14 March 2019

Cassiciacum? Praeferendus Newman! (3)

Did Blessed John Henry Newman say  

"It was Oxford that made me a Catholic"? Or did he say

"It was the Fathers that made me a Catholic"? Or did he, as I rather think, say both?

It is certainly true that Henry Manning said, referencing Newman, that "it is the old Anglican, patristic, literary Oxford tone transplanted into the Church". And who durst say that an Archbishop of Westminster can err?

For Newman, what has actually happened in the history of the Church makes a good starting point.
This is one of the reasons why I have been so attracted by Newman's argument that the papal or episcopal teaching office may be seen as being in 'Suspense' if the pope or bishop stops using it, or gets into the habit of using it improperly. We do not, in my view, profit by discussing 'formaliter' and 'materialiter'. If we adopt Newman's modes of discourse, discussions of how or whether a Roman bishop can lose his office, or the exercise of it, become no less fascinating but quite a lot less necessary. We do not need to break or fracture the canonical unity of the Church Militant, the Church Visible.

Blessed John Henry came to his conclusions as the result of his long studies of the Arian Crisis, in which, for sixty years, a pope and most bishops taught error or at least subverted the Truth by their weakness. The Magisterium was indeed in suspense. It is an objective fact of History. Syllogisms be damned: Newman's accounts and interpretations describe reality. That is what makes them, and his methods, attractive.

I have written before about Pope Honorius. We might also consider the Great Schism of the West. If you believe that the 'Urbanist' popes were the true popes, then from 1378 until 1415, the papal Magisterium was in suspense in France, Scotland, Spain, and Naples. If, on the other hand, you are a 'Clementine', then, from 1378 until 1429, the papal teaching office was in suspense in the Empire, England, Ireland, North Italy, Poland, Hungary, and Northern Europe (editions of the Annuario pontificio have given fluctuating lists of 'true' popes, but there has never been a Magisterial decision ... the pompous list of popes on the walls of Westminster Cathedral gets its shambolic knickers into quite a self-contradictory twist).

The history of the Church is not a tidy phenomenon in which we can say: there has never been a dodgy pope because, as soon as a pope does become dodgy, he ... like magic!! ... 'Beam me up, Scotty!' ... automatically ceases to be pope (even if nobody is actually aware that this invisible cessation has occurred).

Church history is a messy business in which there really have been dodgy popes, and ... whatever all the syllogisms in all the universe might anxiously jostle to say about it ... they have not thereby ceased to be popes or ceased to be recognised as such.

So when Sedevacantists solemnly and under threat of Sin tell Christian people that they ought never go to Mass unless they can cadge a lift to their nearest sedevacantist Mass a thousand or three miles away, they ought to remember that for half a century during the Great Western Schism, half the Christians in Europe attended Masses in which an 'invalid' pope was mentioned in the una cum. They also ought to remember that, in cases where there is a genuine doubt, a stricter view should not be imposed on penitents even if that stricter view appears, to the mind of the Confessor himself, to be the very much more probable view (vide H Davies Vol I pp 91sqq). It is a grave responsibility to drive Christifideles laicos away from the Sacraments (I am not discussing here the question of Sacramental Validity).

During the Western Schism, were those who moved across the border between England and Scotland required to be absolved from Schism because they had been attending Masses in which the 'wrong' pope was named? When the Schism was over, did the Council of Constance require the clergy and laity of half Europe to go to confession to be absolved of the 'sin' of attending Masses in which a 'wrong' papal claimant was silently named? Go on, give me a Denzinger number!


Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Sedevacantism. Awakening to the smell of freshly baked Donatism

Did Pope Marcellinus commit a pubic act of apostasy and if he did does that mean the Church failed?


Paul Goings said...

I don't disagree with your fundamental premise, but isn't this just adding another layer of turtles in a sense? By that I mean that rather than debating whether Pope N. is actually the pope or not, one debates whether Pope N. has suspended the reaching office or not. There will be supporters of both positions, and there is no reliable way (absent from an historical perspective) to decide which is the case. So the effect is the same. One is at liberty to accept or reject any particular teaching of Pope N. It is different in that neither position advocates a wholesale rejection the ministry of the institutional church, and I'll grant that this is a big difference, but there is still some overlap.

Catholic State said...

I hold the sedeprivationist opinion yet I do not condemn anyone to Hell nor do any of us bring up the
"Una Cum" issue.
The clerics in the American South who condemn
"Una Cum" do not speak for nor represent us.

Osmund Kilrule said...

I could not agree more regarding the necessity of studying history. However, as we have seen from the late 19th century onward, especially with the archeologism of the Liturgical Movement, a certain historicism has insinuated itself into theology that questioned, if not rejected, the validity of the method and of the conclusions of scholastic positivism. This trend was closely aligned to the Modernist movement.

Of course, the study of history and historicism are different things, and I do not think you (or Newman) conflate the two. This needs, more than ever, to be clarified in terms of the historical study of theology, and in the theological account and value of ecclesiastical history.

One cannot cultivate the Fathers with fruit without also cultivating the ecclesiastical historians.

Lurker #59 said...

Thank you.

It sees to me that there is a certain amount of magical thinking going on, in the sense that if Pope Francis were not Pope then all would be right and on the other that all that is said is right because Pope Francis is Pope.

Reality is messier.

It could be argued that both sides are conflating infallibility with inerrancy so that what is being said by both sides is really "Popes are inerrant".

Thus one:
Popes cannot err.
There is error in Pope Francis.
Thus: Francis is not Pope.

While the other:
Popes cannot err.
Pope Francis is Pope.
Thus: Pope Francis has not erred.

GOR said...

It has ever been my position that the machinations of the Great Western Schism had little if any effect on the ‘rudi et crudi’ laboring in the rural fields of Western Europe. What did your rural peasant know, or care about, what competing Cardinals in Rome, Florence or France were up to?

It is instructive to us in our day when the intentions and teaching of the current occupant of the Chair of Peter are in question. What need have we of Popes, if they are not to be trusted?

In our final accounting before God, we won’t be asked about whether our faith was defined by a Pope – but whether our faith was defined by Christ. All popes will pass away - but He remains. That is where our trust must be.

Tom A. said...

This line of reasoning leads to only one conclusion. The Papacy is irrelevant and simply a managerial office. Also, if the Magesterium is "suspended," it may as well be vacant. The practical effects are the same. Perhaps the author can find something in Denzinger to support his notion of a Pope's magesterium suspended for teaching error.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

"a pope and most bishops taught error or at least subverted the Truth by their weakness."

I don't think signing the Sirmian document was the same as formally teaching error.

Also while the Church of Rome did think he was formally teaching rather than playing for time under duress that document, and were perhaps even not aware which Sirmian document he had signed, Antipope Felix "began to be Pope" - or "began to pope" (verb in old sense, not identic with the Oxford use of the term).

When Liberius came back, he cleared himself, Felix stepped back, but after Liberius had died, he resumed papacy for a second term. This time not as an Antipope.

Ergo, look up the details of the Arian crisis.

Plus, obviously, bishop George of Alexandria was an intruder not so much bc he had been imposed by state power (that sensibility cannot quite be read into the IV C.) but simply because he very formaliter actually taught the Arian heresy.

Blessed Lent, btw!