Saturday, July 19, 2014

Are you an Ultramontanist?

There is a lot of talk these days about a kind of pervasive Ultramontanism in the Neo-Catholic world; not Ultramontanism in the classical sense, for understood classically, Ultramontanism, like the term "Integralism", was just a phrase denoting Catholicism affirming the infallibility of the pope.

In current parlance, we are not talking about fidelity to the Holy Father, but rather a kind of crass, undiscriminating Ultramontanism that is best characterized by the embarrassing spectacle of Neo-Catholic apologists tripping all over themselves to affirm every single prudential decision of the pope as not only good, but the best possible decision. In the judgment of the modern Ultramontanists, every utterance of the pope, no matter how banal or off the cuff, is treated as a profound insight; every administrative act or symbolic gesture he makes are examples of brilliant leadership; every prudential judgment and non-authoritative teaching treated as infallible truth. 

No matter what they might say, there is a very easy test to see if the person you are talking with actually subscribes to the kind of crass Ultramontanism I have described above. Ask them to:

First, cite one prudential action of the pope which you disagree with.

Second, cite one action or statement of the pope that you agree with, though you admit that good Catholics can be in disagreement about.

If you or your interlocutor cannot do either of these two things, they are Ultramontanists, no matter what they might say to the contrary.

When I presented this to one Catholic apologist, he told me, "It might happen that you in fact do agree with everything the pope does, while acknowledging that one is not bound to agree with every prudential decision of the pope." That's why the second question is so important - if you do in fact happen to agree with everything the pope does prudentially, then state one of these instances where you admit that others may disagree and remain in good standing.

Great related article from Rorate. 


MaestroJMC said...

This is quite reasonable. But I would put forth the following query as well: would this extend, not only to the problem of AGREEING with every prudential decision of the pope, but also to OBEYING every command? It seems to me that if, with good reason, we have a serious disagreement with a prudential decision or piece of legislation, it would not be illegitimate if we were to even go so far as to disobey it. This isn't, of course, to deny that we owe obedience to papal authority per se; but it doesn't seem to me that obedience to authority necessitates obedience to every particular command.

JR said...

A case in point of a Catholic apologist who is guilty of this himself is that of Patrick Madrid. Madrid wrote an otherwise very helpful and popular book, Pope Fiction, which helped to dispel falsehoods and lies about the Papacy ("Pope" Joan, Pope=666, etc, etc,) His chapter on Pope Sixtus V and his near issuance of a Revised Latin Vulgate is an example of this "crass, undiscriminating Ultramontanism". He writes that Sixtus V took it upon himself to dismiss the scholarly work of the commission he established to redo the Vulgate and to personally re-translate it himself. After Sixtus finished it the commission, made up of giants like Cardinal Bellarmine, viewed the translation as a very bad one. They were worried that if the Pope promulgated this that it could undermine if not discredit Papal Infallibility (PI) since all the conditions would be met. Madrid comments that out of nowhere, maybe by Divine Providence, Sixtus V died before issuing the accompanying Bull thereby preventing one case where PI would have been discredited.

I say kerflewy to that. This was never in my view a close call. Even if Sixtus V had issued the Bull by virtue of his full Apostolic authority as Universal Pastor and intended this to be universally read this would not have been a falsification of PI. Translations of Sacred Scripture are not a matter of Faith or Morals. In my view this is an example of a Catholic who has a very inaccurate view of PI so as to encompass more than what the definition asked for. Correct me if Im wring but I think its ironic that these misinformed Catholics have the same caricature of PI that many of the Protestant critics they write against do. I hear many Protestant critics say that "Uhh well Pope so an so said this about..." some minor issue and they think that this means that the Pope is exercising his infallible gift that Catholics must defend. These Catholics will properly defend against this but when talking to traditionalist Catholics they will for some reason resort to this inaccurate view.

Anselm said...

On what do you base the rather astounding claim that a declaration of a translation of Scripture to be accurate and free of error is not a matter having to do with faith or morals?

Granted it would not have been a dogmatic definition (since he was not intending to declare that the accuracy of that particular translation was itself a divinely revelead truth).

But the field of faith and morals extends beyond all those truths contained directly in divine revelation (primary object of infallibility) to encompass all those truths which are intrinsically connected to divine revelation (secondary object of infallibility).

I find it hard to imagine something more closely connected to revelation than accuracy and inerrancy of a biblical translation. Thus I would conclude that Pope Sixtus intended to make a doctrinal definition, which would have been infallible even if not dogmatic.

All the best,

JR said...

Anselm, I base it on reason and the history of the Church. To assume that infallibility extends to translations would mean that the Church could never update any translation. Infallibility implies irreversibility. I understand perfectly well that infallibility must extend to those things intrinsically connected to Divine Revelation but how do translations make that connection? I would be eager to hear your reasoning.

Translations of Scripture are extremely important and the Church in her Divine wisdom has pastorally directed us to those translations that she approves. However that kind of authority which certainly requires our assent still does not constitute an infallible act. Not all acts that require our assent is infallible nor does it have to be.
Infallible acts pertain to what Apostolic Tradition and Sacred Scripture teach , not to the accuracy of the Scripture.

So I would disagree with your assertion about what you think Pope Sixtus V intended. Personally I believe the best we can gather was that he was issuing an authoritative Bull to the Church to recognize it. Once again how can a translation be part of a "doctrinal definition" ?

Best to you as well

Anonymous said...

Diabolical disorientation. I could never have imagined so many rational Catholics jettison all reason since the accession of Pope Francis. It is a very unnatural and perverse phenomenon. Blessed Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the Devil . . .

Beefy Levinson said...

All Catholics should have a filial devotion for the papacy. But with Pope Francis it's different. Under St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, we rallied around them when the world attacked them. Now the Ultramontanists make snarling angry attacks against fellow Catholics who are understandably confused by Francis's bizarre or ambiguous statements while the world showers him with applause.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

AU (Axis of Ultramontanists; Voris, Akin, Shea) is, presumptively, the gold standard of papal apologetics but it is getting risible these days.

As one who was bread in the bone to be a knee-jerk Papal Loyalist, it was a true struggle for ABS to confront the heterodox praxis of the modern papacy.

But, with practice...

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

It would take an entire freight train load of Shea butter to salve the intellectual wounds resulting from this cacodoxy which seems as though it was created in a vadelect Vortex that leaves the heads of all of the papal apologists Akin.

Anonymous said...

"Whatever" to that last comment.

I have seen Jimmy Akin make some dumb comments, and that, it seems is the stock and trade of Mark Shea, but Voris?

Michael Voris has stated that he isn't going to go for pope bashing, that's true. It is also true that any Catholic should defend the papacy, when necessary. Voris' apostolate is trying to spread the faith. One does not do this effectively while dumping on the pope. He actually comes down pretty hard on the current goings-on in the church, unlike Akin and Shea.

On the other hand, folks like Mundabor and Louis Verrechio read like sedevacantist eggs waiting to hatch.

I bet that if you asked Akin and Shea these questions, the results would be predictable. If you asked Voris these questions, you would get serious answers. And if you asked Mundabor and Verecchio these questions reversed, they would say they can't agree with anything Pope Francis has done, or at least that is the impression one gets.