When Loose Lips Sink a Dogma
Fatima Perspectives #1265
An article published by LifeSiteNews reports on the latest doctrinal train wreck caused by the casual remarks of the current occupant of the Chair of Peter. Quoth Francis in his annual address to the families of those employed by the Holy See and the Vatican City State:
“So who is happy in the Nativity scene? Our Lady and Saint Joseph are full of joy: they look at the Child Jesus and they are happy because, after a thousand worries, they have accepted this gift of God, with so much faith and so much love. They are ‘overflowing’ with holiness and therefore with joy. And you will tell me: of course! They are Our Lady and Saint Joseph! Yes, but let us not think it was easy for them: saints are not born, they become thus, and this is true for them too.”
As Mary obviously was born a saint by virtue of Her Immaculate Conception — She is the Second Eve — She could not possibly be said to have “become” a saint at some later point in Her earthly life. Does this mean that Francis implicitly denies the Immaculate Conception? Not at all. As one desperate defender of these unfortunate remarks has pointed out, Francis has repeatedly affirmed the dogma in no uncertain terms (albeit generally in prepared statements that preclude the usual gaffes). The same defender also notes, however, that “Pope Francis often speaks casually and informally, versus using strict theological language. Whatever you think of this stylistic choice, it is only fair to interpret informal addresses knowing this.”
Yes, but why should the faithful be put to the task of constantly “interpreting” Francis’ “casual” remarks in an orthodox sense? Is it too much to ask of a Pope that his statements in any forum plainly conform to the dogmas of the Faith? There is no way around the problem created by the remarks in question here: not only is Mary said to have “become” a saint, She is placed on the same level as Joseph in that supposed labor of sanctification, even though She was “full of grace” at birth — and thus a saint.
Respecting Mary, to quote Fr. Garrigou-LaGrange: “Mary’s fullness of grace, however, did not cease to increase up to the time of her death. For that reason theologians usually speak of, 1st, her initial fullness or plenitude; 2nd, the fullness of her second sanctification at the instant of the conception of the Saviour; 3rd, the final fullness (at the instant of her entry into glory), its extent, and its superabundance.” (Mother of the Saviour and Our Interior Life, TAN Publishers, pp. 31-32)
By contrast, notes Fr. Garrigou LaGrange: “[T]he absolute fullness of Our Saviour knew no increase, for it was sovereignly perfect from the first instant of His conception by reason of the personal union with the Word. For, from the first instant, the lumen gloriae and the beatific vision were communicated to Jesus’s soul, so that the second Council of Constantinople could say (Denz. 224) that Christ did not grow more perfect by reason of His meritorious acts: ‘Ex profectu operum non melioratus est.’”
Thus, when the Gospel of Luke (2:52) recounts, following the Finding in the Temple, that Christ “increased in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men,” this does not mean that Christ acquired wisdom and grace He did not already possess, but rather (to quote the Haydock Commentary): “He chose to manifest increasing signs of wisdom as He increased in years. — In the same manner also He increased in grace by displaying, as He advanced in age, the gifts of grace with which He was endowed.”
Indeed, the same Chapter of Luke also recounts that when Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the Temple, where He was astounding the doctors with his wisdom and probing questions, Mary Immaculate asked Her divine Son: “Why has thou done so to us? Behold thy father and I have sought thee, sorrowing.” And when Our Lord replied “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be about the things that are my Father’s?”, Mary and Joseph “understood not the word that he spoke to them,” but Mary “kept all these words in her heart” where they would mature in the progressive revelation of Her own glory as Co-Redemptrix.
What is called for in such theological matters is a degree of precision of which the impromptu Francis seems incapable. Loose lips in a Pope — especially in the age of the Internet — can sink a dogma without any intention to deny it. But that, sad to say, is the least of the problems with this calamitous pontificate.