Friday, June 10, 2005

Standing offer

I begin moving to a new apartment tomorrow. Additionally, I must write a final test by Monday for my students and finish revising the fall textbook byu June 24. And let's not forget all those serious financial and bureaucratic worries I keep forgetting to remmeber. My time will be slightly more strained than usual. (Boo hoo, I know.) Since I may or not be back on the blog for a while, I wanted to leave a sort of "open mike" here about an issue in the Orthodoxy-Catholic debate.

During the recent (very good) discussions I've been involved in at Papal Ponty's, one Orthodox reader I know replied to me at some length about things I'd said in the same discussion to a Catholic having serious conflicts about official Catholic dogmas. The Orthodox said:

As to spoof texting, that was exactly my point. Both are examples of it. I for one for example have not seen any Catholic here attempt to make sense of the passage that Daniel cited [see here] until you. Moreover, nothing in your citation says jack squat about princely infallibility nor of any non-episcopal chrism granted to the bishop of Rome.

Moreover, have fun making the Papal statments there comport with Vigilius’ self confessed “irreformable” judgments in the previous council, that the Council tossed aside until the Pope rejected his own “irreformable” judgment and conformed to the Council’s judgement concerning the Three Chapters. There is more to the Papal theory than “prince of the Apostles” and continued witness to the Apostolic deposit it received. Those quotes don’t give us the “more” of the theory and since they don’t, they seem quite compatible with other ecclesiastical models.

Moreover, on the Papal theory it may be an apostolic chrism in so far as it was given to one apostle but it most certainly isn’t an Episcopal Chrism. The Pope need not act with the bishops as he can topple Ecumenical Councils. The Pope doesn’t derive his authority or office as vicar from the bishops as other bishops do.

I then made the following reply (mutatis mutandis):

I am about to pull your least favorite stunt: quoting the Fathers in “raw” form. As much as it pains you, or as “fundy” and naïve as it may seem to you, I do this (again) for three reasons.

First, to keep the discussion rooted in mostly concrete data. (Very specifically, you challenged me on the “princely” chrism/status of Peter and Rome. I deign to let the Fathers – and your own Eastern liturgy – defend that notion.)

Second, to present you (et al.) with yet more patristic reasons to give more (much more!) credit to the notion of the Church’s Petrine center of gravity.

Third, to highlight a basic difference in our dialogical methods.

More than once you have said my “spoof-texting” has no traction since it *could* just as easily fit into another ecclesiological scheme. Fair enough (I gueeeess). The problem is that, while I have provided a great deal of patristic evidence in support of the notion that the facts not only *could* but, as a present and ancient reality, *do* comport better with the Catholic Church – you have given me one patristic quote to the contrary.

Further, when you did give me the Cons II quote (twice now), I made the effort to understand it from a larger exegetical and Catholic perspective. As for you? So far I have not seen you (or anyone else for that matter) address a single quote from my “silly” patristic florilegium and show how, here and now, by and large, the Fathers' papalism *does* comport with contemporary Eastern Orthodox theology.


As Henri du Lubac, S.J. says in his essay "Petrine Office and Particular Churches",

There has never been a Christianity without Church, and there has never been a universal Church without particular churches. Wherever the Eucharist is celebrated, the Catholic Church is present whole and undivided. The bishop of the most insignificant market town is in this respect, as St Jerome observes, the equal of the bishop of Rome.

But there were never any autonomous particular churches which then joined together in a federation to form a universal church [a la Orthodoxy's autocephaly-system -- EBB], any more than the twelve disciples chosen by Jesus subsequently came together on their own initiative.]

Please note well that this is not a “patristic pissing contest,” as if the very fact that I have quoted more Fathers more times means I win. No. My point is that, if the way you choose to address my patristic evidence is to deflect it into “some other” theological scheme (theological akido?) – and thus out of the exclusive hands of Rome – then I (and other readers, I’m sure) would really appreciate it if you DID show us how this deflection works, concretely and exegetically. Even for just a few of the passages. Once I/we see how all these papist-sounding Fathers actually fit better into EastOxy, then we might be able to internalize the Orthodox eye and handle any future quotes ourselves.

But, as it stands, all I see on one side is a LOT of Fathers insisting on the necessary and original supremacy of Rome, while on the other side I see you, insisting they don’t *have to* mean what Florence and Trent and Vatican I and Vatican II say they mean. Obviously they don’t HAVE to! We’re postmoderns! What HAS to mean anything? What does “meaning” even mean!? ;'p

My point, again, is quite simple: If the Fathers don’t mean what I and Rome think they mean for the Church – what the heck DO they mean? If the Fathers’ papalism doesn’t actually fit with Catholicism – where in the world DOES it fit? You need not fight quote with quote. Just help me see how, despite apperances, so *much* patristic papal heritage (and I’m talking almost totally about Eastern Fathers) really DOES jibe with EO today. Lay it out for me. And remember who you’re dealing with here: K.I.S.S.

Having said all this, let’s get to the Fathers [that I'm about to quote]. Something I hope you’ll pay special attention to are the excerpts from the Byzantine Menaion which extol Peter [as well as a number of popes on different liturgical days] as *the* head of the apostolic college. How you as an Orthodox could really sing along with all this papalism is beyond me. I’m not saying you can’t or don’t. (For me, the cognitive dissonance would be debilitating, sort of like hearing my old Presby church, in my Protestant days, sing the Litany of Mary Queen of Heaven every few weeks or months.)

All I’m saying – as my overall Why-I’m-a-Catholic thesis – is that I simply see no other Church today that really CAN and DOES sing along (liturgically and doctrinally) with the whole range of patristic thought. Obviously, though, your ... efforts to skewer Rome on the horns of Maximus and Palamas’s theological crowns is a serious effort to show how Roman Catholicism IS NOT in harmony with the Tradition. Alas, that campaign is still very much unsettled and so far hardly the “one shot, one kill” you want it to be.

(PS. About Vigilius. Surely you are aware of the straightforward Catholic replies concerning him. I’ve always thought Honorious, being anathematized and all, was the best chance non-Catholics had of refuting infallibility on historical grounds. But Vigilius? It’s one thing to say a weak, confused pope under duress finally managed to conform to a council; it’s quite another to say he freely and infallibly defined as dogma something that eo ipso anathematized that council. Perhaps I’m missing something in your discussion of Vigilius. In any case, I direct you to discussions of Vigilius in the Catholic Encyclopedia [“Infallibility”], David Currie’s _Born Fundamentalist..._ and Patrick Madrid’s _Pope Fiction_ [including the works they cite].)

After saying all this, I cited a number of Fathers from my Eastern patristic florilegium about the princely authority of Pter and Rome. In the interest of space, rather than re-posting them here, I encourage to have a look at those citations in the comments of this discussion at Papal Ponty's (here and here).

The "open mike" of this post consists in inviting people (you! and you!) to answer the questions I posed to my Orthodox interlocutor. Hence, I reiterate my fundamental quandary as a non-Orthodox:

"If the Fathers don’t mean what I and Rome think they mean for the Church – what the heck DO they mean? If the Fathers’ papalism doesn’t actually fit with Catholicism – where in the world DOES it fit? ...

All I’m saying – as my overall Why-I’m-a-Catholic thesis – is that I simply see no other Church today that really CAN and DOES sing along (liturgically and doctrinally) with the whole range of patristic thought.

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