One of the staples of Catholic apologetics is that the Catholic magisterium safeguards the truth and ensures a unity and clarity that Protestantism lacks.
I would not be so sure of that. In fact, I would say (and have said before) that the current pontiff is demonstrating that the magisterium is little more than the mouthpiece of the reigning pope and only safeguards whatever iteration of whichever truth he wishes to utter. In short, the magisterium is sola papam currentis.
Why no, I am not a Latinist? How could you tell?
This thought was driven home by a recent piece at the estimable One Peter Five: Amoris Laetitia and John Paul II by Josh Kusch.
In short, Kusch spells out with undeniable clarity that Amoris Laetitia expressly contradicts the magisterial statements of Francis' predecessor, and does so in a particularly unsavory fashion--by either partial quoting or choosing to ignore prior statements altogether. For the latter, Kusch points out how the encyclical Veritatis Splendor flatly contradicts what Francis wants to say--so Francis ignored it. To wit:
The negative precepts of the natural law are universally valid. They oblige each and every individual, always and in every circumstance. It is a matter of prohibitions which forbid a given action semper et pro semper, without exception. (VS 52)
The negative moral precepts, those prohibiting certain concrete actions or kinds of behavior as intrinsically evil, do not allow for any legitimate exception. They do not leave room, in any morally acceptable way, for the “creativity” of any contrary determination whatsoever. (VS 67)
When it is a matter of the moral norms prohibiting intrinsic evil, there are no privileges or exceptions for anyone. It makes no difference whether one is the master of the world or the “poorest of the poor” on the face of the earth. (VS 96)
It would be a very serious error … to conclude that the Church’s teaching is essentially only an “ideal” which must then be adapted, proportioned, graduated to the so-called concrete possibilities of man. (VS 103)
It is in the saving Cross of Jesus, in the gift of the Holy Spirit, in
the Sacraments which flow forth from the pierced side of the Redeemer,
that believers find the grace and the strength always to keep God’s holy law, even amid the gravest of hardships. (VS 103)
As Kusch ably demonstrates, each contradicts certain central assumptions in the later text.
And yet, the Vatican's official newspaper is at pains to assert that the later text is, in fact, authoritative.
So Veritatis Splendor--with its forceful restatement of Catholic moral teaching--has been round-filed after less than a quarter of a century?
Anyone else see the problem here?
What I have not been able to suss out is precisely why I should salute Francis' newest flag when he burnt John Paul II's. His actions completely undercut his claimed "authority."
Rather than call Amoris Laetitia "authoritative," isn't the honest answer "wait at least a couple of popes and then see?"
Of course, progs are brandishing it like new holy writ. To be expected, yes, but wholly dishonest if one is following McCormick's contemptuous course. But I don't see any honest reason why I should regard it similarly.
If this is Catholicism, then I never really understood it. And if the magisterium is just the press office of the current officeholder, then cue Flannery O'Connor.