Monday, August 16, 2010

What the Church Rejects and Affirms

Note: The Syllabus of Pope Pius IX and Vatican II. I think Fr. Denis Fahey was on to something important when he wrote (see below) that the Church affirms "the partial truth contained in heresy," and so can redress imbalance, while the Holy Spirit steers away from rupture. He says, "If we now turn to the consideration of some of the errors which have been condemned, we shall find, under the apparent rigidity and seemingly unyielding spirit of the Church, that wonderful breadth of view and synthetic grasp of all the aspects of truth, which are the joys of the Church's children."

Indeed. At the time of the Council, which alas yielded too many ambiguous sentences which are today still undergoing clarifications, the assembly of bishops said over and over that it was to affirm truths in balance, not merely to repeat well-known condemnations, that a Council was called---SH

---From Ch IX of Fr. Denis Fahey's The Mystical Body of Christ in the Modern World

If we now turn to the consideration of some of the errors which have been condemned, we shall find, under the apparent rigidity and seemingly unyielding spirit of the Church, that wonderful breadth of view and synthetic grasp of all the aspects of truth, which are the joys of the Church's children.


Heresy, as its Greek original proclaims, means selection and choosing. It involves in its very essence a rupture of the harmonious equilibrium of two truths, both of which are taught in their purity by the Catholic Church. Heresy takes one aspect of the full harmonious synthesis of the Divine Plan and exaggerates it till the resultant affirmation involves negation of the complementary aspect. It is the partial truth contained in a heresy which obtains acceptance for the error therein involved, because the human mind is meant for truth and cannot embrace error as such. What the Catholic Church condemns is, needless to say, the error or negation, not the affirmation. Let us take some examples from the long list of errors and heresies.


Americanism is not condemned on account of its assertion of the necessity of the active and social virtues, but on account of its negation of the interior virtues of self-denial, humility, obedience. It is not judged worthy of reproof on account of its affirmation of the beauty of the natural virtues, but on account of its negation of the splendour of the supernatural ones.


Again, the Church condemns in Protestantism not its affirmations, namely, that every Christian has a personal relation with Our Lord, that religion is life, faith and love, that true religion is interior in spirit and in truth, but rather its negations, namely, that Christ treating man as a pure or angelic spirit, left out of consideration man's social nature and did not institute a visible, supernatural society, to draw His members into personal union with Him and guide them in living His Life, in which, by sanctifying grace, they really share. True religion is both interior and exterior, social and personal, respectful of freedom and devoted to the authority of the Mystical Body, dogmatic and moral. These affirmations are complementary and all are required.


What does the Church condemn in Pantheism? Is it the affirmation of the Divine Immensity or of the universality of the Divine Presence in all creatures? No, for that is the Church's own teaching. What she condemns is the limitation, restriction, and imprisonment of the Divine Immensity and of the Divine Universality in the narrow limits of the finite and the created. What she condemns is the Humanity-God, the Nature-God, that is to say, the diminutions and negations of the true reality of nature and of humanity.

To mix up and confuse things is to destroy them. God is immanent to all creatures by His essence, His presence and His Power, but He is at the same time infinitely transcendent. The Divine Immanence and the Divine Transcendence are two great truths which must be clearly grasped and firmly retained; they are purified and corrupted together. To the objection that God being above all things cannot be in all things, Saint Thomas replies that God is above all things by excellence of His nature, but in all things as the Cause of their being, which is that which is most intimate and innermost in them. To Condemn Error is to Liberate truth.

The Syllabus of Errors

Those who pretend to be shocked by the long list of condemnations formulated in the Syllabus of Pius IX or by the decrees of the Holy Office have not sufficiently remarked that, when the Church rejects all the different forms of exaggeration, she proclaims by that very fact the broad universal affirmation which lies behind all the errors (Vatican II sought, for good or ill, to redress this---SH). Error and heresy are diminutions of the integral truth, mutilations of the life of the intelligence. It is this mutilation, this restriction, which the Church condemns, thus maintaining the integrity of human thought, the breadth and fullness of the correct idea. Error as such is a negative force, a diminution of truth and being and life; what the Church condemns in an erroneous statement is not the element of truth and life and being accompanying it, but the degradation of these things.

Not a Hindrance to Life but Its Wings

The Catholic doctrine of virtue has often been represented as a hindrance to the development of life. Seen in their true light, Catholic truth and Christian life are not to be likened to hampering bonds but to upward-soaring wings. Virginity is spiritual fruitfulness in the Church, as religious vows are the masterpiece of spiritual liberty, for the contemplative orders are active on a higher, transcendent plane.

Meaning of Anathemas

The anathemas of the Church are in the full sense acts of homage to the integral truth. The poet sees only poetry, the experimental scientist only his test-tube, the astronomer the starry sky. Irreligion nearly always has its source in this narrowness, for irreligion is short-sightedness, a defect of vision. This is one of the causes of the present tide of unbelief, since "science" has buried itself in matter. For "science" thus becomes a narrow view of things, and, because it is narrow, and precisely because of this narrowness, it is anti-catholic.

To enter the Catholic Church does not mean abdicating "manly free-thought" for an obscure childish dogmatism; it means enabling one's soul to attain true liberty and a complete grasp of the order of the Divine Plan.

The Whole vs. The Part

... Orthodoxy alone has true breadth of view, for it alone is in full conformity with reality. When one understands that, one can sympathetically point out to non-Catholics that the elements of truth to which they cling are all to be found in God's Church and far more.

Note: There is hardly a philosophy, book or teacher, however imbalanced through exaggeration or other distortions, which does not teach some important truths which, qua truth, belongs to us all. So we are always ready to take the meat and leave the bones without anxiety in all such instances; grateful for truth wherever it is hidden and happily found.

--->Fr. Brian Harrison on Religious Liberty properly understood...

--->Fr. Brian Harrison: John Courtney Murray - A Reliable Interpreter of Dignitatis Humanae? ...see Part I ...and part 2

The fathers of Vatican II, correctly or naively, saw the original American Revolution as something very different from the French Revolution, and so came to see it as a kind of third way which the Church could live with. If it was naivete, then the only question may be whether, say, Roe v. Wade was the ruin, or the fruit, of the principles of the former.