Saturday, December 08, 2007

Unam Sanctam mentioned in recent lecture in Austria!

No, not the blog, the papal bull issued by Pope Boniface VIII in 1302. Two nights ago (Feast of St. Nicholas), the International Theological Institute in Austria hosted a lecture by Prof. Christoph Suttner, one of the world's leading historians of the Greek churches.

Although it will force me to make gross simplifications of all he had to say, I'm going to keep this very short. Bascially, he said that the Orthodox are neither schismatics nor heretics.

1. There is no schism because Vatican II said that wherever the Eucharist is celebrated there is a true particular church. If they are true particular churches then they are in the one Church of Christ, hence no schism.

2. Furthermore, if they are true churches, and the church is infallible, then they can't be heretics, and you are a heretic if you say they are.

To the first I reply: Nonsense. Although Vatican II does recognize Orthodox churches as true particular churches, the whole point is that their union is imperfect inasmuch as they refuse submission to the Roman Pontiff. To the extent that they are true churches they are already Catholic; to the extent that they refuse obedience to Rome they are in schism.

To the second I reply: Hogwash. Infallibility certainly does not apply to particular churches. On this account even the Arians wouldn't be heretics. The only real leg that he had left to stand on after a few pointed questions is the fact that the Orthodox church hasn't really taught anything ever since the Council of Florence (1439) where they agreed to the Catholic doctrine of the Holy Spirit's procession from the Son, the legitimacy of unleavened bread in the Eucharist, the existence of Purgatory, and the primacy of the Pope. This is the last official Orthodox teaching because the emperor (Caesaropapism was always a problem in the East) was eliminated in 1453 when Constantinople was taken by the Turk. Well and good, but if the denial of a dogmatically defined doctrine of the Church (such as the Filioque clause or the Immaculate Conception) doesn't make for heresy nothing does.

In the question period following the lecture one of the students present raised on objection to the Prof.'s lecture, referencing the following from Unam Sanctam: "Therefore, of the one and only Church there is one body and one head, not two heads like a monster; that is, Christ and the Vicar of Christ, Peter and the successor of Peter, since the Lord speaking to Peter Himself said: 'Feed my sheep' [Jn 21:17], meaning, my sheep in general, not these, nor those in particular, whence we understand that He entrusted all to him [Peter]. Therefore, if the Greeks or others should say that they are not confided to Peter and to his successors, they must confess not being the sheep of Christ, since Our Lord says in John 'there is one sheepfold and one shepherd.'

Believe it or not, the Prof's answer was that he had never heard of the document, but if it really said what is says he is sure it is simply wrong. What is also interesting in this connection though is that the words that imply the exercise of infallibility, "We declare, we proclaim, we define..." occur at the end of the document with only this following: "...that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff." Clearly, we have here an infallible statement to the effect of extra ecclesia non salus. My question is, what does this mean for the rest of the document? It seems that it would be hard to argue that what precedes is also infallible (which, of course, does not mean that it must be any less true). I would love to hear some other people's thoughts on this.

1 comment:

Mr S said...

Well reasoned
Well presented
Well appreciated

Good job old man