Saturday, November 11, 2017

Secretum Meum Mihi: From Parrhesia to Piety

The Binding Force of Tradition.
Ripperger, Chad.  
Sensus Traditionis Press. Kindle Edition. 

My first cold of the season had me sort of dumbed down the other day and made concentrating on a couple work projects wearisome. So, when I received an email invitation to participate in an online questionnaire in exchange for a 5$ Amazon gift certificate, I jumped at the distraction and in a matter of minutes had gained some easy money. I spent my reward right away on this little book which I thoroughly enjoyed for the clarity and orderliness of its thought.

Because the language of the book is nigh unto classic scholastic, many might find it tough going, but I found it particularly thought provoking when it comes to analyzing the fruits of Vatican II and its aftermath. The chapter on sins against faith, hope, charity, justice and religion is particularly thought provoking.

After watching a video lecture by a fine young church historian recently, who is also a friend, I asked him if ecclesiology and the notion of spousal faithfulness couldn't enlighten his approach to the contemporary controversy over tradition and doctrinal development. His answer indicated to me that in most circles we are fighting an uphill battle against (shorthand) modernist cliches, which tend to pull the legs out from under the tradition as of the essence of the rule of faith, thus furthering the idolatrous relationship too many have with the goddess Progress.

Just one quote from Ripperger's treatise:

"St. Vincent essentially establishes that the principle of judgment about what we are to believe is that which we have received from “our holy ancestors and fathers.” In effect, it is tradition, i.e. that which has been handed on to us, which constitutes what we are to believe. For there is no aspect of what we believe as Catholics that was not passed on to us from those who went before us." (p. 20)

This author and many other Catholic authors in this Luther Year, when people, mostly journalists, glibly make apologies for his 500 year old cry of sola scriptura as the rule of faith, are hard pressed to bring home the ancient teaching of St. Vincent of Lerins on how the development of dogma can be properly understood. The more I read, the more convinced I become that St. Francis de Sales and countless other doctors and approved authors defended the only viable option in their strict adherence to things as handed down without modifying or omitting either a jot or a tittle:

"The Arians, as S. Augustine tells us (De doc. Chris. iii.2), corrupted this sentence of S. John i.1: In principio erat verbum, et verbum erat apud Deum, et Deus erat verbum. Hoc erat in principio apud Deum: by simply changing a point. For they read it thus: Et verbum erat apud Deum et Deus erat. Verbum hoc, &c.: instead of: Deus erat verbum. Hoc erat in principio apud Deum:. They placed the full stop after the erat, instead of after the verbum. They so acted for fear of having to grant that the Word was God; so little is required to change the sense of God's Word. When one is handling glass beads, if two or three are lost, it is a small matter, but if they were oriental pearls the loss would be great. The better the wine the more it suffers from the mixture of a foreign flavour, and the exquisite symmetry of a great picture will not bear the admixture of new colours. Such is the conscientiousness with which we ought to regard and handle the sacred deposit of the Scriptures." [de Sales, St. Francis. The Catholic Controversy (pp. 91-92). Veritatis Splendor Publications. Kindle Edition.] 

The ancient serpent's temptation of our first parents to snub God as if His commands were petty and to take liberties with His law in the name of their own personal dignity is ultimately the modernist lie, which continues to wreak havoc, as a whole class of people seek to shout the equivalent of their own "non serviam" and tear themselves loose from the embrace of our glorious Bridegroom. We have sinned and, like the Old Testament account goes about the discovery of the lost book of the law in the Temple, we need to recover the tradition and through repentance find therein the cause of our joy.

Among the good Catholic lay people whom I know there are few who are deceived by the supposed straight-talk rhetoric, parrhesia, where the speaker on the first account appeals to himself as authority (protesting his genuineness and sincerity), while disparaging what has been handed down and those who seek to remain faithful to what always and everywhere was. But on the other hand even among these good people, given the tenor of our times and a certain obsession with material progress or gain, it is rare to find the sort of fearful piety which once was and which accords to God in His Church the rule of faith which is our salvation.

This line of argumentation makes sense with strict adherence to the tradition properly cast in the framework of spousal faithfulness. Ripperger argues the point also from the point of view of human psychology:

"As one views the generations upon generations which held the same faith, died holy deaths and sacrificed to provide for subsequent generations, great hope is engendered in the believer. But when the sands of teaching are constantly shifting and when the monuments are destroyed or attacked, the stability of the faith is lost and hope will decline." (p. 46). 

His point is well taken and a goodly number of popular apologists from the world of Catholic neo-conservatism would do well to review their premises in the light of the role properly belonging to the tradition as our rule of faith.


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