Manualist Monday: A collection of pre-conciliar theologians on the dogmatic weight of Quanta cura and the Syllabus errorum
Ever since Dr. John Joy published his fine piece on the theological note of Quanta cura (as well as a follow-up piece nearly a year later), we had entertained in our mind the notion of investigating the writings of the theologians more nearly contemporaneous with that document and its accompanying Syllabus, in order to ascertain whether the Church’s authors also considered either to be infallible definitions. After having searched out several authors, we began translating the relevant excerpts, but (ut mos est) although we had completed a substantial number of the texts planned for presentation, we delayed completion of the project in favor of other more pressing and interesting pursuits. At length, however, being recently reminded once again of this unfinished project, we decided to prepare what had already been completed for posting, rather than procrastinate any longer. Several other authors from our list still remain to be translated, and they shall (hopefully!) be added in due course; undoubtedly we shall encounter others as well, and we intend to add them as well when time permits. Consider this post a work in progress.
The collection of translations presented here comprises a handful of well-known and weighty voices from the Catholic theological tradition prior to the Second Vatican Council. Although they speak of the valor dogmaticus of the encyclical Quanta cura and unanimously affirm it to be ex cathedra, the specific focus of many of the authors is rather the Syllabus—this being occasioned by the disproportionate controversy stirred up (especially amongst non-Catholics at the time) regarding the latter. While not every single one of the authors comes to the same conclusions regarding the force of the Syllabus considered by itself, yet it can be said that there is a common opinion of sorts.
We have omitted to include here the text of the various English treatments we have gathered on this subject, and have opted rather to include links to scans of the relevant volumes online. They are: Cardinal Hergenröther, in the 1876 English edition of his Catholic Church and Christian State, vol. 1, essay V, p. 205ff; St. John Henry Newman, in his famous A letter addressed to his Grace the Duke of Norfolk, §7 (ed. 1875, p. 78ff); and William George Ward, in the first Appendix to his Essays on the Church’s doctrinal authority (1880), p. 479ff.
Finally, it must be noted that all bolding, italicization, etc. is that of the original authors.
1. Johann Cardinal Franzelin, from an unpublished letter of 19 Mar 1868, to a theology professor who had consulted him about the dogmatic value of the Syllabus; reproduced in part by Fr. Francois Desjacques in the July 1889 fascicule of the journal Études religieuses, p. 354ff.
After this digression one must come 2° to the concrete question of the Syllabus. By the will and command of the Pontiff, errors, which have been proscribed by him on other occasions, noted as errors against sound doctrine and as to be avoided by the faithful, and gathered up into a kind of summary, are noticed to all the Pastors of the universal Church; in which mandate and act there seems altogether to be contained and manifested the will of giving a universal norm of thinking and teaching in those heads indicated therein. If a doubt arises regarding the sense in which the errors are proscribed, certainly one must recur to the documents from which the propositions of the Syllabus are drawn; but it is not merely that authority, which they have perhaps in an inferior degree in some of those documents, that belongs to the same proscriptions as they are in the Syllabus; but from the communication and proposition made to all the Pastors and through them to the faithful, a new degree of authority accedes to all those condemnations (certainly not as if all the errors would be understood to be proscribed with the same species of censure, but insofar as, without determination of notes, all are declared to the universal Church as errors to be avoided). But what demonstrates to us most of all the authority which is to be attributed, the submission of mind which is to be given to the doctrine declared in the Syllabus, without doubt is the sense and consensus, at least morally unanimous, of the whole catholic episcopate; for from this it plainly seems, that the whole complex of doctrine in the document has been received as doctrine authentically proposed by the supreme teacher. Therefore—although, considering only the mode in which the Encyclical “Quanta cura” and the Syllabus first came forth, a difference can be found between that [Encyclical] which has emanated immediately from the Pontiff himself, and this [Syllabus] which, indeed encompassing pronouncements of the Pontiff from other documents, yet in this form seems to be communicated to the Bishops only at the command of the Pontiff—nevertheless, considering all the circumstances, and most of all the mode in which each document has been regarded, with moral consensus in the Church, as being of the same character, practically speaking the same generally can be said of the Syllabus which is said of the Encyclical.
2. Jean Bainvel, in De magisterio vivo et traditione (1905), §104, p. 107-108.
On the authority of the Syllabus. — At this point a question is referred regarding the authority of the Syllabus. Regarding this, in order that you may judge rightly, recall how the matter was elaborated, promulgated, and accepted. Cf. Hourat, Le Syllabus, 1904 (in the collection Science et religion), a compendium of which you will find in Études, 20 May 1904, Bulletin théologique, n. 3, p. 585-589. Two things here must be distinguished, lest you obscure everything — as some indeed do these days, such as P. Viollet: the value of the proscription, and the title and degree of the proscription. Read the rest of this entry »