Wednesday, February 06, 2013

When History and Philosophy Collide

Paul Bassett asks, “Will the real Council of Nicaea Stand Up? At issue are Roman claims that somehow “papal ratifications of dogmatic canons issued by general councils [are] meant to bind the whole Church”. Paul challenges this notion by providing some actual historical commentary.

On Nicaea, he quotes Bryan Cross as saying that Arianism had to give up its quest precisely because “the visible Church made this decision at that Council by way of the magisterium of bishops in communion with the episcopal successor of the Apostle Peter.”

I’ve already written about the laughable claim that any “episcopal successor of the Apostle Peter” had anything at all to do with this council.

Paul takes Bryan to task not only for his bad grammar, but for this notion:

I take his meaning to be this: the Arians at Nicaea were officially repudiated as a result of the decision of the unified “magisterium of bishops in communion with the episcopal successor of the Apostle Peter.” In other words, it was Rome’s authority that saved the day. Leaving aside the discussion about how the pope never attended the council and that his legates were minority figures there and the more important point that it was the secular emperor, Constantine, who ratified the whole thing the question I have is whether Catholics at the time of the Reformation would have come to the same conclusion using the same historical information.

And, indeed, they did not.

Citing accounts of kings of France and Spain at that time, he notes that the relationship between “church and state” was “precisely the opposite” of the account that Bryan gives. It was Constantine who ratified Nicaea, and it was the kings of Europe upon whose toes the popes stepped at the time of the Reformation:

”This new pretended Council has sought to deprive the King of France of his ancient honour by subjugating him and preferring another [the Pope] to him. This other was elevated to his position long after the institution of the Crown of France, which delivered him from the pagans and the Saracens and installed the Catholic faith by means of the succours and victories of Charlemagne and the Franks.”

The Spanish Inquisition was essentially an organ of royal power, one of whose functions was to ‘protect’ the Spanish Church from influence by outside agencies, including the papacy. Hence the domination of the Church by the crown was perhaps more comprehensive in Spain during the sixteenth century than in any other Europe state, including those with a Protestant, Erastian system.

Until that time, “Nobody looked to Rome for decisions on doctrine or ecclesiology and the Roman position held sway only in those cases where it happened to coincide with that of the secular ruler.”

The payoff:

But here we come to the interesting question: How are Catholics today to resolve the obvious contradiction between what Bryan Cross thinks the Magisterium is and how Catholics in the 16th century viewed it?

If we adopt Bryan’s view, we look to the Magisterium defined as the pope of Rome and the bishops in communion with him. But that system did not exist at all during the Reformation. The bishops of each country were beholden to their sovereign leader, not the pope. So a 16th century Catholic would have nowhere to go. But if we use the 16th century system of appealing first to the King, then the modern Roman Catholic is left with no court of appeal. So the Interpretive Paradigm [IP] of Bryan and his friends would disenfranchise large portions of their own sect depending on only the time in which it is applied!

So the irony is that Bryan Cross actually proves Mark Galli’s thesis. The “Catholic” church at the time of the Reformation did not, in fact, need a magisterium as defined by Bryan. And that is obvious because the Church existed and the Magisterium did not.

We don’t need no magisterium – indeed.

Soli Deo Gloria

When history and philosophy collide, the so-called “Catholic IP” loses.

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