The Apostolic Letter motu proprio Ad Tuendam Fidem
On 9 January 1989, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published new formulas for the Professio Fidei et Iusiurandum fidelitatis in suscipiendo officio nomine Ecclesiae exercendo (AAS 81, 104 106), to replace the previous formula of 1967. These formulas were approved by the Roman Pontiff in a special Rescript dated, 19 septembris 1989 (in AAS 81 , 1169). However, the new Code of Canon Law (CIC), promulgated on 25 January 1983, did not contain the new formula of the Professio Fidei, which, in addition to the Nicene Constantinopolitan Creed, enunciates three categories of truths. Thus, the Code of Canon Law, and later the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (CCEO), lacked the juridical, disciplinary and penal provisions for the second category of truths.
Given the compelling need to forestall and refute the theological opinions being raised against this second category of truths, the Holy Father decided to promulgate the Apostolic Letter Ad tuendam fidem last May 28, by which precise norms are established in canon law regarding the second category of truths indicated in the second paragraph of the concluding formula of the Professio Fidei, through modifications to canons 750 and 1371 n.1 of the CIC and to canons 598 and 1436 of the CCEO.
Three Categories of Truths
What was the reason for the confusion—and accompanying abuse—which the present motu proprio came to forestall? An attentive reading of the pertinent paragraphs of the Profession Fidei shows that the three categories of truths enunciated are as follows:
1st Category: “[E]verything contained in the Word of God, whether written or handed down in Tradition, which the Church either by a solemn judgment or by the ordinary and universal Magisterium sets forth to be believed as divinely revealed." These are truths found immediately in Revelation, which the Church vouches for as contained in Revelation. This are supposed to be held “with firm faith”, because their certainty has a twofold basis: the authority of God Revealing (fides divina) and the infallible teaching authority of the Church (fides catholica).
These are commonly referred to in Dogmatic Theology as De fide Divina et Catholica or simply dogmas.
2nd Category: “[E]verything definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals.” These constitute what Dogmatic Theology has always referred to as Catholic truths or Church doctrines, which are to be accepted with a faith based on the sole authority of the Church (fides ecclesiastica). Even if the Profession fidei did not expressly state it, these are as infallibly certain as dogmas proper.
3rd Category: “[T]he teachings which either the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act." These are the teachings for which the CIC stipulates “A religious respect of intellect and will, even if not the assent of faith” (c.752).
Source of Confusion
As previously stated, while the 1st and 3rd Categories had their corresponding provisions in the Code of Canon Law, there was no expressed provision for the 2nd Category. Thus, cc.750 & 752 described the 1st and 3rd Categories respectively, and c.1371 provided for the penal sanction for their violation. This has given rise to not a few cases of open dissent, perhaps emboldened by a seeming lacuna in Canon Law, especially as regards the penal provisions.
A more attentive reading of the Profession fidei, however, coupled with a solid grounding in Dogmatic Theology, shows that there was really no lacuna. As Ott would affirm, the 2nd Category are “as infallibly certain as dogmas proper”—i.e., the norm for the 1st Category should hole also for the 2nd. Hence, when the CIC expressly provided for the 1st and 3rd Categories, it tacitly provided also for the 2nd Category of truths.
Nevertheless, since abuses have arisen, and such may be legally defended against sanction with the principle of “nulla poena sine lege”, the Supreme Church Authority has come up with this new legislation to fill up that seeming lacuna.
Infallibility of Ordinary and Universal Magisterium
It is fitting to note also that almost all infallible teachings in the field of morality are contained not in solemn definitions (so called definitive acts or definitively proposed in the language of the Profession fidei and in the CIC), but precisely in the teachings of the ordinary and universal Magisterium. This has led some to think that there are no infallible teachings in the field of morality, inasmuch as, in fact, there are no texts in which such infallibility is explicitly claimed. This assertion fails to recognize, however, that the ordinary and universal Magisterium, which by nature does not adopt such solemn expressions, is precisely the normal way in which the infallibility of the Church is exercised.
As Pope John Paul II affirms, “The Magisterium (...) includes the charism of infallibility, which is present not only in the solemn definitions of the Roman Pontiff and the Ecumenical Councils, but also in the ordinary and universal Magisterium, which can be considered the usual expression of the infallibility of the Church.”
Practically all concrete and absolute moral norms that are under debate today (e.g., abortion, contraception, homosexual acts, premarital relations, euthanasia, divorce, masturbation), have been taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium and are hence infallible.
Reach of “religious respect (obsequium) of intellect and will”
This religious submission means more than the usual obedience required for the legitimate command of the hierarchical authority of the Church. Specifically, it means:
a. The ordinary response will be a sincere adherence not only of the will but also of the intelligence. In an exceptional case, a teaching might not be intellectually convincing. Then the first duty is to doubt oneself, giving credibility to the Magisterium. This does not mean that one must stop working on research and presenting the authorities—in a private way—one’s own reasons and the possible formulations that one might suggest as being better suited for expressing the truth.
b. In any case, religious submission implies the obligation to avoid every dissent; the only thing admissible is to suspend or withhold assent. If dissent is made publicly and obstinately, opportune sanctions would be in order (c.1371).
From the foregoing, and the preceding three issues of this column, I think it is quite clear that the Bishops are quite empowered to call the attention of all the erring theology professors, in Catholic institutions or otherwise, and in the case of obstinacy, apply canonical sanctions.
[Following is an abridged version of the Apostolic Letter, excluding what is pertinent to the CCEO, and retaining the original numbering for easy reference.]
To protect the faith of the Catholic Church against errors arising from certain members of the Christian faithful, especially from among those dedicated to the various disciplines of sacred theology, we, whose principal duty is to confirm the brethren in the faith, consider it absolutely necessary to add to the existing texts of the Code of Canon Law (CIC) and the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (CCEC) new norms which expressly impose the obligation of upholding truths proposed in a definitive way by the Magisterium of the Church, and which also establish related canonical sanctions.
1. From the first centuries to the present day the Church has professed the truths of her faith in Christ and the mystery of his redemption. These truths were subsequently gathered into the Symbols of the faith, today known and proclaimed in common by the faithful in the Solemn and festive celebration of Mass as the Apostles' Creed or the Nicene Constantinopolitan Creed. This same Nicene Constantinopolitan Creed is contained in the Profession of Faith developed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which must be made by specific members of the faithful when they receive an office that is directly or indirectly related to deeper investigation into the truths of faith and morals, or is united to a particular power in the governance of the Church.
The Profession of Faith, which appropriately begins with the Nicene Constantinopolitan Creed, contains three propositions or paragraphs, intended to describe the truths of the Catholic faith, which the Church, in the course of time and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit "who will teach the whole truth" (Jn 16,13), has ever more deeply explored and will continue to explore.
The first paragraph states: "With firm faith, I also believe everything contained in the Word of God, whether written or handed down in Tradition, which the Church either by a solemn judgment or by the ordinary and universal Magisterium sets forth to be believed as divinely revealed." This paragraph appropriately confirms and is provided for in the Church's legislation in c.750 of the Code of Canon Law and c.598 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. [Referred to in Dogmatic Theology as De fide Divina et Catholica.]
The third paragraph states: "Moreover I adhere with submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act." This paragraph has its corresponding legislative expression in c.752 of the Code of Canon Law and c.599 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. [Referred to in Dogmatic Theology as De fide Catholica.]
3. The second paragraph, however, which states: "I also firmly accept and hold each and everything definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals" has no corresponding canon in the Codes of the Catholic Church. This second paragraph of the Profession of Faith is of utmost importance since it refers to truths that are necessarily connected to divine revelation. These truths, in the investigation of Catholic doctrine, illustrate the Divine Spirit's particular inspiration for the Church's deeper understanding of a truth concerning faith and morals, with which they are connected either for historical reasons or by a logical relationship.
4. Moved therefore by this need, and after careful deliberation, we have decided to overcome this lacuna in the universal law in the following way: c.750 of the Code of Canon Law will now consist of two paragraphs; the first will present the text of the existing canon; the second will contain a new text. Thus c.750, in its complete form, will read:
Canon 750 ─ §1. Those things are to be believed by divine and catholic faith which are contained in the word of God as it has been written or handed down by tradition, that is, in the single deposit of faith entrusted to the Church, and which are at the same time proposed as divinely revealed either by the solemn Magisterium of the Church, or by its ordinary and universal Magisterium, which in fact is manifested by the common adherence of Christ's faithful under the guidance of the sacred Magisterium. All are therefore bound to avoid any contrary doctrines.
§2. Furthermore, each and everything set forth definitively by the Magisterium of the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals must be firmly accepted and held, namely those things required for the holy keeping and faithful exposition of the deposit of faith; therefore, anyone who rejects propositions which are to be held definitively sets himself against the teaching of the Catholic Church.
Canon 1371, n.1 of the Code of Canon Law, consequently, will receive an appropriate reference to c.750, §2, so that it will now read:
Canon 1371 ─ The following are to be punished with a just penalty:
1° a person who, apart from the case mentioned in c.1364, §1, teaches a doctrine condemned by the Roman Pontiff, or by an Ecumenical Council, or obstinately rejects the teachings mentioned in c.750, §2 or in c.752 and, when warned by the Apostolic See or by the Ordinary, does not retract;
2° a person who in any other way does not obey the lawful command or prohibition of the Apostolic See or the Ordinary or Superior and, after being warned, persists in disobedience.