28 June 2021

S Leo II and S Peter and the Papal Magisterium.

As I look into the Sarum Missal, and the pre-Pius X breviary by my desk, I discover that, before the twentieth century, June 28 was occupied by a great pope, S Leo II (681-683). He was later evicted from this day so that S Irenaeus could be placed there. S Irenaeus was subsequently moved to July 3, so that the Vigil of the Holy Apostles could be freed up (but the current edition of the Roman Martyrology still lists S Leo on July 3, well beneath S Irenaeus). This is the sort of messing around that we had, even before Vatican II and Bugnini.

No; I don't like it either.

Did I say a great pope?

Our Holy Father Pope S Leo II was 'great' because he undertook the unhappy but necessary duty of ratifying the condemnation, by the Sixth Holy Ecumenical Council, of his own predecessor, Pope Honorius I (625-638), as a heretic. As the Vicar of Christ wrote to the Spanish bishops, Pope Honorius "did not, as befits the Apostolic dignity, extinguish the fire of heretical teaching when it began, but by his negligence fostered it".

Gueranger ... I cite him from time to time because he represents main-stream opinion from the period before our own ... observed, with his often-over-the-top rhetoric: "Leo had to probe with steel and fire, in order to save the Church. Once only has the terrified world beheld anathema strike the summit of the holy mount ... Leo II, therefore, sending forth his thunders, in unison with the assembled Church, against the new Eutychians and their accomplices, spared not even his predecessor."

Some people believe the Petrine Ministry means that a Pope is set in place and guided by the Holy Spirit in order to provide exciting new perspectives, perhaps even surprises, to the Church. Not so. Not in a month or a millennium of Sundays. As S John Henry Newman taught, in a memorable passage in his Apologia, the ministry of the Roman Church, its "extraordinary gift", has always been negative, to be a remora, a barrier against novelty, innovation. Gueranger [English translation as published in 1900] neatly struck down in advance the corrupt Hyperueberpapalism of our own decade: "The Holy Ghost, indeed, who has guaranteed the infallible purity of the doctrine flowing officially from the Apostolic Chair, has not pledged himself to protect in a like degree, from all failure, either the virtue, or the private judgement, or even the administrative acts of the Sovereign Pontiff. ... for it is to the teaching of Peter, not to his silence, that the unfailing assistance of the Holy Ghost is guaranteed."

                                          WHAT IS A POPE FOR?

Imagine the jagged and dangerous edge of a high and precipitous cliff. 

The Pope is the Council Workman. Boring man, boring occupation.

His very simple job is to carry out instructions; to put up a big notice saying  
                                       DANGER: KEEP AWAY.
'Negative', laconic, 'rigid', but, oh, so necessary. 

A mischievous or mischievously homicidal pope might put up a notice reading
                                         ADVENTURE PLAYGROUND

or                          STRAIGHT AHEAD FOR THE SYNODAL WAY

But he would be failing in the duty set him by his Master.

Through  two millennia, it has been the duty of successive Bishops of Rome to resist, condemn, and extirpate novelty and any attempt to change the Faith.

That is why S Vincent of Lerins (circa 450?) quotes Pope S Celestine (422-432) as writing "Innovation should stop attacking what is ancient", and the next pope, S Sixtus III, (432-440) as writing "Innovation has no rights, because it is inappropriate to add anything to what is ancient; clearly, the faith and belief of our ancestors should not be stirred up by any mixture of filth". The great Anglican historian of the Papacy, Fr Trevor Jalland, wrote of the "supernatual grandeur" of the Roman Church; "its strange, almost mystical faithfulness to type, its marked degree of changelessness, its steadfast clinging to tradition and precedent". Hammer; nail; head.

On the great feast of the Holy Apostles of the Church in Rome, we can do worse than to listen to those powerful words of S Leo II. His predecessor Honorius had been Pope when a particular error arose; it had been his duty as domnus Apostolicus to extinguish the blaze; but he was negligent; he failed to do his (negative) duty of repelling innovation; and his negligence led to the growth of the error.

It therefore fell to an Ecumenical Council to condemn him, together with the leaders of the heresy he failed to extinguish, and to use the unambiguous noun heretics and the unambiguous verb anathematizomen.

And it fell to his successor S Leo II to confirm the condemnation and to ratify the anathema.

There is more than one way of qualifying for the title of Heretic!


frjustin said...

O mischievous Fr Hunwickwe! You wouldn't be implying that "STRAIGHT AHEAD FOR THE SYNODAL WAY" is something a pope might communicate to the head of a national bishops' conference, would you?

Stephen said...

Very nice to put forth one's own ideas about what a Pope is for. But history shows that until the eighth century, no Pope insisted on the filoque, and indeed one had inscribed in silver tablets that the original form of the Nicean-Constantinopalitin creed (the original, the one without the filoque) should never be changed. But, mutatis mutandi, barely a few generations later and under much political wind-shifting, it was allowed and indeed then mandated that all adhere to the filoque by latter-day Papal fiat. That broke the damn on allowing the Pope to be a dogmatic change agent, and the papacy an engine for innovation. You want to truly fight liturgical innovation since Vatican II, why do you not fight the first instance of such innovation 1000 years ago?

PM said...

The late Edmund Hill OP had an interesting take on all.of this. He pointed out, as historians well know, that we owe the application to the papacy of the term magisterium to eighteenth-century canonists, and suggested that the historic role of the papacy is better characterised as a judicium.

That said, if we have, as we did under Benedict XVI, one of the greatest theologians and teachers of his generation on the papal throne, so.much the better.