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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Holy Pope Liberius -there is a place for reparation

For many years,
I and others,
have thought and spoken badly of Pope Liberius.
Thinking and saying that:

Liberius was the weak Pope;
Liberius, was the first Pope to not be canonised;

Liberius was the Pope who unjustly excommunicated St. Athanasius;

Liberius, was the perfect historical example to use
when you want to justify disobeying the Pope

Recently a friend said to me:
"Well after all,
Pope Liberius unjustly excommunicated St. Athanasius
and it is Athanasius, not Liberius, who is the saint."
This gave us reason to investigate the matter more fully.

Today, 23 September is the ancient feast of Saint Liberius, Pope and Confessor.

Page for 23 September, Acta Sanctorum.

There are many who condemn Pope Liberius
based upon the investigations of historians.
Historians since the 1500's
have tried to piece together an accurate account of history
but there is nothing conclusive
that should condemn Pope Liberius.

How many know that
Pope Liberius was considered a Saint
for over a thousand years?

There is no proof that he signed ambiguous statements in exile.
There is no proof that while in exile he signed anything at all.
There is no proof that while in exile he excommunicated St. Athanasius.

Fathers of the Church who knew him personally
or lived in his time spoke highly of Pope Liberius:
Saint Ambrose, Pope Saint Anastasius I, St. Basil the Great.

There is more that enough doubt on these matters
to regret ever having thought badly of the holy Pope
who suffered exile precisely
the Nicean Creed
and because
he would not condemn St. Athanasius.
Immediately before he was sentenced with exile,
the Emperor Constantius rebuffed him with the sentence:
"You would defend Athanasius against the world!"

There is a lot of evidence in favour of Pope Liberius.
We have decided to gather some of the evidence together
in order to champion his reputation.
The first article has been professionally translated from French.
It was written by the very reputed Church Historian
Fr. Rohrbacher.
It is here:
Holy Pope Liberius Blog

We would like to have the full Acta Sanctorum article translated from Latin.
If anybody would like to help pay for translations
they would be most welcome
would assist us in making reparation

in championing the reputation of Holy Pope Liberius.

Fr. Michael Mary, F.SS.R.


Transalpine Redemptorists said...

To Bill and others concerned from the previous posts:
If you want to contine discussion on these matters you may contact me privately by using the Contact Me button to the left of the screen.
Fr. MIchael Mary

David said...

It is never too late to restore a good man's reputation, especially when that good man is the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you for initiating this unique and salutary project.

David said...

I would add that the F.SS.R. have some of the most beautifully designed Catholic blogs. Someone there on Papa Stronsay is a very talented graphic artist. My compliments!

Transalpine Redemptorists said...

Athanasius: Thank you. I hope you have time to read Fr. Rorhbacher's article; he is considered to be one of the most traditional writers of Church history.

Philip Gerard Johnson said...

A very interesting and informative article!

Anonymous said...

Dear Father,

I have taken your advice and read the work of Fr. Rorhbacher on Pope Liberius, as provided on your blog.

His thesis is certainly provocative, but surely as circumstantial as other works he dismisses in view of their 'after-the-fact' revisionist nature and dependence upon writings of dubious authenticity.

Fr. Rorhbacher writes in defence of Pope Liberius in the 19th century, some 1500 years after his death. So can we say with any certainty that his case for the defence is more substantial than the works of equally eminent Church historians who wrote for the prosecution?

Here are some considerations for you: Of the first 50 Popes who succeeded St. Peter, Liberius alone remains uncanonised. There were 35 Popes before his reign and 15 after who have been declared saints.

If, as Fr. Rorhbacher declares, Popes Liberius was the only one of those 50 Popes to suffer the particular martyrdom of having to stand alone before the entire world, firm in the true Faith against a Church turned Arian, and suffering at the same time very greatly under the Emperor Constantius, and if the people, as Fr. Rorhbacher declares, knew of his bravery and orthodoxy and held him a saint because of it, then why did his successor, St. Damasus I (366-383) choose not to have his predecessor's unique cause introduced?

In fact, why did 12 other saintly successors to St. Damasus also choose not to raise this particularly excellent defender of Catholic orthodoxy to the honour of the altar?

Would Our Lord permit that one who stood so firmly for Him against heresy and injustice should have his memory maligned in the Church for so many centuries? I don't think so.

Even at the time of the cause of St. Athanasius, surely the Church would have considered also this great protector of the saint himself, this great Pope who stood shoulder to shoulder with Athanasius at the time of his persecution? And yet we find this not to be the case.

Hence, I fear Fr. Rorhbacher has raised more questions than he has answered. The jury is still out on Pope Liberius until the Church declares otherwise.

Just another mad Catholic said...

Does anyone think that if Liberius can be 'rehablitated' something similar could happen to Mgr Leferbre? Its just I feel that Traditionalists owe him so much and couldn't a case be made that he and Bishop Castro De Myer were under extreme stress in 1988?

Transalpine Redemptorists said...

You asked: "In fact, why did 12 other saintly successors to St. Damasus also choose not to raise this particularly excellent defender of Catholic orthodoxy to the honour of the altar?"

Of course, precisely, they DID raise St. Liberius (353-366) to the honour of the altar. If you look closely at the picture above in this blog, you will see the Latin inscription: "De S. Liberio Papa Conf." "Of St. Liberius Pope and Confessor". His feast as Saint Liberius was celebrated on 23 September (for over 1200 years!!) until Baronius revised the Martyrology in 1586 & 1589. His removal from the Martyrology was probably a precaution because of the attacks made on the Papacy by Protestants (using the confusing ancient forged letters and Arian writings).

Be absolutely certain that until 1586 Liberius was: Saint Liberius, Pope and Confessor.

The old books of the Saints: the Bollandistes (as above) and the Petit Bollandistes (Vol 9 pp. 324-344) continue to cite Saint Liberius and to defend him against calumny.

There can be no doubt that Pope Liberius was a very holy Pope. He was somewhat returned to his former place of honour wheh he was depicted WITH A HALO in the series of Pope depicted in St. Paul's Outside the Walls, in Rome, under Blessed Pope Pius IX.

Fr. MM

David said...

JamC, I think that the more apt question is whether the followers of Archbishop Lefebvre will "rehabilitate" Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI. The common opinion among Trads is that the "Conciliar Popes" have succumbed, to a greater or lesser degree, to the heresy of Modernism. Does that opinion conform to the facts? May cooler heads someday devote themselves to that question.

Transalpine Redemptorists said...

Athanasius: In brief -
You said: "I have searched in vain for any definitive evidence that Liberius was ever formally canonised by a Pope of the Latin Church. This is odd!"

No it is not odd. The first formal canonization in the Church is in the 900's. Before that first martyrs and then confessors were declared without the complex process that we know. You do not know who formally canonised Liberius? .... but, equally, do you know which pope formally canonised St. Athanasius your patron, or Ambrose or Augustine?

You need to distinguish also between the Eastern Church and the "Eastern Orthodox Church" as you put it, which didn't form until after the Great Schism of 1054.

The recognition of Liberius as a Saint was in the West as well s in the East.
Fr. MM

Trisha in SD said...

Fr. Michael Mary,

Thank you so much for this valuable information on SAINT Liberius. It must have taken a bit of research to dig this out. I will be printing it out, to save for future reference.

God bless all of Pap!

PS - Hope the collars are okay, more are in process.

Transalpine Redemptorists said...

Trisha in SD
Thank you very much for the collars they are greatly appreciated!

You desire to reject the case in favour of Holy Pope Liberius.

(I tried to contact you privately but there is no address on your profile. This therefore is not personal.)

Your remarks are not well thought through and have displayed no sympathy at all for the holy Pope. First you posted without even reading Father Rorhbacher's article; then you try to deny that he was held as a saint and doubt his canonisation; you show disdain for the Eastern Church as if it were separate from the Catholic Church; and seem by hook or by crook to want to take down what we have put up, with considerable effort, in order to champion the reputation of the holy pope.

Please ba assured of our best wishes and of our willingness to hear some more positive reflections.

Fr. MM

thetimman said...

Dear Father,

God bless you for your work and prayers, and for this very interesting post. I have always heard the same things about Pope Liberius, but never investigated it. I figured I didn't know enough of the history to decide one way or the other. The evidence you cite goes a long way, but I think the most important thing is what you pointed out-- there is at least enough to give a Vicar of Christ the benefit of the doubt.

It makes me want to learn more. Thanks.

In Christo Rege

Basil said...

I agree with David.

So many traditionalists need to make reparation for their scandalous attacks on Popes Paul VI and John Paul II. Pope Paul was a saintly man treated with utter contempt, and indeed mockery, by Archbishop Lefebvre.

David said...

Dear Fr. Michael Mary,

What is your opinion of Michael Davies' research on the case of Pope Liberius? In Appendix II of his short biography of St. Athanasius, Davies refutes the Bollandist defense of Pope Liberius, alleging that the Bollandist editors of the Acta Sanctorum contradict themselves in the matter of Liberius' fall. Davies makes no mention of Fr. Rohrbacher. Is Davies referring to the same Acta Sanctorum in which Fr. Rohrbacher's work is included?

Anonymous said...

Dear Fr. MM

With respect, I did not act as you accuse me.

I admit that I did not initially read Fr. Rorhbacher's thesis for the simple reason that I was not aware that it was on your blog. As soon as you pointed out that it was, I read it immediately.

Contrary to your statement, I have very great sympathy for Pope Liberius and I would certainly not discount that he is among the Blessed in heaven. I am fully aware that it is unanimously agreed, and I concur, that even if Liberius had treated St. Athanasius unjustly and gone along with some lesser Arian doctrine under duress, he more than made up for this momentary weakness afterwards.

I do, as you suggest, doubt the legality of his canonisation, which I think also the Latin Church does. It is simply insufficient to claim that his name has been absent from the Roman Martyrology for 400 years as a "precaution" in the light of Protestant accusation against him. This just doesn't make any sense. Nor does it make sense that he appears to have been canonised by the Eastern Catholics and not in accordance with the Latin tradition then existing. I asked you to clarify further on this for reasons of legality, not for any other reason. For example, it may be for this reason that the name of Liberius was removed from the Roman Martyrology.

In fine, I accept that Liberius was a valid Pope of the Church, that he may well be a saint and that there is even a case to argue that he was not, in fact, guilty of those failings in which he stands accused.

I do not accept, however, that Fr. Rorhbacher's thesis in defence of Pope Liberius is any more conclusive than those of other equally eminent historians who declare otherwise. There is simply insufficient and sufficiently reliable historical evidence from the period to state either way for certain.

The final point I made, but which you did not publish, concerned the parallel drawn by some traditional Catholics today between St. Athanasius' position under Liberius and that of Archbishop Lefebvre under Pope John Paul II.

My point is this. Even if Pope Liberius did excommunicate Athanasius, and even if he did sign a semi-Arian document, he did so under duress, not from conviction.

Pope John Paul II, like Pope Paul VI before him and Pope Benedict XVI after, have embraced religious freedom, religious liberty, ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue, all of which doctrines are infallibly condemned by the Church.

They have adopted these errors by personal conviction, not under duress, and it is precisely for this reason, and by reason of the 1969 Lutheran-leaning new Mass, that a "state of neccesity" continues to exist in the Church.

Hence, the case of Pope Liberius is really not pertinent to the position taken by Archibishop Lefebvre, who acted with heavy heart to preserve the sacred priesthood at a time when Pope John Paul II was calling together the religions of the world for a syncretist prayer meeting in Assisi and sitting in the Synagogue of Rome with head bowed reverently as the Jews sang a hymn praying for the coming of the Messiah!!

You and I have exchanged correspondence by email before, Father, but maybe you had forgotten my real name. I would much prefer that we continue this debate on your public forum, but if you wish to do it privately then I would advise that you dig out our old mail messages or contact me through the editor of the Catholic Truth blog:

God Bless

Martin Blackshaw

Transalpine Redemptorists said...

Dear Friends
Sorry I had too much on over the weekend to be able to give my mind to your comments; some of them quite complex.

The purpose of the post was to give some voice to the other side of the story about Pope Liberius which can be supported; it has a strong case; and it has been supported, by very fine historians.

Therefore, there is nothing to be lost, and perhaps something to be gained in putting forward the positive side of the story. I would like to put more of them up as time goes on.

Surely there is something amiss with the desire to strongly insist on the guilt of Pope Liberius when it does not have to be done.

It is easy to say "perhaps"
and it is more just to do so since, nobody really knows.

However, as you may know, this matter of the guilt of Liberius is a Sacred Cow for some of us since it has been the foundation of drawing other historical parallels.

Be that as it may, I would like to make the positive side known since Liberius suffered much for the Church and Our Lady appeared to him AFTER his return from exile. This is a fact that I have not seen factored in when his story is being related.

David: I have the little work of Michael Davies but it will take me too long to give my thoughts on it here and now. (I did the other thing that you wanted.) Reading Michael Davies I do not think that he was an neutral as he hoped to be in the opening lines. He made a mistake when he said that Liberius was only once cited in the Roman Breviary on the feast of St. Eusebius. No, Liberius is also mentioned for the feast of Our Lady of the Snows; a fine inclusion that supports esteem for the holy Pope.

Brief I can't say more, I have no more time.

Yes, I think that we should give the benefit of the doubt whenever possible, especially to a Pope. It helps raise the tone of charity, mercy and prudence a little.

Sorry if I picked up the wrong message from your posts.
Your views are different from mine; but I was pleased to read your positive views on Pope Liberius.

BASIL: I think we'll have to limit comments here to Pope Liberius.
I don't know who has the blog for reparation to Pope Paul VI.

Best wishes to all.
Fr. MM

David said...

Athanasius, how do you know what John Paul II was thinking as he sat there in the synagogue? Do you actually think that he was assenting to the Jewish prayers for the coming of the Messiah? Is it not more reasonable to assume that he was praying for the SECOND coming of Our Lord? I don't much care for Popes visiting synagogues and I'm no fan of inter-religious dialogue, but you read too much into John Paul II's gesture.

Fr. Michael Mary, thanks for posting the link to my blog!

Transalpine Redemptorists said...

I can't publish these remarks since they are a second round on the subject of the Pope in the Synagogue which puts it off the topic of Pope Liberius.
Fr. MM

Anonymous said...

Dear Fr Michael,

What about Cardinal Newman who said that Pope Liberius was guilty of a grave neglect of duty? Newman was certainly a very learned historian and greater than Rohrbacjer who is known to be a Church historian whose apolegetic aims tends to override his objectivity. Here for example is what the old Catholic Encyclopedia says "Written from an apologetic point of view, the work contributed enormously to the extirpation of Gallicanism in the Church of France. Though at times uncritical and devoid of literary grace, it is of considerable usefulness to the student of history." And if Traditionalists have covered the case with a point to prove so did Rohrbacher. So much so that he laboured to prove something that has no bearing on the eventual definition of papal infallibity.

Mike O'Leary said...

I am 69 years old and has been blessed by serving at mass dureing the 40tys and 50tys.I am very greatfull for my spiritual geneology which came from my great grandparents and grandparents from Ireland switzerland and germany after the reformation.Now since 1965 ew are enduring another reformation I am happpy to say that I will soon be part of the redemptorist perpetual mass association along with my parents ,children and 16 grandchildren.I can now wait for GODS CALL KNOWING THAT the mass of calvary will be offered to GOD for me.I will be able to rest in peace

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