Dear brother Scott,
Thank you for your patience.
First, let me further explain my earlier answer to your first question. In a general sense, all dogma is “divine” since its ultimate source is the Holy Spirit. But the Church distinguishes between “divine revelation” (which ended with the last Apostle), and other types of dogma that have come to the Church through the aid of the Holy Spirit. Concerning our topic of primacy, Petrine primacy would be considered “divinely revealed” dogma, while papal primacy would be regarded as apostolic and ecclesiastical dogma.
2. What impact does it have on a Council when all the bishops who disagree with the dogma as proposed leave town before the vote. I realize this was done out of respect for the Pope, but it seems to me that it could call into question the definition of the dogma especially since the vote had to be unanimous in order to pass. Does anyone know if there is a precedent for such things?
There are two underlying issues that we need to consider before answering your question: First, when one speaks of “unanimity,” are we speaking of unanimity of the Council itself, or unanimity of all the bishops of the world, even those who are not at the Council
? I believe the latter is the actual definition of “unanimity,” for two reasons: (1) Apostolic Canon 34/35 does not insist that unanimity must be in a conciliar context; (2) It cannot be doubted that not all the bishops of the world attended the Ecumenical Councils – certain Patriarchates often and simply sent representatives or legates. So the absence of certain bishops does not necessarily call the dogma into question. The real litmus test is the second underlying issue.
Second, when one speaks of “unanimity” are we speaking of numerical/absolute unanimity, or moral unanimity? From the evidence of the 7 Ecumenical Councils, we can only conclude moral unanimity, for none
of the 7 Ecumenical Councils obtained numerical/absolute unanimity.
In reading the Canons of the Council, it seems hard not to get an Absolutist understanding of the Papacy.
I would agree. But to get the true story, to understand what they really mean, one has to read the canons in the context of the apostolic constitutions attached to the canons (or, rather, the canons are attached to the apostolic constitutions), as well as the debates and explanations of the Fathers of the Council “behind the scenes.” I made a presentation on this matter at CAF. If you’re interested in reading it, I will give you a link.
After all, if that were not the case, why would the Melkite Patriarch and the Melkite Synod of Bishops feel the need to accept Pastor Aeternus with the disclaimer of the Council of Florence? It seems to me that there was a limited acceptance of the teachings of Vatican I by the Melkite bishops.
Some interesting notes on the Eastern and Oriental bishops at Vatican 1. Patriarch Yussef was himself one of the 26 members of the Congregation de postulatis
, which was responsible for accepting from the bishops and approving which topics to be discussed at the Council. Here Patriarch Yussef expressed his own belief in papal infallibility, but insisted that it should not be dogmatized, as it would be the greatest deterrent to reunion with the Eastern Orthodox. The Armenian Patriarch Hassoun voted for the definition. Of the seven non-Latin bishops who remained for the final voting, two who previously voted against it voted for the definition at the final session.
It should be noted that several changes to Pastor Aeternus
to meet the concerns of the Minority Party were made after many Eastern and Oriental bishops had already left the Council. Who knows how many other of our bishops would have voted placet
if they stayed and were witness to the changes.
It’s important to point out, as well, that no Eastern or Oriental Catholic bishop initiated or participated in any schism after Vatican 1. In fact, no Catholic bishop initiated or participated in any schism after Vatican 1. Interestingly, perhaps the strongest extra-conciliar opponent of V1, Dollinger, broke with his party for he himself did not want to participate in schism.
Everything about the understanding of infallibility screams that the Pope can act alone without having to consult anyone else,
How so? This is where my earlier advice – about reading the canons of V1 in the context of the Apostolic Constitutions and the “behind-the-scenes” debates and comments of the V1 Fathers – becomes indispensable. In fact, three important changes took place in the Decree on infallibility:
1) The title of the Decree was changed from “The Infallibility of the Pope” to “The Infallibility of the Magisterium of the Pope.” This was done in response to concerns that it made papal infallibility separate from the infallibility of the Church.
2) A historical preamble was added explaining how papal infallibility was exercised in the Sacred Tradition of the Church. The relevant excerpt runs: “Therefore, the bishops of the world, sometimes singly, sometimes assembled in councils, following the long-standing custom of the churches and the form of the ancient rule, reported to this Apostolic See those dangers especially which came up in matters of faith, so that here where the faith can suffer no diminution, the harm suffered by the faith may be repaired. However, the Roman Pontiffs on their part, according as the conditions of the times and the circumstances dictated, sometimes calling together ecumenical councils, or sounding out the mind of the Church throughout the world, sometimes through regional councils, or sometimes by using other helps which Divine Providence supplied, have, with the help of God, defined as to be held such matters as they had found consonant with the Holy Scripture and with the apostolic tradition.
This was done in response to the very concern you have expressed here. The addition of this text ensured that papal infallibility is normatively
exercised in a collegial manner, and exercised singularly only in extreme circumstances.
3) The following text was added to the original draft of the Decree: “The reason for this is that the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of St. Peter not that they might make known new doctrine by his revelation, but rather, that with His assistance they might religiously guard and faithfully explain the revelation or deposit of faith that was handed down through the Apostles.
” This was done in response to concerns that the Pope has the authority to create new doctrine, as well as to ensure that the purpose of infallibility is limited to guarding those things divinely revealed, and not other subject matters (as some papalists were wont to believe).
It should be noted that papalists at the Council objected vociferously to the additions of the texts quoted above.
that he is not subordinate to an Ecumenical Council,
An Ecumenical Council and Pope are equal. They are both the object of supreme authority in the Church. According to Apostolic Canon 34/35, a body of bishops cannot act without its head. Why should this bother you?
and that he has universal and direct jurisdiction over the entire Church.
Again, this is another instance where my earlier advice becomes indispensable. V2 meets the standards of the Eastern and Oriental bishops (its Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops passed by a landslide of 2,319 placets
to 2 non placets
– I suspect Archbishop Lefebre may have been one of the two). People think this is the first time that the Catholic Church expressed a collegial ecclesiology, while V1 was purely papal. It is a shame that V1 was prorogated due to impending war, and was not able to express its collegial intent more fully. In fact, much of the ecclesiology of V2 was extant at V1. The theologians at V1 actually prepared a schema for a chapter entitled de episcopis
, with the following preamble:Bishops hold the highest grade in the divinely instituted hierarchy, and so great is their dignity that in Holy Scripture they are decorated with the title of “angels.” For, being placed by the Holy Ghost to rule the Church of God, they are higher than priests; in the place of the Apostles, to whom they have succeeded in the episcopacy, they exercise a vicarship for Christ. Hence, it pertains to them to feed the flock of Christ, to guard the deposit of Faith, and out of the plenitude of the priesthood, which they enjoy, to ordain the ministers of the Church. So great being the height of the episcopal order, let all, laity and especially clergy, yield to them all rightful honor, reverence, and obedience.
Unfortunately, like other schemas that expressed the collegiality of the Church hierarchy, there was no time to put it to a vote. But one can very well see the truths in this preamble expressed fully at V2.
Further the Decree on the Primacy itself contains the following:This power of the Supreme Pontiff is far from standing in the way of the power of ordinary and immediate episcopal jurisdiction by which bishops who, under appointment of the Holy Spirit, succeeded in the place of the apostles, feed and rule individually, as true shepherds, the particular flock assigned to them. Rather this latter power is asserted, confirmed, and vindicated by the same supreme and universal shepherd in the words of St. Gregory the Great: “My honor is the honor of the whole Church. My honor is the solid strength of my brothers. I am truly honored when due honor is paid to each and every one.
I have debated both papalist and anti-papal controversialists who are silenced whenever I have brought up that excerpt above from the Decree on the Primacy. Polemicists on both sides of the issue so very often focus on the canons, eisegetically ignoring the full context wherein those canons are placed. They argue that universal jurisdiction means the Pope can neglect a local bishop’s authority, and interfere anywhere, anytime, and for any reason. But that is simply false, and they can never
bring up any actual example of such a laissez-faire exercise of papal authority. In truth, anti-papal rhetoric is nothing more than fearmongering.
Btw, can you please explain your concerns about the fact that the Pope has universal and direct jurisdiction over the entire Church, or have I addressed them?
However, nonetheless, the written Canons are there, and what is to stop a Pope in the future from calling on those to act unilaterally. In one word, nothing. It's almost a provision that would allow the Pope to impose "martial law" on the Church if needed.
Again, read those Canons in their proper context.
This touches on the related issue of what happens if the Bishop of Rome were ever to fall into heresy, but I will leave that for another day.
And what Tradition can one appeal to that would justify removal? There is no precedence in the early Church for an orthodox Council to remove the Pope as head. Not even the Fifth Ecumenical Council dared depose Pope Vigilius. Though the Pope cannot be judged, he can be corrected, and if worse comes to worst, bishops can put pressure on the Pope to abdicate.
It seems to me that this is what frightens the Orthodox. No matter how many assurances they receive from Rome that the Pope will not impose his will on them and that he will respect their rights as patriarchal churches, Vatican I and Pastor Aeternus will always be in the back of their minds.
If they read it contextually, instead of picking out little snippets for convenient polemics, I really don’t believe they should have anything to fear.
If the Pope does not need to consult other bishops or convoke a Council to define a dogma of the Faith, then what is to stop him from trying to impose his will on them. It is hard to be in a communion of love with someone whom you fear could turn on you at any moment.
I hope my presentation above will help you explain the matter to our non-Catholic brethren more clearly in order to help assuage their concerns.
For example, regarding the "filioque", many Eastern Orthodox will say that it's meaningless that Rome does not require Eastern Catholics to add it to the Creed because the Pope could change that whenever he wanted to. The Orthodox would be worried that something like this could happen.
I seriously don’t know what the Easterns are worried about. Rome never imposed filioque
on the Easterns. It made its way into the Eastern Creed because of the Easterns themselves who felt pressured to be more like the Latins.
On the other hand, filioque
was imposed on some Oriental Churches as a test of our orthodoxy. While I do think that was an abuse of authority (i.e., the Pope did not have to impose such a change in order to ensure our orthodoxy), I do accept the principle behind it – namely, that in doctrinal matters, the Pope has a greater responsibility than any other bishop for the preservation of the Faith. Accordingly, great praises were heaped upon Pope St. Martin when he deposed heterodox bishops in the East.
It would be well at this point to investigate the difference between the circumstances of Pope St. Leo and that of Pope St. Martin. As we all know, Pope St. Leo deposed Pope St. Dioscorus, and the Fathers of the 4th Ecum did not immediately concede to his deposition without a trial. Why is it, we must ask, that the Church East and West conceded to and in fact praised the actions of Pope St. Martin, while the Fathers at the 4th Ecum Council delayed in accepting the deposition of Pope St. Dioscorus?
As the Catholic Church teaches, there are two Supreme authorities in the Catholic Church – (1) the Pope and (2) the College of Bishops. The situation of the incident with Pope St. Leo was within the setting of an Ecumenical Council. In such a circumstance, the highest authority is a collegial authority; the Pope does not and cannot act unilaterally, for the Holy Spirit leads in a special way the entire
Council, and not just the Pope. It was right and proper for the entire Council to give judgment on Pope St. Dioscorus, not the Pope of Rome alone (of course, I’m speaking of proper procedure, not that I believe that Pope Dioscorus was rightly deposed :)). On the other hand, Pope St. Martin exercised his supreme authority in very different circumstances – i.e., when many bishops, including the Emperor, gave in to the Monothelite heresy, and there was no practical way to summon an Ecumenical Council (the same circumstance Popes St. Julius and Liberius found themselves in during the Arian controversies).
This should serve as a lesson to those who think the Pope can act non-collegially of his own choosing (Absolutist Petrine view), and not rather by necessity, as well as to those who think that head bishops have a mere primacy of honor (Low Petrine view), and not true plenary authority and jurisdiction.
I agree that the Pope has a primacy; however, the only thing that is going to make a difference to the Orthodox and aid the cause of reunion in this matter is a clear example of collegiality and synodality from the Popes of Rome. As they say, "Actions speak louder than words".
What has the Pope done that has not been collegial?
Sadly, I suspect that when reunion occurs, the two groups who share a common misconception on the matter (the Absolutist and Low Petrine advocates) will schism and just continue their bickering.