Tuesday, December 03, 2013

The Replies of the Pontifical Biblical Commission

On questions of Sacred Scripture

Translated by E. F. Sutcliffe, S.J.


ASS: Acta Sedis Sanctae; AAS: Acta Apostolicae Sedis; EB: Enchiridion Biblicum; Dz: Denzinger

Pope Pius X, Motu Proprio Praestantia Scripturae, 18 Nov. 1907 (ASS [1907] 724ff; EB nn. 278f; Dz 2113f): “We now declare and expressly enjoin that all Without exception are bound by an obligation of conscience to submit to the decisions of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, whether already issued or to be issued hereafter, exactly as to the decrees of the Sacred Congregations which are on matters of doctrine and approved by the Pope; nor can anyone who by word or writing attacks the said decrees avoid the note both of disobedience and of rashness or be therefore without grave fault.”

On the Mosaic Authorship of the Pentateuch

June 27, 1906 (ASS 39 [1906-07] 377f; EB 174ff; Dz 1997ff)

I: Are the arguments gathered by critics to impugn the Mosaic authorship of the sacred hooks designated by the name of the Pentateuch of such weight in spite of the cumulative evidence of many passages of both Testaments, the unbroken unanimity of the Jewish people, and furthermore of the constant tradition of the Church besides the internal indications furnished by the text itself, as to justify the statement that these books are not of Mosaic authorship but were put together from sources mostly of post-Mosaic date?
Answer: In the negative.

II: Does the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch necessarily imply a production of the whole work of such a character as to impose the belief that each and every word was written by Moses' own hand or was by him dictated to secretaries ; or is it a legitimate hypothesis that he conceived the work himself under the guidance of divine inspiration and then entrusted the writing of it to one or more persons, with the understanding that they reproduced his thoughts with fidelity and neither wrote nor omitted anything contrary to his will, and that finally the work composed after this fashion was approved by Moses, its principal and inspired author, and was published under his name?
Answer: In the negative to the first and in the affirmative to the second part.

III: Without prejudice to the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, may it be granted that in the composition of his work Moses used sources, written documents namely or oral traditions, from which in accordance with the special aim he entertained and under the guidance of divine inspiration he borrowed material and inserted it in his work either word for word or in substance, either abbreviated or amplified?
Answer: In the affirmative.

IV: Subject to the Mosaic authorship and the integrity of the Pentateuch being substantially safeguarded, may it be admitted that in the protracted course of centuries certain modifications befell it, such as : additions made after the death of Moses by an inspired writer, or glosses and explanations inserted in the text, certain words and forms changed from archaic into more recent speech, finally incorrect readings due to the fault of scribes which may be the subject of inquiry and judgement according to the laws of textual criticism?
Answer In the affirmative, saving the judgement of the Church.

Concerning the Historical Character of the First Three Chapters of Genesis

June 30, 1909 (AAS 1 [1909] 567ff; EB 332ff; Dz 2121ff)

I: Do the various exegetical systems excogitated and defended under the guise of science to exclude the literal historical sense of the first three chapters of Genesis rest on a solid foundation?
Answer: In the negative.

II: Notwithstanding the historical character and form of Genesis, the special connection of the first three chapters with one another and with the following chapters, the manifold testimonies of the Scriptures both of the Old and of the New Testaments, the almost unanimous opinion of the holy Fathers and the traditional view which the people of Israel also has handed on and the Church has always held, may it be taught that: the aforesaid three chapters of Genesis Contain not accounts of actual events, accounts, that is, which correspond to objective reality and historical truth, but, either fables derived from the mythologies and cosmogonies of ancient peoples and accommodated by the sacred writer to monotheistic doctrine after the expurgation of any polytheistic error; or allegories and symbols without any foundation in objective reality proposed under the form of history to inculcate religious and philosophical truths; or finally legends in part historical and in part fictitious freely composed with a view to instruction and edification?
Answer: In the negative to both parts.

III: In particular may the literal historical sense be called in doubt in the case of facts narrated in the same chapters which touch the foundations of the Christian religion: as are, among others, the creation of all things by God in the beginning of time; the special creation of man; the formation of the first woman from the first man; the unity of the human race; the original felicity of our first parents in the state of justice, integrity, and immortality; the command given by God to man to test his obedience; the transgression of the divine command at the instigation of the devil under the form of a serpent; the degradation of our first parents from that primeval state of innocence; and the promise of a future Redeemer?
Answer: In the negative.

IV: In the interpretation of those passages in these chapters which the Fathers and Doctors understood in different manners without proposing anything certain and definite, is it lawful, without prejudice to the judgement of the Church and with attention to the analogy of faith, to follow and defend the opinion that commends itself to each one?
Answer: In the affirmative.

V: Must each and every word and phrase occurring in the aforesaid chapters always and necessarily be understood in its literal sense, so that it is never lawful to deviate from it, even when it appears obvious that the diction is employed in an applied sense, either metaphorical or anthropomorphical, and either reason forbids the retention or necessity imposes the abandonment of the literal sense?
Answer: In the negative.

VI: Provided that the literal and historical sense is presupposed, may certain passages in the same chapters, in the light of the example of the holy Fathers and of the Church itself, be wisely and profitably interpreted in an allegorical and prophetic sense?
Answer: In the affirmative.

VII: As it was not the mind of the sacred author in the composition of the first chapter of Genesis to give scientific teaching about the internal Constitution of visible things and the entire order of creation, but rather to communicate to his people a popular notion in accord with the current speech of the time and suited to the understanding and capacity of men, must the exactness of scientific language be always meticulously sought for in the interpretation of these matters?
Answer: In the negative.

VIII : In the designation and distinction of the six days mentioned in the first chapter of Genesis may the word Yom (day) be taken either in the literal sense for the natural day or in an applied sense for a certain space of time, and may this question be the subject of free discussion among exegetes?
Answer: In the affirmative.

Concerning the Authors and Date of the Psalms

May 1, 1910 (AAS II [1910] 354f; EB 340ff; Dz 2129ff)

I: Have the titles Psalms of David, Hymns of David, Book of the Psalms of David, Davidic Psalter, employed in ancient collections and in the Councils themselves to designate the book of 150 psalms of the Old Testament; and also the opinion of a number of Fathers and Doctors, who held that all the psalms of the Psalter without exception were to be ascribed to David alone, such weight that David should be held to be the only author of the whole Psalter?
Answer: In the negative.

II: Does the agreement of the Hebrew text with the Greek Alexandrine text and other ancient versions give ground for a valid argument that the titles of the psalms prefixed to the Hebrew text are more ancient than the Septuagint version ; and consequently, if not from the very authors of the psalms, at least derive from an ancient Jewish tradition?
Answer: In the affirmative.

III: Can the aforesaid titles of the psalms, witnesses of Jewish tradition, be prudently called in doubt when there is no serious reason against their being genuine?
Answer: In the negative.

IV: In view of the not infrequent testimonies of sacred Scripture to the natural talent, helped by a special gift of the Holy Ghost, which David had for the composition of religious songs, of his arrangements for the liturgical chant of the psalms, of the attribution of psalms to him both in the Old Testament and in the New as well as in the superscriptions prefixed of old to the psalms; in view, moreover, of the agreement of the Jews, of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, can it be prudently denied that David was the principal author of the songs of the Psalter, or on the contrary, affirmed that only a few songs are to be assigned to the royal psalmist?
Answer: In the negative to both parts.

V: In particular is it right to deny the Davidic origin of those psalms which are explicitly cited under David's name in the Old or New Testament, among which are to be mentioned more especially psalm 2 Quare fremuerunt gentes; psalm 15 Conserva me, Domine; psalm 17 Diligam te, Domine, fortitudo mea; psalm 31 Beati quorum remissae sunt iniquitates; psalm 68 Salvum me fac, Deus; psalm 509 Dixit Dominus Domino meo?
Answer: In the negative.

VI: May the opinion of those be admitted who hold that among the psalms of the Psalter there are some, either of David's or of other authors, which on account of liturgical and musical reasons, the negligence of scribes, or other causes unknown have been divided into several or united into one; also that there are other psalms, like the Miserere mei, Deus, which for the purpose of being better adapted to historical circumstances or solemnities of the Jewish people, were subjected to some slight rehandling or modification by the omission or addition of one or two verses, without prejudice however to the inspiration of the whole sacred text?
Answer: In the affirmative to both parts.

VII: Is it possible to maintain as probable the opinion of those more recent writers who, relying on purely internal indications or an incorrect interpretation of the sacred text, have attempted to show that not a few psalms were composed after the times of Esdras and Nehemias and even in the Maccabean age?
Answer: In the negative.

VIII: On the authority of the manifold witness of the sacred books of the New Testament and the unanimous agreement of the Fathers in harmony with the acknowledgement of Jewish writers, is it necessary to admit a number of prophetic and Messianic psalms, which foretold the future Saviour's coming, kingdom, priesthood, passion, death, and resurrection; and consequently is it necessary to reject altogether the opinion of those who pervert the prophetic and Messianic character of the psalms and limit these oracles about Christ merely to the foretelling of the future lot of the chosen people?
Answer: In the affirmative to both parts.

Concerning the Character and Author of the Book of Isaias

June 29, 1908 (ASS 41 [1908] 613f; EB 287ff; Dz 2115 ff)

I: May it be taught that the predictions read in the Book of Isaias-and throughout the Scriptures- are not predictions properly so called, but either narrations put together after the event, or, if anything has to be acknowledged as foretold before the event, that the prophet foretold it not in accordance with a supernatural revelation of God who foreknows future events, but by conjectures formed felicitously and shrewdly by natural sharpness of mind on the basis of previous experience?
Answer : In the negative.

II: Can the opinion that Isaias and the other prophets did not put forth predictions except about events that were to happen in the immediate future or after no long space of time, be reconciled with the predictions, in particular Messianic and eschatological, certainly put forth by the same prophets concerning the distant future, and also with the common opinion of the holy Fathers who unanimously assert that the prophets also made prophecies that were to be fulfilled after many centuries?
Answer: In the negative.

III: May it be admitted that the prophets, not only as correctors of human depravity and preachers of the divine word for the benefit of their hearers, but also as foretellers of future events, must consistently have addressed, not future, but present contemporary hearers in such a manner that they could be clearly understood by them; and that in consequence the second part of the Book of Isaias (chapters 40-66), in which the prophet addresses and consoles, not the Jewish contemporaries of Isaias, but as if living among them, the Jews mourning in the Babylonian exile, could not have Isaias, long since dead, for its author, but must be ascribed to some unknown prophet living among the exiles?
Answer: In the negative.

IV: Should the philological argument drawn from language and style to impugn identity of authorship throughout the Book of Isaias be deemed of such force as to compel a man of sound judgement with competent knowledge of Hebrew and of the art of criticism to recognize several authors in the same book?
Answer: In the negative.

V: Do there exist arguments which even when taken together avail to demonstrate that the Book of Isaias must be attributed not to Isaias himself alone, but to two or even several authors?
Answer: In the negative.

Concerning the Author, the Date, and the Historical Truth of the Gospel according to Matthew

June 19, 1911 (AAS 3 [1911] 294ff; EB 401ff; Dz 2148 ff)

I: Having regard to the universal and unwavering agreement of the Church ever since the first centuries, an agreement clearly attested by the express witness of the Fathers, by the titles of the Gospel manuscripts, the most ancient versions of the sacred books and the lists handed on by the holy Fathers, by ecclesiastical writers, by Popes and Councils, and finally by the liturgical use of the Church in the East and in the West, may and should it be affirmed as certain that Matthew, the Apostle of Christ, was in fact the author of the Gospel current under his name?
Answer: In the affirmative.

II: Should the verdict of tradition be considered to give adequate support to the statement that Matthew wrote before the other Evangelists and wrote the first Gospel in the native language then used by the Jews of Palestine for whom the work was intended?
Answer: In the affirmative to both parts.

III: Can the composition of this original text be postponed till after the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, so that the prophecies it contains about that destruction were written after the event ; or should the oft-quoted text of Irenaeus (Ads. Haer. Lib. 3, cap. 1, n. 2), of uncertain and controverted interpretation, be considered to have such weight as to impose the rejection of the opinion more in harmony with tradition according to which the composition of the Gospel was completed even before the arrival of Paul in Rome?
Answer: In the negative to both parts.

IV: Can even probable arguments be given in support of that opinion of certain recent writers according to which Matthew did not write a Gospel properly and strictly so-called, such as has been handed down to us, but merely a collection of the sayings or discourses of Christ which were drawn on by another anonymous author, whom they make the editor of the Gospel itself?
Answer: In the negative.

V: Can the fact that all the Fathers and ecclesiastical Writers and even the Church itself from its very cradle have used as canonical only the Greek text of the Gospel known under the name of Matthew, not even those being excepted who explicitly taught that the Apostle Matthew wrote in his native tongue, provide certain proof that the Greek Gospel is identical in substance with the Gospel written by that Apostle in his native tongue?
Answer: In the affirmative.

VI: Do the facts that the aim of the author of the first Gospel is chiefly dogmatic and apologetic, namely, to prove to the Jews that Jesus was the Messias foretold by the prophets and born of the lineage of David, and that moreover in the arrangement of the facts and discourses which he narrates and reports, he does not always follow chronological order, justify the deduction that they ought not to be accepted as true? Or may it also be affirmed that the accounts of the deeds and discourses of Christ, which are read in that Gospel, underwent a certain alteration and adaptation under the influence of the prophecies of the Old Testament and the more mature condition of the Church and are consequently not in conformity with historical truth?
Answer: In the negative to both parts.

VII: In particular ought it to be held that there is no solid foundation to the opinions of those who call in doubt the historical authenticity of the first two chapters, in which an account is given of the genealogy and infancy of Christ, as also of certain passages of great dogmatic importance, such as are those which concern the primacy of Peter (16:17-19), the form of baptism entrusted to the Apostles together with the mission of preaching everywhere (28:19f), the Apostles' profession of faith in the divinity of Christ (14:33), and other similar matters which are found in a special form in Matthew?
Answer: In the affirmative.

Concerning the Authors, Dates, and Historical Truth of the Gospels according to Mark and Luke

June 26, 1912 (AAS 4 [1912] 463ff; EB 4O8ff; Dz 2155ff)

I: Does the clear verdict of tradition showing extraordinary unanimity from the beginnings of the Church and confirmed by manifold evidence, namely the explicit attestations of the holy Fathers and ecclesiastical writers, the quotations and allusions occurring in their writings, the use made by ancient heretics, the versions of the books of the New Testament, almost all the manuscripts including the most ancient, and also internal reasons drawn from the text of the sacred books impose the definite affirmation that Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, and Luke, the doctor, the assistant and companion of Paul, were really the authors of the Gospels that are attributed to them respectively?
Answer: In the affirmative.

II: Are the reasons by which certain critics strive to prove that the last twelve verses of the Gospel of Mark (16:9-20) were not written by Mark himself but were added by another hand, of such a character as to justify the statement that they are not to be accepted as inspired and canonical? Or do they prove at least that Mark was not the author of the said verses?
Answer: In the negative to both parts.

III: Similarly is it lawful to doubt the inspiration and canonicity of Luke's accounts of the infancy of Christ (chapters 1 and 2); or of the apparition of the Angel strengthening Jesus and the sweat of blood (22:43f)? Or can it at any rate be shown by solid reasons-a view preferred by ancient heretics and favoured also by certain modern critics-that the said accounts do not belong to the genuine Gospel of Luke?
Answer: In the negative to both parts.

IV: Can and should those very few and altogether exceptional documents in which the Canticle Magnificat is attributed not to our Blessed Lady but to Elizabeth, in any way prevail against the unanimous testimony of almost all manuscripts both of the original Greek text and of the versions, and against the interpretation which is clearly demanded no less by the context than by the mind of our Lady herself and the constant tradition of the Church?
Answer: In the negative.

V: As regards the chronological order of the Gospels is it right to depart from the opinion supported by the very ancient and constant testimony of tradition, which avers that after Matthew, who before all the others wrote his Gospel in his native tongue, Mark was the second in order, and Luke the third to write? Or on the other hand is opposition to be found between this opinion and that which asserts the second and third Gospels to have been written before the Greek version of the first Gospel?
Answer: In the negative to both parts.

VI: Is it lawful to postpone the date of composition of the Gospels of Mark and Luke till after the destruction of the city of Jerusalem? Or, on the ground that our Lord's prophecy concerning the destruction of that city appears more detailed in Luke, can it be maintained that his Gospel at least was written after the siege had begun?
Answer: In the negative to both parts.

VII: Should it be affirmed that the Gospel of Luke preceded the Acts of the Apostles; and as this book, written by the same Luke (Acts 1:1f), was finished at the close of the Apostle's imprisonment at Rome (Acts 28:30f), that his Gospel was not composed after this time?
Answer: In the affirmative.

VIII: In view both of the witness of tradition and the internal evidence concerning the sources used by each Evangelist in writing his Gospel, is it prudent to doubt the opinion that Mark wrote in accordance with the preaching of Peter and Luke in accordance with that of Paul, and also that these Evangelists had, besides, other trustworthy sources, whether oral or written?
Answer: In the negative.

IX: Do the words and deeds which are reported by Mark accurately and almost in verbal agreement with Peter's preaching, and are faithfully set forth by Luke who had "diligently attained to all things from the beginning" through the help of entirely trustworthy witnesses "who from the beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word" (Luke 1:2f) rightly claim for themselves as historical that entire belief that the Church has always placed in them? Or on the contrary ought the same facts and deeds to be regarded as in part at least destitute of historical truth, either on the ground that the writers were not eye-witnesses or that in the ease of both Evangelists defects of order and disagreement in the succession of events are not seldom detected, or that, as they came on the scene and wrote rather late, they could not help recording ideas foreign to the mind of Christ and the Apostles or events already more or less distorted by popular imagination, or finally, that they indulged in preconceived dogmatic ideas, each one in accordance with his own aim?
Answer: In the affirmative to the first part, in the negative to the second.

On the Synoptic Problem or the Mutual Relations of the First Three Gospels

June 26, 1912 (AAS 4 [1912] 465; EB 117f; Dz 2164ff)

I: Provided all is safeguarded that according to previous decisions must be safeguarded, especially concerning the authenticity and integrity of the three Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the substantial identity of the Greek Gospel of Matthew with its original text, and the chronological order in which they were written, in order to explain their mutual similarities and dissimilarities, is it lawful for exegetes, given the many different and contradictory opinions proposed by writers, to discuss the question freely and to have recourse to the hypotheses of tradition, whether written or oral, or also of the dependence of one Gospel on another or on others that preceded it?
Answer: In the affirmative.

II: Ought those to be considered faithful to the above prescriptions, who without the support of any traditional evidence or historical argument readily embrace what is commonly called the two-document hypothesis', the purpose of which is to explain the composition of the Greek Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke chiefly by their dependence on the Gospel of Mark and a so-called collection of the discourses of our Lord; and are they consequently free to advocate it?
Answer: In the negative to both parts.

Concerning the Author and Historical Truth of the Fourth Gospel

May 29, 1907 (ASS 40 [1907] 383f; EB 180ff; Dz 2110)

I: Does the constant, universal, and solemn tradition of the Church dating back to the second century and witnessed to principally : (a) by the holy Fathers, by ecclesiastical writers, and even by heretics, whose testimonies and allusions must have been derived from the disciples or first successors of the Apostles and so be linked with the very origin of the book; (b) by the name of the author of the fourth Gospel having been at all times and places in the canon and lists of the sacred books; (c) by the most ancient manuscripts of those books and the various versions; (d) by public liturgical use in the whole world from the very beginnings of the Church; prove that John the Apostle and no other is to be acknowledged as the author of the fourth Gospel, and that by an historical argument so firmly established (without reference to theological considerations) that the reasons adduced by critics to the contrary in no way weaken this tradition?
Answer: In the affirmative.

II: Should, further, internal reasons derived from the text of the fourth Gospel considered by itself, from the witness of the writer and the manifest relationship of the Gospel itself to the first Epistle of John the Apostle, be judged to confirm the tradition that unhesitatingly attributes the fourth Gospel to the same Apostle? And can the difficulties which arise from a comparison of the same Gospel with the other three, in view of the differences of time, aim, and hearers, for whom or against whom the author wrote, be given reasonable solutions, as has been done by the holy Fathers and Catholic exegetes in various works?
Answer: In the affirmative to both parts.

III: Notwithstanding the practice which has flourished consistently in the whole Church from the earliest times, of arguing from the fourth Gospel as from a strictly historical document, and in consideration no less of the special character of the same Gospel and the manifest intention of the author to illustrate and vindicate the divinity of Christ from the very acts and discourses of our Lord, may it be said that the facts narrated in the fourth Gospel were invented wholly or in part, as allegories or doctrinal symbols and that the discourses of our Lord are not properly and truly the discourses of our Lord himself but the theological compositions of the writer though placed in the mouth of our Lord?

Answer: In the negative.

Concerning the Author, the Date, and the Historical Truth of the Acts of the Apostles

June 12, 1913 (AAS 5 [1913] 291f; EB 419ff; Dz 2166ff)

I: In view especially of the tradition of the whole Church dating back to the earliest ecclesiastical writers, and in consideration of the internal characteristics of the book of Acts whether considered in itself or in its relation to the third Gospel, and especially of the mutual affinity and connection of both prologues (Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1f), should it be held as certain that the volume with the title Actus Apostolorum or Praxeis Apostolon had the Evangelist Luke for its author?
Answer : In the affirmative.

II: Can critical reasons derived from language and style, from the character of the narrative, and from the unity of aim and teaching, demonstrate that the Acts of the Apostles should be attributed to only one author; and that consequently there is no foundation at all for the opinion of recent writers according to which Luke was not the only author of the book but different authors are recognized in the said book?
Answer: In the affirmative to both parts.

III: In particular, do those sections, so noticeable in the Acts, in which the use of the third person is abandoned and the first person plural introduced (We passages), weaken the unity of composition and the authenticity; or, historically and philosophically considered, should they rather be said to confirm it?
Answer: In the negative to the first part ; in the affirmative to the second.

IV: Does the fact that the book hardly mentions the two years of Paul's first imprisonment at Rome and ends abruptly, warrant the inference that the author wrote a second but lost work or intended to write one, and consequently can the date of the composition of the Acts be postponed till long after the said captivity? Or rather is it legitimately and rightly to be maintained that Luke finished the book towards the close of the first imprisonment of the Apostle Paul at Rome?
Answer: In the negative to the first part; in the affirmative to the second.

V: If consideration be given both to the frequent and easy intercourse that without doubt Luke had with the first and chief founders of the Church in Palestine and with Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, whom he helped in his preaching of the Gospel and accompanied on his journeys, and to his habitual industry and diligence in seeking witnesses and in personal observation of events, and finally to the frequently obvious and remarkable agreement of the Acts with Paul's own Epistles and with the more exact historical records, should it be held for certain that Luke had at his disposal entirely trustworthy sources and used them carefully, honestly, and faithfully, so that he rightly claims for himself full authority as an historian?
Answer: In the affirmative.

VI: Are the difficulties commonly raised both from the supernatural facts narrated by Luke, and from the report of certain discourses, which on account of their brevity are thought to be invented and adapted to circumstances, and from certain passages in at least apparent disagreement with history, whether profane or biblical, and finally from certain narrations in apparent conflict either with the author of Acts himself or with other sacred authors, of such a nature as to throw doubt on or at least in some measure to diminish the historical authority of Acts?
Answer: In the negative.

Concerning the Author, the Integrity, and the Date of the Pastoral Epistles of St Paul

June 12, 1913 (AAS 5 [1913] 292f; EB 425ff; Dz 2172ff)

I: In view of the tradition of the Church universally and firmly maintained from the beginning, as is witnessed in many ways by ancient ecclesiastical records, should it be held as certain that the Pastoral Epistles, the two, namely, to Timothy and another to Titus, notwithstanding the effrontery of certain heretics, who without giving any reason expunged them from the number of Pauline Epistles as being opposed to their tenets, were written by the Apostle Paul himself and were always listed among the genuine and canonical Epistles?
Answer: In the affirmative.

II: Can the so-called fragmentary hypothesis introduced and propounded in different ways by certain recent critics, who without any plausible reason and even at variance among themselves, maintain that the Pastoral Epistles were put together by unknown authors at a later date out of fragments of the Epistles or out of lost Pauline Epistles with notable additions, cause even any slight weakening of the clear and unshaken testimony of tradition?
Answer: In the negative.

III: Do the difficulties commonly alleged on many grounds, either on account of the style and language of the author, or of the errors, especially of the Gnostics, described as already then current, or of the presupposition that the ecclesiastical hierarchy was in an already developed state, and other similar arguments to the contrary, in any way weaken the opinion that holds the genuineness of the Pastoral Epistles to be established and certain?
Answer: In the negative.

IV: As the opinion that the Apostle Paul was twice imprisoned at Rome should be considered certain on account no less of historical reasons than of ecclesiastical tradition in harmony with the testimonies of the holy Fathers both in East and West, and also on account of the evidence readily available both in the abrupt conclusion of the Acts and in the Pauline Epistles written at Rome and especially in the second to Timothy; can it be safely stated that the Pastoral Epistles were written in the interval between the liberation of the Apostle from the first imprisonment and his death?
Answer: In the affirmative.

Concerning the Author and Manner of Composition of the Epistle to the Hebrews

June 24, 1914 (AAS 6 [1914] 417f; EB 429ff; Dz 2176ff)

I: Are the doubts about the divine inspiration and Pauline origin of the Epistle to the Hebrews which influenced certain minds in the West in the first centuries, chiefly because of its abuse by heretics, of such importance that, bearing in mind the unbroken, unanimous, and unwavering affirmation of the eastern Fathers supported after the fourth century by the entire assent of the whole western Church, due weight also being given to the acts of the Popes and sacred Councils, especially that of Trent, and to the constant usage of the universal Church, it is lawful to hesitate about reckoning it definitively not only among the canonical Epistles-which has been defined as a matter of faith -but also among the genuine Epistles of the Apostle Paul?
Answer: In the negative.

II: Can the arguments commonly based either on the unusual absence of Paul's name and the omission of the customary introduction and salutation in the Epistle to the Hebrews-or on the purity of its Greek, the elegance and perfection of its diction and style-or on the character of its quotations and arguments from the Old Testament-or on certain differences alleged to exist between the doctrine of this and the other Pauline Epistles, in any way invalidate its Pauline origin? Or rather do the perfect unanimity in teaching and thought, the resemblance of the admonitions and exhortations, and the agreement in phrase and even in words pointed out also by some non-Catholics, which are seen to exist between it and the other writings of the Apostle of the Gentiles, clearly indicate and confirm the same Pauline origin?
Answer: In the negative to the first part; in the affirmative to the second.

III: Should the Apostle Paul be considered the author of this Epistle after such manner that he must necessarily be said, not only to have conceived and expressed it all under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, but also to have given it the form that it actually has?

Answer: In the negative, saving the further judgement of the Church.

Concerning the Parousia or Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Epistles of the Apostle St Paul

June 18, 1915 (AAS 7 [1915] 357f; EB 432ff; Dz 2179ff)
I: In order to meet the difficulties occurring in the Epistles of St Paul and other Apostles in passages which treat of the "Parousia", as it is called, or second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, is it allowed to a Catholic exegete to assert that, though the Apostles under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost teach nothing erroneous, they none the less express their own human opinions which may rest on error or misconception?
Answer In the negative.

II: In view of the correct concept of the apostolic office and the undoubted fidelity of St Paul to the teaching of the Master ; in view also of the Catholic doctrine concerning the inspiration and inerrancy of Holy Scripture according to which whatever a sacred Writer asserts, declares, suggests, should be held to be asserted, declared, suggested by the Holy Ghost and after a careful examination on their own merits of the passages in the Epistles of St Paul which are in complete harmony with our Lord's own manner of speaking, should it be asserted that the Apostle Paul said nothing whatever in his writings which is not in complete harmony with that ignorance of the time of the Parousia which Christ himself proclaimed to belong to men?
Answer: In the affirmative.

III: After consideration of the Greek phrase hemeis hoi zontes hoi perileipomenoi; and after careful examination of the exposition of the Fathers, above all of St John Chrysostom, who was completely at home both in his native language and in the Pauline Epistles, is it lawful to reject as far-fetched and destitute of any solid foundation the interpretation traditional in the Catholic schools (and retained even by the Reformers of the sixteenth century) that explains the words of St Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, without in any way involving the assertion that the Parousia was so near that the Apostle counted himself and his readers among the faithful who will be left alive and go to meet Christ?
Answer: In the negative.

Concerning the False Interpretation of Two Biblical Texts

July 1, 1933 (AAS 25 [1933] 344; Dz 2272-3)

I: Is it right for a Catholic, especially after the authentic interpretation given by the Princes of the Apostles (Acts 2:24-33; 13:35-37) to interpret the words of Psalm 15:10f: "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, nor wilt thou give thy holy one to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life", as if the sacred author did not speak of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ?
Answer: In the negative.

II: Is it licit to assert that the words of Jesus Christ, which are read in St Matthew 16:26: "What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?" and similarly those in St Luke 9:25: "What is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world and lose himself and cast away himself?" in the literal sense do not regard the eternal salvation of the soul, but only man's temporal life, notwithstanding the tenor of the words themselves and their context besides the unanimous interpretation of Catholics?
Answer: In the negative.

On Implicit Quotations in Holy Scripture
February 13, 1905 (ASS 37 [1904-05] 666; EB 153; Dz 1979)
To secure a directive norm for students of Holy Scripture the following question was proposed to the Pontifical Biblical Commission, namely:

To solve difficulties occurring in certain texts of Holy Scripture that appear to relate historical facts, may a Catholic exegete assert that the passage in question is a tacit or implicit quotation of a document written by a non-inspired author, all of whose assertions the inspired author does not mean to approve or make his own, and that these assertions cannot therefore be held immune from error?

Answer: In the negative, except in a case where without prejudice to the mind and judgement of the Church, it is proved by solid arguments: (1) that the sacred Writer does in fact cite the sayings or documents of another, and (2) neither approves nor makes the same his own, so that he is legitimately regarded as not speaking in his own name.

On Narratives Historical only in Appearance in Books of Holy Scripture Historical in Form

June 23, 1905 (ASS 38 [1905-06] 124f; EB 154; Dz 1980)

Is it possible to admit as a principle of sound exegesis that books of sacred Scripture which are regarded as historical, at times do not relate, either wholly or in part, history properly so-called and objectively true, but present only the appearance of history with the purpose of expressing some meaning differing from the strictly literal or historical sense of the words?

Answer: In the negative, except in a case neither easily nor rashly to be admitted, in which the mind of the Church not being contrary and without prejudice to its judgement, it is proved by solid arguments that the sacred Writer intended not to recount true history, properly so-called, but under the guise and form of history to set forth a parable, an allegory, or some meaning distinct from the strictly literal or historical signification of the words.

Concerning the Addition of Variant Readings in Editions of the Vulgate Version of the Old and New Testament

November 17, I921 (AAS 14 [1922] 27; EB 509)

In the Preface to the Reader of the Clementine edition of the Vulgate version of the Sacred Scriptures it is said: "Further in this edition there is nothing not canonical. no parallel passages in the margin (the addition of which in that position is not prohibited in the future), no notes, no variant readings, finally no prefaces. But as the Apostolic See does not condemn the industry of those who have inserted in other editions parallel passages, variant readings, the prefaces of St Jerome, and similar matter, so neither does it forbid that with the use of different type such helps should be added in the future for the advantage and utility of students in this same Vatican edition; with the exception, however, that Variant readings may not be noted in the margin of the text".

But as some are of opinion that these last words forbid the addition of variant readings not only in the margin at the side but also at the foot of the text, the question has been put to the Pontifical Biblical Commission: Is it lawful in editions of the Vulgate version both of the New and the Old Testaments to add variant readings and other similar helps for students at the foot of the text?

After examination of the matter, the Pontifical Biblical Commission replied: In the affirmative.

Concerning the Use of Translations of Holy Scripture in Churches

April 30, 1934 (AAS 26 [1934] 315)

The following question was proposed by his Excellency the Bishop of S'Hertogenbosch [otherwise called Bois-le-Duc] in the name also of their Excellencies the other Bishops of the ecclesiastical province of Holland:

Can it be allowed to read to the people in Church the liturgical passages of the Epistles and Gospels in a translation not from "the ancient Vulgate Latin version", but from the original texts whether Greek or Hebrew?

The Pontifical Biblical Commission decided that the following answer should be given: In the negative; a translation should be publicly read to the Faithful made from the text approved by the Church for the sacred liturgy.

Concerning Translations of Holy Scripture in Modern Languages

August 22, 1943 (AAS 35 [1943] 270; CR 23 [1943] 524)

To answer a question proposed to it concerning the use and authority of biblical translations in modern languages, especially those made from the original texts, and to give further clarification to its decree Concerning the Use of Translations of Holy Scripture in Churches of April 30, 1934, the Pontifical Biblical Commission has considered it opportune to publish and commend the following norms:
Since Pope Leo XIII, of happy memory, in the Encyclical Providentissimus Deus (Acta Leonis XIII, Vol. 13, p 342; EB 91), for the more intimate knowledge and more fruitful explanation of the divine word recommended the use of the original texts of the Bible and since that recommendation, which clearly was not made for the exclusive advantage of exegetes and theologians, has seemed and seems almost to advise that the same texts, of course under the vigilant care of the competent ecclesiastical authorities, should be translated in accordance with the approved principles of sacred and indeed of profane science into the vernacular languages known to the mass of the people;

Since, moreover, it is from the Vulgate translation, which alone and exclusively among the Latin versions then in circulation the oecumenical Council of Trent declared authoritative (Conc. Trid., sess. IV, decr. De editione et usu Ss. Librorum; EB 46) that the biblical passages in the liturgical books of the Latin Church to be read publicly at the holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Divine Office have for the most part been taken ; presupposing the observance of whatever should be observed:

1° Translations of Holy Scripture in modern languages whether made from the Vulgate or from the original texts, provided they have been published with the permission of the competent ecclesiastical authority in accordance with canon 1391, may be duly used and read by the faithful for their private devotion; moreover, if any translation, after a diligent examination both of the text and of the notes by men eminent in biblical and theological knowledge, is found to be more faithful and suitable, it may, if so desired, be especially recommended by the Bishops, either individually or in provincial or national meetings, to the faithful committed to their care.

2° The vernacular translation of the biblical passages which priests celebrating Mass are to read to the people, as custom or occasion demands, after the reading of the liturgical text, should, in accordance with the reply of the Pontifical Biblical Commission (Acta Ap. Sedis, 1934, p. 315), agree with the Latin liturgical text, though it remains permissible, if judged expedient, to give suitable explanation of the said translation by the help of the original text or of another clearer translation.

Concerning the Work of R. D Frederic Schmidtke entitled Die Einwanderung Israels in Kanaan

February 27, 1934 (AAS 26 [1934] 130f)
As the question has been addressed to this Pontifical Biblical Commission what is to be thought of the work entitled Die Einwassderung Israels in Kanaan, published at Breslau in the year 1933 by R. D. Frederic Schmidtke, it has decided that the following answer should be given:

R. D. Frederic Schmidtke, Professor Extraordinary of the Old Testament in the Theological Faculty of the University of Breslau in the volume mentioned above:
in his treatment of the Pentateuch follows the opinions of rationalistic criticism to the complete neglect of the decree of the Pontifical Biblical Commission of June 27, 1906;
moreover, in the history of the Old Testament, without any attention to the decree of the same Pontifical Biblical Commission of June 23, 1905, he introduces a type of literature consisting of popular traditions mingling falsehood with truth; contrary to the clear evidence of the sacred books he makes, among others, the assertions that the stories about the Patriarchs, at least in large part, give the history, not of individual men, but of tribes; that Jacob was not the son of Isaac, but represents some Aramean tribe; that the whole people of Israel did not enter Egypt but a part only, in particular the tribe of Joseph; also, doing violence to the sacred text, he explains many miracles of the Old Testament as purely natural events.

The author, consequently, at least implicitly, denies the dogma of biblical inspiration and inerrancy; he entirely neglects the norms of Catholic hermeneutics he contradicts the Catholic doctrine most clearly set forth in the Encyclicals Providentissimus Deus of Leo XIII and Spiritus Paraclitus of Benedict XV.

Hence the aforesaid work deserves reprobation on various grounds and should be kept out of Catholic schools.

The Pontifical Commission, moreover, takes this occasion to warn Catholic commentators to obey with due reverence the dogmatic Constitution of the Vatican Council, renewing the Decree of the sacred Council of Trent, by which it was solemnly ordained "that in matters of faith and morals, appertaining to the building up of Christian doctrine, that is to be held as the true sense of sacred Scripture which was, and is, held by our holy mother the Church, to whom it belongs to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures, and therefore no one may interpret holy Scripture contrary to this sense or also against the unanimous consent of the Fathers".

Letter to Cardinal Suhard [on the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, and on the historical character of Gen 1-11]
(AAS 40 [1948] 45-8)

The Holy Father graciously entrusted to the Pontifical Biblical Commission the examination of two questions recently submitted to His Holiness concerning the sources of the Pentateuch and the historicity of the first eleven chapters of Genesis. As the result of their deliberations His Holiness deigned to approve the following reply. on 16 January 1948.

The Pontifical Biblical Commission. desires to promote biblical studies by assuring to them the most complete liberty within the limits of the traditional teaching of the Church. This liberty has been proclaimed in explicit terms by the present Pope in his Encyclical Divino afflante Spiritu: "The Catholic exegete. ought not by any manner of means to debar himself from taking in hand, and that repeatedly, the difficult questions which have found no solution up to the present time. in an attempt to find a well-founded explanation in perfect harmony with the doctrine of the Church, in particular with that of biblical inerrancy, and at the same time capable of fully satisfying the certain conclusions of the secular sciences. The labours of these worthy workers in the vineyard of the Lord deserve to be judged not only with equity and justice, but with perfect charity; and this is a point which all others sons of the Church should bear in mind. It is their duty to avoid that most imprudent zeal which considers it an obligation to attack or suspect whatever is new", AAS (1943) 319.

If this recommendation of the Pope's is borne in mind in the interpretation of the three official replies given formerly by the Biblical Commission in connection with the above-mentioned questions, namely June 23, 1905, on narratives in the historical books of Holy Scripture which have only the appearance of history (EB 154), June 27, 1906, on the Mosaic authenticity of the Pentateuch (EB 174-7), and June 30, 1909, on the historical character of the first three chapters of Genesis (EB 332-9), it will be agreed that these replies are in no way a hindrance to further truly scientific examination of these problems in accordance with the results acquired in these last forty years.

As regards the composition of the Pentateuch, in the above-mentioned decree of June 27, 1906, the Biblical Commission recognized already that it could be affirmed that Moses "in order to compose his work made use of written documents or of oral traditions" and that post-Mosaic modifications and additions could also be admitted (EB 176-7). No one today doubts the existence of these sources or rejects a gradual increase of Mosaic laws due to the social and religious conditions of later times, a process manifest also in the historical narratives. However, even among non-Catholic exegetes very diverse opinions are held today concerning the character and the number of these documents, their names and dates. There are even authors in different countries, who for purely critical and historical reasons quite unconnected with any religious purpose resolutely reject the theories most in favour up to the present, and seek the explanation of certain editorial peculiarities of the Pentateuch, not so much in the alleged diversity of documents as in the special psychology, the peculiar mental and literary processes of the ancient Orientals which are better known today, or again in the different literary forms which are required by the diversity of subject-matter. Hence we invite Catholic scholars to study these problems with an open mind in the light of sane criticism and of the results of other sciences which have their part in these matters, and such study will without doubt establish the large share and the profound influence of Moses as author and as legislator.

The question of the literary forms of the first eleven chapters of Genesis is far more obscure and complex. These literary forms do not correspond to any of our classical categories and cannot be judged in the light of the Greco-Latin or modern literary types. It is therefore impossible to deny or to affirm their historicity as a whole without unduly applying to them norms of a literary type under which they cannot be classed. If it is agreed not to see in these chapters history in the classical and modern sense, it must be admitted also that known scientific facts do not allow a positive solution of all the problems which they present. The first duty in this matter incumbent on scientific exegesis consists in the careful study of all the problems literary, scientific, historical, cultural, and religious connected with these chapters; in the next place is required a close examination of the literary methods of the ancient oriental peoples, their psychology, their manner of expressing themselves and even their notion of historical truth the requisite, in a word, is to assemble without preformed judgements all the material of the palaeontological and historical, epigraphical and literary sciences. It is only in this way that there is hope of attaining a clearer view of the true nature of certain narratives in the first chapters of Genesis. To declare a priori that these narratives do not contain history in the modern sense of the word might easily be understood to mean that they do not contain history in any sense, whereas they relate in simple and figurative language, adapted to the understanding f mankind at a lower stage of development, the fundamental truths underlying the divine scheme of salvation, as well as a popular description of the origins of the human race and of the chosen people. In the meantime it is necessary to practise patience which is part of prudence and the wisdom of life. This also is inculcated by the Holy Father in the Encyclical already quoted: "No one", he says, "should be surprised that all the difficulties have not yet been clarified or solved. But that is no reason for losing courage or forgetting that in the branches of human study it cannot be otherwise than in nature, where beginnings grow little by little, where the produce of the soil is not gathered except after prolonged labour. There is ground, therefore, for hoping that (these difficulties) which today appear most complicated and arduous, will eventually, thanks to constant effort, admit of complete clarification" (AAS [1943] 318).

Saturday, November 02, 2013

The Fruits of the Mass: Are all valid Masses equal?

(From December 2012 issue of Catholic Family News)

The Fruits of the Mass

Are all valid Masses equal?

By Robert J. Siscoe

Traditional Catholics realize that the Traditional Mass is superior to the new Mass, but how do we answer those who claim that all valid Masses are equal? They rightly point out that any valid Mass is a renewal of the Sacrifice of the Cross, which is of infinite value, and then conclude by saying that as long as a Mass is valid it, too, is of infinite worth, and hence equally efficacious for those who participate. They might concede that a scandalously celebrated Mass will have a negative effect on the subjective disposition of those present, which may then lessen the amount of grace they receive, but then insist that neither liturgical abuses, nor an unworthy priest, nor watered down prayers or profane music, per se, will lessen the efficacy of the Mass or the fruit to be derived from it.

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Value

When considering the efficacy of the Mass, we must distinguish between the intrinsic value and the extrinsic value. The intrinsic value refers to the Sacrifice itself. Since the Mass is essentially identical to the Sacrifice of Christ on Calvary, which was itself of infinite worth, the intrinsic value of any Mass is infinite. In Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, we read:

“The intrinsic value of the Mass, that is, its peculiar dignity and efficacious power of itself (in actu primo), is infinite, on account of the infinite dignity of the Sacrificial Gift, and of the Primary Sacrificial Priest”. (Pg. 414)

With respect to the extrinsic value of the Mass, we must a make a distinction between the extrinsic value in relation to God to whom it is offered, and the extrinsic value in relation to man for whom it is offered. Since God is an infinite being, capable of receiving an infinite act, the adoration and thanksgiving offered to God by the Sacrifice is itself infinite. (1) But since man is a finite creature who is incapable of receiving infinite effects, the effects of the Mass in relation to man – which are referred to as “the fruits of the Mass” - are limited. In his magnificent book, The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Fr. Gihr states that the external value of the Mass in relation to God is indeed infinite, and then adds:

“But the case is different when the Eucharistic Sacrifice is considered in its relation to man. From this point of view it aims at procuring our salvation and sanctification, and is, consequently, a means of grace, or rather a source of grace, bringing us the riches of heavenly blessings. (…) The fruits which the Sacrifice of the Mass obtains for us from God are only finite, that is, restricted to a certain number and determining measure… The Sacrifice of the Mass, therefore, with respect to man can have only a restricted efficacy, and in its fruits is capable of only limited application.” (2)

The same author goes on to explain that the limited efficacy “does not lie in the essence or value of the Sacrifice, since it possesses infinite power for producing every effect”. Rather, “the final and decisive reason for the more or less plentiful application of the sacrificial graces is the will of Christ, in other words, is to be sought in the positive ordinance of God”. (3) While the Mass itself is an infinite source of grace, when it comes to “the distribution of His gifts, God requires our cooperation”. (Gihr)

The Fruits of the Mass

The fruit that an individual derives from a particular Mass is not based solely on their personal piety and devotion, which is only one factor that determines the amount of grace they receive. There are other factors as well that have a bearing on the efficacy of a particular Mass, such as the holiness of the priest, the external glory given to God by the ritual, and even the general holiness of the Church in its members. These external factors affect the amount of grace a person receives, in such a way, that the devout hearing of one mass can derive greater fruits than an equally devout hearing of another mass.

The Holiness of the Church

One factor determining the efficacy of the Mass is the general holiness of the Church in its members at a given time, including the bishops and reigning pope. Regarding this point, the Catholic Encyclopedia says “the greatness and extent of this ecclesiastical service is dependent on the greater or less holiness of the reigning pope, the bishops, and the clergy throughout the world, and for this reason in times of ecclesiastical decay and laxity of morals (especially at the papal court and among the episcopate) the fruits of the Mass, resulting from the sacrificial activity of the Church, might under certain circumstances easily be very small”.

On the same point, Fr. Gihr wrote: “But since the holiness of the Church consists in the sanctity of her members, it is not always and invariably the same, but greater at one period than another; therefore, the Sacrifice of the Church is also at one time in a greater, at another in a lesser degree pleasing to God and beneficial to man”. (4)

Since this factor is based on the moral condition of the Church as a whole, it will have an equal effect on all Masses offered at a given time in history. The next several factors, however, are based on specific circumstances which have a direct effect on the efficacy of individual Masses.

The Priest

St. Thomas teaches that the fruits to be derived from a particular Mass are based, in part, on the holiness of the priest celebrant who intercedes for the faithful, “and in this respect there is no doubt but that the Mass of the better priest is the more fruitful”. (III, Q 82, A.6)

A Mass celebrated irreverently by an unworthy priest, or worse still, by one who violates the rubrics, will be less efficacious, and therefore produce fewer fruits than a one celebrated by a holy priest who says Mass with devotion and follows the rubrics with precision. Hence, as Fr. Gehr notes, “the faithful are thus guided by sound instinct when they prefer to have Mass celebrated for their intentions by an upright and holy priest, rather than by an unworthy one…”. (5) St. Bonaventure said “it is more profitable to hear the Mass of a good priest than of an indifferent one”.

Cardinal Bona (d. 1674) explained it this way: “The more holy and pleasing to God a priest is, the more acceptable are his prayers and oblations; and the greater his devotion, the greater the benefit to be derived from his Mass. For just as other good works performed by a pious man gain merit in proportion to the zeal and devotion with which they are performed, so Holy Mass is more or less profitable both to the priest who says it and to the persons for whom it is said, according as it is celebrated with more or less fervor”.

The Ritual

Another factor determining the efficacy of a Mass is the degree of external glory it gives to God. In this respect, not all Rites are equal; neither does a low Mass have the same efficacy as a High Mass. On this point, Fr. Gihr says:

“The Church not only offers the Sacrifice, but she moreover unites with its offering various prayers and ceremonies. The sacrificial rites are carried out in the name of the Church and, therefore, powerfully move God to impart His favors and extend His bounty to the living and the dead. By reason of the variety of the formulas of the Mass, the impetratory efficacy of the Sacrifice can be increased… also the nature of the prayers of the Mass and even of its whole rite exerts accordingly an influence upon the measure and nature of the fruits of the Sacrifice. From what has been said there follow several interesting consequences. Among others, that, on the part of the Church, a High Mass solemnly celebrated has greater value and efficacy than merely a low Mass. (…) At a Solemn High Mass the external display is richer and more brilliant than at a low Mass; for at a solemn celebration the Church, in order to elevate the dignity of the Sacrifice, manifests greater pomp, and God is more glorified thereby. (…) This grander and more solemn celebration of the Sacrifice is more acceptable to God and, therefore, more calculated to prevail upon Him to grant us, in His mercy, the favors we implore; - that is, to impart greater efficacy to the petitions and supplications of the Church.” (6)

If “the nature of the prayers of the Mass and even its whole rite” have an effect on the fruits of the Mass, it does not bode well for the Novus Ordo, which, to use the words of Cardinal Ottaviani, “represents, both as a whole and in its details, a striking departure from the Catholic theology of the Mass as it was formulated in Session XXII of the Council of Trent” and “has every possibility of satisfying the most modernist of Protestants”. (7)

Even the decora has an effect on the efficacy of a particular Mass: “If we use objects that do not fit the majesty and the exalted nature of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we can actually detract from the extrinsic merit. Ugly things please God less, and thus merit less”. (8)


On Calvary, our Lord offered His Passion and Death to the Father in order to merit our salvation. At the Mass, He offers Himself to the Father and applies the fruits of His Passion to us. But as we have seen, the fruits of the Mass are finite in their application, and contingent on many factors. The holiness of the priest, and the manner in which he says the Mass, will affect the fruits of the Mass. The greater the solemnity and grandeur of the Mass, the greater will be the graces God pours out on those who assist. When we consider the liturgical shipwreck that is the Novus Ordo Missae, and the scandalous manner in which the Mass is often celebrated, is there any wonder why the Church is in the condition it is today?
Let us recall the strange and even ominous words used by Paul VI when he introduced the new Mass to the world in November of 1969. He wrote:

“We ask you to turn your minds once more to the liturgical innovation of the new Rite of the Mass. This new Rite will be introduced into our celebration of the holy Sacrifice starting from Sunday next which is the first of Advent… a change in a venerable tradition that has gone on for centuries. This is something that affects our hereditary religious patrimony, which seemed to enjoy the privilege of being untouchable and settled. … This change will affect the ceremonies of the Mass. We shall become aware, perhaps with some feeling of annoyance, that the ceremonies at the altar are no longer being carried out with the same words and gestures to which we were accustomed… We must prepare for this many-sided inconvenience. It is the kind of upset caused by every novelty that breaks in on our habits. We shall notice that pious persons are disturbed most, because they have their own respectable way of hearing Mass, and they will feel shaken out of their usual thoughts and obliged to follow those of others. Even priests may feel some annoyance in this respect. … we must prepare ourselves. This novelty is no small thing. We should not let ourselves be surprised by the nature, or even the nuisance, of its exterior forms. … We will lose a great part of that stupendous and incomparable artistic and spiritual thing, the Gregorian chant. We have reason indeed for regret, reason almost for bewilderment”. (9)

Is it any surprise that a Mass described by the Pope who published it as “a many-sided inconvenience” and “nuisance”, which would cause “the feeling of annoyance”, “regret”, and “bewilderment”, would have a greatly diminished external value, and end in disaster for the Church - something that even Cardinal Ratzinger was forced to admit? In his book Milestones, which was published in 1997, he wrote: “I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy.”

Many clear thinking people foresaw, from the outset, the disaster that would result from the Protestantized new Mass. In the Critical Study of the new Mass, signed by Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci, they wrote: “To abandon a liturgical tradition which for four centuries was both the sign and pledge of unity of worship, and to replace it with another which cannot but be a sign of division by virtue of the countless liberties implicitly authorized, and which teems with insinuations or manifest errors against the integrity of the Catholic religion is, we feel in conscience bound to proclaim, an incalculable error”. They further wrote: “It has always been the case that when a law meant for the good of subjects proves to be on the contrary harmful, those subjects have the right, nay the duty of asking with filial trust for the abrogation of that law”.

Whatever the true motive was for Paul VI publishing the new Mass, and illicitly and unjustly suppressing the true Mass, let us do our duty and request that Pope Benedict XVI abandon the “reform of the reform”, and instead set in motion the abrogation the reform.

1) Ibid
2) Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, pg 137-138
3) Ibid pg. 138-139
4) Ibid pg. 144
5) Ibid pg. 143
6) Ibid pg 144-145
7) Ottaviani Intervention
8) The Merits of a Mass, Fr. Ripperger, FSSP
9) Pope Paul VI, General Audience, November 26, 1969)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Dignitatis Humanae

Dignitatis Humanae

True and False Notions of Human Dignity


By Robert J. Siscoe


On August 15, 1910, Pope St. Pius X issued the encyclical Notre Charge Apostolique, in which he condemned the errors of the Sillon.  The Sillon was a movement in France that promoted a form of social modernism (1), which sought to rebuild society on Masonic and Enlightenment principles incompatible with the Catholic Faith.


One of the fundamental errors of the Sillon was a false notion of human dignity, which flowed from an equally false notion of human liberty.  Pius X wrote: “The Sillon has a praise-worthy concern for human dignity, but it understands human dignity in the manner of some philosophers, of whom the Church does not at all feel proud. The first condition of that dignity is liberty, but viewed in the sense that, except in religious matters, each man is autonomous.”


The false notion of liberty and human dignity, which was advocated by the Sillon, was later expanded to include freedom of religion, in such a way that man’s dignity was said to bring with it the right to violate the First Commandment by professing any religion or none, as well as the right to express religious beliefs in the public forum, with no distinction being made between the true religion revealed by God, and “sects of perdition” (2 Peter 2:1) founded by men that St. Paul refers to as “lying teachers”.  We see this false notion of human dignity expressed in the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, which states:


“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights…. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”


Today, this false notion of human dignity has infected many within the Church, including high ranking prelates in Rome, who not only proclaim that men have a right to profess a false religion, but go further by encouraging them to do so.  Rather than preaching the saving truth in charity and warning them of the damnable errors they are entangled in, these misguided prelates encourage members of false religions to be faithful in carrying out their religious practices. This madness is due, in large part, to a false notion of human dignity. 


In order to sort out the confusion over this subject, we will distinguish between natural and supernatural dignity in the domain of being, and natural and supernatural dignity in the realm of acting.  We will then consider the false notion of human dignity, which proclaims for man the right to do that which God forbids.


The Realm of Being


On the ontological level – in the realm of being – man possesses the natural dignity of having been created in the image of God, that is, with a rational intellect and free will.  St. Augustine said: "Man's excellence consists in the fact that God made him to His own image by giving him an intellectual soul which raises him above the beasts of the field" (Gen. ad lit. vi, 12).


The rational intellect confers upon man natural liberty, or free will, (2) which is “the faculty of choosing means fitted for the end proposed.” (3)  Since only rational or intellectual creatures possess freedom of choice, man is the only material being that possesses the dignity of liberty.  “Liberty” wrote Leo XIII, “the highest of natural endowments, being the portion only of intellectual or rational natures, confers on man this dignity - that he is ‘in the hand of his counsel’ (Ecclus.15:14) - and has power over his actions.” (4) 


Man’s intellect enables him to know God and His law, while his natural liberty enables him to freely obey God’s law.   But due to original sin, man’s natural dignity has been corrupted, and consequently “darkness has spread over the mind, and the will has been inclined to evil”. (5) The result is that man’s intellect, which was made for truth, often errs in its judgment of truth; while his will, which was made for the true good, often errs by desiring and choosing a false good.  As a result of original sin, men are born into this world separated from God and inclined to evil, “under the power of the devil and death,” (6) and are “by nature children of wrath” (Eph 2:3).  Consequently, the man who dies with his natural dignity alone, even if such dignity has not been further corrupted by actual sin, will “immediately descend into hell.” (7)


Supernatural Dignity


In order for a man to obtain the supernatural end for which he was created - namely, the beatific vision of God in heaven - he must possess a dignity infinitely superior to that which he has by nature.   For man to enter into eternal life he must possess the supernatural dignity of sanctifying grace, which elevates his soul to the supernatural level through the infusion of Divine Life, thereby making him a “partaker of the Divine Nature,” (2 Peter 1:4) a “new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17) and an adopted child of God (Eph 1:5).  This supernatural dignity is absolutely necessary for salvation. 


For man to possess sanctifying grace, he must also possess, in the realm of being, the habit of supernatural faith, which is a divinely infused virtue that perfects the intellect and enables man to believe, by faith, the revealed truths necessary for salvation.  If a single revealed truth is knowingly rejected, the habit of faith is lost entirely (8) and since without the Catholic Faith it is impossible to please God (9), one who denies a single article of Faith cannot possess sanctifying grace – the supernatural dignity necessary for salvation. 


The false notion of human dignity, in the domain of being, denies that man has been corrupted by original sin and claims the man is essentially good by nature.  It claims that man possesses a divine principle as part of his nature, and is in the process of evolving into God.  Human life, as such, is said to be “sacred”; therefore whatever offends or harms Man is considered as an offense against God – at least what becoming a God.


The Realm of Acting


Man’s rational intellect and free will confer upon him moral obligations that do not apply to irrational creatures: man is morally bound to follow the Eternal Law, accept the truths God has revealed, and willingly obey them. 


Man’s liberty is not an end in itself, but rather a means to the rational attainment of an end.  The proper object of the will is “that good only which is in conformity with right reason” (Libertas). And since it is contrary to right reason for an intelligent being to turn away from the end for which it was created, man’s natural liberty (free will) must be exercised within the moral boundaries established by God, which are intended to direct man to the supernatural end for which he was created.  If man acts contrary to right reason, he is guilty of sin and thereby abuses his liberty.  Man’s moral liberty, which is the power to choose means that lead him to his proper end, is ordered to and limited by its object, and therefore subject to and restricted by the Revealed Law of God. 


When man uses his liberty within the boundaries of God’s law for the rational attainment of the end for which he was created, the greatest good can be achieved; but when he abuses his natural liberty by disobeying God’s law, he thereby turns away from his end, falls into sin, and the greatest evil results.   Hence in the realm of acting, by the use man makes of his inborn dignity, the highest good or the greatest evil can result, as Pope Leo XIII explains:


“But the manner in which such dignity is exercised is of the greatest moment, inasmuch as on the use that is made of liberty the highest good and the greatest evil alike depend. Man, indeed, is free to obey his reason, to seek moral good, and to strive unswervingly after his last end. Yet he is free also to turn aside to all other things; and, in pursuing the empty semblance of good, to disturb rightful order and to fall headlong into the destruction which he has voluntarily chosen” (Libertas).


The true dignity of man consist, not in doing what he pleases, but in doing what he ought; for only by doing what he ought will he attain the supernatural end for which he was created, and obtain the ultimate happiness for which he yearns.


Perfection of Our Dignity


The object of the intellect is truth, and the object of the will is the true good.  Therefore, the intellect is brought to perfection by adhering to the truth, and corrupted by adhering to error; while the will is perfected by choosing the true good, and corrupted by choosing a false and merely apparent good.


Now, just as the human intellect has the two-fold function of reasoning and understanding, so too the human will (man’s liberty) has the two-fold function of desiring and choosing. (10) But the will, which is the faculty of choice, is incapable of distinguishing a true good from a merely apparent good.  Therefore, the will must be directed in its choice by the intellect, which judges what is truly good, and directs the will thereto. (11)


As a result of the Fall, man’s will has been weakened and his intellect darkened.  The result is that the will tends to choose, not according to the judgment of reason, but according to the disordered desires of concupiscence; and the darkening of the intellect results in man’s reason often being mistaken in its judgment.  When this happens, even if the will follows the judgment of reason, rather than the desires of the lower nature, the false judgment will misdirect the will in its choice, and both will fall into corruption.  Pope Leo XIII said: “If the mind assents to false opinions, and the will chooses and follows after what is wrong, neither can attain its native fullness, but both must fall from their native dignity into an abyss of corruption” (Immortale Dei).  


To rectify this defect and provide man with the necessary knowledge to lead him to his supernatural end, God revealed the Divine Law, which perfects the intellect by filling it with truth (both natural and supernatural), so that it can direct the will to the true good. 


Intrinsic and Extrinsic Principles of Right Action


In addition to the revealed law of God, there are intrinsic and extrinsic principles that serve to perfect the intellect and will in their respective acts.  The intrinsic principles are virtuous habits, both natural and supernatural, which enlighten the mind to the truth (both speculative and practical) and direct the will to the good.  Natural virtues are habits acquired by man, while supernatural virtues are habits infused into the soul by God, and further developed by man.  These virtues perfect man by enlightening his mind to the truth and strengthening his will to choose the good. (12)


The extrinsic principles of right action are law and Divine Grace.  Law is a dictate of practical reason promulgated by one in a position of authority, the purpose of which is to guide man to his proper end by forbidding what God forbids and encouraging what God commands.  “Law is the guide of man’s actions”, wrote Leo XIII; “it turns him toward the good by its rewards, and deters him from evil by its punishments” (Libertas).    The written law rectifies the potential defect in the intellect by presenting it with the truth, while the sanctions attached to the law serves to impel the will to choose the true good.  Authority, which is a moral force impelling man to the good, also serves as an extrinsic help for right action. (Romans 13:1-5)  But the most excellent of the extrinsic helps is Divine Grace, which is a supernatural act of God that perfects the mind by enlightening it to the truth, and simultaneously moves the will to the true good.


These intrinsic and extrinsic principles help to rectify the potential defect in the intellect and will, and thereby safeguard the true dignity of man.


To conclude this point, the true dignity of man, in the realm of acting, consists in embracing the truth revealed by God (which perfects the intellect) and obeying God’s law, which leads man to the end for which he was created.


Supernatural Dignity in the Realm of Acting


When man possesses the supernatural dignity of sanctifying grace in his soul, he also possesses supernatural charity in the will, for “the virtue of charity has its foundation in grace, as a property in an essence.” (13)  The virtue of Charity perfects the will and serves as a supernatural principle that enables man to love God above all things, his neighbor as himself for the love of God, and perform meritorious acts worthy of a supernatural reward.  Without supernatural Charity in the will, man’s good deeds are considered “dead works”, and therefore cannot merit an eternal reward. “All works that are generically good” wrote St. Thomas, “are said to be dead, if they be done without Charity, inasmuch as they fail to proceed from the principle of [supernatural] life.”  (14)


False Notion of Human Dignity


Now that we have covered the true notion of human dignity, we will consider the false notion as it pertains to the realm of acting.  The erroneous notion of human dignity that is so widespread today is base based on Naturalism, and flows from the Masonic notion of “liberty”, which is embraced and promoted by the adherents of Liberalism.  This error essentially maintains that, since man is by nature free (in the realm of being), he should be free to do as he pleases (in the realm of acting), as long as he does not physically harm another man. (15)  It considers human liberty as an end in itself, rather than a means to an end.  It denies the moral boundaries for our liberty, and ends by equating liberty with license.


The false notion of human dignity ignores the Divine Law (which perfects man’s intellect), and claims that human reason is the sole principle and judge of truth.  Human reason is considered absolutely sovereign and therefore subject to no external authority.  It is independent of its object (truth), and therefore has a right to create its own “truth”.  In his encyclical against the Sillon, Pope St. Pius X referred to this as “intellectual emancipation in the name of human dignity.”


Man’s “dignity” requires that he be faithful to his own “truth” and not degrade himself by adhering to the truth of another – including that which has been revealed by Almighty God “who can neither deceive nor be deceived”.  Any truth imposed on man by an external source is said to be “tyranny over the mind of men” (16) and therefore contrary to his dignity.  For a Liberal, the idea of Divine Revelation being imposed by an external authority is an absolute horror.  “To believe in a revealed Religion, imposed by an exterior authority over human reason”, wrote Fr. Roussel, “is without doubt very humiliating for the liberal, and therefore, profoundly immoral.  It is a crime of high treason and a sacrilege.” (17)   


Therefore, in order to preserve man’s “dignity”, the preaching of the Gospel must be replaced by dialogue, and all forms of proselytism rejected.


The adherents of the false notion of human dignity oppose, what they call, “indifferentism”, but they understand indifferentism in such a way that each man must remain faithful to his own “truth” (whatever that may be); and since religion itself is considered nothing but an external expression of each man’s “truth”, it follows that forbidding someone from freely practicing their peculiar religion is an affront to his dignity – an intolerable crime for anyone who respects the dignity of man.   


Toleration for error is, therefore, the cardinal virtue for a Liberal, since for him the intellect is not brought to perfection by adhering to the truth revealed by God, as from an external source, but by being faithful to his own “truth”, regardless of how far his “truth” has deviated from reality.  The one crime that will not be tolerated is the “intolerance” of the Catholic who maintains that his religion alone is true.  Such a person is said to be guilty of the high crime of triumphalism, since he considers “his” truth to be superior to that of another.   This attitude is simply unbearable for the Liberal and his false notion of “the dignity of man”.


In reality, as we have seen, man’s true dignity is brought about by adhering to the truth revealed by God and following unswervingly after his supernatural end, and is corrupted when he embraces the errors of a false religion, since, as we have seen, “if the mind assents to false opinions, and the will chooses and follows after what is wrong, neither can attain its native fullness, but both must fall from their native dignity into an abyss of corruption.” (18)


The false notion of human dignity also considers the human will to be sovereign and independent, and therefore the source of its own law.  Accordingly, the will is brought to perfection, not by obeying God’s law and striving after its final end, but in obeying only itself.  Any law that does not proceed from the will of man is said to be a violation of his dignity, as an autonomous and independent being.   Commenting on this point, Pope St. Pius X said:


“Finally, at the root of all their fallacies… lie the false hopes of Sillonists on human dignity. According to them, Man will be a man truly worthy of the name only when he has acquired a strong, enlightened, and independent consciousness, able to do without a master, obeying only himself ... Such are the big words by which human pride is exalted, like a dream carrying Man away without light, without guidance, and without help into the realm of illusion in which he will be destroyed by his errors and passions whilst awaiting the glorious day of his full consciousness. And that great day, when will it come? Unless human nature can be changed, which is not within the power of the Sillonists, will that day ever come? Did the Saints who brought human dignity to its highest point, possess that kind of dignity?”


According to this notion of human dignity, man should be guided exclusively by his own reason and will, with no reference to the saving truth revealed by God and His Divine Will.  He is subject to no truth, law, or authority, that does not proceed from himself.  The true notion of authority is an insult to those who adhere to this false notion of the “dignity of man”, since it proceeds from an external source and seeks to impose moral obligations on an “independent and sovereign being”.   Authority, therefore, must come from man; it must flow, not from the top down, but from the bottom up, lest man’s dignity be offended by obeying a command he himself did not willingly enact.  Regarding this point, Pius X wrote:


“The Sillon does not wish to abolish political authority; on the contrary, it considers it necessary; but it wishes to divide it, or rather to multiply it in such a way that each citizen will become a kind of king. Authority, so they concede, comes from God, but it resides primarily in the people and expresses itself by means of elections or, better still, by selection. However, it still remains in the hands of the people; it does not escape their control. It will be an external authority, yet only in appearance; in fact, it will be internal because it will be an authority assented to…. But Leo XIII absolutely condemned this doctrine in his Encyclical ‘Diuturnum Illud’....”


The practical consequence of the false notion of human dignity is that man is his own god, “autonomous and independent”: human reason must be free to think for itself, without reference to God’s revealed truth; liberty is the faculty of doing what he pleases, irrespective of God’s law; external authority is tyranny, and obedience is servitude.  Man must be free to do as he pleases, and any higher law that seeks to hinder his “liberty” is considered to be contrary to his “dignity”.  As Fr. Roussel explains, the false notion of human dignity “manifests an anarchical and deregulated liberty in every domain.  Absolute autonomy of the individual, of his reason and will, the liberty of thought, of conscience and undefined progress even unto the deification of man… all this is plainly ridiculous and absurd.  It merits only disdain from any healthy and realistic mind.” (19)


The only acceptable law is one that protects his precious “liberty”, and the “right” to do what he pleases.  His motto is that of Lucifer ‘Non-Serviam’ – I will not serve, and his justification for this crime is his “dignity”. 


Fr. Roussell explains that this sin of Liberalism and its false notion of human dignity is “incomparably greater than the sins of the flesh because it destroys the most important and most excellent of all faculties, the intelligence.  It is a truly Satanic sin because it is the only one that he, Satan, could commit and is therefore inspired directly by him.  [It is] a radical and nearly incurable sin.” (20)




Since the close of Vatican II, the Liberal spirit of the Sillon and their false notion of human dignity have invaded the Church from top to bottom, resulting in the great apostasy that has spread throughout the world.  The false notion of human dignity is the underlying error of false ecumenism and the Assisi style “prayer meetings”, and is serving as the impetus for the establishment of a One World Church.  With this in mind, we will close with the following prophetic words of Pope St. Pius X:


 “We ask Ourselves, Venerable Brethren, what has become of the Catholicism of the Sillon? Alas! this organization … has been harnessed in its course by the modern enemies of the Church, and is now no more than a miserable affluent of the great movement of apostasy being organized in every country for the establishment of a One-World Church which shall have neither dogmas, nor hierarchy, neither discipline for the mind, nor curb for the passions, and which, under the pretext of freedom and human dignity, would bring back to the world (if such a Church could ever come) the reign of legalized cunning and force, and the oppression of the weak, and of all those who toil and suffer.” (21)


1 Fr. Loisy, who was excommunicated by Pius X for promoting Modernism, admitted that the Sillon was a form of social modernism.  He wrote: “Pope Pius X, who pursued all genres of modernism, condemned social modernism by striking against the Sillon.”  In Ubi Arcano Dei , Pius XI condemned social modernism “no less decidedly than…theological modernism.” (#61)

2 Summa, Pt 1, q 83, A 1: “And forasmuch as man is rational is it necessary that man have a free-will.”

3 Libertas

4 Ibid.

5 Singulari Quaden, Pius IX, Denz. 1643

6 Council of Trent, Denz. 793

7 Council of Florence: “the souls of those who depart [this life] in actual mortal sin or in original sin only, descend immediately into hell….” Denz. 693

8 Summa. Pt II-II, Q. 5, A. 2; Satis Cognitum #9 by Leo XIII

9 Council of Trent, Denz 787; Heb. 11:16

10 Summa, Pt 1, Q 83, A 4

11 See Libertas #5

12 Mystical Body of Christ in the Modern World, Fr. Fahey. Pg. 154

13 Ibid, Pg. 44

14 Summa, Pt III, Q 89, A 6

15 The Declaration of the Rights of Man states: “Liberty is the power of doing what we will, so long as it does not injure another.”

16 Referring to the imposition of Christian doctrine on men, the Liberal Thomas Jefferson said: “I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."

17 Liberalism and Catholicism Pg. 31

18 Immortale Dei

19 Liberalism and Catholicism, Pg 19

20 Ibid. pg 45

21 Notre Charge Apostolique