Saturday, August 29, 2020

Vatican I: a ‘rupture’ in Catholic tradition, or legitimate development of doctrine? – part 1


The first to plead his case seems just, Until another comes and examines him—Proverbs 18:17 – NASB.

In the combox of the recent thread, “The Great Apostasy” (link), Tom provided a link to a lengthy essay, “The Vatican Dogma”,  by the Russian Orthodox scholar, Fr. Sergius Bulgakov (Seregei Bulgakov's "The Vatican Dogma").

Fr. Bulgakov is certainly a bright, well-read fellow. My first reading of his essay left an impression that his conclusions concerning the Papacy and Papal infallibility—that both are heretical—were quite solid, and perhaps unassailable. However, subsequent research and reflection has significantly altered my first impression—I now believe that both of Fr. Bulgakov conclusions are flawed. My second reading of his essay revealed a serious misunderstanding of the foundational Catholic dogma concerning the sacrament of Holy Orders. From his essay we read:

If it be said that papacy is not a special order but only an office, since the pope is in bishop’s orders, that will be quite in keeping with the view of the universal church before the schism, but it will be contrary to the Vatican doctrine. According to it, there is a special grace (charisma) given to Peter and his successors—veritatis et fidei nunquam deficientis—which consti­tutes the order of papacy. Roman Catholic theology has gradually raised St. Peter so high above the other Apostles that he is no longer regarded as one of them but as a prince of Apostles. In addition to the general apostolic charisma he has his own, personal one, similar­ly to the way in which episcopacy includes priesthood. A bishop celebrates the liturgy like a priest, and does not differ from him in this respect, but it does not follow that they are of equal rank. The same considerations apply to the Catholic conception of the pope, for whom a fourth and highest degree of holy orders has been created. True, Catholic literature contains no direct expression of the idea that papacy it the highest of holy orders—that of episcopus episcoporum or episcopus universalis, but this is either evasiveness or inconsistency; the special and exceptional place assigned to the “primate” in Catholic canonical writings can have no other meaning.

But if papacy be understood as a special order of St. Peter (Tu es Petrus is sung when the newly elected pope is carried in procession), the difficulties which have already been mentioned stand out all the more clearly. On the one hand, bearers of lower hierarchical orders cannot ordain to higher orders, so that the consecration of a pope by bishops (cardinals) is canonically and sacramentally unmeaning: the pope ought in his life-time to consecrate his successor. On the other hand, if an order is discontinued because there is no bearer of it, there is a break in the apostolic suc­cession as a whole. The permanent miracle of the existence of a vicarius Christi requires his personal immortality. The dogmatic teaching about the pope must certainly be made less presumptuous and confine itself to regarding the pope as simply a patriarch but that, of course, means the fall of the whole Vatican fortress. In any case, as has been said already, the mere fact of the death of a pope has dogmatic implications which have not yet been satisfactorily dealt with by the Roman theologians.

The above is clearly a flawed understanding of the Catholic understanding of Holy Orders. From the apostolic/New Testament period through Vatican II, the Catholic Church has affirmed ONLY THREE Sacramental, Holy Orders: the ordo episcoporum, the ordo presbyterorum, and the ordo diaconorum. The Petrine office is just that, an office not a higher, fourth Holy Order.

Not long after my second reading of Fr. Bulgakov’s essay, I discovered a definitive critique of it. Back on Jan. 1, 2020 a thread on a forum was started which was dedicated to the essay:


On the very next day, a gent posting under the name ‘Xavier’ provided a solid critique of the essay:


As of today, I have yet to find any errors in Xavier’s cogent critique. But, I feel compelled to dig even deeper into Fr. Bulgakov’s essay, along with Xavier’s contribution. I hope others will join me in this endeavor, and subsequently share their reflections.


Grace and peace,

David

8 comments:

leeseykay said...

Dave, Hi.

It seems like this particular Eastern rite priest is laboring under a similar misconception that most LDS apologists suffer from. Father Bulgakov assumes that the papacy involves another degree of Holy Orders. But the episcopate always has been the very highest level of Holy Orders.

This is where a lot of LDS get tripped up too. LDS have a belief that becoming an "apostle" was an elevation to a higher rank of priesthood. But this is not the case. St. Paul gives us the qualifications in several places. None of the qualifications involve going through a ceremony that makes a bishop into an Apostle. Probably because he was not a disciple of Jesus, he was challenged at times about his "apostleship". It was then that he revealed that he had seen Christ, a little differently than the other twelve, but that was one of the main experiences that made him in to a bishop who was also an apostle.

The Church has chosen now for many centuries to permit the Cardinals of the Roman Church to select the next pope. If the candidate accepts, the smoke goes up and we have a new successor of Peter. Ceremonies naturally follow the reception of the new pope. But none of them are sacramental. The former bishop of ________, is now the bishop of Rome. Any bishop who becomes the bishop of Rome is also the pope. This priest/author misunderstands the way any bishop becomes pope. It is interesting that I have also run into LDS who think the papacy is at an end if a pope dies without naming his own successor. He wrote:

But if papacy be understood as a special order of St. Peter (Tu es Petrus is sung when the newly elected pope is carried in procession), the difficulties which have already been mentioned stand out all the more clearly. On the one hand, bearers of lower hierarchical orders cannot ordain to higher orders, so that the consecration of a pope by bishops (cardinals) is canonically and sacramentally unmeaning: the pope ought in his life-time to consecrate his successor.

---continued

Rory

leeseykay said...

1) Catholics and Orthodox do not understand the papacy as "a special order of St. Peter".

2) "Thou art Peter" is sung because the Catholic and Orthodox believe in the primacy of the Roman bishop as having inherited the apostolic seat which St. Peter held in Rome.

3) Catholics and Orthodox understand that minor orders cannot confer major orders, that the diaconate cannot confer priesthood, that priesthood cannot confer the episcopate. No bishop can confer the papacy. However no bishop would ever attempt to "confer" the papacy sacramentally. Of course it is sacramentally unmeaning to when a bishop who is elected pope accepts. It's not supposed to be a sacrament! Again, no ceremony confers the papacy. The smoke goes up the chimney to indicate that there is a new pope. Not a new candidate awaiting elevation to the office by consecration of some bishops. He is a bishop already. That is as high as it gets. Theologically, the smoke is used to signal to the faithful that before any ceremony takes place there is at that moment a new Supreme Shepherd of the flock.

I can understand LDS who would assume sacramentality. I don't understand an Orthodox priest making that mistake. If I am not mistaken we could consult the language of the first seven ecumenical councils to discover whether or not the primacy of the Roman bishop should necessarily be accepted by orthodox Orthodox. This would not mean that they hold him to be infallible, but simply that He would be first among equals. It might be analogous to the monarchy of God the Father. Catholics and Orthodox agree that the Father is the source and fount of all divinity, but that the Son and Holy Ghost are the second and third Persons.

I do not suppose the Orthodox have it worked out how this principle works when one has a severed relationship with the primary bishop of the Universal Church. But as with the Godhead, it seems that there ought to be and probably is some formal recognition given to the first bishop. I do not know though. I do not care to draw the line for the separated Orthodox for their behavior towards the pope. That is their problem. They can accuse us of magnifying the office unduly. Sure that's debatable. But unlike this priest, I think it would be difficult for modern Orthodox to get away from the way their own Eastern fathers in the faith believed about what has come to be called the papacy. The Eastern churches have believed in the primacy of Peter for a longer period than they have been separated from Peter. For much of the last millenium the East must necessarily recognize the bishop of Rome with a significance that no Eastern metropolitan could ever claim.

"Pope" just means father, also demonstrating how church hierarchy is monarchical and analogous to the Godhead. All ecclesiastical authority flows from the pope (patriarch, papa, father) as successor of St. Peter, the Rock, upon whom Christ built His Church. Interesting...

Rory

leeseykay said...

PS: Above, I deliberately use the expression "Catholic and Orthodox" to distinguish Orthodox sacramental theology from the unorthodox view of an Orthodox priest. For all I know, this has become a widespread heresy in the Eastern Church which might be one of the fruits of separation from Rome. BUT...I am inclined to think that level-headed and moderate Eastern theologians will realize that there is an ancient Tradition among them, which supposes the primacy of the bishop of Rome, whatever that is taken to mean.

It means a lot in the Godhead to correctly identify the first principle, even when there is no essential ontological difference from the other two Persons. I hope that the East has managed to somehow maintain this necessary identification regarding the "first principle", if you will, in the Orthodox and Universal Church.

Rory

David Waltz said...

Hi Rory,

Thanks much for taking the time to ‘flesh-out' my 'bare-bones' evaluation of Fr. Bulgakov’s flawed interpretation of the Catholic view concerning Holy Orders. Your opening assessment that Bulgakov, "is laboring under a similar misconception that most LDS apologists suffer from” is spot-on.

I hope Tom checks back in, and reads your posts…

Did you read Xavier’s critique? If so, what do you think about it?

In addition to Xavier’s contribution, I found Mark J. Bonocore’s "The Council Chalcedon and the Papacy"—that he provided a link to—to be quite valuable. If you have not read this cogent treatment yet, I highly recommend that you do so.


Grace and peace,

David

Dennis said...

Hi Guys,

Heres a good article from the Orthodox that relates to this papal pavlova.

https://www.svots.edu/content/chalcedon-canon-28-yesterday-and-today

Cheers
Dennis

David Waltz said...

Hi Dennis,

So good to see you back; thanks much for the informative link. I was not aware of the internal disagreement(s) amongst the Orthodox churches concerning the interpretation of Canon 28.

I am sure that you are cognizant of the controversial history surrounding Canon 28. Did you read Mark J. Bonocore’s "The Council Chalcedon and the Papacy" [link]?

Another valuable treatment was provided by Luke Rivington in his book, The Primitive Church and the See of Peter [link]—see chapters XXVI and XXVII, pp. 437ff.

The deeper I get into the issues concerning Canon 28, the more my brain hurts…


Grace and peace,

David

Dennis said...

Hi David,

I read your first link. Interesting. But I wonder whether these sort of dogmatic pronouncements are best interpreted by the way they "flesh out", eg: https://orthodoxethos.com/post/the-role-of-the-bishop-of-rome-in-the-communion-of-the-churches-in-the-first-millenium

Cheers
Dennis

David Waltz said...

Hello again Dennis,

Thanks much for another EO assessment of the role of the Bishop of Rome.

It seems to me that the consensus EO view is quite close to Gallicanism. If you have the time—and interest—take a look at the following book I am currently reading:

Anti-Janus


Changing gears, I thought you might find the following online article of interest:

Queensland passes law requiring priests to break confessional seal


Grace and peace,

David