Development of Doctrine III

John of Fides Quaerens Intellectum has replied to my post Development of Doctrine II, primarily with a 1,700-word comment thatis longer than the post itself.  As supporting material, he has posted two entries at his own blog: one consisting chiefly of quotations from the late Prof. JND Kelly and Fr. John Behr on St. Irenaeus; the other consisting chiefly of quotations from Klaus Schatz, SJ’s Papal Primacy: From its Origins to the Present. Given that each exchange in our discussion—one which stretches back to old comboxes at Sacramentum Vitaeis longer than its predecessors, I find myself wondering with some amusement how many faculty and students will stick around for the seminar. At least the seminars in real academic departments have scheduled beginnings and ends! But even if the education ends up being John’s and mine alone, I think the discussion well worth pursuing. Speaking for myself, I come off every online discussion of DD better equipped to carry on the next one—and there always seems to be a next one, even when that’s not the plan. Who knows whom I might thereby reach? It might even be somebody here. And so I proceed with my latest reply as a productive exercise in what contemporary Catholic theologians term “fundamental theology.”

It is actually in still another comment, appended this morning to my first post on DD, that John poses explicitly one of the most important questions that the wider discussion has, in effect, been addressing. Thus (emphasis added):

‘Revelation’ is one of those tricky abstract nouns derived from verbs that my Latin prose comp professor (quite vigorously) advised his students to avoid. His reason was partly that with words like this distinctions often get blurred. Here I would suggest thinking in terms of three separate but related categories: (a) the object of revelation, i.e. the object that is being or having been revealed; (b) the revelation of the object, i.e. the unveiling or revealing of the object; (c) the apprehension of revelation, i.e. the subject perceiving and apprehending the object that has been revealed or unveiled.

We might agree that (a) is the Incarnate Word of God and as such the object is fixed and stable. (b) for those on this side of glory was objectively completed with the apostles. (c) goes on to this day in the experience of Church as illuminated and guided by the Spirit. Yet what the Church as subject perceives and apprehends must as object already have been revealed or unveiled (perception presupposes that the object is there in such a way as to be perceived by the subject). The center of the difficulty proposed by Boyer and others concerns how the Church can (c) subjectively perceive, based on what has (b) been objectively revealed, that a putative development authentically pertains to (a) the object of revelation.

That seems right to me. The distinctions John makes above need to be made, and in fact are made in Catholic fundamental theology. Let us call revelation in sense (a) ‘Ra‘, revelation in sense (b) ‘Rb‘, revelation in sense (c) ‘Rc‘, and a proposed instance of doctrinal development ‘D’. Accordingly, and as I see it, the “difficulty” to which John alludes may be framed with the following question:

If D need not be logically necessitated by the explicit content of Rb, but need only cohere with and help to illuminate that content, then how can the Church apprehend, in the sense of Rc, that D is a de fide truth of Rb as opposed to a human opinion about Ra?

I pose the difficulty that way knowing full well that, hitherto, John has posed it rather differently. Until now, John has challenged me to explain how those distinctively Catholic doctrines which we both agree are instances of DD can be reliably distinguished from “new” or “ongoing” revelation, an idea which by general agreement is supposed to be inadmissible given that revelation was “closed” with the death of the last Apostle. Well, thanks to John himself, the answer is now before us.

Although the disputed instances of DD are formulations of belief that are proposed as objectively true, and thus as items of Rb, the difference between their content and that of earlier formulations is to be explained by progress in the Church’s “apprehension” of Rb. Thus, if legitimate, the proposed instances of DD are formulations of “new” or “ongoing” revelation in the sense of Rc. But given how Rc is distinguished from and related to Rb, it does not at all follow that the disputed instances of DD have been, or could legitimately be, proposed as new items of revelation in the sense of Rb. And that is as it should be, since we all agree that the latter would be inadmissible. In fact, assuming that ‘Rb‘ be taken to refer to the deposit of faith “given once-for-all to the saints,” positing new items of Rb would actually be incoherent. Given as much, I believe I am fully justified in reframing the question as I have above. It is quite a fair question in itself. For there are many theological opinions which, to some degree, “cohere with” and “help to illuminate” the deposit of faith, but which nobody says must be themselves understood as belonging to said deposit.

Accordingly, in the rest of this post I shall do three things: (1) give a general answer to John’s question; (2) explain why I frame my answer as I do; and (3) defend it in general terms which I believe are applicable to the specific objections John offers in his really long comment and the posts of his offered to support it. To avoid taxing the patience of readers, I shall leave those specifics to the combox, where they will surely be brought up.

1. My general answer is the following argument:

A. That doctrinal meta-development by which the Catholic Church authoritatively describes Ra, Rb, and Rc in the broadest of terms, and relates them to each other in those terms, is at least a reasonable way to do so.

B. Ergo, it is reasonable to make an assent of faith in the Catholic Magisterium’s claims for itself-which includes the claim that it is infallible when proposing some doctrine with its full authority as belonging to Rb.

C. Rb is equivalent to the deposit of faith given “once-for-all to the saints.”

D. Ergo, whatever instances of DD are taught by the Magisterium’s full authority as a truth of Rb, and thus as a truth of the original deposit of faith, may be reasonably taken as such, rather than as a human opinion about Ra. (from B, C)

2. Obviously, the most important statement in that argument is the first premise, namely A. Once A be granted, the rest of the argument falls right into place. But in order to understand A well enough to evaluate it fairly, one should read in its entirety Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum. Some of you have doubtless done so long since; others can do so at the link provided. For convenience, though, I present the most important three sections in full (footnotes omitted, emphasis added):

8. And so the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved by an unending succession of preachers until the end of time. Therefore the Apostles, handing on what they themselves had received, warn the faithful to hold fast to the traditions which they have learned either by word of mouth or by letter (see 2 Thess. 2:15), and to fight in defense of the faith handed on once and for all (see Jude 1:3). Now what was handed on by the Apostles includes everything which contributes toward the holiness of life and increase in faith of the peoples of God; and so the Church, in her teaching, life and worship, perpetuates and hands on to all generations all that she herself is, all that she believes.

This tradition which comes from the Apostles develops in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts (see Luke, 2:19, 51) through a penetrating understanding of the spiritual realities which they experience, and through the preaching of those who have received through Episcopal succession the sure gift of truth. For as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her.

The words of the holy fathers witness to the presence of this living tradition, whose wealth is poured into the practice and life of the believing and praying Church. Through the same tradition the Church’s full canon of the sacred books is known, and the sacred writings themselves are more profoundly understood and unceasingly made active in her; and thus God, who spoke of old, uninterruptedly converses with the bride of His beloved Son; and the Holy Spirit, through whom the living voice of the Gospel resounds in the Church, and through her, in the world, leads unto all truth those who believe and makes the word of Christ dwell abundantly in them (see Col. 3:16).

9. Hence there exists a close connection and communication between sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. For Sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, while sacred tradition takes the word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and hands it on to their successors in its full purity, so that led by the light of the Spirit of truth, they may in proclaiming it preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known. Consequently it is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Both sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence.

10. Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church. Holding fast to this deposit the entire holy people united with their shepherds remain always steadfast in the teaching of the Apostles, in the common life, in the breaking of the bread and in prayers (see Acts 2, 42, Greek text), so that holding to, practicing and professing the heritage of the faith, it becomes on the part of the bishops and faithful a single common effort.

But the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission; and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed.

It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God’s most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.

I cannot emphasize strongly enough that one must keep all that in mind as we proceed to the defense of my argument given in (1) above. It must especially be noted that the Council, though speaking mostly of Rb, also speaks of Rc in the second paragraph of §8 and relates it to Rb That, I believe, is the key aspect of the doctrinal “meta-development” to which I referred in step (A) of my argument.

3. The broadest point I want to make in defense of that argument is one that I already adumbrated in my previous post. If the argument is logically valid, and it is, then a critic would only beg the question against it by insisting that D’s rational necessitation by the explicit content of Rb is the only reasonable basis for accepting D as an item of Rb—i.e. as a truth of the deposit of faith, rather than as a mere theologoumenon. Given how the argument is constructed, one could only undermine it by showing that the argument is unsound even though logically valid—i.e. that at least one of its premises is false, even though the conclusion follows from the premises. In this case, that would effectively mean showing A to be false. One would need to show, in other words, that the Catholic Church’s official way of characterizing Ra, Rb, and Rc for purposes of relating them to each other, as expressed in DV, is unreasonable.

To that end, there are a number of avenues that the Catholic Church’s opponents can and do take. I shall consider the three most pertinent to this discussion, and shall do so in what I believe to be ascending order of importance.

The first is to argue, in effect, that there is no good reason to believe that anything other than the explicit propositional content of Scripture is a medium of Rb. That is a favorite thesis of Protestant sola scripturists. If that claim is correct, then there is no good reason to believe we need either the Magisterium or a “Tradition,” where those are understood as binding rules of faith distinct from Scripture and conditioning our reception and interpretation of Scripture. But the evidence of history runs strongly against such a claim. The undivided Church of the first millennium is replete with elements of Tradition that were neither explicitly in Scripture nor understood to be incompatible with Scripture. As I argued in my previous post, it was those elements of Tradition to which, e.g,, the Fathers of the 4th and 5th centuries often had recourse in order to fashion a normative hermeneutic for Scripture, which was then used by ecumenical councils to exclude as heretics those who interpreted Scripture in other ways. The Fathers and Ecumenical Councils didn’t get their conclusions primarily by drawing out the deductive consequences of the explicit words of Scripture; rather, Tradition was for them an indispensable resource for interpreting Scripture on plausibly disputed points. But that process would have been the triumph of mere opinion, or at the very least question-begging, if Tradition had not been a medium of Rb. So, Church history affords good reason to believe that the explicit words of Scripture are not the sole medium of Rb—i.e., of the deposit of faith.

The second main line of attack concedes as much but cites the fact that, once the NT canon crystallized, it became unacceptable in the Church to treat the wider and earlier Tradition as a source of doctrine independent of Scripture. The relevant degree of canonical crystallization appears to have occurred under Rome’s auspices between the time of Marcion and that of St. Irenaeus, i.e. by the latter third of the first century. Hence, granted that Scripture and Tradition are distinct, it was not long before they had become so closely related that no doctrinally significant content would be identified in the latter that was not readily identifiable in the former. So, even if Scripture alone is not the sole medium of Rb, it is so closely related to Tradition that nothing doctrinally significant which cannot be inferred from Scripture alone can be inferred from Tradition in conjunction with Scripture. Hence, there is no need to posit, as a component of Rb, a Magisterium as the sole “authentic” interpreter of Rb. DV §10 is therefore unreasonable.

Now the close unity of Scripture and Tradition is acknowledged in DV’s assertion that Scripture and Tradition, “flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end.” Thus DV acknowledges that Rb is a complex unity of the two, and a public one at that. On historical grounds, let us grant that such unity was achieved by the time of St. Irenaeus at the latest, who had known St. Polycarp, who had known St. John the Apostle. But from that fact, it does not follow that it would be unreasonable to claim that “the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church,” All that follows is that said office, which is identifiable in some form in both the NT and Tradition, may neither contradict Scripture and Tradition nor treat some pet theory or private tradition as though it were just as important for Rc as Scripture-and-Tradition. Since the Magisterium is exercised by fallible human beings, there have been occasions when, in my opinion as a Catholic, it has failed in this regard. In that sense, Scripture and Tradition jointly act as a check on the Magisterium. But the Magisterium does not claim to be infallible under any and all conditions; it claims infallibility only under conditions it specifies, and only by divine power. And if, as is held by Scripture and Tradition, the Church as a whole is indefectible by the promise and power of Christ, then it is not unreasonable to believe that her teaching authority, which claims to speak for and to the Church as a whole, would be prevented by the Spirit from using its full authority to bind the Church as a whole to what is incompatible with or unwarranted by Scripture and Tradition, i.e. by the universally received Rb.

The third and most important avenue of criticism, however, takes our results so far for granted. Offered in various forms, the substance of the criticism is this. Assuming not only that Scripture and Tradition were already identifiable as a unified Rb before 200 CE, but also that a “living teaching office” of the Church was essential for its transmission and interpretation, there is no reason to believe that the Magisterium has the degree of authority it now claims for the sake of facilitating Rc, even granted that such a claim is not, logically, incompatible with Rb. Or: “That doctrinal meta-development by which the Catholic Church authoritatively describes Ra, Rb, and Rc in the broadest of terms, and relates them to each other in those terms,” is unwarranted, inasmuch as there is nothing in what had long been broadly acknowledged as the public content of Rb to require the Magisterium’s self-understanding today. To put it in yet simpler terms: the first-millennium Church didn’t have anything approaching the understanding of the Magisterium that it has of itself today; but the Church even then had, and benefited from, the faith-once-delivered and a teaching office to facilitate its reception; therefore, there’s no reason to believe that the Magisterium as it understands itself today is necessary for Rc. It is accordingly unreasonable to hold, as DV does, that “sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church,” as the last understands itself today, “are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others.” The fact is that the first two can stand quite nicely without the third, if the third be understood as the Magisterium understands itself today. My very first premise, namely A, is thus false.

Basically, my reply is that the above criticism is a non-sequitur. From the fact that Rb had been received by the Church whole and entire, partly by means of a living teaching office, well before the Catholic Magisterium’s self-understanding had attained its own distinctive form, it does not follow that the Magisterium so understood was ever unnecessary for Rc. All that follows is that, if the Magisterium so understood was necessary for Rc, and as such was always an item of Rb, it took time for that fact itself to become Rc. Hence, the amount of time it took for “the living teaching office of the Church” to formulate its self-understanding is irrelevant to the question whether what came to be thus understood does, in fact, belong to the deposit of faith. And given what DV says, I feel obliged to go further: if the Magisterium’s self-understanding today is correct, then we may infer straightaway that any attempt, based on Scripture and Tradition, to argue against that self-understanding is methodologically incoherent. For there would be no such entity as “the” Church, other than the Catholic Church, to whose faith (in the sense of Rb) one could appeal against that authority which speaks definitively for the Church by divine authority.

Needless to say, such a reply on my part needs to be elaborated and defended in response to specific objections, such as some of the ones John has copiously supplied and will no doubt continue to supply. That’s what the combox is for, assuming either of us can limit ourselves therein to less than 1,000 words per comment, as I devoutly wish. But I believe I’ve already presented in nuce the resources for answering such objections.

27 Responses

  1. The first link in this post is broke.

  2. Dr Liccione,

    I am grateful for your answer. I looked over it just now and will try to respond at the earliest opportunity. I may require a small delay owing to work tomorrow and then a meeting that evening. If I cannot reply tomorrow, I should have Saturday morning and early afternoon free.

    Meanwhile, your answers to three questions would be helpful when I come to write a reply. Preliminary to the questions:

    The difficulty raised by Boyer and others is not whether a Catholic has warrant to accept the definition of the Magisterium after it is promulgated. It rather concerns how the Magisterium, when contemplating a possible definition, can have warrant to conclude with full confidence that an alleged development belongs to the deposit if this conclusion is not rationally demonstrable from the tradition as publicly available. Previously you said:

    So one might think that the question becomes whether, in the absence of appeal to the meta-development about Magisterial authority, distinctively Catholic dogmas can be seen to rationally necessitated by premises drawn from the commonly accepted data of revelation. The answer to that question, I should think, is pretty obviously no. But that’s only the beginning, not the end, of the story.

    The reason for why this is only the beginning, not the end, appeared to be to the fact of the Magisterium’s infallibility (as invoked under certain conditions).

    At this point, however, we are at a stage before the Magisterium has infallibly defined the contemplated doctrine. The Magisterium is still judging the development in order to arrive at a conclusion about it. If at this stage the public evidence is insufficient for informed individuals to reach a certain conclusion about the development, it would seem also to be insufficient for the Magisterium to reach such a conclusion, provided that the Magisterium can in principle see no more than other informed individuals.

    And so my primary question remains:

    Does the Magisterium has access to a special, supernatural intuition or consciousness that enables it to discern with certainty that a development belongs to the deposit, even when this conclusion is in no way rationally demonstrable?

    Two subsidiary questions:

    (i) If Schatz is correct about the historical facts (to be assumed here only for the sake of argument), can these facts be reconciled with the meta-development of the Roman Magisterium through the theory of development?

    (ii) Is the common law paradigm as sketched in my last response to Philos incoherent as a way of understanding the authority of ecclesial tradition?

    Best,

    John

  3. DB:

    Thanks for pointing that out. I have fixed the link.

    Best,
    Mike

  4. Apologies for the typo: “Does the Magisterium has…” That’s a bit embarrassing, it being in italics and all. The question of course should be read: Does the Magisterium have, or, a little less idiomatically in modern English, Has the Magisterium. One other clarification at the end of the question: “rationally demonstrable” from the evidence as publicly available.

  5. Wow! I just saved your three entries on development, Dr. Liccione, and after setting it all to type size 11 and adding the necessary spaces between paragraphs, it came out to 13 pages! 13 pages in one week!

  6. kepha:

    The harder they come at me, the harder I dance.😉

    Best,
    Mike

  7. John:

    Before I address the substance of your comment, allow me to express the hope that my reply to it will shape how you write what will doubtless be your much longer response to my post. I think we could both save much time and energy if that happened.

    First, I must say that I have not so far seen the primary difficulty posed by Boyer et al to be that of explaining how the Magisterium formulates doctrinal developments by a cognitive process distinct from, never mind superior to, that which is open to any informed, faithful inquirer. I have always taken for granted that there is no discernible difference, at least not ordinarily. But nothing of much importance to our debate follows.

    The claim of the Magisterium is not that it is smarter, or better informed, or mystically more sensitive, or otherwise cognitively better off than such inquirers taken either severally or collectively. The claim of the Magisterium is that, under certain conditions, its teaching is preserved from error by the Holy Spirit, and thus manifests that infallibility which the Holy Spirit bestows on the Church as a whole. So the authority of the Magisterium is primarily charismatic and only secondarily cognitive. It should, and typically does, make use of intellectual processes available in principle to any faithful inquirer. Some of those who exercise the Magisterium might even be granted, personally and by God, special experiences or mental states that not only cause them to be certain they are right, prior to propounding a doctrinal decision, but also justify such certainty. But such states and processes are only occasions for the charism’s manifestation; they are not the charism itself. It is not necessary that the charism of infallibility take some phenomenologically detectable form in all those who, severally or collectively, are given it under certain conditions. That can and, in my opinion, occasionally does happen for the edification of the Church. But it needn’t and, to judge by the evidence, often doesn’t. Similarly, and for obvious reasons, it is desirable that the charism be exercised through, rather than in spite of, the thought processes that go into doctrinal decisions. But that doesn’t and needn’t always happen either. The key point is that, no matter how humdrum or even faulty the process of reaching binding doctrinal decisions may be in this or that instance, the result will be preserved by God from formally committing the Church to a proposition that is false. I have always found that claim inspiring, and I find it ever more so as I read the history of doctrine. It is but one more confirmation of the fact that only her divine origin and protection could explain how the Church survives her leadership.

    Second, the fact remains that you, citing Boyer et al, did raise as a difficulty the question how Catholic distinctives can be distinguished from “new” or “ongoing” revelation. You might have thought that such a difficulty is merely subsidiary to the one I’ve downplayed above, but it is not. It is a worthwhile question in itself, to which there is a true and good answer. I gave that answer in my post with help from a point that you yourself had just made. Not that that solves all difficulties; but it does, I believe, shift the question to where it needs to be.

    Third and all the same, it would be churlish of me to dismiss outright the question you now pose as your “primary” one: to wit, Does the Magisterium have access to a special, supernatural intuition or consciousness that enables it to discern with certainty that a development belongs to the deposit, even when this conclusion is in no way rationally demonstrable? I’ve answered that in part already by denying that there is ordinarily any “phenomenologically detectable” process at work to compensate, cognitively, for the lack of strict, logical deduction. But again, nothing of much importance follows. Specifically, it does not follow that the “certainty” with which doctrinal decisions binding the whole Church are propounded need be experienced, subjectively, by the bishops and/or the pope prior to propounding such decisions. In many cases, I suspect, they do experience that. Such would be quite fitting. But it is not necessary in any particular instance. All that matters is that, once the decisions are propounded as binding on the whole Church, certainty about their truth is justified by the authority with which they are propounded.

    I believe your question about Schatz is answered by the penultimate paragraph of my post. I believe the argument I gave in that paragraph is all the stronger for the fact that Schatz relies mostly on an argument from silence. For the further back we go in Church history, the more fragmentary the written records are. Hence, for example, nobody can cogently infer, from the relative paucity of documentation about the inner workings of the Church of Rome in the first few centuries, that the modern doctrine of the papacy was not present there in nuce, the way it so clearly is in Leo the Great by the mid-fifth century. All that can legitimately be inferred is that the evidence we have does not necessitate the conclusion that it was.

    I am not prepared to say that the “common-law paradigm” you’ve sketched is “incoherent” for its purpose, which I take to be that of drawing an analogy to how the Catholic Magisterium works, or should be thought to work, over time. I should say that the paradigm as offered is both anachronistic and imperfectly analogous.

    Best,
    Mike

  8. The discussion has moved so quickly, that I’m tempted to ask for a “the story so far” post for those of us just tuning back in

  9. What does “meta-development” mean? I looked “meta” up in Merriam Webster but it was not much help. It could mean any of the following:

    1 a: occurring later than or in succession to; b: situated behind or beyond; c: later or more highly organized or specialized form of

    2: change : transformation

    3 [metaphysics] : more comprehensive : transcending —usually used with the name of a discipline to designate a new but related discipline designed to deal critically with the original one

  10. kepha:

    In philosophy, one of the derivative meanings of the Greek preposition meta is “about.” E.g., “meta-ethics” is theorizing about moral theories, rather than about morality directly. As I use the term ‘meta-development’, it means a ‘development that is about development.

    Best,
    Mike

  11. Dr Liccione,

    A break in the day’s schedule happily afforded an opportunity to read your reply. As you have requested, I will stay under 1000 words. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem more will be needed.

    Regarding Schatz, I think he presents more than an argument from silence. His analysis appears to be confirmed by the attitudes of St Cyprian and later St Augustine toward Rome. Schatz maintains that they understood Rome to have a great deal of customary auctoritas, but not divine right potestas, over the African Church. In English we regularly make a muddle of the concept ‘authority’ by investing it with jurisdictional ideas. That tendency is present in other languages, but at least in Latin the usage is more distinct. Caesar Augustus even employed the distinction in his propaganda [tinyurl.com/4uh32h].

    It strikes me as a little ironic that the common law paradigm should be deemed anachronistic. After all, that is in essence what critics both Protestant and Orthodox say about how the papal system looks in the light of church history. If a primacy of auctoritas can legitimately develop into one of potestas, then the criticism can of course be deflected. But that takes us directly back to the main issue, viz. how development works.

    The claim of the Magisterium is not that it is smarter, or better informed, or mystically more sensitive, or otherwise cognitively better off than such inquirers taken either severally or collectively.

    Then it appears that there is a significant tension in the development scenario.

    You have posed the question as:

    If D need not be logically necessitated by the explicit content of Rb, but need only cohere with and help to illuminate that content, then how can the Church apprehend, in the sense of Rc, that D is a de fide truth of Rb as opposed to a human opinion about Ra?

    The Church can be understood here in at least two ways: (a) the body of the faithful, and (b) the teachers who exercise the Magisterium.

    Appeal to infallibility provides a coherent account of how the body of the faithful can apprehend in the sense of Rc that a development authentically pertains to Ra, even when they cannot themselves see this from Rb. For their prior faith commitment to the Magisterium warrants them to have the fullest confidence in its infallible decisions. Their certainty is mediated through the Magisterium.

    Yet the Magisterium’s certainty cannot be mediated through itself.

    You have said:

    Although the disputed instances of DD are formulations of belief that are proposed as objectively true, and thus as items of Rb, the difference between their content and that of earlier formulations is to be explained by progress in the Church’s “apprehension” of Rb. (emphasis added)

    The problem is: how are those who exercise the Magisterium warranted to conclude that a developed doctrine is an item of Rb if this is not rationally demonstrable from the evidence as publicly available?

    If tradition is public, then in principle those exercising the Magisterium can see no more than other informed persons.

    If (prior to the Magisterium’s intervention) other informed persons cannot even in principle see in the sense of Rc that a doctrine is in fact an item of Rb, then it seems those who exercise the Magisterium cannot see this, either.

    The apparent dilemma is this:

    If the Magisterium can see in the sense of Rc that the doctrine belongs to Rb, then the Magisterium can in principle see more than other informed persons, and so tradition is no longer public in a meaningful sense.

    If the Magisterium cannot see in the sense of Rc that the doctrine belongs to Rb, then the Magisterium lacks warrant to declare that the doctrine belongs to Rb.

    The first horn is problematic because in effectively denying that tradition is public and insisting on the need for a special interpreter, it makes the claim the Gnostics fielded against St Irenaeus.

    The second horn is problematic because if the Magisterium defines something without adequate warrant, then the charism of infallibility guarantees that it is true; but that it is true was not necessarily there beforehand in such a way as to be seen, which means that we may have new revelation in all but name.

    An easy solution to the dilemma would be to grant that other informed persons can in principle, even prior to the Magisterium’s intervention, see in the sense of Rc that a doctrine is in fact an item of Rb.

    You seem to have closed the door to this option by suggesting that if the sources of tradition “were jointly sufficient, then all disagreement about the question which doctrinal developments are warranted by the agreed-upon sources could be settled simply by applying a neutral, perspicuous ‘rational’ method to the agreed-upon sources. The Magisterium could, in principle at least, be replaced by a computer.”

    Appealing to such a method is more or less what St Irenaeus apparently did when refuting the heretics. He showed that by ignoring the traditional canon of truth they fell into interpretive errors that made tradition as presented most notably in scripture incoherent. He was able to demonstrate this claim from scripture itself, without recourse to an extra-scriptural body of doctrinal truth communicated only by tradition, simply by pointing out what passages contradicted the heretics’ teachings.

    That’s a little crisper in form than how I would normally put it. I hope it clarifies the objection.

    Best,

    John

  12. John:

    1. Re Schatz, I believe you’ve missed my point. That Sts. Cyprian and Augustine (and certain other 4th and 5th centuries luminaries) did not take Roman auctoritas to entail any sort of potestas or juridisdiction outside Western Europe is no evidence that Rome herself hadn’t so taken it well before then. It only shows that, if Rome did, not everybody in the Church was ready to see the same, by Rc, as an item of Rb. Moroever, St. Leo the Great’s conception of papal authority, written down within a generation of Augustine’s death, did entail its universality of jurisdiction. Such a conception might not have been a deductively necessary consequence of Rome’s previous self-conception; we don’t know because we don’t have the documents providing the propositions that would warrant such a deduction. But neither is there evidence that Leo’s view was considered a mere innovation in Rome. And the fact that acceptance of something like Leo’s conception was fitful in the Church is, for reasons I explained in the penultimate paragraph of my post, neither here nor there.

    2. Re the common-law analogy, I called it anachronistic because the English common-law paradigm had not yet taken shape when Rome’s conception of her own authority and jurisdiction had developed to a point that non-Catholics reject. The analogy is plausible for the period between, say, the Magna Carta and Vatican I. At Vatican I, however, the key point of disanalogy was formally introduced: i.e., magisterial (not just papal) infallibility. Since that is precisely the point at issue, insisting that the analogy still works well is just one more way of begging the question against Rome.

    3. The dilemma you pose for me is a false one. As you point out: “An easy solution to the dilemma would be to grant that other informed persons can in principle, even prior to the Magisterium’s intervention, see in the sense of Rc that a doctrine is in fact an item of Rb.” Precisely so. In my opinion, it was largely because many such individuals had done so that the Magisterium came to teach, as binding dogmas rather than private opinions, the doctrines that are seen as Catholic “distinctives.” And that’s just what one should expect if, as Newman argued, the “sense of the faithful” is something the Magisterium should take account of.

    Of course I see you claiming that I’ve closed off that solution for myself. But the argument you give for that claim fails. You seem to assume that I could allow for the above solution only if I suppose something contrary to what I had previously argued. I had previously argued that doctrine does not ordinarily develop through deductive necessitation by the explicit propositional content of Scripture and Tradition; but I don’t need to retract that in order to escape the dilemma you pose for me. For if I don’t think the Magisterium need develop doctrine by strict deduction, why should I believe that those who anticipate the Magisterium do? Because the former is infallible and the latter are not? That’s hardly germane. Perhaps the Magisterium manifests its charism partly by means of learning things from people who are led by the Spirit to see in Rb, by means other than logical deduction, what others had not seen before. The function of the Magisterium in that case would be to certify the truth in question and make assent to it binding on all the faithful. Most devout, educated Catholics believe that the development of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception followed pretty much that process.

    Your citation of St. Irenaeus does not afford an effective counterexample to my claim that DD does not ordinarily occur by deductive necessity. I say so while happily agreeing that Kelly and Behr, in books that you quote and that I’ve read before, offer fair summaries of Irenaeus’ position. They establish that, for Irenaeus, the doctrinal content of formulas and practices which can be found in the Church’s tradition outside of Scripture is materially equivalent to that in Scripture, and for that reason ought to be used to interpret Scripture, whose parts can then be interpreted in terms of the whole. I agree with Irenaeus about that. But that doesn’t prove the point you’re making against me. For Ireneaus did not demonstrate, deductively, that the explicit words contained in the sources he cites could only be interpreted as he interpreted them. All he showed was that, given the publicity of the common version of apostolic tradition, relative to the “traditions” invoked by the Gnostics, the evidence for interpreting Scripture as he did was objectively stronger than the Gnostics’ evidence for interpreting it as they did. That was an important result to achieve, but it does not function as a deductive proof of any orthodox Christian doctrine. It would have facilitated a deduction of some orthodox doctrines only on the additional assumption that whatever is publicly taught as divinely revealed by the successors of the Apostles is to be accepted as such by the faithful for the very reason that it is so taught—in other words, that what would now be called the Magisterium is beyond appeal when it teaches with its full authority. That’s exactly what I believe, but that’s exactly what those against whom Irenaeus was writing, mostly Gnostics of one stripe or another, denied. The same attitude is very common today; in fact, it has been so throughout Church history, especially since the 16th century. That is why I cannot entertain the possibility that the Magisterium could be replaced by a computer. If it could be, we wouldn’t have this sort of problem.

    Best,
    Mike

  13. Dr Liccione,

    Regarding Schatz, I do not think discussion about the historical details is useful at the point. The question was not whether you agreed with Schatz’s description of the history, but whether, on the supposition that he has the facts correct, those facts could be accommodated to the modern papal doctrine by the theory of development. That you think Schatz makes an argument from silence, and that you can in response put forward your own argument from silence, assails the facts presented by Schatz; but it does not answer the question as posed. If, however, we are to go into the historical details, then we should note that Mozley’s criticism of Rome had as theme ‘corruption by exaggeration’. That is, Rome started with truths and so built on them as eventually to go beyond them to something new and different. FWIW, I think St Cyprian might make an interesting case study for this, given that he most likely revised his De Unitate out of concern that Rome was reading too much into it. It was, in fact, modern Catholic scholarship that demonstrated this (cf. Jaroslav Pelikan in Development of Doctrine: Some Historical Prolegomena, pp. 59-61). But that is neither here nor there until we move forward about the nature of development.

    Regarding the common law paradigm, although it is true that it took a refined shape in England during the period you specify, it is hardly the case that its basic features (most importantly reasoning from precedent) are unique to that time or place. Nor is it common law itself that I have stressed so much as the venerable tradition which it represents: that laws are found, not made; that they exist independently of what the rulers say; that they are knowable in such a way that the rulers’ decisions can be scrutinized in order to determine whether and how far these decisions correspond to the laws. As was noted back at Kevin’s blog, this tradition can also operate in a civil law context where law has been codified; but in my opinion the tradition is better upheld in practice through the common law paradigm.

    As for the main issue, you write:

    The dilemma you pose for me is a false one. As you point out: “An easy solution to the dilemma would be to grant that other informed persons can in principle, even prior to the Magisterium’s intervention, see in the sense of Rc that a doctrine is in fact an item of Rb.” Precisely so.

    How then can it be known in the sense of Rc, prior to the Magisterium’s definition, that an instance of DD-2 is not merely consistent as speculation with the deposit, but that it is in fact authentically an item of Rb?

    Boyer’s argument is that at the point of arrival (stage 2, as distinct from the historical-empirical process of stage 1) the bond between the original revelation and the putative development must be perceptible and amenable to scrutiny independent of the subsequent definition of the Church. Earlier I sketched how the process of scrutiny might work, through the test of necessity in the sense of inevitability. You find this test inadequate to the task. What is your alternative?

    As you noted before, “No council, pope, or theologian ever sat down and decided to use such a checklist in order to evaluate and certify Catholic ‘distinctives.’” So if Newman’s tests are not used at stage 2, some other criterion is needed.

    You appear to have appealed to the sensus fidelium for an answer. Never mind that, in the case of DD-2 Roman distinctives, this cuts off Protestants and Orthodox from the faithful; the problem is, how can the faithful see in the sense of Rc that an instance of DD-2 is authentically an item of Rb if this is not rationally demonstrable from the evidence as publicly available?

    That is why I have repeatedly asked whether there is a kind of special intuition or supernatural consciousness at work, i.e. something that allows certain individuals to move beyond the (at most) probable conclusions warranted by the evidence to something firmer.

    As an example, apart from the Magisterium’s pronouncement I do not see how, from the tradition as publicly available, the Assumption of Mary can be found to be more than a plausible theological opinion or a probable speculation. Since the Roman Magisterium has defined it as an item of Rb, it seems that certain persons have been able to see beyond what is demonstrable from the public evidence so as to reach a stronger conclusion.

    If the way they did this is inscrutable, if what they saw cannot be demonstrated independently, if the process that brought them to certainty is (to use your phrase) “positively mysterious,” then it seems something like special revelation is at work, and that this thing like special revelation is used to increase the publicly available content of tradition.

    Best,

    John

  14. In a questionable attempt to answer some of Iohannes’ objections, and thus restate (synthesize?) much of what Mike has already said, I put forth the following. Feel free to ignore this comment, as I am perfectly happy to read the comments go back and forth between Dr. Liccione and Iohannes. And so I proceed:

    Iohannes says:

    “That is why I have repeatedly asked whether there is a kind of special intuition or supernatural consciousness at work, i.e. something that allows certain individuals to move beyond the (at most) probable conclusions warranted by the evidence to something firmer.

    As an example, apart from the Magisterium’s pronouncement I do not see how, from the tradition as publicly available, the Assumption of Mary can be found to be more than a plausible theological opinion or a probable speculation. Since the Roman Magisterium has defined it as an item of Rb, it seems that certain persons have been able to see beyond what is demonstrable from the public evidence so as to reach a stronger conclusion.

    If the way they did this is inscrutable, if what they saw cannot be demonstrated independently, if the process that brought them to certainty is (to use your phrase) “positively mysterious,” then it seems something like special revelation is at work, and that this thing like special revelation is used to increase the publicly available content of tradition.”

    I think what Iohannes says here is getting to the point. The answer to his question about a “special intuition” must be answered in the affirmative, even if caveated here and there. Since the Catholic Church claims to have a unique charism to teach infallibly, we have to say some sort of “special intuition” is at work. I believe this is what is meant by “charism”.

    But, as Mike points out, answering this question in the affirmative does not mean there is an “ongoing revelation in all, but name. ” The revelation delivered “once and for all” is what we have have distinguished as Rb. Any DD (-1 or-2) proposed by the Church is an instance of Rc pertaining to Rb.

    Iohannes speaks of this increasing the publicly available content of tradition. I do not see how this follows. Obviously, there was a tradition in place long before the dogmatic proclamation of the Assumption. The fact that during the time of the proclamation there were many who did not hold this tradition to be true, does not mean the “publicly available content of tradition” has increased. All it means is that some did not believe the teaching to be true, and in essence the Church said they (the deniers of the Assumption) were wrong. Nothing has increased. The doctrine of the Assumption was not made up out of thin air, and I am sure Iohannes knows that, which is why I think I may have misunderstood him somewhere along the line.

    Iohannes’ problem with DD-2 appears to be that there is nothing to necessitate it being proclaimed infallibly, especially when there is no logical argument for its necessity, demonstrable from the public evidence. Instances of DD-2 appear to be completely unnecessary, at best, or cases of Magisterial arrogance, at worst. Perhaps, this is why Iohannes keeps going back to how we can know that a particular instance of DD is legitimate and not mere opinion. The Catholic answer to this is we know (by faith) because of the divinely assured charism of infallibility.

    Iohannes seems to believe that all infallible claims of a particular teaching must be demonstrable from the public evidence. Here, Catholics do not and cannot agree. Primarily, because this negates the need for a Magisterium (which I believe is his whole point). And maybe this is what Kepha means by “papalist presuppositionalism”. If it were so easy, such that all developments of doctrine were linear and logically deductive (or inductive), we can replace the Magisterium with a really good logician. Perhaps, instead of a philosopher king, we need a philosopher pope (didn’t we just have on of those?). But as history has shown us, the development of doctrine (including the development of doctrines we all hold) is much more complicated than a series of logically deductive arguments.

    It seems to me, this is where the debate stands. Now Iohaness asks Mike for some clarifications to his oft repeated questions.

  15. Mark:

    I appreciate your support. I hope my reply to John keeps you engaged.

    Best,
    Mike

  16. John:

    I have a lot to say about Schatz, the common-law analogy, Boyer, and several other issues you bring up. But I think we need to cut to the chase in order to avoid boring everybody but ourselves.

    The central question is: What are the general criteria for rationally justifying the Magisterium’s definitions of theological developments as doctrines? That’s a fair question. By way of answer, you addressed me thus: “Earlier I sketched how the process of scrutiny might work, through the test of necessity in the sense of inevitability. You find this test inadequate to the task. What is your alternative?” For three reasons, I reject that whole way of approaching the central question..

    First, your “sketch” ignores the great effort it took the Church to fashion that hermeneutic which enabled her to arrive at what you present as instances of “DD-1.” I argued, and still maintain, that those doctrines were not and could not have been straightforward logical deductions from the words of Scripture. For reasons I’ve given in my discussion of both Irenaeus and the 4th-century Fathers, the doctrines you deem instances of DD-1 need be seen only as the precipitate of an optional hermeneutic, unless the Magisterium makes clear that the hermeneutic is not optional. For that reason, your preferred alternative is a false alternative. The question we need to consider is not how to make this or that instance of DD seem rationally inevitable; we ought to take for granted that none are, so that the burden is no longer on me to show why none are. The question is simply what “justification” looks like short of rational necessitation. Newman’s seven notes, and others such as Brandon Watson’s, address that question. That they don’t compel intellectual assent to the developments they are offered to justify is not a problem because, given the nature of the subject matter, no stronger sort of justification is available.

    A second way to show that your method is inappropriate to the subject matter is to point out a few of the unavoidable consequences of applying it. To stipulate that justification involve showing that a proposed doctrinal development is somehow “necessary” or “inevitable” given Scripture and/or Tradition considered independently of the Magisterium’s interpretations thereof is to require, in effect, a justification that would render the Magisterium superfluous. The only role of the Magisterium would be to rubber-stamp what any anybody could discover, and some will have discovered, on their own with sufficient time and study. But insisting that the Magisterium’s decisions be justified in terms that would render it superfluous is tantamount to saying that the only good Magisterium is a dead Magisterium. You can hardly expect me to see in that anything more than a complete begging of the central question. In fact your approach cannot but, objectively, beg the question against Vatican II’s account in DV (which I quoted in full) of the relationship between Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium. And if that account is correct, then a justification of that meta-development which consists in the Magisterium’s claim to infallibility need not consist in showing that said claim is somehow rationally necessitated by Scripture and Tradition understood independently of how the Magisterium interprets them over time. There could be reason enough to make an assent of faith in the Magisterium’s claim to infallibility without such reason’s supplying rational “necessity” or “inevitability” based on Scripture or Tradition’s being understood independently of the Magisterium’s interpretation. Indeed, if there were rational warrant of that sort, the corresponding assent would not be one of faith.

    Finally, I’ve already argued that, if there is reason enough to accept the Magisterium’s claim to infallibility, then there is ipso facto reason enough to accept whatever she teaches with her full authority as belonging to Rb, including the instances of putative “DD-2” that have been so taught. What I haven’t already said is what my “reason enough” is: I find DV’s account of the relationship between Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium to be the only sensible one in light of both historical and conceptual considerations. And I find it so precisely because I find no evidence that, without the Magisterium as DV presents it, one can fashion a hermeneutic for Scripture and Tradition that can even plausibly pretend to be anything more than one theory or opinion among others. If that is correct, then no hermeneutic is made “necessary” or “inevitable” by the sources apart from the Magisterium. The necessary or inevitable hermeneutic is simply the one that the Magisterium adopts; for the sources bear authority only in conjunction with the Magisterium and its interpretation of them. Therefore one cannot, without simply begging the question, require that the Magisterium’s definitions of doctrinal developments—which are proffered precisely as items of Rb and thus as authentic interpretations of Scripture and Tradition—be rationally necessitated by Scripture and Tradition understood independently of the hermeneutic followed by the Magisterium itself.

    If you want this discussion to move forward, you’re going to have to be willing to discuss why I find the “reason enough” I just said I find for making an assent of faith to the Magisterium’s claims. For that purpose, exploring Newman’s reasons for insisting on the infallibility of the Church would do nicely. It would certainly be much more productive than dogmatically insisting on epistemological principles that I don’t believe are even applicable to the subject matter.

    Best,
    Mike

  17. Mark,

    Thanks for your input. A third party’s perspective is always helpful in discussions like this. I will try to address your concerns in my reply to Dr Liccione.

    Dr Liccione,

    Sorry I didn’t write back earlier. Between church and other obligations I was tied up most of the day. A small break this afternoon allowed me to read your comments and start composing an answer, but I got only about 1/3 of the way into it before having to leave. When I returned this evening I found Frank (Kepha) had sent a note asking that I hold off on a response until he is able to post part two of his remarks at FQI. He believes this second installment may contribute something important to the dialogue and he hopes to have it up tomorrow. While I am eager to answer and would not normally keep you waiting, if you would not mind, I would like to honor Frank’s request.

    God bless,

    John

  18. John:

    No problema. In fact, I believe it might be best to shift our discussion over there. I’m feeling inclined to devote my efforts on this blog to some philosophical matters.

    Best,
    Mike

  19. I have a question for Michael Liccione. He is very much interested in ecumenism.

    I would like to take this time to ask Mr. Liccione how does he defend “development of doctrine” and square it with “Maintaining the traditions”.

    Slavery.

    The (modern) Roman Catholic Church condemns it.

    Eastern Orthodoxy does not condemn it.

    Now the Eastern Orthodox are the closest to the Apostolic Traditions. They would never think of “condemning slavery”. Both Scripture and the Canons of the Ecumenical Councils protect the institution. Holy Tradition is quite clear.

    Now, the Roman Catholic Church considers its stance on slavery is “Development of Doctrine”, does it not?

    How can there be ecumenism between Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism? How can there be ecumenism between one Church that “maintains” and the other that “develops”. “Development of Doctrine” is what the Orthodox would call “innovation”.

    How do you square the circle, Mr Liccione? You think that copious amounts of arcane and byzantian reasoning is going t o fix this problem? The different mentalities is what is the difference, hardly more “theologizing” will fix that. How can there be ecumenism between one Church that upholds the original teaching of the Church with one that “innovates”? How does one square the circle?

  20. […] of Doctrine IV What follows below is a reply to Dr. Liccione’s most recent remarks in the discussion under his post Development of Doctrine III at Philosophia Perennis. Readers […]

  21. Lindsay,

    “I would like to take this time to ask Mr. Liccione how does he defend “development of doctrine” and square it with “Maintaining the traditions”.

    I hope you won’t object if I take a stab at answering for him, as this is more a historical than a philosophical issue.

    “Slavery.

    The (modern) Roman Catholic Church condemns it.

    Eastern Orthodoxy does not condemn it.”

    This is a false dichotomy. What do you mean by “slavery”? If you mean “chattel slavery” in which human beings become things and property with no inherent rights, as was practiced in the slave states before the Civil War, then both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches have both always opposed it.

    “Slavery” has been used over time as a broad generic term encompasing a range of human relations some of which are in violation of scripture, tradition and natural law, but some of which are not. We have to keep in mind that, depending on the context, the Latin “servus” could, mean serf, domestic servant, indentured or penal laborer, or chattel slave. Similar ambiguity exists in Greek and Aramaic, as well as in medieval concepts such as “unfreedom.”

    What they all have in common is an implicit bilateral contract involving long-term commitment of labour in exchange for maintenance and support, and a public assumption of responsibility of the master for the “good behaviour” of the servant/slave towards the community as a whole.

    So long as the fundamental human dignity of the servant/slave is respected, there is nothing inherently immoral in a state of dependence. In practice, however, dependence is vulnerable to abuse and exploitation particularly when there is no outside authority to impose repect for fundamental human dignitiy on the dominant party in the relationship. The same can apply to any potentially asymetrical relationship such a smarriage or child rearing, for example.

    There is also a charitative issue to address where the relationship is an involuntary one. This is why the Mosaic law provided for the freeing of Jewish “slaves” after seven years of “service”. This aspect was carried over into early Christianity, but whereas the Mosaic law was generally applicable amongst Hebrews in the kingdoms of Israel, Judea (and under the Romans, Palestine), in the Roman and Greek world, the Church was confronted with a pagan legal context in which indefinite chattel slavery was the norm. Compliance with the charitative imperative could not be enforced by law. Nevertheless, as the Empire become progressively Christian and compliance with Christian principles became the legal norm, chattel slavery dissappeared.

    In the Middle Ages, new forms of personal dependence evolved in response to specific and changed social circumstances. But these did not involve chattel slavery At least for Christians). Serfs were not property subject to the abitrary will of their masters. They had rights and lords had concrete legal and moral obligations towards them. Sefdom was explicitly contractual in nature and a state from which the dependent party could walk away if he or she could find a jurisdiction willing to accept him or her as responsible towards the law (as in free towns, or parts of Europe in which serfdom did not exist, such as Normandy, for example).

    When examining the Church’s response to and attitude towards slavery you have to carefully consider the time and context. It isn’t the Church’s position on slavery that changes, but the particular conditions pertaining to the dominant local and historical form of servitude being considered.

    “Now the Eastern Orthodox are the closest to the Apostolic Traditions.”

    Are you prepared to demonstrate this rather dubious proposition?

    “Both Scripture and the Canons of the Ecumenical Councils protect the institution.”

    They recognize the legal validity of servitude as it existed in their time and context and uphold an obligation to respect the law. I think it would be going too far to say they “protected” the institution as if it were some moral good. The Church has always taught that freeing chattel slaves was a desirable act of charity and even organized subscriptions to free Christian slaves being held by pagans who could not be expected to respect their human dignity.

    “Now, the Roman Catholic Church considers its stance on slavery is “Development of Doctrine”, does it not?”

    Not to my knowledge. There has been no development per se on the issue, just a recognition (as with the death penalty) that the social, material and economic conditions that could justify even non-chattel involuntary servitude as a general (as opposed to extraordinary) institution no longer exist in the modern world.

    I don’t see any daylight between the Catholic and Orthodox positions on the matter. There are certainly theological and moral issues to address in Catholic/Orthodox ecumenism (divorce, for one), but slavery per se isn’t one of them.

    Michaël

  22. This situation exposes and goes to the heart of the divide between Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism and ought to pique Roman Catholic self-examination. Slavery does and IS a major theological and moral issue between Catholic and Orthodox. I find your response very insufficient, unsupportable and basically a misrepresentation of Scripture, reality and history. Everything you said is not true. Every Orthodox priest I have talked to, did not make any distinctions that you make, Mr Liccione. Here is a link to an actual Orthodox priest that counterdicts your opinion: The Biblical Basis for Servitude; i.e. “For the Orthodox, so does the Rudder. Canon 82, p. 141”. I do not know where your information comes from, but what I have heard is totally opposite of what you write.

    M.I. Finley in his book Ancient Slavery and Modern Ideology, writes,

    “Outwardly, however, slavery was merely part of the general law of property and of the order of the State, which Christianity accepted and did not try to alter; indeed, by its moral guarantees it really strengthened it.” (pg 15)

    Now, this is not Mr. Finley’s “opinion” but he is quoting scholarly research done by P. Vidal-Naquet, Again, this disputes your assumptions.

    “This is why the Mosaic law provided for the freeing of Jewish “slaves” after seven years of “service”. This aspect was carried over into early Christianity, but whereas the Mosaic law was generally applicable amongst Hebrews in the kingdoms of Israel,

    First off, there were TWO kinds of slavery in Hebrew Society. You forget that or you don’t know about that.

    Septuagint Lev. 25.44

    “And whatever number of man-servants and maid-servants thou shalt have, thou shalt purchase them from the surrounding nations.”

    Now, I have the Septuagint in my hands and it has both words for slave, “paidiski” and “doulon”. There is NO distinction and this slavery was Chattel Slavery. And it was PERMANENT.

    For Hebrew kinsmen that became bondsman, God created “indentured Servanthood” where the Hebrew slave or indentured servant was released after 7 years. There were Two types of slavery in Hebrew Society.

    Now, Greek and Roman Slavery had NO, and I mean NO, conception of “indentured servanthood”. There was NO ‘part-time’ slavery in Greek and Roman societies. And here St. Paul says, “Slaves be obedient to your masters” has no bearing on Hebrew sympathies or law. St. Paul is writing to Gentiles, to Greeks and Romans, and their laws of Chattel Slavery. If Greek society had no concept or institution of indentured servanthood, how do you see in Greek language a distinction between Chattel Slavery and other forms of slavery? I find this utterly amazing. There is NO distinction in the Greek language because there is NO concept in Greek society. A doulos is a doulos is a doulos. And a Doulos is Chattel Slavery which the Bible Condones and the Ecumenical Canons protect.

    “The Church has always taught that freeing chattel slaves was a desirable act of charity and even organized subscriptions to free Christian slaves

    An act of Charity Mr. Liccione does NOT imply something is morally wrong! Slavery is NOT morally wrong. There is abuse in every human institution. It is in the Family, in the military, everywhere. The Church may free slaves but the Church has NO right, Scriptural or otherwise to condemn slavery as an institution. Slavery like the Family is an INSTITUTION. Slavery like the Military is an INSTITUTION. Can the treatment of slaves be humane? Yes. But human abuse does not go to the essence of the matter. Chattel Slavery is never morally wrong. The Bible Condones it. Protects it.

    When the Ten Commandments say, “Thou shalt not covet… thy neighbors servant” (paida) which was a foreigner at that time and chattell slave, it is protecting that Institution. Jesus never taught that slavery was wrong.

    Your mention of “human dignity” is atheistic humanism. Second, your “no longer exist in the modern world”, the term “modern” means “Marxist”. The term “Modern” is a code word for “Marxist”. Cicero said, “Truth is not one thing in Athens and another in Rome; it is not one thing yesterday and another thing today”. This is the principle of Consistency. The Criteria of Truth is Consistency. The Early Church, the Deposit of Faith nowhere condemns Chattel slavery as Immoral or Wrong! And NOTHING changes that! Nothing! There is NO “development of morality” or theology. What the Roman Catholic Church has done, has changed the consistent teaching of Tradition.

    Furthermore, if the Natural Law condemned it, Why did it emerge in every clime and place under the sun? In every people? Aristotle nor Plato condemn the institution. Aristotle writes that a slave is a live article of property. It is a necessity. So, no the Natural Law does NOT condemn slavery.

    Humanism and Marxism can not be the basis of Christian Morality.

  23. Mr Wheeler:

    The “Michaël” with whom you are discussing this issue is not me. In fact, he began his comment addressed to you with a statement in which, among other things, he indicates that he and I are not the same person.

    To me, your error is just one more bit of evidence that you don’t listen well enough to make a productive dialogue with you possible. That is why I do not and will not discuss substantive theological issues with you any longer.

    Best,
    Mike

  24. Having taken Mike’s last post as a warning, I have thought long and hard about whether to respond to Lindsay. One consideration that daunted me was the risk of highjacking the thread and turning it into a dialogue (of the deaf?) on the history of slavery. I think however, that what may appear to be difficulties can be easily resolved more straightforwardly.

    What we have here is a terminological issue. If you equate “slavery” with “servitude,” then you could argue that Orthodoxy does not condemn it. If you equate “slavery” with “chattel slavery,” then you could argue that Catholicism opposes it. I would submit that is what Lindsay appears to be doing, albeit probably unwittingly, is using conflating the two definitions in such a way as to suggest that Orthodoxy has no problem with chattel slavery, and that Catholicism condemns all forms of servitude.

    If, on the other hand, you make a clear conceptual distinction between chattel slavery and other forms of servitude, it is easier to see that the Catholic and Orthodox positions are identical, and have never changed. Chattel slavery is unacceptable to either Church because it commodifies human beings, reducing them to the level of property incompatible with the rights or dignity they enjoy as icons of God.

    It is interesting that Lindsay should cite Finlay and Vidal-Naquet. Both are Marxists. Now, unlike some, I am not one to just dismiss the writings of Marxists out of hand. Nevertheless, if they are to be understood properly, one has to aware of the technical meanings they ascribe to the terms they use. For a Marxist, the difference between, for example, indentured labour, serfdom and chattel slavery is merely one of degree. All involve a state of dependence, and some Marxist even extend to concept to “wage slavery.” Hence, it is quite possible for a Marxist like Finlay to claim with full intellectual integrity that early Christianity gave sanction to “slavery,” and brush aside as insignificant that the Church always drew the line at chattel slavery. What Finlay and Vidal-Naquet are referring to is not chattel slavery, which had largely ceased to exist in the Roman empire (at least in law by the first century, and fully in practice by the time Christianity was able to influence legal norms in the 4th century).

    As early as Augustus (27BC-14AD) it was illegal to kill slaves arbitrarily.

    Under Claudius (41-54), abandoned slaves could claim their freedom.

    Under Nero (54-68), slaves could pursue their masters in court.

    Under Antoninus Pius (138-161), maltreated slaves could claim their freedom if treated cruelly; and the arbitrary killing of slaves was treated as murder.

    Slaves who have rights are obviously not chattel.

    Orthodox and Catholic Christianity has always seen a difference between servitude and chattel slavery as one of kind, not merely one of degree. When Paul returns Onesimus to Philemon he makes this distinction quite clear: “have him back for god, no longer as a slave, but as more than a slave–as a dear brother, very dear to me and how much dearer to you, both as man and as Christian.” Paul goes further still: “welcome him as you would welcome me.”

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church sets this out clearly:

    “2414: The seventh commandment forbids acts or enterprises that for any reason–selfish or ideological, commercial or totalitarian–lead to the enslavement of human beings in disregard for their personal dignity. It is a sin against the dignity of persons and their fundamental rights to reduce them by violence to their productive value or to a source of profit.”

    It should be clear from this that it is not servitude in and of itself that the Church is condemning (the Catholic Church has, for example, never explicitly condemned serfdom or indentured or penal labour, as sinful per se).

    Now it would be up to Lindsay to demonstrate that Orthodoxy distinguishes itself from Catholicism in arguing that “it is NOT a sin against the dignity of persons and their fundamental rights to reduce them by violence to their productive value or to a source of profit.”

    Michaël

  25. Is this the Michaël de Verteuil of Lectio Divina fame?

  26. No, Fr. Michel de Verteuil is a distant cousin of mine.

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