30 May 2014

COUNCILS: Archimandrite Taft

Robert Taft, a scholar of immense reputation and influence, asked, last year, "Are the purely Roman Catholic post-schism councils to be considered ecumenical councils of the undivided Church? If so, says who?" (er ... was Florence 'purely Roman Catholic'? But we'll let that pass.)

Taft is a Byzantinist and, therefore, might naturally have the Byzantine Orthodox in his closest view. But others would also have the right to benefit from his new hermeneutic. I am sure the Copts are dying to get an answer to the question Are the councils which excluded our Fathers to be considered ecumenical councils of the Undivided Church? If so, says who? So much for Chalcedon. And the Arians, God bless them, will want to know this: Are the councils which excluded Arius to be considered ecumenical councils of the Undivided Church? If so, says who? We will know where to put Nicaea. The Orthodox, of course, will have to eliminate Orthodoxy Sunday and other liturgical commemorations of purely Chalcedonian post-schism councils from their calendars.

Taft's unstated assumption appears to be that 'the Church' exclusively means 'Chalcedonians'; that is to say, the Latin West in combination with the Byzantine East. So the first millennium (whether the Copts and the Assyrians like it or not) was, for him, that of the 'undivided Church'; thereafter, 'post-schism', the 'Church' was divided. All seven of the first seven ecumenical councils, common to Chalcedonian Latins and to Chalcedonian Byzantines but unacceptable to 'Oriental' communities, were truly ecumenical councils of the undivided Church ...... were they, Dr Taft? If so, says who? Does the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria say so? For somebody with a distinguished academic reputation to fall victim to such preposterously circular logic is a dreadful warning to us all.

Going off at a tangent ... does anybody know the exact text of the document on Vatican II to which the Franciscans of the Immaculate were required to subscribe? (And, incidentally, was that text given an OK by the CDF?)

Is it fair for them to be asked to subscribe to such a document when Professor Taft has a free rein to question the status of the great majority of the Church's councils? And, indeed, was it fair for Kueng to have his licence to teach as a Catholic Theologian removed, because of his lack of enthusiasm for Vatican I, when Taft can say whatever he likes? Should the excommunication of Doellinger be now, with profuse apologies, rescinded?

And if Roman Authorities who leave Taft unmolested have a problem with the SSPX, what is it?

But, having said so much, I admit to a certain sympathy for Taft, quite wrong though he is on this point. More about this later.


rick allen said...

You gave us the questions Fr. Taft asked. You didn't give us the answers.

If he left the questions hanging, he has denied nothing. If he has denied the "ecumenicity" of every council since Nicea II, and has taught and acted in accord, he may well have some explaining to do.

That said, if you rob your local bank, it's no defense to complain that the State hasn't caught and prosecuted all the other bank robbers. If Fr. Taft were an archbishop, and formed a society to promote the illegitimacy of Constantinople VI through Vatican II, and purported to nourish and propagate his society with unmandated episcopal ordinations, he might get a little more attention.

Anagnostis said...

I'll leave it to Eastern Catholics to make their own case, but in the event (it's not on my radar, but it does seem to preoccupy a number of Romans) of a rapprochement with Orthodoxy, wouldn't a downgrading of the West's councils be an accomplished fact?

JFelix said...

Let's also not forget how the Church in Visigothic Spain and their Mozarab descendants, intellectual heirs of the North Africans and staunch defenders of the Three Chapters, got away with rejecting Constantinople II until the monarchs of the Reconquista started importing prelates from beyond the Pyrenees to take possession of recovered Sees.