Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 74(2) May 2024

Book Review

Bound By Truth: Authority, Obedience, Tradition, and The Common Good.

By Peter Kwasniewski. Published by Angelico Press, Dec 2023

Reviewed by Dr PravinThevasathan

Book Cover - Bound by TruthThe author of this brilliant work is probably the leading apologist on liturgical tradition in the English speaking world. But the book is more than about the liturgy. It asks the question: can a loyal Catholic disagree with the papal magisterium?

The author quotes the famous Catholic theologian Francisco Suarez: "If the pope lays down an order contrary to right customs, one does not have to obey him." One example comes to mind straight away: the blessing of same sex couples.

The great theologians in the history of the Church have assumed that Catholics are capable of recognising when the pope is failing to adhere to the Church's received tradition, when the common good is being undermined. We are not "passive blobs who are waiting to be told" that the pope is saying something contrary to the received teachings of the church. We are not called to grudgingly obey a teaching that is erroneous.

Papal infallibility is limited. The pope cannot go against the constant teachings of the Church on matters of faith and morals. There are times when we have "an obligation of non-recognition and non-compliance" of papal teaching. If the pope says that married couples ought to have no more than two children and the couples believe that are called to have more, they should follow their well formed conscience. If the pope says that the recognition of civil unions for same sex couples is good, we have an obligation to charitably resist him. We have the example of St Paul who defied St Peter.

In the words of St Melitus of Antioch: "Do not show obedience to bishops who exhort you to do and to say and to believe in things which are not to your benefit."

Tradition is received. It is not a "toy of the pope." The great philosophers and theologians of the nineteenth century took it for granted that elected popes will always follow the received tradition. They did not take account of a pope whose teachings are either overtly or covertly contrary to that which has always been taught.

This book reminds us that the job of a pope is to hand down the received faith. Not to make up a new one. The pope should be a figure of unity, not division.