I. Novelty in the Fathers:

The first thesis which David Palm (DP) seeks to establish as supporting of his overarching theory is that the Fathers rejected novelty. This section of the essay you are reading will examine the veracity of this assertion by looking at the proofs David brings forward to sustain this thesis.

While Mr. XXXXXXXXX is certainly correct that novelty and innovation “most often” refer in the writings of the Fathers to doctrinal deviations, it remains that they also speak of deviation from perennial custom and ecclesiastical practice as harmful novelty.  For example, St. Augustine says:  “But mere change of custom, even though it may be of advantage in some respects, unsettles men by reason of the novelty: therefore, if it brings no advantage, it does much harm by unprofitably disturbing the Church.”{1}

Here is the context of St. Augustine's statement:

Suppose some foreigner visit a place in which during Lent it is customary to abstain from the use of the bath, and to continue fasting on Thursday. "I will not fast today," he says. The reason being asked, he says, "Such is not the custom in my own country." Is not he, by such conduct, attempting to assert the superiority of his custom over theirs? For he cannot quote a decisive passage on the subject from the Book of God; nor can he prove his opinion to be right by the unanimous voice of the universal Church, wherever spread abroad; nor can he demonstrate that they act contrary to the faith, and he according to it, or that they are doing what is prejudicial to sound morality, and he is defending its interests. Those men injure their own tranquillity and peace by quarrelling on an unnecessary question. I would rather recommend that, in matters of this kind, each man should, when sojourning in a country in which he finds a custom different from his own consent to do as others do. If, on the other hand, a Christian, when travelling abroad in some region where the people of God are more numerous, and more easily assembled together, and more zealous in religion, has seen, e.g., the sacrifice twice offered, both morning and evening, on the Thursday of the last week in Lent, and therefore, on his coming back to his own country, where it is offered only at the close of the day, protests against this as wrong and unlawful, because he has himself seen another custom in another land, this would show a childish weakness of judgment against which we should guard ourselves, and which we must bear with in others, but correct in all who are under our influence.

Observe now to which of these three classes the first question in your letter is to be referred. You ask, "What ought to be done on the Thursday of the last week of Lent? Ought we to offer the sacrifice in the morning, and again after supper, on account of the words in the Gospel, Likewise also . . . after supper'? Or ought we to fast and offer the sacrifice only after supper? Or ought we to fast until the offering has been made, and then take supper as we are accustomed to do?" I answer, therefore, that if the authority of Scripture has decided which of these methods is right, there is no room for doubting that we should do according to that which is written; and our discussion must be occupied with a question, not of duty, but of interpretation as to the meaning of the divine institution. In like manner, if the universal Church follows any one of these methods, there is no room for doubt as: to our duty; for it would be the height of arrogant madness to discuss whether or not we should comply with it. But the question which you propose is not decided either by Scripture or by universal practice. It must therefore be referred to the third class -- as pertaining, namely, to things which are different in different places and countries. Let every man, therefore, conform himself to the usage prevailing in the Church to which he may come. For none of these methods is contrary to the Christian faith or the interests of morality, as favoured by the adoption of one custom more than the other. If this were the case, that either the faith or sound morality were at stake, it would be necessary either to change what was done amiss, or to appoint the doing of what had been neglected. But mere change of custom, even though it may be of advantage in some respects, unsettles men by reason of the novelty: therefore, if it brings no advantage, it does much harm by unprofitably disturbing the Church. [1]

Obviously there is a context to this statement that David is "conveniently" overlooking. St. Augustine refers to three kinds of authority - the authority of Scripture, the authority of the universal church, and the authority of local custom. With regards to the first two, he is clear that there is no doubt involved as to what method to follow. And as the universal church has changed some of her laws in the past forty years, to the faithful Catholic, there is no doubt as to which course is to be followed. (Indeed to quote St. Augustine "it would be the height of arrogant madness to discuss whether or not we should comply with it.") But of course the problem with the self-styled "traditionalists" -in their arrogant flouting of this principle- is so often at rock bottom a lack of faith on their part.

Further still, in light of many unsavoury elements that had been prevalent in various sectors of Church for a long time --such as an acute anti-intellectualism, a profound suspicion of science and scholarship, a loss of the sense of the local church and local customs, and also an unhealthy and untraditional legalistic outlook-- the credibility of the faith to anyone whose head was not buried in the sand was clearly at stake. For these and other reasons, it was long overdue for the Church to once again interact with the world - to engage critically and credibly the philosophical trends that had for a couple of centuries been undermining society. This kind of critical engagement was something that --with few notable exceptions--had been neglected in the Church for some time. (Particularly since the so-called "enlightenment" period onward.)

To use the words of St. Augustine, it was necessary "either to change what was done amiss, or to appoint the doing of what had been neglected."  This was the purpose of the Second Vatican Council: it was convoked to "trim the boat" to use the words of Cardinal Newman. (When he spoke of a future Council correcting the perceived imbalance of the First Vatican Council on some points of doctrine.) And as such a correction was akin to some extent to taking the cap off of a radiator in ninety degree weather after a lengthy car trip, the lessons of history for those who have eyes to see are not surprising. (Annoying at times yes but not surprising.) Nonetheless, the above quote from St. Augustine, far from defending DP's theory actually undermines it when looked at in proper context.

St. John Chrysostom states that innovations and novelties in liturgy are especially harmful. When describing the difficulty that the Apostles had in convincing observant Jews that their system of worship had to be entirely changed, he noted this principle: “For nothing so much disturbs the mind, though it be done for some beneficial purpose, as to innovate and introduce strange things, and most of all when this is done in matters relating to divine worship and the glory of God.”{2}

Here is the full text of the statement:

I was saying not long ago, that it would not have entered the Apostles' thoughts to preach what they did preach, had they not enjoyed Divine Grace; and that so far from succeeding, they would not even have devised such a thing. Well then, let us also to-day prosecute the same subject in our discourse; and let us shew that it was a thing impossible so much as to be chosen or thought of by them, if they had not had Christ among them: not because they were arrayed, the weak against the strong, not because few against many, not because poor against rich, not because unlearned against wise, but because the strength of their prejudice, too, was great. For ye know that nothing is so strong with men as the tyranny of ancient custom. So that although they had not been twelve only, and not so contemptible, and such as they really were, but another world as large as this, and with an equivalent number arrayed on their side, or even much greater; even in this case the result would have been hard to achieve. For the other party had custom on their side, but to these their novelty was an obstacle. For nothing so much disturbs the mind, though it be done for some beneficial purpose, as to innovate and introduce strange things, and most of all when this is done in matters relating to divine worship and the glory of God. And how great force there is in this circumstance I will now make plain; first having made the following statement that there was added also another difficulty with regard to the Jews. For in the case of the Greeks, they destroyed both their gods and their doctrines altogether; but not so did they dispute with the Jews, but many of their doctrines they abolished, while the God who had enacted the same they bade them worship. And affirming that men should honor the legislator, they said, "obey not in all respects the law which is of Him;" for instance, in the keeping the Sabbath, or observing circumcision, or offering sacrifices, or doing any other like thing. So that not only was custom an impediment, but also the fact, that when they bade men worship God, they bade them break many of His laws.

But in the case of the Greeks great was the tyranny of custom...And are the twelve fishermen and tent-makers and publicans wiser than all these? Why, who could endure such a statement?" However, they spake not so, nor had it in their mind, but did endure them, and owned that they were wiser than all. Wherefore they overcame even all. And custom was no impediment to this, though accounted invincible when she hath acquired her full swing by course of time.

And that thou mayest learn how great is the strength of custom, it hath oftentimes prevailed over the commands of God. And why do I say, commands? Even over very blessings. For so the Jews when they had manna, required garlic; enjoying liberty they were mindful of their slavery; and they were continually longing for Egypt, because they were accustomed to it. Such a tyrannical thing is custom. [2]

More could be quoted here but it should be clear to the reader that St. John Chrysostom far from preaching against novelty in this sermon was actually defending it against the "tyranny of custom."  Even DP admits this much but he does not seem to realize that this stance hardly supports his theory. For the self-styled "traditionalists" whom he now seems to want to align himself with do not have the same patience with ancient practices of others which predate the Christian profession - and even in many cases the Jewish profession that preceded it. The common response to this point by the self-styled "traditionalists" would be that what they are professing is true and what the non Christians would be professing is false. But of course this very assertion itself begs the question since anyone can say this about their beliefs. And the so-called "traditionalist" in striving to defend their stance here will logically move into an incoherence if they at all attempt to apply consistency to their rationale.

For the Catholic in striving to defend his position against other religious professions should always start from the Scriptures taken as historical documents. (Something David himself may recall from his days as a very good Catholic apologist.) From that base of operation, the Catholic then strives to demonstrate that (i) the Scriptures are reliable (ii) the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth included the institution of a Church to teach with His name and with His authority and (iii) this Church itself testifies to the veracity of the Scriptures as more than historical documents. All of this of course is good but  the so-called "traditionalist" then has to defend their own reasons for not obeying this same Church in reality today (rather than in the abstract) that they would assert to others is requiring of the obedience of all.

Since the so-called "traditionalist" is not properly obedient to the Church, they have to invent a host of excuses to "justify" themselves - a list which not infrequently sounds as if it could have been penned by schismatics like Donatus the Great, Montanus, or Photius. (Or by heretics like Arius, Luther, Calvin, or Dollinger.) This is the crux of their theological schizophrenia. Before we move onto other prooftexts of DP's though, one final point regarding his reference to St. John in the above passage.

As St. John was defending the novelty of the Apostle's message over and against the long-standing Greek and Jewish traditions, if he was repudiating novelty here then he would logically be repudiating Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Gospel since the "novelty" he refers to was the novelty of the Apostle's message to the world in their preaching. (Contra the long-standing practices of the Jews and the Greeks.) Since no more needs to be said on this point to refute DP's failed attempt at recourse to St. John Chrysostom as defending his theory (of "the question of novelty" and why "tradition rejects it"), no more will be said on it.

Similarly, St. Vincent of Lerins states that it is the duty and responsibility of a pious Catholic to preserve faithfully both the beliefs and the observances which he has received from those who have gone before:

"For it has always been the case in the Church, that the more a man is under the influence of religion, so much the more prompt is he to oppose innovations. . . . In fine, in an epistle sent at the time to Africa, he [Pope St. Stephen] laid down this rule: "Let there be no innovation—nothing but what has been handed down."  For that holy and prudent man well knew that true piety admits no other rule than that whatsoever things have been faithfully received from our fathers the same are to be faithfully consigned to our children; and that it is our duty, not to lead religion whither we would, but rather to follow religion whither it leads; and that it is the part of Christian modesty and gravity not to hand down our own beliefs or observances to those who come after us, but to preserve and keep what we have received from those who went before us."{3}

Well if nothing else, David gives a rather healthy prooftext here. And of course if what he notes above was all St. Vincent of Lerens said on the matter then DP's point would be persuasively supported with an authoritative patristic source. But key portions of the above text were excised out which this writer will now add to the text so that the reader can see for themselves how this passage is being misused. David's quotes will be italicized and key words in the passage parts he omitted will be in bold font:

GREAT then is the example of these same blessed men, an example  plainly divine, and worthy to be called to mind, and meditated upon continually by every true Catholic, who, like the seven-branched  candlestick, shining with the sevenfold light of the Holy Spirit, showed to posterity how thenceforward the audaciousness of profane novelty, in all the several rantings of error, might be crushed by the authority of hallowed  antiquity.

Nor is there anything new in this? For it has always been the case in the Church, that the more a man is under the influence of religion, so much the more prompt is he to oppose innovations. Examples there are without number: but to be brief, we will take one, and that, in preference to others, from the Apostolic See,(1) so that it may be clearer than day to every one with how great energy, with how great zeal, with how great earnestness, the blessed successors of the blessed apostles have constantly defended the integrity of the religion which they have once received.

Once on a time then, Agrippinus,(2) bishop of Carthage, of venerable memory, held the doctrine--and he was the first who held it --that Baptism ought to be repeated, contrary to the divine canon, contrary to the rule of the universal Church, contrary to the customs and institutions of our ancestors. This innovation drew after it such an amount of evil, that it not only gave an example of sacrilege to heretics of all sorts, but proved an occasion of error to certain Catholics even.

When then all men protested against the novelty, and the priesthood everywhere, each as his zeal prompted him, opposed it, Pope Stephen of blessed memory, Prelate of the Apostolic See, in conjunction indeed with his colleagues but yet himself the foremost, withstood it, thinking it right, I doubt not, that as he exceeded all others in the authority of his place, so he should also in the devotion of his faith. In fine, in an epistle sent at the time to Africa, he laid down this rule: "Let there be no innovation--nothing but what has been handed down."(8) For that holy and prudent man well knew that true piety admits no other rule than that whatsoever things have been faithfully received from our fathers the same are to be faithfully consigned to our children; and that it is our duty, not to lead religion whither we would, but rather to follow religion whither it leads; and that it is the part of Christian modesty and gravity not to hand down our own beliefs or observances to those who come after us, but to preserve and keep what we have received from those who went before us. What then was the issue of the whole matter? What but the usual and customary one? Antiquity was retained, novelty was rejected. [3]

Of course there is a key point of St. Vincent of Lerens' Commonitory that David does not note to his readers and it is the passage that has the greatest bearing on what we have seen officially approved by the Apostolic See in the past four decades plus. It also underscores two fundamental principles that so-called "traditionalists" do not understand. These principles are (i) development of doctrine or practice and (ii) the validity of novelty when it is approved by the Church's magisterium. Indeed anyone who takes an objective look at Church history can see that there have been many alterations since apostolic times. And as any adjustment from previous practice that breaks new ground is at some point in time a novelty, the very notion that the Great Tradition rejects novelty is almost too absurd to merit addressing. But alas with radical so-called "traditionalists" this is necessary to do as they are so often ahistorical in their outlook. But enough from this writer and St. Vincent of Lerens will clarify this for your benefit (key points that escape the so-called "traditionalists" in bold font):
But some one will say perhaps, Shall there, then, be no progress in  Christ's Church? Certainly; all possible progress. For what being is there, so  envious of men, so full of hatred to God, who would seek to forbid it? Yet on condition that it be real progress, not alteration of the faith. For progress requires that the subject be enlarged in itself, alteration, that it be transformed into something else. The intelligence, then, the knowledge, the wisdom, as well of individuals as of all, as well of one man as of the whole Church, ought, in the course of ages and centuries, to increase and make much and vigorous progress; but yet only in its own kind; that is to say, in the same doctrine, in the same sense, and in the same meaning.

The growth of religion in the soul must be analogous to the growth of the body, which, though in process of years it is developed and attains its full size, yet remains still the same. There is a wide difference between the flower of youth and the maturity of age; yet they who were once young are still the same now that they have become old, insomuch that though the stature and outward form of the individual are changed, yet his nature is one and the same, his person is one and the same. An infant's limbs are small, a young man's large, yet the infant and the young man are the same. Men when full grown have the same number of joints that they had when children; and if there be any to which maturer age has given birth these were already present in embryo, so that nothing new is produced in them when old which was not already latent in them when children. This, then, is undoubtedly the true and legitimate rule of progress, this the established and most beautiful order of growth, that mature age ever develops in the man those parts and forms which the wisdom of the Creator had already framed beforehand in the infant. Whereas, if the human form were changed into some shape belonging to another kind, or at any rate, if the number of its limbs were increased or diminished, the result would be that the whole body would become either a wreck or a monster, or, at the least, would be impaired and enfeebled.

In like manner, it behoves Christian doctrine to follow the same laws of progress, so as to be consolidated by years, enlarged by time, refined by age, and yet, withal, to continue uncorrupt and unadulterate, complete and perfect in all the measurement of its parts, and, so to speak, in all its proper members and senses, admitting no change, no waste of its distinctive property, no variation in its limits.

For example: Our forefathers in the old time sowed wheat in the Church's field. It would be most unmeet and iniquitous if we, their descendants, instead of the genuine truth of corn, should reap the counterfeit error of tares. This rather should be the result,--there should be no discrepancy between the first and the last. From doctrine which was sown as wheat, we should reap, in the increase, doctrine of the same kind--wheat also; so that when in process of time any of the original seed is developed, and now flourishes under cultivation, no change may ensue in the character of the plant. There may supervene shape, form, variation in outward appearance, but the nature of each kind must remain the same. God forbid that those rose-beds of Catholic interpretation should be converted into thorns and thistles. God forbid that in that spiritual paradise from plants of cinnamon and balsam darnel and wolfsbane should of a sudden shoot forth.

Therefore, whatever has been sown by the fidelity of the Fathers in this husbandry of God's Church, the same ought to be cultivated and taken care of by the industry of their children, the same ought to flourish and ripen, the same ought to advance and go forward to perfection. For it is right that those ancient doctrines of heavenly philosophy should, as time goes on, be cared for, smoothed, polished; but not that they should be changed, not that they should be maimed, not that they should be mutilated. They may receive proof, illustration, definiteness; but they must retain withal their completeness, their integrity, their characteristic properties.

For if once this license of impious fraud be admitted, I dread to say in how great danger religion will be of being utterly destroyed and annihilated. For if any one part of Catholic truth be given up, another, and another, and another will thenceforward be given up as a matter of course, and the several individual portions having been rejected, what will follow in the end but the rejection of the whole? On the other hand, if what is new begins to be mingled with what is old, foreign with domestic, profane with sacred, the custom will of necessity creep on universally, till at last the Church will have nothing left untampered with, nothing unadulterated, nothing sound, nothing pure; but where formerly there was a sanctuary of chaste and undefiled truth, thenceforward there will be a brothel of impious and base errors. May God's mercy avert this wickedness from the minds of his servants; be it rather the frenzy of the ungodly. [4]

In other words, it is the natural law of progress that ancient truths will receive refinement with time and that there may at times be an apparent external change but the essence will remain the same at all times. It is interesting that if not for the bolded sentence of the last paragraph repudiating the contents of that paragraph, this writer is certain that the so-called "traditionalists" would concur with everything else in it. (For it is such accusations as those outlined by St. Vincent that is at the very core of the so-called "traditionalist" movement.) The difference between an authentic Traditionalist and a pseudo "traditionalist" is recognizing the repudiation of the so-called weltanschauung in the final sentence of the paragraph where St. Vincent prays to God that this wickedness from the minds of his servants  might be excised. (And that such sentiments as he outlined in the paragraph be rather the frenzy of the ungodly.) The reason St. Vincent took this stance - and indeed why all faithful Catholics do- is outlined in the section that follows the above paragraph and reads as follows:
But the Church of Christ, the careful and watchful guardian of the doctrines deposited in her charge, never changes anything in them, never diminishes, never adds, does not cut off what is necessary, does not add what is superfluous, does not lose her own, does not appropriate what is another's, but while dealing faithfully and judiciously with ancient doctrine, keeps this one object carefully in view,--if there be anything which antiquity has left shapeless and rudimentary, to fashion and polish it, if anything already reduced to shape and developed, to consolidate and strengthen it, if any already ratified and defined to keep and guard it. Finally, what other object have Councils ever aimed at in their decrees, than to provide that what was before believed in simplicity should in future be believed intelligently, that what was before preached coldly should in future be preached earnestly, that what was before practised negligently should thenceforward be practised with double solicitude? This, I say, is what the Catholic Church, roused by the novelties of heretics, has accomplished by the decrees of her Councils,--this, and nothing else,--she has thenceforward consigned to posterity in writing what she had received from those of olden times only by tradition, comprising a great amount of matter in a few words, and often, for the better understanding, designating an old article of the faith by the characteristic of a new name. [5]
If the Church of Christ, according to St. Vincent of Lerens, often, for the better understanding, designat[es] an old article of the faith by the characteristic of a new name, than that means that the Church of Christ cannot be opposed to novelty as DP claims - for the very notion of a novelty is something that is new. Further still, it is clear if one reads the sections of the Commonitory  on the ancient heresies up to St. Vincent's time, he clearly sees this practice at work in the Church prior to his time - particularly at Nicaea and Ephesus. (Constantinople I though held fifty years previously would not be recognized as ecumenical for at least another seventeen years.)

The difference of course is that St. Vincent and faithful Catholics make a distinction between novelties accepted by the Church of Christ and those which are proposed by individuals and which do not gain the sanction of the magisterium. DP --aligning with false "traditionalism" as he does-- does not accept this principle. For this reason, he strives to build a case for why "Tradition rejects novelty" when in reality this sweeping indictment does not hold water. Tradition in reality both accepts and also rejects novelty depending on what the novelty is and how it is applied. This is clear from any objective reading of the Fathers as well as Church history in general.

Though it is enough to point to what is covered above to confute DP's egregious misuse of St. Vincent of Lerens' outlook on the issue of novelty, let us look at what else the saint had to say about an issue which comes very close to what David is doing himself in his essay whereby he is opposing the magisterium with citations from the ancient Fathers:

How Heretics, craftily cite obscure passages in ancient writers in support of their own novelties.

THIS condemnation, indeed, seems to have been providentially promulgated as though with a special view to the fraud of those who, contriving to dress up a heresy under a name other than its own, get hold often of the works of some ancient writer, not very clearly expressed, which, owing to the very obscurity of their own doctrine, have the appearance of agreeing with it, so that they get the credit of being neither the first nor the only persons who have held it. This wickedness of theirs, in my judgment, is doubly hateful: first, because they are not afraid to invite others to drink of the poison of heresy; and secondly, because with profane breath, as though fanning smouldering embers into flame, they blow upon the memory of each holy man, and spread an evil report of what ought to be buried in silence by bringing it again under notice, thus treading in the footsteps of their father Ham, who not only forebore to cover the nakedness of the venerable Noah, but told it to the others that they might laugh at it, offending thereby so grievously against the duty of filial piety, that even his descendants were involved with him in the curse which he drew down, widely differing from those blessed brothers of his, who would neither pollute their own eyes by looking upon the nakedness of their revered father, nor would suffer others to do so, but went backwards, as the Scripture says, and covered him, that is, they neither approved nor betrayed the fault of the holy man, for which cause they were rewarded with a benediction on themselves and their posterity. [6]

Now this writer wants to make it clear as crystal that he is not accusing DP of heresy; instead, what is being pointed out is that the pattern of the ancient heretics and schismatics is being used by DP and his allies to defend their own novel notions. The novelty is David proposing the same faulty weltanschauung of the "traditionalists" (falsely so-called): the notion that they can reject the teachings and directives of the Church's Magisterium or "suspend obedience" to the Magisterium from a point of their choosing onward (in this case, Vatican II and the last four pontificates). There is nothing whatsoever in the Fathers, Doctors, Saints, or the Popes/Councils which countenances this stance one iota. And for that reason, the attempt by the so-called "traditionalists" to claim that they are adhering to the Tradition when the very foundation of their movement is built on a novelty itself (and a perverse one at that) would be laughable if it was not so sad. But David is not done yet attempting to justify the manifested schism of his associates (the "We Resist You" crowd) from the Fathers. So without further ado, let us get back to confuting his presumptions on that score.

Other early Roman Pontiffs dubbed breaches of ecclesiastical discipline as harmful novelties. 

Let the record show that Pope St. Stephen I, the previous witness called by DP, rejected a doctrinal novelty not (i) a novelty of mere practice or (ii) a novelty that received magisterial sanction.

So, for example, Pope St. Leo the Great writes to the bishops of the Viennese province concerning the waywardness of Hilary, another bishop of that area:

But this most holy firmness of the rock, reared, as we have said, by the building hand of God, a man must wish to destroy in over-weaning wickedness when he tries to break down its power, by favouring his own desires, and not following what he received from men of old: for he believes himself subject to no law, and held in check by no rules of God's ordinances and breaks away, in his eagerness for novelty, from your use and ours, by adopting illegal practices, and letting what he ought to keep fall into abeyance.{4}

Of course if we look at this letter in context, there are a few points which do not bode well for DP and his new allies. The first point worth noting is the place that those who secede from the Apostolic See -manifested by an explicit refusal to submit to its teachings and directives- in the Church:

Our LORD Jesus Christ, Saviour of mankind, instituted the observance of the Divine religion which He wished by the grace of GOD to shed its brightness upon all nations and all peoples in such a way that the Truth, which before was confined to the announcements of the Law and the Prophets, might through the Apostles' trumpet blast go out for the salvation of all men, as it is written: "Their sound has gone out into every land, and their words into the ends of the world." But this mysterious function the LORD wished to be indeed the concern of all the apostles, but in such a way that He has placed the principal charge on the blessed Peter, chief of all the Apostles: and from him as from the Head wishes His gifts to flow to all the body: so that any one who dares to secede from Peter's solid rock may understand that he has no part or lot in the divine mystery. [7]

The context of this letter therefore is someone whom Pope St. Leo the Great claims has seceded from the Apostolic See.

For He wished him who had been received into partnership in His undivided unity to be named what He Himself was, when He said: "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church :" that the building of the eternal temple by the wondrous gift of GOD'S grace might rest on Peter's solid rock: strengthening His Church so surely that neither could human rashness assail it nor the gates of hell prevail against it. But this most holy firmness of the rock, reared, as we have said, by the building hand of GOD, a man must wish to destroy in over-weaning wickedness when he tries to break down its power, by favouring his own desires, and not following what he received from men of old: for he believes himself subject to no law, and held in check by no rules of GOD's ordinances and breaks away, in his eagerness for novelty, from your use and ours, by adopting illegal practices, and letting what he ought to keep fall into abeyance.

But with the approval, as we believe, of GOD, and retaining towards you the fulness of our love which the Apostolic See always, as you remember, expends upon you, holy brethren we are striving to correct these things by mature counsel, and to share with you the task of setting your churches in order, not by innovations but by restoration of the old; that we may persevere in the accustomed state which our fathers handed down to us, and please our GOD through the ministry of a good work by removing the scandals of disturbances. And so we would have you recollect, brethren, as we do, that the Apostolic See, such is the reverence in which it is held, has times out of number been referred to and consulted by the priests of your province as well as others, and in the various matters of appeal, as the old usage demanded, it has reversed or confirmed decisions: and in this way "the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace " has been kept, and by the interchange of letters, our honourable proceedings have promoted a lasting affection: for "seeking not our own but the things of Christ," we have been careful not to do despite to the dignity which God has given both to the churches and their priests. But this path which with our fathers has been always so well kept to and wisely maintained, Hilary has quilted, and is likely to disturb the position and agreement of the priests by his novel arrogance: desiring to subject you to his power in such a way as not to suffer himself to be subject to the blessed Apostle Peter, claiming for himself the ordinations of all the churches throughout the provinces of Gaul, and transferring to himself the dignity which is due to metropolitan priests; he diminishes even the reverence that is paid to the blessed Peter himself with his proud words: for not only was the power of loosing and binding given to Peter before the others, but also to Peter more especially was entrusted the care of feeding the sheep. [8]

It is quite clear that Pope St. Leo the Great was not opposing a practice that was approved either by himself or by the local church to which he is writing. This is obvious because the foundation of his criticism of Hilary the presbyter is that he unlawfully usurped the bishopric of another and was striving to use this usurped power to force the local church to follow other usages than (i) those of the Apostolic See and (ii) those enacted by the lawful pastors of that province with the consent -tacit or otherwise- of the Apostolic See. So again, though Pope St. Leo the Great was indeed opposing a novelty here (as David claims), the novelty being rejected was that a cleric could usurp the episcopal jurisdiction of another and impose usages contrary to those of either the Apostolic See or of the Province in question. (In the modern vernacular the term would be "dioceses.") So let the record reflect that again DP's prooftext fails to sustain the theory he seeks to prove. If anything the arrogance of Hilary the presbyter is substantially similar to the arrogance of those who would claim to "resist to the face" the Church's Magisterium and its teachings and directives. (To say nothing about blatantly dissenting from them in the public forum which is not permissible.)

In another letter [Pope Leo the Great] writes to rebuke one Bishop Dorus for promoting a junior priest over his seniors:

We grieve that the judgment, which we hoped to entertain of you, has been frustrated by our ascertaining that you have done things which by their blame-worthy novelty infringe the whole system of Church discipline: although you know full well with what care we wish the provisions of the canons to be kept through all the churches of the Lord, and the priests of all the peoples to consider it their especial duty to prevent the violation of the rules of the holy constitutions by any extravagances.{5}

Here is the passage in context with a key part which David does not quote -with the words he does not quote underlined:

We grieve that the judgment, which we hoped to entertain of you, has been frustrated by our ascertaining that you have done things which by their blame-worthy novelty infringe the whole system of Church discipline: although you know full well with what care we wish the provisions of the canons to be kept through all the churches of the LORD, and the priests of all the peoples to consider it their especial duty to prevent the violation of the rules of the holy constitutions by any extravagances. We are surprised, therefore, that you who ought to have been a strict observer of the injunctions of the Apostolic See have acted so carelessly, or rather so contumaciously, as to show yourself not a guardian, but a breaker of the laws handed on to you. [9]

In this example, Pope St. Leo was condemning Bishop Dorus for not following the directives of the Apostolic See on this matter. Far from being part of a supporting thesis to DP's theory, this text actually -when we add the sentence DP stopped short of citing- condemns his theory. For DP's theory is that "Tradition rejects novelty" and he sought by way of his essay to defend this theory of his Remnant allies who are manifestly not interested in retaining communion with the Church. (A subject that is beyond the scope of this piece to adequately cover.)

Now obviously there is no divine commandment that a junior priest may never be promoted over a senior; this is a matter of ecclesiastical discipline.  And yet, St. Leo the Great states that to transgress this element of canon law is a novelty which “infringe[s] the whole system of Church discipline”, to the detriment of the Church at large.

Indeed, transgressing the law of the Church infringes the whole system of Church discipline. This writer agrees with DP on the matter and would further suggest that those who do not obey the current Canon Law of the Church -as in the case of those whom DP has chosen to affiliate with- are not unjustly seen by faithful Catholics as descendants of those who were rebuked by Pope St. Leo the Great in the above Apostolic Epistle. So again, let the record show that the passage cited by David when looked at in context -as all of his Patristic citations thus far have done- follows the pattern of condemning (either explicitly or by logical extension) his thesis on the Fathers. (And thus his theory on "tradition reject[ing] novelty" which this thesis seeks to sustain.)

Pope St. Gregory the Great also wrote to a bishop, rebuking him for infringing on the ancient and established customs of a particular monastery:

Now the monks of the Castilliensian monastery in your Fraternity's city have complained to us that you are taking steps to impose upon the said monastery certain things contrary to what had been allowed by your predecessors and sanctioned by long custom, and to disturb ancient arrangements by a certain injurious novelty.{6}

Again, there is more here than DP would make it appear. Here is the context of his prooftext -DP's quote will be underlined:

It is evidently a very serious thing, and contrary to what a priest should aim at, to wish to disturb privileges formerly granted to any monastery, and to endeavour to bring to naught what has been arranged for quiet. Now the monks of the Castilliensian monastery in your Fraternity's city have complained to us that you are taking steps to impose upon the said monastery certain things contrary to what had been allowed by your predecessors and sanctioned by long custom, and to disturb ancient arrangements by a certain injurious novelty. Wherefore we hereby exhort your Fraternity that, if this is so, you refrain from troubling this monastery under any excuse, and that you try not, through any opportunity of usurpation, to upset what has been long secured to it, but that you study, without any gainsaying, to preserve all its privileges inviolate, and know that no more is lawful to you with regard to the said monastery than was lawful to your predecessors. [10]

Notice that this is not a rejection of all novelty by Pope St. Gregory the Great, only "a certain injurous novelty" - in this case the Bishop of Scyllaccium removing materials from a monastery under the guise of it being "an offering." As this is a matter which has no bearing whatsoever on this thesis which DP is seeking to sustain -except perhaps the use of the term "novelty"- it is easily dismissed without further examination. (For the term "novelty" admits of several viable usages not all of which are detrimental.)

Chronologically this brings us fairly near to the Second Council of Nicea, about which Mr. XXXXXXXX makes so great a fuss. The authors of TGF cite the Second Council of Nicea and its condemnation of innovation as an authoritative statement of the Church’s abhorrence of novelty, a condemnation repeated by Pope St. Pius X in his anti-modernist encyclical Pascendi.  But XXXXXXXX believes their use of this conciliar text is erroneous:

On page 28 we find another example of their ignorance or purposeful deception when they onceagain quote from Nicaea II.  Using a canon from the Nicaean Council they write, “And, lest there be any doubt that all of the received and approved ecclesiastical traditions of the Church are to be regarded as part of the Church’s untouchable patrimony: ‘If anyone rejects any written or unwritten tradition of the church, let him be anathema’.”  Here the authors mistakenly interpret “unwritten tradition” to mean nondoctrinal traditions.

XXXXXXXXX asserts once again that the council fathers of Nicea II had only doctrinal matters in mind when condemning novelties:

The glaring error that the authors make is interpreting the phrases “any one of the legitimate traditions,” “ecclesiastical traditions,” and “other observances” to mean nondoctrinal traditions.  But there is nothing in the text from Pascendi or in Nicaea II that would suggest this.  “Ecclesiastical tradition” refers to those dogmas that are considered “virtually revealed,” as the Catholic Encyclopedia quote above states very clearly.  Or the phrase could refer to those dogmas developed by the Church over time and which are not explicitly revealed in the apostolic Tradition or in Scripture.  The authors read into these phrases what they want to hear.

And yet, a complete reading of the conciliar text indicates that Mr. XXXXXXXXX is mistaken in his attempt to draw the boundaries of Nicea II’s condemnation of novelty so narrowly as to contain only doctrinal matters. 

For the record, this writer happens to believe that the condemnation extends beyond matters of doctrine and also embraces customs received or approved by the Church's Magisterium. (In short, there is a partial agreement with DP's assessment on this matter.) But before getting to this point, let us read what David has to say on the matter first.

For example, in their solemn decree the council fathers state:

Those, therefore who dare to think or teach otherwise, or as wicked heretics to spurn the traditions of the Church and to invent some novelty, or else to reject some of those things which the Church hath received (e.g., the Book of the Gospels, or the image of the cross, or the pictorial icons, or the holy reliques of a martyr), or evilly and sharply to devise anything subversive of the lawful traditions of the Catholic Church or to turn to common uses the sacred vessels of the venerable monasteries, if they be Bishops or Clerics, we command that they be deposed; if religious or laics, that they be cut off from communion.{7}

And in Canon VII, they give another example of a transgression of “ecclesiastical tradition”, namely, the consecration of a local church without the use of the relics of martyrs:

Paul the divine Apostle says: “The sins of some are open beforehand, and some they follow after.”  These are their primary sins, and other sins follow these.  Accordingly upon the heels of the heresy of the traducers of the Christians, there followed close other ungodliness.  For as they took out of the churches the presence of the venerable images, so likewise they cast aside other customs which we must now revive and maintain in accordance with the written and unwritten law.  We decree therefore that relics shall be placed with the accustomed service in as many of the sacred temples as have been consecrated without the relics of the Martyrs.  And if any bishop from this time forward is found consecrating a temple without holy relics, he shall be deposed, as a transgressor of the ecclesiastical traditions.{8}

Notice well the argument of the council fathers.  Just as certain observances in the Catholic Church are closely bound up with orthodox belief, so close on the heels of heresy there follow objectionable actions and rejection of venerable customs.  So, in this example, rejection of the Church’s orthodox doctrine on the veneration of images and relics leads to the rejection of the venerable custom of consecrating a church using relics of the saints.  Thus the council fathers of Nicea II denounce both the doctrinal novelty which rejects the veneration of images and the practical novelty of failing to consecrate a church using relics.

The first quote from David is a recapitulation paragraph from the doctrinal decree prescribing penalties for those who would contravene the teaching formulated by the Second Sacrosanct Synod of Nicaea. It does not have the same authority as the parts of the decree which (i) recapitulated the teachings of the previous ecumenical councils along with their condemnations (ii) the plenary synods given special approbation (iii) the doctrine formulated by the synod on sacred images - underscored by four solemn anathemas.[11]

As far as the quote from Canon VII, David does not point out that it proscribed a practice that contravened the received and approved practices of the ecclesial magisterium. This is a long ways from the ecclesial magisterium using the power of the keys to loose practices it previously approved of and binding other practices in their place.

There is also another factor with the ancient synods that DP appears to not realize and it is this: the practice of enumerating canons as dogmatic statements was a novelty of the western councils starting with the Council of Trent. Prior to that time, virtually all the canons of the ecumenical councils -particularly the ones held in the Orient- were of a disciplinary nature. This is not to diminish the authority they possessed of course; however for this reason in the vast majority of cases, the same authority that bound them could also loose them. And this fact of history further underscores that far from uncritically shunning novelty, the Church has been much more discerning than DP or his allies seem to want to admit to.

Though we have exposed and confuted all of DP's patristic prooftexts to support his notion that "Tradition rejects novelty", before concluding this piece, let us review David's summary for this section of his essay.

Right faith (orthodoxy) and right practice (orthopraxy) are thoroughly intertwined.  One had good reason then, as now, to question the Eucharistic faith of someone who would treat the vessels of consecration as ordinary cups and plates.  The practice in certain Protestant sects of dumping leftover cups of grape juice or wine into the garbage is a direct and logical outgrowth of their staunch belief in the Real Absence at their services.  The flipside is that the Catholic belief in the Real Presence leads naturally not only to taking certain precautions with the consecrated elements, but also with the vessels in which they were contained.

This writer does not disagree with DP's statements above; however the principle he outlines is worth noting here in brief. For just as someone has good reason...to question the Eucharistic faith of someone who would treat the vessels of consecration as ordinary cups and plates at the same time, one has good reason to question the good-will of those who fail to "preserve their communion with the Church at all times, even in their external actions" (Can. 209 §1). Church history as well as Tradition embodies the principles that it is necessary to take account of the common good of the Church as well as the rights of others and their own duties to others. This principle is not only enshrined in the Church's Law (see Can. 223 §1) but it is also suffused throughout the spiritual instructions of the masters in the Catholic tradition. Furthermore, many of the religious orders have Constitutions which are heavily based on this principle. To enumerate one example, this writer attends mass and other functions at a Dominican Parish and Priory. The Dominican Order has as its governing Constitution the ancient Rule of St. Augustine -part of which reads as follows on the subject of the common good:

[C]harity, as it is written, is not self-seeking (1 Cor 13:5) meaning that it places the common good before its own, not its own before the common good. So whenever you show greater concern for the common good than for your own, you may know that you are growing in charity. Thus, let the abiding virtue of charity prevail in all things that minister to the fleeting necessities of life. [12]
And as someone who places the common good before their own preferences is growing in charity  then of course someone who places their own preferences before the common good is diminishing in charity. Since the vast majority of Catholics (i) supported the liturgical reforms prior to and after promulgation of the Revised Roman Missal and (ii) even today are not interested in the Tridentine liturgy, what does that tell us of the internal forum of those who strive to railroad others into accepting their preferences over the preferences of the multitude???

Accompanying the ancient maxim noted above is the fact that Church history and Tradition attest to the competent ecclestical authority possessing the authority --an authority that implies right-- to regulate, in view of the common good, the exercise of rights which are proper to Christ's faithful (see Can 223 §2). Likewise, those who fail "to show Christian obedience to what the sacred Pastors, who represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith and prescribe as rulers of the Church" (Can. 212 §1) have no grounds for complaining when they are suspected of either schism or of fomenting schism.

After all, those who engage in making statements in the external forum -or publishing articles or other statements in the external forum- which in any way cast derision on (i) the teachings of the Church's Magisterium (ii) the directives of the Church's Magisterium or (iii) sanction explicitly or tacitly the right to disobey such teachings and directives, are clearly not in keeping with these laws. Indeed, the Canon Law in referring to external violations states unambiguously that "in the event of an external violation, imputability of fault is to be presumed"  (Can. 1321 §3). For this reason, and in light of the other principles noted above, those who question the faithfulness to the Church of those who fail in the points noted have a good reason for doing this. But lest this be misunderstood, a quick summary may be of assistance here so that is what the author will do at this time.

To be above suspicion of infidelity to the Church, faithful Catholics are required (i) even in the external forum to not engage in actions which would cause others to question their submission to the Church and (ii) to obey what the Church's Bishops -particularly the Holy Father- declare as teachers of the faith or prescribe as rulers of the Church. While not accusing DP personally of contravening these areas, there is not the slightest hesitation in indicting his allies at The Remnant  for this and not merely for the past few years but since at least the 1970's. (This writer has old copies of The Remnant  from as far back as the 1970's and the writers who wrote for that periodical even at that time were as a rule clearly manifesting a schismatic mentality.)

So in short, those who wonder why people who affiliate with The Remnant are not as a rule treated as loyal Catholics, there is a good reason for this and has been for a long time. Thus it is and has been customary to view them in light of what is noted above as dissidents. Far be it from this writer to endorse the novel notion that they are faithful to the Church's Magisterium.

As the Church's faith is more precisely defined, certain of her customs and practices develop to reflect that fuller understanding.  So, for example, there was a veritable explosion in the practice of Marian devotion following the definition of the dogma of Mary as Theotokos at the Council of Ephesus in A. D. 431. This is a natural and traditional response to a solemn doctrinal definition by the Church's magisterium. 

This is true.

As the authors of TGF rightly point out, traditionalists are not (or at least are not supposed to be) immobilists.  There is such a thing as a legitimate change in Church practice or observance, just as there is such a thing as legitimate doctrinal development. 

Of course who judges whether or not a development is legitimate or not is the same authority that DP's allies "withhold obedience" to. Whether David himself does this or not is something that the author is not certain of and will not opine one way or the other on. However, his affiliation with The Remnant  is certainly a factor that is not in his favour here.

But, as several twentieth century Popes taught, it is characteristic of adherents to the modernist heresy to pine for imagined simpler, gentler times, to leap over the intervening centuries of doctrinal and practical development and try to recapture an earlier form of faith and practice.  Even with its appeal to the practice of earlier times, this is actually but another form of harmful novelty and is indicative of a defective understanding of the Catholic Faith. 

These are profoundly simplistic assertions being made by DP here.

When, for example, we attend a funeral in the all-too-common Catholic church denuded of all statuary, sporting a table-form altar, a “Resurrection Jesus” in place of a crucifix, and served by a priest decked out in vestments of any color but black—all examples of false antiquarianism laid out by Pope Pius XII in his encyclical Mediator Dei—we know instinctively that there is almost certainly some problem with that priest’s faith. 

This is ridiculous. Pope Pius XII made it very clear in Mediator Dei  that individuals who repined for -or sought to implement such things- apart from the existing (at that time) laws of the Church were deserving of rebuke. And he was right. However, when the Magisterium itself allows for such things, there is nothing whatsoever wrong with those who utilize them. And the magisterium in doing so is no more guilty of "false antiquarianism" than Pius XII was when he restored Holy Week to the manner whereby it was celebrated nine centuries earlier. The same principle is at work here: those who would have sought to restore Holy Week in the same manner themselves would have been engaging in false antiquarianism. However, those who did so with the sanction of the magisterium -as Pius XII gave in the 1950's- would not be guilty of false antiquarianism at all.

As far as the Churches being stripped of icons, this does not give anyone a viable reason to question the priest's faith in and of itself. For many things were paraded about in the 1970's which were done "in the spirit of Vatican II" which the Council not only did not endorse but even explicitly rejected. It is not possible to know whether this priest David refers to went along with such proposals out of ignorance or not. Therefore, those who would place an unfavourable interpretation on the faith of such a priest are the ones who are in need of some serious spiritual instruction from the Catholic tradition, not those who presume a priori the good-will and solid faith of the priest in the example DP noted.

Similarly, at the time of the iconoclast heresy one had good reason to suspect the right faith of a bishop who refused to consecrate a church using relics and this is true even if it could be shown that somewhere, sometime in the distant past bishops regularly consecrated churches without relics.

There is no similarity here whatsoever. David notes a clear example of contravening a Church mandated practice; by contrast the former example of his is not necessarily so.

Now it is clearly not contrary to divine law to consecrate a church without the use of relics.  But in the face of an heretical denial of propriety of the veneration of relics, failure to use them represents a novel and condemnable breach with venerable custom. 

This is correct, but not for the reasons that David presumes. The failure to consecrate churches without the use of relics was condemnable because it was a breach of longstanding practice which had acquired the force of law. (And was formally sanctioned as such by Nicaea II.) If at any time of the future, the Church's Magisterium were to allow for such things, there would not be just cause for a faithful Catholic to make such assertions.

An example of this practice in the past was the Popes during the periods when Manachaean heresy was rampant requiring the faithful under pain of sin to communicate under both forms. Though communion under both forms was the predominant manner of communicating prior to the thirteenth century, at the same time communion under one form was also at times utilized. (For example, when deacons made sick calls or when the faithful took the Eucharist with them on long journeys or to their homes the communion was in the form of bread only.) But to separate the wheat from the chaff on this, the Popes made it a requirement to communicate under both forms at mass: because the Manachaeans believing that wine was evil would thereby expose themselves. But today at a Tridentine liturgy, no one but the celebrating priest receives the cup - indeed only with the Second Vatican Council was the cup again allowed to others at mass except for the celebrating priest. The principle behind this is the same one that constantly eludes the self-styled "traditionalist" and causes them to be patently schitzophenic in their logic.

DP is almost certainly aware that at Council of Constance, the magisterium fixed the form of reception by all at mass except the celebrating priest in the form of bread only. So obviously the Council loosed what previous Popes had bound. Again, the power given by Christ to Peter and to the Apostolic College as a whole was one of binding and loosing. The problem that David and his allies have is recognizing the power to loose - much as the so-called "progressives" fail to recognize the power to bind.

To paraphrase Mr. XXXXXXXXX, these novel deviations from perennial custom are wrong, are condemnable, precisely because they suggest that the Tradition is wrong. 

This writer knew it was only a matter of time before DP would make an incontrovertible confusion of Tradition and tradition. If nothing else, DP is to be commended that it took him this long to do it but it was inevitable that he would eventually.

And the council fathers of Nicea II took such a breach with “tradition-custom” so seriously that they prescribed deposition from the episcopate as the due penalty.

The reader should not see anything in this except the need to fortify practices that upheld doctrines at a point in time when said doctrines were being denied - and often violently so. (Much as the Popes in earlier periods prescribing under pain of mortal sin reception from the cup at mass.) There is nothing in the canons of Nicaea II which are of an absolutely immutable nature. And the ecclesiastical traditions which the Council required all to adhere to encompassed both the doctrines as well as the laws of the Church. But the self-styled "traditionalists" today who do not accept the doctrinal resolutions of the last ecumenical council  or the magisterium of the last four popes -to say nothing about the laws promulgated by said authorities- are functionally no different than the Iconoclasts who fell under the anathemas and prescriptions of Nicaea II. The error is not the same of course but the fatal flaw in their methodology is one that any ancient Iconoclast or pseudo "reformer" would recognize as their own.


[1] St. Augustine: "Epistle 54, Chapter 5, No. 6" (c. 400 AD)

[2] St. John Chrysostom: "Homilies on the First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, Hom. vii, v.14 (ante. 407 AD)

[3] St. Vincent of Lerens: "Commonitory" Chapter VI on "The Example of Pope Stephen in Resisting the Iteration of Baptism" (c. 434 AD)

[4] St. Vincent of Lerens: "Commonitory" Chapter XXIII on "Development in Religious Knowledge" (c. 434 AD)

[5] St. Vincent of Lerens: "Commonitory" Chapter XXIII on "Development in Religious Knowledge" (c. 434 AD)

[6] St. Vincent of Lerens: "Commonitory" Chapter XV on "Heretics Appeal to Scripture That They May More Easily
Succeed in Deceiving" (c. 434 AD)

[7] Pope St. Leo the Great: Epistle 10, no.1 (c. 445 AD)

[8] Pope St. Leo the Great: Epistle 10, no.1 (c. 445 AD)

[9] Pope St. Leo the Great: Epistle 19, no.1 (c. 448 AD)

[10] Pope St. Gregory the Great: Epistles, Book VIII, Epistle 34 (ante. 604 AD)

[11] Second Sacrosanct Synod of Nicaea: Definition of Faith; Canon VII (c. 787)

[12] The Rule of St. Augustine: Chapter V,3 (c. 400 AD)

Other Notes:

The citation from St. Augustine's "Epistle 54, Chapter 5, No. 6" was obtained at the following link:

The citation from St. John Chrysostom's "Homilies on the First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians" was obtained at the following link: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/220107.htm

The citations from St. Vincent of Lerens "Commonitory for the Antiquity and Universality of the Catholic Faith Against the Profane Novelties of All Heresies" were obtained at the following link: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3506.htm

The citations from Pope St. Leo the Great's "Epistle 10, no.1" were obtained at the following link:

The citation from Pope St. Leo the Great's "Epistle 19, no.1" was obtained at the following link:

The citation from Pope St. Gregory the Great's "Epistle 34" was obtained at the following link:

The citations from the Second Sacrosanct Synod of Nicaea's "Definition of Faith" and "Canon VII" was obtained at the following link: http://www.piar.hu/councils/ecum07.htm

The citation from the "Rule of St. Augustine" was obtained at the following link:

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