13 January 2015

Dr Eric Mascall and the errors of Walter Kasper

One of our greatest Anglican Catholic theologians was the late Fr Mascall. When I was an undergraduate, he said his private (Tridentine) Mass daily at the Altar next to the Altar in S Mary Mags where I was hearing the public (Tridentine) Mass. He was as kind a man as he was a fine Thomist and a scholar of immense erudition. I cite below some passages in which he repeatedly emphasises that we err if we use the phrase "the Church" to mean "Christians now on earth". It really incorporates all those who have ever been incorporated by Baptism into Christ's Body and have not been lost. We must conclude from this that questions such as those about Marriage and sexuality are therefore not matters for individual local Churches to make decisions upon, nor even just for the whole state of Christ's Church now militant here in earth. 'Tradition' is the expression of this understanding. A shame Kasper and his like have never read Mascall. They would have understood, poor things, how obvious it is that the Church Universal, the Body of Christ throughout Space and Time, is ontologically [in the order of Being] prior to individual Particular Churches.

The Church is not merely "a society formed by the voluntary association of those individual Christians who are now on earth"; it is "rooted in the concrete historical events of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ ... we who are now on earth are only the last of sixty or so generations of Christians who have each in its turn made up the earthly Church ... There is a fine phrase in which tradition has been described as 'the democracy of the dead' ... But, since Christ has overcome death and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life, the Church which was once militant here upon earth in the past is the Church which is now triumphant and expectant beyond the grave. This is therefore not just the democracy of the dead but of the living, as God himself is not of the dead but of the living. "
" ... the Church  ... is not just the empirically manifested Church now militant on earth, but the archetypal Church which is nothing less than Christ's own manhood into which generations of Christians have been incorporated ..."
" ... at any particular epoch the Church militant is only a minute fraction of the Church Catholic... in the great living and growing organism which is the Body of Christ, we who are now on earth are not the successors of those who are now at rest and sleep in the sleep of peace or of the saints who now enjoy the beatific vision; we are their contemporaries, united with them by incorporation into the ascended Lord who is the Body's Head ..."
"If we identify the Church of God simply with the Church Militant, we shall look upon it as a society with membership that is constantly changing as new members enter it by baptism and old ones leave it by death, after the pattern of any other earthly society. If, however, we remember that the Church militant is only the lower fringe of the whole Church, we shall see the Church as an organism, a body which is constantly growing, which is being built up into the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ".

VIVAT the Anglican Patrimony!


Fr Ashley Beck said...

Is it true that Dr Mascall used to say that he would never preach at an act of worship at which 'Hail Queen of Heaven the ocean star' was sung, because of the line 'Remind thy son that he has paid the price of our iniquity'?

Mark said...

St Justin Popovic (Serbian Orthodox; 1894-1979) described the Church as a "theanthropic organism". This, I think, is exactly how Mascall and other Thomists steeped in the Greek Fathers (e.g. Scheeben, Mersch) saw the Church.

Fr PJM said...

Dear Father, at the root of Cardinal Kasper's deviations is a very faulty theology of revelation, very widespread, that "revelation is not propositional". Here is an excellent refutation of that http://acl.asn.au/resources/propositional-revelation

Anonymous said...

People like Kaspar simply want to get rid of this entire tradition of the Church, and they not at all think of the Church as Christs Body including all the past generations of Christians. Their left writings might partially be worth studying, but they are not seen as a living part of the Church; this is also a direct consequence of the practical give-up of the faith into many of the most basic Catholic doctrine, beginning with the resurrection of Christ himself. The tradition is a burden, and the common song of today is "disrumpamus vincula eorum et projiciamus a nobis laqueos eorum".

Titus said...

An old topic for Englishmen:

"[I]f the Number of Bishops and Universities were so material as his Lordship seemed to make it; then, my Lord, I see no reason why that thing should make any Change in my Conscience: for I doubt not, but of the learned and virtuous Men now alive, I do not speak only of this Realm, but of all Christendom, there are ten to one of my mind in this matter; nut if I should take notice of those learned Doctors and virtuous Fathers that are already dead, many of whom are Saints in Heaven, I am sure there are far more, who all the while they lived thought in this [manner] as I do now. And therefore, my Lord, I do not think my self bound to conform my Conscience to the Counsel of one Kingdom, against the general Consent of all Christendom."

Deacon Augustine said...

Fr PJM, thank you for that very interesting article on propositional revelation.

From many things I have heard, it would appear that the idea of non-propositional revelation is also very popular in Argentina.

jasoncpetty said...

Reminds me of Chesterton's dictum: "Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead."

GOR said...

I suspect that there has always been the belief among the young that they know more than their elders - empirical knowledge increasing apace and the ‘now’ being more important than the ‘past’. Human nature being what it is – fallen – the errors of the past are not merely forgotten, but repeated.

While the ‘progressives’ of today may feel that they are unique and have more understanding than their forbears (thank you, Google…!), they fail to recognize their weakness – and the evanescence of their ‘knowledge’.

As Pope Benedict reminded those who aspire to competence in theology – the Lord confounds the wise and reveals Himself to ‘little ones’.

It was – and will ever be – so.