One of the things I like about this work, “How Can the Petrine Ministry Be a Service to the Unity of the Universal Church?”, is that it’s a “snapshot” of the current discussion going on in the “high-level discussions” that are taking place in conjunction with “official” Rome. It’s real-life; major theologians are discussing real issues as they really are.
This work itself is described as preliminary, but the “ecumenical discussion” has continued to meet on a regular basis, and it is noted in the preface that another “dialogue document will be published with their conclusions in the near future.”
Keep in mind that these are theologians, not “the official magisterium,” and so, we are likely to see some suggestions here that won’t be adopted.
But in that regard, it’s interesting to note the things that are agreed upon, at “high levels”, and the things that are still open for discussion.
I’ve been chastised for relying on the work of various scholars – the name Peter Lampe comes to mind, but Eamon Duffy, Raymond Brown, and “liberal” scholars (especially “liberal” Roman Catholic scholars). But I’ve already cited both a Roman Catholic insider Archbishop and a Lutheran scholar saying things that I’ve said for years. “The East never shared the Petrine theology as elaborated in the West.” There are “clear historical gaps” in the “unbroken succession” language claims of various Roman doctrinal statements. These things should no longer be in question, even for the most “enthusiastic” Roman supporters. Stories of an “sacramental priesthood” going back to Christ and the New Testament are just that – stories. Fiction. Fantasy. Make-believe. Those Roman Catholics among you who have “gone home” because of these stories need to rethink your motives.
Further, John P. Meier, a leading Catholic Biblical scholar, makes the statement, “A papacy that cannot give a credible historical account of its own origins can hardly hope to be a catalyst for unity among divided Christians.” So the implication is that, until this point, the papacy has not given a “credible historical account of its own origins.” I’ve been saying that as well.
One wants to ask, yet again, why is the infallible church in a position, after many centuries, not yet in a position to “give a credible historical account of its own origins.” The accounts that it has given are “not credible.” Not believable. Wrong. Fabrications.
“The Historical Facts Are Not Disputed”
And Herman Pottmeyer, another individual who’s been involved in these discussions for years, noted, “Anyone who wishes to come to an understanding of the papal ministry cannot avoid dealing with the history of this ministry. The historical facts are not disputed, but their theological evaluation is contentious.”
For me, there is a sense of vindication from this. Rome has been floundering over this topic. But really now, there was not a “bishop of Rome” until late in the second century. And the Eastern Orthodox never did accept the Roman understanding of the authority of the Bishop of Rome.
Those items are now “not disputed”.
On the other hand, this work gives the appearance of a kissy-faced love-fest. The fix is in.
The discussions are being held at a virtual resort center, the International Bridgettine Centre in Farfa Sabina, “located in the idyllic village of Farfa in the Mountains of Sabina, surrounded by forest clad hills, vineyards and olive groves – around one hour’s drive northeast of Rome and a similar distance from Fiumicino Airport. It is housed in buildings that are part of a massive complex that since early medieval times formed part of an important Benedictine monastery that for centuries was one of the most important monastic centres of Western history.”
So it’s a resort. Rome is wining and dining these individuals, with the hope of persuading them to “see things our way”.
The real work of this effort is the “theological evaluation” that is going on. They are talking about a “re-reception” of Vatican I. The “maximalist” interpretations of Vatican I are clearly what’s causing the ecumenical angst. Could not Vatican I be “re-interpreted” according to a hermeneutical principle that is not so offensive to our Orthodox and Protestant colleagues?
What they are doing here, is throwing out the conscious understanding of 1000 years or more of papacy. It is being “re-received”. Whatever that means.
Let’s do a thought experiment. When I say “ the historic papacy,” what do you think of? The papacy of the middle ages? Pope Leo I, with Roman Law underpinning his supposed authority? The Donation of Constantine or the “Pseudo-Isidorian falsifications of the eighth century”? Gregory VII (Hildebrand) and his dictatus papae – “the Roman church has never erred; nor will it err to all eternity, the Scripture bearing witness” – Boniface VII and his – “we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff”? The Great Schism? The Borgias and their bribery, nepotism? Vatican I, “perpetual successors”, “constant custom” and papal infallibility ex cathedra?
No, it’s time to throw all of that out. No apologies, just winks and nods all around. Have another glass of wine, my friend. It’s time to have a “re-reception” of Vatican I. Certain “maximalist” “interpretations” that “held sway” for 15 centuries really were mistaken. Not only is the history mistaken, but the theology of it, too, was misunderstood. Wrong. Fabrications.
We need to “find a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission.” We’ve never exercised it properly. We don’t yet know what’s “essential to its mission.” We need to have ecumenical symposia to find these things.
What we are seeing is the new modus operandi of Rome as described by Raymond Brown: “Past statements are not rejected but are requoted with praise and then reinterpreted at the same time.”
Once more with gusto: “Let’s get it right this time guys.”