23 May 2019

The Tome of S Leo

Once upon a time, S John Paul II, in the course of his admirable catecheses, spoke about the Perpetual Virginity of the Most Holy Mother of God. Virginity in any shape or form being an unusual concept to journalists, the Press wanted a Story out of this, and so they turned to the Press Office of what our Patron Blessed John Henry Newman so beautifully called the House of Bondage. Duly, next day, it was reported in the public papers that a Spokesman of the Church of England had disclaimed the doctrine and said that Modern Scholarship did not accept it. Since I was working as a priest of the Church of England, I rather objected to this anonymous individual claiming to speak on my behalf. I objected all the more, because 'Ever Virgin', aeiparthenos, is in the Conciliar documents of the Council of Chalcedon, a Council to which the Church of England has historically been regarded as doctrinally committed (under the legislation of Elizabeth I, you could be burned as a heretic for denying its teaching). Semper Virgo is, to be specific, present in the Tome of S Leo, who was one of the dozen greatest latinists of all time. I am very attached to (as we say nowadays) the Spirit of Chalcedon ... but also to its words. And equally attached to the Spirit and words of S Leo.

So I made enquiries about this Press Statement. To be brief: my enquiry was passed from hand to hand, office to office, with nobody taking responsibility, everyone disowning it. But I persisted, eventually discovered the identity of the 'Spokesman', and the processes he had gone through.

His media contacts had demanded a response before their press deadline that very same day. So he had 'phoned up the only bishop of the Church of England who had an academic reputation ... a liberal Evangelical who was 'chair' of the Doctrine Commission ... who had told him what to say.

Thus did a 'Spokesman' for the Church of England disclaim, and dissociate his ecclesial body from, the common teaching of the ancient Churches, Latin, Byzantine, Oriental, and their ancient liturgies; and of the ancient Ecumenical Councils. And disrespectfully dismiss the words of the World Leader of one of our 'partners in ecumenical dialogue'. It's as easily done as that! It's what bureaucrats are for!

The waywardness of these proceedings was emphasised by the subsequent ARCIC document on Mary, which spoke about the doctrine with much more respect, and reminded readers that Cranmer, Latimer, and Jewell had subscribed to it. 

Incidentally, I met a similar implicit disrespect for the Tome of S Leo during the period of 'priestly formation' which we had to go through at the beginning of the Ordinariate. (I have mentioned this instance before.) One of the lecturers described a formula found in the Tome (De nostro enim illi est minor Patre humanitas; de Patre illi est aequalis cum Patre divinitas, the same doctrine as that of the Quicumque vult ) as "heretical" (ipso ipsius verbo). I was not impressed by what this revealed about the reliability of the doctrinal teaching still perhaps being given even today to Catholic seminarians, or the competence of all their teachers.

I pursued that chap, too. You just can't let these people, wherever you may find them, get away with things, can you?


sumromanus said...

When the Council of Chalcedon was covered in one particular seminary where I was a student the lecturer said, "The Papacy had little to do with this council." (‘Peter has spoken through Leo’?)
The handout we were given had 5 bullet points. One of them read, "Only two Papal legates present! ! ! ! ! Yes, with 5 exclamation marks

Fr PJM said...

Can you tell us more, dear Father, of the pursuit of that heretical gentleman? We must all pray for salvation.

scotchlil said...

I find myself in possession of a deepening delectatio morosa at the continuing flight of the C of E from theological orthodoxy... On the following Twitter account - https://twitter.com/ChristChurchCoE - for May 21 I discovered that Patripassianism apparently forms part of the curriculum in Church schools. A prayer is reproduced which begins, 'Father God, on the day you died...' What theological formation produces this and then trumpets it proudly on social media? Does the content of the faith no longer matter? Have intellect and reason been entirely supplanted by sentimentality? The temptation to despair in the face of the increasing mountain of wrong-mindedness requires a constant struggle. Where does one begin to correct this nonsense? In the same week I came across an account of a 'clergy retreat' based on 'Thomas the Tank Engine' and 'Where the wild things are'. Who was it who said that the purpose of the C of E was to make irony redundant? I wonder if any of those involved have ever heard of the Tome of Leo....

william arthurs said...

This 'spokesman' may have been a close colleague of the press officer who offered some bizarre untheological comments ten or fifteen years ago in response to a press story about someone in South London who had embraced atheism, and wished to be 'un-baptized' ie. to revoke formally his (or at least, his parents', on his behalf) baptizmal vows. The correspondence is in my Chuckle File which I have not got access to at the moment. The point is, you wouldn't try to remove your own appendix, a surgeon should be doing that ---- in the same way, the person who deals with the press really should be a professional press officer, not someone in a dog collar who, frankly, is liable to have a prior conflict of interest by virtue of already being identified with some particular wing of the church that has specific beliefs and therefore cannot speak for the church as a whole. And by church I mean the C of E, of course.