5 September 2010

Ratzinger's Infallibility (4)

It seems to me that the significantly beneficent actions of the Roman Magisterium in modern times were not the devotional show-piece definitions of 1854 and 1950, fun though that sort of thing undoubtedly is, but the actions of Pontiffs in resisting the intrusion into God's Assembly of distinctively modern and immensely corrosive mistakes. I look to the Syllabus of Errors of Pius IX, and to Pascendi dominici gregis of Pius X. But in our own time I look particularly to Ordinatio sacerdotalis of John Paul II; a decision in which Ratzinger was intimately involved and which, in a CDF commentary, he characterised as being the teaching of the Infallible Ordinary Magisterium. And, in passing, I welcome enthusiastically the leg-up thus given to the concept of the Infallible Ordinary Magisterium. It is mechanistic and confusing to leave the word 'infallible' hovering only over such occasional, unusual, and highly specific papal incursions into doctrine as the Marian dogmas. Infallibility is essentially inherent in the whole paradosis of of the Church, protected by those given the charisma certum veritatis.

I advance three reasons for my opinion that the spotlight should not be left shining too exclusively upon events such as 1854 and 1950:
(1) The definition of the 'Marian Dogmas' was not essential to secure the authenticity and integrity of sacramental life of the Church, and to preserve the unity of the world-wide episcopate. It was not essential to secure the possibility of the ultimate normalisation of relations with the great patriarchates of Moskow and Constantinople and of the rest of the East. But Ordinatio sacerdotalis was. If Rome had not spoken with such assurance and decision, and if the expectation of the ordination of women had grown into a roll and the roll had become a reality, validity of Orders would have become uncertain, ruptures in the episcopate would have ensued, and (as reactions in the Patriarchate of Moskow to the question of the ordination of women have made clear) the breach between East and West would have become eternal and irrevocable.
(2) The call for the ordination of women is essentially but a symptom and symbol of a radical disorder in Western society about gender and sexuality. The line had to be drawn; and it had to be drawn here.
(3) Ordinatio sacerdotalis is essentially a negative action; it simply and tersely says what the Church does not have the facultas to do. In the good old conservative tradition of how, through two millennia, the Roman Church has functioned within the Catholica, it is an example of the action of (what Newman called) the remora; it shows the Roman Church behaving exactly as Dix described her behaviour in the second century. It is thus structurally precisely in line with the the concept of the Magisterium which, in these four posts, I have explored from an Anglican viewpoint.

At least for this Anglican Catholic, the 'papal dogmas', rightly understood, are not some pill hard to swallow but an expression of what the Newmans and the Dixes and the Jallands had discerned from their backgrounds in patristic erudition. That Rome now has a Bishop who sees his role in a way so congruent with our Anglican Catholic scholarship, should be a source of pride and satisfaction for us all. We can get some things right.


Chris Jones said...

Infallibility is essentially inherent in the whole paradosis of the Church

True; but the central problem with Pastor Aeternus is that it rips the Church's infallibility out of the fabric of "the whole paradosis" and locates it exclusively in the person and office of the Papacy. The decree explicitly excludes (ex sese) any limit, norm, or dependence of the Pope on anything outside himself.

Rome now has a Bishop who sees his role in a way so congruent with our Anglican Catholic scholarship

That is lovely, but not lasting. There happens to be a Pope now whom you find congenial (as do I); but the next Pope or the Pope after that may not be so congenial at all. Put not your trust in princes, in the sons of men, in whom there is no salvation.

Anonymous said...

When we give our assent to the Magisterium exercised by the Pope (which is simply a mode of the Magisterium of the Church in general), we are not putting our trust in this or that Pope as an individual, congenial or uncogenial, but in the promise of the Lord and the guardianship of the Holy Spirit, who ensures that his teaching, though it may be incomplete, will not be erroneous. "He will not suffer thy foot to be moved"- the "immovability" of the foot is due to the power of the Lord, not to some power of the foot, but the foot is still immovable; and so is the Pope infallible ex sese, meaning independently of any earthly ecclesiastical structure, but not, obviously, independently of the Holy Spirit.

Steve said...

And yet you took the oath of canonical obedience to +Pritchard and not ++Nichols.

As the late Fred Trueman would have said, "Ah just dawn't oonderstand what's goin' off aht theer".