ordinary Magisterium of all the Popes to the Apostolic Tradition. Only by believing with the Church and its unbroken Tradition can the Pope confirm his brethren in the faith. The Church is not infallible because she exercises authority, but because she transmits a doctrine.

“I Am Tradition”

The words attributed to Blessed Pius IX, “I am Tradition,” sometimes arouse scandal. However, these words must be understood in their correct meaning. What the Pope means is not that his person is the source of Tradition, but that there is no Tradition outside of him, just as there is no Sola Scriptura independent of the Magisterium of the Church.

The Church is based on Tradition, but it cannot continue without the Pope, whose authority cannot be transferred to either an ecumenical council, a national episcopate or a permanent synod.

The Priority of Hierarchy Over Dogma

There is a statement by Joseph de Maistre in his “Lettre à une dame russe sur la nature et les effets du schisme,” which may be as astonishing as that of Pius IX, but which is also profoundly true: “If it were permitted to establish degrees of importance among things of divine institution, I would place hierarchy before dogma, so indispensable is it to the maintenance of the faith.”[1]

This sentence encapsulates the capital problem of the regula fidei in the Church. Father John Perrone (1794-1876), founder of the Roman theological school, develops this theme in the three volumes of his work Il protestantesimo e la regola di fede. The two sources of Revelation are Tradition and Sacred Scripture. The former is divinely assisted, the latter divinely inspired. “Scripture and Tradition fertilize each other, illustrate each other, strengthen each other and complete the ever one and identical deposit of divine revelation.”[2]

But in order to preserve this deposit of faith, which is always one and the same until the end of the ages, Christ entrusted it to an ever-living and speaking authority; the authority of the Church which consists of the universal body of bishops united with the visible head of the Church, the Roman Pontiff on whom Christ conferred fullness of power over the universal Church.

Sacred Scripture and Tradition constitute the remote norms of our faith, but the next regula fidei is represented by the teaching and judging authority of the Church, which has its apex with the Pope. Hierarchy comes in this sense before dogma. But even if we were to give dogma primacy over hierarchy, we should remember that, of all dogmas, the one that in a certain sense underpins all others is precisely the dogma of the infallible authority of the Church. The Church enjoys the charism of infallibility, although she exercises it in an extraordinary way only intermittently. But the Church is always infallible, and has been so not since 1870, but since our Lord transmitted to his Vicar on earth St. Peter the power to confirm his brethren in the faith.

The apostolic succession on which the Church’s authority is based is a fundamental element of its divine constitution. The Council of Trent, in defining the truth and rules of the Catholic faith, states that they are contained “in the written books and unwritten traditions which, gathered by the Apostles from the mouth of Christ himself or by the Apostles themselves, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, transmitted almost from hand to hand, have come down to us” (Denz-H, no. 1501).

“True is only the Tradition that rests on the Apostolic Tradition” reiterates contemporary Roman theologian Msgr. Brunero Gherardini (1925-2017).[3]

This means that the Roman Pontiff, successor of Peter, prince of the Apostles, is the guarantor par excellence of the Church’s Tradition. But it also means that under no circumstances can the object of faith exceed what is given to us by the testimonies of the Apostles.

Sola Scriptura and Sola Traditio

Protestants denied the authority of the church in the name of “Sola Scriptura.” This error leads from Luther to Socinianism, which is the religion of modern relativists. But the authority of the church can also be denied in the name of “Sola Traditio,” as the Orthodox do and as some traditionalists are in danger of doing. The separation of Tradition from the authority of the Church leads in this case to autocephaly, which is the condition of those without a visible and infallible authority to relate to.

What the Protestant proponents of Sola Scriptura and the Greek Orthodox proponents of Sola Traditio have in common is the rejection of the infallibility of the Pope and his universal Primacy; the rejection of the Roman Chair. This is why, according to Joseph de Maistre, there is no radical difference between the Eastern Schism and Western Protestantism.

It is a fundamental truth in all religious matters that every church that is not Catholic is Protestant. In vain attempts have been made to make a distinction between schismatic and heretical churches. I know well what is meant, but in the end all difference lies only in words, and every Christian who refuses the Holy Father’s communion is a Protestant or soon will be. What is a Protestant? He is a man who protests; and what does it matter whether he protests against one or more dogmas, against this or against that? He may be more or less Protestant, but he always protests… Once the bond of unity is broken, there is no longer a common tribunal, nor consequently an invariable rule of faith.  Everything is reduced to the particular judgment and civil supremacy that constitute the essence of Protestantism.[4]

In the Catholic Church, the authenticity of Tradition is guaranteed by the infallibility of the Magisterium. Without infallibility there would be no guarantee that what the Church teaches is true. The understanding of God’s word would be left to the critical inquiry of individuals and the gates of relativism would be opened wide, as happened with Luther and his followers. By denying the authority of the Pope, the Protestant Revolution condemned itself to constant variation in a whirling doctrinal becoming. But in the East, after the schism of 1054 the Orthodox Church, which in the name of sola Traditio accepts only the first seven councils of the Church, condemned itself to sterile immobility.

Those under the spell of Orthodoxy should be reminded of Joseph de Maistre’s words, “All these Churches separated from the Holy See at the beginning of the twelfth century can be compared to frozen corpses whose forms have been preserved from the cold.”[5]

An Augustinian theologian of the Assumption Father Martin Jugie (1878-1954), developed this theme in a book published in 1923 called Joseph de Maistre et l’Eglise greco-russe, which I recommend reading.

For many centuries, the East has been accustomed to regard revealed doctrine as a treasure to be guarded, not as a treasure to be exploited; as a set of immutable formulas, not as a living and infinitely rich truth, which the spirit of the believer always seeks to understand and assimilate better.[6]

The Church was not founded by Christ as an institution, already rigidly and irrevocably constituted, but as a living organism, which – like the body, the image of the Church – was to have a development. This development of the Church, its growth in history, takes place through contradiction and struggle, fighting especially against the great heresies that attacked it internally. De Maistre again:

When we consider the trials that the Roman Church has undergone through the attacks of heresy and the mixing of barbarous nations that took place in her bosom, we stand in admiration seeing that, in the midst of these terrible revolutions, all her titles are intact and go back to the Apostles. If the Church has changed some things in her external forms, it is a proof that She lives, for everything that lives in the universe changes, according to circumstances, in everything that does not have to do with essences. God, who reserved them for Himself, gave the forms to time to arrange them according to certain rules. The variation of which I speak is even the indispensable sign of life, because absolute immobility belongs only to death.[7]

The First Vatican Council, quoting Vincent of Lerins explains that the understanding of the truths of faith must grow and progress with the succession of age and centuries in intelligence, science and wisdom, but only “in the same dogma, meaning and sentence” (Commonitorium, ch. 23, 3). Progress of faith does not in fact mean alteration of faith. Condemnation of the alteration of faith, however, does not mean the rejection of all organic development of dogma, which is accomplished through the Magisterium of the Church, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and is guaranteed by the charism of infallibility. But if the Church is infallible there must be a subject who exercises this charism. This subject is the Pope and it cannot be anyone other than him. In the faith of the infallibility of the Pope lie the roots of the faith in the infallibility of the whole Church.[8]

The Constitution Pastor Aeternus of the First Vatican Council clearly states what the conditions of papal infallibility are.  The infallibility of the Pope in no way means that he enjoys, in matters of government and magisterium, unlimited and arbitrary power. While the dogma of infallibility defines a supreme privilege, it sets its precise boundaries, admitting the possibility of infidelity, error, and betrayal.

For the papolater, or “hyperpapalist,” the Pope is not the Vicar of Christ on earth, whose job it is to transmit intact and pure the doctrine he has received, but is a successor of Christ who perfects the doctrine of his predecessors, adapting it to the changing times. Gospel doctrine is in perpetual evolution because it coincides with the Magisterium of the reigning Pontiff. The perennial Magisterium is replaced by the “living” Magisterium, expressed by pastoral teaching, which is transformed every day and has its regula fidei in the subject of the authority and not in the object of the truth transmitted.

Traditionalism and the Papacy

One does not need theological science to understand that, in the unfortunate case of contrast – true or apparent – between the “living Magisterium” and Tradition, primacy can only be attributed to Tradition, for a simple reason: Tradition, which is the “living” Magisterium considered in its universality and continuity, is in itself infallible, while the so-called “living” Magisterium, understood as the current preaching of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, is so only under certain conditions.[9]

Indeed, in the Church, the ultimate “rule of faith” in times of defection of faith is not the contemporary living Magisterium and its non-defining acts, but in Tradition, which constitutes, with Sacred Scripture, one of the two sources of the Word of God.

What happens when those who govern the Church cease to guard and transmit Tradition, and, instead of confirming their brethren in the faith, create confusion in their minds and cause bitterness and resentment in their hearts?

When this happens it is time to increase love for the Church and the Pope. But the answer to hyperpapalism is not the neo-Gallicanism of certain traditionalists, nor the Sola Traditio of the Greek-Russian schismatics. The man of Tradition is not an anarcho-traditionalist, but a Catholic who repeats with Joseph de Maistre:

O holy Church of Rome, as long as the word is preserved for me, I will use it to celebrate you. I salute you, immortal mother of science and holiness! Hail, magna parens… In the midst of all imaginable upheavals, God has constantly watched over you, O Eternal City! All that could destroy you has rallied against you, and you have stood; and as you were once the center of error, you have now for eighteen centuries been the center of truth.[10]

Love for the Roman Pontiff, his prerogatives and rights, has characterized authentically Catholic spirits throughout twenty centuries of history, because, as Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira states, “after love for God this is the highest love taught to us by religion.”[11]

However, one should not confuse the Roman Primacy with the person of the reigning Pope, just as one should not confuse the so-called living Magisterium, with the perennial Magisterium, the private and non-infallible teaching of the Pope with the Tradition of the Church. The error, as Chilean scholar José Antonio Ureta has well pointed out lies not in ultramontanism, but in neo-Gallicanism, which today comes in two versions: that of the German synodalists and that of some neo-traditionalists, especially from the Anglo-Saxon area.

The only hope in the future lies not in the diminishment of the Papacy, but in the exercise of its supreme authority to solemnly and infallibly condemn the theological, moral, liturgical and social errors of our time. It is useless to discuss who will be the next pope. It is important to discuss what the next pope should do and to pray that he will do it.

 [1] Joseph de Maistre,”Lettre à une dame russe sur la nature et les effets du schisme et sur l’unité catholique,” in Lettres et opuscules inédits, A. Vaton, Paris 1863, vol. II, pp. 267-268.

[2] Il protestantesimo e la regola di fede, Civiltà Cattolica, Roma 1953, 3 voll., vol. I, p. 15.

[3] Quod et tradidi vobis, La Tradizione vita e giovinezza della chiesa (Casa Mariana, Frigento 2010), 405.

[4] Du Pape (H. Pélagaud, Lyon-Paris 1878), 401, 405.

[5] Ibid., 406.

[6] Martin Jugie, Joseph de Maistre et l’Eglise greco-russe, Maison de la bonne presse, Paris 1923, pp. 97-98.

[7] Du Pape, p. 410.

[8] Michael Schmaus, Catholic Dogmatics, Marietti, Casale Monferrato 1963, vol. III/1, p. 696.

[9] R. de Mattei, Apologia della Tradizione ,Lindau, Turin 2011, p. 146.

[10] Du Pape, 482, 483

[11] R. de Mattei, The Crusader of the 20th Century. Plinio Correa de Oliveira, Piemme, Casale Monferrato 1996, p. 309.

 

 

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