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Some Initial Reflections on the Encyclical, Lumen Fidei

July 5:
Some Initial Reflections on the Encyclical, Lumen Fidei

By John Vennari

I read the new Encyclical this morning. I do not intend to embark on a detailed examination or critique of the document. Others can take on that task. For now, here are a few brief observations:
1) The Encyclical is over 18,000 words, not including the 50 footnotes.
2) The Encyclical is the work of “two popes,” though it appears to be primarily the work of former-Pope Benedict, even though it bears Francis’ name. Francis is said to have contributed to the document as well, but it reads like the “Ratzinger” text.
3) It is a
non-Scholastic document, not written according to the traditional Roman school. It is more in line with the wordy style of Ratzinger, von Balthasar and other ‘new school’ theologians. (For example, I must confess I got more out of reading 4 pages of Thomist Joseph Piper On Hope than I did reading Benedict’s entire encyclical on “Hope”). This should not surprise us, as young Father Joseph Ratzinger, never a fan of the Scholasticism of Aquinas, rejoiced in 1966 that Vatican II abandoned scholastic language and any anti-Modernist approach in formulating its decrees, in favor of verbose “pastoral” language.
4) Fifty years into the Council’s disastrous program, the Encyclical opens by holding up Vatican II as an event beneficial to the Faith: “The Second Vatican Council enables the light of Faith to illumine our human experience from within, accompanying the men and women of our time on their journey. It clearly showed how faith enriches life in all its dimensions.” (#6)

  5) The new encyclical on Faith does not reiterate the traditional definition of Faith: “
Faith is the adherence of the intellect to a truth revealed by God.” What is much needed in our time is a firm restatement and explanation of the objectivity of Faith as a body of truth revealed by God to which the intellect assents. The sheer objectivity of Faith, in my opinion, is not sufficiently treated. The Encyclical does use the term ‘faith-knowledge’, but again this is employment of a non-scholastic language and approach that. I believe, does not carry the cargo that needs to be carried.[1]

  6) There is a good bit in the Encyclical that modern conservatives will celebrate. Any legitimate effort to counter the rise of godlessness, to warn against the exaltation of the individual over God’s law, and to point out the limitations of empirical science, is praiseworthy. Yet, the encyclical’s framework is still the Second Vatican Council. The document fails to point to (or even hint at) the Council as the central cause of the loss of Faith in our time. Rather, as noted earlier, the encyclical showers unqualified praise on Vatican II. Thus I believe the Encyclical will do little to remedy the worldwide crisis of Faith we now suffer. It will end up as yet another lengthy document of the post-Conciliar period that remains largely unread.  

7) If the good that is in the Encyclical would have born any fruit, I believe this is quickly snuffed out by the other Vatican news of July 5: That Pope Francis has bypassed the second miracle required for the process and will “canonize” John XXIII; and that Pope Francis has cleared the way for the “canonization” of John Paul II. Here today’s Rome is certainly not returning to Tradition, but ‘canonizing’ the new orientation of the Council. This act will cause a great crisis of conscience for many souls, increase confusion and disappointment of the faithful trying to maintain authentic Tradition, and further erode the faith by effectively canonizing the Council’s liberal program. How do these scandalous canonizations help the Catholic’s “Light of Faith”?

[1] It is true that Lumen Fidei footnotes a passage of Vatican II's Dei Verbum which contains a formulation that can be interpreted in the traditional sense, but it is a footnote, which most people do not read.  Thus the nature and objectivity of Faith, I believe, is not sufficiently treated. For a superior and classic treatment of “Faith”, see Father Adolph’s Tanquerey’s Manual of Dogmatic Theology, Volume I, Tract VI,”Faith” [New York: Desclee, 1959], out of print.

PS: I encourage everyone to purchase and read:
Pope John Paul II - Doubts About a Beatification by Fr. Patrick De La Rocque, FSSPX - superb!

see also: The Secret of Pope John Paul II’s Success

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