Saturday, July 05, 2014

Pius XII on Natural Law

Pius XII and the Pilgrim Virgin
Today is First Saturday.

“The difficulties that arise in relation to natural law can be overcome..." - Cardinal Baldisserri

Natural Law is a big obstacle to many these days.  The quote above is one I see around on the more traditional blogs, voiced in concern over an impeding 'development of doctrine' or redefinition of natural law,to make allowances for divorce and remarriage, gay marriage and issues related to gender ideology.  These concern arise in reaction to the discussions taking place at the Vatican and elsewhere in preparation for the Synod on the Family coming up in October.  LGBTQ Catholics seem to have their fingers crossed that some change will be forthcoming as well, since many gay Catholics tend to reject traditional natural law arguments when it comes to same sex love and friendship.

Reading 20th century Popes other than St. John Paul II on marriage and family deepens one's understanding of Catholic teaching regarding commonplace errors we see all around us today.  Especially notable is the Encyclical of Pius XI, Casti Conubii, as well as some documents from the Holy Office at the time, addressing issues such as eugenics, contraception and abortion - in the 1930's.  Nazi-time, although eugenics was very alive in the United States as well.

Pius XII addressed the modern conspiracy to undermine natural law:  "The natural law is being nullified by detraction and neglect."

28. The present age, Venerable Brethren, by adding new errors to the doctrinal aberrations of the past, has pushed these to extremes which lead inevitably to a drift towards chaos. Before all else, it is certain that the radical and ultimate cause of the evils which We deplore in modern society is the denial and rejection of a universal norm of morality as well for individual and social life as for international relations; We mean the disregard, so common nowadays, and the forgetfulness of the natural law itself, which has its foundation in God, Almighty Creator and Father of all, supreme and absolute Lawgiver, all-wise and just Judge of human actions. When God is hated, every basis of morality is undermined; the voice of conscience is stilled or at any rate grows very faint, that voice which teaches even to the illiterate and to uncivilized tribes what is good and what is bad, what lawful, what forbidden, and makes men feel themselves responsible for their actions to a Supreme Judge.
29. The denial of the fundamentals of morality had its origin, in Europe, in the abandonment of that Christian teaching of which the Chair of Peter is the depository and exponent. That teaching had once given spiritual cohesion to a Europe which, educated, ennobled and civilized by the Cross, had reached such a degree of civil progress as to become the teacher of other peoples, of other continents. But, cut off from the infallible teaching authority of the Church, not a few separated brethren have gone so far as to overthrow the central dogma of Christianity, the Divinity of the Savior, and have hastened thereby the progress of spiritual decay. 
30. The Holy Gospel narrates that when Jesus was crucified "there was darkness over the whole earth" (Matthew xxvii. 45); a terrifying symbol of what happened and what still happens spiritually wherever incredulity, blind and proud of itself, has succeeded in excluding Christ from modern life, especially from public life, and has undermined faith in God as well as faith in Christ. The consequence is that the moral values by which in other times public and private conduct was gauged have fallen into disuse; and the much vaunted civilization of society, which has made ever more rapid progress, withdrawing man, the family and the State from the beneficent and regenerating effects of the idea of God and the teaching of the Church, has caused to reappear, in regions in which for many centuries shone the splendors of Christian civilization, in a manner ever clearer, ever more distinct, ever more distressing, the signs of a corrupt and corrupting paganism: "There was darkness when they crucified Jesus" (Roman Breviary, Good Friday, Response Five). - Pius XII

Amazing: "a corrupt and corrupting paganism"...*

Reading these documents one might believe they were composed in our day, but they are 75+ years old.  Pope Pius XII seems to me to have been especially prophetic in this statement:

24. But precisely because of this apocalyptic foresight of disaster, imminent and remote, We feel We have a duty to raise with still greater insistence the eyes and hearts of those in whom there yet remains good will to the One from Whom alone comes the salvation of the world - to One Whose almighty and merciful Hand can alone calm this tempest - to the One Whose truth and Whose love can enlighten the intellects and inflame the hearts of so great a section of mankind plunged in error, selfishness, strife and struggle, so as to give it a new orientation in the spirit of the Kingship of Christ. - Pius XII

I think we would do well to add a special intention to our prayers for the Synod that the Synod Fathers will seriously review the prophetic teaching of the pre-Conciliar Popes in their deliberations.

A bit off topic, but I wonder if the resistance to, and the delay in the cause of Pius XII has less to do with the Jewish controversy and more to do with his fidelity to Catholic doctrine and discipline?  What is most impressive about Pope Pius XII is that there was definitely 'no guile' in him - no ambiguity.  One didn't need someone to explain what he meant when he said something.

NB: Rather than reading pop-Catholic writers, try reading what the Church actually teaches.  One reference book I would like to recommend is The Sources of Catholic Dogma, Denzinger.  It's a handy one to have.  Likewise - study your Catechism.

*The influence of neo-paganism is indeed a "a corrupt and corrupting" influence in contemprary society/culture.  The Harry Potter generation seems to be hooked on it.

1 comment:

  1. Pius XI's encyclical on reparation to the sacred heart (Miserentissimus Redemptor) is my favorite encyclical--probably for personal reasons. But you feel the Holy Spirit when you read it. I hope all seminarians and young priests rediscover some of the gems before Vat II. As Cardinal Piacenza said to the newly ordained priests in LA, "If our faith isn't the faith of our ancestors, then we're the ones who are in error (paraphrase)."


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