The corruption of the Petrine Ministry which has characterised the last decade creates, in my view, an obligation to attempt to discern and to recover sources of uncorrupted teaching. I wish to draw attention to a piece written by Joseph Ratzinger on the eve of the Council (1961), published in The Episcopate and the Primacy. It is an early expression of the fine account of the concepts of Apostolic Tradition which we received later in part 4 of his The Spirit of the Liturgy (2000); in particular, his reference therein to "forms of the apostolic tradition and of its unfolding in the great places of the Tradition.".
Already in 1961, Ratzinger understood that "according to the [first] Vatican Council, not only episcopalism but also papalism in the narrower sense must be regarded as a condemned doctrine." I offer some extracts.
"Before the idea of New Testament Scripture, as a 'canon', was formulated the Church had already worked out another notion of canon. She had her Scripture indeed in the Old Testament, but this Scripture needed a canon, that is, a rule of interpretation, in accordance with the New Christian Covenant. This the Church found in tradition, guaranteed by succession. 'Canon', as von Harnack once drastically formulated it, was 'originally the rule of faith; actually, Scripture entered into it only afterwards' ... there is in the Church, according to the early anti-gnostic theologians, a 'tradition' insofar as the primary seat of the auctoritas apostolica is the Church preaching the livng word ... to accord priority to the living word of preaching over Scripture alone is genuinely in keeping with the New Testament ...
" ... In proof of their error the Gnostics were not referred to the episcopal office as such in the Church, but to the apostolic sees, i.e., those sees where apostles had once worked or which had received apostolic letters. In other words not every episcopal see was apostolic, but only that limited number which stood in a unique and special relationship to the apostles.
"Tertullian ... Proxima est tibi Achaia, habes Corinthum. Si non longe es a Macedonia, habes Ephesum. Si autem Italiae adiaces, habes Romam, unde nobis quoque [Africanis] auctoritas praesto est."
To be continued