Restoring Faith in the Triumph of Christ

Pope Francis has recently criticized the modern versions of Pelagianism and triumphalism in a way that has left some devout Catholics scratching their heads.   The Holy Father seems to be taking aim at the more traditionally minded that are intent on bringing about a restoration of Catholic life, and they find it hard to understand why the Vicar of Christ would have a problem with, of all things, “traditional Catholicism.”  So what exactly is Pope Francis trying to accomplish?

Faith and Future

I believe the Holy Father is attempting to underscore the supernatural character of faith in a time when everyone is affected by the deviations of modernity, including the very people who are reacting against these deviations.  In his encyclical Lumen Fidei, Pope Francis says that faith is a supernatural gift that lights our way, “guiding us through time.”  It comes from the past as a “foundational memory.” Yet, because faith proceeds from the Risen Christ it is also a light that comes from the future, “opening before us vast horizons which guide us beyond our isolated selves towards the breadth of communion” (4).  Thus, Pope Francis calls faith memoria futuri, “remembrance of the future” (9).  Coming from the past, faith is an unshakable memory of what God and done for us in Christ Jesus, and what He has revealed to us through His Son.  Coming from the future, faith is bound up with hope in the promises God has made and guaranteed by the resurrection of His Son.  Thus, in practice to keep the faith means never allowing ourselves to be robbed of hope.  It means never being frozen in time because we are afraid of the future (57). Continue reading

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Triumph or Triumphalism

Today at the “9th International Conference on Marian Coredemption” here in Fatima, the first four papers were read, including one by Msgr. Arthur Calkins, renowned Mariologist.  His paper is entitled “Mary and the Church in the Papal Magisterium before and After the Second Vatican Council.”  One would think that in the many years since the council some theologian would have written on the subject of Mary’s relation to the Church in papal magisterium, but apparently not.

In a particular, a remark of Msgr. Calkins made about what he calls “Vatican II triumphalism” struck me:

“Vatican II triumphalism” is virtually always a partial and one-sided interpretation of council documents which favors a position espoused by one party at the time of the council and studiously avoids mention of any conciliar statements which would counterbalance the “favored” position.

Boy, that nails it for me.  This has been particularly true in the case of Mariology, which is the exact context in which the monsignor presents this observation.  But this VII-T Syndrome has been adopted in many other respectes as well.  Without belaboring the point, I think there is a robust TOB-T (Theology of the Body Triumphalism) at work here in the United States as well.

One instance of this problem in Mariology has been the way in which the relative place of Mary in the Church in respect to the magisterium has been minimized.  The ancient title of  Our Lady, Doctrix Apostolororum (Teacher of the Apostles) is not a very popular idea among the VII-triumphalists and has been judged by them to be an “outmoded form of theological attribution and piety.”  Yet both John Paul II (see note 8 at this link for quote) and Benedict XVI (March 22, 2006) have acknowledged that the Marian dimension of the Church is prior and more fundamental than the petrine (having to do with the office of Peter).  The triumphalists will say that on these points the popes are out of step with Vatican II, just as they did when John Paul II used the title Coredemptrix six times during his pontificate.

But the idea of Doctrix Apostolorum, is neither a post-Vatican II innovation, nor is it an idea that has been condemned or discouraged by Vatican II.  Msgr. Calkins quotes Pius XII at length on the same subject.  I will just give a bit of it here:

More exalted than St. Peter, the Vicar of Christ on earth, the Mother of our Lord Jesus yet has in common with Peter in a manner all her own a dignity, an authority, a power which associates her with the Apostolic College as its Queen.

This Marian office does not supplant the petrine or apostolic, but it is, nevertheless, superior to it.  Pope Pius goes on:

While Peter has the key of heaven, Mary has the key to God’s heart;  while Peter binds and looses, Mary also binds with the chain of love and looses with the gift of pardon (address to pilgrims from Genoa, April 21, 1940).

Another speaker today, Father Etienne Richer, pointed out that in the eithgth chapter of Lumen Gentium which treats of the Blessed Virgin, the council fathers write that the council

does not, however, have it in mind to give a complete doctrine on Mary, nor does it wish to decide those questions which the work of theologians has not yet fully clarified. Those opinions therefore may be lawfully retained which are propounded in Catholic schools concerning her, who occupies a place in the Church which is the highest after Christ and yet very close to us.

Thus VII triumphalism has gone way too far.  It is time to stop presuming that the Church woke up to the modern age in the 1960’s.  It is just not true.  In particular, in respect to Marian doctrine and devotion, we should be cooperating with the Queen of Apostles to bring about the Triumph of Her Immaculate Heart and not hindering it by misguided triumphalism.