Wednesday, July 25, 2007

"Who gave the reformers the authority?... Let's assume for the moment that the Church WAS seriously off the rails in 1517 and that it HAD become apostate. Now we will make ANOTHER huge leap of faith (or personal opinion) and ASSUME that Luther WAS actually led by the Holy Spirit and that all of the "stuff" that HE taught was the Truth. This of course REALLY, REALLY leaves ALL Protestants in a VERY difficult situation. Each one must decide among all of the conflicting Protestant doctrines and choose a Church which most closely teaches what they want to be taught. They must choose from even the conflicting Protestant versions of Salvation." [source]

I was just reading how Catholic apologist Scott Hahn claimed that original sin in some sense was Adam's failure to protect the Garden of Eden, and that Satan appeared in the garden as a dragon. Catholic apologist Robert Sungenis blasted him for this, strongly disagreeing.

Catholic apologist Gary Michuta believes that certain books not included in the current catholic canon, yet included in the Septuagint, may be canonical, or possibly not, because Trent left particular books undecided as to their canonicty. The New Catholic Encyclopedia and the Catholic Catechism though think the list is fixed.

I have read how Catholic apologist Art Sippo stated there is not a fixed Roman Catholic position on the doctrine of predestination. No wonder Jonathan Prejean recently stated, "[Adam] had already put his lot in with Satan against God, setting his will in unnatural opposition to God's predestination of his nature, which is what produces death in patristic theology just as a natural consequence." Predestination of nature? What?

And then Catholic apologist Gerry Matatics say the church is in a “last days” crisis. Gerry holds the great majority of Catholics have been swept away by great deceptions in last 40 years, particularly ecumenism. He says, forget the papacy- It’s up to Catholic layman and lay-groups to preserve the “true” Catholic faith handed down from the apostles. Of course, this view isn't shared by other Catholic apologists.

What about Catholic scholar Hans Küng? He rejects the doctrine of papal infallibility. He remains a Roman Catholic priest.

I could go on and on.

The truth of the matter is that Roman Catholics are united on very little. Each exercises excessive amounts of private interpretation, often contradicting Catholic teaching, or other catholics, while at the same time saying things like, "ALL Protestants in must decide among all of the conflicting Protestant doctrines and choose a Church which most closely teaches what they want to be taught." The fact of the matter is, Catholics don't have infallible interpretations on the great majority of Scripture, and even if they did, they would still disagree with each other on how to interpret that infallible interpretation. I tire of the charade that Catholics are united in belief. This is nonsense. If you're going to use such an argument- you are left with a very difficult situation. You make a charge against Protestants that likewise, when applied to your own particular sect, refutes your particular sect.

11 comments:

pilgrim said...

"they would still disagree with each other on how to interpret that infallible interpretation."

I have brught this up & never had it answered. All they do is add an extra layer. You are right it deosn't solve anything.

It also ignores that if we misinterpret the Bible, it's not God's fault, it's our own.

Carrie said...

I really don't want to be mean, but I am starting to wonder if Catholicism attracts people with low reading comprehension. Even when you confront them with facts (like quotes in context) they still don't seem to understand and keeping arguing their unsubstantiated points.

It is all very perplexing.

Tim Enloe said...

The phenomenon that this post highlights is exactly why I have largely withdrawn from the apologetics wars on the Internet.

The interesting thing is that Catholic scholarship doesn't mess with all the goofy stuff that Catholic apologetics does. And that's because Catholic scholarship is aimed at people who know how to think about their faith, not people who only know how to be obtuse Truth Warriors inhabiting a besieged Fortress.

theo said...

My brothers and sisters:

Indeed when we Catholics say "ours is a united Church," one can easily argue the contrary by simple observation of outbreaks of heterodoxy: some of which, such as so-called "liberation" theology stretch beyond the bounds of allowable diversity to condemnable heresy. Jesus' prayer that we should be one even as He and the Father are one has not yet been fulfilled.

Nevertheless, I must be bold in my honest and candid observation that the degree of unity regarding the teaching of principal doctrine within the Catholic Church is astounding when compared with the combined ecclesiastical communities of our separated brethren.

For example, were we to poll 10,000 Catholic priests selected randomly throughout the world, asking each individually to describe "sacraments" and their meaning, virtually all 10,000 would list the same seven sacraments and agree upon the meaning and form of each. In fact, those few who might answer in any significantly contrary means would be rare enough to be newsworthy. Imagine the reaction if some parish priest announced that Marriage can be a sacrament between two people of the same gender, or announce that the Eucharistic prayer of consecration is a fraud, and Christ is not really present when he prays it. If the number of deviant answers reached 5%, I imagine the world would describe it as an overt schism.

If we honestly contrast the notion of posing this same question to 10,000 Protestant ministers of the Gospel selected randomly throughout the world. We would find a split between those who profess that sacraments even exist and those who profess they don't. Among those who teach they exist, there would be hundreds of teachings about what constitutes a "sacrament." Among those groups who teach agreeing definitions of what constitutes a sacrament, each would hold several definitions of the list of sacraments. Among those groups agreeing on a list, we'd find great differences about what each sacrament means. Would any five out of one hundred agree on all accounts? Perhaps.

Realistically, we know that among practitioners of the Catholic faith, some deny its fundamental teachings if not by proclamation, by action. In this sense, your observations are "spot on." We can no more claim unity than can any denomination. However, regarding teaching, I find no comparison. the degree of Catholic unity in doctrine is remarkable when compared with that of Protestantism.

As one who greatly respects his Protestant brothers and sisters, who are constant vehicles of God's blessing and champions of His Gospel, I do not put these thoughts forward lightly. I also do not offer them (as some might) as indictments of Protestant devotion to God's truth and zeal for the Gospel as each understands it.

Humbly submitted by your servant and brother in Christ,
--Theo

GeneMBridges said...

If we honestly contrast the notion of posing this same question to 10,000 Protestant ministers of the Gospel selected randomly throughout the world. We would find a split between those who profess that sacraments even exist and those who profess they don't.

What you'll find is that there is a difference without much of a distinction, since those who say they are "ordinances" and not "sacraments" also believe that they are means of grace. This is true even among Baptists. You've overstated your case.

Among those who teach they exist, there would be hundreds of teachings about what constitutes a "sacrament." Among those groups who teach agreeing definitions of what constitutes a sacrament, each would hold several definitions of the list of sacraments. Among those groups agreeing on a list, we'd find great differences about what each sacrament means. Would any five out of one hundred agree on all accounts? Perhaps.

Of course, this would only be relevant if the sacraments were useful for dispensing saving grace. That's a Lutheran argument and perhaps an argument that Anglo-Catholics might find of note. The Reformed churches and their Arminian children don't hold that view and uniformly reduce the sacraments or ordinances to two and only two. Lutherans don't say there are more than two either, and when we all talk about "sacraments" one knows we are talking about baptism and the Lord's Supper. Again, you've vastly overstated your case.

So, you've selected a view that means what exactly? Why is the view of the sacraments significant at all?

For that matter, in the Reformed churches, on the Lord's Supper, you have the Zwinglian view and the Calvinist view. That's hardly a great level of disagreement. Then there's the Lutheran view, which is remarkably uniform.

Then there's baptism, but the Lutherans and the Reformed branches of Protestantism have always differed. Aside from those holding the Federal Vision, a very small minority in Presbyterianism, exactly what is the difference on baptism among Reformed Protestant Paedobaptists?

Then, of course, you have the Baptist view, but that is remarkably uniform. The only major controversy among Baptists on baptism of note is the difference between the Landmarks, who say baptism is also "the door to membership in the church" and the non-Landmarks who say that no unbaptized person may be admitted to local church membership but do not place the actual purpose of baptism where the Landmarks do.

As to groups like the Campbellites, we regard most of them as heretical, since they deny justification by faith alone and affirm a form of baptismal regeneration that is unlike the Lutheran view. Oneness Pentecostals are denied for similar reasons. So, to arrive at your view, you'd have to include groups that cannot be said to provide a credible profession of faith to a Protestant. You'd have to equivocate over the meaning of the term "Protestant" such that it would include groups who are simply
"not Catholic or Orthodox."

Your case strikes me as greatly overstated, for Protestants are not really more disunited than the Ante-Nicene church or the Early Church Fathers on many issues.

theo said...

Gene Bridges wrote:

"Your case strikes me as greatly overstated, for Protestants are not really more disunited than the Ante-Nicene church or the Early Church Fathers on many issues."

Dear brother Gene,
Naturally I do not believe my point is overstated; however, I also acknowledge my bias is pronounced and obvious.

As for whether modern Protestantism's disunity is on par with pre-Nicean Christendom as taught by the church fathers, I credit your point in that the variety of doctrinal schools of the time were far greater in number and range than post Nicea; after all, addressing this was the main reason for the council. Still, though we see great variety prior even concerning some fundamental teaching, the Church simply wasn't around long enough, neither did it have population enough to generate the phenomenal variety of doctrine we see among modern Protestantism.

As I said, this is not an indictment: One should *expect* greater diversity over many centuries of growth and increase in practitioners from the thousands to the millions over the past 500 years. Rather what is remarkable is the degree of Catholic unity given growth from hundreds to over a billion souls in 2000 years.

Still, even if we consider the sheer demographic impact of two thousand years' growth, two important distinctions appear between the diversity of second-century Christendom and the diversity of twenty-first-century Protestantism.

Distinction 1:
The fathers appealed to the authority of the Church to settle these disagreements. Yes they supported their arguments with scripture and the opinions of their predecessors, but they depended upon the Church to rule.

Distinction 2: The fathers then submitted to the Church's authority based upon its direction, as we see by the post Nicean period.

The post-Nicean period saw a remarkable uniting in doctrine and authority within the Church proper even though individuals held disparate views. The unity of that period was such that centuries later a mere dispute over one word in the Credo, "Philioque" was considered so wide a gap in understanding that it led to a full schism.

In my opinion, this does not line up with modern Protestantism, where one could not imagine all Protestants appealing to the same authority, let alone subsequently submitting to it.

I remain your humble servant and brother in Christ,
--Theo

Carrie said...

In my opinion, this does not line up with modern Protestantism, where one could not imagine all Protestants appealing to the same authority, let alone subsequently submitting to it.

Not exactly. Protestants all appeal to scripture as their final authority and submit to it. Despite some minor differences on non-essentials, the fact that Protestant denominations are as unified as they are is a testimony to the legitimacy of our authority.

Catholics on the other hand are only unified because they say they are all unified. Obviously, if your authority comes from one man whom you must be in full submission to in order to remain a "Catholic" what else could you be but unified. Those who are not in unity are no longer true members - cults can boast that same type of unity.

But just barely scratch the surface and you will see that the millions who consider themselves Catholics are theologically all over the map. So who exactly is in unity with each other?

I would change the example that Theo gave from sacraments to the gospel. Ask 10,000 priests how to get to heaven and I bet you'll be lucky to find much of a consensus.

Anyway, I never understand why Catholicism is always compared to the whole of Protestants. If we considered Catholics just a denomination, then Presbyterians, Baptists, Reformed, etc. would be much more unified than Catholics are to anybody else on the most important issue of salvation. Although Catholics are unified with the Mormons, EO, and Jehovah's witnesses on the "one true church" and "infallible interpreter" ideas...

Mathetes said...

"Nevertheless, I must be bold in my honest and candid observation that the degree of unity regarding the teaching of principal doctrine within the Catholic Church is astounding when compared with the combined ecclesiastical communities of our separated brethren."

But you're completely missing the point of the argument. It's not enough to say that Catholicism has a greater degree of unity, but that Catholicism has complete unity and certainty for believers. It's not enough to show that Protestants are in a leaky boat, but that Catholics are in a leak-proof boat. That's the point of the original argument, that Protestants are hopelessly lost at sea without the superior certainty of Rome. But yet, when we set our sights on Rome, they really only give you (supposedly) a greater *degree* of certainty. Not infallible certainty, not irrefutable certainty, but "somewhat more". Yet, in the original post, we're told that "this of course REALLY, REALLY leaves ALL Protestants in a VERY difficult situation".

"For example, were we to poll 10,000 Catholic priests selected randomly throughout the world, asking each individually to describe "sacraments" and their meaning, virtually all 10,000 would list the same seven sacraments and agree upon the meaning and form of each....If we honestly contrast the notion of posing this same question to 10,000 Protestant ministers of the Gospel selected randomly throughout the world. We would find a split between those who profess that sacraments even exist and those who profess they don't. Among those who teach they exist, there would be hundreds of teachings about what constitutes a "sacrament." Among those groups who teach agreeing definitions of what constitutes a sacrament, each would hold several definitions of the list of sacraments. Among those groups agreeing on a list, we'd find great differences about what each sacrament means. Would any five out of one hundred agree on all accounts? Perhaps."

1) Again, as Gene pointed out, I do not believe you've done your homework on this. Can you quote any Protestant confessions or prominent theologians to that effect?

If you're going to make a claim that there are these huge doctrinal differences on the sacraments within Protestantism, then you bear a burden of proof.

2) Even worse, however, is that you're comparing apples to oranges. You're essentially comparing a denomination (the Roman Catholic Church) to a rule of faith (sola scriptura). So this prejudicially stacks the deck in your favor.

For the comparison to be accurate, you would need to either compare a denomination (Roman Catholic Church) to another denomination (say, Reformed Baptist or Free Evangelical). In such a case, the Protestant denomination is much, much more united than the Roman Church is. Especially when you consider the other things Catholics disagree about:

- whether the creation record in Genesis 1 and 2 is literal or myth
- which brand of predestination should be subscribed to
- whether or not they should believe that the Bible contains errors
- whether or not Mary is seen as the Mediatrix of all graces, and if so, whether she should be viewed next to Christ facing the church or next to the church facing Christ
- whether or not Vatican II should be considered an infallible council
- whether Roman Catholics should believe in evolution or special creation
- in partim/partim or material sufficiency
- whether papal infallibility extends only to ex cathedra papal statements and ecumenical councils, or whether synods such as Hippo and Carthage are also infallible
- which Greek text type (Byzantine or Eclectic) is the correct Greek manuscript

Or, you could choose to compare one rule of faith (scripture + infallible interpreter) with another rule of faith (sola scriptura). But again we see that denominations that hold to the first rule of faith (Catholics, Mormons, Eastern Orthodox, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc.) have *way* less unity than denominations that hold to sola scriptura (say, Presbyterian and Baptist) - even to the point of calling each other heretics. Yet, a Presbyterian can walk into a Baptist church and still share much, much more in common. You can only win by shuffling all the aces to your own hand.

"Realistically, we know that among practitioners of the Catholic faith, some deny its fundamental teachings if not by proclamation, by action. In this sense, your observations are "spot on." We can no more claim unity than can any denomination. However, regarding teaching, I find no comparison."

As Steve Hays once put it: On this view, we should only judge the Catholic church by what is stands for on paper, and not what it stands for in practice. Any amount of practical deviation can be discounted. If the Pope and the Prefect and the whole College of Cardinals were heretics, preaching and teaching heresy, and appointing heretical bishops all over the world, the Catholic church would still be a true church--would be, indeed, the true church--as long as we could classify their heretical views as private opinion. Any degree of apostasy can be discounted as long as that can be catalogued and filed under private opinion.

Now, speaking for myself, although I'm not alone in this, a denomination is responsible, not only for its creed, but for its conformity to the creed. What is a confessional church that is not answerable to its own confession? If its members, and especially its leaders, are not held to account for their practical deviation from the creed, then the creed is an empty formality. It does nothing to direct or constrain the actual life of the church. The members pay lip-service to the creed, but then say and do whatever they please irrespective of the creed.

Is there no relation between orthodoxy and orthopraxy? Do these exist in airtight compartments?

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2005/06/split-personality-catholicism.html

"Rather what is remarkable is the degree of Catholic unity given growth from hundreds to over a billion souls in 2000 years"

This simply ignores arguments to the contrary. What you're is pleased to call “the Church” is simply his church, the Church
of Rome. Your church is simply a local church which, over time, became a denomination with delusions of grandeur. The church of Rome is not the universal church. The 1C church of Rome was
simply one local church among many. And it was not even the most important local church. That distinction obviously went to the church of Jerusalem. Indeed, the 1C church of Rome wasn’t even one church, but a collection of
semiautonomous house-churches (Rom 16:5)

"Distinction 1:
The fathers appealed to the authority of the Church to settle these disagreements. Yes they supported their arguments with scripture and the opinions of their predecessors, but they depended upon the Church to rule."

Actually, they held Scripture as the highest authority, to which all were answerable:

I should not, however, introduce the Council of Nicea to prejudice the case in my favor, nor should you introduce the Council of Ariminum that way. I am not bound by the authority of Ariminum, and you are not bound by that of Nicea. By the authority of the scriptures that are not the property of anyone, but the common witness for the both of us, let position do battle with position, case with case, reason with reason.” (Augustine, Answer to Maximinus, Part I, Vol 18)

“Better far that I should read with certainty and persuasion of its truth the Holy Scripture, placed on the highest (even the heavenly) pinnacle of authority, and should, without questioning the trustworthiness of its statements, learn from it that men have been either commended, or corrected, or condemned, than that, through fear of believing that by men, who, though of most praiseworthy excellence, were no more than men, actions deserving rebuke might sometimes be done, I should admit suspicions affecting the trustworthiness of the whole 'oracles of God.'” (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers 1, Volume I, Letters of St. Augustin, Letter 82, Chapter 2.5)

“But I am afraid that we do not observe them well, do not read them with attention either, because there is less guilt in not reading the Holy Scriptures than in violating them after having read them. To be sure, the other nations either do not have the Law of God, or they have it in a weakened and maimed way, and, therefore, as I have said, they have it in such manner that they do not have it at all. For, if there are any barbarian nations who in their books seem to have the Holy Scriptures less interpolated or torn into shreds than others, nevertheless they have them as they were corrupted by the tradition of their old teachers. Therefore, they have tradition rather than Scripture. They do not keep what the truth of the Law teaches, but what the wickedness of a bad tradition has inserted.” (Fathers of the Church, Vol. 3, The Writings of Salvian, The Presbyter, The Governance of God, Book 5.2, p. 129 – 130)

“Concerning the Hearers: that those hearers who are instructed in the Scriptures should examine what is said by the teachers, receiving what is in conformity with the Scriptures and rejecting what is opposed to them, and that those who persist in teaching such doctrines should be strictly avoided.” (Basil of Caesarea, The Morals, Rule 72)

“And after a little again he draws the inference that the Scriptures owed their origin to the divine providence, asserting as follows: 'For we know that God enjoined these things, and we say nothing apart from the Scriptures.'” (Clement of Alexandria, Book VI, Chapter XV)

“Silence! Silence on such blasphemy. Let us be content with saying that Christ died, the Son of the Father; and let this suffice, because the Scriptures have told us so much. For even the apostle, to his declaration – which he makes not without feeling the weight of it – that 'Christ died,' immediately adds, 'according to the Scripture,' in order that he may alleviate the harshness of the statement by the authority of the Scriptures, and so remove offence from the reader.” (Tertullian, Against Praxeas, Chapter 3)

“And now, what we have drawn from the authority of Scripture ought to be sufficient to refute the arguments of heretics.” (Origen, De Principiis, Book II, Chapter V.3)

“And yet the divine Scripture easily convicts and discloses the frauds and artifices of the heretics. For if it were thus only, 'The Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore that Holy Thing which is born of thee shall be called the Son of God,' perchance we should have had to strive against them in another sort, and to have sought for other arguments, and to have taken up other weapons, with which to overcome both their snares and their wiles; but since the Scripture itself, abounding in its heavenly fullness, divests itself of the calumnies of these heretics, we easily depend upon that that is written, and overcome those errors without any hesitation.” (Novatian, A Treatise Concerning the Trinity, Chapter 24)

"Distinction 2: The fathers then submitted to the Church's authority based upon its direction, as we see by the post Nicean period."

There are numerous counterexamples to disprove this:

According to Socrates Scholasticus, Rome never definitively resolved the Easter Controversy: “Moreover the Quartodecimans affirm that the observance of the fourteenth day was delivered to them by the apostle John: while the Romans and those in the Western parts assure us that their usage originated with the apostles Peter and Paul. Neither of these parties however can produce any written testimony of what they assert. But that the time of keeping Easter in various places is dependent on usage, I infer from this, that those who agree in faith, differ among themselves on questions of usage...And among various nations there are other usages, for which innumerable reasons are assigned. Since however no one can produce a written command as an authority, it is evident that the apostles left each one to his own free will in the matter, to the end that each might perform what is good not by constraint or necessity.” (Socrates Scholasticus, Ecclesiastical History, Book V, Chapter 24)

Pope Stephen was overruled when he tried to assert authority as a Bishop over Bishops: “Stephen had condemned Cyprian as 'false Christ, false apostle, and practicer of deceit,' because he advocated re-baptism; and the Bishop of Carthage reciprocated in kind. Since the headship which Stephen claimed was unwarranted, by the example of St. Peter, he could not force his brethren to accept his views. Even worse, his judgment opposed the authentic tradition of the Church. The bishop of Rome, wrote Cyprian, had confounded human tradition and divine precepts; he insisted on a practice which was mere custom, and 'custom without truth is the antiquity of error.' Whence came the 'tradition' on which Stephen insisted? Cyprian answered that it came from human presumption. Subverting the Church from within, Stephen wished the Church to follow the practices of heretics by accepting their baptism, and to hold that those who were not born in the Church could be sons of God. And finally, Cyprian urged that bishops (Stephen was meant) lay aside the love of presumption and obstinacy which had led them to prefer custom to tradition and, abandoning their evil and false arguments, return to divine precepts, to evangelical and apostolic tradition, whence arose their order and their very origin.
In a letter to Cyprian, Firmilian endorsed everything the bishop of Carthage had said and added a few strokes of his own...Recalling the earlier dispute about the date of Easter, he upheld the practice of Asia Minor by commenting that, in the celebration of Easter and many other matters, the Romans did not observe the practices established in the age of the Apostles, though they vainly claimed apostolic authority for their aberrant forms. The decree of Stephen was the most recent instance of such audacity, an instance so grave that Firmilian ranked Stephen among heretics and blasphemers and compared his doctrines and discipline with the perfidy of Judas. The Apostles did not command as Stephen commanded, Firmilian wrote, nor did Christ establish the primacy which he claimed...To the Roman custom, Firmilian, like Cyprian, opposed the custom of truth, 'holding from the beginning that which was delivered by Christ and the Apostles.' And, Firmilian argued, by his violence and obstinacy, Stephen had apostacized from the communion of ecclesiastical unity; far from cutting heretics off from his communion, he had cut himself off from the orthodox and made himself 'a stranger in all respects from his brethren, rebelling against the sacrament and the faith with the madness of contumacious discord. With such a man can there be one Spirit and one Body in whom perhaps there is not even one mind, slippery, shifting, and uncertain as it is?” (Karl Morrison, Tradition and Authority in the Western Church, pg 31-32)

This is backed up by Roman Catholic patristics scholar Johannes Quasten...“Cyprian is convinced that the bishop answers to God alone. 'So long as the bond of friendship is maintained and the sacred unity of the Catholic Church is preserved, each bishop is master of his own conduct, conscious that he must one day render an account of himself to the Lord'"

Historian von Dollinger comments: "In the first three centuries, St. Irenaeus is the only writer who connects the superiority of the Roman Church with doctrine; but he places this superiority, rightly understood, only in its antiquity, its double apostolical origin, and in the circumstance of the pure tradition being guarded and maintained there through the constant concourse of the faithful from all countries. Tertullian, Cyprian, Lactantius, know nothing of special Papal prerogative, or of any higher or supreme right of deciding in matter of doctrine. In the writings of the Greek doctors, Eusebius, St. Athanasius, St. Basil the Great, the two Gregories, and St. Epiphanius, there is not one word of any prerogatives of the Roman bishop. The most copious of the Greek fathers, St. Chrysostom, is wholly silent on the subject, and so are the two Cyrils; equally silent are the Latins, Hilary, Pacian, Zeno, Lucifer, Sulpicius, and St. Ambrose.
St. Augustine has written more on the Church, its unity and authority, than all the other Fathers put together. Yet, from all his numerous works, filling ten folios, only one sentence, in one letter, can be quoted, where he says that the principality of the Apostolic Chair has always been in Rome – which could, of course, be said then with equal truth of Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria. Any reader of his Pastoral Letter to the separated Donatists on the Unity of the Church, must find it inexplicable...that in these seventy-five chapters there is not a single word on the necessity of communion with Rome as the centre of unity. He urges all sorts of arguments to show that the Donatists are bound to return to the Church, but of the Papal Chair, as one of them, he says not a word.
We have a copious literature on the Christian sects and heresies of the first six centuries – Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Epiphanius, Philastrius, St. Augustine, and, later, Leontius and Timotheus – have left us accounts of them to the number of eighty, but not a single one is reproached with rejecting the Pope's authority in matters of faith.
All this is intelligible enough, if we look at the patristic interpretation of the words of Christ to St. Peter. Of all the Fathers who interpret these passages in the Gospels (Matt. Xvi.18, John xxi.17), not a single one applies them to the Roman bishops as Peter's successors. How many Fathers have busied themselves with these texts, yet not one of them whose commentaries we possess – Origen, Chrysostom, Hilary, Augustine, Cyril, Theodoret, and those whose interpretations are collected in catenas – has dropped the faintest hint that the primacy of Rome is the consequence of the commission and promise to Peter! Not one of them has explained the rock or foundation on which Christ would build His Church of the office given to Peter to be transmitted to his successors, but they understood by it either Christ Himself, or Peter's confession of faith in Christ; often both together. Or else they thought Peter was the foundation equally with all the other Apostles, the twelve being together the foundation-stones of the Church (Apoc. xxi.14). The Fathers could the less recognize in the power of the keys, and the power of binding and loosing, any special prerogative or lordship of the Roman bishop, inasmuch as – what is obvious to anyone at first sight – they did not regard a power first given to Peter, and afterwards conferred in precisely the same words on all the Apostles, as anything peculiar to him, or hereditary in the line of Roman bishops, and they held the symbol of the keys as meaning just the same as the figurative expression of binding and loosing." (Joseph Ignaz von Dollinger, The Pope and the Council, pg 70-74)

“The popes took no part in convoking Councils. All the great Councils, to which bishops came from different countries, were convoked by the Emperors, nor were the Popes ever consulted about them beforehand...They were not always allowed to preside, personally or by deputy, at the Great Councils. At Nice, at the two Councils of Ephesus in 431 and 449, and at the Fifth Great Council in 553, others presided; only at Chalcedon in 451, and Constantinople in 680, did the Papal legates preside. And it is clear that the Popes did not claim this as their exclusive right...Neither the dogmatic nor the disciplinary decisions of these Councils required Papal confirmation, for their force and authority depended on the consent of the Church, as expressed in the Synod, and afterwards in the fact of their generally being received.” (Johann Joseph Ignaz Von Dollinger, The Pope and the Council, p. 63 – 64)

Examples could be piled up, of bishops overturning the decisions of popes - Honorius, Zosimus, Vigilius, not to mention Liberius, who was more than willing to allow the Church to officially embrace Arianism under pressure from the Emperor, only to be declared a heretic by Hilary and others.

Furthermore, modern Catholicism is in no better position than it was before:

The survey found significant gaps between individual values and the Roman Catholic Church's structure and teachings. When asked to make a moral decision on several issues, 50% said in vitro fertilization procedures are not wrong, and 61% would not condemn artificial birth control. The church opposes both. Although the church also opposes the death penalty, Catholics were evenly split on the issue. However, 61% agreed with their church's stand against stem-cell research that 'entails destruction of human embryos'; 68% agreed, 'that abortion is morally wrong under virtually all circumstances'; and 61% said 'homosexual behavior' is wrong. Nonetheless, 83% said it is wrong 'to discriminate against homosexuals. Most would let priests marry (54%), allow women to be ordained (53%), give the laity more leadership roles (72%) and make the church more democratic in its decision-making (62%) (Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY 11/16/2001)

L P Cruz said...

Unfortunately discussing Christianity with loyalist RCs becomes in the end a default exercise, because no body speaks for Rome except Rome itself!

Opinions of RC folk do not in the end lend any weight for a would be RC inquirer simply because the Magisterium says it is the only official interpreter of their own declarations.

At another point, the variability and diversity in Protestantism say in Anglican/Lutheran/Reformed is actually the exhibition of catholicity which the RC critic does not recognize. In effect, by their criticism of the diversity found in those traditions, they are in itself not being "catholic". They are not also even catholic - small c, themselves!


Lito

Gojira said...

Ya'll done tole it like it is!!!!

AMEN!

http://gojira-thestompingground.blogspot.com/2007/07/they-done-tole-it-like-it-is-whole.html

Theo said...

Dear brother Mathetes:

I have already acknowledged that if we look among those who claim they practice the Catholic Faith as the basis for the claim that the Catholic Church is utterly united, then such a claim easily falls apart upon even the most casual observation.

Regarding your illustrations of historical discord, my limitations and no doubt, my obvious personal bias hinder me from understanding your point. To me it merely seems that you illustrate that indeed, even the popes submit to the Magesterium and that the common misconception about the meaning of doctrines of Papal infallibility as a totalitarian dictatorship where the Pope plays God are indeed just that: misconceptions. Regardless, the mere fact that such disagreements as you cite are significant enough to merit historical reference speaks to the extraordinary overall unity of Catholic doctrine (as I see it). Personally, I'm amazed by the degree of unity given the numbers of parties and time of association involved absent a totalitarian rule.

Of course, I also note that doctrines regarding the nature of the Magesterium itself are also widely misunderstood, as where L P Cruz said...
"Opinions of RC folk do not in the end lend any weight for a would be RC inquirer simply because the Magesterium says it is the only official interpreter of their own declarations."
L P seems to imagine the Magesterium consists of a specific group of living individuals, rather than the weighted sum of *all* Christians' thought from Christ's founding of the Church until today.

Although I doubt your opinion is any more likely to shift than is mine, I appreciate the time and effort you put into your thoughtful response. Thank you for doing your best to offer me clarity and insight into your understanding, even where I lack the ability to grasp it.

Through the differences, I nevertheless remain your brother and servant in Christ,
--Theo