The Sarabite: Towards an Aesthetic Christianity

There is a continuous attraction, beginning with God, going to the world, and ending at last with God, an attraction which returns to the same place where it began as though in a kind of circle. -Marsilio Ficino

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

You Know Who You Are....

For many conservative Catholics, the Papacy is about signing the dotted-line but disregarding the fine print. They use Patristic sources to paint a broad picture about how things should be, but never get into specifics on how it all works. Are there Papal maximalist texts in the writings of the early Church? Yes. Does that mean that this enables Papal power to change the formulation of doctrine, liturgy, or to even choose bishops half-way around the world? No.

Romans were a very legal people. The Catholic Church is a very legal Church. So let's cut to the chase and talk about the fine print of the deal. How much power would the Pope have if the Orthodox Church came under him? How much could he intervene? Would he have to sign something saying that he could do ABC and not XYZ? If the Orthdox or continuing Anglicans ever do get an acceptable union deal from Rome, I would advise them to get a pre-nup.

Many Catholics would protest that of course Papal power is limited by Tradition, Scripture, etc., but the Vatican can always muster up spin doctors to justify anything (they're called Jesuits). So we have either two options: we can either return to the traditional ethos of the Church as obedience to Scripture and Tradition whether we like it or not, or we can elaborate our ecclesiastical legal system some more so no one gets hurt. Otherwise, we will just have the anarchy of going from one Pontiff to another who wants to re-invent the wheel at the beginning of his reign.


At 6:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So we ought to go back to pre-Vatican I? If so, how could we conceivably do so?

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At 7:03 AM, Blogger Benjamin said...

I think that anonymous #2 brings up a good point.

At 7:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn't the Melkites get a "pre-nup" of sorts too? Actually, to an extent didn't all of the Uniates? Well, how is that working out?

The Papacy as we now know it is a strange brew of snowballing circumstances. Too often people strain too hard on the apologetical spin for the Papacy, when if they really want to understand the Papacy what they really need to do is open up a history book - behold...

- the decline of Rome's ecclessio-political importance as the fortunes of the Western Empire decline (and then finally collapse.)

- the extreme caesaro-papist pressures the Papacy and the Western-European Church fell under after the ascendency of the Franks.

In my opinion, these two factors were way more decisive in influencing the balooning of the Papacy than any doctrinaire fancy for ecclessial tidiness or Petrine iconography gone awry. The beginnings of the Popes becoming "universal bishop" are to be found not in the Fathers, but in the Papacy's desire to retain it's pre-Nicean prestige and more to the point, to retain it's freedom from monarchs at any cost - first the pushy, meddling kind, but then later to be above the law of kings entirely. I mean, you had Popes riding out in armour to lead battles against Roman Catholic kings fighting over the Papal States for goodness' sake. That the Popes of much of the Middle Ages were trying to position themselves as the de-facto descendents of St.Constantine is pretty clear, right down to the forgeries they used to argue for this.

Given all of this, it is obvious that there is no possibility of the Orthodox ever recognizing the Pope and his followers as co-believers, lacking a radical change in perspective on the part of the Latins. Indeed, to even speak of an "Orthodox Papacy" now is incredibly misleading, for that may almost imply that all would be needed would be a "tweaking" of a few things, when in truth what would be needed is a thorough gutting.

Trying to identify this post-schism, post-medieval Papacy with the constraints of Tradition and Holy Writ is absurd - it's like junk-science, above any sort of falsification. As you rightly point out, the architecture of "Papalism" is such, that the required assumption is that the Pope is in accord with both Church Tradition. The Pope having to actually prove his convictions (like St.Leo had to at Chalcedon) before everyone nods in agreement is no longer a matter of necessity, but has been reduced to a PR stunt (those Jesuits you mention.)

At 10:04 AM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...


I don't think anon #2 has a good point. The only healthy way to lose weight is by eating right and exercising a lot. And it is not easy. I should know. In any event, this obsession with how we look is decadence at its worse. One day you are going to be maggot food, and we should worry about what will result from that.


I agree, but I am not a partisan of the Holy Orthodox Church. Orthodoxy has its own set of problems, and the Orthodox have their own voices for addressing them. I think Roman Catholicism is right, I just don't think we are as right as some say we are. One person has criticized me for saying that I don't believe in a true Church. At this point, I have to apologize to him for not being certain enough to enable me to unchurch others. I'm sorry I don't feel confident enough to walk up to an old babushka and say to her that she is separated from the Church of Christ or that she is only in "partial", "imperfect", (whatever) communion. I'm sorry that I can't do that, maybe that makes me a flake. But I would rather be a flake than be wrong...

I am met with the mystery of the Church and I can say nothing. All I will do is call people out when they are being dishonest, pollyannish, or ignorant about other people who call themselves Christians.

At 10:06 AM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...

First anon,

Of course we have gone past the point of no return. I couldn't give you a solution to all of this. I suppose allowing traditional liturgy and piety to grow wherever they can is a start.

At 11:34 AM, Blogger Benjamin said...

I recant. I am now against anonymous # 2's opinion.

At 3:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course we have gone past the point of no return.

I think it is possible (although not likely in any forseeable future) for the papacy to willingly decline the exercise of any extraordinary prerogatives over the entire Church, without officially abjuring the doctrinal formulations of the Vatical Council.

I mean, that is basically what happened regarding the secular authority of the Papacy as formulated countless times... situations changed, and the Pope no longer exerts such authority, and nobody expects him to do so. But nobody ever unwrote the Syllabus of Errors. It just became a moot point.

Papal infallibility becomes a moot point if it is never exercised in an extraordinary way. I don't know whether that is a satisfactory answer to the Orthodox; but I don't see why we need to pass judgment as to who was right centuries ago to be in communion.

As far as a guarantee, well, in such an hypothetical union, the church could just divide again if it became an issue again. Hopefully the world would end first. And hopefully the threat of such a split would (this time) cause the papacy to act with more caution.


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