Christ stilling the waves

The Trumpeteer

  • SOME HARD QUETIONS

    SOME HARD QUESTIONS

    REGARDING THE PRESENT STATE OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

    Several years ago Father Tomas Halik, the Czech philosopher priest, who one would hardly describe as being in the vanguard of the ultra-orthodox said that the Church was like a dying man, whose relatives didn’t dare tell him that he was dying. Just about a week ago Cardinal Burke said that he would ne, for some time, a de facto schism, which also is rather like Tomas Halik’s dying man. It is as plain as a pike staff, or the nose on one’s face.

    We then are confronted by a cabal of Cardinals, and bishops who would seem to want to change the teachings of the Church especially with regard to sexual morality. These men if they are successful will themselves create the schism, and then which side will the Pope find himself on. There was a lot to be said for the Byzantine Emperors, they could be very good, or very bad, orthodox or heretical, but their very power even if badly used could bring balance. This is especially true of Justinian, a fairly competent theologian and a great Emperor.

    In ‘The Three Chapters’ controversy, which dominated the Fifth General Council of Constantinople, convened by Justinian on 5th May 553, was the banana skin on which Pope Vigilius slipped. In 543 Justinian had anathematized the teaching and person of Origen; that he anathematized Origen’s person is unfortunate as Origen was indeed the stuff that martyrs are made of. However, Justinian then anathematized the ‘Three Chapters’ which were the writings of Theodore of Mopusestia as well as his person, and some of the writings of Theodore of Cyrrhus and Ibas of Edessa, who the Monophysites in the Empire considered to be Nestorian, which they were not. They were considered to be orthodox by the great Council of Chalcedon, and were indeed so. Initially Pope Vigilius refused to condemn the ‘Three Chapters’ but finally capitulated and was excommunicated by the Synod of African bishops who were absolutely right in doing such. Vigilius and Justinian had agreed that the only way things could be resolved was for there to be a Council and so there was, but before it met there had been a struggle between Vigilius who was in Constantinople, and Justinian.

    Vigilius wrote a private letter to Justinian saying he would do all that was within his power to obtain the condemnation of ‘Three Chapters’. Askisdas, the theological adviser to Justinian, persuaded him to condemn the ‘The Three Chapters’ in an edict. Vigilius demanded that the edict be retracted, and excommunicated Askidas. Vigilius then fled, accompanied by his clergy to a church, to seek sanctuary. However the police grabbed hold of the poor man who held on to the altar with such force that it collapsed. He was imprisoned for a second time by Justinian, but escaped across the roofs of the city, crossed the Bosphorus and as J.N.D. Kelly wrily notes “and took refuge, appropriately, in the council church at Chalcedon. By the time the Fifth General Council opened in Constantinople, Vigilius had summoned up enough courage to refuse to attend; his excuse was that there were not enough Westerners represented. On 14th May Vigilius issued his First Constitution, which condemned sixty of Theodore’s supposed propositions, but not the man himself. Justinian rejected this and turned the tables on the already fairly humiliated Vigilius by revealing his secret correspondence, in which Vigilius had promised to do all he could to get ‘The Three Chapters’ condemned. To really humiliate Vigilius Justinian ordered that Vigilius’ name be struck from the diptychs. The diptychs were those parts of the Liturgy where the bishop, patriarch or pope prayed for other bishops, patriarchs, etc. Justinian said he was not breaking communion with the Papacy but with Vigilius.

    This situation has resonances with the Pontificate of Francis. Because of his heretical statements there is great confusion. People posit various suggestions. The easiest one to propose in solving the problem is the following solution to the confusion, and the least tenable, namely that Pope Francis was invalidly elected. The reason put forward for this view is that the Sankt Gallen group, the liberal group of cardinals and bishops who were opposed to John Paul II and, sadly, included in their number Cardinal Hume, were a cabal formed up to, and during the 2013 conclave to get Jorge Bergolio elected as Pope, thus going against John Paul II’s constitution on Papal Elections, and also by this action excommunicating themselves in the process. On one level this is almost by the by as the electoral procedures for electing Popes have certainly developed over the last nearly two thousand years. It is interesting to note that the first Pope after Peter, namely Linus, was entrusted with this office as Bishop of Rome by Peter and Paul. In that case there was no election simply an appointment.

    The other solution is that proposed by the great Spanish Jesuit theologian Suarez. If the Pope is found to be a heretic, then he can be deposed by the bishops as he is no longer a member of the Church. I am putting this rather simply as the whole thing can be very complicated.

    What the whole madness of the present day Church reveals is where does this put Infallibility. Now Blessed Pius IX was so determined to save the Church from all her enemies that Infallibility of the Pope seemed to him a God given opportunity to do this. However, when the Bishops of the Catholic Church assembled in the Vatican for Vatican I they had not been informed, prior to this moment, that Papal Infallibility was on the list of subjects to be discussed. A lot of bishops were not keen on making Papal Infallibility a dogma (With the help of Hans Küng Pope Francis may just declare that he is no longer infallible!). Pius IX appears to have been almost the bishops to get them to assent, and quite a few left before the final vote, as they felt they could not vote for the dogma. Newman was very concerned about it, and quite rightly so. Another thing to take into account is that the Council broke up before it was finished due to the outbreak of the Franco Prussian War. It is good to know all this, and to realize that God does write straight with crooked lines, but It does beg a whole lot of questions.

    Another question is why has there never been a Reformation in Orthodoxy? The question may be partially answered by the following question. Does Faith seek understanding, or does understanding seek Faith? The former is Augustinian and the latter is Thomist. Thomas unwittingly opened the floodgates of the pursuit of knowledge. Simple peasants have become saints, and illiterate people have become saints, and Christ’s preaching and teaching was hardly of a kind that you would find in the halls of great Medieval Universities. Also you do not find anti clericalism in Orthodox countries, nor for that fact do you find it Protestant countries; make of that what you will.

    The problem is that the doctrine of development has become exaggerated since it was fully investigated by Newman. It can only develop within very tight bounds and most be squared with Scripture. This would be the Orthodox view.

    Also in the 19th century there was a lack of vigilance on the part of the Catholic Church with regard to the pseudoscience of evolution. The great Russian Orthodox writers, both priestly and lay could see the dangers and warned of the coming apostasy. That vigilance was lacking in the Catholic Church, and so science beguiled many priests and you ended up with Modernism which having not been destroyed by St. Pius X slumbered away until it was awakened with a vengeance at Vatican II.

    Finally why is the Catholic West so un-penitential these days, and the Orthodox East still so penitential? Why for the most part is Orthodox theology still so sound and modern Catholic theology one big heretical mess? Can anyone come up with some answers?

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