Have you heard the hearsay that it was heard from Pope Francis himself that Pope Francis thinks that there cannot possibly be anything any more utterly boring than Fundamental Theology? If he truly said something along those lines, it’s not that that’s a lie, though I would say that it is disingenuous, which is how Pope Francis once described himself.
On the one hand, he might well think that studying Fundamental Theology is utterly boring. On the other hand, he might well think that steering the course of Fundamental Theology is entirely enthralling, an adrenaline rush even. So, that leaves us with two questions: (1) What exactly is Fundamental Theology; (2) Is it legitimate to steer the course of any theology apart from the expected sources of theology, to wit: Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the infallible Magisterial interventions of the Church (this apart from the added help of the Fathers when they agree)?
(1) What exactly is Fundamental Theology?
Good question. It seems to me that Fundamental Theology is an illegitimate however popular tract of theology effectively created by the progressivist liberal minded almost sarcastic manualist Father Adolphe-Alfred Tanquerey (1854-1932), a Sulpician “Thomist” [not in my opinion] and Canon Lawyer [who combines a bit too nonchalantly morality and law perhaps that there might be an opening for a loophole for anything…]. People think he’s ultra conservative and therefore “right” because he wrote in Latin and before Vatican Council II. A very famous canon lawyer once insisted that that is in fact the case about everything written in Latin before the Council…
Because his not simply distilled but actually reductionist manuals with their wild innovations were easily used as a kind of collection of cheat-sheets for exams in the seminary, he was treated as a kind of god who was always right and could not possibly ever be critiqued (an attitude betraying a weak mind that is afraid of thinking, at attitude utterly un-Thomistic). I’m hoping Tanquerey is not among the ossified manualists held up by some. That would simply be wrong. He’s not ossified (how very un-Thomistic!), but rather slimey, goopy, yucky. Although Tanquerey taught in these USA, surely laying the foundations for making Saint Mary’s in Baltimore the horror that it later became, he also influenced seminaries right around the world, including that of Jesuit scholastic efforts. Even Jesuits like progressivist liberal cheat-sheets.
The Common Doctor, that is, Saint Thomas Aquinas (a Dominican mind you), not Tanquerey the Sulpician, did in fact brilliantly contrast divinely given faith as opposed to our assent to the faith, that is, by way of Theology. In this clarity, Sacred Tradition is manifest for what it is, the univocal supernatural revelation of the articles of faith to the soul by the Holy Spirit such that in consequence the content of the faith to which we assent by way of the conscience seems to be handed on almost as if by hand, but it is not, as this is indeed the work of the Holy Spirit. That conscience is free to decide is a total misunderstanding of how the conscience operates.
At any rate, for Tanquerey, merely exterior and historically occasioned manifestations of this Sacred Tradition (which is a distinction which must be kept [see the Council of Trent’s reference to quasi per manus]), such as with doctrinal Conciliar decrees, are seized upon by Tanquerey and then equated with the much more fundamental, if you will, work of the Holy Spirit, so that the mere listing of Magisterial interventions throughout the centuries is somehow equated with Sacred Tradition (which is absurd) and then rejected altogether by the lockstep consequence brought to bear by the likes of Father Bernard Lonergan, S.J. (a Jesuit of course), who trumpeted the psychological and otherwise historically conditioned circumstances in which the now presumed merely human handing on of the faith occur, making it seem quite impossible that divine revelation is not over time morphed by political correctness and the general weakness of mankind. Lonergan is another of the gods of the liberals, whereby no truth is possible as no truth is personal (an irony of relativism if there ever was one). By the way, Lonergan had a kind of think-tank, shrine even, at the Casa Santa Maria, where I once lived (the post-grad priest residence in Rome of the USCCB. It was under lock and key, kind of like a tabernacle, you know, because there is no absolute truth other than the absolute truth of Lonergan that there is no absolute truth.
(2) Is it legitimate to steer the course of any theology apart from the expected sources of theology, Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the infallible Magisterial interventions of the Church?
I’m opining that Pope Francis loves his attempt to steer the course of Fundamental Theology, so that the historically conditioned circumstances even within sinful “structures (in that view)” can manifest God’s love regardless of whatever is said in Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the infallible Magisterial interventions of the Church.
I’m guessing that this manipulation of Fundamental Theology by Pope Francis by way of exercises in the field hospital that is Church is not seen by him as adding something to the sources of theology in that what he trying to pay attention to is the love of God that would be crucified for us, that would enter the hospital, as it were, for us. The last thing I would want to say is that Pope Francis is insincere, however much he calls himself disingenuous.
Yet, it must be said that this appreciation of Jesus in those who have suffered the malfeasance of recalcitrant catechists (clerical or religious or lay) so that they suffer from having no formation in the faith, is an appreciation of Jesus which is off the mark, forcing that imaginary Jesus (the “Jesus of Faith” utterly cut off from the “Historical Jesus”) upon patients in the field hospital instead of Him who is right now both the Historical Jesus and the Jesus of Faith, right now the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Rejecting free will and grace makes for a Fundamental Theology which, however adrenaline pumping, is simply an expression of that which is, for all intents, constructions and purposes, none other than Pharisaical casuistry that is Promethean, Neo-Pelagian, and, inasmuch as this depends on oneself as an overriding source, also self-absorbed and self-referential and that which ensures that instead of sharing the joy which is the Person of the Lord who IS Truth, one instead keeps others cast into the darkest of existential peripheries, picking them up from their stretcher at the Triage center of the field hospital and throwing them right back into the violence and smoke and fire and darkness of the peripheries. I say this in all peacefulness and charity as a son to a father. Is that permitted?
In the end, after the adrenaline has worn off, and the faith is no more, what’s left except perhaps some illegitimate sexual experiences for example, you know, the kind spoken about in Amoris laetitia, the kind pushed in Malta and Germany and…
Error is what is boring especially after popularity wears off. And sex out of place also becomes boring, which is why it leads, as Saint Paul says in Romans 1, to violence and yet more violence.
I could well be wrong. On the one hand, Pope Francis lets Amoris laetitia slide along with truly anti-Catholic guidance by Charles Scicluna and others. On the other hand, he holds their conclusions to be wrong in other circumstances with other people. What does Pope Francis really think? I don’t know. He promised on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Synods of Bishops to make a kind of ex-Cathedra conclusion about the controversies. He certainly has not done this to date. Why not? Good question. Here’s what I wrote about that, what I think is all we can know, and that’s not much: