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The Erring “Magisterium” of Robert Miller: Leo XIII, Pius IX, Pius X, Pius XI Were All Wrong!

Fatima Perspectives #1216

A law professor by the name of Robert Miller has written a piece (hat tip to Canon 212) in which he suavely assures his readers that a long line of Popes — including Leo XIII, Pius IX, Pius X and Pius XI — were in error about the duty of the State to profess and defend the Catholic religion. Those Popes taught the normative sociopolitical status of the Catholic confessional state, which is only the logical consequence of the Social Kingship of Christ over both men and nations.  Indeed, the confessional state was the form and pattern of all the commonwealths of Christendom for some thirteen centuries before the French Revolution violently destroyed the Catholic confessional state in France, which dated back to the conversion of Clovis in 496.

As Pope Leo declared in his landmark encyclical on true human liberty, Libertas:

“Since, then, the profession of one religion is necessary in the State, that religion must be professed which alone is true, and which can be recognized without difficulty, especially in Catholic States, because the marks of truth are, as it were, engraved upon it. This religion, therefore, the rulers of the State must preserve and protect, if they would provide — as they should do — with prudence and usefulness for the good of the community.”

Accordingly, as Pope Saint Pius X declared in condemning precisely the French Law of Separation of 1905, following Leo’s failed attempt to conciliate the post-revolutionary Third Republic:

“That the State must be separated from the Church is a thesis absolutely false, a most pernicious error. Based, as it is, on the principle that the State must not recognize any religious cult, it is in the first place guilty of a great injustice to God; for the Creator of man is also the Founder of human societies, and preserves their existence as He preserves our own. We owe Him, therefore, not only a private cult, but a public and social worship to honor Him.”

Miller the law professor begs to differ with the Popes, however. According to him, the Vatican II document Dignitatis Humanae (DH) “changed prior teaching” and theologians must be prepared to “admit[] that some non-infallible papal teachings were mistaken and had to be changed.”  These “non-infallible teachings,” says he, were merely Catholic doctrine, not Catholic dogma.  And “mere” doctrine as opposed to dogma can sometimes be wrong, he argues.

Miller so argues even though DH (albeit a muddled and apparently self-contradictory “compromise” document) states clearly in its opening lines that it “leaves intact the traditional Catholic teaching on the moral obligation of individuals and societies towards the true religion and the one church of Christ.”  Miller cavils that this is not a reference to the papal teaching on the confessional state he deems “mistaken” but rather “the much older teaching — indeed, the apostolic teaching — that the Church is to evangelize the world, including human institutions in society.”  But once institutions as well as individuals are evangelized, do they not profess the one true religion, precisely as the pre-Vatican II Popes declared they are obliged to do? 

Really, now.   If all those pre-Vatican II Popes were “mistaken” in teaching so insistently on the duty of states as well as individuals to profess the Catholic religion, how do we know that Paul VI was not mistaken in approving DH, without which approval that conciliar document would have no claim to validity whatsoever? And if one Pope can contradict all prior Popes on the same subject of the ordinary Magisterium, why should we believe any papal teaching at all, including formal ex cathedra dogmatic definitions, which, after all, are always preceded by the constant teaching of “mere” doctrine, which Miller deems fraught with the possibility of error.

Miller even reaches the conclusion that what he calls “the integralist doctrine of the confessional state” is “contrary to doctrina catholica.”  But Miller is using the label “integralist” to hide the nonsense he is really proposing: that the teaching of the pre-Vatican II Popes — not some vague constituency denominated “integralist” — is contrary to Catholic doctrine as enunciated in DH, even though DH professes to leave that prior teaching intact.  All those Popes taught error respecting the confessional state, says Miller.

Father Gruner never ceased to refute the concept of a “fallible ordinary Magisterium.” And, reading a piece like Miller’s, it is easy to see why.  The Magisterium as such cannot teach error, nor can the Church’s teaching office “reverse” itself in the manner of a secular judicial tribunal that concludes all its prior decisions on the same matter were wrong.  Thus, if DH really were a formal contradiction of prior papal teaching, as Miller supposes, it simply could not be part of the Magisterium. For a Magisterium that contradicts itself is no Magisterium at all, but rather the “uncertain trumpet” that sows confusion among the faithful, as Saint Paul warned the Corinthians (1 Cor. 14:8).

Here yet again we see that the Second Vatican Council, beyond its own reaffirmations of traditional teaching — including that in DH respecting the Catholic confessional state — has added nothing but confusion to the life of Church.  That confusion, on a level without precedent in Church history, is undoubtedly a subject of the Third Secret of Fatima.


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