Friday, April 20, 2018

Cajetan and His Continued Relevance

A student who is something of an expert on Cardinal Cajetan sent me a brief essay that I found very edifying and relevant for Catholic believers soldiering forward nowadays in this valley of tears, so I thought I'd share a portion of it:

"Cardinal Cajetan’s life spanned the reigns of various popes: Paul II; Sixtus IV; Innocent VIII; the infamous and scandalous Alexander VI; Pius III; the violent and artistic Julius II; the worldly and nearly-poisoned Leo X, who created Cajetan a Cardinal; the pious Dutchman Adrian VI, whom Cajetan helped get elected; and Clement VII, who ostracised Cajetan from the Roman Curia, allowing him to begin his monumental commentary on Sacred Scripture. Having experienced the papacy of nine very diverse and some of the most (in)famous popes in history, Cajetan calmly and objectively theologized and expounded the Church’s doctrine on papal primacy and infallibility. His doctrine grounded the dogmatic formulation of Vatican I.  

            Cardinal Cajetan suffered much during the Sack of Rome in 1527. Though the accounts vary, it seems certain that he was taken hostage by the Sackers and paraded around Rome mounted backward on an ass, completely naked. 

            His only recorded comment on the Sack is very revealing. He had the first two chapters of his commentary on the Gospel according to St. Matthew written before he fled to Gaeta immediately after the Sack. In chapter five of that same Gospel, he interprets the Sack as a just chastisement from God, especially upon the Roman clergy: “Now we—the prelates of Rome—experienced in a special manner, the plunder, pillage and captivity, not by infidels, but rather by Christians according to the just judgment of God; for we were chosen to be the salt of the earth, and we have become insipid and useless except for external rites and actions. We were swallowed up bodily in the sack and captivity of the whole city" (Cajetan, In Matth.,V.13, 24a).

            The good Cardinal, often labeled as an anti-Reformation polemicist, sees the Reformation forces as mere instruments of God’s justice. The primary cause of the Church’s suffering was a lack of holiness and integrity within. 

            In Gaeta, just less than a year after the Sack, commenting on Luke 18, 8—“when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?"—Cajetan made this dire observation: 
This passage makes me apprehensive that the falling away of Christian faith, of which we are the witness—something not in its initial stages but far advanced—will not be remedied but will continue to spread. I am not a Prophet, nor am I the son of a Prophet, but we seem to be traveling headlong towards the fulfillment of this text. A great part of the world is certainly Mohammedan and the small part left to Christians is filled with so many heresies, schisms, and abuses that the number of true believers now seems very small. Now I call true believers those who profess the Christian faith both in words and deeds."

No comments: