Apostolic Succession and Civic Freedom (pt. 1)

In our previous discussion, our Roman Catholic friend Mary Campion raised a new question regarding the theory of Apostolic Succession.  Fearful that much of the modern political settlement is a byproduct of non-Christian philosophy (it is a product of the Enlightenment after all) she suggests that apostolic succession would be a more desirable safeguard to the notion of Christian citizenship.  Mary writes:

Apostolic succession avoids the flaws of the modern “separation of church and state” approach, as held by Darryl Hart, as I read him, in that the church is divinely instituted as a historical presence. God has, through his church instituted by Christ (“and I will give to thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven”) been given, in the words of the Bard, “a local habitation and a name.” An address if you will. As a result, the state must be subordinate to the church. However, as formulated in Unam Sanctum, the “Two Swords” are not to be conflated. Rather, “it belongs to the spiritual power to establish the terrestrial power and pass judgment if it has not been good.” This means that the Spiritual power only rules the Temporal power mediately, as opposed to immediately, as it does within the church. What this usually means in practice is subordination on questions of “faith and morals.” This makes the church/state relationship complimentary rather than either 1) merged, such as in Islam or a theocracy or 2) alienated, as in modern liberal “wall of separation” thinking.

Apostolic succession also avoids what I believe are the weaknesses in the approach of reformer’s view. For because of the two radically different loves of the heavenly and earthly cities, the two cities seem destined to be always at war to some degree. Jesus seems to accept this state of affairs when he advises to “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s,” and speaks of his Kingdom as “not of this world.” History certainly bears this out as well. As such, while the invisible church, which will be the bride of Christ at the Great Wedding, is not simply to be identified with the visible church in this world, there is however an inseparable link through apostolic succession. This gives God’s church an anchor and sticking point, if you will, which no totalitarian regime, or soft despotism of consumer degradation- indeed, not even the gates of hell- can prevail against. In short, it seems to me that the idea of making the Magistrate a Christian, while admirable, and perhaps possible and hoped for, is not to be relied on or expected.

As with many of my posts, this is hopefully an elaborate ploy to entice Peter Escalante to write in public, but I will take the first opportunity to offer a response.

Mary here offers the classic Roman Catholic position.  This is most welcome in the face of too many modern RCs who wish to evade the teaching of their own church through various “developments.”  Mary lays it out for us: “the state must be subordinate to the church.”  The Reformers all rejected this position out of hand, and I continue to do so today.

1) What precisely constitutes “the church”?  Mary begins with what seems to be the inescapable concept of the institutional church, the one with an address.  She also says that the invisible church is linked to the visible church through apostolic succession.  Thus we’ve got an additional question to field as well.  2) What is apostolic succession, and is it a valid theory?  3) Mary also concludes with the question, “[Do] you think that modern democratic liberalism is inherently the regime most compatible with Christianity?”

We’ll handle these one at a time in individual posts.  To the first question:

1) a) Since the kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:20-21) and the true mother church is the Jerusalem that is above (Gal. 4:26), Continue reading