Sunday, December 09, 2007

Prof. never heard of Unam Sanctam

I just wanted to follow up on Anselm's post from yesterday on the Professor of the history of the Greek churches who claims to have never heard of the famous 1302 bull Unam Sanctam (by the way, is it any coincidence that this blog is called Unam Sanctam Catholicam and that my name on here is Boniface? It is a direct reference to this very bull).

First of all, I think it is horrible that this professor claims to have never heard of the document. If you are any type of Catholic or Orthodox, then you ought to be familiar with the doctrinal, historical and ecumenical issues that exist between the two churches. To be a historian of the Greek churches and yet be unfamiliar with Unam Sanctam is simply inexcusable; it is like a Mariologist saying he never heard of Ineffabilis Deus. I am only a lay theologian, and only an amateur one at that, since my degree was in history. But when I read Anselm's post, even before I got through the whole thing, I just instinctively by virtue of my sensus catholicus thought, "But what about Unam Sanctam, which specifically mentions the Greek churches by name and says that their lack of submission to the pope puts them outside of the flock?" If me, a lay theologian, automatically thought about the bull, I am shocked that a specialist in the history of the Greek churches did not think of it; worse, that he had never heard of it and then declared that it must be wrong automatically (he must have great mental powers to declare something wrong that he never heard of).

The last aspect is particularly troubling since, as Anselm pointed out, the bull was an exercise of ex cathedra infallibility by its use of the formula "We declare, we proclaim, we define..." It is usually taken that only the statement to which the formula is appended is infallible in the ex cathedra sense, but it has always been maintained that bulls/encyclicals represent the teaching authority of the ordinary Magisterium and consequently must be adhered to with divine and Catholic faith in everything that they affirm pertaining to faith and morals. In more concrete theological terms, I would say that the ex cathedra statement in the bull regarding extra ecclesia non salus is ex cathedra dogma, de fide, while the other statements that it makes regarding the Greek churches are sententia fidei proxima, a teaching of the ordinary Magisterium that because of its close connection with a truth of revelation cannot be denied without denying revelation itself. The truth of revelation it is connected to is the primacy of the papacy and the necessity of being in union with the Bishop of Rome, as explicated at the end of the bull. The sententia fidei proxima is the conclusion which comes from that; i.e., that the Greek churches, by virtue of their refusal to acknowledge the papal primacy, are therefore not in full union with the Church. You cannot contest the latter without denying the former.

I agree with Anselm's judgment that this Professor's reasoning for saying the Greeks were neither heretics nor schismatics are "nonsense" and "hogwash." I may possibly be persuaded that they are not heretics, but they are certainly schismatic, no doubt about that. If they are not in schism, may I ask what exactly did happen in 1054? If they are not in schism, what was the point of the ecumenical dialogues undertaken in the Councils of Florence and of Lyons? Why the lifting of the excommunications by John Paul II? Why all the regulations for under what circumstances you can receive sacraments in an Orthodox church? Why then, in all the 23 approved rites of the Church, is Greek Orthodox not listed as one? If they are not in schism, why do all these other things exist that clearly point to the fact that they are in schism? Furthermore, professor, if they are not in schism, just what are they? In full communion with Rome and under the authority of the Pontiff of Rome? Just ask any Greek Orthodox patriarch is he is in communion with Rome under the authority of the Pope and see what he says.

One last thought on this. In the 1896 bull of Leo XIII Apostolicae Curae regarding Anglican orders, the Pope came to his judgment on the nullity of Anglican orders by looking at the historical practice of the papacy with regards to Anglican clergyman. Since the popes had always in practice treated Anglican orders as invalid, he came to the conclusion that they therefore were (with some theological treatment on form and intention in sacraments as well). This principle of precedent is how the papacy has traditionally decided how it was going to act in contemporary situations. Now, to the question of whether or not the Greeks are in schism, we look only to how the Church has always in practice treated the Greek Churches, and there can be no doubt that the traditional praxis of the Church establishes beyond all doubt the reality of the schism.

In Leo XIII's day, ecumenism and reunion were brought about by overcoming obstacles and objections to arrive at the truth. Nowadays it is brought about by denying that there are any obstacles to begin with.


AquinaSavio said...

I must admit, I know very little about the schism. Do you have any good websites where I could read up on it? Thanks. :)

John said...

Start here: