20 July 2014

A Hunwicke Test

I think it is sometimes a good idea to submit the assertions of myself, my fellow Catholics, even the non-Magisterial utterances of Popes and of those other Successors of the Apostles, the Bishops, to a simple test.
Would you say that to your ecumenical partners in dialogue, particularly to Orthodox?

An example. The Holy Father is unofficially reported to have described himself as the guarantor of Orthodoxy. This has an engagingly ancien regime flavour to it. One thinks of the Sun King saying L'etat, c'est moi; of Pio Nono saying Io sono la Tradizione. I think Louis XIV was one of Europe's great monarchs; and earlier this year I did a few enthusiastic posts upon B Pius IX and the Syllabus of Errors. I have, personally, no trouble with this sort of talk. And there is a sense in which our Holy Father's aphorism is totally bang on. The Roman Pontiffs, speaking ex cathedra, do without the tiniest doubt have the assistance of the Holy Spirit ut traditam per Apostolos revelationem seu fidei depositum sancte custodiant et fideliter exponant.

I just wonder whether what Pope Francis said, the way he said it to the seminarians of the FI, is something which he would say to an audience including Orthodox. And I wonder this because I do not think the Magisterial officers of the Church ought to impose upon humble subjects of the Catholic Church a doctrinal formula of which they would not also be prepared to say to the Orthodox "This is part of our core belief and if you are to be in unity with us, you must of course accept it". There is not a single formulation of Catholic Truth which is good-enough to be heavily dumped onto some lowly, vulnerable, and bullyable group, but which we would never be so silly and insensitive as to try to unload upon our partners in ecumenical dialogue.

And, as for the report that our beloved Holy Father also used the old Loyolan topos about the Magisterium being able to declare black to be white, I can only say that if he goes around saying that sort of thing to Anglicans such as his chum Archbishop Welby, it will have the result of reawakening in their minds a whole lot of dormant anti-Catholic prejudices. Victorian Protestant bigots believed in subtle and deceitful Jesuits who smiled their sinister smiles as victims of the Inquisition were racked until they blurted out what their torturers required them to say. Is it really the policy of this papacy to stir up all those prejudices again?


Belfry Bat said...

It's funny, that thing about blackwhite; I've heard Cardinals in sermon declare that to call darkness light is a sin against the Holy Spirit which the Church herself has no authority to forgive. I don't know what the soruce of that is... But in any case, I was then impressed by the original topos you mention, in that its emphasis plainly proposed a duty to misdoubt our own senses when the Church teaches other than what we by our own powers perceive. Obviously this cannot mean that the Church can contradict herself, and underrug it by saying "there is no contradiction here".

Of course, our Great Et - Et - is famous for asserting that many things are not in contradiction, when the World thinks otherwise, but let that be for now.

Stephen said...

I think the Orthodox would love to hear the Pope put that out there on the line. That's the kind of verbal benchmark with which to have meaningful discussions.

Or, if he doesn't, and only makes that claim within the Latin Church, does it mean he believes it doesn't apply elsewhere?

Wow. These are some real hoops to jump through, if one feels one must.