Friday, December 16, 2011

Roma Locuta Est - Causa Finita Est - Debunked Some More

Advocates of the papacy frequently allege that Augustine said, "Roma locuta est, causa finita est."  Augustine did not say this.  My friend Dr. White debunked this urban legend some time ago.  Others have also debunked it.  I'd like to add my own two cents.

After all, I've recently encountered a couple of advocates of the papacy who argue that, although Augustine didn't say "Roma locuta est," he did say "causa finita est" (the cause is ended).  This is true.

Here's the relevant portion from Sermon 131 in context:

For already two councils have, in this cause, sent letters to the Apostolic See, whence also rescripts have come back. The cause is ended: would that the error might some day end! Therefore we admonish so that they may take notice, we teach so that they may be instructed, we pray so that their way be changed.
Although he did say "the cause is ended," this sound bite doesn't actually help the papal advocate, for at least the following three reasons:

1) The appeal is to settled conciliar authority (not papal authority as such).  So, "Rome has spoken, the case is closed" is not a very accurate summary.  A more accurate summary would be "two councils have spoken - the case is closed."  That's not to say that the rescripts weren't from Rome - they were.

2) The reference to rescripts is a reference to a response from Rome regarding the decisions of the councils. Such a rescript neither has its own infallibility nor gives infallibility to the decrees of the councils, whether considered by Roman standards of that day or this day.

3) Notice that there were two councils, not just one.  This is part of Augustine's point.  His point is that, in terms of church court process, continuing this debate is beating a dead horse.  He's not saying that two councils is a magic number, just as he's not saying that getting a response from Rome magically makes the conciliar decisions correct. 

- TurretinFan

22 comments:

Algo said...

Turretinfan, this is a very nice summary.

Coram Deo said...

TF, a question from the Peanut Gallery - why would Augustine have preferred the descriptor "Apostolic See" for the church at Rome over alternatives? I'm unfamiliar with the developments that would have led that title being appended to Rome by Augustine.

Algo said...

C.D
If you were to refer to the Capital of your state depending on which state you were in it would be known as "the capitol".
In the ancient church, at least at the time of Augustine there were 5 Apostolic Sees (or seats).
Rome
Constantinople
Antioch
Alexandria
Jerusalem

The only one of the 5 in the West (where Augustine served) was Rome. So when he refers to The Apostolic See, he is referring to the one see in his territory.

turretinfan said...

Augustine was in the West. A tradition had developed in the west of passing the judgments "up" to the bishop of Rome for approval/ratification. In the case of North Africa, their "Apostolic See" was Rome, whereas had they been in Egypt, it would have been Alexandria.

Pete Holter said...

Hey Turretin Fan!

The decision of the bishop of Rome lent a greater weight of authority to the decisions of the councils held in Africa. If you follow Augustine’s thought on this, I think that you will find that it was the authority of the bishop of Rome being added to the local councils that brought the case to a close.

Merry Christmas to you guys!

In Christ,
Pete

turretinfan said...

As I said in the article, even if you suppose it was the authority of the bishop of Rome, it was merely his fallible authority, even by the standards of your church. That's not particularly helpful for your case.

Pete Holter said...

My case is that it was the authority of the bishop of Rome that brought the case to a close. :) By the way, if you live around MD or are ever in the area, let’s get together and work this out!

In Christ,
Pete

rick pilgrim said...

When encountered romanist, all resources from Dr. James White and Turretinfan very helpfull , indeed ! :)

Coram Deo said...

Thanks Algo and TF; not to belabor the point, but by what means did traditions develop that resulted Apostolic Sees (or seats) in Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem? I'd be glad to read up on the matter myself if you don't mind pointing me to a solid resource or two. Obviously Rome appeals to the supremacy of the Petrine Bishopric when arrogating claims of "Apostolic Authority" to herself, so methinks a better understanding the historical development of the Sees is worthwhile.

turretinfan said...

Alexandria, Rome, and later Constantinople were big imperial cities. Antioch was pretty big as well, and was famous as one of the early cities to have a significant Christian presence. Jerusalem was far less of an imperial city, but was the place it all started.

turretinfan said...

So, then, you must concede that infallible authority isn't necessary to resolve disputes, which concedes the Protestant position. Thank you.

Pete Holter said...

TurretinFan wrote, “So, then, you must concede that infallible authority isn't necessary to resolve disputes, which concedes the Protestant position. Thank you.”

Hi, TurretinFan!

I concede that infallible authority being exercised by the Church isn’t always necessary to resolve disputes. But the bishop of Rome had given his authoritative confirmation of the African councils, and that was enough to bring the Pelagian cause to an end as far as Augustine was concerned. Augustine was aware that the African councils were not of themselves a sufficient authority to do this at that stage in the controversy.

In Christ,
Pete

turretinfan said...

If you concede that it's not categorically necessary to settle church disputes over doctrine, then you've given away the store to the Protestants. And any subsequent argument that it is sometimes necessary is transparently ad hoc.

As for Augustine, we can determine from his other writings that he valued the authority of the African councils more than that of the bishop of Rome. For example, when Zosimus, the bishop of Rome, approved of the Pelagians, Augustine didn't consider the matter "case closed" in the least.

Pete Holter said...

TurretinFan: “If you concede that it's not categorically necessary to settle church disputes over doctrine, then you've given away the store to the Protestants. And any subsequent argument that it is sometimes necessary is transparently ad hoc.”

Well, I think that it’s just not always necessary to have such a final decision. If you have a dispute with a friend of yours over doctrine, and you’re able to settle the dispute in a Care Group / Bible Study type gathering, then you wouldn’t have to keep proceeding further and further to more and more formal decisions.

TurretinFan: “As for Augustine, we can determine from his other writings that he valued the authority of the African councils more than that of the bishop of Rome. For example, when Zosimus, the bishop of Rome, approved of the Pelagians, Augustine didn’t consider the matter ‘case closed’ in the least.”

In terms of the authority of Zosimus, what you’ll find in regard to the Pelagian controversy is that Augustine viewed Zosimus as being bound only by the previous decision of Pope Innocent, and not by the decisions of the African councils. The case was still closed against the doctrines of the Pelagians, but it was a matter of convincing Zosimus that, in spite of appearances, Pelagius and Coelestius had not in fact corrected themselves in keeping with Pope Innocent’s decree.

With love in Christ,
Pete

Coram Deo said...

Mr. Holter,

I notice that you typically close your comments with some variation of the phrase "in Christ". If I may ask, in your own words what does it mean for you to be "in Christ"?

Pete Holter said...

Thanks for asking, Coram Deo.

For me, this means that I am a member of His Body through His Spirit living in me. That I have been united with Him in His death and raised with Him through faith in the powerful working of God. And that now I “eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness” from “the God of hope,” having gained access by faith into the grace in which I stand, wherein God’s love has been poured into my heart through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to me. That I have Christ living in me, the hope of glory! And from this position of union with Christ, I try to extend His love in my interactions with others. By grace I have been saved in an exciting way, and this is not my own doing.

In Christ,
Pete

Constantine said...

My friend Pete writes,

"The case was still closed against the doctrines of the Pelagians, but it was a matter of convincing Zosimus that, in spite of appearances, Pelagius and Coelestius had not in fact corrected themselves in keeping with Pope Innocent’s decree.

The question is how did Augustine "convince" Zosimus. And the answer is that he appealed to the secular emperor of Rome, Honorius. I think that pretty conclusively shows that the pope of Rome was not the final arbiter for Augustine.

Peace.

Pete Holter said...

Hello again, TurretinFan!

As an aside, I believe this entry was sparked by the interaction you had had with Scott Windsor over on Beggars All.

There, Scott had linked to a series of exchanges that he had had with Dr. White and Pastor King about Sermon 131/81. I took a look at this exchange and saw that Scott mistakenly holds that Augustine had Pope Zosimus in mind when Sermon 131 was written.

I think that the best way to unravel the confusion here is to provide Scott with a fuller excerpt from Ad Salutem Humani. Scott accidentally took Pius XI to be referring to Zosimus in what he says in his encyclical about “Rome has spoken, the cause is finished.” Scott didn’t realize that Pius’ use of “Roman Pontiff” in connection with this refers the reader back to Pope Innocent and his judgment against the Pelagians. Also, the English translations available on the Internet accidentally read Roman Pontiffs (plural), where they should really read Roman Pontiff’s (singular possessive). This may also have lent to the confusion. Here is the fuller excerpt:

“Again, when the Pelagian heresy had launched its attack and its adherents were endeavoring by guile and deceit to unsettle the minds and hearts of the Faithful, the Fathers of the Council of Milevum, which with others owed much to the inspiration and leadership of Augustine, submitted to Innocent I for his approval their discussions and the decrees they framed in stating their conclusions. The Pope in reply praised the bishops because of their zeal for religion and because of their thoroughly loyal spirit towards the Roman Pontiff.

“ ‘They know,’ he wrote, ‘that from the apostolic fountain-head issue answers to inquirers through all provinces. Particularly when a matter of Faith is in question, I think that our brothers and fellow-bishops should have recourse to Peter alone, namely to the author of the title and rank they hold, even as you, beloved Brethren, have now appealed, because he can give universal aid to all churches through the whole world’ (Pope Innocent to the Council of Milevis; Letter 182 in Augustine’s Collection). When Augustine, accordingly, had learned of the Roman Pontiff’s (Latin: Romani Pontificis) condemnation of Pelagius and Caelestius, he uttered the following memorable words in a sermon to the people: ‘The views of two councils touching this controversy have been transmitted to the Apostolic See, and the answer has been sent back. The case has been settled. God grant that the error be ended likewise’ (Sermon 131). These words of his, condensed a trifle, have passed into a proverb: ‘Rome has spoken, the cause is finished.’ Again in another occasion, after citing the decision of Pope Zosimus put under the ban of his condemnation all Pelagians in all parts of the world, the saint wrote: ‘The Catholic doctrine is so ancient and well-grounded, so certain and clear in these words of the Apostolic See, that it would be criminal in a Christian to doubt of this truth’ (Letter 190 in Augustine’s Collection)” (Pope Pius XI, Ad Salutem Humani).

Merry Christmas to everyone!

With love in Christ,
Pete

Coram Deo said...

Thanks for your reply, Mr. Holter. May I inquire a bit more? If so, in your own words, what do you mean when you say you are "in a position of union with Christ"? What does it mean to you to be in union with Christ? Also may I inquire as to the means by which you believe you have entered into union with Christ, and by what means said union is maintained?

Pete Holter said...

I wrote “Pope Pius IX, Ad Salutem Humani” – Whoops, that should have been Pius XI.

By the way, I’ve written something related to this topic over on the Catholic Forums in response to a quote provided by none other than… Algo!!! You can find my 3 post response beginning here: http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=556682&page=15#223.

Merry Christmas, once again!

In Christ,
Pete

Constantine said...

Pete writes,

I’d like to see the evidence for the claim that Zosimus’ Tractoria followed after the edict of the emperor, and the reasoning that is used to show that the latter is a cause of the former. I’m actually not convinced that either of these things is true; though perhaps one or both of these things are true.

Do you think the former caused the latter? That Zosimus's action inspired the emperor? No, because nobody does.

I think Dom Chapman has his history a little sideways:

The trial of Celestius would naturally be as soon as might be after March 18th or 21st, when the Pope wrote to Africa.

We know that Zosimus wrote to the Africans twice, both in September of 417. So I'm not sure what trial you are alluding to here? Could it be the one he endured in Africa? Rome? I don't know.

In fact the Pope had been waiting for nothing but the reply of the council, and he had already waited six months instead of two.

That's odd. Zosimus wrote twice to Africa in September 417. The council responded in November 417 when it informed Zosimus that, “We have ordained that the sentence which the venerable bishop Innocent pronounced against Pelagius and Caelestius shall stand.” In other words, Zosimus could kindly butt out. (Odd language with which to address a pope, no?) So when Zosimus wrote his “Quamvis patrum” in March of 418, he certainly was not waiting for a reply. The nearly six month delay was for other reasons.

He acknowledges that “It has been frequently upheld that the decree of April 30 expelling the pilgrims from Italy was obtained from the Emperor by the Africans, and that it was prior to the condemnation by Zosimus.” But nevertheless goes on to say, “This is most unlikely.” I’d like to see how he has been responded to.

The Africans did obtain the rescript from the emperor which proves their denial of papal authority. The emperor's edict was actually issued April 30, 418 which was just over a month after Zosimus's reversal.

Based on witnesses such as these, it doesn’t seem to be decided which came first.

Zosimus's writing came first; 21 March 418.

Why would Pope Zosimus be simply waiting to hear from Africa before making a decision about the excommunication, but then all of a sudden require an imperial edict to move him to resolution?

Because even he didn't believe he had final authority. He was caused to wait, in the first instance, because of the blow back from the African bishops. Professor Henry Chadwick puts the matter this way: “The horrified Africans reacted to this (Zosimus's support of Pelagius) so explosively that for six months Zosimus hesitated....” (Chadwick, Henry. “The Penguin History of the Church: The Early Church v. 1”, ePenguin, 1993. p. 230). I don't think we need to address why Zosimus responded to an imperial edict, do we?

Merry Christmas, Pete!

Pete Holter said...

Thank you for the dates, Constantine. But can you give me the primary sources and reasoning used by historians to date both the tractoria and the imperial edict? I’ve only seen them make assertions. And Zosimus’ and Augustine’s contemporaries, Marius Mercator and Possidius, both seem to date the condemnation of Coelestius and issuance of the tractoria prior to imperial involvement. Thank you, Emperor. :)

In Christ,
Pete