Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

Tradition, Doctrine, Magisterium, and Novelty

by Omar F.A. Gutierrez


In this third section of a six-part essay an attempt will be made to offer some sort of definition for the key terms of this debate. It is necessary that these terms are defined at least in part and that these definitions come from the Church's use. In this section three sets of basic theological terms will be discussed: Tradition / tradition, dogma / doctrine, and Magisterium / authority.

Larger Work

The Wanderer


8 - 9

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Wanderer Printing Co., St. Paul, MN, May 22, 2003

Vision Book Cover Prints

When one side of a debate attempts to determine from its own imagination what certain terms are going to mean, there is little doubt that the definitions given are themselves designed to aid the position of that one same side. Just as in algebra, if one mathematician is allowed to determine the numbers for which "x" and "y" stand, then the mathematician can always determine the sum. But argument is not algebra, and this is not the way to partake of debate. There must be some common or clear sense regarding the meaning of an argumentative term for the debate to be fruitful. The definitions should either be agreed on by both sides or they must come from some objective and disinterested party.

It is telling that the Ferrawood argument is made up of 407 pages of text, yet nowhere can one find an objective, much less accurate, definition of "tradition," "novelty," "magisterium," "authority," "doctrine," "dogma," or "liturgy." These terms are at the heart of the debate, yet their meaning is ignored. The notion, then, that this book "refutes, with devastating logic and precision, all the common 'neo-Catholic' objections to the traditionalist position, while confounding all the usual 'neo-Catholic' excuses for the ruinous mistakes of judgment by Church authorities" would be laughable if it were not so obscenely absurd.

The "common 'neo-Catholic'" positions are not accurately presented, because the authors often make them mean what they do not mean. The "usual 'neo-Catholic' excuses" are not held by any of the neo-Catholic persons that I personally know and the authors label as neo-Catholic. Rather the Ferrawood argument demonstrates incomplete and understandings of some basic theological terms.

In the first section of this essay, it was shown that the argumentative term "neo-Catholic" was a term invented by the authors for the argumentative benefit of their side. In the last section, a number of examples were presented that demonstrate how willing the authors are to read contradiction and error into texts. Here, an attempt will be made to offer some sort of definition for the key terms of this debate. It is necessary that these terms are defined at least in part and that these definitions come from the Church's use. In this section three sets of basic theological terms will be discussed. These are Tradition / tradition, dogma / doctrine, and Magisterium / authority. The central term for the authors' work, "novelty," will then be discussed. It will be clear that not only do the authors fail to define what are truly the central terms in this debate, but further that the terms they do use are not properly understood.

Tradition / tradition

The definition of tradition, of course, ought to have been the starting point for the traditionalist argument, but it was not. When one looks to the index of The Great Façade for "tradition," one does not find it. Rather one finds "traditional Mass — see Tridentine Mass" and "traditionalism, traditionalists — defined, 12ff." This was not helpful, to say the least When we go to the definition of a traditionalist or of traditionalism in the reasonable hope that tradition might be defined, we find really nothing. We find only that a traditionalist is one who worships and believes as Catholics have always worshiped and believed until 1965. Perhaps in revealing what this worship and belief were we might gain some understanding of what the authors mean by tradition.

Regarding worship, the authors tell us on page 13 that the tradition is the following: "the Popes had constantly taught for more than nineteen centuries, up to and including Pope John XXIII in Veterum Sapientia (1962): that the traditional Latin liturgy of the Roman Rite, a work of the Holy Ghost down the ages, was not subject to radical revision." This statement is not helpful in understanding what tradition is. The authors not only do not at least footnote some salient examples of this hard and fast papal stance from the earliest centuries, but they are not sufficiently clear on the distinction between the liturgy of the Latin Church and the Roman Rite. The rite of Rome did not become the universally normative rite of the Latin Church until the 16th century. In other words, for the majority of the Church's history worshiping as a Roman Catholic did not require that one use the rite of Rome. There were and are the rites of Spain, Gaul, and even Milan. These rites are different — sometimes strikingly so — from that of Rome. It is simply not true to imply that all Catholics have worshiped as Rome has worshiped for 1,900 years. Furthermore, these other Latin rites did, in fact, go through radical revision. Some of them were even suppressed, which must certainly be considered radical change.

The authors also do not tell us what they mean by "radical revision." The word "radical" suggests revision at the root. What is the root of worship: language, music, space? The language of the liturgy of the Church in Rome was changed from Greek to Latin. This is a historical fact. The liturgy of Rome was Greek at the time of Peter and for about 300 years afterward.1 If language is part of the root of the liturgy, then the 19 centuries of unbroken papal teaching now have to be reduced to 16. Also, if the liturgy is the work of the Holy Ghost, then what of the linguistic traditions of the Early Church, which were entirely Greek? Were not these inspired by the same Ghost? Clearly at some point in time some Pope, if we cannot accuse Pope Damasus alone, must have broken from the ranks of tradition — or at least what we might presume to be tradition as the authors have presented it — and simply changed everything from Greek to Latin. Not even Msgr. Gamber, after all, is so bold to say that the Roman Rite was without radical revision for 19 centuries.2 At any rate, the definition of traditional worship which the authors give is not helpful in understanding authentic tradition.

As for traditional belief, the authors tell us the following: The Catholic Church is "the one true Church to which the separated brethren must return." The traditional belief is also found in Pius XI's Mortalium animos, "which condemned the developing 'ecumenical movement' as a threat to the very foundation of the Christian faith, and forbade any Catholic participation in it." Here too, little of what tradition is or means is given.

Any semblance of a definition for tradition in The Great Façade ends here. Tradition is reduced to the way, the praxis of worship and to a doctrine associated with eschatology. The next paragraphs tell us that "no Catholic is obliged to embrace a single one of the novelties imposed upon the Church over the past thirty-five years" and that the "postconciliar novelties ought to be abandoned because they have caused grave harm to the Church . . . " None of this makes understanding the authors' argument easy when they define their position with terms that are not themselves comprehensible. It is nearly impossible, after all, to attempt to delineate what is a novelty when the parameters of what is tradition have not been laid out. The authors make many claims as to what is traditional, but without a definition or rule by which the readers can understand tradition, then what is traditional becomes a matter of personal perception or raw willfulness. If tradition is so central to the authenticity of the Christian life then it must be founded on more than whimsy.

If we turn to the Catholic Encyclopedia we find an entire article written on "Tradition and Living Magisterium." The opening paragraph of this 1912 article reads:

The word tradition (Greek paradosis) in the ecclesiastical sense; which is the only one in which it is used here; refers sometimes to the thing (doctrine, account, or custom) transmitted from one generation to another sometimes to the organ or mode of the transmission (kerigma ekklisiastikon, predicatio ecclesiastica). In the first sense it is an old tradition that Jesus Christ was born on 25 December, in the second sense tradition relates that on the road to Calvary a pious woman wiped the face of Jesus. In theological language, which in many circumstances has become current, there is still greater precision and this in countless directions. At first there was question only of traditions claiming a Divine origin, but subsequently there arose questions of oral as distinct from written tradition, in the sense that a given doctrine or institution is not directly dependent on Holy Scripture as its source but only on the oral teaching of Christ or the Apostles. Finally with regard to the organ of tradition it must be an official organ, a Magisterium, or teaching authority.

First of all, tradition can refer to things. The things that are transmitted from age to age are doctrines, accounts, or customs. The second "tradition" can refer to that mode by which the things (the doctrines, accounts, or customs) are transmitted. Since I do not know of anyone who rejects the notion that ideas, stories, or customs can and are passed on by means of tradition, I imagine that the traditionalists do not exist to defend this meaning.

Next, the following question should be asked: Does a tradition-account have the same binding force that a tradition-doctrine has? The Encyclopedia tells us that the divine origin of tradition was historically the first issue to be resolved. This issue was followed by a distinction between oral and written tradition. These distinctions help answer our question. When the question of divine origin and the distinction between oral and written tradition was made the Church was dealing specifically with tradition-doctrine, with the "teaching of Christ or the Apostles." The article continues by stating that tradition is communicated through "an official organ, a magisterium, or teaching authority." This further answers our previous question. Since the magisterium is a "teaching authority" and customs, by virtue of the fact that they arise from the popular imagination, are not taught, then the Encyclopedia must be speaking of tradition-doctrines. These distinctions must be made clear.

If we turn to The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) we find a definition of tradition in the glossary. It reads:

Tradition: The living transmission of the message of the Gospel in the Church. The oral preaching of the Apostles, and the written message of salvation under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Bible), are conserved and handed on as the deposit of faith through the apostolic succession in the Church. Both the living Tradition and the written Scriptures have their common source in the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. The theological, liturgical, disciplinary, and devotional traditions of the local churches both contain and can be distinguished from this apostolic Tradition.

This seems rather straightforward. From the start, tradition is linked with the notion of the Gospel. We are therefore speaking of tradition-doctrine, not tradition-account or tradition-custom. Then the distinction between oral and written tradition is made. Oral tradition is the Apostles' teaching while written tradition is the Bible. Both these forms of tradition-doctrine are "conserved and handed on" by the Church, specifically the hierarchical Church, for apostolic succession is maintained through the Church's hierarchy. Next, the oral tradition or "living Tradition" and the written tradition come from God. The divine origin of these traditions appears again and thus reinforces the fact that the CCC is speaking about tradition-doctrine. Also, in virtue of this divine origin Catholics must believe, i.e., place divine faith, in these traditions. Next, there is a distinction between the traditions of local churches and the "apostolic Tradition." Please note the capital 'T' on "apostolic Tradition." Tradition-doctrines that stem back to the apostolic fathers or Scripture, meaning those that have a divine origin, are going to be referred to as Traditions from this point further. When the reader sees Tradition(s)," he can substitute the word with the following phrase: the doctrinal teachings of the Apostles and/or Scripture that have been handed down to us in the present day by the Magisterium.

Now the following question must be asked: If the apostolic Tradition is a part of the divine Revelation, and therefore binding on our faith, and there is a real distinction between Tradition and the traditions of the local churches, then are the "theological, liturgical, disciplinary, and devotional traditions of the local churches" binding on our faith as well? The answer must certainly be that insofar as these local traditions contain the apostolic Tradition or reflect scriptural doctrine, they are binding. Beyond this, a local tradition cannot be said to be binding on our divine faith, and thus maintaining this tradition is not a requisite aspect of orthodox Catholic belief.

The authors mention on page 93 the words of Pope St Pius X in Pascendi regarding tradition. Pius is quoting the Second Council of Nicaea. A reproduction of some portions of this council will further aid us in understanding what tradition is.

The council was called to respond to the Iconoclast heresy. This heresy held that it was against the will of God that Catholics should honor images. Some Iconoclasts, motivated by a fundamentally Gnostic understanding of the universe, held that even veneration of the cross was obscene as Christ was never really bodily crucified. The Empress Irene of Constantinople, to undo the influence of the predominantly Iconoclast emperors before her, asked that a council be called to answer this question once and for all. Thus Nicaea II was held in 787. It declares in part:

We, continuing in the regal path, and following the divinely inspired teaching of our Holy Fathers, and the tradition of the Catholic Church, for we know that this is of the Holy Spirit who certainly dwells in it, define in all certitude and diligence that as the figure of the honored and life-giving Cross, so the venerable and holy images . . . must be suitably placed in the holy churches of God . . .

Note that the fathers at Nicaea equate the "inspired teaching" of the "Holy Fathers" with the "tradition of the Catholic Church." They also state that this tradition is "of the Holy Spirit." They are speaking, one must conclude, of tradition-doctrine, of Tradition. The fathers of this council continue, ". . . let an oblation of incense and lights be made to give honor to these as was the pious custom with the ancients." Note here please that the fathers do not refer to the particular tradition of using incense and lights as "the tradition of the Catholic Church" but as "pious custom." That holy images and crosses are to be used is Tradition. Using incense and lights to venerate them is tradition-custom.

After this definition, the fathers at Nicaea II write, "Far thus the doctrine of our Holy Fathers, that is, the tradition of the Catholic Church which has received the Gospel from and even to the end of the world is strengthened. Thus we follow Paul, who spoke in Christ (2 Cor. 2:17), and all the divine apostolic group and the paternal sanctity keeping the traditions (2 Thess. 2:14) which we have received." The Nicaean fathers again equate the "doctrines of our Holy Fathers" with the "tradition of the Catholic Church." Then they clearly state that the traditions which have been received are the same as those kept by the Apostles. Again, the Nicaean fathers are speaking about the tradition of the Catholic Church in terms of the apostolic Tradition as tradition-doctrine.3

Next these same fathers declare that those who dare to reject, along with the heretics, "the ecclesiastical traditions and to invent anything novel, or to reject anything from these things which have been consecrated by the Church . . . or to invent perversely and cunningly for the overthrow of anyone of the legitimate traditions of the Catholic Church" are to be punished accordingly. There are several things to take note of here, but only one will suffice for now The ecclesiastical traditions the Nicaean fathers are speaking of are and have been throughout the document those which bear on doctrines. The fathers are speaking of Tradition, the apostolic Traditions of the Catholic Church, which are to be distinguished from tradition-accounts and tradition-customs.

The last statement from the Second Nicaean Council pertinent to our discussion reads, if anyone rejects all ecclesiastical tradition either written or not written . . . let him be anathema." Anathemas apply to those who have rejected doctrines. Once again, the fathers defend Tradition, not any other sort of tradition, not the theological, liturgical, disciplinary, or devotional traditions of the local churches but specifically Tradition. This is clear because the council directed itself toward a violation of a divine doctrine from the Apostles and Scripture.

What understanding of tradition does the Ferrawood argument hold? By taking up the traditionalist standard, what tradition do the authors defend? Do traditionalists defend Tradition, tradition-doctrine, or do they defend tradition-custom or account? It is never clear for they are not clear on the distinction themselves. The authors do claim that through the use of the term "traditionalist" they mean to say that they adhere to the way Catholics have always worshiped and believed. I have already pointed out how unhelpful this "definition" of tradition is. When we use the distinctions found in the Catholic Encyclopedia and in The Catechism of the Catholic Church and applied by the Nicaean fathers, we find that the Ferrawood argument lacks any intelligible definition of tradition.

dogma / doctrine

There is a very real and important distinction between a dogma and a doctrine. If Tradition is, as the Catholic Encyclopedia would say, tradition-doctrine, then what makes up a doctrine will aid us in getting to what Tradition really is, and vice-versa. Further, as there are varying levels of appropriate responses from the faithful Catholic to a dogma and a doctrine, getting at the distinction between the two is crucial. To begin to understand this distinction one must know that all dogmas are doctrines, but not all doctrines are dogmas.

A doctrine can be understood rather simply. If one turns to the 1909 article in the Catholic Encyclopedia on "Christian Doctrine," one will find the following definition:

Taken in the sense of "the act of teaching" and "the knowledge imparted by teaching," this term is synonymous with catechesis and catechism. Didaskalia, didache, in the Vulgate, doctrina, are often used in the New Testament, especially in the pastoral epistles. As we might expect, the Apostle insists upon "doctrine" as one of the most important duties of a bishop (1 Tim. 4:13, 16; 5:17; 2 Tim. 4:2, etc.).

"Doctrine refers simply to a teaching of the Church. The binding nature of a doctrine is specific as well. Canon 752 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law reads:

A religious respect of intellect and will, even if not the assent of faith; is to be paid to the teaching which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops enunciate on faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium even if they do not intend to proclaim it with a definitive act; therefore the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid whatever is not in harmony with that teaching.4

A Catholic owes a submission of intellect and will, an obsequium, to any doctrine of the Church taught by the Pope and / or bishops in council on matters of faith or morals. Further, the Pope and the bishops in council need not intend to proclaim this teaching as an official teaching or in a formal manner in order for it to be considered an authentic teaching, i e., doctrine, of the Church. If a Catholic cannot offer his obsequium he must avoid public polemic not in harmony with the teaching in question. That Natural Family Planning is a valid method of family planning is a matter of morals and an issue addressed by the Magisterium. This could then be said to be a doctrine of the Church. However, it has not been stated by the Magisterium that the validity of NFP is part of the apostolic Tradition or Sacred Scripture. Thus, it does not rise to the level of dogma.

We read in the 1909, Encyclopedia article on "Dogma" that there were several uses of the word throughout the ages:

But according to a longstanding usage a dogma is now understood to be a truth appertaining to faith or morals, revealed by God, transmitted from the Apostles in the Scriptures or by tradition, and proposed by the Church for the acceptance of the faithful. It might be described briefly as a revealed truth defined by the Church — but private revelations do not constitute dogmas, and some theologians confine the word defined to doctrines solemnly defined by the pope or by a general council, while a revealed truth becomes a dogma even when proposed by the Church through her ordinary magisterium or teaching office. A dogma therefore implies a twofold relation: to Divine revelation and to the authoritative teaching of the Church.

A doctrine is elevated to the level of a dogma of the Catholic Church when it can be discovered explicitly or at least in seed in divine Revelation and when it has been formerly declared to be a revealed truth by the authoritative teaching of the Church. The CCC has this to say when it defines "Doctrine / Dogma":

The revealed teachings of Christ which are proclaimed by the fullest extent of the exercise of the authority of the Church's Magisterium. The faithful are obliged to believe in the truths or dogmas contained in divine Revelation arid defined by the Magisterium.

A dogma is a teaching, a doctrine, revealed by Christ and promulgated by the clearly authoritative voice of the Magisterium. This clearly authoritative voice is the infallible voice. Infallible statements must deal with matters of faith and morals, and they must be made definitively by the appropriate authoritative body. The definition in the CCC also tells us that every Catholic, who would have himself counted amongst the blessed, is obliged to place divine faith, not just an obsequium, in what is divinely revealed and defined, i.e., in dogmas. The binding nature of the dogma is thus much greater than the doctrine. The faithful Catholic is asked to do more than simply submit his intellect and will to dogmatic teaching. He is asked to believe it.

Furthermore, the Catholic Encyclopedia tells us that there are essentially three classes of dogmas. Allow me to reproduce the pertinent text from the same article on "Dogma":

The three classes of revealed truths. Theologians distinguish three classes of revealed truths: truths formally and explicitly revealed; truths revealed formally, but only implicitly; and truths only virtually revealed.

A truth is said to be formally revealed, when the speaker or revealer really means to convey that truth by his language, to guarantee it by the authority of his word. The revelation is formal and explicit, when made in clear express terms. It is formal but only implicit, what the language is somewhat obscure, when the rules of interpretation must be carefully employed to determine the meaning of the revelation. And a truth is said to be revealed only virtually, when it is not formally guaranteed by the word of the speaker, but is inferred from something formally revealed.

Now, truths formally and explicitly revealed by God are certainly dogmas in the strict sense when they are proposed or defined by the Church. Such are the articles of the Apostles' Creed. Similarly, truths revealed by God formally, but only implicitly, ate dogmas in the strict sense when proposed or defined by the Church. Such, for example, are the doctrines of Transubstantiation, papal infallibility, the Immaculate Conception, some, of the Church's teaching about the Savior, the sacraments, etc. All doctrines defined by the Church as being contained in revelation are understood to be formally revealed, explicitly or implicitly. It is a dogma of faith that the Church is infallible in defining these two classes of revealed truths; and the deliberate denial of one of these dogmas certainly involves the sin of heresy. These is a diversity of opinion about virtually revealed truths, which has its roots in a diversity of opinion about the material object of faith. It is enough to say here that, according to some theologians, virtually revealed truths belong to the material object of faith and become dogmas in the strict sense when defined or proposed by the Church; and according to others, they do not belong to the material object of faith prior to their definition, but become strict dogmas when defined; and, according to others, they do not belong to the material object of Divine faith at all, nor become dogmas in the strict sense when defined, but may be called mediately-Divine or ecclesiastical dogmas. In the hypothesis that virtually revealed conclusions do not belong to the material object of faith, it has not been defined that the Church is infallible in defining these truths, the infallibility of the Church, however, in relation to these truths is a doctrine of the Church theologically certain, which cannot lawfully be denied — and though the denial of an ecclesiastical dogma would not be heresy in the strict sense, it could entail the sundering of the bond of faith and expulsion from the Church by the Church's anathema or excommunication.

The first type of revealed truth, formal-explicit, is exemplified in the articles of the Apostles' Creed. Here is deliberate teaching on the part of the Apostles on propositions which must be believed in with divine faith. This is clearly apostolic Tradition. The second type, formal-implicit, is exemplified by the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Though there is no text from Scripture which explicitly demonstrates the divine origin of this teaching, the Church's Magisterium has, based on the implicit meanings of other formal-explicit truths, rightly declared it to be a revelation with divine origin. Next, the virtually revealed dogma can be referred to as an "ecclesiastical dogma." Denial of this virtually revealed dogma or tradition may not be heresy in the strict sense, but "it could entail the sundering of the bond of faith and expulsion from the Church by the Church's anathema or excommunication." This teaching "cannot lawfully be denied."

With this knowledge, then, some conclusions can be made. Doctrines are teachings on faith or morals by the Pope or the bishops in council. The Immaculate Conception was a doctrine but is now a defined doctrine of the Church, i.e., a dogma. It is a dogma in virtue of the fact that it is a doctrine that has been defined with the infallible voice of the Magisterium as being an integral part of the apostolic Tradition, as being a part of divine Revelation, as being necessary for orthodox Catholic faith. After Pius IX's promulgation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception it can be stated that the Immaculate Conception is part of the Tradition of the Church. Therefore, the truths witnessed to in divine Revelation and given definition by the Magisterium make up the substance of Tradition, for, as the Catholic Encyclopedia and the CCC tell us, Tradition has a divine origin and is communicated by an official Magisterium. Further, since Tradition is made up of the teachings of the Apostles and / or Scripture and dogmas are doctrines which have been defined by the official Magisterium as being teachings found in Sacred Scripture and / or the apostolic fathers, then all dogmas are part of the Tradition of the Church.

From this, it ought to be apparent why it is necessary that the Magisterium determines the Tradition of the Church. If Tradition is made up of dogmas and dogmas are the result of magisterial pronouncements, then Tradition is necessarily determined by the very same Magisterium. This cannot be refuted. Tradition is not something that can be determined by each individual or group of individuals who have an axe to grind with governing policies of the Vatican. Discovering what the Tradition is in order to determine the licitness of a particular practice is a process that must use the language of doctrines.

Now customs and accounts are a part of tradition. I do not desire to argue that customs and accounts are of no importance. The question in this debate is in what way the Popes and councils are using the term "tradition." Do they mean doctrines, accounts, or customs? That none of this is laid out in the Ferrawood argument demonstrates that they either have no understanding of these basic theological distinctions or have deliberately ignored them.

magisterium / authority

The authors of Facade do not need to be convinced that when the Pope speaks ex cathedra he must be obeyed. Likewise, there is most likely no argument between the traditionalists and myself about the fact that the Pope acts as the Magisterium when he speaks ex cathedra. Still, some distinctions ought to be made. We turn back, then, to the 1912 article "Tradition and the Living Magisterium" in the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Properly speaking, this magisterium is a teaching authority; it not only presents the truth, but it has the right to impose it, since its power is the very power given by God to to Christ and by Christ to His Church. This authority is called the teaching Church. The teaching Church is essentially composed of the episcopal body, which continues here below the work and mission of the Apostolic College. It was indeed in the form of a college or social body that Christ grouped His Apostles and it is likewise as a social body that the episcopate exercises its mission to teach. Doctrinal infallibility has been guaranteed to the episcopal body and to the head of that body, as it was guaranteed to the Apostles, with this difference, however, between the Apostles and the bishops that each Apostle was personally infallible . . . , whereas only the body of bishops is infallible and each bishop is not so, save in proportion as he teaches in communion and concert with the entire episcopal body.

Not every word from a bishop's lip or pen is dogma, or even doctrine. The authors' accusation that the neo-Catholic takes every word of a bishop or Pope as dogma is ridiculous. The Encyclopedia further states:

At the head of this episcopal body is the supreme authority of the Roman pontiff, the successor of St. Peter in his primacy as he is his successor in his see. As supreme authority in the teaching body, which is infallible, he himself is infallible. The episcopal body is infallible also, but only in union with its head, from whom moreover it may not separate, since to do so would be to separate from the foundation on which the Church is built. The authority of the pope may be exercised without the cooperation of the bishops, and this even in infallible decisions which both bishops and faithful are bound to receive with the same submission The authority of the bishops may be exercised in two ways; now each bishop teaches the flock confided to him, again the bishops assemble in council to draw up together and pass doctrinal or disciplinary decrees. Where all the bishops of the Catholic world (this totality is to be understood as morally speaking; it suffices for the whole Church to be represented) are thus assembled in council the council is called oecumenical. The doctrinal decrees of an oecumenical council, once they are approved by the pope, are infallible as are the ex cathedra definitions of the sovereign pontiff. Although the bishops, taken individually, are not infallible their teaching participates in the infallibility of the Church according as they teach in concert and in union with the episcopal body, that is according as they express not their personal ideas, but the very thought of the Church.

"The doctrinal decrees of an oecumenical council, once they are approved by the pope, are infallible." If the Second Vatican Council is an ecumenical council, and there cannot be any doubt about this, and if it was approved by the Pope, and it was, then its doctrinal decrees are infallible. The question must be what, if any, are its doctrinal decrees. While it is true that Blessed John XXIII did not envision the council as being a dogmatic council but rather "pastoral," the notion that "pastoral" excludes the possibility of any sort of doctrinal decree does not follow. Being "pastoral" requires one to teach. Further, even if the doctrinal level of the council's pronouncements are not infallible per se it would still be safe to assume that they are authoritative according to the ordinary teaching authority of the Magisterium. This ordinary authority still requires submission from the faithful Catholic according to canon 752. The next important question is what, when, and where it is that the sayings of the Pope become doctrine. When is the Magisterium behaving as the Magisterium? Does everything the Pope says automatically become doctrine? Let us turn again to the Catholic Encyclopedia to gain some understanding of the binding force of the various papal documents.

A motu proprio is a papal draft that is distributed by the will of the Pope and the Pope alone. We can read in the Encyclopedia the following: "The words [motu proprio] signify that the provisions of the rescript were decided on by the pope personally, that is, not on the advice of the cardinals or others, but for reasons which he himself deemed sufficient." Papal rescripts have a particular meaning as well. According to the same Encyclopedia: "Rescripts are responses of the pope or a Sacred Congregation, in writing, to queries or petitions of individuals." The motu proprio Ecclesia Dei, that one which confirmed the excommunication of Marcel Lefebvre and the SSPX, adheres to these definitions. Regarding the binding force of a rescript, and thus a motu proprio, we read in the Encyclopedia that:

Rescripts have the force of a particular law, i.e., for the persons concerned . . . Rescripts contrary to common law contain a derogatory clause: all things to the contrary notwithstanding. Rescripts of favor ordinarily admit a broad interpretation; the exceptions are when they are injurious to others, refer to the obtaining of ecclesiastical benefices, or are contrary to common law. Rescripts of justice are to be interpreted strictly.5

The question addressed in a rescript is a matter of particular law. It is a matter concerning the government or discipline of the Church. What, however, is the obligation on the part of the faithful to a matter of particular law? Since it addresses matters of discipline and government a motu proprio carries a great deal of weight, according to chapter three of the fourth session from the First Vatican Council. It reads in part:

Wherefore we teach and declare that, by divine ordinance, the Roman church possesses a pre-eminence of ordinary power over every other church, and that this jurisdictional power of the Roman pontiff is both Episcopal and immediate. Both clergy and faithful of whatever rite and dignity, both singly and collectively are bound to submit to this power by the duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, and this not only in matters concerning faith and morals, but also in those which regard the discipline and governance of the church throughout the world. In this way, by unity with the Roman pontiff in communion and in profession of the same faith, the church of Christ becomes one flock under one supreme shepherd (John 10:16). This is the teaching of the catholic truth, and no one can depart from it without endangering his faith and salvation . . . [emphasis mine].

Since the Roman pontiff, by the divine right of the apostolic primacy, governs the whole church, we likewise teach and declare that he is the supreme judge of the faithful (Pius VI, Letter Super soliditate dated 28 Nov. 1786), and that in all cases which fall under ecclesiastical jurisdiction recourse may be had to his judgment . . .

So, then, if anyone says that the Roman pontiff has merely an office of supervision and guidance, and not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the whole church, and this not only in matters of faith and morals, but also in those which concern the discipline and government of the church dispersed throughout the whole world; or that has only the principal part, but not the absolute fullness, of this supreme power; or that this power of his is not ordinary and immediate both overall and each of the churches and over all and each of the pastors and faithful: let him be anathema [emphasis mine].

These words demonstrate that the faithful are bound to submit in true obedience to the judgments of the Roman Pontiff on matters of faith, morals, discipline, and government. It is dogma that Catholics are obliged to submit to the Roman Pontiff even in matters of particular ecclesiastical law, in the type of questions addressed by motu proprii. Notice also that the Roman Pontiff is not claiming that submission is absolutely due him only when he speaks ex cathedra. The authority of the Pope referred to above is his "ordinary power" over the Church, every other church, pastors and the faithful. The submission owed by the faithful applies to matters of discipline and government as well, and this submission is the sign of true obedience. While certainly it cannot be said that one who withholds this submission necessarily denies that the Roman Pontiff has full and supreme power of jurisdiction, thus bringing the above anathema down upon his head, it is certainly dangerous for one to make it a habit to refuse submission, because this would effectively deny the authority defined above. Such a habit would indeed endanger the faith and salvation of the individual withholding submission.

The often-used analogy of the father and child demonstrates this danger. A father cannot allow his child to form the habit of disobedience early, for in due time the child will certainly deny the very existence of the father's authority.

What weight does an encyclical carry? We read in the Encyclopedia that:

As for the binding force of these documents it is generally admitted that the mere fact that the pope should have given to any of his utterances the form of an encyclical does not necessarily constitute it an ex-cathedra pronouncement and invest it with infallible authority. The degree in which the infallible magisterium of the Holy See is committed must be judged from the circumstances, and from the language used in the particular case.

One judges the authoritative value of an encyclical according to the particular case. Please note that this article denies that encyclicals "necessarily" constitute an ex cathedra statement from the Pope. This implies that an encyclical could have this character of infallibility. The language and the circumstances of the document are crucial for determining this character.

We learn more when we turn to the 1950 document Humani generis where Pope Pius XII speaks directly on the authoritative weight of an encyclical. In it he writes:

20. Nor must it be thought that what is contained in encyclical letters does not of itself demand assent, on the pretext that the popes do not exercise in them the supreme power of their teaching authority. Rather, such teachings belong to the ordinary Magisterium, of which it is true to say: "He who hears you, hears me" (Luke 10:16); for the most part, too what is expounded and inculcated in encyclical letters already appertains to Catholic doctrine for other reasons But if the supreme pontiffs in their official documents purposely pass judgment on a matter debated until then, it is obvious to all that the matter according to the mind and will of the same pontiffs, cannot be considered any longer a question open for discussion among theologians.

According to Pius XII's definition of an encyclical as a specific exercise of the Pope's ordinary power, "such teachings belong to the ordinary Magisterium." One must "assent" to these teachings, and when the Pope makes explicit his judgment on them the teachings are no longer questions "open for discussion among theologians." Encyclicals carry a great deal of authority. They require assent from the faithful, for they are to be considered as the very words of the Lord. "He who hears you, hears me."

From this study of the Magisterium and her authority, it should be clear that when the ordinary Magisterium teaches she is to be obeyed by the faithful, they are to submit and assent in their intellect and will. To refuse submission in matters of faith and morals, discipline and government would not necessarily mean that one is rejecting a dogma of the Church. Rather one rejects a doctrine, one which may not have been defined by the Magisterium as being a part of divine Revelation. However, it is not wise to ignore the teachings of the Church even in small things.

If we turn to Scripture we read from our Lord that "not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven" (Matt. 7:21). Submission, true obedience, is the sign of fidelity. "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep, and laid the foundation upon rock; and when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house, and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But he who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation; against which the stream broke and immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great" (Luke 6:46-49). He who does the will of the Father is founded upon a rock, and this rock is Peter (Matt. 6:18-19). Elsewhere the Lord asks, "What do you think? A man had two sons; and he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' And he answered, 'I will not'; but afterward he repented and went. And he went to the second and said the same; and he answered 'I go, sir,' but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father? They said, 'the first'" (Matt. 21:28-31).

It is quite clear from Scripture that it does not matter much for one to merely claim he is obedient to the Father or to the Son or to the Vicar of Christ on earth. One must demonstrate this belief through action, by obedience, for obedience is the true sign of love and respect for the Lord. Thus it does not matter for one to claim he is faithful to the Pope if he consistently and publicly resists his rightful demands. As Pius IX stated, the ordinary authority and immediate jurisdiction of the Pope is not just in matters of faith and morals but also in matters of discipline and government. This teaching is an infallible teaching of the Church. To dissent from this teaching is to be considered anathema, it is to plunge into at least material heresy. To form and foster the habit of refusing submission to the Roman Pontiff in oneself and in others is to jeopardize one's own salvation and faith.

Does this mean that whatever the Pope says is doctrine? Certainly this is not the case. However, when the Pope makes official declarations, that is to say that when he proclaims a bull, which can take the form of an encyclical, motu proprio, or, apostolic letter, he must be submitted to. According to Pius XII, when the Supreme Pontiff decides on matters of faith and morals in an encyclical, the matter should be considered closed. When the Vicar of Christ passes judgment on a matter of discipline and government, he is using his ordinary power over the Church and all other churches and must be obeyed.

Now not every action of the Pope is meant to be a decision on doctrinal or disciplinary matters. Catholics are not required to submit to an implied papal position expressed through some prudential action or inaction. Also, criticizing the Pope for whatever prudential undertaking does not automatically make one a bad Catholic. But incessant public criticism marks not only a lack of charity but also a disregard for those who may be scandalized away from or out of the Church by the remarks. One may have the right to criticize the Pope and do so to his face, but one does not have the right to constantly do so before audiences that one is not intimately familiar with. The Christian's obligation is to proclaim the Gospel, and this can be done, even now, without constant, open, public, and bitter criticism of the Vicar of Christ.


On page 27 the authors write, "As the Introduction and the previous chapter suggest, our debate with the neo-Catholics centers around one word: novelty." The very thesis of this book is that there has been a "regime of novelty" that is the root and reason for the current crisis which we find ourselves in. Some attempt at definition of the precise theological meaning of novelty would be expected. However, and not surprisingly, the authors' attempt at definition is nonexistent.

The word "novelty" comes from the Latin novus, which means new or strange. Newness and strangeness are relative terms. That the Cleveland Indians are perennial losers in baseball's run to win the World Series is nothing new or strange to me, a Clevelander. However, this fact would be new and strange to a five year old, or to an Indians' fan in the late 1940s. One sense of the word "novel" is wholly subjective. It depends on what one has experienced or not experienced.

Thus, it is ridiculous that at no time do the authors inform their readers whether any of the so-called novelties of Vatican II are new for us or completely new. Changing the liturgy's language to the vernacular is new for us, but it was not the first time in the Church's history when this happened. The absence of the Last Gospel at the end of the liturgy may be new for us, but it was not the only time in the Church's history when this was the case. The changes in the calendar may be new for us, but it was not the first time in the Church's history when scores of saints were removed from the calendar. This aspect of "novelty" should have been addressed by the Ferrawood argument. Its absence is yet another sign of its lack of thoroughness. "Novelty" can refer to what is simply new apart from an objective judgment of truth or falsehood.

Now when Popes and councils use the word "novelty" there is a different meaning. This meaning is more to the point of this debate. When the fathers of Nicaea II use the term, the newness of the thing in question cannot be separated from an objective judgment on truth or falsehood. Remember, please, that the context of the council was the Iconoclast heresy. This heresy stated that the use of holy images, and even the cross, was forbidden for any Catholic. This was a new teaching. The question was: Is this new teaching to be rejected because it is new or because it is false and thus new? The fathers said specifically that one should not reject "the ecclesiastical traditions" or "invent anything novel" or by means of these novelties reject anything which has, "been consecrated by the Church." Nor is one "to invent perversely and cunningly for the overthrow of anyone of the legitimate traditions of the Catholic Church."

What the Nicaean fathers mean by "tradition" answers the question: The new teaching is to be rejected because it is new and false, not only because it is new. The clear teaching from Nicaea II is that novelty is to be rejected when it jeopardizes tradition-doctrine, when it is used to "overthrow" the Tradition of the Catholic Church.6

This is a point that must be clearly understood. When the Iconoclasts began to pass on their heresy they did so under the perceived authority of Jesus saying that it was a teaching of Scripture and the fathers, a teaching binding on divine faith, a Tradition. However, the teaching of the Iconoclasts was a wholly new teaching that could not be found in Scripture or the fathers even in seed. Because of this, it is not a Tradition and in fact contradicts that Tradition. Therefore, it is condemned as a novelty. The specific theological meaning of the word "novelty" refers to those teachings that are precisely false in their newness, where the error and the newness cannot be separated. These errors are not false because everything new is wrong. They are false because their newness suggests that the Tradition is wrong.

The case of Galileo is illustrative of this. The Church did not condemn Galileo because his science taught something new. She condemned him because he insisted that his new teaching meant that the Tradition was wrong.7

The readers of this essay should understand that novelty refers to new doctrines which reject the Tradition of the Church. Put another way, not everything new to theology is false, but everything theologically false is new to the doctrinal system of the Catholic Church.

I have taken it upon myself to search the use of the word "novelty" throughout the history of the Church. My results cannot be at all exhaustive. My search was in English, and thus I am at the mercy of translators who may have translated the Latin and Greek words for "novelty" inconsistently. Nevertheless, I believe it has been a useful search The word "novelty" is used most often as the Nicaean fathers use it and as I have come to understand it. Novelty is to be rejected when it jeopardizes Tradition, when it threatens to do away with or contradict a doctrine of the Catholic Church, when its very newness is bound up with error: A few examples will be necessary:

— In the year 96 Pope St. Clement I wrote a letter to the Corinthians. In the 42nd paragraph he noted that Christ had sent out bishops and deacons to shepherd His flock. "Nor was this any novelty," Clement tells us, "for Scripture had mentioned bishops and deacons long before." The use of bishops and deacons is not novel because it is part of the Tradition of the Church, it is a tradition-doctrine found in Scripture itself.

— In the year 422 Pope St. Boniface I sent a letter to Bishop Rufus and other bishops throughout Macedonia regarding the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. After mentioning the account of our Lord's promise to found a Church on Peter in the Gospel of St. Matthew, Boniface warns all the priests of the Church to be wary of straying from "the decrees of our elders." Anyone who attempts "a novel and unlawful usurpation" makes himself a "rival" of the Pope. In fact they jeopardize their own salvation. Again, here, Boniface is speaking of a novel teaching that would contradict Tradition, the doctrine of papal primacy which is found in Scripture and in the apostolic decrees of the Church's elders.

— In the year 431 an ecumenical council was held in Ephesus regarding the Nestorians. This is the same council that defined the teaching of the Theotokos. Chapter eight speaks of past statements made by previous bishops of the Holy See concerning grace. It states that aside from the "hallowed ordinances of the most blessed and Apostolic See, in accordance with which the most pious fathers, after casting aside the pride of pernicious novelty," the Church has come to teach us that all worship is motivated by the grace granted to us through Christ. Again, we are to cast aside novelty that contradicts what the apostolic Tradition tells us are the doctrines of the Church.

— In the year 649 a council was held at the Laterine Basilica in Rome by Pope St. Martin I. Canon 20 reads in part, "If anyone awarding to the wicked heretics in any manner whatsoever, by any word whatsoever, or at any time or place whatsoever illicitly removing the bounds which the holy Fathers of the Catholic Church have rather firmly established (Prov. 22:28), that is, the five holy and universal Synods, in order rashly to seek for novelties and expositions of another faith . . . let such a person be condemned forever, and let all the people say: so be it, so be it (Psalms 105:48)." Once again, novelty is used in the context of apostolic Tradition and thus the doctrines of the Catholic Church.

— In the year 680 another ecumenical council was held in Constantinople. Here the council fathers are very clear that no one is allowed "to introduce, or to describe, or to compare, or to study, or otherwise to teach another faith." Now of course, this cannot mean that no one is forbidden to read a work of Muhammad's in order that one might be more familiar with his errors. No, the fathers mean these things are forbidden if one intends to spread this error. They write that whoever attempts to pass on this faith, "or who [presumes] to introduce a novel doctrine or an invention of discourse to the subversion of those things which now have been determined by us, [we declare] these . . . to be excommunicated." Novelty in doctrine is to be rejected.

— In the year 855 at the Council of Valence III the theory of predestination according to John Scotus was condemned. Canon one starts by quoting St Paul's Second Letter to Timothy in which he writes: "O Timothy, guard that which has been entrusted to you, avoiding the profane novelties of words, and oppositions under the false name of knowledge . . ." (2 Tim. 6:20). No doubt what was entrusted to Timothy was the apostolic Tradition as it was passed on by St Paul. Then later in canon one we read the Valencian fathers entreat each other by saying, "Let us with all zeal avoid novel doctrines and presumptuous talkativeness." The surest method of doing this is "to the doctors piously and correctly discussing the word of truth, and to those very clear expositors of Sacred Scripture, namely, Cyprian, Hilary, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and others living tranquilly in Catholic piety, we reverently and obediently submit our hearing and our understanding, and to the best of our ability we embrace the things which they have written for our salvation." Again, novelty is discussed in terms of doctrine. In fact, as above, canon four forbids "these novel doctrines."

— In the year 1228 Gregory IX wrote a letter to the theologians of Paris titled Ab Aegyptiis. Here Gregory was specifically addressing the issue of preserving theological terminology and Tradition. We read that what particularly pains Gregory is that "certain ones among you, distended like a skin by spirit of vanity, are working with profane novelty to pass beyond the boundaries which thy fathers have set [cf. Prov. 22:28], the understanding of the heavenly page limited by the fixed boundaries of expositions in the studies of the Holy Fathers by inclining toward the philosophical doctrine of natural things, which it is not only rash but even profane to transgress . . ." What is profane about novelty, as the Church understands it, is its passing beyond what is taught by the apostolic fathers. A new teaching that rejects or contradicts a tradition-doctrine is properly referred to as novel. I hope this is becoming plain.

— In the year 1679 Pope Innocent XI condemned from his Holy Office a number of propositions. One such proposition was that God could "donate" His omnipotence. A rather odd thought, really. At any rate we read that if anyone claims that God gives us His omnipotence or submits His omnipotence to us, "they are prohibited as at least rash and novel." Here the Pope is using 'novel' in a consciously technical sense. The term refers to those who propose a teaching that is clearly doctrinally false. Novelty once again refers to what is not just new, but what is new and false.

— In the year 1816 Pope Pius VII, a man who was kidnapped from Rome by one of Napoleon's generals and was never able to return, wrote a letter to the archbishop of Mohileff on the various versions of Sacred Scripture. He states that the Vulgate edition of the Bible is the authoritative edition and that all other editions are not approved unless they "are edited with the explanations carefully shown from writings of the Fathers and Catholic Doctors, so that so great a treasure may not be exposed to the corruptions of novelties . . . "Once again, what delivers one from the "corruptions of novelties" are the teachings, the doctrines, of "the Fathers and Catholic Doctors," i.e., the apostolic Tradition. What preserves one from any new error is old truth.

— In the year 1834 Pope Gregory XVI, whose papacy was marked by revolution after revolution, wrote the encyclical Singulari nos on the subject of Felicite de Lamennais. Gregory writes, "But you well understand, Venerable Brothers, that We are here speaking in open disapproval of that false system of philosophy, not so long ago introduced, by which, because of an extended and unbridled desire of novelty, truth is not sought where it truly resides, and, with a disregard for the holy and apostolic traditions, other vain, fertile, uncertain doctrines, not approved by the Church are accepted as true, on which very vain men mistakenly think that truth itself is supported and sustained." Once again, novelty is placed within the specific context of newly erroneous teachings that contradict or disregard "apostolic traditions," i.e., doctrine.

— In the year 1879 Pope Leo XIII wrote his encyclical Aeterni patris, on the importance of Christian philosophy. Leo writes there, "Moreover, to the old teaching a novel system of philosophy has succeeded here and there, in which We fail to perceive those desirable and wholesome fruits which the Church and civil society itself would prefer." The reason, of course, this "novel system" is so objectionable to good Pope Leo is primarily that "this new pursuit seems to have caught the souls of certain Catholic philosophers, who, throwing aside the patrimony of ancient wisdom, chose rather to build up a new edifice than to strengthen and complete the old by aid of the new — ill-advisedly, in sooth, and not without detriment to the sciences." This new system of philosophy, this novelty is to be repudiated because it throws aside "the patrimony of ancient wisdom," it rejects the doctrinal Tradition of the Church.

— In the year 1907 Pope St Pius X promulgated his famous encyclical Pascendi Dominici gregis on modernism. He starts at the very beginning saying, "One of the primary obligations assigned by Christ to the office divinely committed to Us of feeding the Lord's flock is that of guarding with the greatest vigilance the deposit of the faith delivered to the saints, rejecting the profane novelties of words and the gainsaying of knowledge falsely so called." Novelty is profane when it does not guard the "deposit of the faith." Again, what is novel is what contradicts doctrine.

— In the year 1930 Pope Pius XII used the word "novelty" five times in his Humani generis. He refers to the "advocates of novelty" who "easily pass from despising scholastic theology to the neglect of and even contempt for the Teaching Authority of the Church itself, which gives such authoritative approval to scholastic theology." This "Teaching Authority" that Pius points to is part of the doctrinal structure of the Church. In paragraphs 14 and following, Pius gives a plethora of examples of the "novelties" he is referring to. All of them jeopardize the doctrinal structure of the Church. Those about whom he is speaking attach themselves to the novel because they question doctrine. He writes, "It is evident from what We have already said, that such tentatives not only lead to what they call dogmatic relativism, but that they actually contain it. The contempt of doctrine commonly taught and of the terms in which it is expressed strongly favor it."

The number of examples could be multiplied. It should be absolutely clear that the Popes and the councils have used the term "novelty" in the context of doctrine over and above anything else. What is new and doctrinally erroneous is to be rejected.

The Church does not and has never rejected newness as such. None other than Pius XII writes in his Divino afflante Spiritu, "Let all the other sons of the Church bear in mind that the efforts of these resolute laborers in the vineyard of the Lord should be judged not only with equity and justice, but also with the greatest charity; all moreover should abhor that intemperate zeal which imagines that whatever is new should for that very reason be opposed or suspected."8 Or consider the words of this same Pontiff from Humani generis which read, "Now if these only aimed at adapting ecclesiastical teaching and methods to modern conditions and requirements, through the introduction of some new explanations, there would be scarcely any reason for alarm."9 Something new and true is never scoffed at, but rather carefully considered.

In fact the very Gospel that the Church has been entrusted to spread was itself new to the people of Israel and certainly to the Gentile world. For the first-century Jew, Christ's teaching on divorce was new and strange. Christ's teaching on the Eucharist was new and stranger still. However, these things were new and true. Let us turn to the words of St. Ignatius of Antioch in the year 107 when, while chained to soldiers taking him to Rome to be martyred, he wrote to the Ephesians, saying:

19. Now, Mary's virginity and her giving birth escaped the notice of the prince of this world, as did the Lord's death — those three secrets crying to be told, but wrought in God's silence. How, then, were they revealed to the ages? A star shone in heaven brighter than all the stars. Its light was indescribable and its novelty caused amazement. The rest of the stars, along with the sun and the moon, formed a ring around it, yet it outshone them all, and there was bewilderment whence this unique novelty had arisen. As a result all magic lost its power and all witchcraft ceased. Ignorance was done away with, and the ancient kingdom [of evil] was utterly destroyed, for God was revealing Himself as a man, to bring newness of eternal life. What God had prepared was now beginning. Hence everything was in confusion as the destruction of death was being taken in hand.

The event Ignatius of Antioch is relating is, of course, the birth of our Lord to a virgin in Bethlehem. A virgin birth is a novelty, to say the least. The new star that appeared in the heavens reflected the wonder and the import of this event in its newness. God was bringing about a "newness of eternal life through the Incarnation. Newness is not inimical to the Catholic Church or to her teaching. What is false is incompatible. What is false is necessarily new to the teaching of the Church.

The authors and traditionalists in general never define what they mean by the term "novelty." They toss the word about without ever making any effort of distinction between what is simply new, new-and-true, or new-and-false. The subtitle to the authors' work reads, "Vatican II and the regime of novelty in the Roman Catholic Church." This whole debate boils down, in the minds of the authors, to "one word: novelty." Is it not then remarkable that they make hardly any effort to attempt to understand this term? Is it not inexcusable that what understanding they do have is so wrong?

On page 27 the authors quote Pope St. Pius X from the Pascendi text mentioned earlier. The authors preface the quote saying, "The Church's perennial counsel against the embrace of substantial ecclesial novelties of any kind, not just doctrinal ones, was recapitulated by Pope St. Pius X . . ." However, when one goes to Pascendi and thus to the text of Nicaea II one finds something different. The Church does not here counsel "against the embrace of substantial ecclesial novelties of any kind. In point of fact Pius X and the fathers at Nicaea II specifically mean doctrinal invention, as the long list I have provided above shows. Allow me to reproduce the pertinent section in Pascendi:

But for Catholics nothing will remove the authority of the second Council of Nicea, where it condemns those "who dare, after the impious fashion of heretics, to deride the ecclesiastical traditions, to invent novelties of some kind . . . or endeavor by malice or craft to overthrow any one of the legitimate traditions of the Catholic Church"; nor that of the declaration of the fourth Council of Constantinople: "We therefore profess to preserve and guard the rules bequeathed to the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, by the Holy and most illustrious Apostles, by the orthodox Councils, both general and local, and by everyone of those divine interpreters, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church." Wherefore the Roman Pontiffs, Pius IV and Pius IX, ordered the insertion in the profession of faith of the following declaration: "I most firmly admit and embrace the apostolic and ecclesiastical traditions and other observances and constitutions of the Church."10

As was seen before, the fuller Nicaean text which Pius quotes reads explicitly, "For thus the doctrines of our Holy Fathers, that is, the tradition of the Catholic Church . . ." The Nicaean fathers define the tradition of the Catholic Church as being made up of the doctrines of our Holy Fathers. Again they say, "Those, therefore, who dare to think or to teach otherwise or to spurn according to wretched heretics the ecclesiastical traditions and to invent anything novel, or to reject anything from these things which have been consecrated by the Church . . ." Here we see that the realm within which the fathers are speaking is the realm of doctrine, for heretics are those who deny a doctrine.11 The Nicaean fathers are speaking about doctrinal traditions when they say that not "one of the legitimate traditions of the Catholic Church" can be overthrown.

Yet the authors would have us believe that the Church counsels "against the embrace of substantial ecclesial novelties of any kind, not just doctrinal ones," and that this "perennial counsel" was expertly recapitulated by Pope St. Pius X. The glaring error that the authors make is interpreting the phrases "any one of the legitimate traditions," "ecclesiastical traditions," and "other observances" to mean non-doctrinal traditions. But there is nothing in the text from Pascendi or in Nicaea II that would suggest this. "Ecclesiastical tradition" refers to those dogmas that are considered "virtually revealed," as the Catholic Encyclopedia quote above states very clearly. Or the phrase could refer to those dogmas developed by the Church over time and which are not explicitly revealed in the apostolic Tradition or in Scripture. The authors read into these phrases what they want to hear.

On page 28 we find another example of their ignorance or purposeful deception when they once again quote from Nicaea II. Using a canon from the Nicaean Council they write, "And, lest there be any doubt that all of the received and approved ecclesiastical traditions of the Church are to be regarded as part of the Church's untouchable patrimony: 'If anyone rejects any written or unwritten tradition of the church, let him be anathema'." Here the authors mistakenly interpret "unwritten tradition" to mean non-doctrinal traditions. Once again the Catholic Encyclopedia and even the CCC explain this language and tell us that the oral or unwritten tradition that is referred to is the teaching of the Apostles, which is to be distinguished from the written tradition in Scripture and is, by virtue of having been given to us by Christ, also divine and necessarily doctrinal. The authors, however, quote Nicaea and suggest that the fathers meant to anathematize anyone who rejected a tradition-account or tradition-custom of the Church. This is simply ridiculous.

Continuing on the same page they write:

Does this mean, as the neo-Catholics charge, that traditionalists are "immobilists" who hold that nothing in the Church may ever change and that the Church must remain frozen in time? This is a caricature of the traditionalist position. Traditionalists, being Catholics, recognize and embrace legitimate change in the Church through gradual growth in the content of ecclesiastical tradition. The Rosary is the perfect example of a gradually developed devotion that is now an integral part of the Church's spiritual patrimony. What Pope would dare to abolish or rewrite the prayers of the Rosary?

This statement demonstrates that the authors have completely missed the mark in understanding tradition. The rosary is not an ecclesiastical tradition in the sense that Nicaea II and Pius X use the term, because the devotion of the rosary is not part of the Deposit of Faith. It is not a doctrine of the Church. The rosary is not part of the "doctrines of our Holy Fathers," as Nicaea II would put it. Recitation of the rosary is a sign of fidelity but not a condition of it. Thus the Pope would not be rewriting doctrine by adding to the rosary. It is a sad thing to note that many traditionalists have objected to the recent addition John Paul II has made to the rosary. They argue that the addition of the Luminous Mysteries is just another post Vatican II novelty. The inherent goodness and truth of these mysteries and the fact that they encourage the faithful to contemplate on more of Christ's life when they pray the rosary has been lost on these traditionalists. The Ferrawood argument encourages the notion that all that is new is to be rejected regardless of its positive value, and this is not a Catholic position.

The authors obfuscate the truth by equating the development of traditions like the rosary with the development of doctrinal traditions. On page 29 they make mention of the seminal work by John Henry Cardinal Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. The authors write, in the context of the 1969 changes in the Ordo Missae:

As John Henry Cardinal Newman showed in his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, the sudden emergence of some novelty in the Church that is not the natural and almost imperceptible outgrowth of everything that came before it would be a sign, not of life and growth, but of corruption — just as the sudden emergence of a tumor is a sign of corruption in the human body. As Newman put it, a proposition "is likely to be a true development, not a corruption, in proportion as it seems to be the logical issue of its original teaching" (emphasis is original). Likewise, as "developments which are preceded by definite indications have a fair presumption in their favor, so those which do but contradict and reverse the course of doctrine which has been developed before them, and out of which they spring, is clearly corrupt."

While speaking about the "new Mass, new liturgical calendar" and the "new sacramental rituals," the authors quote Cardinal Newman, but this is the highest deception. Cardinal Newman writes explicitly on the "logical issue" in "original teachings" about "the course of doctrine." The good cardinal spends an entire chapter on the development of ideas, not practices, customs, or accounts. The Ferrawood argument falsely equates tradition-doctrine and tradition-custom. In the context of tradition-customs the authors quote Cardinal Newman to back up their argument despite the elephantine fact that Cardinal Newman wrote on the development of doctrine not custom. There is not a single example from Cardinal Newman, Pius X, or Nicaea II which states that tradition-accounts or customs have the same binding force on Catholics or that the development of these same are to be considered to be equal to the development of tradition-doctrines. The authors' error is in not making this crucial distinction. They thus stray from the true teaching of the Catholic Church.

On the same page we find another example of this convoluted theology. The authors again return to Pascendi, writing:

The teaching of St. Pius X, echoed by all his predecessors, is that not only apostolic Tradition, but all the ecclesiastical traditions and customs that have been woven into to the life of the Church over the centuries must be defended against unnecessary and dramatic change, lest the Church's commonwealth be so disrupted that the faithful are thrown into a state of confusion and alienation that endangers the Faith itself.

Pope St. Pius X does not say that ecclesiastical customs "must be defended against unnecessary and dramatic change . . . Nowhere is this written. The only time that the word "custom" is used in the encyclical is with regard to the modernists who claim that all things must evolve according to custom. But Pius never writes or implies that "customs . . . must be defended" in the manner the authors say. Pius does write in paragraph 55 of Pascendi:

In passing judgment on pious traditions let it always be borne in mind that in this matter the Church uses the greatest prudence, and that she does not allow traditions of this kind to be narrated in books except with the utmost caution and with the insertion of the declaration imposed by Urban VIII; and even then she does not guarantee the truth of the fact narrated; she simply does not forbid belief in things far which human evidence is not wanting.

Here the Pope states only that pious traditions are to be managed by the Church. These traditions and customs which the authors imply must be defended are to be allowed only "with the utmost caution." When they are judged, the Church "does not guarantee the truth of the fact narrated" in them. Here Pius does not argue for the defense of customs. Rather, he expresses the great caution the Magisterium uses when confronted by new ones. The Pope states that the Church's stance is simply to "not forbid belief in things" which bear some "human evidence." The authors once again read into a papal text what they want.

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It should be clear that having completely misunderstood "tradition," "doctrine," magisterial authority, and "novelty," the authors have created an argumentative structure that lacks any foundation. The authors quote from Pope St. Pius X, whom they say is arguably the greatest Pope who ever lived, and twist his words to mean things he does not. With all this confusion in the Ferrawood argument, how is it that the authors and their defenders can claim that Ferrawood defends the traditionalist position from the "banal objections" and "caricatures" which the neo-Catholic are wont to use? This complete lack of careful and systematic thought betrays the lack of substance in The Great Façade, it betrays the impotence of the argument. The authors are clearly more concerned with rhetorical points than with the accuracy of easily accessible theological distinctions and facts. The Ferrawood argument is, with the exception of some fair questions, wholly lacking in substance and intellectual honesty.

Still, more work must be done for this debate to bear some fruit. Thus, in the next section I shall present something of an explanation for the two terrible novelties that traditionalists find so objectionable. These two are of course ecumenism and the Missal of 1969.


I. The amount of Latin that was used in the liturgy by the Church in Rome varied during those finer 300 years. Greek was, however, the original language and the foundation upon which any revisions were made. Certainly by the time of Pope Damasus (fourth century) the Roman Rite had become a predominantly Latin rite.

2. The Reform of the Roman Liturgy page 24: "The Roman Rite, in important parts, goes back at least to the fourth century, more exactly to the time of Pope Damasus (366-384)."

3. The particular doctrine here is that images are valid objects of veneration (proskynesis) not adoration (latreia).

4. Non guidem fidei assensus, religiosum tamen intellectus et voluntatis obsequium praestandum est doctrinae, quam eive Summus Pontifex sive Collegium Episoporum de fide vel de moribus enuntiant, cum Magisterium authenticum exercent, etsi definitivo actu eandem proclamare non intendant; christifideles ergo devitare current quae cum eadem non congruent [emphasis mine].

5. see the Catholic Encyclopedia 1911 article titled "Papal Rescripts."

6. One might note that the council's words have been translated as "legitimate traditions." "Legitimate" comes from the Latin lex, leges which means "law." Though it is true that the council expressed itself in Greek, certainly it is referring to traditions determined to be such by the canonical / legal authority of the Church, the Magisterium.

7. Among other things, Galileo taught that since the Book of Joshua was clearly in error where it states that the sun stopped revolving around the earth the Bible cannot be said to be inerrant. It is a dogma and a part of Tradition that the Bible is infallible and inerrant in all that it asserts. Galileo's denial of this dogma earned him the ire of the Church.

8. n. 47

9. n. 12

10. n. 42

11. see the 1910 article in the Catholic Encyclopedia on Heresy: "St. Thomas (II-II:11:1) defines heresy: 'a species of infidelity in men who, having professed the faith of Christ, corrupt its dogmas.' The right Christian faith consists in giving one's voluntary assent to Christ in all that truly belongs to His teaching. There are, therefore, two ways of deviating from Christianity: the one by refusing to believe in Christ Himself, which is the way of infidelity, common to Pagans and Jews; the other by restricting belief to certain points of Christ's doctrine selected and fashioned at pleasure, which is the way of heretics. The subject-matter of both faith and heresy is, therefore, the deposit of faith, that is, the sum total of truths revealed in Scripture and Tradition as proposed to our belief by the Church. The believer accepts the whole deposit as proposed by the Church; the heretic accepts only such parts of it as commend themselves to his own approval" (emphasis mine).

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