Charles De Koninck The Certitude of the Assumption Before and After the Definition

(Translated from Laval théologique et philosophique, Vol. VI, No. 2)1 (c) 2013 Bart A. Mazzetti §

1

I have no information on who is responsible for the translation. (B.A.M.)

Charles De Koninck The Certitude of the Assumption Before and After the Definition ______

How is this proclamation of the Assumption [to be taken] as a dogma of faith? Every Catholic, in effect, already believed it. Must one understand that, before the recent solemn definition, the Assumption was not certain? In no way. We already believed it, at least, with the certitude of the infallible faith of the Church. For one must distinguish four radically different degrees of certitude. (a) For us, there is at first natural certitude, like the certitude of the impossibility of something being and not being at the same time and the same respect; the certitude that I have of existing. This is the certitude which is at the beginning of every natural science. For us, this certitude has its foundation immediately in created things, among which we are. (b) In the second place, there is the certitude of theological faith: it is the certitude of truths which God Himself has given to us, such as the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation of the Word, the divine Maternity of the Virgin, his Immaculate Conception, etc. This certitude has its foundation immediately in God, uncreated truth. To the question: “For what reason do we believe these truths?” the Church responds: Quia visum est Spiritui Sancto et nobis—it is the truth that the Holy Spirit revealed, and We have the authority of the giver as such (Acts, xv, 28). If an angel who came from Heaven should announce to you a Gospel other than that which we announced to you, let him be anathema! (Galatians, i, 8). It is the greatest of certitudes. (c) Now, these formally revealed truths can serve as principles from which one can infer conclusions in which certain truths virtually contained in the strictly divine truths are manifested. This is the certitude of theology. The certitude of these theological conclusions is very great, but, in comparison to the certitude of theological faith, it is diminished. For the theologian is certain of these conclusions, not because they are truths which God Himself has given to us, but because the theologian deduced well his conclusions from these divine truths by correctly applying the rules of our logic. Although it be diminished by the mediation of this created truth, one can nonetheless affirm that it remains supernatural by reason of its formally revealed principle. (d) Finally, there is the certitude of the faith of the Church, which one sometimes calls ecclesiastical. The certitude of this faith is founded on the promises of Christ who remains with His Church until the end. He who listens to you, listens to me (Luke, x, 16). As soon as the common good of the Church is involved, its teaching, in matters of faith and morals, and of everything that is tied to it, is infallible—even when it is not concerned with truths proposed as being formally revealed. This is the case of the encyclicals, of theological doctrines approved and proposed by the ordinary magisterium; of “the method, doctrine, and principles” of Saint Thomas. As for the Assumption, it was certain at least with ecclesiastical faith, even before the definition of November 1950. One could say the same thing concerning the universal Mediation of Mary, which also is already certain, at least by ecclesiastical faith.

Thanks to the promulgation of the dogma, we now know that the Assumption of the Virgin Mary is a properly divine truth, formally revealed; certain, then, by theological faith. Hereafter, we know in a very explicit manner that it is a truth which God Himself has given to us. The only doubt of which there could be a question, before the definition, would be of knowing if this truth is formally revealed, or indeed whether we hold it only by the very great, infallible certitude of the faith of the Church. The difference is infinite. Translated from Laval théologique et philosophique, Vol. VI, No. 2.

§

The Certitude of the Assumption Before and After the Definition
(c) 2013 Bart A. Mazzetti. All rights reserved.