Criticizing Canon Law


#1

Pope Pius IX wrote:

“It would beyond any doubt be **blameworthy **and **entirely contrary **to the respect with which the laws of the Church should be received by a senseless aberration to find fault with the discipline which she has established, and which includes the administration of holy things, the regulation of morals, and the laws of the Church and her ministers; or to speak of this discipline as opposed to certain principles of the natural law, or to present it as defective, imperfect, and subject to civil authority.” Mirari Vos

Does this not seem to condemn folks like Jimmy Akin who on occasion suggest that a law is problematic, imperfect, or “sloppy?”


#2

The Church does not teach that the Church Herself is infallible in matters of discipline. Note the phrase ‘by a senseless aberration’. One should only criticize matters of disciplines when that criticism is based on Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium, based on faith and reason combined. Also one cannot refuse to believe that the Church does have the authority from God to make decisions in matters of discipline.


#3

On the contrary:

itsjustdave1988.blogspot.com/2005/04/are-ecclesiastical-disciplines.html


#4

Hi Lazer_

None of the quotes state that discipline is infallible. They speak to the fact that the Church has the power to impose discipline and that we must submit to it. The Church once obliged all Catholics not to eat meat on Friday; it no longer does. If this obligation had been “Infallible”, then it could not be revoked.

One can respectfully disagree with a discipline but one must conform to it.

I would like here to express my opinion that canon law should not, per se (by itself), oblige under pain of sin. There should be, in it, a statement to that effect, as there are in the rules and regulations of religious orders – a prescription of canon law.(!)

Verbum


#5

As the link explained, Church discipline is infallible. The quotations clearly do say this, most notably the quotation from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

[Disciplinary Infallibility] has, however, found a place in all recent treatises on the Church (De Ecclesiâ}. The authors of these treatises decide unanimously in favour of a negative and indirect rather than a positive and direct infallibility, inasmuch as in her general discipline, i. e. the common laws imposed on all the faithful, the Church can prescribe nothing that would be contrary to the natural or the Divine law, nor prohibit anything that the natural or the Divine law would exact. If well understood this thesis is undeniable; it amounts to saying that the Church does not and cannot impose practical directions contradictory of her own teaching.

This is different, however, from doctrinal infallibility, which is confusing you. Doctrinal infallibility says that the Church can’t define a doctrine which would be erroneous.

Disciplinary infallibility does not mean that all disciplines are infallible, in the sense that they’ll never change or something similar to doctrinal infallibility. It means that the Church is not capable of requiring a discipline that is harmful to the faithful or contrary to Divine Law. For example, the Church is not capable of ever creating a canon law that requires people to have abortions.


#6

It is interesting that you were able to find the quote of a quote from a non-magisterial source that says changeable discipline is infallible. The Catholic Encyclopedia, as good and reliable as it is, does not have magisterial authority.

The really sad thing about your quote is that is started in the middle of the paragraph. Here, let me show you a little more of the context. Like the sentence that precedes it.

What connexion is there between the discipline of the Church and her infallibility? Is there a certain disciplinary infallibility? It does not appear that the question was ever discussed in the past by theologians unless apropos of the canonization of saints and the approbation of religious orders. It has, however, found a place in all recent treatises on the Church (De Ecclesiâ}. The authors of these treatises decide unanimously in favour of a negative and indirect rather than a positive and direct infallibility, inasmuch as in her general discipline, i.e. the common laws imposed on all the faithful, the Church can prescribe nothing that would be contrary to the natural or the Divine law, nor prohibit anything that the natural or the Divine law would exact. If well understood this thesis is undeniable; it amounts to saying that the Church does not and cannot impose practical directions contradictory of her own teaching.

Emphasis mine.

But here, let people read the whole thing, rather than just what I or some blogger is able or willing to put in a post.

newadvent.org/cathen/05030a.htm


#7

rpp,

I understand your point, and it’s valid. I quoted the encyclopedia only because it was more concise than the magisterial statements I could have brought forth.

By the way, the blogger is CAF member itsjustdave1988, who is probably the most knowledgable and educated member of these boards. If he says it, he’s pretty darn almost always right. :thumbsup:


#8

The teaching derives from the 18th century condemnation of Pius Vi, Aucterum Fidei., which condemns the contrary proposition of the Jansenists who claimed that ecclesial discipline could be “harmful” or “dangerous” to the faithful. This teaching is theologically certain according to Catholic theology.

In other words, “disciplinary infallibility” is not my assertion, but Catholic teaching.

According to Dogmatic Theology, Volume II, Christ’s Church, Monsignor G. Van Noort S.T.D., (1957):

                                             The Church’s infallibility extends to the **general discipline** of the Church. This proposition is **theologically certain**. By the term ‘general discipline of the Church’ are meant those **ecclesiastical laws** **passed for the universal Church

**


#9

Any thoughts on my original question?


#10

Thank you, but rest assured, I’m not infallible either. :wink:

I’m just pointing out that the often said, “discipline is not infallible” depends upon what one means. If they mean “direct” and “postive” infallibility as understood by Catholic theology, they are correct. However, ecclesial discipline is protected by the Holy Spirit in such a way that universal discipline can never be deemed “harmful” or “dangerous” to the faithful. Catholic theologians have described this as “indirect” and “negative” infallibility.

Yet, one must remember that laws are for the “common good.” In particular circumstances, following the letter of the law may be dangerous or harmful to individuals. Or given certain applications of the law not foreseen or intended by the law-giver, it may become dangerous or harmful to the common good. That’s why “dispensation” is given.

So, what Pius VI was condemning was the claim of Jansenists that the law should be discarded because it was “dangerous” or “harmful.” Pius VI affirmed that such reasoning was erroneous. In their proper application and according the mind and will of the lawgiver, they may never be “dangerous” or “harmful” to the faithful. At least that’s how I understand this teaching.


#11

Sure…I don’t think the doctrine of disciplinary infalliblity intends to suggest that the law is perfect as is. The world keeps changing, and as such, general discipline must often change so as to continue to be helpful to the faithful.

One may licitly manifest their opinion for the good of the Church according to canon law and the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, but they must do so charitably. At times they may be obliged to do so.

According to Lumen Gentium, no. 37:

By reason of the knowledge, competence, or pre-eminence which they have, the laity are empowered—indeed sometimes obliged—to manifest their opinion on those things which pertain to the good of the Church. If the occasion should arise, this should be done through the institutions established by the Church for that purpose, and always with truth, courage, and prudence, and with reverence and charity toward those who, by reason of their office, represent the person of Christ. The laity should, as all Christians, promptly accept in Christian obedience decisions of their spiritual shepherds, since they are representatives of Christ as well as teachers and rulers in the Church.

If over time, the temporal circumstances have changed such that the disciplinary norm in question is no longer deemed prudent, then it is certainly licit to manifest that opinion in an attempt to have our lawmakers consider changing the norm so that it is better or continues, over time, to serve the common good of the faithful.

I don’t know of any examples where Jimmy Akin has behaved so as to have fallen under the condemnation of Pius VI’s Auctorem Fidei. Saying a law is no longer prudent is not quite the same as charging that obedience to approved ecclesial norms are “dangerous” or “harmful” to the faith.


#12

I was referring to Mirari Vos, which seems to more explicitly rule out speaking negatively of Church discipline. Auctorium Fidei certainly asserts that it can’t be *harmful *to the faithful in an - to perhaps stretch a term - ontological sense, but Mirari Vos comes across more as a strict condemnation of *criticizing *it, “ontology” aside:

“It would beyond any doubt be blameworthy and entirely contrary to the respect with which the laws of the Church should be received by a senseless aberration to find fault with the discipline which she has established, and which includes the administration of holy things, the regulation of morals, and the laws of the Church and her ministers; or to speak of this discipline as opposed to certain principles of the natural law, or to present it as defective, imperfect, and subject to civil authority.”


#13

Mirari Vos comes across more as a strict condemnation of *criticizing *it, “ontology” aside

I don’t understand Mirari Vos to have declared disciplinary norms perfect in the absolute sense, otherwise Pope Gregory would be imposing unchangeable discipline upon the faithful forever, never being able to change it since it could never be criticized in any way. It is already “the best” and can get no better. To do so I think reads more into what is intended in Mirari Vos than how the Church herself has ever understood Mirari Vos. I’m taught by the Jesuits to “think with the Church”…so I do. :wink:

Yet, those disciplines which are so closely related to and express Divine and natural law clearly can never be nor ever “change” so as to be opposed to natural and Divine law. So in that sense, such disciplines are “perfect” and one criticizing them as contrary to Divine and natural law are in error.

The Catholic Encyclopedia article on ecclesiastical discipline, for instance, says:

There is no change in those disciplinary measures through which the Church sets before the faithful and confirms the natural and the Divine Law, nor in those strictly disciplinary regulations that are closely related to the natural or Divine Law. Other disciplinary rules may and must be modified in proportion as they seem less efficacious for the social or individual welfare. (Catholic Encyclopedia - Ecclesiastical Discipline)


#14

Referring to the first part of your post…

Okay, I think understand what you are getting to. Let me see if I can put it into two sentences.

Canon Law itself is not infallible in the sense that it is unchangeable, like the deposit of faith. However, the** decisions and judgements** made based on Canon Law are infallible.

Is that what you mean? If so, I can agree with that.

Also, I am sorry for my curt tone earlier. :blush:


#15

Not quite. He means that canon law is not infallible in the sense that it is unchangable, but that it is infallible in the sense that it cannot be harmful to the faithful.

In other words, it would be impossible for the Church to make a law that said “The faithful will be obliged to have wild parties on Easter Sunday.”


#16

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