Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Msgr. Nicola Bux.

Monsignor Bux: We Are in a Full Crisis of Faith

Theologian and former consulter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith calls on the Pope to make a declaration of faith, warning that unless the Pope safeguards doctrine, he cannot impose discipline. 

To resolve the current crisis in the Church over papal teaching and authority, the Pope must make a declaration of faith, affirming what is Catholic and correcting his own “ambiguous and erroneous” words and actions that have been interpreted in a non-Catholic manner.

This is according to Monsignor Nicola Bux, a respected theologian and former consulter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith during Benedict XVI’s pontificate.

In the following interview with the Register, Msgr. Bux explains that the Church is in a “full crisis of faith” and that the storms of division the Church is currently experiencing are due to apostasy — the “abandonment of Catholic thought.”

Msgr. Bux’s comments come after news that the four dubia cardinals, seeking papal clarification of his exhortation Amoris Laetitia, wrote to the Pope April 25 asking him for an audience but have yet to receive a reply.

The cardinals expressed concern over the “grave situation” of episcopal conferences and individual bishops offering widely differing interpretations of the document, some of which they say break with the Church's teaching. They are particularly concerned about the deep confusion this has caused, especially for priests.

“For many Catholics, it is incredible that the Pope is asking bishops to dialogue with those who think differently [i.e. non-Catholic Christians], but does not want first to face the cardinals who are his chief advisors,” Msgr. Bux says.

“If the Pope does not safeguard doctrine,” he adds, “he cannot impose discipline.”


Monsignor Bux, what are the implications of the ‘doctrinal anarchy’ that people see happening for the Church, the souls of the faithful and priests?

The first implication of doctrinal anarchy for the Church is division, caused by apostasy, which is the abandonment of Catholic thought, as defined by St. Vincent of Lerins: quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus creditur (what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all). Saint Irenaeus of Lyon, who calls Jesus Christ the “Master of unity,” had pointed out to heretics that everyone professes the same things, but not everyone means the same thing. This is the role of the Magisterium, founded on the truth of Christ: to bring everyone back to Catholic unity.

St. Paul exhorted Christians to be in agreement and to speak with unanimity. What would he say today? When cardinals are silent or accuse their confreres; when bishops who had thought, spoken and written — scripta manent! [written words remain]— in a Catholic way, but then say the opposite for whatever reason; when priests contest the liturgical tradition of the Church, then apostasy is established, the detachment from Catholic thought. Paul VI had foreseen that “this non-Catholic thought within Catholicism will tomorrow become the strongest [force]. But it will never represent the Church's thinking. A small flock must remain, no matter how small it is.” (Conversation with J. Guitton, 9.IX.1977).

What implications, then, does doctrinal anarchy have for the souls of the faithful and ecclesiastics?

The Apostle exhorts us to be faithful to sure, sound and pure doctrine: that founded on Jesus Christ and not on worldly opinions (cf. Titus 1:7-11; 2:1-8). Perseverance in teaching and obedience to doctrine leads souls to eternal salvation. The Church cannot change the faith and at the same time ask believers to remain faithful to it. She is instead intimately obliged to be oriented toward the Word of God and toward Tradition.

Therefore, the Church remembers the Lord’s judgment: “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” (John 9:39). Do not forget that, when one is applauded by the world, it means one belongs to it. In fact, the world loves its own and hates what does not belong to it (cf. John 15:19). May the Catholic Church always remember that she is made up of only those who have converted to Christ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit; all human beings are ordained to her (cf. Lumen gentium 13), but they are not part of her until they are converted.

How can this problem best be resolved?

The point is: what idea does the Pope have of the Petrine ministry, as described in Lumen gentium 18 and codified in canon law? Faced with confusion and apostasy, the Pope should make the distinction — as Benedict XVI did — between what he thinks and says as a private, learned person, and what he must say as Pope of the Catholic Church. To be clear: the Pope can express his ideas as a private learned person on disputable matters which are not defined by the Church, but he cannot make heretical claims, even privately. Otherwise it would be equally heretical.

I believe that the Pope knows that every believer — who knows the regula fidei [the rule of faith] or dogma, which provides everyone with the criterion to know what the faith of the Church is, what everyone has to believe and who one has to listen to — can see if he is speaking and operating in a Catholic way, or has gone against the Church’s sensus fidei [sense of the faith]. Even one believer can hold him to account. So whoever thinks that presenting doubts [dubia] to the Pope is not a sign of obedience, hasn’t understood, 50 years after Vatican II, the relationship between him [the Pope] and the whole Church. Obedience to the Pope depends solely on the fact that he is bound by Catholic doctrine, to the faith that he must continually profess before the Church.

We are in a full crisis of faith! Therefore, in order to stop the divisions in progress, the Pope — like Paul VI in 1967, faced with the erroneous theories that were circulating shortly after the conclusion of the Council — should make a Declaration or Profession of Faith, affirming what is Catholic, and correcting those ambiguous and erroneous words and acts — his own and those of bishops — that are interpreted in a non-Catholic manner.

Otherwise, it would be grotesque that, while seeking unity with non-Catholic Christians or even understanding with non-Christians, apostasy and division is being fostered within the Catholic Church. For many Catholics, it is incredible that the Pope is asking bishops to dialogue with those who think differently, but does not want first to face the cardinals who are his chief advisors. If the Pope does not safeguard doctrine, he cannot impose discipline. As John Paul II said, the Pope must always be converted, to be able to strengthen his brothers, according to the words of Christ to Peter: “Et tu autem conversus, confirma fratres tuos [when you are converted, strengthen your brothers].”


Marc said...

The crisis has been going on for several decades. But it is more overt now so more people are able to recognize it for what it is. Francis is the culmination of the pre- and post-Vatican II destabilization of doctrine. As we have seen in our discussions here, no longer is the question whether one believes or disbelieves certain doctrines that the Church proposes for our belief. Now the debate centers around whether something is a doctrine in the first place. Francis has institutionalized that sort of extra-doctrinal pathway by enshrining the pastoral versus doctrinal dialectic.

But, again, this is not something that Francis is singularly responsible for. The crisis reached a pivotal point with Assisi I. And before that the crisis among the bishops vis-a-vis the pope was made manifest with the debates surrounding Humanae Vitae.

Part of the proper response is to turn to the Church's definitions at Vatican I, which make clear that the pope is the custodian of the tradition, but not its manufacturer. The pope lacks the authority to impose novelty on the Church. Another part of the proper response is to recognize, as some prelates are starting to do, that the Vatican II documents lend to this sort of problem.

It is telling that cardinals have written a letter to Francis where they have to address the question whether they are sedevacantists or believe Benedict is still pope. These were extremely fringe groups just a few years ago. Now they are at least significant enough that cardinals must mention their arguments in seeking an audience with the pope.

Of course, when the pope is promulgating documents contrary to the words of Christ and promoting institutional sacrilege, I suppose nothing else should be shocking.

Victor said...

Your comment on pastoral vs doctrinal dialectic is important, because these are not meant to be opposed. When the Council Fathers called for a more pastoral Church it was because they saw that, even though the Church was pastoral, it could do much better in seeing to the spiritual needs of every Catholic. Unfortunately, within a few years of the Council, that term "pastoral", because it is not a precise term, took on an almost opposite meaning. "Pastoral" became a clarion call for change in doctrine and Church teaching for the good of the faithful. Like in the liturgy, Man came first in the new Church. Sadly, this latter way is how the current pope understands the term, and the Church is in trouble, because I think it is beyond his competence to understand its disastrous logical implications.

John Nolan said...

My take on all this is that Catholics will continue to believe as Catholics and worship as Catholics (if given the opportunity to do so) regardless of who occupies the See of Peter. There have been dire popes in the past and there will be in the future.

What is encouraging is that so many of these Catholics belong to a generation twice removed from mine, and I don't see myself as particularly elderly - I still work and most Sundays contribute to the liturgy by singing Gregorian chant, which I only took up in a serious way a decade ago.

The so-called EF is simply the Mass of my childhood (ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam) and I don't shun the Novus Ordo (although I am aware of its deficiencies and hardly ever attend it in the vernacular).

I have lived through one dysfunctional papacy (Paul VI in his last ten years) and can (DV) happily survive the present one.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

There are teaching that were thought to be irreformable that were, in fact, not.

Among them: the existence of Limbo, the necessity of the Catholic Church being given pride of place among religions by civil governments, freedom of conscience in choosing which religion, if any, to adhere to (Assisi I).

Over time we have come to understand more clearly Divine Revelation, and that clearer understanding has led us to reformulate our doctrine.

Marc said...

If it is possible for a doctrine to be discovered to be reformable when it was previously recognized to be irreformable, then there is no sense having any doctrine because today's doctrine could be refuted tomorrow. That sort of doctrine would lead one to conclude that God changes. And a changing God is no God at all.

Voctor said...

Fr Kavanaugh:
Who is to decide that adultery is no longer a sin, so that the 10 commandments need to be re-interpreted for the modern age? The Pope? The conference of Bishops? Or individual conscience?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

But did anyone ever declare that these matters were irreformable? Are you presuming that that was the case, or is it given per se?

Remember that statements such as those found in Quo Primum and the bull dissolving the Jesuits while sounding definitive and irreformable were not.

Victor - No one that I know of is suggesting that adultery is no longer a sin. AM does not do so.

Victor said...

Fr Kavanaugh: "No one that I know of is suggesting that adultery is no longer a sin. AM does not do so."

It seems that Belgium's,Germany's, and Malta's bishops do:

"Belgium’s bishops have become the latest to read the exhortation as giving — under certain conditions but with an emphasis on the primacy of conscience — access to the Sacraments for some civilly remarried divorcees without an annulment."

Having one sacramental (real) wife and one civil concubine in my book (the Bible) is adultery. I guess that is in accord with the Bugnini liturgy which went out of its way to eliminate from the lectionary St Paul's warning of receiving the Eucharist unworthily.

Marc said...

I already addressed your attempt to analogize the suppression of the Jesuits and the promulgation of Quo Primum to proper doctrinal development. After I refuted your argument last time, you stopped responding.

I read an interesting quote yesterday that is apropos, though. From Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson:

"'But to return. I understand that development must be along the original lines of the nature of the organism. If an oak, after ten years' growth, suddenly rejected roots and walked out of my garden on legs, I should conclude that I had been mistaken as to its oak-nature. It cannot change the laws of its existence; it may throw out branches, but not hands.'

John then reflects that it is the reproach of the Church of Rome that she will not change nor eat her words. Like Pilate, what she has written, she has written. She may expound and amplify her statements; she may make explicit what was once only implicit; but the original statement still stands as a summary of its later amplifications."

Also, I agree wholeheartedly with Victor's posts.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

No, Marc, you did not refute anything. You misread statements that sound, to you, like "absolute" and irreformable statements, when, in fact, they are not. How do we know they are not? Because what they seemed to establish in perpetuity is changed. As regards Quo Primum, the liturgy was changed, though QP said it never, ever, ever would or could be. As regards Dominus ac Redemptor, the Jesuits were suppressed for ever and ever and ever. But, guess what. They're back.

Now, if you asked someone at the time of QP or DacR if those statements were irreformable, they would probably have said, "Absolutely!" They would, of course, be shown to be wrong in time. You are looking for a finality, a certitude, heaven known why, in human expressions of our understanding of God's revelation.

Pope Benedict wrote about the progress of understanding God in his infamous Regensburg address. The Catholic has to interpret revelation as a gradual process toward Jesus. "Anyone who wishes to understand the biblical belief in God must follow its historical development from its origins with the patriarchs of Israel right up to the last books of the New Testament. In his 2010 exhortation Verbum Domini, B16 wrote, "God's plan is manifested progressively and it is accomplished slowly, in successive stages, and despite human resistance." Revelation, "is suited to the cultural and moral level of distant times." "It follows straightaway that neither the criterion of inspiration NOR THAT OF INFALLIBILITY (caps mine) can be applied mechanically."

Doctrine develops - it always has and it always will. The process is awkward at times and painful at times, but then many beneficial processes are. Understanding Revelation is not a legal process.

Marc said...

There's no point in having this discussion again: You won't change my understanding, and I won't change yours.

Next time this comes up, though, try using heliocentrism and usury instead of the Jesuits and Quo Primum because they are better examples of the difficulty inherent in determining how doctrine can develop. I have recently been following a discussion of those topics by people who have more knowledge of this subject of doctrinal development than either you or I, and I concluded that neither you nor I have enough knowledge to discuss this in a meaningful way.

So not only are we not going to change each other's minds, we are just going to further entrench ourselves in modes of thinking that are ill-informed. I'd rather continue to study the topic further through approved sources and manuals than debate you on it. Understand, that's not a knock on you, it's a matter of preserving my intellectual processes so that I don't become unnecessarily hubristic about my own positions.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

My mode of thinking is not ill-informed. By all means study using "approved" sources - nothing there will challenge your or your priest's way of thinking.

Knowing what one knows is not hubris, by the way. That is a very faulty understanding of the proper virtue of humility.

And if there is unnecessary hubris, pray tell, when it is necessary?

Marc said...

I expect that my priests know much more about this topic than I do, so I would credit their opinions on it just as I credit their opinions on every other topic. We are very blessed to have excellent priests on whom we can rely.

TM said...

A pope that "…cannot impose discipline…"

What a "curious" notion.

Anonymous said...

Priests should be well educated in matters ecclesial. Some have training beyond churchy matters.

To expect them to excel on "every other topic" is 1) an unreal expectation and 2) a recipe for disaster.

TM said...

1. "…to expect them to excel…" or to assume qualifications that don't exist defers to an authority that doesn't either.
2. (spec. re: "irreformable") How things are aren't necessarily how they are considered. Careful about mixing the two.