Vatican II and Crisis in the Theology of Baptism: Part I

by Thomas Pink

This is the first part of a three-part series. Parts two and three are available here and here respectively.

1. Vatican II and theological crisis in the Church

Leo XIII’s magisterial teaching in Immortale Dei is clear. The gospel requires that the state recognize the truth of Catholicism and unite to the Church in a single Christian community as body to the Church’s soul, legally privileging Catholicism as the true religion.[1] This magisterial teaching is now generally rejected within the Church—not in opposing magisterial teaching but through what I shall refer to as official theology. Official statements that do not themselves carry any magisterial authority—that come from office-holders within the Church but which merely express a prevailing theological opinion – constantly suggest, against Leo XIII, that the true ideal is for the state to be separate from the Church and to remain effectively neutral in matters of religion.

We have then a conflict between magisterial teaching and official theology—between what the formal teaching of the Church obliges us to believe, and prevailing theological opinion in official circles. But does this conflict, about this particular issue, really matter? Since there is little actual prospect of the kind of Church-state unity that Leo XIII required, it is tempting to think that the issue of the desirability of such a unity is no more than academic. But that would be a mistake. This conflict between magisterial teaching and current official theology about Church and state is not isolated or without significance. It is one central expression of a wider crisis of erroneous official theology within the modern Church. This is a revolution in the official theology of grace and baptism – and that involves at its root a deficient conception of the Fall. The new official theology does not just oppose magisterial teaching on Church and state, but on many other matters too – such as the very necessity of the sacraments for salvation.

This revolution in official theology is not obviously and explicitly taught by the magisterium at Vatican II, and does in fact involve clear conflict with magisterial teaching of that very Council. But the revolution is a crisis of the Second Vatican Council nonetheless. It arose in the period of the Council, and has been deepened by official actions, by and under Paul VI and his successors, that constantly invoke that very Council.

This revolution in the official theology of baptism is having dire consequences. It is sapping the Church’s mission from within. It lies at the heart of the current crisis over Amoris Laetitia and the indissolubility of marriage. The Amoris Laetitia crisis is not isolated. It is an instance of a type—a crisis very much of the Second Vatican Council, and the revolutionary change in official theology following that Council. Until the deeply questionable nature of that new theology is clearly identified and understood, there will be more crises of this type; in other words, the underlying crisis of the Council will continue.

2. Official theology

Many have debated whether Vatican II involves a crisis within magisterial teaching itself. Does Dignitatis Humanae teach magisterially in a way that conflicts with the earlier magisterium, such as that of Quanta Cura or Immortale Dei? I have argued that at least in respect of Dignitatis Humanae, Vatican II does not involve a crisis of that kind, in the very integrity of the magisterium itself, but it is not my intention to argue the matter further here.[2] Others claim that a crisis of magisterial teaching is occurring within the post-conciliar period – such as between Amoris Laetitia, with the subsequent papal clarification of it in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, and Familiaris Consortio. Now that may or may not be so. But I shall also not attempt to resolve the question of whether the post-conciliar magisterium has been consistent.

My immediate subject here is rather different. For whether or not there has been a crisis within the magisterium itself, it is anyway overwhelmingly clear that Vatican II has been followed by a serious crisis of another kind – a crisis not of magisterial teaching, but of official theology, and of which Amoris Laetitia and the officially promoted theology surrounding it is certainly a part. Whether or not Vatican II or the period since has seen contradiction at the level of the magisterium, it has very definitely seen such contradiction at the level of what I shall term official theology.

What is official theology? The term ‘official theology’ is not a current term of art among Catholic theologians; but we need it to pick out something that has always existed in the life of the Church, and which plays a very important role in the day to day life of Catholics. Official theology is the Church’s theological account of herself and her mission where the provision of this account is official—it involves official bodies or persons—but does not of itself impose any obligation on our belief as Catholics. Official theology may convey magisterial teaching, or it may go beyond magisterial teaching. It may even, unfortunately, obscure or even contradict magisterial teaching. But official theology is not itself a further case of magisterial teaching.

The Church constantly produces official theology. It is an ever present and essential element in the Church’s life. Nowadays its existence is especially clearly advertised, because there are in the modern Church official bodies that make theological statements in the Church’s name, but which disavow any claim to be teaching magisterially in so doing. Such bodies include the International Theological Commission and—as we shall discuss—the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. But the phenomenon is far more widespread, and far older.

The Church constantly has to explain herself, her teaching and her practices both to Catholics and to those outside the Church. And she has to be able to do so without ipso facto teaching magisterially—without the explanation provided of itself imposing an obligation to believe based on the Church’s authority. This is especially important where policy has to be followed and explained in cases where the Church does not yet feel able to determine a question magisterially, or where the officials involved anyway lack the authority to teach magisterially. Official theology is communicated in the training of clergy, through seminary manuals and lectures. It can be found in what passes as usual in sermons, homilies and ecclesially provided devotional literature. It can be found in all manner of official explanations of liturgy or pastoral practice. It can be found especially in what is not said. Official theology can reveal itself in silence—in what is not treated as of significance or comment in the Church’s life, as well as what is.

Not all concerning faith and morals asserted even by popes and bishops is magisterial teaching. This must be so otherwise (for example) it would have made no sense for Pope Francis recently to have determined that the conclusions of Synods of Bishops are henceforward to possess magisterial status, when they did not before, or for theologians to distinguish between those assertions made by a pope as a theologian, and those made by him as magisterial teaching. Much here remains theologically undecided. But magisterial teaching seems to be teaching that engages on the part of the faithful something more than a mere reason for them to believe what is asserted. Magisterial teaching does not simply provide reasons but imposes obligations—of fidelity of mind and belief. These are obligations to believe with the assent of faith in the case of what is taught infallibly, or to give something distinct from the assent of faith, something termed in Lumen Gentium and in the 1983 Code a religious submission of intellect and will (religiosum intellectus et voluntatis obsequium) or of mind (religiosum animi obsequium), in other cases.

These obligations are given canonical form, in canons 750 to 754 in the section of the 1983 Code De ecclesiae munere docendiOn the teaching function of the Church. These canons leave much open to debate. What is a religious submission of intellect and will or of mind to fallible teaching if not the assent of faith, and is it always an obligation to belief, especially since what is taught could be false? Canons 750 to 754 have antecedents in the 1917 Code in canons 1323 to 1326 from the section De magisterio ecclesiasticoOn the magisterium of the Church. But the language of the two Codes is importantly different. For example, the 1983 Code in canon 753 requires the faithful within their care to ‘adhere with a submission of mind’ to the ‘authentic magisterium’ even of fallible individual bishops or local assemblies of bishops. But the parallel canon 1326 of the 1917 Code does not impose such a requirement on the faithful explicitly, or indeed propose any other explicit obligation on the mind, but specifies simply that individual bishops and their local assemblies are ‘true teachers’ of those within their care.

We can bypass these very important but difficult questions here, as one thing is clear. Insofar as it does impose a canonical obligation on the mind, magisterial teaching must be given by some bearer of authority, such as bishops, capable of imposing that obligation. And since it is accepted that assertions on faith and morals may be made by popes and bishops that are not magisterial, teaching that is magisterial must sufficiently manifest an intention to obligate the faithful. If canonical obligations are to be genuine obligations that really do bind morally, their imposition has to be signalled to those they seek thus to bind.

This being so, there is much theological assertion by officials of the church that is not magisterial teaching in this sense—either because it does not clearly come from popes or bishops themselves, or because even if it does, it comes without a clear intention to teach magisterially so as to bind the intellect. All this non-magisterial assertion falls within the category of official theology. Some of this assertion ought to be believed because although the assertion of it does not itself count as a magisterial act—it might be a passage in a parish homily or newsletter—it does convey what is already magisterial teaching. But the distinction between magisterial teaching and official theology matters even in such cases. For having conveyed magisterial teaching the very same document may go on to make claims that entirely lack magisterial backing, but without this being in any way clear to the ordinary faithful. The same homily or newsletter that faithfully communicates dogma about the Holy Spirit may contain assertions about what that same Holy Spirit has inspired that are not magisterial teaching at all, and that can perfectly well be false.

Just because magisterial teaching comes from an authority that is divinely provided for, and God is truth, we should expect magisterial teaching to exhibit a general level of consistency and truth. Nonetheless not all magisterial teaching is infallible; and how far consistency and truth can be relied on where the magisterial teaching is given fallibly is a deeply important question which the current state of the Church may be making the more pressing. But whatever may be true of magisterial teaching, official theology taken as a whole, as it has existed throughout the history, is certainly not at all consistent with itself, and has over time included much falsehood. Official theology can perfectly well directly contradict not just other cases of official theology, but magisterial teaching itself or (at least) support pastoral strategies impossible to reconcile with magisterial teaching. This is certainly the case with much official theology since Vatican II. The effect of official theology that contradicts the magisterium can be disastrous. For it can detach ordinary members of the Church from the Church’s own teaching—just because the ordinary faithful very naturally greatly rely for their understanding of what the Church teaches on prevailing official theology.

Moreover, the problem is not just that official theology can make positive assertions that contradict magisterial teaching. Official theology can also suppress magisterial teaching through omission. Official theology is not limited, after all, to what is explicitly pronounced. Indeed, change in official theology can come most easily through silence. Something that has long been magisterially taught, and taught as important to salvation, is no longer even mentioned. Here the influence of defective official theology can be most pernicious, just as its distance from genuine magisterial teaching is most obvious and undeniable. For silence is especially clearly not magisterial teaching in its own right. Simply failing to mention something certainly does not impose any obligation to disbelieve it, or even remove an existing obligation to believe it. But it can radically affect the life of the Church nonetheless. It can remove important elements of the faith from the consciousness of most Catholics.

Both in its pronouncements and in its silences official theology is a part of the life of the Church that is constantly changing. Consider these issues, where there have been marked revolutions and reversals of official theology over time, often linked to important changes in ecclesial and pastoral policy. In some cases there may never have been any actual magisterial teaching on the topic. In other cases there may have been magisterial teaching—but especially since Vatican II official theology has come to ignore and pass over it in silence, or even to contradict it.

We have already mentioned the issue of whether, at least ideally or in principle, the state should form a soul-body union with the Church. There is widespread official theology that ignores Leo XIII’s very clear magisterium—Cardinal Ratzinger, later pope, will shortly provide us with an example. This reminds us of a number of things. First, it is alarmingly easy, at least since Vatican II, for magisterial teaching to become invisible—something that is just no longer discussed. It is not that Leo XIII’s teaching is regularly clearly identified as such, and then condemned as erroneous. Some theologians are willing to make that step.[3] But more commonly, it is as if the teaching had never been given. So invisible has it become, that we even get Leo XIII feted as the alleged founder of a new form of Catholicism—‘evangelical Catholicism’—that is supposed to come to its maturity at Vatican II and that supposedly includes, as a central element, the inherent goodness of the very Church-state separation that Leo XIII so clearly condemned.[4]

The prevailing official theology on Church-state separation, that Church-state separation is inherently good, is important in another way as well. Official theology may be nothing more than an official party line. It may even contradict the magisterium. But that does not make it in any way optional in career terms. A friend arriving at a Roman university to study for a doctorate in the early 1990s was very clearly warned that any suggestion of ‘integralism’ on his part in political theology would be, within ecclesial academia, career death.

An especially clear example of a rather dramatic silence in modern official theology about magisterial teaching relates to Trent session 7 canon 14. This is the teaching of Trent, in a canon on baptism, that fidelity to baptismal obligations, which include the central obligation to faith, is legitimately enforced on the baptised through sanctions that go beyond mere exclusion from the sacraments.[5] This was never going to be a minor matter, as this teaching supports canon law’s consistent treatment to this day of heresy and apostasy in the baptised as punishable crimes, a treatment to which the early modern Church was practically committed at every level. This understanding of the canon and the dogmatic force accorded it was quite uncontroversial from the time of Trent to Vatican II. Francisco de Toledo, the first Jesuit to be made a Cardinal and teaching theology during and immediately after Trent at the new Roman College, notes that the canon was against Erasmus, and was intended to condemn as heresy his demand for toleration of infidelity in the baptised—a view of Trent that Toledo entirely shares with the Council’s first great historian, the otherwise very different anti-papal Venetian Paolo Sarpi.[6] Thereafter the canon so understood is a seminary manual platitude.[7] We have here magisterial teaching conveyed under an agreed and uncontroverted interpretation in official theology over four centuries.

But after Vatican II official theology falls silent. Significantly, as with Leo XIII’s teaching on Church and state, it is not as if the existence of the canon is openly admitted, and then frankly dismissed as involving doctrinal error on the part of a general council. Explicit denial of solemn teaching by an earlier general council is still (on the whole) avoided at the official level.[8] It is not even as if the canon is still generally recognised but suddenly and equally generally reinterpreted.[9] Instead the canon is simply ignored. Like a non-person in an official state photograph, it has been retouched into non-existence. Most modern Catholics have no idea that Trent passed such a dogmatic canon, or of its significance. Instead they are constantly told, as a point of official theology, the complete historical falsehood that not only does the Church now oppose any coercion of the act of faith, but that she has ‘always done so’. And this is indeed just false. Coercion of the act of faith has only ever been opposed by the magisterium in principle and without exception for the case of the unbaptised, who as unbaptised are not bound by any baptismal obligation to fidelity and who fall outside the Church’s jurisdiction.

Is spiritual death from making an unworthy communion a real danger to be carefully guarded against in pastoral and liturgical arrangements and by other forms of ecclesial policy? Once this was indeed treated as a real danger. Before the 1970 liturgical reform Lauda Sion was a compulsory sequence for Corpus Christi:

Sumunt boni, sumunt mali;
Sorte tamen inaequali,
Vitae vel interitus.
Mors est malis, vita bonis:
Vide paris sumptionis
Quam sit dispar exitus.[10]

and liturgical readings on Holy Thursday and Corpus Christi included verses 27-29 from 1 Corinthians 11 warning of the judgment that falls on unworthy communions. How different the liturgy, and the official theology, of today. Outside the London Oratory I have never heard this passage from Lauda Sion sung at an ordinary parish Corpus Christi Mass[11]; and verses 27-29 are now entirely omitted from the reformed Roman liturgy. And here we see the important role of silence and oblivion within official theology. Recently I was addressing the clergy of an English diocese on the theology of ecumenism, with the ecumenical officer of the bishops’ conference present. This ecumenical officer suggested that communion should be more readily available to Protestants. When asked whether any such eucharistic sharing should, for the spiritual good of the Protestants themselves, always be preceded, as allowed for in canon law, by penitential sharing—because most Protestants, though prone like all of us to mortal sin, will never have confessed and received absolution, so that holy communion could be spiritually very dangerous to them—the ecumenical officer reacted with utter incomprehension and surprise. We may conclude that at least within the bishops’ conference of England and Wales there is a prevailing, and highly problematic, official theology that treats unworthy communions as no real danger at all. We shall be returning to the problems caused by this relatively new official theology. It is clearly fundamental to the crisis over Amoris Laetitia.

This issue of unworthy communions and their spiritual danger brings us to the importance of the liturgy and liturgical reform. Omissions within official theology are very often importantly linked to and dependent on liturgical omissions. It is very much easier for official theology to change, and even come to contradict magisterial teaching, if the liturgy has ceased to represent that teaching. The de iure removal from the liturgy of passages of scripture warning of unworthy communions, and the disappearance in practice of Lauda Sion as well, have been essential to the propagation of the new official view that unworthy communions are certainly not a real and constant danger.

Can children who die unbaptised before the age of reason attain the beatific vision? Or are they capable of natural happiness at best, or are they even threatened with the pain of sense? Debate exists about magisterial teaching in this area. One thing does seem clear, however. There is certainly no magisterially taught guarantee of the beatific vision. Meanwhile there have been marked shifts in official theology, as in liturgical and pastoral policy. And this case reminds us that whatever may be true of magisterial teaching, where official theology is concerned, not only can the official theology of one time contradict that of another—but the change can go back and forth, and not consistently in one direction only. Thus the high and late middle ages saw a shift away from an uncompromising Augustinianism to theories of natural happiness or even, in thinkers such as Cajetan, to theories of possible supernatural happiness. But then, alongside the radical Augustinianism of the Reformation, Trent saw a revival of a Catholic Augustinianism. Cajetan’s view narrowly escaped condemnation for heresy at Trent, and official theology returned to more uncompromising views, so that natural happiness was the most that could be hoped for.[12] By the seventeenth century Petavius, though a Jesuit and an opponent of Jansenism, could even maintain again that infants who die unbaptised will suffer the pain of sense.[13] And then, even before Vatican II there was a revival among some theologians of the more benign pre-Tridentine views of Cajetan and others.[14] Since Vatican II official theology, without any direct backing from some new formal teaching of the Council—there was none—has become almost mandatorily benign, not only in optimistic preaching but in pastoral policy and related liturgical change. Friends of mine struggled at their parish with a priest who insisted, very much against their wishes, on a postponement of their child’s baptism until six months after birth at the earliest—to enable their completion of a diocesan preparation course for parents. They turned to a papally instituted traditional priestly order, which baptised their child immediately.

Has the Church replaced Israel as the people of God — the community through which God now works human salvation and in which he is to be worshiped? That has certainly been historical Catholic teaching, still maintained in Lumen Gentium, a declaration of Vatican II that counts as a ‘dogmatic constitution’. Lumen Gentium teaches that an old Israel according to the flesh has been succeeded ‘through a new and perfect covenant’ by the Church as a ‘New Israel’ of the spirit rather than the flesh (§9), formed by

calling together from Jews and Gentiles a people that would be bound together in unity not according to the flesh but in the Spirit. This would be the new people of God.

But then the Church has a clear public mission—to call the Jewish people away from Jewish unbelief and into the Church, exactly as Gentiles are to be called away from Gentile unbelief and into the Church. This public mission to the Jewish people was pursued by the apostles in the New Testament. And the spiritual need for it, for the sake of Jewish salvation, was taught even before Lumen Gentium by an earlier general council, Florence.[15] This is a mission that the Church recognized and pursued right up until Vatican II. Yet despite all this, the view that the Church has any such mission is now deeply controversial within official circles. Indeed, Lumen Gentium and the Council of Florence notwithstanding, we shall see that such a mission of the Church appears to be denied outright in current official theology. The issue here is not whether God has a continuing concern for the Jewish people, as if God could or would ever have abandoned them. Rather, the issue is how to understand that persisting concern—and whether, for the sake of their salvation, all of humanity, Jew and Gentile alike, is called on the very same terms to baptism into the one Church, something that was even within living memory very clearly taught.

Official theology is merely that. As we have already observed, though official theology may convey magisterial teaching, it may also go beyond magisterial teaching or hide its existence or even oppose it. And since just as official theology it imposes no obligation of its own on our belief as Catholics, we should not be afraid to criticise it when its content deserves criticism—and very especially when it actually contradicts magisterial teaching. For then the default assumption must be that it is the official theology that is false, as merely a current party line that places no obligation on us to believe it, and not the magisterial teaching. Indeed, where official theology contradicts magisterial teaching, we may be under a canonical obligation not to believe the official theology.

The period since Vatican II has seen an explosion of dubious official theology—in novel positive claims that contradict both the magisterial teaching and the official theology of the past, and in novel silences that serve instead most effectively to bury that past teaching and theology. Now erroneous official theology does not of itself threaten the consistency of the magisterium. But it still poses a huge problem. It is tempting for a ‘conservative’ Catholic to clutch Denzinger to themselves, and piously declaim that all is well because on this or that question ‘magisterial teaching has not changed’, especially when there is a single passage or footnote, no matter how obscure, within a document of Vatican II that supports the historical magisterium. But remember—the individual Catholic’s immediate exposure to ‘what the Church teaches’ is deeply shaped by current official theology.

Denzinger is itself a partial selection of past magisterial teachings, with the selection changing significantly from edition to edition, according to official theological fashion, and by omission and not merely addition. But most ordinary Catholics do not even read Denzinger anyway. What most Catholics are immediately exposed to is official theology at its most humdrum—in conventional sermons or devotional literature at the diocesan or parish level—and so to magisterial teaching only as transmitted or even mispresented and obscured at that level. So if some part of magisterial teaching does come to be omitted from official theology, that silence will mean very effective oblivion. The ordinary Catholic will have absolutely no idea that the magisterial teaching exists at all. The teaching will have no impact on their religious life. This means that a problematic body of official theology can have dire consequences for the health of the Church and the efficacy of her mission. Even if it does turn out to be true that Vatican II has led more to a crisis of official theology than to a crisis within magisterial teaching itself, that may leave the crisis no less serious for that.

The erroneous official theology of grace and baptism that has become especially prevalent since Vatican II cannot be dismissed just as a rogue ‘spirit of the Council’—as nothing more than some liberal theologians on a frolic of their own. The theology may be no more than a debatable party line. But it is a party line that is common to officeholders within the Church – assumed almost without thinking by clergy ‘in good odour’ at every level, up to that of popes and cardinals.

Continue to Part Two.

[1] See especially:

             ‘The Almighty, therefore, has given the charge of the human race to two coercive authorities [potestates], the ecclesiastical and the civil, the one being set over divine, and the other over human, things…There must, accordingly, exist between these two authorities a certain orderly connection, which may be compared to the union of the soul and body in man.’ Immortale Dei §§13-14

[2] See especially my ‘The interpretation of Dignitatis Humanae: a reply to Martin Rhonheimer’ Nova et Vetera, English Edition, Vol. 11, pp77–121, 2013, online: ; and ‘Dignitatis Humanae: continuity after Leo XIII’ in Dignitatis Humanae Colloquium Dialogos Institute Volume 1, eds Thomas Crean OP and Alan Fimister, (Dialogos Institute 2017) pp105-46, online:

[3] See for example Martin Rhonheimer, ‘Benedict XVI’s ‘Hermeneutic of Reform’ and Religious Freedom,’ Nova et Vetera vol. 9, pp1029-54, 2011, who openly claims that the nineteenth century papal magisterium on Church and state was in error.

[4] For this curious interpretation, see the extensive theological journalism of George Weigel.

[5] ‘If anyone says that when they grow up (cum adoleverint), those baptised as little children should be asked whether they wish to affirm what their godparents promised in their name when they were baptised; and that, when they reply that they have no such wish, they should be left to their own decision and not, in the meantime, be coerced by any penalty into the Christian life (suo esse arbitrio relinquendos nec alia interim poena ad christianam vitam cogendos), except that they be barred from the reception of the eucharist and the other sacraments, until they have a change of heart: let him be anathema’ Council of Trent, Session 7, Decree on baptism, canon 14, 3 March 1547, in Alberigo and Tanner eds, Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, volume 2, p686.

[6] Cardinal Francisco de Toledo, In Summam Theologiae Sancti Thomae Aquinatis Enarratio, volume 2, question 10, article 8, An infideles sint ad fidem impellendi (Rome 1869). For Sarpi’s account and commentary on it, see Le Courayer’s edition of Sarpi, Histoire du Concile de Trente (Amsterdam 1751) p436.

[7] Among notable theological discussions up to Vatican II, a sample which could be expanded with some ease: Billuart Summa Sancti Thomae (Liege 1746-51), in the Tractatus de fide, dissertation V, article II, Utrum infideles cogendi ad fidem?; Giovanni Perrone, Praelectiones Theologicae quas in Collegio Romano SJ habebat (Milan 1845), volume 7, Tractatus de baptismo, pp103-11; Hurter, Theologiae Dogmaticae Compendium (Innsbruck 1908) volume 3, Tract IX §§315-16, pp281-2; Choupin, Valeur des Décisions Doctrinales et Disciplinaires du Saint-Siège, (Paris 1913) p265; ‘Peines ecclésiastiques: légitimité’, Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol 12 (Paris 1933) pp635-6; Ottaviani, Institutiones Iuris Publici Ecclesiastici, (Rome 1935) volume 1, §170; Merkelbach, Summa Theologiae Moralis, (Paris 1938) volume 1, §740; Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, (Cork 1955), book 4, part 3, section 2, §6, p360.

[8] Though one official spokesman for the Catholic Church in the UK, when I told him about the canon, without any hesitation at once responded – ‘Oh, we’ll have to change that.’

[9] Though recently, having been reminded of the canon’s (clearly now very unwelcome) existence, John Finnis has attempted a very novel re-interpretation of his own—see ‘John Finnis on Thomas Pink’ in Reason, Morality and Law: the Philosophy of John Finnis pp566-77 (Oxford University Press 2013). He bravely claims, against history and four centuries of theological consensus to the contrary, that the canon was intended not to condemn Erasmus but only to teach the legitimacy of the coercive enforcement on the baptised, not of Catholic faith, but only of at least some duties under natural law (such as for example some general duty of justice pp. 574-5).  But this reading has nothing to do with anything discussed at Trent, as the Council Acta make very clear. Obviously some natural law duties can be enforced—think of the duty not to kill—but the Council fathers and theologians at Trent never worried themselves over some notional heresy that denied this. The condemnable view discussed in debates about canon 14 at Trent is always Erasmus’s—that faith not be enforced on the baptised. And it is this view that everyone at the Council who gave an opinion condemned—as falsus, haereticus, or damnandus—without any debate to the contrary. I shall discuss Finnis’s highly eccentric interpretation of Trent in more detail elsewhere. In its anachronisms and misreadings of the Acta of Trent, it is a beautiful example of just how anxious today’s ‘conservative’ Catholicism is to ‘reconstruct’ aspects of the Church’s past that do not suit its own novel and very ‘post-conciliar’ theology.

[10] The good, the guilty share therein, With sure increase of grace or sin, The ghostly life, or ghostly death: death to the guilty; to the good immortal life. See how one food man’s joy or woe accomplisheth.

[11] The Oratory aside, I have generally never heard Lauda Sion at all in the New Rite—except at one London parish where it was said, but in a specially shortened form, omitting just that passage about the fatal consequence of an unworthy communion.

[12] On attitudes to Cajetan at Trent, see ‘Baptême’ in Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, vol 2 pp325-6.

[13] Dionysius Petavius, Dogmata Theologica, de Deo, book 9, chapter 11.

[14] For brief discussion, see Ott, Foundations of Catholic Dogma, Book 2, section 2, §25, pp113-14.

[15] As will be discussed below.

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