Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Perspicuity of the Magisterium

Code of Canon Law 749
§1. By virtue of his office, the Supreme Pontiff possesses infallibility in teaching when as the supreme pastor and teacher of all the Christian faithful, who strengthens his brothers and sisters in the faith, he proclaims by definitive act that a doctrine of faith or morals is to be held.

§2. The college of bishops also possesses infallibility in teaching when the bishops gathered together in an ecumenical council exercise the magisterium as teachers and judges of faith and morals who declare for the universal Church that a doctrine of faith or morals is to be held definitively; or when dispersed throughout the world but preserving the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter and teaching authentically together with the Roman Pontiff matters of faith or morals, they agree that a particular proposition is to be held definitively.

§3. No doctrine is understood as defined infallibly unless this is manifestly evident.
This is the "death by a thousand qualifications" clause in terms of Roman dogma. Is there really anything that is so manifestly evidently defined infallibly that someone cannot come along later and question it?

Case in point: "Fr." John Zuhlsdorf vs. "Fr." Richard McBrien, Crowley-O’Brien Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame.

Zuhlsdorf seemingly claims that the ordination of women was infallibly defined as being contrary to the faith by John Paul in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis and then subsequently was reaffirmed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (which, interestingly, indicated that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis did not define this as dogma: "In this case, an act of the ordinary Papal Magisterium, in itself not infallible, witnesses to the infallibility of the teaching of a doctrine already possessed by the Church"). In other words, per the CDF, O.S. did not define the dogma - the dogma is infallible via the mechanism of universal and ordinary magisterium.

Of course, Scripture makes it pretty clear that the eldership is for men only, but is it manifestly evident? I'm sure it is for the conservatives, and not for the liberals. Its lack of manifest evidence is not due to any deficiency in the text of Scripture, but simply in the sinful rebellion of mankind.

-TurretinFan

17 comments:

Nick said...

Richard McBrien is a notorious liberal and thus would try to twist or make any hole he could to push a liberal agenda - the very type of individual you point out in your concluding paragraph.

The point is: O.S. didn't need to be formally defining a dogma, though it was reiterating dogma; the CDF pointed out it is dogma in virtue of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium.

That said, your last paragraph highlights the problem of Formal Sufficiency of Scripture (and thus need for Magisterium), since Scripture is not sufficiently clear on various issues 'conservatives' disagree on (e.g. ecclesiology).

Further, a role for women in Scripture can be pretty clear - e.g. that they should have their head covered, 1 Cor 11 - yet a tiny minority of folks follow this today. The liberal need simply to point out that X is 'outdated' and thus why isn't Y 'outdated' as well, and the conservative Protestant loses ground.

Turretinfan said...

"Richard McBrien is a notorious liberal and thus would try to twist or make any hole he could to push a liberal agenda - the very type of individual you point out in your concluding paragraph."

Yes. He plays the same political games within his church that the conservatives play, only from the other side.

"The point is: O.S. didn't need to be formally defining a dogma, though it was reiterating dogma; the CDF pointed out it is dogma in virtue of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium."

And neither O.S. nor the CDF is infallible. You can't bootstrap two fallible documents into infallibility.

"That said, your last paragraph highlights the problem of Formal Sufficiency of Scripture (and thus need for Magisterium), since Scripture is not sufficiently clear on various issues 'conservatives' disagree on (e.g. ecclesiology)."

Formal sufficiency doesn't claim that Scripture is perspicuous on ecclesiology. That said, virtually everyone who holds to Sola Scriptura denies that a papacy is the Biblical form of church government. Isn't that remarkable?

It may not as clearly distinguish amongst congregational, presbyterian, and episcopal polities, but it is clear enough to reject a very serious error like papalism.

"Further, a role for women in Scripture can be pretty clear - e.g. that they should have their head covered, 1 Cor 11 - yet a tiny minority of folks follow this today."

Let's grant your premise for the sake of the argument. How does women's disobedience to 1 Corinthians 11 affect anything?

"The liberal need simply to point out that X is 'outdated' and thus why isn't Y 'outdated' as well, and the conservative Protestant loses ground."

If what you are saying is that there is a slippery slope associated with arguing that some of Scriptures commands are culturally conditioned, I certainly agree. How slippery that slope is may depend on a variety of factors.

-TurretinFan

natamllc said...

I noticed when reading the Scriptures that after every command given by God
man began doing the opposite.

This idea of liberalism among men about women is nothing new and here is where it began to be enacted by principalities and powers of spiritual wickedness in high places:

Gen 3:16 To the woman he said, "I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you."

Yes, God made "man" male and female. He did not obfuscate this truth that male should rule over female.

This is the order.

She was deceived. He wasn't.

That's why the Apostle Paul writes this:

Eph 5:22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
Eph 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.
Eph 5:24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
Eph 5:26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
Eph 5:27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
Eph 5:28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
Eph 5:29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,
Eph 5:30 because we are members of his body.


Why does this Apostle zero in on the major issue of relationship that way?

Well, because God set up the order and He has not as yet obfuscated it.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"The Perspicuity of the Magisterium"

This title whetted my hunger to see what the post was about.

Then I got to this part:

"§3. No doctrine is understood as defined infallibly unless this is manifestly evident.

This is the "death by a thousand qualifications" clause in terms of Roman dogma. Is there really anything that is so manifestly evidently defined infallibly that someone cannot come along later and question it?"

Wow. That's how the game is played. Pretty crafty.

Nick said...

Hi TF,

Could you show me some examples 'conservative' Catholics play that are equivalent to McBrien's liberalism twisting church doctrines? (Note: I put the term conservative in quotes because such isn't accurate nomenclature for Catholicism: you're either orthodox Catholic or not)

The CDF nor O.S. nor any document has to be infallible to point out a certain doctrine is Dogma; the Catechism does it all the time.

You said: "Formal sufficiency doesn't claim that Scripture is perspicuous on ecclesiology."

Scripture is not perspicuous on what the Church is and how the Church should function? Ecclesiology is one of the most splintering problems within Protestantism. But if you're correct, that explains why. So much of Christianity is tied to ecclesiology that for it not to be perspicuous would have a massive trickle down effect of rendering many other things not-perspicuous.

You said: "Let's grant your premise for the sake of the argument. How does women's disobedience to 1 Corinthians 11 affect anything?"

The claim of "disobedience" is relative, since most people today would say such a thing was only temporary. What Protestants do you know that actually claim this text is still binding?...White? Piper? MacArthur? Fesko? Clark? You?

I'd say the "disobedience" to that text, or at least it's spirit, affects a lot of things, since Paul ties it directly to theology and ecclesiology: the husband is head of his wife.

You said: "If what you are saying is that there is a slippery slope associated with arguing that some of Scriptures commands are culturally conditioned, I certainly agree. How slippery that slope is may depend on a variety of factors."

A slippery slope is still a slippery slope: if a path is taking one in the direction of anarchy, is it really of significant concern whether you walk, run, or take a car?

Turretinfan said...

"Could you show me some examples 'conservative' Catholics play that are equivalent to McBrien's liberalism twisting church doctrines?"

What point exactly would that serve? So you could defend your pals? I'm sure McBrien wouldn't admit to your accusation any more than your pals would admit to his accusations.

"(Note: I put the term conservative in quotes because such isn't accurate nomenclature for Catholicism: you're either orthodox Catholic or not)"

McBrien is a priest. I take it you are not. His credentials for orthodoxy are as good as "Fr." Z's and better than yours.

"The CDF nor O.S. nor any document has to be infallible to point out a certain doctrine is Dogma; the Catechism does it all the time."

Nothing I said is contrary to that. Did this just dawn on you? Or ??

"Scripture is not perspicuous on what the Church is and how the Church should function?"

You seem surprised.

"Ecclesiology is one of the most splintering problems within Protestantism."

Or it's not that big a problem. Lots of groups with different ecclesiologies manage to proclaim the gospel.

"But if you're correct, that explains why."

:)

"So much of Christianity is tied to ecclesiology that for it not to be perspicuous would have a massive trickle down effect of rendering many other things not-perspicuous."

I guess that explains why the earliest church fathers didn't teach any of Rome's distinctive dogmas - because they lacked her ecclesiology!

"The claim of "disobedience" is relative, since most people today would say such a thing was only temporary."

The truth either is that it was for all time or it was not. If it was not, there's no disobedience. If it was, then there's absolute (not relative) disobedience.

"What Protestants do you know that actually claim this text is still binding?...White? Piper? MacArthur? Fesko? Clark? You?"

What difference does it make who says it?

"I'd say the "disobedience" to that text, or at least it's spirit, affects a lot of things, since Paul ties it directly to theology and ecclesiology: the husband is head of his wife."

That's interesting. You know that the folks at Catholic Answers have been arguing that the revisions to canon law mean that women no longer are required to cover their heads. And those are "conservatives."

But, in any event, women from all ecclesiologies have been increasingly disregarding that particular command.

"A slippery slope is still a slippery slope: if a path is taking one in the direction of anarchy, is it really of significant concern whether you walk, run, or take a car?"

It makes a difference whether you slide down the slope (into anarchy) or not.

-TurretinFan

Rhology said...

The CDF nor O.S. nor any document has to be infallible to point out a certain doctrine is Dogma; the Catechism does it all the time.

Fallibly.

Nick said...

Hi TF,

I asked for some examples because I don't believe 'conservative' Catholics play fast and loose with Church documents, especially not in an analogous way as liberals. To make the charge, it's only fair you have some solid examples in mind.

You said: "McBrien is a priest. I take it you are not. His credentials for orthodoxy are as good as "Fr." Z's and better than yours."

That's a fallacious appeal to credentials. A priest can be faithful or unfaithful to church teaching; they are not automatically right in virtue of their office. You're well aware of how often liberal scholars push anti-Christian agendas simply on the basis they have credentials while their objectors do not.

You said: You seem surprised.

Yes, because to say Scripture isn't perspicuous on eccelesiology means Scripture isn't clear on an important aspect of Christianity.

You said: "Or it's not that big a problem. Lots of groups with different ecclesiologies manage to proclaim the gospel."

Then what you're saying is ecclesiology isn't coupled with an orthodox gospel, which reduces ecclesiology to a non-essential.

You said: I guess that explains why the earliest church fathers didn't teach any of Rome's distinctive dogmas - because they lacked her ecclesiology!

I consider that a red-herring. Improper ecclesiology will end up causing significant errors down the line, yet you're claiming it's independent of preaching an orthodox gospel.

You said: The truth either is that it was for all time or it was not. If it was not, there's no disobedience. If it was, then there's absolute (not relative) disobedience.

Correct. The problem is, whether a given thing was meant for all time or temporary cannot be settled.

You said: What difference does it make who says it?

It makes a big difference, because it would show who is being consistent and who isn't. If no big name Protestants vouch for it on the grounds it was only temporary, then they've opened themselves up for the same response on texts like 1 Tim 3 on male clergy.

You said: That's interesting. You know that the folks at Catholic Answers have been arguing that the revisions to canon law mean that women no longer are required to cover their heads. And those are "conservatives."

There is no such thing as 'conservative', all that really means is 'less liberal'. Either a group is faithful or they are not. Further, a law not mentioning something doesn't mean that thing is bad or shouldn't be done, it only means it's not legally enforced. For example, lying might not be said to be a crime in any given legal code, but that doesn't mean lying is ok, only that it won't be legally punished.

You said: But, in any event, women from all ecclesiologies have been increasingly disregarding that particular command.

But that doesn't make it right.

You said: It makes a difference whether you slide down the slope (into anarchy) or not.

That's relatively minor when you consider the slope is still towards anarchy. It's like worrying about the lawn when the house is being foreclosed on.

Rhology said...

A priest can be faithful or unfaithful to church teaching; they are not automatically right in virtue of their office. You're well aware of how often liberal scholars push anti-Christian agendas simply on the basis they have credentials while their objectors do not.

The problem is not that that's not true, but on what basis you tell us it's the case.
You tell us individuals must submit to The Church in these kinds of matters, then you turn around and violate your own recommendation. Who are you? Why should we believe you in favor of a priest?

Turretinfan said...

"I asked for some examples because I don't believe 'conservative' Catholics play fast and loose with Church documents, especially not in an analogous way as liberals. To make the charge, it's only fair you have some solid examples in mind."

I can understand your reason for asking, but hopefully you can also understand my reason for not providing examples (I don't want to debate the examples with you). Suffice that each side accuses the other of not properly handling church teaching.

I wrote: "McBrien is a priest. I take it you are not. His credentials for orthodoxy are as good as "Fr." Z's and better than yours."

You wrote: "That's a fallacious appeal to credentials."

Not every appeal to credentials is a fallacious appeal.

You wrote: "A priest can be faithful or unfaithful to church teaching; they are not automatically right in virtue of their office."

My argument did not depend on such a premise.

And further, the same is true of the pope (except when ex cathedra) and the CDF.

"You're well aware of how often liberal scholars push anti-Christian agendas simply on the basis they have credentials while their objectors do not."

Again, this doesn't address what I wrote.

"to say Scripture isn't perspicuous on eccelesiology means Scripture isn't clear on an important aspect of Christianity."

Or it just means that what you think is important is not.

"Then what you're saying is ecclesiology isn't coupled with an orthodox gospel, which reduces ecclesiology to a non-essential."

Exactly.

I wrote: "I guess that explains why the earliest church fathers didn't teach any of Rome's distinctive dogmas - because they lacked her ecclesiology!"

You replied: "I consider that a red-herring."

I'm not persuaded to agree with you about that.

[to be continued]

Turretinfan said...

"Improper ecclesiology will end up causing significant errors down the line, yet you're claiming it's independent of preaching an orthodox gospel."

You are claiming it will end up causing the errors. But, as I noted, the ECFs weren't papalist. So, if you are right about the importance of ecclesiology, it could explain why you are wrong on so many other things.

"The problem is, whether a given thing was meant for all time or temporary cannot be settled."

Of course it can be settled. You can settle it by coercively imposing one view from the top down. Isn't that your proposal?

You said: What difference does it make who says it?

It makes a big difference, because it would show who is being consistent and who isn't. If no big name Protestants vouch for it on the grounds it was only temporary, then they've opened themselves up for the same response on texts like 1 Tim 3 on male clergy.

You said: That's interesting. You know that the folks at Catholic Answers have been arguing that the revisions to canon law mean that women no longer are required to cover their heads. And those are "conservatives."

There is no such thing as 'conservative', all that really means is 'less liberal'. Either a group is faithful or they are not. Further, a law not mentioning something doesn't mean that thing is bad or shouldn't be done, it only means it's not legally enforced. For example, lying might not be said to be a crime in any given legal code, but that doesn't mean lying is ok, only that it won't be legally punished.

I wrote: "But, in any event, women from all ecclesiologies have been increasingly disregarding that particular command."

You wrote: "But that doesn't make it right."

Obviously. It just suggests that it hasn't anything to do with ecclesiology.

"That's relatively minor when you consider the slope is still towards anarchy."

No. A miss by an inch is as good as a miss by a mile.

"It's like worrying about the lawn when the house is being foreclosed on."

No, it's like nearly being hit by a bus.

If you're just on a slippery slope, but you don't slide down it, you don't incur the harm at the bottom of the slope.

-TurretinFan

Rhology said...

Not every appeal to credentials is a fallacious appeal.

Especially when it’s Rome herself that sets up the system where priestly credentials matter so much. As opposed to the priesthood of the believer doctrine. It’s as if Nick forgets that he’s Roman Catholic sometimes. Conveniently.

Nick said...

The only two issues of significance are these:

(1) Your claim that ecclesiology is a non-essential. I just cannot imagine how you can say this, since in Protestantism there have been bitter disputes over ecclesiology among Protestants. Without ecclesiology, you cannot even technically define 'schism'.


(2) You seemed to concede there is no way to tell if a given practice, in this case head-coverings, is temporary or perpetual.

Within this, you seemed to be operating with a different definition of 'slippery slope' than traditionally defined, which is a path that inevitably leads to the 'bottom', where as you propose it's possible to stop indefinitely at any point.

Turretinfan said...

"(1) Your claim that ecclesiology is a non-essential. I just cannot imagine how you can say this, since in Protestantism there have been bitter disputes over ecclesiology among Protestants. Without ecclesiology, you cannot even technically define 'schism'."

So what?

"(2) You seemed to concede there is no way to tell if a given practice, in this case head-coverings, is temporary or perpetual."

It may have seemed that way you to you, but I did not concede that.

"Within this, you seemed to be operating with a different definition of 'slippery slope' than traditionally defined, which is a path that inevitably leads to the 'bottom', where as you propose it's possible to stop indefinitely at any point."

If a person claims X is a slippery slope to Y, they have to show both that it is a slope to Y (which I think you've done - if one thing is culturally conditioned, then lots of things could be) and that the slope is slippery. That's the part you haven't shown.

-TurretinFan

Rhology said...

Without ecclesiology, you cannot even technically define 'schism'.

That may be true, but it doesn't follow that ecclesiology is something over which to schism.

Turretinfan said...

heh

PeaceByJesus said...

I had before me the other day just one of the many examples of the plethora of papal prolixity, an encyclical (QUADRAGESIMO ANNO, POPE PIUS Xl ,MAY 15, 1931) of over 20,000 words, with more than one paragraph of over 400 words, and at least one sentence of over 90 words, and which also abounds in punctuation.

In addition are the pronouncements of the nearly 300 so-called popes through the centuries. "Alexander III is said to have issued thirty-nine hundred and thirty-nine decrees and Innocent II over five thousand." (General Legislation in the New Code of Canon Law, p. 42; H.A. Ayrinhac, Longmans, Green & Co., New York, 1969). That is your church.

Then there is Vatican Two, of which some Catholics say,

Conservative Novus Ordo Catholics who object to the drastic changes call them "abuses" that result from the "misinterpretation" of Conciliar teachings. They point to many fine and orthodox statements in support of their contention. Those on the other hand who are on the forefront of the Revolution - the Liberal post-Conciliar Catholic - can justify almost anything they wish by recourse to the same documents.

The definitive texts are for the most part compromise texts. On far too many occasions they juxtapose opposing viewpoints without establishing any genuine internal link between them. . — http://www.the-pope.com/wvat2tec.html

Furthermore is issue of the perspicuity of certain writings of church “fathers.”