Tuesday, August 08, 2023

"The Pope's Authority is Bound to the Tradition"

[Aug. 8, 2023] Just a friendly reminder that the idea of the pope's boundedness to Sacred Tradition is not some invention of Trad Catholic bloggers. Going back 23 years to the publication of Joseph Ratzinger's pivotal work The Spirit of the Liturgy, we find the following:
With his Petrine authority, the pope more and more clearly took over responsibility for liturgical legislation, thus providing a juridical authority for the continuing formation of the liturgy. The more vigorously the primacy was displayed, the more the question came up about the extent and limits of his authority, which, of course, as such had never been considered. After the Second Vatican Council, the impression arose that the pope really could do anything in liturgical matters, especially if he were acting on the mandate of an ecumenical council. Eventually, the idea of the givenness of the liturgy, the fact that one cannot do with it what one will, faded from the public consciousness of the West. In fact, the First Vatican Council had in no way defined the pope as an absolute monarch. On the contrary, it presented him as the guarantor of obedience to the revealed Word. The pope's authority is bound to the Tradition of faith, and that also applies to the liturgy. It is not "manufactured" by the authorities. Even the pope can only be a humble servant of its lawful development and abiding integrity and identity....[I]t would lead to the breaking up of the foundations of Christian identity if the fundamental intuitions of the East, which are the fundamental intuitions of the early Church, were abandoned. The authority of the pope is not unlimited; it is at the service of Sacred Tradition. Still less is any kind of general "freedom" of manufacture, degenerating into spontaneous improvisation, compatible with the essence of faith and liturgy. The greatness of the liturgy depends—we shall have to repeat this frequently—on its unspontaneity (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, Ignatius Press, 2000, pp. 165-166).

Raztinger says the idea that the pope can do anything in liturgical matters, even "on the mandate of an ecumenical council," is merely an "impression," which the Cardinal goes to explain is erroneous.

He says it is incorrect to view the pope as an "absolute monarch" who can do whatever he wishes with the Church's liturgical patrimony. "The authority of the pope is not unlimited." He is, in fact, bound in his authority as a trustee or "guarantor" to the Word of God. The received Tradition constitutes the boundary of his power, "and this also applies to the liturgy." 

Ratzinger teaches that the pope must respect the "integrity and identity" of the liturgy, of which he is a "humble servant" of its lawful development. The idea that the liturgy can simply be manufactured is a sign of its degeneration, in no way "compatible with the essence of faith and the liturgy."

You can disagree with Cardinal Ratzinger here, as of course this is merely his opinion as a private theologian. But you cannot assert that these arguments are mere Traddy talking points concocted by bloggers to justify disobedience. The pope's boundedness to tradition, that the pope is not an absolute monarch with unlimited powers, that the liturgical tradition must be respected by the pope, etc. were all points recognized as fundamental by the man who was the chief doctrinal authority in the Church for deacdes under St. John Paul II, who is widely recognized as one of the modern Church's greatest liturgical thinkers, and who enshrined these ideas in the teaching of his pontificate. We are not quasi-schismatics for insisting on the very points that Ratzinger held as central to authentic liturgical renewal.

It's sad this has to be stressed, but the quality of discourse on such matters is at an all-time low with a garbage dump of nonsense being posted on this subject almost daily.



Titus said...

Twenty-three years? Pius IX's "I am the tradition" wasn't exactly his finest moment.

Boniface said...

@Titus, I am not sure I understand your comment. Twenty-three years refers to when Ratzinger published The Spirit of the Liturgy. It has nothing to do with Pius IX.

Anonymous said...

(Read Pius XII rosary of the Japanese martyrs. Listed in the booklet OL of Pontmain - it predates the divine mercy chaplet.)

I tire of these writings, because I was hoping Pope B16 was going to 100% turn the church back to its pre Vatican 11 splendor and glory and truth.

Perhaps in these writings, Pope B16 was responding to those who were pushing him to make changes as what now seems to be looming that we really don’t have a clue yet.

I hope now that Pope B16 sees the wreckage and damage V11 has caused he can intercede to correct the damage caused, as no other but he is well versed in the details of the changes made- yet really, I sense we are past that juncture.

Anonymous said...

Pius the IX not the the XII

Anonymous said...

This is unrelated to the details of the quotes- why is it that books and articles are written quoting Origen and Tertulian when I may be wrong - my understanding is that they were both declared heretics .

Also, what are your thoughts of Solomon when he was given the gift of Wisdom yet I believe he fell into idolatry brought about following his heathen wives. ( I find that difficult to reconcile, how can that be? )

Boniface said...


Tertullian spent much of his life as a Catholic and only became a heretic towards the end of his life. So his works are often divided into his pre and post heretical phases. Origen was not declared a heretic until three centuries after his death, and only on very specific points.

Still, these men are both historical witnesses to what the Church believed and taught during their respective lifetimes. It is not as if their testimony becomes entirely invalidated just because they were heretical in certain poitns.

Regarding Solomon, it is clear that his wisdom left him because of his sin. Though wise in understanding the things of God, he fell through lust and consequently his wisdom was obscured.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, the obscuration ( it that’s a word) of wisdom cause by the smoke of -.

The smoke obscuring wisdom and also the accompanying lulling mind numbing anesthetic applied to reason and sound judgement .

Supplying instead Illusions, deceptions.

I understand because I fell prey to a the conversation of a Mormon and my mind would feel a weird numb sensation, it was only after I would literally hold or regard a blessed image during the talks that I was able to dis-engage so to speak.

I never wanted to speak with the Mormon and I asked a priest for advice and he said don’t put yourself on a shelf ( bad advise) . He should hAve said - Run! Like hell away!