Friday, July 09, 2010

Sitting in the Chair of Peter

Taking a look at Keating's "Catholicism and Fundamentalism" again, on the topic of Boettner, Keating continues:
Then comes the blooper. Boettner says, "Infallibility is not claimed for every statement made by the pope [true enough], but only for those made when he is speaking ex cathedra, that is, seated in his papal chair, the chair of St. Peter, and speaking in his official capacity as head of the church." At the end of the sentence is an asterisk, which takes the reader to this footnote: "A scientific commission appointed by pope Paul VI in July, 1968, to investigate the antiquity of the 'Chair of St. Peter' . . . reported in early 1969 that the chair dates from the late ninth century . . . ." The point is that Peter's real chair does not exist, so a Pope cannot sit in it. Since, by official decree of Vatican I, he is infallible only when sitting in Peter's chair, he cannot issue infallible definitions at all. The Catholic Church is refuted by its own archaeology!

Boettner entirely misconstrues the meaning of ex cathedra. ...
Or does he? Keating runs on in this same way for a while, but "the Chair of Peter" was construed as a real, genuine chair by Optatus of Mileve, whom Aidan Nichols, in his "The Theology of Joseph Ratzinger," refers to as "Ratzinger's ecclesiological master in the African trio of Augustine's predecessors..." (pg 39).

Here's what Optatus (c. 370) said of "the Chair of Peter":
We must note who first established a see and where. If you do not know, admit it. If you do know, feel your shame. I cannot charge you with ignorance, for you plainly know. It is a sin to err knowingly, although an ignorant person may be blind to his error. But you cannot deny that you know that the episcopal seat ["cathedra"] was established first in the city of Rome by Peter and that in it sat Peter, the head of all the apostles, wherefore he is called Cephas. So in this one seat unity is maintained by everyone, that the other apostles might not claim separate seats, each for himself. Accordingly, he who erects another seat in opposition to that one is a schismatic and a sinner. Therefore, Peter was the first to sit in that one seat, which is the first gift of the Church. To him succeeded Linus. Clement followed Linus. Then Anacletus Clement ... [he gives the list of popes down to his own time]. After Damasus, Siricius, who is our contemporary, with whom our whole world is in accord by interchange of letters in one bond of communion. Do you, if you would claim for yourselves a holy church, explain the origin of your seat. (Cited in Shotwell and Loomis, "The See of Peter," pgs 111-112, writing to the Donatists.)
According to the editors, "not only, he says, was Peter 'head of the apostles' and the first bishop of Rome, but his bishopric at Rome was the first to be established anywhere in the Church. It was the original episcopate. The claim, however, was excessive even for that credulous age. It violated such widely accepted ideas as those of the bishopric of James the apostle at Jerusalem, and of Peter's foundation of the bishopric at Antioch." (111)

11 comments:

Neal said...

Question: Is there a clear teaching of the RCC to determine when the pope is, and is not, speaking ex cathedra?

John Bugay said...

Hi Neal -- You will see lots of disagreement, even "official" disagreement on that. Since the 1870 council, there has only been one "infallible" dogma pronounced, the 1950 document "Munificentissimus Deus:"

http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius12/P12MUNIF.HTM

And it's not the whole document that's got this kind of "infallibility," just the one sentence (the part after the colon):

by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.

In my view, that's the only "ex cathedra" dogma that's been defined according to the Vatican I definition. You'll find similar "pronounce, declare, and define" language in other pronouncements. It would seem as if other popes intended for these statements to have the "ex cathedra" character to them. Such as the 1854 declaration about the "Immaculate Conception." But even that was prior to 1870 -- seems as if Pius IX was the kind of pope who was willing to push the system in the direction he wanted it to go.

But you'll find Catholics arguing about such statements as "Unam Sanctam," which uses similar "we declare, define" etc. language, saying, "well, it only applies in the political realm," or qualifying it in other ways.

I really don't think there's a straight answer to your question.

Dozie said...

"Is there a clear teaching of the RCC to determine when the pope is, and is not, speaking ex cathedra?"

If you want to know about American history that is even semi reliable, don't go asking somebody who is anti-American. If you do, you will get all sorts of unfortunate answers. Similarly, if you want to know things Catholic, you should know not to inquire about those things from the enemies of the Church. If you do, you will get the only possible answers - distortions.

John Bugay said...

Maybe you would care to enlighten us then, rather than just scoff.

Neal said...

Dozie,

So what is the undistorted answer to the question? (I'll even accept a link if you prefer)

John Bugay said...

Neal -- this is Wikipedia, so it's not the be-all, end-all. (I don't think there is one.) But it can give you a start on where to start looking:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papal_infallibility#Instances_of_papal_infallibility

Regarding historical papal documents, Catholic theologian and church historian Klaus Schatz made a thorough study, published in 1985, that identified the following list of ex cathedra documents (see Creative Fidelity: Weighing and Interpreting Documents of the Magisterium, by Francis A. Sullivan, chapter 6):

* "Tome to Flavian", Pope Leo I, 449, on the two natures in Christ, received by the Council of Chalcedon;
* Letter of Pope Agatho, 680, on the two wills of Christ, received by the Third Council of Constantinople;
* Benedictus Deus, Pope Benedict XII, 1336, on the beatific vision of the just prior to final judgment;
* Cum occasione, Pope Innocent X, 1653, condemning five propositions of Jansen as heretical;
* Auctorem fidei, Pope Pius VI, 1794, condemning seven Jansenist propositions of the Synod of Pistoia as heretical;
* Ineffabilis Deus, Pope Pius IX, 1854, defining the immaculate conception; and
* Munificentissimus Deus, Pope Pius XII, 1950, defining the assumption of Mary.

* * *

For modern-day Church documents, there is no need for speculation as to which are officially ex cathedra, because the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith can be consulted directly on this question.

* * *

The Vatican itself has given no complete list of papal statements considered to be infallible. A 1998 commentary on Ad Tuendam Fidem, written by Cardinals Ratzinger (the later Pope Benedict XVI) and Bertone, the prefect and secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, listed a number of instances of infallible pronouncements by popes and by ecumenical councils, but explicitly stated (at no. 11) that this was not meant to be a complete list.

Dozie said...

“Neal -- this is Wikipedia…”

It seems the policy is any source but Catholic; it does not matter that what is being studied is a Catholic question.

In any case, anyone who can use this blog site can find a Catholic source on their own for questions pertaining to the Church.

I may be wrong, then:
http://oce.catholic.com/index.php?title=Infallibility

Neal said...

"In any case, anyone who can use this blog site can find a Catholic source on their own for questions pertaining to the Church."

You are the one who came in disputing the answer John gave as being distorted. The request for you to provide the undistorted answer is reasonable. Thanks for the link anyway. I note however that perusing the relevant section doesn't appear to conflict with anything that John stated, so I'm not sure what you are disputing. Is there something specific that he said that you disagree with?

The relevant section seems to be in section III: "Organs of Infallibility", subheading B. "The Pope". The relevant text is reproduced below and reformatted for readability:

------

In the third place, infallibility is not attributed to every doctrinal act of the pope, but only to his ex cathedra teaching; and the conditions required for ex cathedra teaching are mentioned in the Vatican decree:

(a) The pontiff must teach in his public and official capacity as pastor and doctor of all Christians, not merely in his private capacity as a theologian, preacher or allocutionist, nor in his capacity as a temporal prince or as a mere ordinary of the Diocese of Rome. It must be clear that he speaks as spiritual head of the Church universal.

(b) Then it is only when in this capacity, he teaches some doctrine of faith or morals that he is infallible (see below, IV).

(c) Further it must be sufficiently evident that he intends to teach with all the fullness and finality of his supreme Apostolic authority, in other words that he wishes to determine some point of doctrine in an absolutely final and irrevocable way, or to define it in the technical sense (see Theological Definition). These are well-recognized formulae by means of which the defining intention may be manifested.

(d) Finally for an ex cathedra decision it must be clear that the pope intends to bind the whole Church, to demand internal assent from all the faithful to his teaching under pain of incurring spiritual shipwreck (naufragium fidei), according to the expression used by Pius IX in defining the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin. Theoretically, this intention might be made sufficiently clear in a papal decision which is addressed only to a particular Church; but in present day conditions, when it is so easy to communicate with the most distant parts of the earth and to secure a literally universal promulgation of papal acts, the presumption is that unless the pope formally addresses the whole Church in the recognized official way, he does not intend his doctrinal teaching to be held by all the faithful as ex cathedra and infallible.

Neal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Bugay said...

It seems the policy is any source but Catholic; it does not matter that what is being studied is a Catholic question.

Raymond Brown is a Catholic. I've cited him many times. Francis Sullivan is a Catholic. I've cited him many times. Eamon Duffy is a Catholic. I've cited him many times.

There is a double standard here, emanating from your side, and the problem is not that we don't provide Catholic sources. It's that we provide Catholic sources that you don't want to hear from.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Dozie writes:

If you want to know about American history that is even semi reliable, don't go asking somebody who is anti-American. If you do, you will get all sorts of unfortunate answers. Similarly, if you want to know things Catholic, you should know not to inquire about those things from the enemies of the Church. If you do, you will get the only possible answers - distortions.

If you want to know about Reformation history that is even semi reliable, don't consult an anti-Reformation source, like the decrees of the Council of Trent. If you want to know things Protestant, you should not inquire about these things from Catholic apologists. If you do, you will only get distortions of what Protestants believe.