Monday, February 13, 2012

Roman Bait and Switch on “Orders”

In its portrayal of the ordained ministry, the Catechism of the Catholic Church talks about “orders” in the ancient Roman world.

The word order in Roman antiquity designated an established civil body, especially a governing body. Ordinatio means incorporation into an ordo. In the Church there are established bodies which Tradition, not without a basis in Sacred Scripture,4 has since ancient times called taxeis (Greek) or ordines. And so the liturgy speaks of the ordo episcoporum, the ordo presbyterorum, the ordo diaconorum. Other groups also receive this name of ordo: catechumens, virgins, spouses, widows,. . . .

At this point, they give the disclaimer, “(On the institution and mission of the apostolic ministry by Christ, see above, no. 874 ff. Here only the sacramental means by which this ministry is handed on will be treated.)”

Moving back to 874, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, at paragraph 874 says (larded up here with the headers that appear in the text):

Why the ecclesial ministry?

874 Christ is himself the source of ministry in the Church. He instituted the Church. He gave her authority and mission, orientation and goal:

“In order to shepherd the People of God and to increase its numbers without cease, Christ the Lord set up in his Church a variety of offices which aim at the good of the whole body. The holders of office, who are invested with a sacred power, are, in fact, dedicated to promoting the interests of their brethren, so that all who belong to the People of God . . . may attain to salvation.”389

This citation is from Lumen Gentium, so this is a Vatican II formulation. Note here, it was “Christ the Lord” who “set up a variety of offices”. But clearly, Christ did not set up the Roman offices.

What’s going on here?

In Trent’s Decree on Holy Orders, Canon 6 states that there is in the Church “a hierarchy instituted by divine ordination, which consists of bishops, presbyters and ministers.” While this teaching conforms to the idea of existence of such offices from the beginning of the Church, it does not harmonize with the historical facts. The Second Vatican Council’s Lumen Gentium [28] offers a more realistic view based on a more secure historical consciousness and exegesis of Scripture. Here we read “Thus the divinely instituted ecclesiastical ministry is exercised in different degrees by those who even from ancient times (ab antiquo) have been called bishops, priests, and deacons.” Hence in no way does Vatican II affirm that the priesthood was instituted at the Last Supper in the sense understood by Trent (pg 378).

From Edward J. Kilmartin, S.J. (“The Eucharist in the West: History and Theology,” Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, © 1998, 2004 by the Order of St. Benedict. Edited by Robert J. Daily, S.J.)

And of course, I’ve written about this “gap” in the past (John Reumann noted the official discrepancy in official Roman documents):

Biblical and patristic studies make clear that historically a gap occurs at the point where it has been claimed “the apostles were careful to appoint successors in” what is called “this hierarchically constituted society,” specifically “those who were made bishops by the apostles . . .,” an episcopate with an “unbroken succession going back to the beginning.” [64] For that, evidence is lacking, quite apart from the problem that the monepiscopacy replaced presbyterial governance in Rome only in the mid-or late second century.[65] It has been noted above how recent treatments conclude that in the New Testament no successor for Peter is indicated.

See the footnotes:

64. Lumen gentium 20 (Flannery trans., Vatican Council II [Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1975], pp. 371-372; Abbot trans., Documents of Vatican II [New York: Guild Press, America Press, Association Press], pp. 39-40, “the episcopate in a sequence running back to the beginning”). Cited are Iren. Adv. Haer. 3,3,1 = PG 7:848; Tertullian,Praescr. Haer. 32 = PL 2:52f., and Ignatius of Antioch passim.

65. Gnilka 2002, p. 225. Ignatius had no “succession; bishop and presbyter correspond to Christ and apostles, not successors to the apostles (p. 223); the “succession lists” in Rome were of presbyters and bishops (pp. 242-50). (Referring to Gnilka, Joachim. Petrus und Rom. Das Petrusbild in den ersten zwei Jahrhunderten. Freiburg/Basel/Wien: Herder, 2002).

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