8 February 2011

Why the Ordinariate? (2) ... and Pope Philogynes the First

This follows on from the Bloody Question post.
"Right. Fair enough. Let's consider your question about what I shall have to do when the next pope but two admits women to Holy Orders. Let's call him Pope Philogynes I.

"Let me first set the scene a trifle more generously for you ... and fill in just one or two tiny gaps in your very interesting scenario. At the moment, it has been authoritatively settled by the Magisterium of the Church that women cannot receive Holy Order. This has been asserted infallibly. When John Paul II issued Ordinatio sacerdotalis it was made clear that this, while not an ex cathedra pronouncement, was infallible by virtue of being an expression of the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church ... which is infallible. Now ... yes yes, OK ... I take your point that Philogynes could simply declare that OS was not part of the Ordinary Magisterium; and then proceed to relativise it, explaining that, while it was thoroughly right and good when it was issued, a new context now offered a broader background against which to reassess its binding force. Yup. Nice one.

"But remember what happened after Vatican II, which was self-described as not being a doctrinal Council. Non-dogmatic ecumenical councils are so structurally insignificant in the Church's history that the transactions of some of them have sunk without trace. Yet the liturgical consequences of this (sub specie aeternitatis) extremely minor ecumenical council, Vatican II, caused a schism. This occurred even though those remodeling the Church's worship went far beyond the actual conciliar mandate. And its teaching on Religious Freedom reinforced this schism, even though the conciliar teaching on this point, prima facie in contradiction to that of the earlier Magisterium, was not imposed de fide - because Vatican II was not in the business of de fide anathemas.

"A persistent schism - albeit comparatively small - which could, and did, arise from such - comparatively - slight causes makes clear what a complete melt-down would incontrovertibly ensue if Philogynes attempted to change a ruling which had once had the I-word, the dread incantation of Infallibility, pronounced over it. The schisms which even happen in the friendly fudge-it-if-you-can fields of Anglicanism, where the I-word can't be invoked, would be but a summer shower in an August drought compared with what would happen in the RC Church.

"Remember also the consensus of theologians that a pope who formally falls into heresy automatically ceases to be pope. There can be no doubt that this question would come to the forefront if Philogynes cancelled an enactment which some of his predecessors had declared - however questionably - to have infallible force. We can be sure that dissident Cardinals would gather and elect a 'successor' ... John Paul III, perhaps. Remember also what happened when Urban VI's cardinals, cheesed off at having been bullied into electing him in the first place and even more unimpressed by his habit of torturing cardinals to death - matters which, in dogmatic and Magisterial terms, are pretty small beer - held a new conclave and made a new election*. We ended up with two ... and eventually three ... or was it four? ... rival claimants to the Throne of Peter; and the Great Schism of the West.

"That schism had comparatively little effect upon the local individual Catholic because the question of which pope he was in communion with was largely decided above his head on grounds of national politics. In the modern context, every individual Catholic would have to decide which claimant was the real pope. What's that? A Council? Vatican III? OK, but remember that there have been 'ecumenical councils' which have subsequently been redefined as Robber Synods. Each 'pope' might hold his own Council, with anathemas galore flying around.

"In these circumstances, I would be in the same distressing position as every other individual Catholic.

"It would be a very nasty situation, but I suppose I would have no option but to make some decision. I suspect it might be for John Paul III and thus for Continuity.

"Frankly, I very much doubt the likelihood of such a scenario, which is why I wasn't very keen to answer your question in the first place. Even the most 'liberal' RC bishops would tend, I'm pretty sure, to discover in their DNA an instinct for keeping the Institution together, which would compel them to draw back from the brink. But it would certainly be a wonderful time for journalists, and I can understand why you are so anxiously hoping for it."


*E L Mascall once observed that it had never been authoritatively decided by a fully magisterial pronouncement which 'line' was the genuine one (although there was a broad de facto consensus that Urban, though murderous, was pope). Indeed, I would add that in 1492 Papa Borgia called himself Alexander VI, which implied that he included in his computation the Pisan 'Antipope' Alexander V, Papa Philargus. And Mascall added that holy people on each side of the schism were subsequently accepted as Saints of the Universal Church. In a sense, the Great Schism of the West has even now still not quite been laid to rest.


AndrewWS said...

One possible answer would be that I would in theory submit and accept it, but that Rome would not do the deed because the really big ecumenical fish is reunion with Orthodoxy, and the Orthodox will never ordain women. Indeed, William Oddie (it think it was) remarked that the Orthodox were about as likely to ordain women as they were to acquire their own nuclear deterrent - no doubt an intercontinental ballistic missile called 'Filioque' (my bad joke, not his).

All reformers, including no doubt those associated with V2, claim, with varying degrees of justification, to be restoring that which once was before corruption and entropy set in. NO such claim is possible with the OOW, and Rome will therefore never entertain it. To those who claim that it will: 'in your dreams, mate'.

GOR said...

Masterfully put, Father - or would that be ‘schoolmasterfully’……:)

However, I suspect the dissenters and a significant proportion of certain American religious sisters – but I repeat myself - would posit that the chance of a Pope Philogynes emerging would be remote. They would say that rather than a Pope JP III, we would have a Pope Misogynes CCLXVI

Joseph Shaw said...

Well said!

Papal Infallibility may be a difficult doctrine to swallow for some but the notion of Papal Positivism makes it look like common sense. It is interesting to think of the implications of infallibility as a limitation, not a freeing-up, of the power of popes.

They are, after all, guardians of the Deposit of Faith. The point of infallibility is not that they can say what they like, but that they can't deviate from the truth.

eulogos said...

Is it possible that in the unlikely but glorioius possibility of reunion with Orthodoxy, a similar cloud of uncertainty could be drawn over the issue of which of us was The Church during the past thousand years? Oh for such a shrug of the collective historical shoulder!

Susan Peterson

Anonymous said...

The whole Ordinary Magisterium in all its compsite parts is not infallible. INfallible are only those dogmas contained in the Creeds and proclaimed by OEcumenical Councils as such. If then the Ordinary Magisterium proposes these things to be believe, we beleive them by virtue of their having been proclaimed and defined as dogma and defined by an Oecumenical Council. With the noted exceptions of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption, both defined by a Pope. THat women can not be ordained to thr priesthood is not an infallible pronouncement, nor does it belong to the infallibly defined part of the Ordinary Magisterium. It is more
a disciplinary pronouncment, like the Decr. ad Armenos. I as a Roman Catholic am not bound to accept John Paul II's ruling as definitive and infallible. That Pope made NO infallible pronouncments of his own. Why would a POpe or Antipope wanting to stress his orthodoxy ever choose the name ''JOhn Paul III'? Is it because John Paul II kissd the Koran publically, making himself a de facto apostate? Or is it because John Paul II allowed himself to be aanonitd by pagan holy oil when in India, be blessed by a pagan priest in Mexico? Or perhaps because he twice convened the World's religious leaders to Assisi, setting himself up as Head of the World Religous Leaders, instead of Vicar of Christ? Or is it because JOhn Paul II blessed the first stone for the new interreligious sanctuary in Fatima? I am not sure about women never being ordained priest, but I am quite convinced, that this Pope's name will never be used by a truly orthodox successor of Saint Peter.

Anonymous said...

There was an Alexander VII, a John XIII and a Benedict X. So traditionally even Popes considered to be a disgrace to the office do not have their names 'retired'.

Whether history will see John Paul II that way is not yet decided; but I severely doubt it. He definitely did some questionable things, but I do not think they defined his papacy.

And the idea that his kissing the Koran made him 'a de facto apostate' seems unlikely. I think it was a bad thing to do (though I think an impulsive mistake) but such a gesture of respect doesn't equate to rejection of Christianity. *De facto* apostasy would be something like sacrificing to a pagan god... as some early Christians did during the Roman persecutions, which induced the debates about Reconciliation after apostasy.

Whatever JPII meant (I have heard that he thought - quite possibly incorrectly - that kissing a gift was a gesture of respect to the gift-giver in that culture), it wasn't an endorsement of the Koran's truth. This is, after all, the same man who wrote that "Whoever knows the Old and New Testaments, and then reads the Koran, clearly sees the process by which it completely reduces Divine Revelation. It is impossible not to note the movement away from what God said about Himself" (from Crossing the Threshold of Hope)