Friday, October 08, 2010
Archbishop Amigo of Southwark for most of the first half of the twentieth century decide to suspend a handful of curates for Modernism, then tried to do the same with a Parish Priest and was told he couldn't do that without a lengthy process of admonitions, detailed preparation of a case and formal trial. His sense of justice led him to decide if he couldn't get rid of the Parish Priest it was unjust to act against the curates, so the matter was dropped, and he had to be content with merely suggesting they had "heretical tendencies". In all probability they were moved to Gravesend, sorry if you live there, which seemed to be the "penal" parish at the time.
Even before the Second Vatican Council and under the 1915 Code of Canon Law, even in the light of Pascendi etc heresy was difficult to prove, one could easily be removed from a teaching role but not from a parish. The Law of the Church was there to protect against the malice of a superior.
In theory heresy is any formal denial of any defined Truth, but there seem to have been fashions, hence Talleyrand already known for his atheism was consecrated Bishop of Autun in pre-revolutionary France. In most congregations there are deniers of the Real Presence, those who don't believe in Confession. In any group of clergy there a priests with very odd views but the Church rarely singles them out as heretics. Very occassionally does a theologian receive a formal condemnation. Sometimes a bishop or religious superior might prohibit a subject priest or religious to publish or teach. It is normally failure to comply with this, as an act of obedience, that might result in censure or even dismissal from the clerical or religious state.
For the most part the Church is and was content to live with heresy, one role of the priest is to condemn tendencies that lead to weakening communion because it is schism, the breaking of communion that is the real cause for concern.
Heresy is treated by the Church for the most part as ignorance. Ignorance is best dealt with by catechesis and gentle reproval or fraternal correction rather than by a judicial penalty of some type. Sometimes it is invincible ignorance, unless it is damaging the innocent, the tendency of the Church is to live with it. Our presumption is that Truth is more attractive than error and that Truth will eventually triumph.
It does concern me that individuals are described as "heretics", normally by the theoligically naive, they might have heretical views or they might over emphasise certain areas of teaching or neglect others but the Christian presumption is that they are men and women of good will and good faith. The Church is primarilly concerned with Charity and with the salvation, not the condemnation, of souls.
In the traditional Rite of Baptism parents are asked what they ask of the Church, they answer, "Faith", the presumption is that "Faith" is supernatural gift, the presumption is that it is an orthodox faith that is received, and just as one grows in faith one also grows in orthodoxy, coming to a deeper and deeper understanding of rvealed truths.
Pope Benedict's admonition to our bishops, "to recognise dissent for what it is" is useful. Those who dissent are those who pull away from mainstream faith, not only damaging the faith of others but undermining the Church's unity and mission. Dissent marks those angry, arrogant often elderly men (and women) who set up themselves as the sensus fidelium against that of the Church. One suspects that there are deep seated problems with the ecclessial dimension of the fourth commandment. Whether they are on the right or the left, invariably their concern is not so much with Truth or the mission of the Church but with structures and authority, with Churchiness.
Modern dissenters seem to have a propensity to destroy and undermine faith rather than build it up, to spread confusion and relativism rather than to search for Truth.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake