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Magisterial Authority Paperback – October 28, 2014
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Most importantly, to provide a sense of balance, Fr. Ripperger shows how, even if the Pope or other members of the magisterium err on a given point of their teaching, we cannot flippantly reject the magisterium, but must accord it the appropriate respect, while still adhering to the tradition.
Today there is a lot of confusion, and as Cardinal Burke pointed out, the Church feels like ship without a helmsman, given the constant contradictions, strange statements, or infighting which cause many faithful to throw up their hands and say "What is going on". It isn't just the traditionalists any more, and thus everyone needs this particular book, as a guide to sorting out all the problems from clear theological principles.
There are difficulties with trying to explain such a large topic in such a short text. One weakness which I observed is in the second essay ‘Various Organs of Infallibility’. The author cites Tuas Libenter, of Pope Pius IX, to say that the universal and constant consensus of Catholic theologians are to be considered infallible, but he limits those to the scholastic schools from between 1100 to 1750. He cites Scanelli, who observes that “Although the assistance of the Holy Ghost is not directly promised to theologians, nevertheless the assistance promised to the Church requires that He should prevent them as a body from falling into error; otherwise the faithful who follow them would all be led astray”. The first question that this raises is, why is the cut off date 1750, if the Church stills needs their assistance? Also, is this idea advanced by Pope Pius IX based on previous teaching on the same topic, or is this just one thought in his magisterial teaching? The book teaches not every statement in an encyclical is infallible, so is this statement asserting the infallibility of a consensus of theologians here infallible itself? Besides other theologians, who has time to read all the works of the major theologians to determine if there is such a consensus, and doesn’t this present a practical problem to Scanelli’s point? One must rely a great deal on the integrity of the theologians to point out when there is a lack of a consenus, (which many of them did, like St. Alphonsus, who would routinely cite people who disagreed with his opinion and then state why the thought they were wrong). I am afraid that without tying up loose ends on this point, it could lead to a sort of “hyper-infallibility” every time someone reads a few theologians in agreement with each other from that era. Too many times have I heard statements that “all the fathers” taught x, when I know that isn’t true; my concern over this point is to avoid an expansion of those authoritative orations that makes one feel impious if further inquired upon to the priest/speaker about their sources when “all the theologians taught x”.
In the fourth essay ‘The Proper Response to an Erring Magisterial Member’ I thought the advice to pray and do penance when one encounters such a thing to be most excellent. It reminded me of a similar exhortation in the Ladder of Divine Ascent by St. John Climacus, that before reproofing one’s brother one should pray and do penance in secret for him.
That being said, I felt the last point of examination of conscience, asking “what have I done to deserve better leaders?” to not be so great. A problem I see with such an assertion is that: it creates a desire for earthly success to avoid suffering from bad leaders, rather than the imitation of Christ by being obedient unto death and winning heavenly glory. That quote from St. John Eudes about bad clerics has almost become a traditional Catholic cliche it is so heavily used; while other works on calamity and why bad things happen are neglected such as: St. John Cassian’s conference on the Slaughter of Holy Men, St. Augustine’s homilies on the Persecution of the Faithful by Bad Christians, St. Alphonsus on Calamities, and even more modern works like Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus by Father Raoul Plus. If we consider the sinfulness of the members of the Church throughout history we should have never had good leaders because we have never deserved them. It doesn’t matter how inept our leaders are, God gives them sufficient grace to do their job. Every penitent should know that it is good to suffer patiently for his sins and every Saint wants to suffer for the Glory of God. Let us not think that God would not allow bad leaders to try His Saints, when He has done it so many times before.
If we examine ourselves, we must humbly acknowledge that we deserve to suffer, so we should hasten to do penance. Having good leaders does not mean the members of the Church are no longer sinners or that we “deserve” good leaders.
I feel that such a long objection seems unfair to a good work on an important and misunderstood topic. I would still encourage you to read, buy and distribute this to your friends and family. In my opinion, its presentation is solid and should appeal to more than just traditional Catholics. I certainly plan on passing around my copy.