Monday, August 13, 2007

Pope on a rope?

[This is in response to Acolyte's posting, at Energetic Procession, of one of his key patristic evidences against papal supremacy...]

I have commented on this quotation before on my blog (it’s linked in my large, and notorious, prooftext-florilegium, as some here would have it, of papal supremacy), so all I shall say at this point is: the knife cuts both ways. The bolded claims can just as easily be read as a basis for papal autonomy as for empirochoretic collectivity, since the Roman pope does not need the input of other apostolic successors in the execution of his work. If anything, ironically, the kind of each-to-his-own episcopacy these quotes are motivating, undercuts the collegial thrust of Orthodoxy, wherein everyone really does need the collaborative chrism of everybody else (magisterially speaking). Indeed, since all cannot do without all, it is a prickly issue how any patriarch feels he can do without another one, especially one as Peter, long understood to “reside” in Rome.

In any case, as Arthur has noted, the dogma of papal infallibility does not negate the collegiality of the episcopal college– its presupposes it. The pope’s only function (to use such a term) is to be the visible sign of episcopal union, which is a union primarily expressed in worship (concelebration) and teaching (magisterial orthodoxy); clearly he can only be that sign of union IN the episcopal communion. Supposing his Petrine autonomy removes him from his episcopal obligations exactly reverses the intent of the papal orthodoxy. In order to show the Pope is really at odds with this quote, is find a case of papal authority being exercised totally and explicitly apart from and in opposition to the larger episcopal (as apostolic) federation. Further, as Michael L argues, what is most clear about this passage is that it is establishing the apostolic basis for episcopal councils, not the impotence of the pope, nor, moreover, the sacramental equivalence of bishops and the Apostles.

I find it very telling that a very large amount of patristic “matter” (not to presume here to call it evidence nor to deign to call it prooftexting), is supposedly answered by this one quote. You’ve trotted this horse out many times before, so it must be a prize (perhaps lone?) stallion among lesser mules. It may be the silver bullet you want, but that’s just it: it is THE bullet, and, by my lights, mostly a dud for the apposite issue.

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