“Tunc et Nunc” is Latin for “Then and Now.”
Above are two images taken from screenshots of Marc Balestrieri’s web site, DeFide.Com. The first was taken Tuesday morning before I went to work. The second was taken Wednesday evening after I got home from work. They are different in significant respects and will convey markedly different impressions to the typical reader. They also illustrate the problem of how Marc Balestrieri dug the hole he is presently in.
Tunc: Mr. Balestrieri advertised Fr. Cole’s letter as “the Vatican’s Response“–a statement that will convey to the ordinary reader’s mind that it is a formal, official response from the Vatican.
Nunc: Mr. Balestrieri advertises the same letter as “the Vatican Requested Theologian’s Response“–a statement which will convey to the ordinary reader’s mind that it is the reply of a theologian who wrote at the Vatican’s request (though it does not completely dispel the idea that this is a formal, official reply).
That shift is a good thing. Balestrieri had to stop representing the letter in such a misleading way.
Unfortunately, the misrepresentation was obvious at the time . . .
Tunc: The address at the top of the letter reads: “Fr. Basil Cole, OP, STD; Dominican House of Studies; 487 Michigan Ave., NE; Washington DC 20017-1585.” This makes it clear that the letter is not a Vatican reply but the reply of an individual theologian.
Tunc: Fr. Cole says in the opening paragraph of the letter: “I receive a request from the Very Reverend Augustin DiNoia, OP, the undersecretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to respond unofficially to your dubia [questions; lit., “doubts”] . . .” This makes it clear that the letter is not an official Vatican response, as would be suggested to the ordinary reader by advertising it as “the Vatican’s Response.”
Tunc: In reply to the questions posed by Mr. Balestrieri, Fr. Cole replies: “My response ad Ium [“to the first”]: Affirmative. . . . My response ad IIum [“to the second”]: Affirmative.” This makes it clear that these are the replies of an individual theologian (“My response . . . My response”) and not “the Vatican’s Response.”
Most unfortunately, a press release labeled NEWS RELEASE No. 2 (hereafter, “Tunc“) was issued October 18th which contained multiple seriously misleading statements:
Tunc: Its headline read “SEN. JOHN KERRY “EXCOMMUNICATED,” ACCORDING TO VATICAN RESPONSE”–suggesting that the Vatican issued a response indicating that Sen. Kerry has been excommunicated. This is an extremely grave misrepresentation as the headline of the press release frames the way the matter will be portrayed in the press and may be the only thing about the piece and individual sees or hears.
Nunc: One reads the entirety of Fr. Cole’s response [.PDF WARNING!] and finds no mention at all of Sen. Kerry.
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Tunc: “A Los Angeles based expert in Canon Law . . . announced Friday on EWTN’s the World Over Live with Raymond Arroyo that an important Vatican congregation has given an unprecedented boost to his case for heresy against presidential candidate John Kerry.” This conveys the impression that the CDF (“an important Vatican congregation”) has directly commented on the case involving Sen. Kerry.
Nunc: In a press release with the snarky title “A REPLY TO THE VATICAN” (a.k.a. NEWS RELEASE No. 3″), Balestrieri states: “I explained to Fr. Funes [at the CDF] that I was a Canon lawyer submitting these dubia strictly seeking a theoretical clarification of the two issues concerned, and confirmation of the conclusions of my research. No names were ever mentioned in the conversation” and “At no point in time, moreover, was any request for further information about those circumstances made to me.”
* * *
Tunc: “Mr. Balestrieri, Director of De Fide, said the Response was written by the Reverend Fr. Basil Cole, O.P., an expert theologian based in Washington D.C., who was delegated by the Undersecretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Very Rev. Fr. Augustine di Noia, O.P., to formally respond.”
Nunc: Balestrieri says: “I sincerely hope that in publicly denying any “official” or formal emanation of the text from the Vatican, which had never been claimed, that certain individuals not risk their salvation . . .” (NEWS RELEASE No. 3).
* * *
Tunc: “The Response is significant in that it represents the first time in modern history since Roe v. Wade in 1973 that such a clear reply is given to the Catholic faithful.” This suggests that the response was written to a broad audience of the faithful.
Nunc: One reads in Fr. Cole’s letter that: “I receive a request from the Very Reverend Augustin DiNoia, OP, the undersecretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to respond unofficially to your dubia . . .”
* * *
Tunc: “Drafted under the auspices of the official Vatican Congregation with competency to decide doctrinal questions, it is entirely unambiguous”–suggesting to the ordinary reader that the reply is official even though that word isn’t used.
Tunc: “Rev. Basil Cole, O.P., contacted Balestrieri to inform him of his delegation to answer the two questions. Three days later, the written Response was issued.” This again suggests that it is an official reply to the mind of the ordinary reader.
Tunc: “The Response holds that the dogmatic force of the two propositions is ‘manifest,’ a term not lightly used by any theologian. This means that one is dealing here not with a matter of a theologian’s personal opinion, but with two core non-negotiable Articles of Faith. The Response, therefore, is ‘official’ and binding in that it simply restates infallible teachings of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium . . .”
Tunc: “The extensive detail of the response, decisively clarifying the matter was unexpected. Normally, only a bishop may request such clarification of doctrine from the CDF [which is a dicastery of “the Vatican”] and receive an official reply.
Nunc: A press release titled “A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS” (a.k.a. NEWS RELEASE No. 4), Balestrieri states: “It is clear that neither De Fide nor I never [sic] stated that that the response received was an ‘official’ document of the Vatican.”
* * *
Tunc: “The Response goes even further in specifying that any baptized Catholic who publicly states, ‘I’m personally opposed, but I support a woman’s right to choose,’ is in fact presumed by Canon Law to be guilty of heresy, with the burden of proving that he is not shifted to the violating politician.”
Nunc: One reads Fr. Cole’s letter and finds no mention whatsoever of the burden of proof. (Balestrieri is extrapolating from something the document does say but this does not change the fact that the document does not say what he claims.)
* * *
Tunc: “Such responses usually take a much longer time to be received, and they are rarely made public.” This suggests that the CDF made the “response” public.
Nunc: “The theologian said explicitly that I was free to publish the document ‘to the whole world if I wanted to'” (NEWS RELEASE No. 3).
The above examples represent portions of Balestrieri’s Monday press release that would misrepresent the nature and conent of Fr. Cole’s letter to the mind of an ordinary person. There are other statements in this press release concerning canon law that are incorrect or weird. Nevertheless, it appears from the above misrepresentations–identified from the text of Fr. Cole’s letter and Balestrieri’s own press releases–that Fr. DiNoia of the CDF would have ample grounds for regarding Balestrieri as having misled him and Fr. Cole regarding the use he was planning to make of Fr. Cole’s letter.