Doubt, Obedience, and the Mind of the Legislator

In mid-November, Cardinal Angelo De Donatis – the Cardinal-Vicar who governs the Diocese of Rome on behalf of the Holy Führer Francis – issued guidelines for the implementation of Traditiones Cojones in the diocese that strictly prohibit the “use the Roman Ritual and other liturgical books of the ‘ancient rite’ for the celebration of sacraments and sacramentals.”

Alarm bells were immediately sounded: This is what is coming for all of us! God forbid!

Those with Catholic common sense – which appears to be suffering from supply line issues these days just like everything else – understood well that the Roman Diocese guidelines must have been issued with Bergoglio’s prior approval.

As expected, however, voices rang out from the tradservative parallel universe offering a less realistic spin, one that sought to distance the De Donatis instruction from the man to whom he reports.

On December 14, for example, National Catholic Register published an article by Edward Pentin quoting Fr. Gerald Murray and Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, each of whom insisted that the Cardinal-Vicar’s instruction offers a “doubtful” interpretation of Traditiones Custodes, which therefore renders it non-obligatory. Both men argued that the Roman Diocese guidelines violate Canon 17, which states:

Ecclesiastical laws must be understood in accord with the proper meaning of the words considered in their text and context. If the meaning remains doubtful and obscure, recourse must be made to parallel places, if there are such, to the purpose and circumstances of the law, and to the mind of the legislator. (1983 Code of Canon Law)

Kwasniewski contended that “either the Vicariate is departing from the mind of the legislator, or there is no clarity we can have about what exactly that mind is.”

This being so, he invoked recourse to Canon 14, which states:  

Laws, even invalidating and disqualifying ones, do not oblige when there is a doubt about the law. When there is a doubt about a fact, however, ordinaries can dispense from laws provided that, if it concerns a reserved dispensation, the authority to whom it is reserved usually grants it.

Father Murray agreed with Kwasniewski’s assessment that the De Donatis instruction does not oblige. He told NCR that he too believes that it goes “beyond the words of Traditionis Custodes and the intent of the legislator.”

Despite the suggestion that he knows “the intent of the legislator” in this case, Murray, as tradservatives often do, immediately contradicted himself by insisting otherwise saying, “Thus a doubt of law exists and thus the prohibition of such celebrations lacks the force of law until such time that the doubt of law has been resolved.” [Emphasis added]

Fast forward to December 18th and the infamous CDW interpretation of Traditiones Custodes that includes the following imprimatur: 

The Supreme Pontiff Francis, in the course of an Audience granted to the Prefect of this Congregation on 18 November 2021, was informed of and gave his consent to the publication of these RESPONSA AD DUBIA with attached EXPLANATORY NOTES.

Now that “the doubt of law has been resolved” as to the “mind of the legislator,” one wonders when Fr. Murray and Dr. Kwasniewski will deliver the bad news to their readers – not just within the Diocese of Rome, but the world over – that the CDW text does indeed possess “the force of law.”  

Surely, given their reliance upon the 1983 Code of [conciliar] Canon Law, both men know very well that: 

The Roman Pontiff is the supreme judge for the whole catholic world. He gives judgement either personally, or through the ordinary tribunals of the Apostolic See, or through judges whom he delegates. (Can. 1442)

For all that live by Canon Law shall perish by Canon Law. 

All of this having been said, take heart my confused tradservative friends, there is hope for those who wish to oppose the dictates of Francis with an argument that maintains the integrity of sensus Catholicus. It can be found where all such things are rooted, in the pre-conciliar Magisterium and the insights provided by the approved canonists and theologians of that time.

Consider, for example, what is widely considered the preeminent commentary on the 1917 Code of Canon Law authored by Frs. Wernz and Vidal. The distinguished canonists provide therein a proper understanding of obedience with respect to doubt, the application of which to the present situation is obvious: 

Jurisdiction is essentially a relation between a superior who has the right to obedience and a subject who has the duty of obeying. Now when one of the parties to this relationship is wanting, the other necessarily ceases to exist also, as is plain from the nature of the relationship. However, if a pope is truly and permanently doubtful, the duty of obedience cannot exist towards him on the part of any subject.

For more than eight years now, “conservatives” and “traditionalists” alike have been questioning publicly whether or not the man claiming to be pope is Catholic. It doesn’t take a doctorate to recognize that Jorge Bergoglio’s membership in the Church is beyond doubtful; all it takes is the sort of deductive reasoning of which even the simplest of minds are capable: 

If it doesn’t believe like a pope, teach like a pope, and reign like a pope, then it’s probably not a pope. 

I have little doubt that the current assault on the one true Roman Rite will be used by God to open the eyes of the blind.

This Christmas Season, may it please Our Blessed Savior to number you and your loved ones among them.