12 June 2014

Papa Lambertini's conundrum

Pope Benedict XIV pointed out (1) that we are obliged to venerate an exposed Host (cultum negari non posse hostiae ad venerationem expositae). But (2): although it is de fide that consecrated Hosts have been transubstantiated, (3) it is not de fide that this particular host actually was, as a matter of History, certainly consecrated (licet de fide non sit esse consecratam).

You see what he means in part (3) of that. The validity of its (or Its) consecration depends on our certainty that Fr O'Flanahan did say the proper words over it with an adequate intention (poor old chap undoubtedly getting senile) and that the novice nun who baked it did get the recipe right (last week her scones tasted of Vindaloo) and that the village miller's labourer didn't confuse his wheat-grain with his barley-grain (should have gone to Specsavers) and that our rather cranky Sacristan Maire Murphy didn't surreptitiously substitute an unconsecrated host for the consecrated Host (has brainstorms every alternate full moon) and that the priest who baptised Fr O'Flanahan, the notorious Fr Jack Hegarty, didn't deliberately do it invalidly (by withdrawing his intention to perform any sort of Christian rite) in order to take revenge on bishop Brennan for cutting off his supply of whiskey and girls.

Can I just break off here to clarify that I am not anti-Irish ... if the officiating clergyman had been, not Fr O'Flanahan of the County Tipperary but Fr Featherstonehaugh-Cholmondeleigh, Eton, Kings, and the Beda, one of the Barsetshire Featherstonehaugh-Cholmondeleighs (note for transatlantic readers: pronounced 'Fanshaw-Chumly'), I could have gone on for pages and pages more ...

So ... what is the theological point which Benedict XIV was making?

11 comments:

Adrian said...

Am I short-circuiting the matter by suggesting that you have the answer in your words 'as a matter of History'? Something cannot be de fide if it can be truly demonstrated that it has not happened (i.e. that the host was not in fact validly consecrated. It might help to know the context of Pope Benedict's remarks. Presumably, as when genuflecting towards a tabernacle from which, unknown to you, the Sanctissimum has been removed, the veneration is given to what the host ought to be rather than what it objectively is.

Don Camillo SSC said...

Surely the implication is that, unless we know for certain that an exposed host was not validly consecrated, our default position should be to assume that it is, and offer our due reverence and worship. If, in fact, we are mistaken, our worship nevertheless is received by our Lord according to our intention. Does that sound OK?

Steve Cavanaugh said...

I believe that Pope Benedict XIV's meaning is the same as that of Dr. Johnson who replied to Boswell's query about "the idolatry of the Mass" that "there is no idolatry in the Mass. [Catholics] believe God to be there, and they worship him." As our worship is directed to Christ, and there is a moral certainty (but not necessarily a factual or historical certainty) that the host is the Body & Blood of the Lord, we may adore the host with a quiet conscience, without scrupling over whether any given priest properly did his work.

Joshua said...

Is it that "that way lies madness"?

We cannot know everything (omniscience being an attribute of Deity), and so attempting to ascertain for certain that the apostolic succession has never been broken, and that the correct matter, form and intention have all coincided, is absolutely impossible, indeed very midsummer madness.

Rather than setting ourself up as the Judge of All, or falling into extremest scepticism, we ought in humility accept that there is no conspiracy and just accept the reasonable level of certainty accessible to us benighted mortals.

But that is before we recall what is promised in Revelation - since we have, after all, the promise of Christ that He will be with us always, that the Holy Ghost will lead us into all truth, and that the gates of hell shall not prevail against Christ's Church. So what humanly speaking is a matter of uncertainty is guaranteed by God's warrant.

We can have trust that the host in the monstrance is validly consecrated by a validly ordained priest because we have a reasonable level of human certainty, more than amply buttressed by the Divine promises that the Church is infallible and indefectible.

Do I pass, Father H.?

Scotspriest said...

Dear Father

I suspect that you are making a perfectly reasonable point by pushing rather extreme scenarios. Of course, if we have good reason (and it must be objectively founded to doubt a particular consecration, we are obliged to withdraw ourselves. However,if we have no such objections we can safely receive. If we are wrong and it is not a validly consecrated host, then it matters not: Christ, out of his abundant mercy,will make up the deficit and give us the grace we would have received if it had been valid. Yet if we KNOW or even have well-founded reason to strongly suspect it is not valid, this will not be the case and we MUST err on the side of caution.

Matthew Roth said...

I'm always on the listen at the Masses of one very good and holy but older priest just in case something happens around the Words of Institution. Recently, he got to "Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your Apostles.." but skipped it and "Peace be with you," going straight to the sign of Peace, so it's possible he'd get confused at the consecration...

What an interesting post and comments so far.

Froben said...

Absolute tutiorism deprives God of all worship?

Froben said...

Absolute tutiorism deprives God of all worship?

tubbs said...

Oh dear me.
Just when I finally come to realize that I'll never KNOW how many angels can dance in a Conga line on the rim of a Lutheran chalice, YOU'VE got to throw this one at us !

David Murphy said...

Do you mean to say that if Leo XIII had not specifically told us that Anglican orders are absolutely null and utterly void, we could even have been justified in believing that you have been a priest validly celebrating the mass for decades? ;) Forgive me, Lord, but I am even tempted to believe, until proof of the contrary, that Leo might just have got that one wrong.

Don Camillo SSC said...

What Pope Leo actually wrote was that"ordinations performed according to the Anglican rite have been and are completely null and void." Given the grounds on which he argued, it is fair to say that he said nothing about "will be." The current rite differs substantially from the Edwardine Ordinal he discussed, and (as Fr Hunwicke has frequently explained) a fresh strand in the pedigree of Anglican Orders has been introduced. No Papal pronouncement has so far been made about this, so it is at least an open question.