Note: The following article, printed in the June-July, 2004 issue of Christian Order, constitutes my response to an article written by Michael Davies in the same issue. I reprint it here for two reasons. First, a number of internet sites have printed Mr. Davies’ article without bothering to also print my reply. I therefore offer it as a counterbalance. Second, this very short reply offers a succinct summary of two major errors to be found in Cardinal Ratzinger’s writings, and also some additional material not found in my original articles. Those readers who would like to read Mr. Davies article may find it on the website of Christian Order Magazine.
To Belie The Obvious Truth
“It has never been asserted that, so to say, nature in a physical sense is being changed. The transformation reaches down to a more profound level. Tradition has it that this is a metaphysical process. Christ lays hold upon what is, from a purely physical viewpoint, bread and wine, in its inmost being, so that it is changed from within and Christ truly gives himself in them” (Cardinal Ratzinger, God and the World, Believing and Living in Our Time, p.408
In his 4,634 words “refutation” of my articles concerning the heresies contained in the writings of Cardinal Ratzinger, Michael Davies does not even once attempt to refute my arguments by confronting and attempting to put into an orthodox context the numerous clearly unorthodox statements which I quoted from these writings. He also denies me (along with all other lay members of the Church) the right to make judgments concerning the obvious heretical content of such writings. He does so by attempting to make me guilty of calling Cardinal Ratzinger a heretic. I have, on the contrary, been quite careful not to call the Cardinal a heretic. The formal designation of someone as a heretic certainly does require his or her pertinacious resistance to Church authority. Such restrictions, however, do not at all apply to designating certain writings or words as being heretical in content, or of designating such writings or oral formulations as someone’s heresy.
So, I will say it again. The Cardinal’s writings contain numerous heresies. Let us start with the quote with which I began this article. I would challenge Mr. Davies to take even its first sentence and find some context in which it is not heretical. Here is that sentence: “It has never been asserted that, so to say, nature in a physical sense is being changed.” Bread is, of course, a physical substance. If there is no physical change to the bread and wine at the Consecration, then how can we speak of the “entire substance” of the bread and wine being changed? The Council of Trent says that if anyone “denieth that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood – the species [accidents] only of the bread and wine remaining – which conversion indeed the Catholic Church most aptly calls transubstantiation; let him be anathema” (Session XIII, Ch.8, Canon II). To assert that the change of the entire substance of some physical thing does not involve any change in its physical nature would indeed be something “more” than a miracle: it would be a contradiction and absurdity.
As we can see from the canon quoted above from Trent, however, this writing of Cardinal Ratzinger involves more than a heresy. It falls under the solemn excommunication pronounced by the Council of Trent. In other words, I have been mild in my judgment. More important, however, it is not my judgment, but rather the solemn judgment of a universal Council.
There is more. The first part of Canon II reads as follows: “If anyone saith that, in the sacred and holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ….;let him be anathema.” Cardinal Ratzinger, after denying that transubstantiation involves any change in the physical nature of the bread and wine, tells us that what really happens during the Consecration is that “Christ lays hold upon what is, from a purely physical viewpoint, bread and wine, in its inmost being, so that it is changed from within and Christ truly gives himself in them.” We must realize, in the first place, that, according to Thomistic Metaphysics, the inmost being of any physical thing is that substantial form united to primal matter which constitutes the particular substantial nature of any physical thing. It is therefore absolutely contradictory to say on the one hand that any physical thing can be changed in its inmost being without such change involving its substantial physical nature. Secondly, the statement that Christ “truly gives himself in them” (that is, in the unchanged physical nature of the bread and wine) is simply a very succinct formulation of the Lutheran heresy of consubstantiation, condemned by the Council of Trent in the above-mentioned Canon. It is no wonder, therefore, that Cardinal Ratzinger says on page 407 of God and the World that “Luther held out in favor of transubstantiation….”. As I pointed out in my previous article, Cardinal Ratzinger has simply redefined the words “metaphysical”, “substantial”, and “transubstantiation”, in order to make the word “transubstantiation” coincide with the doctrine of “consubstantiation” which is part of Lutheran doctrine.
It has, of course, been my contention throughout my articles on The War Against Being, and the three articles exploring the heresies in Cardinal Ratzinger’s writings, that the real source of this denial of Transubstantiation is a rejection of Thomistic cosmology and metaphysics – a rejection of the fact that the deepest reality of any physical substance is its substantial form created by God, undetectable by any physical analysis, and comprising its unity and essence or nature.It is absolutely impossible to believe in Transubstantiation if one rejects this cosmology and metaphysics.
In his book Being Christian (Franciscan Herald Press, 1970), Father Joseph Ratzinger wrote:
“The concept of substance, with which the idea of change seems to be closely linked, appears to be completely unobjective since the bread, considered from a physical and chemical point of view, is seen as a mixture of heterogeneous materials, made up of an infinite multitude of atoms which, in turn, are composed of an enormous number of elemental particles to which we can ultimately apply no certain concept of substance since we do not even know if their existence is corpuscular or undulatory. What, then, does ‘change’ [the “change of the bread and wine”] mean? How and where can the Body and Blood of Christ be present here? And what does eating his Body and drinking his Blood mean?” (p. 59).
. Christ’s Church has very simple and infallible answers to these questions
How?: Through the miraculous change of the entire substances of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ.
Where?: Precisely where the substances of bread and wine once were.
What does eating His Body and drinking his Blood mean?: It means eating His Body and drinking His Blood.
Cardinal Ratzinger’s explanation, on the other hand, is replete with all sorts of obfuscations: with vague notions of community, history, the transparency of physical things, physical realities as signs of eternal realities, etc. As Cardinal Siri wrote in his Gethsemane, Reflections On The Contemporary Theological Movement, “the words flee, they continually slide, full of implications, implications with different resonances each time, in a way which does not allow any principle, notion or concept of fundamental, stable meaning to remain….One finds himself as if before a sort of ontologic allergy to every notion, word and feeling which evoke an eternal stability.” Of course, every once in a while the words stop fleeing, they stand still for a moment, and the truth of what these people are saying crystallizes into recognizable form. Such are the quotes I have offered in my articles on Cardinal Ratzinger, and such also is the following from the end of the Cardinal’s discussion of the Real Presence in his book Being Christian :
“Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament or the silent visit to a church cannot be, in its full sense, a simple conversation with God conceived as locally circumscribed. Expressions such as ‘God lives here’ and the idea of holding a conversation with a God who is localized are an expression of the Christological mystery and the mystery of God, that inevitably shocks the thinking man who knows that God is omnipresent. When one tries to justify “going to church” by the notion that one has to visit God and he dwells only in that place, one’s justification is meaningless and is rightly rejected by modern man. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is connected with our Lord who, by his historic life and passion, has become our ‘bread’; that is to say, who, by his incarnation and death, has become the one whose arms are open to receive us. Such adoration is directed, then, to the historic mystery of Jesus Christ, to the history of God with man, a history which approaches us in the Blessed Sacrament. And it is related to the mystery of the Church: being related to the history of God with man, it is related also to the whole ‘body of Christ, to the community of the faithful, through whom and in whom God comes to us” (P.80).
Cardinal Ratzinger is simply wrong, and his words quoted above are gross heresy. The great truth about Catholic belief in the Real Presence is that God is substantially “localized” under the appearance of bread and wine. He is truly and substantially present on this earth – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity – only where bread and wine once were.
Mr. Davies offers us the following quote from Cardinal Ratzinger as supposed proof that the Cardinal believes in the substantial presence of Our Lord in the Sacrament:
“The Catholic Church holds that Christ in the Eucharist makes Himself present sacramentally and substantially when under the species of bread and wine these earthly realities are changed into the reality of his Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. On the question of the reservation of the Eucharist, the statement that there are those who ‘find any kind of adoration of Christ in the reserved sacrament unacceptable’, creates concern from the Roman Catholic point of view.”
Possibly Mr. Davies should again read Pope St. Pius X’s encyclical Pascendi Gregis (On The Doctrines of the Modernists), wherein he enunciates one of the primary methods of the Modernists in their campaign of deception:
“In their writings and addresses they seem not unfrequently to advocate doctrines which are contrary one to the other, so that one would be disposed to regard their attitude as double and doubtful. But this is done deliberately and advisedly, and the reason of it is to be found in their opinion as to the mutual separation of science and faith. Thus in their books one finds some things which might well be approved by a Catholic, but on turning over the page one is confronted by other things which might well have been dictated by a rationalist.”
In Cardinal Ratzinger’s case, as we have seen, this “doubleness” becomes possible through his having “redefined” such terms as “substantial”, “reality”, “change”, and, most important of all, “transubstantiation.” We need to ask the question: What exactly does “substantial” mean for Cardinal Ratzinger once he has gotten rid of the traditional concept of substance?
Michael Davies writes, “Larson claims to have read many books by Cardinal Ratzinger and found little to praise in any of them.” I said no such thing. As a matter of fact, I find many things praiseworthy in the Cardinal’s writings, especially those which are critical of the banality of modern liturgies. But such is the nature of modernist writings. Any study of the history of the Church will reveal that heresy is often accompanied by much that seems holy and wise.
If Mr. Davies comes up short on willingness to deal with the actual evidence and quotes which I offer in my articles, he is certainly not lacking in name calling: “ludicrous, “arrogant and arrant nonsense”, and most especially, “Protestant.” I have yet to understand what is “Protestant” about defending Catholic doctrine from those who would undermine its integrity. Mr. Davies applies the term “ludicrous” in particular to my “attempt in the March issue to prove that the Cardinal rejects the teaching of Trent on Original Sin.” Again, I would challenge Michael Davies to place the following quotes in any context which is not contrary to Trent’s teaching:
“The account (of the Fall in Genesis 3) tells us that sin begets sin, and that therefore all the sins of history are interlinked. Theology refers to this state of affairs by the certainly misleading and imprecise term ‘original sin’. What does this mean? Nothing seems to us today to be stranger or, indeed, more absurd than to insist upon original sin, since, according to our way of thinking, guilt can only be something very personal, and since God does not run a concentration camp, in which one’s relatives are imprisoned because he is a liberating God of love, who calls each one by name. What does original sin mean, then, when we interpret it correctly?” ( In the Beginning…A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall , 1995).
As quoted in its entirety in my article titled Point of Departure , Cardinal Ratzinger’s rather long passage which constitutes his answer to the above question contains some form of the word “relationship” 13 times. The Cardinal proceeds to render his “new meaning” for the “misleading and imprecise term ‘original sin”: namely, that beginning with Adam’s sin, we are born into a world in which “relationality” has been damaged or hurt. The consequence of this is that “Sin pursues the human being, and he or she capitulates to it.” (P. 71-73). In other words, original sin (if we are to continue using this “misleading” term) is something we sort of “catch” from others after we are born.
This, of course, is a denial of the Council of Trent’s teaching on the Catholic dogma that men “inherit” Original Sin through generation. Original sin is not a process of falling to the effects of our encountering other human beings after birth, but an instantaneous acquisition we receive through generation at our conception before birth. Consistent with his views concerning Original Sin, therefore, the Cardinal says that the teaching of “earlier ages” that “baptism endows us, by means of sanctifying grace, with the capacity to gaze upon God” was “unenlightened.,” and that therefore the necessity of baptizing infants as early as possible “is itself questionable.” ( God And The World , p. 401-402).”
I repeat. I personally challenge Mr. Davies to place the following quote in an acceptable Catholic context: “certainly misleading and imprecise term ‘original sin’.”
I also refer the reader to my previous articles in Christian Order for other examples Cardinal Ratzinger’s lack of orthodoxy.
Mr. Davies expresses profound consternation concerning my criticism of the Note On the Force of the Doctrinal Decrees Concerning the Thought and Work of Fr. Antonio Rosmini Serbati in my article in the February, 2004 issue of Christian Order. Listing it with a number of other documents issued by the CDF, he says “In every case they are documents of exemplary orthodoxy from which no form of dissent is possible.” It is largely on the basis of my criticism of this document that he labels me as a Protestant. In referring to me, he says, “How any layman claiming to be a Catholic can imagine that he has the authority to overrule a document published with the authority of the CDF and the Pope truly defies belief.”
First, I should point out that I certainly did not “overrule” (how is a layman to do that?) the Note. Second, my criticism of the document involved no “dissent” from any doctrinal teaching. The document did not propose or teach any doctrine. Third, I do not think any reader of CO would agree with Mr. Davies’ contention that no criticism can be made of any part of any document issued by the CDF. Finally, I do not believe that Michael Davies himself believes what he said. In his book The Second Vatican Council and Religious Liberty, he flatly states that the traditional teaching of the Magisterium in such documents as the encyclical Mirari Vos of Pope Gregory XVI and the encyclical Quanta Cura and the Syllabus of Pope Pius IX “cannot be reconciled with that of Dignitatis Humanae” (p. 200 – similar statements being found on pages 47, 210, and 295). In other words, he directly dissents from a document of the Magisterium which contains the teaching of the Pope and Bishops sitting in a Universal Council. Nor can Michael Davies claim that his dissent is non-doctrinal. Dignitatis Humanae, #2, states: “The Council further declares that the right to religious freedom is based on the very dignity of the human person as known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself.” Not only, therefore, is he dissenting from doctrinal teaching of a Universal Council, but he is also saying that the Universal Magisterium has contradicted itself. This is dissent indeed.
As for the particulars of my criticism of the Note (which I believe to be very important for understanding what I call the “Ratzinger agenda”), I refer the reader to my article on The Rosmini Rehabilitation.
As I have said, Michael Davies does not confront a single piece of evidence which I have offered as proof of Cardinal Ratzinger’s heresies. The only reason I can conjecture for this singular myopia is the effect that Cardinal Ratzinger’s limited support for the Latin Mass may have had upon Mr. Davies ability to perceive these errors. Would it not be the final irony if Satan was able to draw the “elect” into a denial of the Catholic Faith through their attachment to the Mass?
I would suggest, therefore, that we have had two too-many “Apologias” from Michael Davies, and that what would now be most appropriate is a simple apology.
Authored by: James Larson – ©2008