Monday, December 16, 2013

Divergent cases of “development of doctrine”

the “living Magisterium” still has time to “reformulate”!
the “living Magisterium” still has time to “reformulate”!
Over at Darryl Hart’s Old Life, there has been a long and wide-ranging discussion that’s talked about Ignatius of Antioch and his concept of the authority of bishops, how the actual doctrines of the “priesthood” and “hierarchy” have changed over time, as our historical understanding has sharpened its focus.

I’m re-publishing my comment here, with some minor modifications:

A commenter there who goes by the name Cletus van Damme said, in response to my statement, “According to Trent, you must have the full-blown thing [priesthood and a bishop-priest-deacon hierarchy] by “divine institution” and “from the hand of Christ”:

Similar language is used in Vat1. That same council affirms notions of development in the section where it cites Vincent, and Pius IX himself affirmed development as well in other statements/teaching. Saying something has “always been believed” or “always been taught” does not negate development. It’s like saying the Church has always believed/taught the Trinity. That doctrine obviously developed. All doctrine, no matter at what stage of development, was divinely given by Christ – it is part of the apostolic deposit.

In response to another comment “Papal infallibility has either always been taught or it hasn’t”, you said:

Essence has. PI [“papal infallibility”] developed. That’s why Vat1 uses language of both always believing as well as development. Not mutually exclusive, and you get close to that with “You might make the argument that it doesn’t contradict what the church has taught before” – what the church taught/believed before was the essence.

In the first place, the doctrine of the Trinity is articulated in full-blown ways in the New Testament, whereas the doctrines of “priesthood/hierarchy” and “papal infallibility” have been found through a process of exegesis and history not to have existed in the New Testament (or for many centuries afterward). So you’re crying “development” as a process and you want that concept, undefined as you have left it, to apply to widely diverse concepts in the same way.

Furthermore, what you’re saying is that “Trent and Vatican 1 used ‘similar language’ to discuss that Jesus himself ‘divinely instituted’ multiple things, some of which underwent different and wildly divergent processes in order to arrive at the “correct” understanding (we think? – the “living Magisterium” still has time to “reformulate”!) that Vatican II has espoused on all these things.

[With Trent, it was “the priesthood” and “the hierarchy”, and with Vatican 1, it was talking about “the papacy”.]

First of all, Trent DOES NOT mention the topic of “development” at all. Trent (and Rome’s polemic following Trent for the next three centuries) was all about semper eadem -- “always the same” – and it was very clear to articulate that the “priesthood/hierarchy” were “visible” and “external”. No development was allowed for at Trent or during those following centuries.

Second, look at the actual citation from Vincent of Lerins at Vatican 1: May understanding, knowledge and wisdom increase as ages and centuries roll along, and greatly and vigorously flourish, in each and all, in the individual and the whole church: but this only in its own proper kind, that is to say, in the same doctrine, the same sense, and the same understanding.

Aside from the fact that Newman was known in the 19th century and the concept of “development” was floating about in the broader intellectual culture, Vatican I had a reason to say something about “understanding, knowledge, and wisdom increasing”. That fit their scheme. Vatican I was attempting to dogmatize a concept that had only been around since the Middle Ages – so they want a “seed concept” to “grow into a tree”.

However, to allow for “development” with respect to Trent’s teaching on “priesthood/hierarchy” is to introduce many convolutions into the story.

Trent was affirming a thing about the hierarchy that Rome had been affirming since the 4th century. But look at what the concept of “increasing understanding” does to the dogma that was espoused at Trent:

The understanding and articulation of the doctrine of the hierarchy from the Middle Ages through Trent and through Bossuet said: Priesthood and hierarchy: instituted full-blown by Christ

Later, the understanding and articulation of the doctrine of the hierarchy from Vatican I through Vatican II: Priesthood and hierarchy: Spirit-guided process to “develop” the “priesthood and hierarchy” through the second century

So you are actually claiming several kinds of “development” here. First, with Vatican II, that the priesthood/hierarchy “developed” over the first four centuries. Then you are saying that the retrograde understanding at Trent (“full-blown divine institution from the hand of Jesus”) was a “development”. Then there was a mere allowance of “development-by-association” (Vatican I used similar language and they allowed for “development”) – and then finally, the understanding [forced by an increasing knowledge of history] back to the understanding of the process that Vatican II articulated.

Now, there was a guy named Frank Ramirez on the Internets some years ago. He went by the name “Kepha”, and he had a blog entitled “Conscious Faith”. Now, let’s try to put the “conscious faith” through the paces, just briefly – the church lived through “the development” of “priesthood/hierarchy” in the first through the fourth centuries; in the fourth century, the understanding “increased” to understand that “priesthood/hierarchy” were given by divine institution by the hand of Jesus, as affirmed by Trent. Then at Vatican I, they allow that “development occurs” by which “understanding, knowledge and wisdom increase as ages and centuries roll along”, and then at Vatican II, they finally understand that the “external” and “visible” concepts of “priesthood/hierarchy” were only conceptually “external” and “visible”.

Alongside of that symphonic movement, you have the doctrine of “papal infallibility”, which, rising from a position of not having any articulation at all through the 12th century, then rising, rising through the Middle Ages, a subject not mentioned by Trent, to its “full-blown divinely-instituted by Jesus yet somehow developed”.

Meanwhile, you have a church understanding that all along was “divinely protected from teaching error”, even while you have diametrically opposed concepts being articulated – and consider that the “conscious faith” of many of these people, for centuries, really being discounted in order to uphold the concept that “development” occurred.

To Cletus van Damme, I’m asking you, do you at least see why the Reformed folks here would not want to buy into such a story?

Keep in mind, people died for opposing the teaching of Trent. Do you really expect us to say, “Oh yeah, the allowance for development … that makes it all make sense”.

I know you simply articulated this as a quick comment in an ongoing discussion. But that is just a wild gyrating movement from the first four centuries through Trent through Vatican I through Vatican II, on the topic of “priesthood/hierarchy”. Perhaps when you have time, you could show us, in the actual documents (and the Magisterial documents alone have the “authority” – not your “interpretation” of them), precisely how and when this “development” occurred, and what was the least bit rational about such a thing.

Your phrase “uses language of both always believing as well as development” raises a number of questions.

You may or may not know, that theologians who are providing advice to the “infallible Magisterium” are having great difficulty doing that very thing. Consider just one theologian (whose work is outlined at this link), who is having great difficulty reconciling Vatican I to Vatican II:

The development from Pastor aeternus to Lumen Gentium, from speaking of the bishops as the episcopate to speaking of the bishops as “a college...or a college of bishops” (collegium ... seu corpus episcoporum), is far more considerable than a simple semantic shift. “Episcopate” is somewhat more abstract than “college of bishops,” and it fails to express the dynamic relationship of the bishops among themselves… (pg 77).

Just wait until you’ve got to take into account a millennium’s-worth of Orthodox (and Oriental) bishops who have been slighted.

By no means is that the only problem which the college of bishops initially poses. Lumen Gentium, no. 22, did not include in its description of the Episcopal college the local churches of which the bishops were shepherds and representatives. If one fails to place this section within the context of Lumen Gentium no. 23, one would have an understanding of the college of bishops without the simultaneous and explicit recognition of the communion of churches, indeed, without mention of local churches at all. The perspective would remain that of a universalist ecclesiology, and the college of bishops would read as if it were primarily a governing board of the whole Church (80).

Then there are “the vital relationship between the bishop and the local church within which he is to represent the leadership and the sanctifying presence of Christ” (81) … and the Apostolic Tradition which “insists that the bishop is to be chosen by all of the people and that this selection is to be approved by the assembled [local] bishops and elders (86). Buckley writes, in summary:

Two questions arise in this context. Whether the present settlement actually detracts from the full vigor of the episcopate and whether papal restoration of ancient legislation on the selection of bishops and their stability within their sees could contribute significantly to the strengthening of the episcopate and the local churches today. Could the apostolic See further effectively its responsibilities simply by restoring what has been taken [or, what the papacy has usurped for itself] over the centuries? This would be to retrieve in a very different way that papal leadership whose bent was the strength and freedom of the local church. Neither problem is an easy one to resolve, but both merit serious study and each touches upon both components of this essay (94).

Michael J. Buckley, S.J., “Papal Primacy and the Episcopate: towards a relational understanding,” New York: Crossroad Herder, © 1998, from the “Ut Unum Sint” series.

This is the Magisterial consideration of just two documents. What do you think happens when someone traces “development” of “priesthood/hierarchy” from the early church through Trent through Vatican I through Vatican II?

No comments:

Post a Comment