Saturday, August 29, 2020

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

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,


Saturday, August 15, 2020

Joseph Smith’s ‘First Vision’

Yesterday, I received in the mail a copy of Volume 59-Number 2-2020 of the BYU Studies Quarterly—SPECIAL ISSUE: JOESPH SMITH’S FIRST VISION. (Some subsequent online browsing revealed that a PDF edition of this special issue is available online—see THIS LINK.)

This issue, of course, brought back to mind part 2 of my series, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the diminishing relevance of “the Great Apostasy” (link), wherein I touched on the topic of the ‘First Vision’. I was planning to delve more deeply into the 'First Vision' but got sidetracked after discovering the online book, The Great Apostasy, which prompted THIS POST.

Given the contents of the aforementioned special issue, it seems somewhat providential that further exploration into the “First Vision' was delayed. This special issue, “features the proceedings of a conference held at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, to commemorate the two hundredth anniversary of Joseph Smith’s First Vision” (p. 4)—twelve papers—and three related articles. The entire issue is 320 pages in length.

Though I have just started reading the journal, I felt compelled to bring it to the attention folk who may share my interest in this intriguing topic.

Hope to share some of thoughts and reflections once I have completed reading this comprehensive contribution.

Grace and peace,


Friday, August 7, 2020

SSPX in Kansas under investigation

I do not want to take focus away from the informative, on going dialogue currently taking place in the combox of the previous threadbut the following article published yesterday by The Catholic World Report, ‘hits close to home’ for some folk who regularly contribute to this blog:

The  following quote from the article seems to indicate that “guilt by association” may be in play:

The SSPX is under investigation in the state of Kansas for alleged sex abuse, along with the four Catholic dioceses.

 Let’s pray that the truth in the matter will come forth soon…

Grace and peace,