Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A church by any other name-3

Oh wow, I never knew I would get back into these types of silly arguments. But here we go with yet another round of Pontifications:


“46. Apolonio Says:
January 31st, 2006 at 12:21 am

Vatican 1 said that there can be developments (See Sec. 3, ch. 4 nos. 13-14). Also, how does that canon take away development?!?! Read the canon again: “If anyone shall assert it to be possible that sometimes, according to progress of science, a sense is to be given to doctrines propounded by the Church different from that which the Church has understood***and* ***understands*****….” Yes, different from what the Church has understood. Yes, different from what the Church *understands*. In other words, the present moment, the Church of today. I don’t understand how that rules out the idea of the Church’s understanding of a particular doctrine and throughout the ages has developing her understanding of that particular doctrine. So say the Church has always believed in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Then, through development, she speaks of the change from bread to the Body of Christ as transubstantiation. Is this condemned by Vatican 1? Of course not since the conjunction (”understood and understands”) gives way to development. Now, say the a theologian then spoke of the real presence as just some kind of symbol. This is condemned by Vat. 1 because it contradicts what the Church has understood (the real presence) and understands today (development of the Eucharist). Now, can there be a difference between what the Church has understood and what she understands today? Of course. The Church has a better understanding of many doctrines that were not well understood back then.”

Several comments:

i) Who or what is the target of the canon in question? I assume the canon is shadowboxing with the sort of modernism represented by the likes of Tyrrell, Blondel, and Loisy.

It’s of a piece with the antimodernist encyclicals of Pius IX.

ii) Ironically, the church of Vatican II has capitulated to many of the modernist errors condemned at Vatican I.

iii) Sure, the canon uses both the past and present tense (“understood,” “understands”). That doesn’t mean it’s opposing the two, as if what it now understands stands in contradiction to what it used to understand.

It simply retains the right to define it’s self-understanding, in opposition to the redefinition of Tyrrell, Blondel, Loisy, &c.

iv) Apolonio chooses an easy example to prove his point: a doctrinal development from a rather vague belief in the real presence to a more specific articulation in the form of transubstantiation. But there are two problems with this example:

a) None of us has an objection to the idea of logical development, per se. But one of our problems is with other examples which do not fit this linear progression.

b) Even though, in principle, we don’t object to logical development, that is still at odds with the traditional definition of tradition as oral tradition, passed down directly from Christ to the apostles and their successors.

On the traditional definition, you still have no room for internal development. It’s all there, Athenian style, from the get go. It just wasn’t inscripturated at the time.

Even if transubstantiation were consistent with what the church fathers all believed, that is by no means identical with oral apostolic tradition, which would be inherently static rather than dynamic.

v) The other problem is that Apolonio is trying to ride two horses at once. He is trying to graft the Newmanesque theory of development, canonized at Vatican II, onto the Tridentine position, reaffirmed at Vatican I, in which primitive tradition, defined by the unanimous consent of the Fathers, sets the bar.

But if you’re going to appeal to the church fathers as your benchmark, then that carries a chronological cut-off regarding the range of internal development.

This is rather less of a problem for someone like Perry, since there is less internal development on the part of the Orthodox,

But a contemporary Catholic is not entitled to constantly shift gears from a Rahner/Newman school of apologetics to a Stapleton/Bellarmine school of apologetics and back again. For these operate with opposing principles and procedures.

Choose one or the other, but don’t bounce back and forth as though they’re compatible with each other.

And yet the problem facing the contemporary Catholic is that both approaches, however mutually contradictory, enjoy magisterial sanction—depending on the historical period in question.

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