Now this is a tragedy because in the moment in which – no, it is not only the discussion itself; it is also their whole activities which come out in such discussions – they are in danger of being cut off. And this means that the condemnation of Augustinianism in the Jansenistic struggle is like a sword over every form of spiritualized Catholicism that is a threat against changes going on there.
Now the last problem I want to mention is Probabilism – that which is probable.
Probable are opinions, given by authorities in the Roman church, about ethical questions. The Jesuits said: If an opinion is probable, then one is allowed to follow it even if the opposite is more probable! Now this means that in ethical respects, you have no autonomy – of course not; that’s something the church would deny radically. You always have to follow the guidance of the Roman priest, of the confessor especially. But the confessor himself has many possibilities. Since he himself has not to talk to you in the power of his spirit, but has to talk to you on the basis of authorities, of the Fathers, these authorities always contradict each other, or at least are different. So he can advise you something which is probably right, in an ethical act, but it may be more probable that other things are right. But if he can find an acknowledged authority of the Church which has said something about a problem – even if it is not very safe, even if other things probably seem to be better – you can follow it Now the result of this doctrine was a tremendous ethical relativism and laxity, chaos, and this of course was very advantageous in the 18th century, in which the church followed the new morals of bourgeois society, which was in the development, by making the ethical demands relativistic. Of course this was so abused that finally a reaction arose in the Roman church.
Alphonse Liguori – a name which you will often read – reacted against it, but he himself really didn’t overcome, because he also says that it is not I who can decide, but my confessor must decide. And how can the confessor decide? Finally the principle of the probable triumphs.
Another development connected with this was that now every sin becomes a venial sin. And here again Jesuitism and the bourgeoisie – the greatest enemies – went together in taking out the radical seriousness which the Jansenists and the early Protestants maintained.
This is the situation. Much more can be said about present-day Catholicism. I said a few things about it yesterday, about the way in which the last decisions of the Pope have continued this line. Let me refer to one decision which is not known so much as the decision about the bodily ascension of the Holy Virgin. This was a previous encyclical of the Pope in which he said things which went even beyond what was said in the Vaticanum about the infallibility of the Pope. In the Vaticanum the infallibility referred only to statements ex cathedra, I. e., if the Pope officially, as Pope, makes a statement of dogma or ethics. But in this encyclical of 1950, he made statements about philosophies, and sharply directed his statements against existentialism. In these statements he said that if after many considerations the Pope has decided that a philosophy is unsound, then no faithful Catholic can work in the line of this philosophy any more.