What is “papal positivism”?

What is “papal positivism”?

[“Regis voluntas suprema lex”: The will of the king (in this case, the pope) is the supreme law]

JAN 15, 2017 by HILARY WHITE

Fr. Ripperger, in 2001, had it figured out:

Because neo-conservatives reject the “extrinsic and intrinsic tradition,” in judging orthodoxy, “whatever comes out of the Vatican regardless of its authoritative weight, is to be held, even if it contradicts what was taught with comparable authority in the past.“

…psychologically the neo-conservatives have been left in a position in which the extrinsic and intrinsic tradition are no longer included in the norms of judging whether something is orthodox or not. As a result, whatever comes out of the Vatican regardless of its authoritative weight, is to be held, even if it contradicts what was taught with comparable authority in the past.

Since non-infallible ordinary acts of the magisterium can be erroneous, this leaves one in a precarious situation if one only takes as true what the current magisterium says. While we are required to give religious assent even to the non-infallible teachings of the Church, what are we to do when a magisterial document contradicts other current or previous teachings and one does not have any more authoritative weight than the other?

It is too simplistic merely to say that we are to follow the current teaching. What would happen if in a period of crisis, like our own, a non-infallible ordinary magisterial teaching contradicted what was in fact the truth? If one part of the magisterium contradicts another, both being at the same level, which is to believed? Unfortunately, what has happened is that many neo-conservatives have acted as if non-infallible ordinary magisterial teachings (e.g. the role of inculturation in the liturgy as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church) are, in fact, infallible when the current magisterium promulgates them. This is a positivist mentality.

What is positivism, and why must we reject it? It is another of the instruments of civilizational destruction that grew out of the post-Protestant, de-Christianized weedpatch of what we now call, apparently without irony, “The Enlightenment.”

As a philosophical system or method, Positivism denies the validity of metaphysical speculations, and maintains that the data of sense experience are the only object and the supreme criterion of human knowledge; as a religious system, it denies the existence of a personal God and takes humanity, “the great being”, as the object of its veneration and cult.

The failings of this form of epistemology is that if you base your apprehension of reality strictly on sense experience, you will quickly find that not everyone has the same data. It then falls to the biggest and the strongest to impose their interpretive criteria on everyone else. Positivism is the philosophy of the school yard bully.

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9 comments on “What is “papal positivism”?

  1. The [current] Catholic Civil War is a 300 year-old war of philosophy

    JAN 15, 2017 by HILARY WHITE

    If you don’t know anything about the history of philosophy for the last 250 years, you will not be able to understand what is going on in the Catholic Church right now.

    This is from Fr. Ripperger on the distinction we must now make between “conservative” and “Traditionalist” Catholicism (published in Christian Order in 2001). Where did it come from? Why do even “conservatives” hate the very notion of tradition?

    Rationalism also changed how man viewed revelation. Since rationalists do not believe that one can come to true intellectual knowledge by means of the senses, then that which pertained to the senses was systematically ignored or rejected. Since revelation is something introduced into sensible reality, revelation came under direct attack. Moreover, if one is cut off from reality, then one is locked up inside oneself and so what pertains to one’s own experience becomes paramount. After Descartes, came Spinoza who systematically attacked the authenticity of oral tradition regarding the Scriptures and through his philosophy he began to change people’s view of the world.

    As empiricism rose, the view of man as simply a material being led to fixing man’s meaning in the “now” or always in the present. Since for the empiricist, man’s meaning is found in what he senses and feels, this led eventually to a lack of interest in the past since the past as such (and future for that matter) cannot be sensed nor fulfil our sensible desires. With the advent of Hegel, the intellectual groundwork was laid for a wholesale lack of interest in and distrust of tradition. With the scepticism of Spinoza about the sources of Scripture, coupled with the Hegelian dialectic, the past (including all forms of tradition) was now outmoded or outdated and tradition was to be distrusted. As a consequence, those who wanted to impose some religious teaching based upon tradition or history became suspect…

    This type of behaviour coupled with the modern philosophical encroachment into the intellectual life of the Church and the bad theology resulting therefrom has led to a type of “magisterialism”. Magisterialism is a fixation on the teachings that pertain only to the current magisterium. Since extrinsic tradition has been subverted and since the Vatican tends to promulgate documents exhibiting a lack of concern regarding some of the previous magisterial acts, many have begun ignoring the previous magisterial acts and listen only to the current magisterium.

    This problem is exacerbated by our current historical conditions. As the theological intellectual community began to unravel before, during and after Vatican II, those who considered themselves orthodox were those who were obedient and intellectually submissive to the magisterium since those who dissent are not orthodox. Therefore, the standard of orthodoxy was shifted from Scripture, intrinsic tradition (of which the magisterium is a part) and extrinsic tradition (which includes magisterial acts of the past, such as Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors), to a psychological state in which only the current magisterium is followed.

    Neo-conservatives have fallen into this way of thinking i.e. the only standard by which they judge orthodoxy is whether or not one follows the current magisterium. Traditionalists, as a general rule, tend to be orthodox in the sense that they are obedient to the current magisterium, even though they disagree about matters of discipline and have some reservations about some aspects of current magisterial teachings which seem to contradict the previous magisterium (e.g. the role of the ecumenical movement). Traditionalists tend to take not just the current magisterium as their norm but Scripture, intrinsic tradition, extrinsic tradition and the current magisterium as the principles of judgment of correct Catholic thinking. This is what distinguishes traditionalists and neo-conservatives i.e. their perspectives regarding the role of ecclesiastical tradition and how the current magisterium relates to it.

    Inevitably, this magisterialism has led to a form of positivism. Since there are no principles of judgment other than the current magisterium, whatever the current magisterium says is always what is “orthodox.” In other words, psychologically the neo-conservatives have been left in a position in which the extrinsic and intrinsic tradition are no longer included in the norms of judging whether something is orthodox or not.

    If nothing else, it demonstrates that our problem right now with Bergoglio is not incomprehensible; it is not even unexpected. It does indeed trace its immediate roots to the Second Vatican Council, but that event has its own roots back to the 18th century. Nothing that is happening can possibly be a surprise to anyone who has done a bit of this reading.

    If you can’t make head of tails of this, it’s time to start doing the background reading …

    I would venture to say, however, that without at least a working knowledge of this history, you will not be able to understand what is happening right now.

  2. EXCELLENT posts, Tom!

    Two of my all-time favorites, Fr. Ripperger and Hilary White.

    Here’s one of a number of conferences by Father on Tradition.


  3. A pastor’s dilemma:


    Fr. John Hollowell
    15 Jan 2017

    If my diocese released anything anywhere near the Maltese Directive, I would have to resign and I don’t know what would happen after that

  4. Küng Fu: Modernism the Legend Continues

    Master Po: What is troubling you, Grasshopper?

    Kwai Chang: I am wondering, Master, how can Pope Bergoglio turn to papal positivism when Pope John Paul II had relied upon personalism and phenomenology?

    Master Po: Strange are the ways of the cycle of karma and samsara, are they not, Grasshopper?
    Perhaps Pope Francis will discover Zen before the end of this pontificate and modernism can bring yet more change to the evolving confusion and disorientation of its penumbra…..

    Captain Kirk: Can the Pope change the official Catholic philosophy to papal positivism, Mister Spock?

    Spock: The Pope can do anything he wants. After all, he is the Pope.

    Captain Kirk: Sort of like the director of a B science fiction movie or television series.

    Doctor Bones McCoy: You took the words right out of my mouth, Jim!

    Father Mulcahy, S.J.: Actually the Pope is bound by tradition, church doctrine, established principles of logic and natural law, and previous papal encyclicals.
    Technically, Aeterni Patris and Fides et Ratio still carry the force of authority.
    Although the modernist flirtation with phenomenology did suspend certain metaphysical
    and ontological issues in the post-conciliar upheaval, but just theoretically, of course.

    Hans Küng: I vould like to address that.
    But I will also issue a microaggression warning….

    Professor Sartre: Suspending questions of the metaphysical and ontological are key to the methodology…

    Robin: Is that true, Batman?

    Batman: It’s only a theory of a certain school of thought, Robin.

    Kwai Chang: Master, how could a modernist Pope suspend the principles of natural law or the Aristotelian principle of Non-Contradiction?

    Master Po: Ah, Grasshopper, we must sharpen your Taoist and Zen awareness so that you will understand these postmodern dilemmas. If a caterpillar hears a Shelby Mustang convertible racing down the highway at 95 miles per hour which hexagram from the I Ching would indicate a more favorable opportunity to cross the road?

    Kwai Chang: I cannot be certain of the right answer to such an absurd question, Master.

    Bob Dylan: What style of interior does that Shelby Mustang convertible have, Master Po?

    Mr. Roarke: It must have Corinthian leather. Would you like Corinthian leather interior in a Shelby Mustang convertible, Tattoo?

    Tattoo: Yes, Boss.

    Professor Jürgen Habermas: Commodity fetishism is not the answer for curing the alienation and self-estrangement of modern culture.

    Reverend Neuhaus: Forgive me for interrupting again as aggressive and pushy professional Protestant converts sometimes do, but this might be a good time to discuss the Naked Public Square in modernity, Max Weber’s concept of disenchantment in modern culture, and Professor Taylor’s secularization theories…

    Carol Brady: What are you reading, Mike?

  5. Kwai Chang: Master, If the Mustang had naugahyde seats, or leather from New Jersey instead of Corinth, would the caterpillar be repulsed?

    Master Po: The minds of caterpillars and the minds of popes are beyond my comprehension, Grasshopper.

    Kwai Chang: What perplexes me, though, is why does the caterpillar cross the road?

  6. Carol: Mike, if Spock is correct, can a positivist pope fly higher and faster than all his predecessors, or will he succumb to the Icarus paradox?

    Mike: Carol, you really need to read this book.

  7. Bob Dylan: Does the caterpillar see any crows or birds of prey around, Grasshopper?

    Kwai Chang: You wish to ask me if the caterpillar see any crows or birds of prey around, Mister Bob Dylan? Surely I do not know because I have not asked the caterpillar.
    Master Po, does the caterpillar see any crows or birds of prey around?

    Master Po: It is only an imaginary caterpillar in a theoretical analogy. However, if it were a real caterpillar I would not know because I am legally blind. Why do you ask?

    Kwai Chang: Master Po wishes to know why you have asked.

    Bob Dylan: Well, why this caterpillar dude is waiting around to figure out which hexagram from the I Ching would indicate a more favorable opportunity to cross the road some crow or bird of prey might swoop down and eat him which would be very unfortunate for the caterpillar.

    Father Mulcahy, S.J.: A fine point, Bob. At Fordham in the old days Father Gannon would warn the younger Jesuit scholastics to be cautious of jaywalking while touring Manhattan and the Bronx. New York taxi drivers can be aggressive at times. Of course, caution and common sense are part of Natural Law. It would be helpful if the Knights of Malta would offer a course on this to avoid the scandal of distributing condoms.

  8. Opie: But Paw, I thought the pope said rubbers are OK.

    Andy: Now Opie, only a positivist would think that the pope could change that. Or a Protestant.

    Opie: But we is Protestant, right Paw?

    Miss Crump: ‘Are’ Protestant, Opie.

    Robin: Dubium, dubii, dubio, dubia, …

  9. Father Mulcahy, S.J.: Oh, yes, very good. At Fordham, Father W. Norris Clarke, S.J. and Father Miceli, S.J. were keen on the idea that we should trace the arguments of opponents very closely. I must say that it is not exactly rocket science to figure out where this is going. The progressive modernist argument would go something like this….those who use condoms who feel that they are at peace with God will not be judged harshly by Pope Francis…. Of course, each bishop may be free to modify the rules somewhat. Well, I suppose that is confusing….

    Mr. Roarke: Tattoo, did you realize that on Fantasy Island guests can have and do whatever they want, whatever their subjective fantasies imagine or desire…

    Father Karras, S.J.: We used to call that the Devil…before Vatican II when the neo-Kantian dialectic of modernism took over, of course.

    Father Merrin, S.J.: What’s preventing you from calling it that now?

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