Friday, January 17, 2020

Schaff and Launoy Pre-Response

Another area that Mr. William Albrecht may choose to attack in our debate scheduled for tomorrow is the veracity of the historians from whom the list of popes came, Philip Schaff. Schaff is neither omniscient not infallible, and his conclusions and findings (like those of any historian), are open to challenge. That said, he is a leading Protestant historian, and has been accused by some of being too "Pro-Catholic." That said, he was quite definitely Protestant, and for some Roman Catholics that might be too much to handle.

Someone might say that, in any event, a historian is only as good as his sources. In this case, the source Schaff cites is another notable historian, Jean de Launoy. Launoy was the myth-buster of his time and an ordained priest in the Roman Catholic Church. His work was not well received by those who love their traditions, and the traditions he attacked included the claim that Mary Magdelene spent time in Provence, France. He got the reputation of being excessively skeptical of the miraculous, a charge that led to him being described having a sort of Socinian rationalism. But wait, there's more.

Launoyle - le dénicheur de saints ('the Sainthunter') - managed to vex the Carmelites and Pope Benedict XIV, the latter of which ended up attacking Launoy's character in a papal bull (De Festis). How did Launoy do this? As "A Catholic Dictionary," (Addis and Arnold eds.) reports on the entry for "Scapular," Launoy proved that the Sabbatine bull of Pope John XXII was, in fact, a clumsy forgery, and that one attributed to Pope Alexander V was another forgery designed to cover the first. As the Sabbatine Bull provided an indulgence in association with the use of the scapular, as well as because it recounted an alleged Marian apparition, it was much beloved by folks like Pope Benedict XIV.

Benedict XIV has negative comments for Launoy ("impudentissime, turpissimeque mentitum"), but the dictionary mentioned above refers to his debunking of the forgery, "a dissertation of wonderful learning."

As Sherry L. Reams described it: "Launoy--a priest and doctor of theology whose major offense was to demonstrate the absurdity of such famous medieval legends as those casting Dionysius the Areopagite as the first bishop of Paris and crediting the foundation of the church in Provence to Lazarus, Martha, and Mary Magdalene--aroused such passionate opposition among his countrymen that he gained a lasting reputation as an impious enemy of the saints." (The Leganda Aurea, University of Wisconsin Press, 1985, p. 32)

As icing on the cake, Launoy was Gallican as opposed to being an ultramontanist. Gallicans took the position that papal power was limited by the authority of the bishops and temporal governments. Whether this was the cause or effect of Benedict XIV execrations, who knows.

Suffice to suggest that the extant criticism of him is more about a disagreement with his conclusion than an attack on his historical methods. Like Schaff, he is neither omniscient nor infallible. Neither of those, however, should prevent us from benefiting from his historical insights.

I should point out that Benedict XIV would not have liked Launoy's list of popes that denied the immaculate conception. Reportedly his "golden bull," Gloriosae Dominae, was one of the stepping stones toward the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception (and toward a future definition of Mary Co-Redemptrix), and referred to Mary as "Queen of Heaven" (compare Jeremiah 7:18, 44:17-19&25).

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