The CDF And The Faith
I have read around some rather astonishing comments, that might confuse if not solid Catholics at least doubting ones, and certainly Protestants who are perhaps thinking of conversion. The argument goes along the lines of “if the CDF, which are the guardians of the Faith, are proved to be in error, why should we believe in the inerrancy of a Church who can't even prevent their very own watchdogs from getting it wrong?”.
This statement shows a dangerous confusion between the Truth and the organisation meant to protect it. The Truth comes from God, and the Church is run by men. The Church is Indefectible as an organisation, but Her organs are certainly not infallible in their actions; not even those who pertains to fundamental questions of truth and lie, orthodoxy or heresy.
St Joan of Arc was sent to die at the stake. Athanasius was even excommunicated. The Templars were disposed of with charges of heresy. There are, in the history of the Church, countless examples of wrong judgment or compliance to political pressures. The Church is not run by angels, and the actions of the men who run Her are liable to make pretty much all mistakes caused by their human nature, from ignorance to corruption to weakness to outright evil intent, with as only protection the very special one given to one man, the Pope, and in very exceptional circumstances only.
The CDF is not infallible. How could it be, it the men running it aren't the Pope and do not speak ex cathedra?
To idolise the Church to the rather, on reflection, extreme point that Her infallibility is extended to everything she does in matter of doctrine is to take Truth away from God, and to trust it in the hands of a bunch of men of more or less undeveloped moral integrity, doctrinal wisdom and, perhaps, intelligence. This thinking denies the very meaning of eternal Truth as it deifies the opinions of men. It just does not square with Catholic thinking.
The Church has given us a deposit of faith, accessible to pretty much everyone according to his lights, and such that if this person is honest with himself and, if necessary, seeks the counsel of wise priests or scours the Internet with sincere intent, he is pretty sure not to fall into grievous error.
Countless generations of simple, perhaps even illiterate Catholics could smell a doctrinal rat from rather far away, as they compared what they heard from, say, a strange preacher with the simple but coherent truths learnt from their parents and grandparents, heard in countless homilies and sermons, and integral part of the very culture in which they were immersed. They might not have been able to formulate why the rat was there; but the smell they could, as a rule, sniff rather fast. During the French Revolution, or in Italy in those same years, it was among illiterate peasants that you could find the staunchest defenders of the Faith.
Nowadays, admittedly, there aren't many priests around making instructive homilies and building people in the faith. But the nature of Truth is still such that no progressive priest can spread only half of it without devout and thinking Catholics realising the other half is unmitigated rubbish. The Internet gives access to a wonderful, endless list of orthodox priests and lay bloggers, whose truth will immediately resonate with the reader because it is not their individual truth, but the same Truth of our grand-grandmothers. The Internet and the now spread literacy will also give cheap access to a virtually unlimited quantity of Catholic treasures of the past, such that in former ages such a knowledge would have been accessible only to the most educated and, if laymen, to those from rather wealthy families.
We have, therefore, less good priests than our forefathers had, but more instruments at our disposal to discern with reasonable security whether, say, the CDF is making a mistake or not. We are also, as good Catholics, aware that worldly pressure and political thinking may corrupt every organisation made by humans, and that – particularly in these disgraceful times – this can very easily be the case for the CDF. We do not entrusts these mere humans with something that is simply not within their remit. Particularly if we know who their earthly boss is.
The CDF have made many mistakes, and many more will they make. But we do not start the Creed saying “I believe in the CDF, the Watchdog Almighty”. Truth rests with God. He gives us ways to avoid serious errors, and demands from us that we, according to our lights, instruct ourselves so that these errors will have it very difficult to enter our minds. He sends us people, situations, circumstances, and various graces allowing us to see when Truth is being betrayed.
We do not need to get excited and start to doubt because, say, a head of the CDF expresses himself in favour of communion for adulterers – which the next one will probably do – or subtly doubts the physical Resurrection of our Lord and the physical Perpetual Virginity of Our Lady – which the present one already does -. We know Truth is Truth. We measure those in charge of the CDF according to their adherence to Truth, not the other way round.
Fidelity to the Deposit of Faith is the first and foremost. Our Catholicism literally hinges on it. All the rest, from the Pope to the CDF, from Cardinals to Catechisms, is seen and judged – yes, judged – according to how smoothly it revolves around the hinge.
This is how our forefathers thoughts, and this is how we do it now.
St Paul wouldn't have moved one inch if an angel had come down from heaven and had started to proclaim some novel idea; it is not clear to me why a modern Catholic should plunge in a major crisis because of Cardinal Müller, or any of his successors.
We truly must start to think of these things – to think in terms of hinge – more often, because we will be forced to recur to this thinking more and more frequently in future.
Let us strenghtem our faith and our allegiance to the immortal Truths of the Church now, because we may have need for them before long.