30 September 2019

Pope Philogynes the First

This follows on from the Bloody Question post.
"Right. Fair enough. Let's consider your question about what I shall have to do when the next pope but two admits women to Holy Orders. Let's call him Pope Philogynes I.

"Let me first set the scene a trifle more generously for you ... and fill in just one or two tiny gaps in your very interesting scenario. At the moment, it has been authoritatively settled by the Magisterium of the Church that women cannot receive Holy Order. This has been asserted infallibly. When John Paul II issued Ordinatio sacerdotalis it was made clear that this, while not an ex cathedra pronouncement, was infallible by virtue of being an expression of the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church ... which is infallible. Now ... yes yes, OK ... I take your point that Philogynes could simply declare that OS was not part of the Ordinary Magisterium; and then proceed to relativise it, explaining that, while it was thoroughly right and good when it was issued, a new context now offered a broader background against which to reassess its binding force. Yup. Nice one.

"But remember what happened after Vatican II, which was self-described as not being a doctrinal Council. Non-dogmatic ecumenical councils are so structurally insignificant in the Church's history that the transactions of some of them have sunk without trace. Yet the liturgical consequences of this (sub specie aeternitatis) extremely minor ecumenical council, Vatican II, caused a schism. This occurred even though those remodeling the Church's worship went far beyond the actual conciliar mandate. And its teaching on Religious Freedom reinforced this schism, even though the conciliar teaching on this point, prima facie in contradiction to that of the earlier Magisterium, was not imposed de fide - because Vatican II was not in the business of de fide anathemas.

"A persistent schism - albeit comparatively small - which could, and did, arise from such - comparatively - slight causes makes clear what a complete melt-down would incontrovertibly ensue if Philogynes attempted to change a ruling which had once had the I-word, the dread incantation of Infallibility, pronounced over it. The schisms which even happen in the friendly fudge-it-if-you-can fields of Anglicanism, where the I-word can't be invoked, would be but a summer shower in an August drought compared with what would happen in the RC Church.

"Remember also the theological debates about the status of a pope who formally falls into heresy. There can be no doubt that this question would come to the forefront if Philogynes cancelled an enactment which some of his predecessors had declared - however questionably - to have infallible force. We can be sure that dissident Cardinals would gather and elect a 'successor' ... John Paul III, perhaps. Remember also what happened when Urban VI's cardinals, cheesed off at having been bullied into electing him in the first place and even more unimpressed by his habit of torturing cardinals to death - matters which, in dogmatic and Magisterial terms, are pretty small beer - held a new conclave and made a new election*. We ended up with two ... and eventually three ...  rival claimants to the Throne of Peter; and the Great Schism of the West.

"That schism had comparatively little effect upon the local individual Catholic because the question of which pope he was in communion with was largely decided above his head on grounds of national politics. In the modern context, every individual Catholic would have to decide which claimant was the real pope. What's that? A Council? Vatican III? OK, but remember that there have been 'ecumenical councils' which have subsequently been redefined as Robber Synods. Each 'pope' might hold his own Council, with anathemas galore flying around.

"In these circumstances, I would be in the same distressing position as every other individual Catholic.

"It would be a very nasty situation, but I suppose I would have no option but to make some decision. I suspect it might be for John Paul III and thus for Continuity.

"Frankly, I very much doubt the likelihood of such a scenario, which is why I wasn't very keen to answer your question in the first place. Even the most 'liberal' RC bishops would tend, I'm pretty sure, to discover in their DNA an instinct for keeping the Institution together, which would compel them to draw back from the brink. But it would certainly be a wonderful time for journalists, and I can understand why you are so anxiously hoping for it."


*E L Mascall once observed that it had never been authoritatively decided by a fully magisterial pronouncement which 'line' was the genuine one (although there was a broad de facto consensus that Urban, though murderous, was pope). Indeed, I would add that in 1492 Papa Borgia called himself Alexander VI, which implied that he included in his computation the Pisan 'Antipope' Alexander V, Papa Philargus. And Mascall added that holy people on each side of the schism were subsequently accepted as Saints of the Universal Church. In a sense, the Great Schism of the West has even now still not quite been laid to rest.


Stephen said...

As you pray, so you believe. So, to change belief, you must first change prayer. That is why people fight over liturgy - when a prayer does not conform to a) what you've always believed and b) most of a. was passed down from your elders in your community, you're going to fight.

Proclamations and laws are less important in this context, whether issued by politicians or clerics. And, the more laws and such, the more all of that is discounted by the hoi polloi.

So, if what you require to be in communion is more weighted on laws than liturgy, you're more at risk to having the whole communion be pulled this way and that by the fashion of the day. Which is what is occurring.

R.C. said...

Fr. Hunwicke,

I've been Catholic since 2010, a convert from Protestantism via Church Fathers.

While reading my way into the Church I thought I had adequately learned how authority works in the Church adequately well, and that I understood properly the claims regarding the charism of infallibility.

But as I read all the concern regarding this synod, the leftist unbelieving hierarchs, etc., I begin to suspect there is something here that I misunderstood.

Your post posits a scenario wherein a pope takes action in violation of a teaching which was previously taught with the charism of infallibility; namely, the ordaining of women.

What was it, in this scenario, that prevented the charism of infallibility from preventing that pope from acting in such a fashion? I would have expected something like: The pope flops over, dead, on his way to the microphone. Or changes his mind. Or gets the flu and has to reschedule. Or something providential.

Pope Francis, in encouraging or failing-to-admonish various heresies, near-heresies, sacrileges, etc., seems consistently to avoid scenarios which would cause the charism of infallibility to stand in his way. The damage is done via ambiguous language, usually uttered as a casual aside to reporters on a plane flight, or in private: All insufficient to engage the charism. I guess Amoris and the change to the Catechism come closer to the line, but ambiguous language and incoherent protestations of continuity prevent any determinate content from being conveyed in a binding, non-prudential way. (Do I have that right?)

Now it would seem that the act of attempting to ordain a woman would either...
(a.) be accompanied by an attempt to teach the validity of such an ordination; or,
(b.) not accompanied by such a teaching

If (a.), the teaching attempt would either be of a kind which invokes infallibility (a.1.) or not (a.2.).

If (a.1.) then Catholicism has just falsified itself, correct? That would mean that either the Orthodox are right, or else no existing Church has preserved a knowable content of the Christian faith...in which case Christ has failed of His promises, and is not God, and we can all sleep in on Sundays, correct?

(But He rose from the dead. He is God. Therefore (a.1.) will never happen.)

If (a.2.) then the teaching ought to be ignored in favor of the earlier infallible teaching. (And of course the wymnpriests should be shunned as laypersons who were sacrilegiously simulating sacraments.)

If (b.) then the same response applies as in (a.2.) but without any teaching to be ignored.

Now, I don't understand why schism should be invoked by people who can't point to anything invalid in the election of Pope Francis. Folks here aren't sedevacantists, right? Heretic or not, he's the Successor of Peter, right? A faithful Catholic must remain in communion with him, obey his correct and valid teaching, disregard his heresy and disobey any command to commit sacrilege, and wait for him to die, right?

I suppose that he might then excommunicate them. But does it count as "schism" if your intention is to stay in and it was a bad pope who unjustly kicked you out?

I read somewhere that heretical popes "automatically fall from the chair of Peter," but that doesn't make sense. Any pope might be a heretic in the private forum; if privately-held heresy "counted" nobody could ever know who was pope. And acts in the public forum must be judged by a competent authority; but the only authority to judge a pope must be...the next pope. So I don't see how the Church could ever involuntarily "stop being pope" other than by dying. How, then, could a schism erupt among the informed faithful?

I have said all of the above as crudely as possible, in order that any misunderstandings can be easily identified and corrected by those who understand these things better than I. I suspect I've missed some important distinctions.

Will you help me grasp whatever it is I've missed?

Banshee said...

Obviously, the thing to do would be for Catholic women (the faithful ones) to do some crazy civil disobedience.

And also some catfighting, because any woman who would try seriously to get ordained by legit authority is due for sororal correction in the face. The playbaby games are irritating enough, but anybody can do makebelieve; it is on them. But to make us play along? No.

Because who the heck would they think they were, putting themselves up as better than the Virgin Mary?