25 October 2017

Development (6)

Again, that phrase which was used by Pope S John XXIII in his address opening address to Vatican II, but which was mistranslated in the English translation put out at the time (the error survived into the Abbott translation of Conciliar texts). Those same words were also used by Benedict XVI in his highly important Address to the Roman Curia in which he laid out his Hermeneutic of Continuity (the English translator made a mess of it by treating Abbott's translation of the Conciliar texts as accurate). Here is the phrase:
                                  EODEM SENSU EADEMQUE SENTENTIA.
It means:

In whatever ways the Faith is expressed; however new its presentation; whatever theological refinements and developments may be the gifts of the centuries ... it must always be a formulation with the same sense and the same meaning.

To be blunt, these words irritated - and irritate - those who see Vatican II as constituting a rupture with the past. This phrase makes clear that Catholic teaching is essentially unchangeable, even though the Church's understanding of her inheritance grows ever more mature. Eodem sensu eademque sententia is a red rag to any and every errant and heterodox bull. Where does it come from? What degree of Magisterial weight has it acquired over the centuries? What does it mean for us in the present crisis?

S Vincent of Lerins (c434) is often given the credit for this elegant and lapidary affirmation of continuity and identity within Catholic Tradition. Less often do people point out that he seems to have got it from S Paul. We had better look at S Paul's words and their context. And don't forget that, in terms of Magisterium and Authority, Scripture has gallons and gallons of it.

Given the sense of urgency with which the Man from Tarsus felt he had to teach the Gospel to the whole oikoumene, it is hardly surprising that he repeatedly received information that a crisis had arisen in an imperfectly formed ekklesia from which he had just moved on. So it was undoubtedly with a sense of deja vu that he sat down to dictate a letter to his Corinthian converts hoping thereby to repair the damage just reported to him by Chloe's People. He beseeches them dia tou onomatos tou Kuriou hemon Iesou Christou (notice this explicit insistence on his Apostolic Magisterium: "through the authority of the Lord's Name"), to "say [legete] the same thing, all of you"; to eschew schismata; and to be "fitted together [katertismenoi]" in (RSV) "the same mind and in the same judgement". S Vincent read this in his Latin Bible as eodem sensu eademque sententia; S Paul had written en toi autoi noi kai en tei autei gnomei.

 S Paul is urging the Corinthians to a synchronic unity. It is not be a vague pluralist unity in which different, even contradictory, statements can be judged, "deep down", to mean the same. To auto legete pantes, he insists. He requires a unity manifested in verbal identity. And, for a subsequent Christian generation, diachronic unity - 'vertically' down through the history of the Church - is going to be just as important as the 'horizontal' unity within the universal Christian community at a particular time. So S Vincent of Lerins very properly expanded the reference of the phrase so that it described the development of Christian doctrine generation by generation. But it never ceases also to retain its original Pauline synchronic reference; in Origen's Homily 9 (which is included in the Liturgia Horarum as a reading for the Solemnity of the Dedication of a Church); and most recently when Paul VI aptly quoted I Corinthians 1:10 in Humanae vitae. 

 In its synchronic sense (all Christians now should say the same thing) it is a powerful antidote to any rubbish about Sophisticated Germans having a more Nuanced Faith than Uneducated and Superstitious Africans. In a diachronic sense (all Christians throughout the ages should say the same thing) it has had a long and important dogmatic history.

To be continued.

Pronunciation ... roughly ... ay-OH-dem  SEN-soo  ay-ah-DEM-kway  sen-TENT-si-ah 
(but say the 'ay' syllables quickly.)


Anonymous said...

I look forward to the rest!

But Father, it seems to me so many in the Church today...leaders of high rank, even the highest of ranks...don't really even care what V2 said or whether it was in continuity with past teaching. It seems we have "moved on from there" and now simply are told that anything goes, anything that sounds good to certain ears at the moment, anything that appeals to those who seek a new and novel way. And thus salvation is found in all religions and homosexuals are merely people with a certain disposition, and the Sacraments are suggestions for happy living and...it goes on.

I am deeply troubled for the Church and the mission she presents to the world, for it is at best chaotic and garbled.

Jacobi said...

What we must remember is that the Church began in 33 AD. Not in 1965 or any earlier date.

I look forward to your forthcoming comments father.

motuproprio said...

Those seeking to determine if a given teaching is indeed a development and not a corruption should pay heed to Newman’s seven notes of a valid doctrinal development(1) preservation of type, (2) continuity of principles, (3) assimilative power, (4) logical sequence, (5) anticipation of its future, (6) conservative action on its past, and (7) its chronic vigour. Admittedly for new teachings point (7) is moot, however to fail any of the other six would surely prove fatal.

Sue Sims said...

While you are technically correct, Motuproprio, you have to realise that Newman's principles of development are utterly unimportant - indeed, they don't exist as far as our betters are concerned. Newman himself, of course, they regard very highly, but that's because they only know two extracts from his writings, namely:

"Certainly, if I am obliged to bring religion into after-dinner toasts, (which indeed does not seem quite the thing) I shall drink—to the Pope, if you please,—still, to Conscience first, and to the Pope afterwards."


"In a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often."

They don't actually bother to read his lengthy discussion about what conscience actually is and what it isn't,* nor (for the second quotation) the sentences which immediately precede it: "...old principles reappear under new forms. It [a philosophy or belief] changes with them in order to remain the same."

*He's scathing about the modern understanding of conscience: "Conscience is a stern monitor, but in this century it has been superseded by a counterfeit, which the eighteen centuries prior to it never heard of, and could not have mistaken for it, if they had. It is the right of self-will."

motuproprio said...

Dear Sue,

you are of course perfectly correct, and whilst those who ought to know better eulogize Newman without having actually read him, our Pope Emeritus has not only read him but thoroughly digested his thought. Unfortunately it seems that Pope Francis' digestion can only cope with lighter fare.