Apostolic Succession and Civic Freedom (pt. 2)

As our conversation continues, we have witnessed a transformation in the accidents of Mary Campion.  Though her substance is still the same, she is now Michael, and so it seems that I should shift the names accordingly.  We have now, in my opinion, gotten to the bottom of the disagreements in defining the church.  The Protestant view is that the essence of the Church is the Word, found in the preaching and sacraments, as well as embodied in the people of God by the immediate action of the Holy Spirit.  This allows for a distinction in terms, with “the visible Church” typically referring to the Church as institution, complete with polity and laws, and the “invisible Church” referring to all believers wherever they may be.  For Protestants, the “Church” and the “State” (better termed the “Commonwealth”) can inhabit the same space and time without displacing or doing violence to one another.  There is no need for a hierarchical arrangement because the two entities are different in quality, jurisdiction, and telos.

Our second question then was, “What is apostolic succession, and is it a valid theory?”  Michael suggests that Apostolic Succession (hereafter AS) is the key to a harmonious society, and he also points (rightly) to Unam Sanctam’s claim that the civic arena must be subordinate to the Church.  Unam Sanctam, however, goes further and says that princes must be in submission to the clergy:

Both, therefore, are in the power of the Church, that is to say, the spiritual and the material sword, but the former is to be administered  for  the Church but the latter by the Church; the former in the hands of the priest; the latter by the hands of kings and soldiers, but at the will and sufferance of the priest.

Unam Sanctam goes on to say that the spiritual powers may not be judged by the temporal powers.  When you combine this with the particular view of “spirituality of the Church” that Thomas Becket posthumously won over King Henry and the Investiture Contest’s Dictatus Papae (which states that the Pope alone can call general councils, that the Pope cannot be judged by anyone, and that the Pope can remove the magistrate’s authority over his subjects), you get a clear picture of the Roman position.

AS then enters into the picture as a proof of who the “spiritual rulers” are and from where they get their commission.  AS is also a sort of lynch-pin argument for Roman Catholic apologists in defining the Church.  It often serves the function for Roman Catholics what sola fide does for traditional Protestants.  I also know from personal experience that AS can be the single decisive issue in Protestant conversions to Roman Catholicism.  I’ve seen it on more than one occasion.  But I have a few concerns about AS, some of which seem to be significant enough to warrant its dismissal from consideration.

1) What exactly is meant by “Apostolic Succession”?

a) I have seen this term used by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglo-Catholics to mean different things, and at times I’ve seen this used in such a way as to say that only these three communions are valid churches.  Ironically, it is usually only the Anglicans who are willing to grant that all three of these churches fully qualify.  Rome tends to relegate the true succession to only themselves and the East.  Then most ironically, the Orthodox restrict the true succession to only themselves.  I’ve yet to understand why the first two groups are so willing to give those following them the easy pass, but it does reveal to me the equivocation at work.

b) If AS merely means that a group comes from “within” the historical development of the Christian Church, then this would prove very little.  Almost all major denominations would qualify, especially those coming from the magisterial Reformation.  Mormonism would be out, along with the various forms of “restorationist” movements (Campbellism, etc.), but Lutherans and Calvinists would be safely “in.”

c) If AS merely refers to a successive ordination rite, or even the manual imposition of hands, then most churches descending from England and Scotland are still in the succession.  Though I’m less knowledgeable about the Continent, it would not surprise me if the same case held true there.  In England and Scotland, however, we know for sure.

d) If AS is supposed to refer to a gifting of personal charismata, analogous to Elijah and Elisha or Jesus and Peter, then no Christian institution has it.

What I mean is this: Both Biblical examples show us men who work personally together for a season in a teacher/disciple relationship.  The teacher imparts his own personal skills, teachings, and even charismatic gifts to the apprentice.  Elisha wears the mantle of Elijah, and he does Elijah’s works.  Peter’s very shadow had healing power, just as Jesus’ garment could transmit grace.  The two men were as one in doctrine, personality, and spiritual gifts.  They had the same “face.”

We even see similar succession scenarios in other religions.  Peter Escalante used the example of the Shaolin monks, where young men travel to train under a master.  Judaism and Islam also have similar phenomena.  Once the training is complete, the apprentice walks like the master, talks like the master, etc.

In Christianity there is little similarity to this.  Perhaps certain ascetics retained it, which is probably why Simeon the New Theologian believed the true succession to have moved from the bishops to the monks, but the metropolitan bishops certainly did not retain it.  It is not unusual for a new bishop to have never so much as met his predecessor, much less trained under him personally for years.  In fact, it is not even a “problem” for the new bishop to seriously disagree with or even wholly contradict his predecessor.  He certainly does not cease being a bishop if he does so.  To this day Rome has the problem of rogue bishops whose orders and sacraments really are “problem cases,” both valid and invalid depending on who you ask and when.

2) If the New Testament were giving us a polity, what would it be?

a) It is often assumed that our modern notion of episcopacy was the earliest form of Church governance, but this is not the case.  What we have inherited was achieved through an imitation of the civic polity of late antiquity.  On Protestant principles, this is unobjectionable.  Richard Hooker pointed out how this agreed with reason and the natural law, in that men are hardwired to order themselves, constructing positive law as is fitting to their context.  The English Church had a monarchy.  The Swiss Churches had a confederation. The symbols and images of the papacy were all originally supplied by the Caesars and the collegium pontificum.

b) We also know that the earliest church bishops were coordinators of the local eucharistic assembly.  Rudolph Sohm via Walter Lowrie (for the English) is essential reading on this point.

c) In the New Testament, we have something of an early church organization, yet it is truly unique.  The twelve-fold collegium is retained (Acts 1:15-26) , most likely due to its “New Israel” significance, and the only possible candidate for “bishop” in the Jerusalem church is James (Acts 21:8, Gal. 2:12).  This arrangement has not continued, however, most likely because it lost its most poignant significance as the church distanced itself from the synagogue and the Jewish temple was destroyed.

Of course, Paul is himself chosen from “outside” the twelve, and he argues fiercely for his independence (Gal. 1:12).  He admits that there are indeed “pillars of the Church,” but he denies that they have a corresponding spiritual supremacy (Gal. 2:6-10).  “Succession” for Paul comes in the preaching and hearing of faith and baptism.  The unifying marks are found in Ephesians 4:5- One Lord, one faith, one baptism.  Paul’s influence is perhaps the strongest intellectual reason for the discontinuity of the earlier church organization.

d) When Paul does need to “pull rank,” he does so by way of personal testimony.  2 Corinthians 10-12 gives us this example.  Paul does not appeal to any sort of legal office, at least not of any bureaucratic sort.  Rather he “boasts in” the content of his preaching, the suffering he has born for Christ, his personal “track record” of service, and heavenly visions.  He even says what things “mark an apostle”: signs, wonders, and miracles (2 Cor. 12:12).  Where is this sort of succession to be currently found?

e) The bond of unity in John 17 is a divine person.  John 17:20-26 is rather clearly (at least thanks to subsequent theological terminology) a reference to perichoresis, and the divine bond of unity and love is the Holy Spirit (Col 3:14, 1 John 4:13-17).  The concluding verses of 1 John 4 also echo Jesus’ words about how the world will recognize his followers (John 13:35).  It is not surprising that the same human author penned both statements.

4) Tightly defining the Church by institutional boundaries or seeking to police it by worldly means is to attempt to shepherd the wind.

a) If the Holy Spirit manifests the Body of Christ on earth until the final bodily return of our Lord, then we must be able to say of the Church something very near to that which Jesus says of the wind (John 3:8).  It is spiritual in the true sense of that word.

b) Does not a worldly Church run contrary to Paul’s polemic against works?  The kingdom is not eating and drinking (Rom. 14:17).  It was that very verse which shocked me out of the current fashion of “incarnational” or “trinitarian” sociology (both misnomers, of course).  Jesus adds that his followers do not “fight” in the worldly fashion (John 18:36).  Anyone who has served in the church for very long understands how “worldly” church discipline can get, though, and a great number of the early church controversies did in fact use worldly weapons.  In contrast to this, Paul tells us positively what our weapons are (Eph. 6:10-18).

c) Is not the implication of making church polity essential to the Church to deny the immediacy of the Spirit?  It seems to take us back to the older age where God’s dwelling-place was within geopolitical boundaries and temporal-kingdom law, only with a new cultural “look and feel.”

It seems to me that the older Protestant divines were so successful in rebutting AS, particularly in Chemnitz’ Examination of the Council of Trent and in Hooker’s Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, that the issue was definitively put out of the Protestant mind.  It truly became a non-issue.  Ironically, the older strength has become a weakness, as Evangelicals no longer know quite how to even consider the question.  Most “average Joes” will just dismiss it out of hand, and in many ways they are right to do so.  The lack of engagement, however, can become a public weak spot, and so I hope my treatment here has been beneficial to the readers.

We will take up the final question of how this all ought to impact our political theology and contemporary issues of “Church and State” in the final installment.


82 thoughts on “Apostolic Succession and Civic Freedom (pt. 2)

  1. Dear All,

    I saw Mary yesterday. She was sitting in the shade of a Magnolia tree, sipping sweet tea and reading Flannery O’Connor (thet self-proclaimed “Hillbilly Thomist”). She said to send you all her warmest regards.

    But onward to our topic: the good Pastor Wedgeworth has thrown out quite a bit onto the table with this post. As fascinating as it would be to discuss Zen masters and other types of mentoring relationships, time constraints (and my distatse for outright apologetics) force me to limit my observations to what is relevant to the overarching topic here: Two Kingdoms doctrine.

    For this reason, I won’t go into defending particular historical issues for apostolic succession (say, whether a particular individual was a pope or anti-pope). Those cases have been dealt with (convincingly to some, not convincingly to others) by historians and no one’s mind is likely to be changed by me here. Though appealed to and quoted, I also do not think a discourse on the “true” teaching of the early Church Fathers will be availing, since it would involve checking the context of statements and other labor intensive inquiries such as translation and historical circumstance.

    Perhaps after saying another word about that noble document, Unam Sanctum, what I do want to talk about is the meaning of AS, how it functions, and its implications for the Church in this world, for that is arena of AS. I would also like to link it in with the rationally related issues of Faith Alone and Scripture Alone, which we began to touch upon in the last post.

    In my estimation, Pastor Wedgeworth rightly perceived the corner that we were turning when he began this new post.

    More to come.


  2. Dear All,

    First a brief word on Unam Sanctum. I picked Unam Sanctum to quote from in our discussions because it is the strongest statement of the RC teaching on papal authority and therefore makes clear the “ideal significance” (to paraphrase Cassirer) of the Catholic teaching of the hierarchical relationship between the temporal and spiritual “perfect societies.” In no way do I discount or wish to avoid the force of the document, which is authoratative. However, it should not be used to suggest that the Church conflates the functional authority of the “two swords.” To do so in fact would make the whole concept of “two” swords (i.e. not one), meaningless. Even strictly within the selective quote above, the italicized (by SW) phrase “but at the will and sufferance of the priest” must be read in light of the statement that the temporal sword must be administered “for” the Church. It does not say administered “by” the Church, which would need to be the wording if, as suggested, it is envisioned that “priests” would be making legislative, diplomatic, or military decisions.

    On the contrary, when the document is viewed overall, and furthermore when it is considered how it has been interpreted by the Church (even at the time of its promulgation), it can easily be seen that a primarily negative authority is being asserted. This is why the language of “judging” is employed in the case of “errors” or “if [the temporal power] has not been good.”

    This is not to say that the document is not striking and even outrageous by today’s standards (for it certainly is) but only to say that it does not conflate the spiritual and temporal authorities, which remain institutionally distinct and two distinct sources of immediate authority.

    Which brings us in line with our present topic: given the distinct sources of immediate power (ultimately all power comes from God) and considering their different “loves,” rather than expecting a “harmony” from AS (as SW benignly characterized my position above) probably the best that can be expected is a tenuous balance or truce. For as all men are prone to sin, all institutions are inherently unstable to some degree- both Church and state.

    However, although political regimes can and do utterly perish, they have nonetheless the worldly sword to wield on their behalves. The Church for her part has spiritual authority and a divine guarantee to endure until the end of time, because instituted by Christ. To the extent that the political power recognizes the superior spiritual “power” of the Church, Christendom is safe. To the extent that it does not, only the Church itself is safe.

    I think we all agree on the distinction between the visible and invisible Church in some form. The question is the relationship between the two and the consequent meaning of this relationship for the visible Church (and eventually for politics). As I do not see the RC doctrine of AS neatly in any of Pastor Wedgeworth’s options above, I would like to write (when time permits) about what is essential and distinctive for it before engaging in any analysis.


  3. Michael,

    This is exactly where we disagree- and you need to be more careful about terms. We do not define “Church” as institutional collegium of ordained preachers/pastors. We define it as the people of God.

    You admit the basic distinction between visible and invisible church, and you admit that both State and Ministerium are temporal and unstable. What you fail to see is that Protestants say that the visible church, in its primary sense of “the people of God”, underlies *both* in a Christian order, and that the spiritual authority and divine guarantee applies to that people as a whole insofar as they are in Christ, not primarily to their ordained representatives, which latter have it derivatively by way of representation, just as the commissioned magistracy has a different sort of authority by way of representation. You want the ordained ministerium to be a miraculous exception to the inherent weakness of all human institutions; we deny that it is. For us, only the Word and the Spirit are infallible, and only those are our sure touchstone.

    The RC point of view creates a second temporal power (and a completely sovereign one, since the papal maximalists basically invented the modern notion of sovereignty, long before the Absolutist kings who simply copied it), which is however not legitimately and responsibly temporal in scope and end- claiming rather to be “spiritual”- but which isn’t actually spiritual either, since it works as a political- legal system dispensing and controlling a reified “grace”. The potestas indirecta of the Papacy is still a potestas; it is simply posited as a sui generis kind of ultra-temporal power. The entire thing is a confusion of the two realms, from our point of view. And again, if I were to be disposed to genealogize, I could make a very strong case that it is the papalist subversion of the dignity of the civic magistracy which is the historic origin of the “naked public square”, that is, of modern secularism. Of course, the record is mixed; we have no need, to make our case decisively, to argue that the Papal institution and magisterium has always been nothing but trouble. It suffices to be able to show that it is not and cannot be what it claims to be.

    But again, we would need to go over basic terms and first principles for the conversation to go much further.


  4. Mr. Escalante,

    Thank you for writing. I truly want to understand you exactly here, so please help by clarifying something.

    You say that the divine guarantee applies to both the state and “ministerium” (Church leadership?). What exactly is content of the divine guarantee of the Church here? Is it simply eternal life for all those redeemed in Christ? Or is it also the guarantee of proper doctrine by the Church while in this world? If the latter as well, are you saying that the entire people of God have a guarantee of orthodoxy?

    Also, I do think that we have a misunderstanding about who is included in “the Church” for a RC. To be precise, I need to introduce the threefold nature of the Church:

    1 The Church Militant is made up of every believer who responds with the assent of faith to God’s revealed Word (which includes Sacred Tradition, the authoritative teaching of the magisterium, and Sacred Scripture) and participates in the sacramental life of the Church.

    2) The Church Suffering is all of those people who have died, assured of heaven and redeemed by Christ, but who are being purified in purgatory (e.g.1 Cor. 12-16) so as to be able to stand in His Holy Place (Ps. 24:3).

    3) The Church Triumphant is all of those beholding the face of God in Heaven.

    Although I do refer to the magesterium or clergy at times as “the Church,” for convenience sake, the true Church is the people of God in all of these states. The magisterium and clergy are set apart by their vocation within the Church, considered in its full sense.

    This is clear in Mr. Bugay’s helpful citation from Lumen Gentium which bears repeating:

    “Christ, the one Mediator, established and continually sustains here on earth His holy Church, the community of faith, hope and charity, as an entity with visible delineation through which He communicated truth and grace to all. But, the society structured with hierarchical organs and the Mystical Body of Christ, are not to be considered as two realities, nor are the visible assembly and the spiritual community, nor the earthly Church and the Church enriched with heavenly things; rather they form one complex reality which coalesces from a divine and a human element.”

    Your comments about a second “temporal” power prompt me again to issue and invitation to engage the tantalizing question of what defines “temporal power,” or political power? If we could get into this, I think I could show that your assertion that the RC Church is a “second temporal power” is not true. I did speak of this at some length in a previous post here but no one took me up on it. I also concluded that the answer arrived at will also hinge on the content of one’s faith.

    Finally, since I am convinced of your good will, I will not be offended at your characterization of the Catholic Sacramental Life as “a political- legal system dispensing and controlling a reified “grace”. I actually address this same topic in the previous post of which I just spoke. Here again, some philosophical precision is beneficial: grace, in the Catholic understanding is an accidental quality, not a substance, which precludes the possibility of its being understood in a reified manner.

    In fleshing out AS, I would like to start by pointing out the threefold nature of the apostolicity of the Church, which is apostolic in 1) origin 2) doctrine and 3) succession.

    Moreover, apostolicity refers to the bishops, who are today’s successors of the original twelve apostles. Priests are not apostolic, although they must be ordained by a bishop.

    Which brings me to my next point: apostolic succession occurs only through a valid sacrament of Orders.

    Finally, the office of a bishop is threefold: 1) sacerdotal 2) teaching and 3) pastoral or governing.

    I hope we will have occasion to discuss some of these things in detail and draw comparisons and distinction with the Protestant teaching.


  5. Mr. Escalante,

    Briefly, on the question of political power, as I stated in my previous comment, I would draw a distinction between political power and authority per se. Except for Vatican City (about which SW reminds us above) the RC Church has a spiritual authority which has more or less political effect. This flows from the Church’s infallibility in proclaiming what God’s natural law teaches (i.e. on “morals”). Such proclamation will indeed have political effect depending on the degree to which the temporal power acknowledges the higher spiritual authority of the Church to pronounce what is moral and therefore legitimate. (Admittedly, this creates some gray areas. However, consider e.g. that the Church teaching about contraception makes any political “right” to contraception illegitimate) Now it is characteristic of the modern understanding to view all power as political (a la Michele Foucault, e.g.) but I think this distinction is both real and critical.

    Ultimately, I would say that political power, properly speaking, would necessarily involve the potential for some sort of coercion. Again, great topic for a discussion.

    Of course, if one denies the Church’s ability to say what God’s natural law is, then it does look like an attempt to exercise political power, thus making the Church a second temporal power. But that is a matter of faith.


  6. Michael,

    With me, there’s no need for you to rehearse the traditional RC understanding; I was an informed RC once, and my idea of a relaxing evening back then was a glass of madeira and an hour or two of study in Denzinger. I think you might perhaps be mistaking opposition for misunderstanding.

    On the divine guarantee: if you will read a little more closely, you will see that I say nothing whatever about a divine guarantee adhering to State and Ministerium; I said, the divine guarantee applies to the people of God, taken as a whole, and insofar as they are truly in Christ (and of course the visible church is always ecclesia permixta). Neither State nor Ministerium, as such, has any divine guarantee. Only the body of believers as such has it, and only because they adhere to the Word, which alone is infallible and sure.

    On political power: here is a case of mistaking opposition for misunderstanding. I do understand that the RC claim in its modern form, and that its proponents can in good faith argue from that claim that the Papacy is not a political power. I am speaking, however, about what the truth of the matter is: naming what RC cannot or will not name.

    So first: it is a little misleading to say that the spiritual power which has a political effect is not political. Politics is the art of ordering men to their end (this is Aristotle, not Foucault), and if the episcopate of Rome is the (supposedly) divinely guaranteed custodian and architectonic guide toward the supreme human end, that that office is by definition political. This is especially true given the official RC confusion attested in Lumen Gentium, which blurs the sharp distinctions of ecclesial reality into a vague and unnaccountable compound: “human and divine” “spiritual and visible”, and so on- but which is where? how? and in what way? In what proportion? Not to mention the strange hypostatization of what could only be in fact a moral persona: for LG calls the church an “entity”. But the only entities in ecclesial reality are Christ Himself and the believers: there is nothing in between, nor does the union of Christ and the believers create some tertium quid. So to our eyes, this “visible-spiritual” amalgam hypostasis, instantiated visibly as the ministerial corporation, simply functions as a bad double of the sole temporal power,attempting trump the legitimate one by impersonating the heavenly Head. That Head does indeed sit enthroned above all earthly kings, but He now exercises His rule directly only spiritually and by grace and love alone, and until He returns, He delegates His rightful temporal power only to legitimate political rulers, whose mission in that role is simply to create the conditions of peace and natural beatitude. He has left no other arrangement.

    Further, not only are there indeed “gray areas” even on your account, it is simply historically untrue that the Papacy has not explicitly claimed real political power. Other commentators on this thread, and Pastor Wedgeworth also, have already cited documents- and many more could be cited- wherein the Pope claims that the magistrates are to subordinate to him and owe their place to him. You will lose very quickly on this historical ground- if you want to support your claim, you will have to invoke some “development of doctrine” to render those earlier authoritative pronouncements unauthoritative, and then that will be a different topic.

    Last on this point, you are exactly right to say that the claim of the Papacy to alone know and teach the natural law clearly and reliably is in fact a political claim. You are also right to say that such a belief is a matter of faith for RC: but this gets to the heart of the matter. If such a basic creational structure as the natural law can only be known really through the Papal magisterium, but the Papal magisterium can only be known for what it (supposedly) is by faith, then that is the destruction of nature and of any civic order founded on nature- it is a clerocratic gnosticism. Strauss was dead on about this tendency in Rome, and in Thomas at his worst (but at his best, Thomas sounds evangelical).

    On apostolic succession: now I think we’re getting clearer about what you think it is, and what the political consequences of it are, which you’ve never stated before now. It is this: the Papacy (not the college of bishops descending supposedly from the college of Apostles, but the Papacy) is the sole divinely guaranteed seer and infallible teacher of the natural law, and since all human polity is founded on natural law, all polities are therefore dependent upon the Papacy for their right order.

    This, of course, makes nonsense of reason and conscience, and subverts nature and the civic order.

    A note on my reference to “reified grace”:”reification” is a term of psychology, not physics. What I meant was simply that from our point of view, Rome makes a “thing” and in fact a commodity out of grace, a thing which can be manipulated and dispensed. Of course, it cannot possibly do that in reality- which means that the reified grace isn’t grace at all.


  7. Dear Mr. Escalante,

    I only wanted to lay out a few basics about the Roman Catholic teaching on AS (Apostolic Succession) for anyone who wasn’t familiar with it and because I didn’t see it fit neatly in any of SW’s options above. I didn’t mean to be pedagogical or boring. Please forgive me if I came across that way.

    Because my response to you last post will need to be fairly focused, I hope you don’t mind me breaking it up into segments. You wrote:

    I think you might perhaps be mistaking opposition for misunderstanding.

    I find this statement very interesting from a methodological and even metaphysical perspective. For I see a dialogue such as this in a more Socratic light, with us collaborating, as it were, with the logos of the conversation to reach Truth. A big part of this process, as Socrates showed us, is clarifying concepts, which explains my stress upon “understanding.” For if Truth is one, then the logos will, ideally, cause opposition to be dissolved. Of course, in any actual conversation, this ideal is only something to be approached, not the least because Truth is inexhaustible and our ability to formulate it discursively is limited. But this the Socratic way of “erotic skepticism” which presumes a Truth only partially known, yet through desire for it, potentially revealed in the logos of the discourse.

    But moving on:

    On the divine guarantee: if you will read a little more closely, you will see that I say nothing whatever about a divine guarantee adhering to State and Ministerium; I said, the divine guarantee applies to the people of God, taken as a whole, and insofar as they are truly in Christ (and of course the visible church is always ecclesia permixta). Neither State nor Ministerium, as such, has any divine guarantee. Only the body of believers as such has it, and only because they adhere to the Word, which alone is infallible and sure.

    I think I understand what you are saying here and also why you had this reaction to my question above about the content of the divine guarantee. I did not mean to suggest that you hold the divine guarantee to adhere to the church and state “as such.” Rather, as I have said previously, I assume we are considering the best case scenario of a Christian people that make up the body politic. So when, in prefacing my question, I said that the divine guarantee “applies” to both church and state, I was following your definition of Church as being the people of God, who would be assumed to be filling all positions of church leadership and state government. Of course, I understand that in your view the guarantee only “adheres” to the people as such and not to the “institutions” of church and state which they “underlie.” That being said, I think my question is still relevant.

    Next, you say:

    it is a little misleading to say that the spiritual power which has a political effect is not political.
    It is important to point out that we have been discussing (I hope) what the Church is, or in other words its essence or nature, and therefore what is proper to it. In this light, the distinction I make is completely the point, and not misleading in any way. Now you may say that the effect, being always bad, shows that this Church is a not the true church, but that is another conversation (which I hope we can have soon).

    Politics is the art of ordering men to their end (this is Aristotle, not Foucault)

    Believe me, I am fully aware that Michel Foucault did not see any telos in anything, especially not politics. On the contrary, I cited him as a preeminent example of the (really, post-) modern assertion that all power is political. In fact, he would assuredly agree that to make a distinction between political power and spiritual authority is misleading.

    and if the episcopate of Rome is the (supposedly) divinely guaranteed custodian and architectonic guide toward the supreme human end, that that office is by definition political.

    As a good Thomist, you must know that both the Church and Civil society are “perfect” societies. Their ends are “complete” in themselves and therefore having different authorities over each is entirely appropriate. Consequently, these different authorities are “defined” differently based on their proper objects. This is not to say, as I think Mr. Hart would maintain, that they must be “separate” and mutually exclusive. Rather, they are (at least potentially) complimentary. At root here again is your unwillingness to accept a political/spiritual distinction within a single whole, which is fine.

    Which gets us to the heart of our next question:

    This is especially true given the official RC confusion attested in Lumen Gentium, which blurs the sharp distinctions of ecclesial reality into a vague and unnaccountable compound: “human and divine” “spiritual and visible”, and so on- but which is where? how? and in what way? In what proportion? Not to mention the strange hypostatization of what could only be in fact a moral persona: for LG calls the church an “entity”. But the only entities in ecclesial reality are Christ Himself and the believers: there is nothing in between, nor does the union of Christ and the believers create some tertium quid.

    Some of the problem here, I think, is merely expecting too much out of metaphoric and analogical language. I mean, for example, we all agree that the Church is the “body of Christ,” don’t we? That doesn’t exactly mean that we are simply His physical body, but rather it is a metaphorical or mystical reality which can indeed been seen as an “entity” in the sense that we are One. LG is saying that the hierarchy of the RC Church are part of the body of Christ only they have a distinct “vocation” and function within that body.

    Deeper here I believe is that you do not hold to or really understand the concept of hylomorphism or substance, wherein every created thing is some combination of both matter and form. In his attack on Aristotle, Descartes railed similarly that all reality must be reducible to “clear and distinct” ideas and that all else was vague and unaccountable. The crux here is that, in discussing the Church, we are dealing with human beings who are the most striking example of a single unity that is both “spiritual and visible.” I can’t go into the whole Thomistic understanding of body and soul here, which I think would be helpful, but the concepts are related but man is certainly both spiritual and physical in single unity, rather than a “spirit” inhabiting a “body.” The church is most certainly “human and divine” in that the Church (which is to say the Church Militant, Suffering, and Triumphant) though grace, participates in the very Life of God, which is a process of real divinization (remember, grace is an accident or quality). For us, this also probably touches on issues of infusion versus imputation.

    Moving on again, you say:

    He delegates His rightful temporal power only to legitimate political rulers, whose mission in that role is simply to create the conditions of peace and natural beatitude. He has left no other arrangement.

    This presupposes an Augustinian and Lutheran view of politics and, strictly speaking, I do not have a problem with that. However, if you adopt Aristotle’s view of the purpose of the political association being virtue, or the doing of “noble deeds,” then we can hope for more than “the conditions of peace and natural beatitude.” There is nothing unchristian in this view, nor is it impossible to see the way in which the Church could function in accord with this higher view of politics.

    Further, not only are there indeed “gray areas” even on your account, it is simply historically untrue that the Papacy has not explicitly claimed real political power. Other commentators on this thread, and Pastor Wedgeworth also, have already cited documents- and many more could be cited- wherein the Pope claims that the magistrates are to subordinate to him and owe their place to him.

    I have already discussed what I believe to be the meaning of Unam Sanctum above and why I don’t think it means that the Church is, properly speaking, a “political power.” I would indeed like to be referred to other authoritative (i.e. meeting the criteria of infallibility)documents or proclamations of the Church on this topic.

    You will lose very quickly on this historical ground- if you want to support your claim, you will have to invoke some “development of doctrine” to render those earlier authoritative pronouncements unauthoritative, and then that will be a different topic.

    While I fully accept the RC concept of the “development of doctrine” I think the issue is whether the Church has ever contradicted itself on this subject, right? This, contrary to your assertion of its function, would make the idea of DoD inapplicable. For DoD is merely the further explication of a given doctrine of the church into more detail or specificity (e.g. the doctrine of the Trinity) rather than the revision of a prior authoritative position. That being said, I should probably point out that the RC church has not to my knowledge formulated this argument exactly as I have done here in this discussion (i.e. said “The RC Church infallibly declares that it is not a political institution.”). I am doing my own reasoning and will be happy to take correction where I find it.

    Last on this point, you are exactly right to say that the claim of the Papacy to alone know and teach the natural law clearly and reliably is in fact a political claim.

    I don’t think I did say this. I did say it may have political effect depending on the circumstances in a given regime.

    If such a basic creational structure as the natural law can only be known really through the Papal magisterium, but the Papal magisterium can only be known for what it (supposedly) is by faith, then that is the destruction of nature and of any civic order founded on nature- it is a clerocratic gnosticism.

    This is not my position. As you must know, the RC Church is quite conservative (you criticized her earlier on this point) in only pronouncing infallibly as the need arises. The natural law is can be known through human reason generally. However, in her teaching and pastoral capacity, the Church can (although she will not necessarily act to do so) provide infallible guidance when necessary or as a novel situation arises (say, cloning or in vitro fertilization). It is absurd to imagine the Church could “destroy” nature because it did not create nature and because this would in principle allow the alteration both the Eternal and Divine laws. The Church can only pronounce what the natural law in fact already is. Whether she can really do so is where faith does come in.

    Further along you say:

    On apostolic succession: now I think we’re getting clearer about what you think it is, and what the political consequences of it are, which you’ve never stated before now. It is this: the Papacy (not the college of bishops descending supposedly from the college of Apostles, but the Papacy) is the sole divinely guaranteed seer and infallible teacher of the natural law…

    As a former Catholic, I am sure you know there is some variety in how infallible pronouncements arise regarding the pope, bishops and the requirements thereof. Therefore I won’t labor this point.

    …and since all human polity is founded on natural law, all polities are therefore dependent upon the Papacy for their right order.

    I addressed above the presupposition of the integrity of nature, again, prior to any articulation of what the natural law in fact is.

    A note on my reference to “reified grace”:”reification” is a term of psychology, not physics. What I meant was simply that from our point of view, Rome makes a “thing” and in fact a commodity out of grace, a thing which can be manipulated and dispensed. Of course, it cannot possibly do that in reality- which means that the reified grace isn’t grace at all.

    I realize very well the psychological use of the word “reification.” In fact, I spent a number of years as a devotee of psychoanalysis and various forms of depth psychology (a la Freud, Jung, and Adler). My point is that grace, in the Roman Catholic understanding, is not an object, psychological or otherwise, which can be manipulated in any way by a human will against God’s holy providential decree or be made a “commodity” in any way shape or form. I am afraid that stereotype and prejudice are entering in here, intentionally or not.
    Perhaps what you are saying is that you do not think that God does, in fact, use human beings (or natural substances like water, bread, or wine) as real instrumentalities for the transmission of Sanctifying Grace to His people? It’s fine if you don’t believe this, of course. But the true Catholic view is that it is none other than Christ Himself that we meet in the sacraments, through grace, which is a participation in the very Life of God.


  8. Michael is a wily manipulator – that is, Roman Catholic apologist. This supposed ‘dialogue’is as useless as a skylight in a submarine. And I find ‘Mary Campion’, with her sweet tea and the inevitable O’Connor (never Frank, always Flannery), a tad creepy. To be sure, this is ad hominem etcetera, but someone has to cut through the cloying diplomatic posturing of the Apologist With An Angle. Since I’m on the outs with all communions real or putative, I might as well be the one to cry havoc. In short, and speaking to the quiddity, while we twiddle over Apostolic Succession and fantasies of a Christian magistrate, the world careens on its way, and nothing we type here (I almost said ‘scribble’ – too much Pope and Swift) will make the least difference. All the same, Michael is wrong about most everything, everyone else is wrong about the remainder – beyond that, I’ve nothing positive to add.

  9. Thomas, or should I say Thrasymachus?

    You would have fit right in the crowd at the trial of Socrates.

    Tell me, what is going to make a “difference”- your will?

    Sounds like you’re the one who’s careening. But then, what is truth?


  10. Thomas,

    What you are doing is not an ad hominem, it is a claim to be able to read the heart, over the Internet. You are not God. You cannot see the secret things of the heart. As you would have others do to you, presume he is being truthful. Thus fulfill the royal law.

  11. I don’t think folks should presume that I am being truthful. That’s neither here nor there. What’s said, how it’s said, the order of the arguments, the subtle movement of the conversation in the direction Michael/Mary would have it go – I’ve seen that all before. It’s a ploy used by many an apologist of many a stripe, and I find it annoying. And, again, I find the whole Mary/Michael thing creepy, and the Flannery reference more of the same old thing. I of course have no knowledge of whether this person is kind, truthful, loves animals and is good to their parents – as you have no way of knowing that about me. I only know what is written and how, and again, I’ve seen this kind of thing before. So spare me the lecture. I have written what I have written. None of it contributes to the discussion Steven sought to initiate, to be sure, and for that reason I will stop now. Still, it needed to be said.

  12. Thomas,

    I think that if any group of motley Protestants can handle such wily tactics from a papist, it is we (though I am a lurker rather than a principal).

    I don’t find Michael’s arguments to be so trollish and hijacking as you indicate, and Steven already acknowledged the gender switch. I think we’ve moved on.

    Hello, Michael,

    If I may, you said to to Mr. Escalante:

    “Some of the problem here, I think, is merely expecting too much out of metaphoric and analogical language. I mean, for example, we all agree that the Church is the “body of Christ,” don’t we? That doesn’t exactly mean that we are simply His physical body, but rather it is a metaphorical or mystical reality which can indeed been seen as an “entity” in the sense that we are One. LG is saying that the hierarchy of the RC Church are part of the body of Christ only they have a distinct “vocation” and function within that body.

    But if this is all that LG claims, then there is no substantive difference between it and the Protestant position represented here, is there? Perhaps that is the point you are making: nothing controversial about LG, once read in proper context. But, you then go on to give a “deeper” critique fo Mr. Escalante’s comments. But, if LG is only saying what you contend, that a certain subset of the members of the visible church have a distinct leadership vocation and function, then this defense of “hylomorphism” comes out of nowhere:

    Deeper here I believe is that you do not hold to or really understand the concept of hylomorphism or substance, wherein every created thing is some combination of both matter and form. In his attack on Aristotle, Descartes railed similarly that all reality must be reducible to “clear and distinct” ideas and that all else was vague and unaccountable. The crux here is that, in discussing the Church, we are dealing with human beings who are the most striking example of a single unity that is both “spiritual and visible.” I can’t go into the whole Thomistic understanding of body and soul here, which I think would be helpful, but the concepts are related but man is certainly both spiritual and physical in single unity, rather than a “spirit” inhabiting a “body.” The church is most certainly “human and divine” in that the Church (which is to say the Church Militant, Suffering, and Triumphant) though grace, participates in the very Life of God, which is a process of real divinization (remember, grace is an accident or quality). For us, this also probably touches on issues of infusion versus imputation.”

    But where is the Protestant distinction of the temporal from the spiritual creating a “Cartesian” dualism in man? I don’t think this follows at all. Hylomorphism, the idea of two aspectival modes co-existing in the same human substance, is a perfectly Protestant-approved way of describing the metaphysical issues regarding man’s nature as both physical and spiritual. It isn’t clear (to me) what the unspoken steps are in your argument that seeks to tie the Protestant view into an anti-hylomorphic position (“substance dualism,” or some such). ??

    I took Peter’s point about the RC position reducing ecclesial realities into an “unaccontable compound” to be analogous to Austrian and other “old school” criticisms of Keynseian economics. Keynes (and modern economics in general) turns everything into aggregates and how to manipulate those aggregates through policy, talking about gross national/domestic product, employment numbers, price indexes, etc. But a real economy is millions of tiny relationships interacting in a complex matrix all at once, and when an economy goes bad it isn’t because some giant aggregated number is either too low or too high, but because particular proportions WITHIN the aggregate have gotten off. We are making too few baby shoes and not enough bonnets. No attempt to speak of gross dollar amounts of all things produced can possibly describe the fine-grained nature of what is going on, nor deal with the problems that have arisen.

    In the case of theological metaphysics, Mr. Escalante seems to be arguing that LG (and high RC theology in general) offers up “hylomorphic” definitions of the Church in much the same way as Keynesians try to analyze economics with aggregates. The fact that you want to see the difference between yourself and Peter’s Protestant position as revolving an acceptance or denial of hylomorphism indicates to me that I am on the right track here, no? For it is one thing to say that the Church is both “temporal and spiritual,” as both RC’s and Prots do. But it is another to account specifically for the nature of the specific features of temporality and spirituality in the Church. That more fine-grained discussion is the one we’re having, and I took Peter to be criticizing LG as unimpressively vague and general for elucidating a clear RC position on this level. Thus, I think your own response to Peter is a well-intentioned non-response. Peter is acknowledging that LG issues a basic affirmation of a Church that is both temporal and spiritual, but his point is that this is all it does and it needs to do more. And it includes other confusions to boot.

    Finally, I’d much rather dispute with you congenially on your contention that grace is an accidental superadditum to nature rather than an always already present feature of nature. But that would take us too far afield I reckon. 🙂


  13. Mr. Hostetter,

    Good to hear from you. Obviously, since it’s what I keep harping on, I do think the issue of hylomorphism is real and deep indeed, or rather I think it reflects other larger issues at play. It is an area in which I am tremendously interested in and upon which have spent some time. Again, without getting into assertions of cause and effect, I believe that modern developments (with roots going back well into the late Middle Ages) in philosophy, natural science, political philosophy and theology are all rationally related phenomenon. For man is a unity and all of these areas influence one another (for good or ill) within us. There truly is a modern consciousness, one possible description of which is a mechanistic view of the universe. This does not mean that this consciousness is true, only that it is prevalent. Nor, unless one could stifle all questioning (as has been tried in various ways) is it inevitable, for as Gilson has said “metaphysics always buries its undertakers.” Helpful in this regard also is Owen Barfield’s (C.S. Lewis’ “best unofficial teacher”) concept of figuration, although I ultimately suspect he is a Kantian metaphysically.

    Obviously not a popular position here, I do maintain that various Protestant or Protestant related doctrines (theological, political, having to do with church organization etc.) are bound up with the modern consciousness (a great book on this is Louis Bouyer’s Spirit and Forms of Protestantism. A study of the history of philosophy (or genealogizing, in the phrase of Mr. Escalante) is very helpful in this regard (say Copleston’s multi-volume History of Philosphy or, for politics, Manent’s City of Man. Brave souls might try Yves Simon’s little bookThe Great Dialogue of Nature and Space). Of course many, if not most, Catholics do not see this, which is why there is some obscuring of the RC Church’s authentic life, though encouraging sign are afoot in this regard.

    For our discussion, I think this issue enters in when you get specific on not the Church exactly, but on the relationship between the Spiritual and Temporal Kingdoms, as regards the individual believer. The dualism that contradicts a hylomorphic understanding can be seen in the idea that each believer dwells “fully” in both Kingdoms. Unless one is prepared to deny the principle of non-contradiction, then it must mean that man dwells “fully” as a spirit in the Spiritual Kingdom and yet bodily in this current Temporal Kingdom (which would be a repudiation of the hylomorphic conception of man which sees the body/soul relationship as a matter/form relationship and thus inseparable in reality, and rather only distinguishable in thought).

    Now this issue of how a man relates to or experiences the Two Kingdoms may or may not be important for our larger topic but it is getting us back on the track that Pastor Wedgeworth I think has indicated for us. I am certain that that track includes how Apostolic Succession affects Two Kingdom thinking and the political fate of God’s church in this world.


  14. For precision’s sake, I don’t think it suffices to say that, because the Spiritual Kingdom, being spiritual, does not have a spatial loci and therefore, as is it not somewhere else, we can live fully in both. For the problem is not one of how to overcome distance geographically, but rather how to overcome distance on the in the hierarchy of being (which, again, presupposes hylomorphism). A man, who encompasses both spirit and matter within himself, cannot dwell “fully” at one end of the spectrum unless he splits himself.

    Now there is a genuine mystical paradox which can be related to this question, but which is not at play here. For example, God, as pure Spirit (following Augustine in his Confessions) is both fully present at every point and yet not contained within any space. This is a paradox, rather than a contradiction. Man is a single unity of spirit and body. Because of our bodily component, to apply similar “paradoxical” language is not appropriate. Rather it is a contradiction and therefore unreasonable.

    To add something I forgot to write earlier. I do not say that the Reformers expressly repudiated hylomorphism or consciously accepted elements of the modern view. Rather, there, like we are, are part of a given era and are influenced in ways we do not realize. Having not gone far down that road, they were probably, as maintained by some here, very traditional in their philosophy. I admire and respect the reappropriation of this more traditional view. My personal view is that this project does not go far enough.


  15. Dear All,

    Directly to our topic:

    As far as Two Kingdoms goes, perhaps it can be said that the more dualistic (I would argue) view of man in Protestantism is bound up with the Protestant teaching (following SW and PE, not DH) that the Spiritual Kingdom is strictly to be identified with the invisible church. In fact, the view that the RC Church is inherently “political” might actually arise from assuming this Protestant teaching. Let me explain:

    Given a view that the SK is completely invisible, then the SK’s greater authority would never even be potentially in “competition” with the Temporal power, as I think SW has said at one point, if I understand him correctly. Conversely, a view of the Church (such as the RC view) which holds that the Church is not only visible and spiritual but, because of man’s hylomorphic composition, necessarily creates a terrain of “dual jurisdiction” (that terrain being the human person) and on this terrain politics must actively be subordinated to the dictates of the SK. Again, starting from the Protestant assumption that the SK only extends as far as the invisible church, the RC position would appear to be an overstepping of the spiritual authority into the political jurisdiction and thus a wielding “political power” by the church. The RC would see this merely as the right order of things.

    Of course, in order for a view such as the RC to be effective, there would perforce need to be a visible authority that could say what the dictates of the SK are (or at least be free from error). This is AS.

    None of this is to say what is in fact true, but only perhaps to flesh out some of the consequences of the two positions. Does anyone think I am going off track here?


  16. Michael: In fact, the view that the RC Church is inherently “political” might actually arise from assuming this Protestant teaching.

    Protestants have a much better, historical reason for the view that the RC Church is inherently “political.”

    Eamon Duffy described the phenomenon of the Roman Church being subsumed into the royal government: “Ambrose … had been brought up as a child in Pope Liberius’ Rome. A sister had taken the veil as a nun from Liberius’ hand in St. Peter’s and the Pope was a familiar visitor to the house. Ambrose had been fascinated as the women of the family clustered around Liberius, kissing his hand, and the boy had amused and infuriated his relatives by imitating the Pope’s stately walk and offering his own hand to be kissed by the womenfolk.”

    As it was, “the conversion of Constantine had propelled the bishops of Rome into the heart of the Roman establishment. Already powerful an influential men, they now became grandees on a par with the wealthiest senators in the city. Bishops all over the Roman world would now be expected to take on the role of judges, governors, great servants of state…

    The popes were potentates, and began to behave like it. Damasus perfectly embodied this growing grandeur. An urbane career cleric like his predecessor Liberius, at home in the wealthy salons of the city, he was also a ruthless power-broker, and he did not hesitate to mobilize both the city police and the Christian mob to back up his rule. His election had been contested, and he had prevailed by sheer force of numbers — as the Liber Pontificalis put it, “they confirmed Damasus because he was the stronger and had the greater number of supporters; that was how Damasus was confirmed.” Damasus’ grass-roots supporters included squads of the notoriously hard-boiled Roman fossores, catacomb diggers, and they massacred 137 followers of rival Pope Ursinus in street-fighting that ended in a bloody siege of what is now the church of Santa Maria Maggiore.

    (Eamon Duffy, “Sinners and Saints,” 1987, 2001, New Haven: Yale University Press, 36-38).

  17. Or more simply, we have Cardinal Belleramine writing in De Rom. Pontif.:

    That political authroity, not only as it is Christian, but as it is political, is subject to ecclesiastical authority, as such, is a thing that can be demonstrated.

  18. The problem is not that RC takes an outward political form; it is a visible church (the older Protestants would say it is part of *the* Visible Church), and visible entities have to have structure. So it’s not a problem that in terms of its visible church status the early church took on the outward trappings of the Roman Empire. If that’s a problem, as you seem to be suggesting, John, then it’s also a problem for Baptist churches to take on the outward governmental form of democracy. Is that what you want to say?

    No, the problem is that Rome’s claim is far more than that she is a part of the visible church. Her claim is that she, and she alone, *is* the sum and ground of the Visible Church, and that all other churches owe her outward political obedience. Her claim is that the pope is basically the ultimate version of the Augustan Principate – hence all the Vatican II rhetoric about “separated brethren” and “working together” is meaningless until the basic attitude of documents such as the Dictatus papae is repudiated.

    Contra Michael, the problem is precisely that the RC fuses the political and the spiritual – Unam Sanctam is a perfect encapsulation of this claim from the pen of a pope. Michael’s interpretation of this document as actually preserving the old Gelasian dualism – two coordinate, but *independent* powers in one society – seems really curious to me. Boniface was NOT maintaining the independence of the temporal power, but rather precisely what Michael wrongly calls a Protestant spin on the RC teaching. That is, Boniface was precisely saying that the pope holds BOTH swords and that if the temporal ruler ever does hold the temporal sword, it is only because the pope has first sovereignly legitimated the temporal ruler’s power and handed him that sword. This is all in Giles of Rome’s On Ecclesiastical Power, which was written at Boniface’s behest and spells out the ramifications of Unam Sanctam quite a bit more explicitly.

    But if that’s not enough, one can consult Augustinus Triumphus, a 14th century creature of the popes who pushed the two swords doctrine to its ultimate (papalist) conclusion by actually claimed that the pope was God on earth, and all other powers that existed were ordained solely by him and could be deposed at will by him. It’s very clear in these source documents, and it takes the sophistry of a Newman with his theory of “development” to muddy the waters and make it look like the poor old RC has always been interested in preserving the dignity of temporal society. It emphatically has not, but from Nicholas I onward has pressed the “hierocratic” claim that the spiritual auctoritas is ontologically superior to the temporal potestas, and that the former may dispense with the latter as it sovereignly pleases.

  19. Tim — no Baptist church operates a government, and I wouldn’t want one to do so, although I would want Christians of all stations to occupy important positions all throughout the government in a democracy.

    That’s different from saying that you want “the Church” to actually operate the government.

    I understand the circumstances by which the Roman church became a part of the government, and I wouldn’t necessarily even begrudge them to want to do so, given the history of persecution that they had suffered.

    But it’s clear to see how things went badly wrong. And whereas you and I can see how unfortunate such a turn of events eventually (and quickly) became, those on the “inside” have not wanted to give any of that up, and have, as you suggested, worked mightily to rationalize it to its uttermost extreme.

    It’s amazing that some even today still want to hold onto that, believing that Rome can somehow regain its old glory.

  20. Brethren,

    Let me briefly address a few points of the recent discussion.

    To Michael:

    Mr Hostetter’s account of my critique, and his elaboration of it, is exactly right- and he is right therefore too to say that your reply didn’t actually address my point. I would add a few notes toward further clarity. First, about metaphorical language: poetry is not philosophical discourse, and you yourself have made much of philosophy here. So, when you appeal to the term of “Christ’s body”, you seem to think it gives an example of a vague metaphor, as vague as LG’s evasive account of the visible church, and doing much the same thing. But “the body of Christ” can be analyzed quite clearly as a figure: “corpus imperii” was an antique expression well on its way to being commonplace in Paul’s time, signifying the Empire as a persona moralis, and Paul, in his usual way, is quoting that expression, with a twist. Only in the figure is the Empire a single substance; that is why it is a metaphor. Likewise, the body of Christ is nothing other than the believers in union with Christ, a persona moralis where the principle of unity is spiritual and not merely psychological. But just as I said earlier, the union does not actually give rise to some substantial or quasi-substantial tertium quid. You mention hylomorphism, and have been already answered by Mr Hostetter; I would only reiterate the point, for emphasis’ sake, that hylomorphism is a theory of substance, and that on no principle of classical philosophy can a persona moralis be regarded as a real substance. I would further add that you seem to consistently misunderstand Two Kingdoms teaching as primarily a metaphysical doctrine, as if it were saying that man is at once an angel and an embodied spirit. It is doing no such thing. It is simply a way of saying that man lives at once both entirely in the Kingdom of God’s favor through a forensic judgment consequent upon union with Christ by faith, and yet lives also in the realm of law.

    We still need to have the discussion about terms, since we are still using them at cross-purposes. Remember, for us the visible church is primarily the whole Christian people, not the ministerium. We certainly do affirm that there is a dual jurisdiction over a single terrain, the human person: that was the crux of our argument against Darryl Hart. What we deny is that there are *three* jurisdictions. We assert the jurisdiction of law in the political realm, conformity to which produces “civic righteousness”. But not even the maximum of civic righteousness can yield justification before God; therefore God has disabled the Law, in the Cross, with regard to man’s admission into the Kingdom of his absolute favor. Man enters and remains in that Kingdom by faith alone, and God works therein by attraction and persuasion alone. Two modes of one governance. You assert however a third jurisdiction, neither the political (where magistrates are the representative heads, and whose end is peace and temporal felicity) nor the spiritual (where Christ alone is head, and rules immediately in the Spirit). You assert a divinely founded organization which is supposedly the outer shape or temporal form of the mystical body, whose leader is the plenary vicar of Christ. “AS”, as a name for the principle of this ideology, is really a relic- it would be more precise to say “Messianic Succession” of the fully developed Papalist theory, since it is not as vicar of Peter that the Pope claims to rule, but rather, as vicar of Christ.

    On papal sovereignty: as I said earlier, there is really no way for you to win this on the ground of history. As Mr Enloe and Pastor Wedgeworth have shown (and much, much more evidence could be given), the historical doctrine does not much resemble your representation of it. For your argument to succeed, you would have to a) be arguing only from very recent RC documents very charitably and ahistorically read, and b) you would therefore need to appeal to “development of doctrine”- but in a way which would end up making the Papacy appear nearly useless as a consistent guide. It might be helpful at this point for you to say exactly how you square your own view with that of the record.

    On genealogizing: recommending the genealogies which have made illative sense to you is not, I’m afraid, an argument- remember, I’ve read all those same books, but have come to very different conclusions. On “modern consciousness”, which so preoccupies you, I can show that mechanistic philosophastering existed in antiquity (Lucretius, Chinese Legalists, and Kautilya, at least practically speaking). The only really distinct trait of “modernity” consists in the imagination that there is such a thing- and even that mental move has earlier exemplars. Every age has its own configuration of prudential results from available patrimony; depending on the decrees of Providence and the works of human freedom with its feats and failures, some times are happier than others, though there is no single scale- there are rather myriads. There is no unique historical “fall” in early modernity. But once more, if you want to connect the dots, there is a much stronger case to be made that the present political atheism owes much more to the Popes’ long war against the temporal power, from the Boniface VIII through Bellarmine and up to the present. If the State is to have a distinct existence (and since it would be enormously inconvenient for the clerical hierarchy to directly run everything, it is convenient that the State exist), but if that State cannot directly recognize Christ (being, as Bellarmine and Maritain both say, incompetent to do so- which is simply a way of saying that the people are incompetent to do so, since the magistracy is representative of them), than every commonwealth is by definition blind to the transcendent. That is thoroughgoing modern secularism. But in any case, presupposing a uniquely problematic “modern” generates the search for a fixed and ideal premodern political form, just as skepticism, if it recoils from full nihilism but keeps its skeptical stance, searches for ideal certitude in gnostic illumination. Modernism is marked by the imagination that the chimera of the “modern” is real, and then counter-modernism, that school of shadow-boxing, in reaction to the specter seeks refuge from it in equally chimerical idealized redoubts.

    To the point: you assert “AS” as the principle of a guaranteed institutional oracle, at the sovereign apex of a transational ministerial corporation. You assert that this is necessary, because otherwise States, even Christian States, would be basically blind in many matters, including matters of great moment. Leaving aside the fact that neither the Biblical nor the historical record look anything what one would expect were such a thing true, it can only be asserted if one believes that the Christian people are not in themselves the primary custodians of the faith, and further, if one believes that they are incompetent without the oracle. It is true that Christians are guideless without the oracle, but the oracle is the Scripture, illuminated by the Spirit; the oracle is not a bishop.

    Lastly, we share an interest in Barfield. Your intuition is correct, he was a German Idealist. It isn’t quite right to say he was Kantian, though, ecause B denied any cognitive hiatus between noumenal and phenomenal (what in B’s terms are “unrepresented” and “representation” respectively), and neither did he think the categories of perception static. B’s primary problem is his thoroughgoing evolutionism. I could say more about B, but won’t since this is off-topic. If you’d like to correspond privately about this, please feel free to write.


    You and Tim aren’t disagreeing about anything. If you look again, you’ll see that Tim was saying that Baptist polity mimics old American town-hall democracy the way ancient Imperial church polity mimicked Imperial administrative forms, and that there is nothing wrong in either case, if these are understood as creations of Christian prudence in the visible church. Only when visible polity is confounded with the very order of the mystical communion of saints is there a problem.

    peace to all


  21. I just caught up with this conversation, and I have to say that it is interesting all around. Modern Catholicism is indeed an odd creature. One can deny the literal six day creation, cut out certain parts of the Bible so that they are not read in the liturgy, believe in usury even though it was condemned in the strongest terms by previous popes, talk about the “mutual submission” between husband and wife (John Paul II) even though this is unscriptural and untraditional, believe in the undesirable nature of the confessional state (even though this has been endorsed by many, many popes), yet try denying that St. Peter was ever in Rome to begin with, and the entire edifice of Catholicism topples. Once you swallow Newman’s development of doctrine, you very much have a hierarchy of truths that have to uphold the institutional structure of the Church as being primary. The only thing that matters is the apostolic succession, whereas even in the age of Bossuet, what would have mattered was the Apostolic doctrine. Now, no serious historical theologian believes that the first Christians believed in the Immaculate Conception (Aquinas didn’t even believe in it) or that they had a Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in the fourth century. It is no wonder, then, that Lumen Gentium had a mandatory Nota Previa, basically stating that the Pope is still the boss, the absolute boss, and he could act unilaterally concerning any issue in the Church due to his universal jurisdiction (just in case any confusion was left regarding that issue).

    On the issue of the Church and power, one has to realize that the Church is still coming out of the paradigm of these being essentially intertwined. By the French Revolution, for example, virtually all the bishops of France were members of the nobility, and I don’t even have to remind you that many bishops were princes, held noble titles, and were powerful landowners. In the New World, it was the Pope who divided the lands between Spain and Portugal, and the Pope’s authority that was invoked in the Requerimiento to steal the lands of indigenous people and enslave the inhabitants. Pius IX was still heeing and hawing at the end of his life about having the Papal States stolen from him, and only the Concordat with Mussolini ended the Pope’s claim to most of central Italy.

    A lot of this has to do with how contemporary Catholics “imagine” Catholicism. That is, how much they forget the evolution of the Church in the last 100 to 200 years. Most “good Catholics” today see the Church as this benevolent institution with the sensibility of a European left of center party. They see it as an institution that tries to gently nudge society in the right direction using a moral compass. Catholics are historical fundamentalists, so many now say that this is how the Church is supposed to be: this is what Christ meant for the Church when He founded it. The Inquisition, the Papal States, the mandatory confessionalism, the ownership of the Church over vast tracts of land… those were all abuses that don’t impinge on the message of the Gospel. Truth be told, for being historical fundamentalists, Catholics are pretty ignorant of history, or they choose to interpret it according to very flawed principles. For me as a Catholic, all AS means is that the schmuck who says some words over the bread and wine at Mass confects the sacrament, and some other schmuck put his hands on him at some point to give him the power to do that. That’s important, but it is not the passing on of some charismatic power, and it doesn’t make any of the clergy, even the Pope, into the Delphic Oracle.

  22. Arturo — thanks for your opinion here. I appreciate your historical knowledge and perspective. I do like how you describe that contemporary Catholics “imagine” Catholicism. Where I come from, this seems to be one of the primary characteristics.

    It seems to me, though, that you are exhibiting all the signs of being a “cafeteria Catholic”, or at best, a very minimalist.

    There are some things about it that I would have held onto, but there were other things I just would not accept; given the teaching that “the Church” is a “whole cloth,” I decided I would not simply be a cafeteria Catholic, nor would I teach my children to do so. Better to reject the whole thing, whole.

    I’ve never regretted that decision.

    Just as a side question, you mentioned “abuses that don’t impinge on the message of the Gospel. Would you mind telling me, how you understand “the Gospel”?

  23. Pingback: Peter Escalante on genealogizing about modernity « City of God

  24. “It seems to me, though, that you are exhibiting all the signs of being a ‘cafeteria Catholic’, or at best, a very minimalist. ”

    I consider myself a hyper-educated cultural Catholic. I still go to Church, and receive the sacraments in the state of grace and such, but my metaphysics is borderline pagan, if that is even possible. In other words, I think the “Vatican line” and even what some would consider “orthodox” Catholicism is a rare bird. Most Catholics are “cultural Catholics” by comparison, and if one were to weigh all Catholics in the world and judge them by all of the stuff they are supposed to believe on the books, you may be able to fill a medium sized town in Kansas. I mean, who believes in the Syllabus of Errors anymore, even though it seemed pretty darn binding?

    The Pope at this point is even a “cafeteria Catholic” (questioning limbo without offering any better solutions), and for me, if you want to be fully “Catholic”, there is a sedevacantist church in Cleveland that I think has all of its “i”‘s dotted and “t”‘s crossed.

    The future of Catholicism, and the future of the rest of Christianity in places where it counts, is charismatic and trans-doctrinal. A hundred years ago, Pope Pius X wrote that Catholics should not even WORK side by side with non-Catholics. Times have changed.

    “Would you mind telling me, how you understand ‘the Gospel’?”

    I don’t, not at least in the way a Protestant understands it. Such things are always mediated, and I trust historical scholarship as much as I trust a greasy used car salesman. So for me, kitschy statues, rosaries, holy water, fish on Fridays, and so forth IS the Gospel. You can read more on that here:



    You may think me intellectually dishonest, but the fact is that I like being Catholic. Sometimes, I think that Catholic apologists have to run themselves through the scholarly ringer just to justify to themselves things that they find distasteful. I don’t need to, these things just seem second nature to me. I could sit here all night and give far more scholarly reasons, but that is sort of the primary one.

  25. Arturo speaks with candor as always. I find his cultural Catholicism a sight more interesting and real than the endless, tortured, and ultimately manipulative arguments (Bouyer? Really?). I simply like Arturo’s assertion, at least as I hear it (for what that’s worth) – Take it or leave it, this is what being a Catholic is. I find it deeply sympathetic, even as I must say no.

    I have neither cultural Catholicism, nor even an ingrained Protestantism to guide me. I simply don’t know where the Church may be found anymore. I do wonder if the coming order of the world, centered on hypercities and thus cunningly similar to the Medieval and Renaissance worlds in which Christendom seemed to flourish (similar yes, but deeply different all the same) will afford a chance for Christian magistrates to once again rise among us. I rather doubt it, but for that I have eschatological, if not apocalyptic, reasons. Even less do I suppose the new world aborning will hold much store by civic freedom.

    Where was I? Oh, yes, it would be better for all of us to be cultural somethings – instead, we’re bookish theological types. Such is our lot. We must figure out how to remake something from the ruins around us. I suspect we’ll find there’s nothing we can do but repent, wait, and hope for…well, we don’t talk about that anymore.

  26. Arturo — I too appreciate your candor. Though I don’t imagine you would have too many fans among some of the Catholics that I interact with these days.

  27. Brethren,

    Arturo Vasquez, both personally and in his writing, is one of the most intellectually (and just generally) honest people I know. I say this not to defend him- he can defend himself- but primarily for the purpose of saying that he is an example of what it looks like to deal manfully and patiently with one’s ecclesiastical landscape and with the problems of history. One might say, in RC terms, that Mr Vasquez is something of a maverick lay Bollandist. A cafeteria Catholic he is not. He is a genuinely traditional (not traditional*ist*, since “ism” is exactly what his brain is singularly free of, but rather, traditional) Roman Catholic lay theologian- it is just that it is his strange luck to be one of the small handful left in the world.


  28. Dear All,

    I hope you will not think me guilty of what someone has called “cloying diplomacy” (heck, I’m sure that whatever I write will be sure to send Thomas into a fresh spasm of pseudo-literary scoffing) if I say that I have read the comments of the past few days with great interest and appreciation. I have indeed found them helpful, insightful and provacative, especially in gaining insight into the milieu of our conversation.

    To begin, I’d like to compliment Mr. Enloe on his forthrightness and willingness to get to the heart of the matter: authority.

    He wrote:

    The problem is not that RC takes an outward political form; it is a visible church (the older Protestants would say it is part of *the* Visible Church), and visible entities have to have structure. So it’s not a problem that in terms of its visible church status the early church took on the outward trappings of the Roman Empire…

    No, the problem is that Rome’s claim is far more than that she is a part of the visible church. Her claim is that she, and she alone, *is* the sum and ground of the Visible Church, and that all other churches owe her outward political obedience.
    Please allow me to make a few observations regarding this passage:

    Although not explicitly rejected, or addressed substantively by our participants, Mr. Enloe’s passage (other passages from other comments could be cited here as well) demonstrates that my attempt to distinguish between authority per se has fallen on deaf ears. This understanding that all authority is “political” can be most clearly seen in the statement above that, in the RC view, “all other churches owe her [the RC Church] outward political obedience.”

    Note that here we are talking not about the pope telling a king what to do (i.e. Spiritual authority ostensibly ruling the Temporal) but rather it is the Catholic Hierarchy ruling other Christian churches that is unacceptable. Now if rule among churches is one of “outward political obedience,” and to be shunned for that reason, then there is clearly no such thing as valid Spiritual authority exercised between human beings at all, at least adhering in an office.

    This, my friends, is the real heart of our differences, not whether the RC Church’s political influence or activities have been historically beneficial or detrimental, or even if political power being exercised by the RC Church prevents it from having a true spiritual claim. No, the issue is the conviction that, when it comes to things spiritual, every man and his conscience will be the final authority on what is true.

    Let us quote from Luther here:

    Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason-for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves-I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one’s conscience is neither safe nor sound. God help me. Amen.

    Moreover, I have been misunderstood if I have been taken to have said here that the Catholic Church never exerts political influence. I fully acknowledge all of the colorful facts and episodes offered to show that the RC Church has been historically bound up in politics, temporally ruled its own land (e.g. the Papal States), had Bishops appointed by political processes and even Bishops’ simultaneously holding political offices. All of this may or may not be prudent or helpful to human flourishing (I myself think has often been helpful, as it was with John Paul II’s political influence to cause the collapse of the Soviet Union).

    What I have said (and what the real problem here is for folks) is that the RC Church claims to have actually been instituted by Christ and to speak with His authority on dogmatic and moral questions. This is what causes the derisive rhetoric of “oracles” and “messianic succession.” To continue my example (no offense meant), what really irks Mr. Enloe is not that some popes held the office at the behest of bands of Italian thugs, but that the RC view says that he must submit to the doctrine that the Eucharist is actually Christ’s flesh and blood even if in his heart of hearts and despite all of his scholarship he does not believe it to be so. Despite the apparent folly of the cross, and despite the distance between our thoughts and those of Gods,’ he simply cannot conceive that both of these realities might coexist in God’s providence.

    As a result, a Protestant is put in the peculiar position of pitting text against authority (AS) and living tradition. It must be shown why the “original church” or “true interpretation” of scripture differs from what the Catholic Church holds. It must be shown though a text from somewhere working in conjunction with an individual conscience that that certain traditions are valid while others are not. Yet not everyone agrees. In fact people disagree wildly. The result is that doctrine suffers accordingly, for it must be maintained that the real church is the invisible church. And to maintain the invisible church there must be a smaller and smaller content to what is required. In a word, the less you believe, the bigger your church is. Thus we are on the road to becoming Unitarians.

    This is where the hostility towards “genealogizing” in our discussion comes in. For if it can be shown that Protestantism is the adaptation of Christianity to modern modes or life and rule, then the argument (won through the bold pitting of text and individual conscience against authority and living tradition) that Protestantism is a return to the original or primitive church is given the lie.

    There is much more about the history of philosophy that has been said that I would like to discuss, time permitting, especially concerning some points raised by Mr. Escalante. While philosphical questions are permanent and ever new, I do think that there is an unprecedented situation in the modern world which is characterized primarily by the denial of objective truth and certain concepts of freedom. This is not to say that some nutty ancient Greek never denied the possibility of knowledge. It is also not to say that the world will end tomorrow or become fixed in time. Actually the whole concept of the End of History comes from modern liberalism itself.

    But first to tie up a few loose ends:

    Mr. Escalante,

    You say:

    you seem to consistently misunderstand Two Kingdoms teaching as primarily a metaphysical doctrine

    Please recall my initial point which, way back when, was that Augustine’s concept of “citizenship” and two “loves” was more helpful than Two kingdoms precisely because it eschews metaphysical language and therefore causes less confusion. I specifically questioned SW on this and the whole succeeding discussion ensued as a result. If I misunderstood him making metaphysical claims, we can simply set this issue aside, for the only metaphysical claims I make regarding the citizens of the City of God is that the are, through infused grace, being actually made righteous in this life.

    To touch briefly on another comment you made:

    I would only reiterate the point, for emphasis’ sake, that hylomorphism is a theory of substance, and that on no principle of classical philosophy can a persona moralis be regarded as a real substance.

    I am full aware that neither the body politic nor the Body of Christ is a substance in the technical sense and I have not said so. However, based upon your criticisms of Lumen Gentium, wherein you stated that is was a “vague and unaccountable compound:”

    “human and divine” “spiritual and visible”, and so on- but which is where? how? and in what way? In what proportion?

    Since it had already been said that the church for Catholics is made up of the members of the church, which are in fact hylomorphic beings, I thought that your asking for “proportions” or mechanical or spatial clarification (…“where how? and in what way?”) which sounded like Descartes attacks on Aristotle’s concept of substance, must be a result of a Cartesian way of thinking. Even at the time I said “I believe” this may be the case because I was unclear. But beyond that, I don’t see what is so difficult about the catholic view expressed in LG. What I think you may miss is the concept of vocation and also that the lay members of the body of Christ are part of the visible church for Catholics too. When I refer to the “the Catholic Church” it can either mean the whole church, as in Militant, Suffering, and Triumphant together, or just the hierarchy depending on the context. In a similar way, one could say that William the Conqueror invaded England in the 11th century. That would be true, but no one would think that you meant that just one man landed and fought the Battle of Hastings.

    Finally, I would love to discuss Barfield. He’s fascinating! I’ll write you an email.

    Dear All,

    As far as Mr. Vasquez’s comments, he and I probably are further apart in our positions than I am from most Protestants. If I wasn’t so impressed by the genuine esteem in which he is held by SW, PE and probably many others, I would be tempted to think that he is beloved for his harmlessness, aesthetic, “Catholicism,” which both confirms stereotypes and obscures the stupendous doctrinal and liturgical unity and consistent moral teaching of the Catholic Church. All the same, it must be at least a little gratifying to Protestants to hear the Holy Father and successors of the Apostles referred to as “schmucks.” Finally, I don’t think aestheitcs and pious practices, important as they may be, are enough to maintain the Faith, especially in the 21st century. As both Mr. Bugay and Mr. Escalante seem to indicate (if not appropve) Mr. Vasquez’s view is not prevailing as people either leave the Church or want to reclaim its full teaching. A good case in point is the coming English re-translation of the Liturgy (starting Nov. 27th, 2011) which is a more literal translation of the Latin.

    Thanks for the discussion everyone.


  29. Dear All,

    Two corrections to my latest comment in []’s below. Sorry, I was a little hurried.

    1) Although not explicitly rejected, or addressed substantively by our participants, Mr. Enloe’s passage (other passages from other comments could be cited here as well) demonstrates that my attempt to distinguish between authority per se [and political authority] has fallen on deaf ears.

    2) Despite the apparent folly of the cross, and despite the distance between our thoughts and those of Gods,’ he simply cannot conceive that both of these realities [that is, the messy, suspect worldy and the divine assurance of orthodoxy] might coexist in God’s providence.


  30. I hesitate to say anything, first because I have nothing to offer of substance that might advance the argument, and second because experience tells me never to respond when I’m baited. With that in mind, I’ll only repeat that I find Arturo’s work refreshingly free of cant and sanctimony, even as it challenges me. Again, I can’t say *yes*, but my *no* ain’t so steady. Now, if that be *scoffing*, then I must not know how to write. It certainly doesn’t seem *literary* to me, pseudo or otherwise. Perhaps it’s the case that I am selective in my disdain, for I certainly respect Steven and Arturo, to name just two, even as I have to go another way apart from both of ’em. O well.

    And I continue to assert that, first, Steven et al have limned the various positions well; I have no quarrell with their scholarship. I just find the argument over Apostolic Successionand its discontents to be academic. In the world that’s coming, we’ll have to do without the comfort of either AS, or a Christian Magistracy, however desirable or traditional those may or may not be. We’re on our own – might as well get used to it.

  31. Michael,

    I certainly haven’t accused you of cloying diplomacy- I am no reader of hearts, so I have taken you be comporting yourself in good faith, and presume the best.

    From the sound of your conclusion, it seems you are withdrawing from this conversation; if so, thanks for your helpful participation, and I look forward to discussing Barfield with you. But even if you are withdrawing, I would still like to reply to your comment, not for the sake of having a last word- I would welcome an ongoing conversation, in fact- but because some things you say need to be addressed.

    Regarding the political claims of the Papacy: your reply to Mr Enloe is more than a little evasive of the point. He did not simply show that the Papacy is mixed up here and there with politics, he quoted texts to show that its traditional doctrine is absolutist hierocracy. I very clearly outlined the possible options for your argument to proceed: you could either try to defend those hierocratic claims, or you could appeal to “development of doctrine” and argue solely from modern texts- though that carries its own argumentative losses for one wishing to do so. In fact, you have done neither thing; you have simply skipped the question altogether, and, while seeming to cut to the chase, have in fact simply changed the subject. Basically, your statement amounts to a bare assertion of the obvious: that we differ on first principles. You have cast your peculiar principles as the only possible recognition of “authority”, and our as a total denial of authority, but this of course unargued from your end, just asserted. If you’d like to have that argument, we can, but you’d have to actually argue. As you might expect, if it were an easy win for your side, it would have happened long ago. In fact, it hasn’t happened, not to this very day.

    On the church: I am well aware of the RCC teaching, especially after Vatican II, about the active laity. When I was RC, I had a special interest in it, and was actively sympathetic to formations such as Comunione e Liberazione and the Katholische Integrierte Gemeinde, and even the thought of Mgr Escriva on the matter. But I’m afraid that none of that is to the point: you were speaking of the Church as a divine-human compound, and I asked you for a definition. You still haven’t given me one. Let me clarify further then. What is divine, and what is human, in the visible church? For us, what is divine is the Word, and what is human are the humans.

    On “modernity”: if you want to have this discussion, then please let’s do. It is a very important topic. The remarks I made get the heart of certain recent spiritual maladies in Christendom, especially restless conversionitis and nostalgia for imaginary ideal authority. Your fixation on the specter of “modernity” as unprecedented evil, and your fixation on metaphysics and oracular illumination as the cure of it, are very redolent of Perennialism, which has both ecumenical (pan-religious) and parochial (traditional*ism* of any given historic religion, as “counter-modern” redoubt) forms. But the only unique Fall, and the only unique exile, was from Eden. Any other narrative is a parody of Biblical religion. As I say, this is an discussion I would welcome. But for now, let me point out that the trait you think is peculiarly modern, so far from being the quirk of a single nutty Roman (Lucretius was, after all, Roman, not Greek) was in fact chosen by God Himself- Who ought to know- to represent the whole ancient world of the time, in confrontation with Christ: “what is Truth”?

    Of course, the options available to the mind after the advent of universal Revelation are somewhat different than those available before it (Strauss was right about this much)- there are some novelties of our time, but they are not essential novelties- just accidental ones. In any case, if the bogeyman of “Modernity” isn’t real, we need no metaphysico-political superman in a mitre to save us from it. Most of the Christians I know are adjusted to the time quite well, offering acceptable praise, bringing souls to Christ, and managing to garden their little plots of the world, all without the Pope to supervise them. This fixation on modernity, and this turn to an authoritarian ministerium for utopian salvation from it, is something you and Dr Hart have in common.

    The difference between yourself and Dr Hart, to take this back to the beginning, is that you believe that the commonwealth can have Christian principles, just as we do. But the problem is that you transfer the properties of the whole people of God to an absolutist ministerium, whereas we say that the single people are represented in two ways: politically, by the magistracy, and liturgically– and pastorally, by the ministerium.

    A final point: trust me, I meant no derision in anything I said earlier. It is simple that, especially on matters of moment, I like to speak directly and plainly- as is says in the Analects (13.3), “the most important thing is to use the correct terms.”



  32. Michael,

    A final note about Mr Vasquez. I do hold him in high regard, for his honesty and his learning, and think it an honor to know him. It is true that there are few like him in Rome now; more’s the shame. As I said, he can speak for himself, but I want to make my view very clear. First, my regard for AV has nothing to do with any support he gives us; that is purely accidental, and AV has many times declared in public that he thinks us nearly incomprehensible and wide astray. He is hardly an ally of ours in any cause other than that of Christianity taken most generally, and the care for truth.

    AV’s “aestheticism”, though I disagree with what he wants to make it do, is however not at all an “artsiness,” but rather is a thoroughgoing metaphysic of the sort which runs from Plotinus and Proclus through to the Franciscans and Yves de Paris- AV’s thought especially resembles that of Yves. And Mr Vasquez’ ethos of pious practices is simply the old Jesuit “sentir con la iglesia.”

    As for this business of what Protestant ears might find gratifying, the principle of charity ought to forbid one to make such unkind conjectures about the disposition of others’ hearts. But in order to clear up any mystery, no, I take no special pleasure in hearing Popes called “schmucks”. I will however say that Mr Vasquez’ use of that language puts him in the company of some impeccably traditional RC personages, such as, I recall, Belloc (whom one really ought to prefer to Chesterton in every way), who is said to have remarked to a priest, upon the occasion of B’s receiving some ecclesiastical award, “ha, what if they knew I think the Pope is a shabby little monsignor?” or something to that effect. That kind of attitude used to be not at all uncommon among devout cradle Catholics comfortable in their own skin.


  33. Indeed, calling the pope, bishop, or priest a “schmuck” is the ultimate act of faith for an RC. If you really believe in “ex opere operato”, you would have no problem with it. The priest who baptizes my kid could be a glue-sniffing, porn-freak, but it doesn’t matter. Christ is the one who baptizes, says the Mass, etc., not the priest. I am reminded of what Congar once said about the contemporary papacy, that we need “un tres bon mauvais pape” Maybe like going back to the days when the Roman people thought a particular cardinal a saint because he only had one female concubine. I don’t think that would fix the Church by any means, but it might restore some sanity.

    I don’t want to necessarily have the last word either, but I would just like to point out that Mr. Hickman has not indicated where I was exaggerating in my “hermeneutics of rupture”. Would a Catholic from a hundred years ago even recognize a contemporary Catholic church today? Does that question even matter? I don’t pretend to be my own magisterium, but I do know when I am being jerked around. If I pick on the “small-t” traditions, I believe it is because those will be the most enduring. Pace Mr. Hickman, the doctrinal and theological history of the Roman Church since the French Revolution has been one of plurality and not of unity, one of change and not of stasis. But why don’t more RC’s talk about what religion is like on the ground, for the “little ones” that Christ spoke to here on earth? I am not some sort of religious populist by any means, but I think it is at least worth looking into.

    For the record, I am a Roman Catholic, I go to the old Latin Mass, and I sing in a Gregorian chant schola (having been educated in these things in an SSPX seminary). The prayers that my wife and I say every night (such as the Memorare) would make any Protestant reading this blog cringe. The reason I hang out in these spaces sometimes is that they have a fresh perspective on history and religion that I do not read elsewhere, certainly not in much of the Catholic media, where any theological talk has to be propaganda by default. On the other hand, I think that they are as eccentric as I am, in that they, like me, are not the future of their churches (sad to say). Mavericks, in spite of being mavericks, like company.

  34. Michael,

    I’d like to say, in concert with Peter, that your representation of your view as the only way to have “authority” and ours as a complete denial of any authority outside of individual conscience is a caricature. The way you handled Luther at the Diet of Worms is particularly bad, though to be fair to you I must admit it is a very common way that Protestants themselves construe Luther. That’s because like you papalists, we’ve lost a serious appreciation of the the wider and deeper scope of Christian history – particularly the four centuries prior to the Reformation. Some of us are working on correcting that, but overturning prejudice within one’s own camp is, obviously, a very slow and often very painful business.

    If you are backing out of this discussion, I would encourage you to get hold of Giles of Rome’s On Ecclesiastical Power to correct your misunderstandings about Boniface VIII’s program. The antidote to Giles is found in John of Paris’ On Royal and Papal Power. You can find numerous extracts from Augustinus Triumphus, with very detailed analysis, in Michael Wilks’ The Problem of Sovereignty in the Later Middle Ages/

  35. Dear Mr. Escalante,

    Greetings. Thanks for bringing us up to speed with your summary. I didn’t mean to imply that I was withdrawing from the conversation. I am learning too much to do that and I am also enjoying the company of the distinguished individuals writing here.

    I do understand your criticism of my discourse on Mr. Enloe’s passage, given your “agenda,” but from my perspective it was not an attempt at evasion. Rather, I wanted to return to, and highlight, the centrality of the a priori theoretical question I raised weeks ago:

    is all authority “political”? If not, then what makes a given authority “political”?

    In my view, until we settle this question (you yourself acknowledge the decisiveness of defining terms and concepts) I do not see how we can discuss the various documentary and historical issues. I dwelt at some length upon my understanding of Unam Sanctum (the only document meeting the criteria of infallibility mentioned thus far, I believe) and why I do not think that it merges the Spiritual and Political authorities. The response to my analysis was simply to ignore it and reassert that it is a “claim” of the RC Church that it is her proper function to govern both Spiritually and Temporally, in equal ways and in equal measure (in fact, it was even alleged that the document did away with the “Two Swords” doctrine altogether, despite the fact that that image is specifically employed in the document).

    However, in a spirit of goodwill, I do not see the non-response to my analysis of Unam Sanctum so much an evasion but rather as a failure to address the underlying issue that I keep trying to raise. Until we can define terms properly and distinguish what it is in fact we are talking about, every document or historical circumstance trotted out to “prove” that the RC Church is an “absolutist hierocracy” will end in similar confusion. The result will be a monumental waste of time.

    Moreover, while we decide whether it is more appropriate to delve first into the theoretical or historical question, I would suggest that this whole line of thinking is an evasion from what I think has been the topic from the beginning: the political importance of AS. Rather, it seems that I have been thrust into the position of validating, in fact, the Catholic Church’s claim to infallibility, with its political teaching being merely the occasion for this shift. It’s not so much that I shrink from doing so (though I am far from being uniquely qualified) but do you really think that anyone could be convinced as a result of our labors? If Cardinal Newman or any number of Catholic Historians could not persuade you then do you really think I can? Furthermore, from the perspective of our topic here (Two Kingdoms doctrine) even if it were true that the RC Church is an “absolutist hierocratic,” how does this even negate her claim to be the Church founded by Christ?

    If you’ll allow me to indulge in a moment of self-pity: after being thrust in to the role of “apologist” on the point of infallibility, I was then “scoffed” at for being so (sorry, Thomas, I couldn’t resist. Really I’m sure you are a cool guy). In fact the only thing in which I have been consistently interested here is in understanding the meaning of AS in its political consequences (I am a UD Politics grad, after all) and the different possibilities inhering in this issue. Finally (which I think is coming in the final post by SW) I had hoped to follow these implications in seeing how they have played out historically, with an eye to the interaction of ideas and historical events.

    I’d hoped then that we could talk about modernity in great depth, for I think the question of the universality of modern liberal democracy bears sharply on this point, especially with regards to the concept of “human rights” versus natural law (the denial of which, on a widespread basis, is indeed a unique and profound hallmark of modernity and linked to technology and scientism).

    In short, to return to the present, I believe it is more on topic, manageable, and methodologically appropriate to first address either theoretical or definitional matters on the one hand, or the other “principles of authority” which I am held to be missing in my critique of the Protestant dilemma. At which point I will be more inclined to accept a transfer of the “burden of proof” upon myself for validating the RC claims to infallibility per se. On the other hand, SW is in charge here. If that’s what he wants to do I am up to the challenge.

    Last but not least, I do have the utmost regard for Belloc, from whom I have probably learned more about the “spirit” of modernity than any other thinker (with certain existentialist novelists being a not-too-distant second). I guess the difference I see between he and Mr. Vasquez’s (apparent, for I really don’t know them well) views, is that I know Belloc had a fierce conviction of the decisiveness of orthodoxy and reason (the marginalization of which indeed, for him, was the essence of modernity) while Mr. Vasquez seems to want to make a religion out of a Catholic “culture” (which in any case varies significantly from place to place). As such, I would not be inclined to think Belloc suspect in taking the opportunity to recall a pope or bishop to his mere humanity.


  36. Mr. Enloe,

    I do appreciate the references, although I am currently reading a fine book on Church History by Philip Hughes (History of Christianity, Vol. III from Aquinas to Luther).

    But please allow me to expalin why I do not think the historical debate is going to be particularly availing here.

    The main reason is that I think there is a legitimate spectrum of authority on this point. To illustrate, let me refer to Mark Bevir’s Encyclopedia of Political Theory wherein he writes:

    Hierocratic Arguments and Theories of Sovereignty

    The British historian of political thought M.J. Wilks categorizes the papal hierocrats Augustinus Triumphus and Giles of Rome as theorists of sovereignty, who argue that the lay ruler has no intrinsic power but develops it by the grant of the pope and that, accordingly, the papacy, is the exclusive source of temporal authority. By contrast, the German historian W. Kolmel does not interpret papal hierocratic theory as containing such a doctrine of absolute papal sovereignty. Instead, according to Kolmel, the pope confirms temporal rulers in the use of their powers and that temporal authority comes to a secular ruler from the human law and those over whom heules.

    The Canadian historian W.D. McCready takes a compromise position that the papal publicists recognized the intrinsic value of temporal power but accorded it a limited sphere of authority. McCerady identifies two incompatible influences within the work of the papal apologists: an Aristotelian acceptance that society and civil government are the inevitable result of man’s sociability versus a spiritualized conception of the political in which temporal power is completely absorbed into the supernatural via the pope’s sovereignty. McCready argues that rather than conferring complete power to the pope, the papal hierocrats attributed to the pope a plenitude, or fullness of power.

    Now I would classify myself in the “compromise” position but I probably am not going to persuade you (or others) out of the first position based on what I write here.

    Also, there were other interesting thinkers at the time in question like James of Viterbo (1255-1308) who (again from Bevir):

    accepted both the naturalist Aristotelian state (commonly an anti-hierocratic position) and the supremacy of spiritual power over the temporal in order for nature to be perfected (a hierocratic position.)

    Finally, regarding Giles of Rome, whom you see as decisive, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says:

    “While previous scholarship stressed the affinity in form and content between De ecclesiastica potestate and the famous Bull Unam sanctam, Francisco Bertelloni (2004) holds that one should not overlook profound differences between the concepts of papal power that inspire the two texts.”


  37. Michael,

    Thanks for interacting with my remarks about the papal hierocrats (which of course were by no means complete, nor “decisive”).

    I don’t see Giles of Rome as “decisive” across the board, but rather decisive for the interpretation of what Boniface VIII was doing relative to the secular power. Giles worked closely with Boniface – indeed, some believe that Giles himself probably penned Unam Sanctam. I only brought Giles up because you seemed to be offering an interpretation of Unam Sanctamthat I find strikingly implausible. (Though I hasten to say that I am certainly no expert on any of these matters, and I am certainly not a scholar on par with, say, Wilks or McCready or most of the others whose work I rely upon.)

    I haven’t read Kolmel, but from the summary you give of him from Bevir (whom I have also not read), I have to at least register some surprise that the papalist hierocrats could be plausibly interpreted in that matter. Augustinus Triumphus is pretty plain that the pope is basically God on earth, and that no other power can ever hold him accountable because all other powers derive their legitimacy from him. I have, on the other hand, read some McCready – though it’s been a few years. I could agree with Bevir’s summary of him, but I have to point out that it’s not enough to say that the pope had a “plenitude of power” because the important questions left unstated by Bevir (as you have cited him) are (1) what does “fullness” mean?, and (2) how is that “fullness” exercised in the real world? From Boniface VIII forward, it’s pretty clear (at least to me) that “fullness” meant to the popes themselves the full ownership of both swords, with the temporal sword only being “handed over” to the temporal power by the sovereign (uncheckable) will of the pope. I do not understand, though again I am no expert on these matters and am willing to be instructed, how a different interpretation of papalist doctrine – and more importantly, papalist practice – can be rendered persuasive.

    I’m not sure why you say you don’t think the historical debate will be particularly availing. No doubt you do not subscribe to the view that just any old interpretation of history is equally plausible, so the only recourse we have as Christians is to find what Peter E. has been calling an “oracular illumination.” All history, granted, is reconstruction, and all history, granted, is therefore tinted with some subjectivity. Pure “objectivity” is not possible, even if all one ever did was read primary sources. Nevertheless, some interpretations of a given data set do violence to the set as a whole, and it is possible – but often very difficult, I admit – to construct interpretations that are more plausible than others.

    What I usually find in my discussions with Catholics about these matters is that either they have not studied the relevant primary source material in any detail, or they do but decide, somewhat oddly, to let external criteria of evaluation such as prior commitment to, say, Newman’s theory of development, govern what the sources are allowed to say. I remember fondly reading a debate done some years back ,between Brian Tierney and Alfons Stickler, then the curator of the Vatican Archives, in a professional historical journal. Tierney was analyzing a Decretist text on the infallibility of the pope and contending that the text showed something deleterious to the modern RC doctrine. Stickler, a trained historian himself, preferred not to stick to the text but rather to call Tierney a heretic for denying the modern doctrine on the basis of historical texts. To me, that’s the problem with the whole RC faith in a nutshell – when pressed up against the wall, it turns into a kind of gnostic flight from the knowability of the real world on the spurious grounds that only a “faith” disconnected from said real world can ever possibly help us understand said real world. No thanks. I prefer Protestantism, where I am at least allowed to do history with my eyes open.

    Lastly, I notice that you are citing heavily from encyclopedias. I don’t know what Stephen wants to do on this discussion, but if it is necessary and helpful, I can pull out the primary sources and cite directly from them. For as I am sure you are well aware, encyclopedias are not meant to be, ahem, “decisive,” but only goads to engaging the primary sources. I’ve read lots of the primaries – even translated some extended passages myself – but outside of the rarified world of Medieval political scholarship, I’ve met zero Catholics who have. Most are content to cite encyclopedias, pop-histories, and mere confessional propaganda. I take it that you know as well as I do that sober-minded scholarship requires much more than those things.

  38. I actually don’t see a meaningful distinction between the Pope “holding political power” and the Pope being able to tell the political powers what they can and cannot do, even to the point of making or unmaking monarchs.

    It seems to be a distinction in name only.

    And the historical record is actually not that of one or two rouge badguy popes, but a clear fork in the road. The Two Swords doctrine split in two ways, between the Conciliarists and their Protestant heirs and the Papalists (not a slur, but a descriptive party name).

    As for “my plan” in this post, I was hoping to stick to more of the merits of apostolic succession. Positive civic theory should be coming up in the next post…

  39. Michael,

    I do think that you have tried to shift the question from the historical record, to the ground of political philosophy. That might be in part because you are not as comfortable with the first discipline as you are with the second. I did pretty clearly ask you to outline your position with respect to the record, and now you have, in a way, though very vaguely- the “compromise position” is not obviously coherent. I invite you to say more on this point. I will say that your given rationale for wanting to get away from history is twofold, and that neither aspect is satisfactory. First, you think the record to be indecisive- historians legitimately make distinctions, but the weight of the record is quite clear, enough to make a solid judgment. Second, you make the appeal to a narrow conception of magisterial authority (you say that Unam Sanctam is the only “infallible” document cited here), a rather surprising move from one who thinks so highly of authority. It is not simply from the historian’s point of view that such minimalism is suspect, but even the traditional RC view is that ordinary magisterium is authoritative- it is a very un-RC thing to isolate a few texts as “infallible” and just class the rest as qualitatively different.

    On terms: at first, you attributed my judgment of Rome’s historic system as absolutist hierocracy to my bias, or my “agenda”. First, assured as I am of your good will, let me suggest that attributing bias or agenda to an interlocutor is not exactly charitable or good intellectual method- I’m sure you didn’t mean it how it sounded. But as you yourself seem now to have realized from the internet reading you’ve just done, both “absolutist” and “hierocracy” are technical terms of political history and political philosophy, especially with regard to the medieval epoch. My own academic background is in political philosophy/political theology, jurisprudence, and scholastic thought- so I was using terms of art, assuming they would be understood as such.

    I am not willing to bracket the question of the historical record, for a number of compelling reasons, including those which Mr Enloe and Pastor Wedgeworth have just given. But I will address that question you say has gone unaddressed (SW has already very succinctly dealt with it, but I will do it too).

    First, let’s define “political”. For the classic tradition, this means the architectonic ordering of man toward his common highest end, with the idea of legislation and power entailed as instrumental, given man’s present condition. The common Western Christian tradition grants that man’s end is twofold: there is a relative, temporal end, and an eschatological end. Papalists and Evangelicals share this.

    Where we differ is how we distinguish and describe those ends. For us, man originally had connatural beatitude, and when he fell, the reduced and superficial participation in that beatitude still possible to him, in an extrinsic way, was what we call temporal felicity or civic righteousness. But for RC, original felicity was a donum superadditum, and the status of original creation was thus left unclear, with at the very least a strong suggestion that much of what we think of as creation is in fact the effect of the Fall- an anti-Hebraic gnosticism which marred the thought of the ancient Greek church (and modern EO), and Rome too, though a more Biblical countertendency was present in the West and finally came into full victory with the Reformation. Given that the RC think of the New Covenant as the restoration of the donum superadditum, its relation to the temporal is ambivalent at best and hostile at worst. But for us, the New Covenant a) disables the heteronomous and unattainable Law which measured our alienation, and b) grants full citizenship in the Kingdom of God, simply by trust in Christ and union with Him. This means that the reality of original beatitude is poured into the forms of the creational order, and slowly transforms it spiritually, until all things shall be made new. In the meantime, the temporal kingship of Christ is not exercised directly by Him, but is held in a mediatized way by magistrates. Christ rules directly in the realm of the Spirit. The eschatological end of man is simply his integral end, where time itself attains integrity; Christ alone directs man to that End, in the Spirit. The temporal end of man, the chronic distension and image of that final End until it is integrally gathered, is temporal felicity and is shepherded by magistrates. However, we proleptically participate in the End now, in spirit, in Christ.

    I’ll return to this in a moment, but now let’s go to authority. Authority is a word with a long and complicated history, and more than a few shades of meaning. Is all authority political? No. There is moral authority, and intellectual authority, and so on. Political authority is authority with respect to the architectonic ordering of man toward his highest common end. One might say that there is such a thing as an authority *about* the political, which is not a directly political authority; it would be something like a philosophical authority, like Bodin’s sage, or perhaps Aristotle’s. But surely you have read enough Strauss to have some sense of this terrain.

    However, if the sage were to claim to be the vicar of God, Who is man’s highest end, and the dual end of man is really single in effect and practically single here and now, then that “sage” is no longer counsellor, he is ruler. He directs and adjudicates the whole toward the end. It follows from the classic Roman principles that the Pope is the temporal ruler above all temporal rulers, not simply an advisor, not simply the mouthpiece of conscience or wisdom, but in a sui generis class of rulership which transcends the temporal but certainly includes it within its proper jurisdiction. As Bellarmine said- and he can be taken as representative of the central papalist tradition- in the quote given by SW: the Papacy, on RC principles, that the political authority, not only as it is Christian, but as it is political, is subject to ecclesiastical (read: clerical) authority. That authority, then, might be meta-political, but it is not less than, or other than, political. I mentioned earlier the findings of the RC Gagner, on the influence of Shiite Imamology on Unam Sanctam (and at this point, I have to mention at last that it is “SanctAM”, agreeing with “Unam”). If you want to see a modern model of papalism, look at the relation of the Republic of Iran’s “Supreme Leader” to the Presidency and the Majlis. You can find the schemata on Wikipedia, if that’s easier. You will find it almost exactly parallels the principles of Unam Sanctam, even as expounded by 20th century writers such as Dennis Fahey. The supreme cleric, in such an arrangement, is not simply a go-to guy, no wise old apolitical sage exercising moral authority over the magistrate. He is unequivocally the boss.

    I have already written more than I had time for, or would address the question of the scope and aim of the temporal power in Evangelical doctrine, and why it cannot have eschatological holiness or coercion of faith as its end, but rather only peace and the conditions of temporal happiness. Suffice it for now to say that Christ has all authority and power, but delegates the (relativized) mode of law to the temporal power, and Himself rules in the Spirit by attraction and persuasion alone. There is no third thing, somehow ruling the the realm of grace by law. For a learned RC discussion of this matter, which fundamentally agrees with the Protestants and not the historic Papal position, you might consult Remi Brague’s “The Law of God”.


  40. Pingback: Theopolitical » Items of note (8/25/10)

  41. Dear Mr. Escalante,

    I hope you’ll excuse me if I am not sufficiently schooled in Latin -complete with atrocious spelling- (a condition I would love to change, if I didn’t have mouths to feed) or fluent in all of the technical terminology you’re employing. But if I’m somewhat the equivalent of a country bumpkin’ when it comes to certain bailiwicks of academia, if I may say so, I do think I have a passable understanding and conceptual depth regarding the issues here. What’s more, I can certainly tell a hawk from a handsaw and, as you have probably noticed during your own adventures in higher education, the mere accumulation of academic detritus does not neatly translate into a grasp of truth or, for that matter, even a hold on reality.

    First let me clear something up: you’re right that I did not mean my remark about your “agenda” the way you took it. I certainly didn’t mean that your estimation of Rome was a result of bias. In fact, I was only speaking of the order of topics (first history, then theory) that you seemed to have wanted to pursue. That is, “agenda” in its narrow and plain sense rather than a loaded, polemical, or sarcastic sense. I apologize for any confusion.

    A quick word about Islam: while I see the arguable theoretical relevance of your point about modern Iran, I do not find the suggested parallel with Catholicism persuasive. First, as the consistent historic “outsider” status of Shiite Muslims (again, the 15% of muslims with a hierarchical authority) shows, the Iranian configuration has not been the characteristic arrangement for Islam. Rather, then as today, the political nature of Islam comes from its purported divinely revealed civil law (i.e. Sharia law) implemented by a temproal ruler who answers to no one and only takes advice from Islamic “scholars” without any real power. To me, this much more closely resembles the Reformer’s Christian Magistrate. Also noteworthy in this regard is the Islamic contempt of natural law and freewill and its belief in predestination.

    Dear All,

    I want to thank Pastor Wedgeworth for clarifying that we are talking about the “merits” of AS. This is indeed what I have understood to be the topic and it is what I have been trying to address by attempting to explicate the meaning of AS for the Two Kingdoms doctrine as it plays out in the real world. I have understood the topic to mean a discussion of the merits of AS as a given doctrine, as opposed other conceptions of the relation between Church and State, rather than an attack and defense of the validity of the Roman Catholic understanding of AS per se. SW can correct me if I am wrong here.

    My being in this conversation at all is a result of my desire to discuss this topic as I have thus understood it, which is my greater area of education and interest. So while it’s true that political philosophy and philosophy are more my areas of interest than say, 13th and 14th century church history (which is not to say I am not interested in it), my resistance to moving the discourse there is truly based on an attempt to adhere to the topic proposed, rather than an evasion of any kind.

    On the contrary, I believe the attempt to divert the stream of the discussion into the marshes of this narrow historical question is itself an attempt to evade a full examination of the dilemma created by the lack of AS in Protestantism and a denial of the dynamic, life-giving coherence of the Catholic view. At worst, as it would seem especially from Mr. Enloe’s remarks above (e.g. his criticism of my use of Bevin’s reference source, when it was clearly an appropriate vehicle to show the spectrum of existing scholarship on the topic, which was my point) it is simply an attempt to discredit me by moving the conversation to the (one?) area where he thinks some traction can be gained.

    To clarify, then, I ask:

    How is the dispute over what is the RC Church’s “real” position (if there is such a thing) on the issue of papal v. temporal authority in the 13th and 14th centuries relevant to the topic as formulated by SW: namely, “the merits of AS”?

    Although the answer to the question above is critical, I will nevertheless go ahead respond to Mr. Escalante’s request that I go more into my own view of this historical question (especially since he was so good as to talk some about authority- but more on that later).

    Quite simply, I do not think the RC Church at the time of Unam Sanctam and the co-called hierocratic debate, had an entirely coherent theoretical account of the proper relation between Pope and Emperor. Nor should it be expected of the Magisterium to provide one, for that is not it’s task, nor is it the meaning of infallibility (which is indeed the crucial element for AS).

    I must digress for a moment:

    The guarantee of infallibility is essentially “negative” (why is it so hard for Protestants to understand this?) in that it means that, under certain conditions, the hierarchy of the Church will not err in pronouncing upon questions of Faith and morals. The pope or other authors of an infallible document rely on their own education, understanding and reasoning ability in formulating their ideas and expressing them in language.

    Now it is true that the criteria of infallibility have been explicated more fully and specifically over time. This is the proper activity of the “Development of Doctrine,” which can be seen in many areas of the Faith. It simply means that the Church can (not necessarily that it will act to do so) more and more specifically elucidate the orthodox position over time, usually as needful occasions arise (the doctrine of the Trinity is a prime example).

    It also must be remembered that the RC Church has never claimed that there is an ideal type of regime or political arrangement, which is left up the prudence of men. On the other hand, where questions that relate to salvation or ethical life are touched upon (e.g. some political issues) the Church is authoritative if it speaks infallibly or ex cathedra.

    All of these things must be kept in mind in understanding why the hierocratic debate does not vitiate Roman Catholic AS. They also must be kept in mind when analyzing authoritative documents of the time or evaluating historical events.

    With regard to the time in question, it should be kept in mind that there had been a unity and more or less complimentary relationship between Emperor and Pope in the time prior to say, Saint Louis IX. There was, in fact, no modern equivalent of a “Church v. State” type of issue that had presented itself as of yet. Rather, Christendom as a unity was the given reality in which the problem played out. As such, when the largely successful struggle arose of the Temporal power attempting to absorb and subordinate the Spiritual, the issue of which was superior became exigent and cast the terms of the discussion in a very stark light. Thus the strong language of Unam Sanctam makes sense. Historically, it was clearly not an ascendant papacy attempting to intervene in preexisting happy and independent “commonwealths” to bend the governments thereof to their self-serving, grandiose political agendas.

    Moreover, the thinking at that time was limited in its formulation to legalistic language, as the ideas of Aristotle’s conception of the natural law basis of the regime, which developed during the rise of more internally coherent, politically independent regimes, had not been widely disseminated. This legalistic language also cast issues of authority in more black-and-white formulations. In my view, this natural law understanding is needed to resolve the theoretical issues raised by the Church’s statements on the relationship between the Spiritual and Temporal authorities, which is what I have tried to do and why I put myself in the “compromise” position referred to above (in the Bevin quote).

    All of this being said, I see nothing in the authoritative statements of the Catholic Church of the 13th and 14th centuries either heretical or in contradiction with other infallible pronouncements. In fact, it is rather the statements in the 20th century, as the RC Church tries to make an untenable peace with modern democratic liberalism, which I find more alarming, though not heretical either.

    But this brings us to the subject of the Protestant, or “Whig” theory of authority, which has had such ponderous effects for the Christian faith in the West. Maybe we could talk about that?

    Also, more later on Mr. Escalante’s generous remarks on authority.


  42. Mr. Enloe,

    I find it hard to believe that you are “not sure why” I don’t think the historical debate will be particularly availing, particularly in light of what you wrote. Let’s review:

    1) First you tell me that your scholarship is not “on par with, say, Wilks or McCready,” who hold differing views between themselves. If you’re not “on par” with them, how can you decide who is right?

    2) Yet despite McCready’s admittedly superior scholarship, you go on to say that his “plenitude of power” concept is insufficient and reject it as such.

    3) Kolmel, whom you admit you have not read, yet who is evidently a respected scholar on this topic, and whose views differ even more widely from you own, you dismiss as “surprising” and “implausible.”

    In short, despite the fact that the “experts” disagree on this question (and you acknowledge that you are not an expert), you are both sure that your position is the right one, and convinced that we will be able to decide it here in this forum. I disagree.

    This does not make me a historical relativist, nor do I think that your views do not have merit vis-a-vis the “experts,” but rather I am just realistic about what can be accomplished here. Do you think that you and I playing tennis will decide who is the best tennis player in the USA?

    Nor have you told me in any way how the determination of this question is pertinent to the issue of AS.

    Unfortunatley, I’m getting the impression that you just want to score “points” against me or put me down. Furthermore, I would recommend that you occasionally set your book aside and really think about what you’re reading. I do admire your zeal for scholarship and obvious love of the topic.


  43. Dear Brothers in Christ,

    As promised, I would like to say a few words in response to Mr. Escalante’s and Mr. Wedgeworth’s thoughts about the nature of “the political” and authority. In reading and contemplating these remarks with regard to our subject in general, I am struck again by the rational coherence that plays out, not just from era to era, but within particular philosophies and theologies. This is not in the least to deny freedom of inquiry or objective truth but, on the contrary, to say that a more-or-less conscious rational consistency tends to prevail within and among men, the being for whom, as has been said, thought precedes action as lightning does thunder. For this reason it is all the more important to freely examine our ideas and understandings and also why (as Mr. Escalante knows from his reading of Barfield) philosophy is not a “subject” but a way of life.

    As one who has been a stickler for staying on topic, let me say that I believe the importance of this theoretical question is relevant to AS in that AS is a kind of authority and even “power” which, especially in the RC tradition where there is a local “address” and office, exists in and among political regimes. Therefore, it is crucial in understanding AS to have some precision in speaking of these things.

    The short answer is that the problems we are having in our discussion arise from the fact that, in my opinion, the Reformer’s thought does not arise from a true natural law (NL) understanding of man and therefore of politics and authority. To adhere to the NL, it does not suffice to be a social conservative or follow a biblical ethics. Still less is it adequate, as we see with Locke, to ape the language of NL while subverting its existential basis. The account of this question by PE and SW is redolent of a nominalist philosophy of nature and can only be properly understood in relation to certain aspects of Protestant theology, such as the prevalence of God’s Will over His Intellect, and in setting up a Promethean relationship between God and man by conceiving a mutually exclusive relationship between our respective “glories” (in a word, by seeing God’s power diminished by His love for us). Without attempting to “genealogize” a cause and effect relation ship between the two, it is also worth noting in terms of rational consistency, that Ockham, in addition to being a nominalist philosopher, held these and other Protestant minded theological positions. More relevant to our conversation here, he also held similar views of papal authority.

    To start on the most superficial level, Pastor Wedgeworth’s succinct dealing with this question would seem indeed to be a neat articulation of the nominalist position by definition. He states that the distinction between Temporal and Spiritual authority “seems to be a distinction in name only.” (emphasis added). Similarly, in Mr. Escalante’s definition of “political,” he speaks of an “ordering of man toward his common highest end.” Now in this wording about man’s “common” highest end is peculiar to me, as it would seem to suggest that our ends are somehow determined by what we have “in common” and not “by nature,” which is characteristic of nominalism. If this interpretation is not correct, the use of “common” is redundant, which I would not expect from PE given his precise and lucid writing skills.

    But of course these points, while interesting, are not conclusive of an underlying philosophy. Nor is the use of the term “nominalist” particularly helpful in itself. We must go deeper to the meaning of what is being said here.

    Mr. Escalante defines “political” as:

    ”…the architectonic ordering of man toward his common highest end, with the idea of legislation and power entailed as instrumental, given man’s present condition.”

    The most important thing to note is that he defines “political” in terms of an activity rather than, for example, a relationship. Seeing the essence of “political” in terms of an activity is interesting in that it denotes the priority of the application of power or activity of ruling, rather than the priority of what is. SW indicates this view in his formulation of the problem.

    He states:

    ”I actually don’t see a meaningful distinction between the Pope “holding political power” and the Pope being able to tell the political powers what they can and cannot do, even to the point of making or unmaking monarchs.”

    Note that the problem is seen in terms of who can whom “what they can and cannot do” or, in other words, in terms of the application of power.

    I submit that a view actually informed by the natural law will start with and flows from nature, essence, or what is. The actual application of power by a temporal authority is intermittent, effervescent and, most importantly, a function of a preexisting distinctly political relationship which arises from what is, and which gives it its legitimacy and hence “political” character.

    It seems as though PE has borrowed the language of Aristotle’s classification of the sciences wherein politics is “architectonic” and translated that into a definition of what is political by nature, which is to say, he has not left the realm of thought and approached existence. A solid Aristotelian (or Thomisitc, for that matter) NL understanding of politics discerns the essence of the political to reside in a particular kind of relationship of justice which inheres between rational beings.

    The helpful analogue used by St. Thomas is to compare the proper relationship of the intellect to the appetitive parts of the soul, as opposed to that of the soul to the body. The former is “political” in that the appetites have a certain autonomy by nature and must be ruled a manner that accords with this relative autonomy (i.e. justly), thus establishing a kind of “equality” between the two. This is why Aristotle said that the political relationship is rule among “equals” (not because he was an egalitarian). On the other hand, the rule of the soul over the body is “despotic” and not properly “political” at all. Both are an application of power, yet only one relationship is “political.”

    This explains further why a conception of the political as defined by and activity of an “ordering of man” to his ends is problematic. Strictly speaking, political rule does not “order” man to his ends, which are given by nature and are starting points for the subsequent deliberative process which is political rule properly speaking. Although there is some ambiguity here, this definition suggests a concept of rule that is and “art” (techne) rather than rule as a deliberative process (i.e. prudence), which is the only type of rule appropriate (i.e. just) for the rule of rational beings.

    Again, there is perhaps some ambiguity on this point. However, generally speaking, it seems that the view of the political offered by PE and SW is not a true NL understanding derived from what is but which sees the application of power as central. As a consequence, authority is seen to be rather abstract (i.e. in nominalist manner) and exercised in a “top-down” manner.

    This can be seen in PE’s statement that:

    ”the temporal kingship of Christ is not exercised directly by Him, but is held in a mediatized way by magistrates.”

    Here, power is exercised by flowing from Christ to the “mediatizing” Magistrate who then in turn rules the commonwealth. The is no sense here of power flowing from an authority that derives its legitimacy from the nature of things in their relationships of justice, which is the hallmark of any natural law understanding of politics. Rather nature and creation is cut out of the sequence altogether.

    Hence also the use of the language of delegation:

    ”Suffice it for now to say that Christ has all authority and power, but delegates the (relativized) mode of law to the temporal power.”

    None of this is to say that the view expressed by Mr. Escalante and Pastor Wedgeworth is not true- that is another conversation- but only to say that this view of politics is not a natural law understanding. The significance of this for our topic is that, in my opinion, the RC view can only be understood in light of the natural law.
    In fact, in a conception of the issue without NL, where the application power is the starting point, and kinds of power are not distinguished by their various bases of legitimacy, it may indeed appear in a distorted way that the RC Church has simply claimed that the pope is God on earth. The question is whether the distinctions drawn really are rooted in reality, or whether they are differences “in name only.”


  44. Michael,

    I do hope you understand that my pointing out the problem with your citation of Unam Sanctam was not meant to be unkind- but rather to highlight something which is a bigger problem here. You are not able the read the primary texts in their original language, and it seems have only lately, in the course of this very conversation, even come to know of them. This doesn’t mean we can’t have the conversation- but it does mean that we need to be clear about its consequent limitations.

    While it is indeed true that academic learning can be superficial, that is a point which can only be scored against certain kinds of obsessively microhistorical approaches, for example, or certain kinds of top-heavy theorizing of the critical theory or postmodernist sort. But the kind of history Mr Enloe practices, is the old school firm grip on reality kind- history is a grip on past reality, with the speculative aspect of getting a grip on universals through a wide and deep understanding of past events. So I think you should be careful about sounding too anti-intellectual. And I must be direct: Mr Enloe is being modest. Although he is by no means a leading expert, he is in fact far more expert than you in that field. You are not being realistic here, you are being a little snarky, which is beneath what I know of you from our conversation here; so please rise back up. Mr Enloe has done graduate work in the field of medieval political theology, and although he is certainly not a leading name in the field (he is too academically young to be, for one thing), his scholarship is tight and reflects the basic consensus.

    I understand your stated reasons for wanting to avoid the historical conversation. I’m afraid they aren’t satisfactory. First, the Roman magisterium is and always has been a magisterium of documents, and those documents are historical and have to be understood historically. What the magisterium teaches, and the history of its texts, are inseparable. Second, the record is not nearly as blurry or indecisive as you rather hastily make it out to be- given your apparent unfamiliarity with the epoch, claims that the record is of little interest can only look like hand-waving. Third, your interest in dealing only with a priori questions here looks like either a) an attempt to rationalize a petitio principii or special pleading, or b) Cartesian method- and not just the Cartesian method (clear and distinct, ahistorical abstractions) but even the distinctly Cartesian problematic (“where is the a priori anchor of certainty?”). And I doubt you want to fall intoany of that.

    On the comparison to Iran: you seem to miss my point. The comparison is purely structural and illustrative, though there is also a historical smoking gun somewhere in the room too (Gagner’s findings). The point was not a refutation of Rome by some reductio ad Islam. Although, to make a point clear, one should note that the position of the Khalif even in Sunni Islam is more analogous to the Papacy than to the Christian magistrate (who only has jus circa sacra, not in sacra), precisely because the Khalif is defined as the single leader of a worldwide polity wherein spiritual and political are basically conflated.

    So, Michael, let’s go over some things. You say that you want to discuss AS as it bears on the order of the Christian commonwealth. But then you say that the Papacy (which is the office you are arguing for) didn’t actually have a clearly defined doctrine on church and state for the longest time, and and moreover, that this was the case during a time when the controversy was of utmost importance. And then you say that its modern pronouncements on the matter alarm you. So where exactly are you finding the doctrine as you wish to defend it?

    Further, you take the ultraminimalist position (When I was RC, would have thought you a shockingly liberal modernist) that AS is simply a negative guarantee against error regarding the tiny number of supposedly infallible pronuncements on faith and morals. So how exactly are you going to make a case that the definition of the Assumption, the definition of the Immaculate Conception, the definition of Infallibility, and possibly a few lines in Unam Sanctam, amount to any kind of guidance for the political order? Think about it, Michael- what exactly does such a minimal office, primarily concerned with making two pious opinions about the BVM into de fide items, actually do for the commonwealth?

    Here’s the thing. You have never once come forward with the thesis you wish to defend. You have appealed to poetry, saying that AS means that God has a “habitation and a name”, you say things like “life giving dynamism” and “coherence”. All this tells me is that you are enthusiastic about your religion. I really do need definitions and arguments from you, however, if this conversation is not to be, in your own words, a “monumental waste of time.”

    I have repeatedly defined and explained our position. You have never really engaged with its crucial points, but have simply asserted that it somehow less wonderful than the doctrine you hold. The problem is, you have never once actually defined that doctrine, your understanding of the political consequences of AS, and I’m beginning to wonder, as I think many of us are, whether you actually have a clear position. I have given a clearer account of the possible forms of your position than you have. That has been a peculiar position in which to find myself, to say the least. So, if you would, please give us a definition, or even a working sketch. If it would be helpful to you, I can give a short list of questions for you to answer.


  45. Btw, Michael, I was not at all attempting to “score points” or “put [you] down.” You said some provocative things about how you understand Protestantism, and I took equal opportunity to say some provocative things about how I understand Catholicism – chiefly by means of my particular experiences with various Catholic intellectuals. I’m sorry that my remarks appeared to be a personal attack – such is an all too easy, though often incorrect (and this case definitely incorrect) assumption that is made about disembodied Internet discussions.

    Again, blessings to you.

  46. Michael,

    The conventions of conversation involve addressing one’s interlocutors. Your last post, however, is a strangle little monologue urbi et orbi. For the sake of the readers, I will address a few of the misrepresentations involved, though I’m sure they appreciate your good intentions in trying to unmask the supposed Nominalism behind our traditional-sounding speech.

    It really is curious that you should cast us as nominalists and as cutting creation and nature out altogether, when it is precisely creation and nature we are defending. First, let’s be clear about the terms. When you cite Pastor Wedgeworth as calling your distinction a distinction in “name only”, surely you must be aware that this is an commonplace expression meaning a distinction without a real difference- it is a logical point, not a metaphysical one. In short, it has no more to do with Nominalism than the expression, “he cleared up his good name” does, and it is more than a little bizarre for you to have read it the way you did. As for your historical narrative about nature and the Promethean modern- it is simply pop apologetics. Few leading scholars credit the thesis that the Reformers were thoroughgoing “Nominalists” or “Voluntarists”, let alone that they were Baconians/Galileans or what have you.

    On the magistrate: the language we use is classical, and shared by traditional RC. Further, I have consistently spoken of the magistrates as representative of the people, and you completely fail to mention this; yet it entirely undoes the point you wish to make. Further, in the very quote you give from me, I explicitly say that legislation and coercion are only entailed in the political art because of man’s present postlapsarian condition- the force of that qualification shows that I intended the very opposite of the sense you attribute to me. “Architectonic”, by the way, is a classically Thomistic predicate of politics. I was taught by traditional Thomists for almost the whole of my academic life.

    On “common end”: I emphasized the “common” precisely to forestall any Enlightenment-style misunderstandings of man’s highest end as atomically individual. That man’s highest good and end is a *common* good, was the point made by the eminent Thomist Charles de Koninck, in his controversy with the Maritainian Fr Eschmann.

    On the kingship of Christ: you do need to slow down in your readings. Nothing I said about temporal rulers holding their place by way of delegation from Christ cuts nature out of the sequence. For one thing, surely you know that the classical tradition rightly says that man’s nature requires art for its actualization: man doesn’t become fully himself, doesn’t actualize his potency, by instinct. He does it by reason and choice, and thus there is an art of politics. Nature is presupposed by politics, not erased by it. As for Christ’s kingship, unless you want to deny that He is King (you have a feast day devoted to the idea, remember), and unless you want to deny that men are governed by political art practiced by appointed political artists, you shouldn’t have any trouble with the proposition that temporal rulers hold their position as lieutenants of Christ’s rightful world-rulership. And yes, justice is very much involved: you are totally unwarranted in hastily assuming that it isn’t. Temporal rulership is all about establishing and maintaining the justice-conditions of flourishing.

    This is getting a little odd, Michael. You have given a monologue in which you rehearse your own ideals, ideals which we actually share with you, and you then try to prove from a some very badly misread quotes that we don’t agree with you on natural law, justice, and so on. But you have completely failed to prove that, and in fact you cannot prove it, because it isn’t true. There is no clash of worldviews here, “Nominalist” vs “Natural Law.” You’ve come close to compromising your credibility as an interlocutor here with your hasty misreading of our pretty clearly expressed statements.

    But I’m still interested in knowing what you actually hold. Even in this last post of yours, you still have not at all actually said what it is you believe: you only say that we don’t understand it (whatever it is), and that it (whatever it is) can only be understood from a natural law perspective. But what exactly is it?


  47. Mr. Enloe,

    No worries. I wish you the best.

    Dear Mr. Escalante,

    Please don’t think I am being anti-intellectual. I did not mean to discount scholarship generally, but only to say that there is not a neat equation of advances in scholarship and with growth in actual “knowledge,” understood in a Platonic sense and in contradistinction to “right opinion.”

    But moving on, obviously time is limited for us both. If you would like to know my views on infallibility, I will refer you the relevant documents from Vatican I. If you would like to know my views on what AS is, I will refer you any number of sources, but you could start with the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

    If you think these references are problematic historically or otherwise, I would be interested in hearing why, although my purpose here, as I’ve said many times is not to defend them as such. Be that as it may, I see no reason for me to spend hours regurgitating this information when it is so readily available.

    I would welcome the chance to move past some basic assertions to how AS plays out politically. I hope my recent discussion of the natural law will contribute to this. It is certainly not for lack of time or effort that I have not been able to get to this issue, but rather that I have been responding to other questions. Hopefully I will be able to say something to advance this part of the topic this over the weekend, though your response to my recent post may influence where it goes.

    Finally, you say you have defined and explained your position. I agree that you and others, especially Pastor Wedgeworth, have done this with regard to the Protestant view of the Spiritual Kingdom. I do not think you have done as good of a job of:

    1) resolving the issue of achieving an establishment of orthodoxy in the Protestant view.

    2) making a case as to why the Protestant view does not lead to the subjugation of the church by the temporal power, as we have seen happen since the Reformation.

    Now perhaps the first question is to ask you to do apologetics and you are free to claim that this in inappropriate, as I have. The only suggested answer you seem to have given in response to question number two is you reference to a theory where the RC Church is the cause of secularism because of its claim of a divine guarantee for the Magisterium. I would love to hear more about this view. Can you elaborate or refer me to other scholars and writers who have held the same thesis? I admit, to claim that the papacy was powerful enough to decisively form people’s conception of the way God relates to his people while at the same time being progressively discarded as authoritative seems contradictory. Especially since, many of its other major claims or teachings were dismissed out of hand at this time. But perhaps you can explain more on this.


  48. I have found this conversation fascinating, and very similar to other conversations that I have been witness to in the past. Generally, contemporary Catholic dislike historical theology, or at least it enters very little into how they think of religious problems. Why this is the case requires some rather creative speculation. I think one reason is perhaps because of the modernist crisis of last century, when Pope Pius X and his goons saw modernist hiding under every Vatican bush. Modernism was all about using history to contextualize doctrine, and such an exercise is always dangerous. Even the last two popes, who many educated Catholics look up to as “intellectuals”, are profoundly “a-historical” in their approaches to theological and philosophical questions. Papa Wojtyla was a spacey phenomenologist obsessed with the idea of “Biblical myth” in the worst sense (theology of the body), and not at all enamored with Patristics or liturgy. The little I have read of Ratzinger shows me that insofar as he addresses history he addresses it like Newman (the other ten ton elephant in the room) addresses it: as a Hegelian procession of ideas through time and the ether. In other words, that doctrines change is admitted but not why they change. History always has to be subjugated to theory: history exists to create the desired ideological result. The real is rational and the rational real, and so forth.

    Not all Catholics are like this, though. One of my mentors (a Catholic) once told me that if Scripture is the object for fundamentalism for the Protestant, and liturgy for the Orthodox, for the Catholic it is very easy to fall into historical fundamentalism. History always has to tell OUR story or things fall apart. I don’t read many Catholic authors on principle, but the two from last century that I really appreciate are Henri de Lubac and Marie-Dominique Chenu. That is because both let history stand as is to a certain extent: de Lubac in his sometimes flawed analysis of the supernatural in post-Tridentine theology (and his book, Corpus Mysticum), and Chenu in his analysis of the social and economic conditions that led to the rise of scholasticism. I am sure Peter E. could give us more authors, as he is better read than I am on this topic. It just seems of interest in these conversations how ill-informed Catholics are about history, and how even now, historical theology is suspected of being modernist and liberal. Sort of goes with the secular prejudice against religious people that to have faith means to put blinders on. If you want to believe with any modicum of virtue in the classical sense, you have to take the blinders off.

  49. I again note that although it is a different conversation than this one, Arturo, I’d love to know how you handle the historical record, especially since the Renaissance’s “deconstruction,” so to speak, of several key texts to which the late Medieval papalists wedded their theological case. If Newman is out (I agree with your analysis of him as a rationalist, and that’s one reason I reject his views), how can a faithful Catholic navigate the perilous waters between (1) what is shown by our most plausible reconstructions of history and (2) the proper Christian need to avoid total deconstruction of faith by means of actually “Modernist” historical assumptions.

    It’s a different conversation than this one, but I’d love to know the answers.

  50. Dear Mr. Vasquez,

    Good to hear from you again. I grant the monumental importance of history.

    A question:

    What does an informed view of history tell us about the truth or falisty of the Catholic Church’s present claims (as, for example, found in the current Catechism) ?


  51. PS. If that’s too broad of a question, you could narrow it down to the Church’s claims about AS only.

  52. Dear Mr. Escalante,

    Since you have asked me directly to tell you my “thesis” and “what I believe,” I feel compelled to respond promptly in order to show my good faith, even if I only have a moment here and cannot flesh it all out.

    I have actually tried to do so previously but when I talk about history it is dismissed as “genealogizing.” Then ironically I am criticized for not resorting to history.

    Most simply stated, my belief is which Pastor Wedgeworth quoted of me to begin our AS discussion. Despite, my Shakespeare quote, which was not superfluous, I think there is enough content there to show my meaning.

    Although you could probably refer to Belloc with more benefit, I will say what must be already clear:

    I believe that Jesus founded a Church upon Peter to whom he gave the Keys to the Kingdom. This is RC Church, still with us today, identifiable through Apostolic Succession, and possessing a divine assurance of orthodoxy in addition to the Sacramental life of Christ.

    Christendom was formed by this Church and human flourishing, including the political nature of man, can be best achieved while this Church is prevalent, although the situation is persistently unstable due to Fall.

    I believe that the disaster (or “explosion” as Belloc has said) of the Reformation facilitated and made decisive a disintegration played out upon nearly every level of existence (except, most saliently, materially and technologically). As befits our Original Sin, the crux of the issue is Pride or Disobedience. In a word, it is a problem of authority.

    Since that time, every manner of attempt has been made to live without authority in nearly every aspect of life. Hence the long experiment in various forms of Whig, social-contract, “consensus,” libertarian, and anarchic solutions to the problem of authority.

    This non-hierarchical view of authority clashes with the Hierarchy of Being, which is reality, and therefore the very perception of truth and what is, especially the natural law, has been necessarily altered accordingly. This denial of objective truth and/or the efficacy of reason is the root of modernism.

    None of this has happened over night, but the dilemma of authority at the heart of Protestantism, which was a necessary corollary of its rejection of AS is both a cause and symptom of the problem.

    Now perhaps you do not see a problem. This is a place where I think we disagree, as you apparently do not even acknowledge modernity as such. Let me say, though, that I do not necessarily see a catastrophic Hollywood style situation right around the corner. It may be that this tendency ends in a Soft Despotism of hedonism or a Brave New World kind of phase. I do think that the core of our civilizational “soul” has been lost at last, at least collectively (I think Thomas would agree with me here).

    On the other hand, God may have a reversal and restoration in mind. In my belief, this will be both the work of the Holy Spirit in individuals responding to His Grace, as well as in His Church as a historic and visible vehicle for His Sacramental Life and doctrinal authority. Finally, I believe that God, who is ever both practical and supernatural, uses the saints and sinners in the line of Apostolic Succession as a lodestar and guide to his people for the restoration of the life-giving order that is lost in disobedience.


  53. Mr. Escalante,

    One more response to a direct question you asked, which was:

    “Think about it, Michael- what exactly does such a minimal office, primarily concerned with making two pious opinions about the BVM into de fide items, actually do for the commonwealth?

    It is precisely my point that the authority of the Catholic Church is expressed authoritatively in faith and morals and as such will have nothing to say about what goes on in the political field, so long as it does not impinge of these questions.

    However, it should be noted that the unity at the level of doctrine and morals tends to have a strengthening effect on the Chrisitan character of a people generally, and thus on the country in its political expression.

    That said, for starters, in the USA for example, having the Temporal power “judged” by the infallible moral teachings of the Catholic Church would result in preventing the murder in the womb of nearly one third of all children conceived. It would also eliminate the absurdity of homosexual “marriage” from the six states where it is presently legally recognized, which is a mockery of the meaning of the family.

    Do I really need to go on?

    I hope everyone has a great weekend.


  54. Michael,

    The funny thing is, I think all of us Protestants here agree with a lot of that – except for the (seemingly) gratuitous insistence that “authority” can only found in AS, and all else is some kind of craven resistance to “objective truth.” It is really quite unclear in your treatments to date WHY anyone should think that AS is the only way to properly think of “authority,” and WHY all else is necessarily “not authority.” It’s also unclear why you apparently think that Protestantism is “non-hierarchical” – a fact which seems to imply that you believe only episcopacy is “hierarchical.”

    To us, this all looks like a series of petitio principiorum. To you it just seems to be obvious. And I think that’s where we’re breaking down in these discussions.

  55. Dear All,

    First I would to say I am certainly enjoying this conversation as a lurke, and I am certainly not well read enough in this area to contribute anything that would benefit the discussion. But, in light of Michael’s last post I would like to ask a question.


    I’m glad to see that you are attempting to do what Peter asked of you, but I’m not sure you have succeeded. I would like you to offer a little more of an argument for at least one assertion in your last post. So, here is my question to you. How does it follow that rejection of AS, and by extension not submitting to the Pope, necessitate a denial of objective truth and/or the efficacy of reason? This seems to me to what you are implying.


  56. Dear Mr. West,

    Thank you so much for your question. Great to hear from you. I will most certainly endeavor to fleash out the conncections you ask about very soon (hopefully this weekend).

    Mr. Enloe,

    Somewhat off topic: do have any idea where I can get a copy of a pertinent McCready book that isn’t exorbitantly expensive? I can’t seem to locate any that aren’t apparently diamond encrusted first editions.

    Thanks for any suggestions,


  57. Michael,

    At long last, we have a thesis from you to work with, though a very vague and general thesis to be sure, and one which has no surprises, which is, well, surprising given how long we’ve waiting for it. Pastor Wedgeworth intends to give a fuller outline of our positive position in his next post, and this would indirectly critique your thesis; but I will say a few things here to start with.

    First, about the conversation. I do take you to be participating in good faith, and I read you charitably. It’s not clear to me why you needed to spend so long beating around the bush- I get the sense that perhaps it might have been some misguided try at Socratic dialectic. In any case, it would have been nicer to have the principles stated up front, or at least when I began to ask you to state them. Further, it was a bad move to address the readers as if delivering a closing argument, and in the course of that to seriously, seriously misread both SW and myself. Just above, I corrected your profound misinterpretations of our statements, and yet you haven’t even so much as acknowledged your mistake. I’m not looking to wrench apologies from you, but you do need to admit that your readings of us, which you gave as “evidence” for some case, were totally wrong. If I were to misread you that gravely, I would certainly acknowledge the fact.

    On history: genealogizing is not history. Historical discipline attends to record and relic; geneaologizing is a secondary level of interpretation, a “history of ideas” taken not simply as a series, but as a causal historical line drawn through obscure subjectivities. Any good historian will tell you that is an extremely difficult and nebulous venture, and often is nothing other than projection.

    On authority and Protestantism: I understand how you feel about Protestantism: I used to be in your shoes. You have a right to your opinion, but you cannot assume it is a principle in argument with us- it is a thing to be proved. Suffice it to say for now that we think that your version of Protestantism is a straw man (and your version of the RCC a fabulously idealized version), and further, that you are working with a false dichotomy on the question of authority and consensus: either authoritarian heteronomy (and even heterognosy), or anarchy and doubt. This is of course far from reality; but we’d have to have that conversation.

    On AS: although you have finally given us a sketch of your view, it is, as I said, extremely general, and vague at the crucial points, about which more shortly. But first, about the term AS: this would need to be examine closely, in its different senses and connotation of those senses. You seem to be using it mean monarchy as an ideal government (and Thomas holds that monarchy is the ideal with regard to the “spirituality” of the commonwealth, by which he means the ministerial corporation), a principium unitatis which is de jure divino, though the notion of “law” there, read very charitably, would just be an aspect of the more basic idea of the office as a “gift”, a mode of the Spirit’s sustaining presence. Obviously, I do not believe this, but I understand the position, having once held it myself. But we would need to draw the definitions and distinctions and illustrative applications, to examine the meaning(s) of the term.

    Last, on politics and your position: you understand that for us, the visible church is just the people, and we take both the Magistracy and Ministerium to be representative articulations of the same people, and thus both on the side of the “temporal”. Thus, the statement “the Church subordinated to the temporal power” can only mean “the people subordinated to the temporal power,” if church is taken in its proper sense. If however “Church” is used synecdochically, to mean “ministerium”, then we deny that the ministerium as such is directly subordinated to the magistracy, because magistrates only have jus circa sacra. And finally, the American constitutional arrangement (rightly understood) can be taken as the fullest articulation of the Protestant position, an arrangement in which the ministerium of the people attains maximum freedom for its proper functions. The ministerium, as voice of conscience and consensus, can certainly speak to the magistrates, and as citizens, they can vote and otherwise effect change. What they cannot do is claim to be the political deputies of Christ.

    About your position: I already covered some of this, when I articulated the inherent possibilities available to you, when you hadn’t yet sketched your view yourself. But in the sketch you’ve just given, look at how unclear the relation of the Papacy to the Commonwealth really is. You could be read as saying that the Pope would claim nothing other than a moral and intellectual authority, and were that the case, if he were orthodox and repudiated earlier error, we would have no trouble with such an office. But in fact, the Papacy claims to be divinely founded, and an infallible guide on faith and morals.

    Now, it sounds attractive when you say the Papacy, in your view, would hardly deal with the political, but rather only with the moral. But there are two problems here.

    First, do you really want to posit such a sharp distinction between law and morality? That is the quintessence of the kind of modernist jurisprudence which I would expect you to reject (as I do), so you might want to say more about that- and this is a topic which might even be discussed distinctly, since the differences in principle of the evangelicals on the one hand, and the unreformed on the other, here come into high relief .

    Secondly, how exactly would the Pope have influence on the State on morally basic questions in your ideal arrangement? You have wanted to shy clear of saying that the Pope has political power (contra Bellarmine and St Thomas, and contra the Popes!), but have never been clear about what exactly the nature of his authority is. Your sketch is ambiguous as worded, and it’s not clear whether you are actually conceding that the Pope ought to have no legal-coercive power other than in the secondary sense of power within a voluntary society, which cannot trump the more basic rights of the citizen guarded by the State, or whether you are simply speaking of a sort of division of labor (subsidiarity), where the Pope would reserve to himself meta-political power. So let’s go over the options:

    1. Sheerly moral authority, wherein the Pope would speak for truths of conscience truly basic to mankind and generally knowable (in principle, of course). Not a problem as stated, but it becomes a problem given the actual RC skepticism about reason and natural law, which sets up the claim that only the Papal magisterium can reliably know natural law, so that what would be known in one’s self is in effect only known by authority, and what would be inward nisus is in fact heteronomously received.

    2. Moral authority backed by coercive authority, either

    a) indirect, by way of excommunication with no civic sanction other than the consequent boycott and final voting-out (presuming elected office) of the excommunicate as a result of the papal judgment- though the political effect of this would be unpredictable if left to such indirect channels, since there is no guarantee that a free people would toe the Papal line enough for that to be reliable.

    b) direct, by way of direct deposition of offending magistrates, a right which the Popes claimed explicitly and officially for the longest time, and have not yet explicitly and officially renounced.

    So if you would answer those points directly and precisely, I think the conversation would be helped along. Further, you will need to address the question of what it means for a Commonwealth to recognize Christianity officially- because given your (false) dichotomy of de jure divino, instutional oracular-political authority on the one hand and doubt and anarchy on the other, it seems to follow that, as Bellarmine suggests, the Commonwealth, in recognizing Christ, actually recognizes his (supposed) Vicar. In your ideal arrangement, I imagine that would have to be the case for the Commonwealth to be officially Christian in a genuine sense. If so, does that entail “voluntary” recognition, supposedly of the whole people by way of its representatives, of the Pope’s power to dispose, depose, what have you?


    PS: its rougher side roads notwithstanding, this has not been an unpleasant conversational journey, and I do look forward to private correspondence about Barfield.

  58. Michael, I’m sorry, no, I don’t know where you can get McCready inexpensively. Most of what I read of his were journal articles, but alas, I don’t have electronic copies I could share.

    It would be better, at any rate, to first read a good spread of the primaries before trying to evaluate scholarly evaluations of the primaries. As Steven said earlier, an excellent compilation of these may be found in O’Donovan’s From Irenaeus to Grotius.

  59. Michael,

    One thing you could try is Interlibrary Loaning the books. It’s kinda expensive, unless you’re a student, but it is often more affordable than buying the books.

    Second, I object to your statement which follows

    I believe that Jesus founded a Church upon Peter to whom he gave the Keys to the Kingdom. This is RC Church, still with us today, identifiable through Apostolic Succession, and possessing a divine assurance of orthodoxy in addition to the Sacramental life of Christ.

    Actually, I don’t object to the statement, as it is just a statement. But there seems to be a conceptual mistake within it. I can agree that Christ founded the Church upon Peter, and I could agree with Apostolic succession. But what you, as a Catholic need, is not Apostolic succession, and what you have been arguing for is not Apostolic succession, but Petrine Succession. The Orthodox accept Apostolic Succession, but roundly reject Petrine Succession. I say you need Petrine Succession, not only because it is the Catholic position; but also, because without it the Church is not a monarchy, and but rather an oligarchy; and often an oligarchy subject to the monarchy–thus, for instance, there was no Moscow Patriarchate from the time Peter the Great abolished it till the fall of the Tzars.

    I personally, believe that something like Apostolic Succession is necessary for the community, but it is Apostolic Succession of priests, and hence is Baptism. (Though, of course, one could, in an emergency, be baptized by a nonChristian.) The question is whether the Apostolic office has been preserved in the Church, and whether the Petrine supremacy was merely functional, or was actually official, and if it was official, if it was passed on.

    And if I may say so, it is important to recognize, which the Catholic Church often has not, that the Apostolic Office, is, in itself, Josephine. (Not the girls name, but the adjective form of Joseph.) The pastor has authority, but he has authority over one who is ontologically superior to him–at least inasmuch as he is considered as a pastor. Considered as a Christian, he is of course, equal to the laity.

  60. Matt,

    I don’t think Peter misread you at all. You were thinking through what it was you actually believed during the comments thread, and he simply said that “if” you held to the mortality of the soul then you would be out with the tradition.

    It didn’t look to me like you knew what your position was there.

  61. Michael,

    I do think you’ve let us down a bit here. We’re all familiar with the standard RC position, as well as the catechism. These latest posts have not been “new” or “challenging,” but rather restatements of concepts and ideas that we’ve already noted and attempted to critique. I only state this because of your various presentations earlier. They really do look sneaky in retrospect and make Thomas’ sensitivities look almost justified.

    What Tim, Peter, Arturo, and I have done is the historical research of the late antiquity, medieval, and post-reformation eras. So we know the various ways in which the modern statements can be “read,” and we are attempting to address over-arching principles. That’s why we frame the options in the way that we do.

    There really does only seem to be two options from this point. You can do the neo-Catholic move and redefine fundamental concepts in light of “development,” and that’s been pointed out and criticized already. Or you can read modern documents in light of and in continuity with the earlier documents. And that’s been Peter’s, Tim’s, and my approach.

    Not to give too much of a testimonial, but Peter spent many years as a faithful RC, and I believe that both Tim and myself had periods of our adult life where we seriously considered the merits of RC, even to the point of a possible conversion. We took the principles quite seriously. And we are now at the point where we believe the Protestant principles to be superior and the RC principles to be seriously flawed. That’s why we speak plainly. But I do not believe that we’ve actually misunderstood or misrepresented the classic position at all.

  62. Steven,

    I would just like to say that I really appreciate the level of depth and carefulness exhibited by yourself, Peter and Tim ( I don’t mean to leave out the others interacting here). It is very refreshing in light of some of the very bad and just plainly sloppy argumentation that is found on a couple other blogs I follow some ( I won’t mention them by name). I find this same carefulness in our mutual friend David as well. I have and continue to learn a lot from you guys. Thank you.


  63. What I find problematic about Michael’s rhetoric is what I find wrong with a lot of Catholic discourse on the Internet. It all seems to take place in some sort of strange echo chamber. The life of the Church, at least since Vatican II, has been a DE-emphasis on the office of the Papacy. That is what the purpose of the above-mentioned Lumen Gentium was supposed to be in the theological culture of Catholicism: a move away from the model of Pope as CEO and the bishops his branch managers and towards a more communion model of the Church based on collegiality. You wouldn’t know this from the neo-ultramontanism of some Internet Catholics (Bryan Cross, Jonathan Prejean, Michael Liccione) who use the Papacy as an epistemological crutch against Cartesianism.

    The fact is, even if Peter is the Rock on which the Church is built, he is not the Church, and Paul could even resist him to the face. Because of the very diverse history of the Church, I would argue that one needs a “minimalist” understanding of the Papacy, in the spirit of de Lubac who wrote in Corpus Mysticum:

    “As for me, my gaze will always end up fixed on the history of human thinking itself, and even more on that of Christian theology. I will always find peace and joy in contemplating them. Amid so many riches that claim my attention, I will always act like a child of Plato, that is to say, every time that there is at least the possibility of so acting, I will not make a choice. A unity that is too quickly affirmed has no power to inspire, while eclecticism has no impact. But the methodical welcoming of contrasts, once understood, can be fruitful: not only does it guard against over-eager partiality; not only does it open up to our understanding a deep underlying unity; it is also the precondition that prepares us for new departures.”

    I am even more a child of Plato. There are many reasons to believe in Catholicism, and many reasons to disbelieve it. The strongest reasons for me are hereditary: I consider my Holy Infant of Atocha and Virgen de Guadalupe as my “family totems”, I respect the art and music of the Church, I have experienced the religion as it has been passed down by people who are older and wiser than me. That is my experience of the Gospel. But in an age where “cuius regio eius religio” is no longer the case, I refuse to turn my faith into pure polemic. Closing with de Lubac again:

    “Speaking roughly, and looking less at the letter than at the spirit, it is therefore true to say that the ancient texts are no longer understood because the spirit in which they were composed has partly been lost. The fact is that Eucharistic theology became more and more a form of apologetic and organized itself increasingly round a defence of the “real presence”. Apology for dogma succeeded the understanding of faith. This evolution, this contrast, the misunderstandings and the awkward problems of interpretation that resulted from them, the incomprehension that is the price paid for new insights, all that is summed up symbolically in the two successive meanings of truth.”

  64. Arturo wrote of modern Catholicism that “Apology for dogma succeeded the understanding of faith.”

    Ironically, that’s what’s wrong with much of modern Protestantism, as well. To much defensiveness about Truth and too little attempting to actually understand Truth. We think we’ve got it because we can exegete the Bible and selectively read historical sources so that they always validate our own narrow perspectives about “the Gospel,” but in reality what we have is a bunch of un-self-critical, strife-driven and strife-perpetuating caricatures of both the larger Christian tradition and Protestantism itself.

    I’ve seen this time and again with contemporary Protestant apologists and theologians. We’re supposedly the ones who respect history more than those nasty “anachronistic” and “deceptive” creatures we call “papists,” but strangely, too few of us are actually interested in the deeper and wider lessons of history. History for most of us is either an obscure, mostly bad (and so mostly dispensable) appendage to our faith, or it is a mere pile of factoids useful only insofar as they can be connected, Tinker-Toy style, into polemical weapons against Romanism.

    I have long been convinced that one reason the classic Protestant position is not understood by most Catholics who think they understand “Protestantism” is precisely because most Protestants do not themselves understand “Protestantism.” We present the world – and particularly Catholics – with a truncated, watered-down version of our fathers’ faith and then marvel when they accept the truncation and construct their counter-arguments accordingly. The kinds of arguments Michael has been making about “authority” and “anarchy” simply would not have any traction with us – and so would not call forth the narrow, fideistic-biblicist and purely negative “historical” apologetics they presently call forth – if a majority of us actually knew, believed, and defended the classical Protestant positions.

  65. Dear All,

    So much has been said here recently that I will perforce need to be selective and address what I think is most important. I will try to respond to direct questions that have been asked of me. I truly appreciate the earnestness and soul-searching that has been shown in recent comments and I want to compliment everyone and thank everyone for that.

    I was surprised by the request for a statement of my belief and my views. I thought that I had made them clear generally from my first statement (which was quoted by SW to begin this series) in addition to my assertions that I simply hold what is the currently held Catholic teaching as found in the Catholic Catechism. As such, I was even more surprised for being chided for not having said anything “new.”


    Knowing that this is a Protestant blog read nearly exclusively by Protestants, and based on our previous interaction some time ago, I have tried to be respectful of your proprietary position and to neither give testimony or to choose the direction of the content of the dialogue unless specifically asked. My intention has not been to “challenge” so much as to “engage” through a discussion where I have hoped I would learn something. It is a rather Socratic approach which, in my view, has not been “misguided” at all (as Mr. Escalante has said) and I openly appealed to Socrates as a model of truth-seeking. Of course I think I am right about my Faith just as you do about yours, which goes without saying. I came to my Faith primarily though prayer. I choose my Church based on what I believe is the truth about Jesus, about the sacraments, and also about what makes sense to me as far as theology, philosophy, history, the history of philosophy, art, literature, and personal experience.

    I commend you, Mr. Escalante, Mr. Enloe and others for your scholarly endeavors. I too share this endeavor, although not so much in the particular areas you do. I myself believe that much more can be learned about what is the true Church through the study of philosophy than about 13th and 14th century church history, as important as that may be. The latter may strengthern my faith, but can only impact my choice of my Faith negatively if it is shown to me that it is not possible to be good Catholic based on what is to be learned there.

    Upon reflection, I think we have been dealing with two separate questions here:

    1) Given Church history, especially the 13th and 14th centuries, can a person still plausibly be a good Catholic (i.e. adhere to the teaching on AS).

    2) How does AS succession or the lack thereof play out politically both theoretically and historically.

    Now I came into this conversation thinking we would focus and question number two. However I was mistaken and was thrown upon a different course. Concerning the first question, though perhaps not as much as some here, I do know something of church history in this era and, being a lawyer, I know a good deal about the construction and interpretation of documents from the past. It is very interesting that parallel principles of interpretation are applied in the analysis of the U.S. Constitution, for example, and related documents, as well as legislation and legal opinions generally. As a conservative of the “Original Intent” school of Constitutional interpretation, wherein the intent of the authors and therefore historical setting is crucial, I do not think such an analysis is unwarranted “historicizing” but rather as necessary to understanding the objective meaning of the document. Thus, for example, in Unam Sanctam, both the political structure of Christendom at that time and the Pope’s antagonistic relationship with Phillip the Fair must be taken in to account in determining what the document is actually saying.

    However, the real point form me, as I stated is whether the historical record makes it impossible to be a good Catholic. I have asked this question directly a number of times but have never gotten a response. The argument seems to go like this, in syllogistic form:

    a) Any church with a head that claims to have complete power over political authority cannot be the true church.

    b) The Catholic Church claimed this in the 13th and 14th centuries.

    c) Therefore the Catholic Church is not the true church.

    Now let me say that, in my view, neither premise has been proved here. I am open to hearing this case, but it simply has not been made. Premise a) has not been shown in any way other than the vague suggestion that, given the fact that it would contrast to such an extent with modern liberal democratic sensibilities, it just must be true. Nor has premise b) been proven to anything approaching satisfaction to me (especially given the diversity in scholarly opinion as cited in Bevin). As I therefore do not in any sense believe myself proscribed from being a believing RC, I continue to adhere to my conviction that it is the true Church, which was arrived at through way many and partially inscrutable.

    Mr. Escalante,

    If I have at times not adhered sufficiently to blog conventions, you can safely attribute it to the fact that I have never in my life posted anything on anyone’s blog other this one! This is mostly because I don’t have time and also because I don’t like computers much. Actually, this will probably be my only excursion in the “blogosphere.”

    I truly hope you will not take offense if I do not agree that I have radically misinterpreted you comments about the political. I tried to be careful and insert qualifications where I thought what the interpretations were less clear. Above all when giving a definition, you surely realize that one is called upon to give an account of the essential content of a thing with the greatest economy and precision. You yourself chose to focus exclusively on the application of power in your definition without in the least giving an account of the basis of the distinctly political relationship in nature. Nor can I let SW of the hook for his “succinct” account of the political. To say he meant a “difference without distinction” merely begs the question of whether the reality he denies actually does exist essentially.

    Perhaps all this seems to some readers like hairsplitting and obscuring the real “agreement” between Protestants and traditional Catholics on natural law. Now it is not my intention to make presumptions about our various interlocutors’ degree of learning or study on the subject of natural law, including metaphysics, and natural philosophy. However, I do contend that, in order to understand the full meaning of Catholic and Protestant Christianity and their relationship to AS and the modern world generally, it would behoove them to pursue this knowledge with equal zeal and devotion as other worthy subjects. It is certainly as important as 13th and 14th century church history.

    In my view, the main weakness of the project upon which you guys are engaged is this claim that the Reformers held to the traditional natural law. After interacting with you all on this point I am more convinced than ever that it is not true. I do not see how you can continually dismiss actual statements of the major reformers on this topic. I do not see how you can deny the problems associated with identifying the Divine and Natural laws, as happens in Reformation thought. I do not see how the rational connections between Protestant theology and shifts in natural law can be denied. I do not see how see how the historical connections between the Reformers and the ideas permeating their times can be denied. How about the connections between Calvinism and Locke? Peter, you yourself have on this blog admitted the connection between Kant and Protestantism (though you say he’s not a Christian, which is true).

    As a group of folks that value the consensus of scholars, how can you simply dismiss ubiquitous statements from such acclaimed authors as Paul Rahe, who in Republics Ancient and Modern wrote:

    And one might draw attention to the central role played in Reformation theology by John Calvin’s vehement denunciation of moral reason and the moral imagination and by his express repudiation of the classical Greek and Aristotelian Christian conviction that human reason is capable of discerning and making clear to others something of the dictates of nature and nature’s God as to man’s purpose in the world as well as the character of that which is to his advantage, just, and good.”

    I think more on this will be able to be seen in the next discussion planned by SW. In this regard, I am particularly interested in your contention that “the American constitutional arrangement (rightly understood) can be taken as the fullest articulation of the Protestant position.”

    As far as the questions you asked regarding my view of the papal activity in relationship to the temporal sphere, I would say “it depends.” To understand my thinking here it must be remembered that I cam coming from the view that politics is practical and therefore deals with particulars. As such, the answer to that question will depend radically on the type of regime, the religion and manners of the people etc. To completely non-Christian people, I would say that the pope would not have any political power and only a “moral” influence, as you say. The degree that a Christian or even a Catholic people would be under the political influence of the Church would be more or less express, depending of the “devotion” by the country of political influence or power to the Church. My personal view is that a total devotion of the temporal power to the Church (not a possibility to be seen on the near horizon, to be sure) would not be a good idea, due to the instability in Fallen humanity. I think a healthy tension between the Temporal and Spiritual is best, which, in my view requires Apostolic, and even Petrine, Succession (Matt, the unity of the Church through a single person being ultimately responsible, is best for maintaining tension in my view, and no mistake that it was provided by God. You see the reults of the lack of this focus in the Eastern Churches who have been more subordinated to the Temporal power, while the Protestant churches never had a chance. However, EO do indeed have AS and are thus not heretical but merely schismatic).

    I tend to think the ideal may look something like the following and could indeed involve the ability to depose, though this may not always be best. In A History of the Church: Vol. III Revolt against the Church Aquinas to Luther Philip Hughes writes:

    ”With Honorius there disappeared the last authentic representative of the skillful diplomatic tradition that went back to Innocent III, the tradition in which the popes had managed the rival chiefs of the respublica christiana while yet contriving never themselves to descend into the arena of inter-state competition, and always to give to their action the authentic of an intervention from outside all conflict.”

    Mr. West,

    Unfortunately I am about out of time to write and respond to your excellent question. You ask:

    How does it follow that rejection of AS, and by extension not submitting to the Pope, necessitate a denial of objective truth and/or the efficacy of reason?

    The short answer is that I do not think there is a directly causal relationship here. I would say that these two phenomenon are mutually reinforcing but neither could be isolated as the true cause. I would also point out the tremendous influence in this regard of various innovations in philosophy and, critically, in the rise of the natural sciences as paradigms for all true knowledge. In this regard, a great little book is Burtt’s The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science. Generally, I would say that Hillarie Belloc is essential on the whole question of the disintegration of the West. Check out especially his account of the heresy of modernism. Christopher Dawson is also excellent on this. For a focus on polical theory, Strauss’ Natural Right and History is excellent as well as Kraynack’s gutsy Chirstian Faith and Modern Democracy. Just about anything by Fr. James Schall of Georgetown is good as well.

    Dear All,

    As I am very busy at work this week, I will not be able to respond very often to this discussion, which I lament. However, I am sure can proceed very nicely without me. Have a great week.


  66. Michael,

    I have never said and never will say that it is “impossible to be a good Catholic” given the history of the 13th and 14th centuries. Such would be a foolish and uncharitable thing to say, and not least because whatever the polemical utility of Catholics portraying “Catholicism” as this great monolithic entity that solves all problems, “Catholicism” is an aggregate made up of a billion individual people and those billion individual people most certainly do not always agree as to what “being a good Catholic” is. I know Catholics who are horrified by the Medieval papacy’s abuses and excesses. I know Catholics who think that calling the behavior of the Medieval papacy abusive and excessive is absurd, since after all we are talking about the Vicar of CHRIST. I know Catholics who poo-poo the historical record because they let Newman do their thinking for them. I know Catholics who try to honestly grapple with the difficulties that the historical record presents for some of the claims of the papacy. In short, “good Catholics” are all over the map on this (and many other things), so I would not wish ever to state baldly that it is “impossible to be a good Catholic given ____”.

    The thing that got me talking about the 13th and 14th centuries was your invocation of Boniface VIII, who, if I am recalling correctly, you brought forward as an example of a positive construction of the papacy relative to temporal politics. Based on my research, I believe you don’t have a good grasp either of Boniface or of the actual lived political situations of the Middle Ages, which, contra your attempted dichotomization above, impinge very seriously upon both theology and philosophy. Had you not portrayed Boniface as you did, it is possible you would not have heard from me, or that you would have heard from me in a different manner than you did.

  67. Tim: very nice.

    Michael: I think a healthy tension between the Temporal and Spiritual is best, which, in my view requires Apostolic, and even Petrine, Succession (Matt, the unity of the Church through a single person being ultimately responsible, is best for maintaining tension in my view, and no mistake that it was provided by God. You see the reults of the lack of this focus in the Eastern Churches who have been more subordinated to the Temporal power, while the Protestant churches never had a chance. However, EO do indeed have AS and are thus not heretical but merely schismatic).

    Michael — you should not forget, however, that the Roman claim is and for a long time has been “divine institution” of the papacy, and however utilitarian it may have been from a political perspective to have a pope who could throw his weight around vs. kings and emperors (and I don’t even admit this is the case, I merely am speaking of things on your terms here), this does not in any way help make the link to “divine institution” that you require for the papacy to actually be what it says it is.

    And for you to try to slip this in and argue that the papacy is divinely instituted because it was politically practical, without really arguing for it, is cheating.

  68. PS:

    Mr. Vasquez,

    I am disappointed that you did not respond to my question above. I believe the reason must be related to the quintessentially un-Catholic dichotomy you seem to make between faith and reason. Moreover, you curiously do not seem to see a link between the teaching of the Church and what the RC actually is (or you see the link as extremely tenuous, unimportant and probably a hindrance to being a “real” Catholic anyway). Why is it that you seem to assume that “authentic” faith must be accompanied by fuzzy reasoning, a belittling of the church hierarchy, lack of concern with orthodoxy, and a penchant for kitschy manifestations of Catholic culture?

    Let me respectfully add that you can have no idea what my personal relationship with God or my practice of my faith is like. We are engaged in a forum where reason and fact are the primary terms of the discourse and I have written as such.

    Mr. Escalante,

    Please let me clarify about something I said earlier lest, ironically, I be misinterpreted.

    Of course I could not know for sure what was in your head or heart when you wrote something, so in that sense, of course, you are the sole judge of what your own intent was and of what you wanted to write. I am only saying above that I was not persuaded that, on their face, your remarks, and the implications that can be rationally drawn from them, are capable of carrying the meaning you say they have in retrospect. I know that you have been taught about the natural law, based on what you have told me about your background and can recognize it when it is presented or are recalled to it.

    Again, let me emphasize that I do not mean any offense in maintaining what I think are the conclusions I must draw from your comments. This is not in any way to be disrespectful or to impugn your knowledge or abilities. If I was inclined to give you a hard time I would say that your Protestant theology was finally leading you astray…

    As a final thought: I do maintain that political rule is decidedly not an “art” except in any but an analogical sense and appropriate qualifications must always be made if this analogy is used. They involve two entirely different kinds of knowledge and are two different actions. An “art” of course involves productive knowledge and has no bearing on human character, while political rule involves deliberation which a function of the interaction between ethical character and particular circumstances. In my view, the difference between an art (techne) and prudence is perhaps the most effective way to show the true nature of political rule.

    Mr. Enloe,

    What it takes to be a “good Catholic” is not in debate. However, as you rightly point out, there are many things about the RC Church upon which its members may disagree, which I say do not affect this unless they impinge beyond a certain point upon faith or morals. That is not to say that there are no right answers in these areas, or that they are not important, only that they are not essential to being a “good Catholic” or, in other words, “orthodox.”

    I would like to hear about the conclusions you draw about AS (or the lack thereof) from your study of Church history.

    Also, please tell me more about how hierarchical authority functions in Protestantism. It seems to me that the lack of hierarchy is part and parcel of Protestantism, is it not? What else did Scripture Alone the rejection of papal authority mean? What is the nature of conciliarism? Do you claim that it is hierarchical?

    Moreover, isn’t the nature of hierarchy inherently that there is a final decision making authority. How do you account for the spectrum of doctrine in Protestantism if it is hierarchical? It seems to me that Protestantism could truly be called “Whig Christianity.”

    Jesus wanted his Church to be “one” as He and His Father are one. It seems to me that the only way that Protestantism can claim to accomplish this is to reduce the scope of what is “essential” to being a Christian. For example, it involves the necessity of holding the doctrine of the Eucharist or Baptism as being not important, since radical disagreement exists among “Christians” on these things. The only other option is that God did not provide a means to achieve this oneness and that we are all thrown back on our own resources in discerning the truth about these things: a daunting prospect, to be sure.


  69. Michael, it is interesting to note some of the degradation of your comments as you get further backed into a corner.

    You said, Jesus wanted his Church to be “one” as He and His Father are one. It seems to me that the only way that Protestantism can claim to accomplish this is to reduce the scope of what is “essential” to being a Christian. For example, it involves the necessity of holding the doctrine of the Eucharist or Baptism as being not important, since radical disagreement exists among “Christians” on these things

    First of all, are we or are we not “Christians”? Why the quotation marks? Is this a prejudice slipping out in place of an argument that you can’t make?

    There is only one church. I’d say most of us agree on that. However, you continue to assume what you must prove, and that is that somehow, the Roman hierarchy is “The Church”.

    After all, did Christ promise to “build” the church, or did he say somewhere that he would delegate the process? (The church is also a body — that can’t be built, it can only grow organically, as cells divide, and differentiate, become specialized. Is your whole body a bunch of heart cells? Do old cells die and get flaked off or carried away?)

    Then why are we held responsible (or irresponsible) for what you perceive as a “lack of unity”? For you to look at the current situation in the church and decry a lack of unity, rather seems like a complaint you ought to take directly to Christ. After all, He is doing the building; He is the vine supplying the life to the branches. The mess you decry must be of His creation, correct?

    And by the way, who here says the doctrine of the Eucharist or Baptism is “not important”. Saying that the Roman doctrine is not the biblical doctrine is a bit different from saying that it’s not important.

    Why is THE doctrine of the Eucharist what Rome says it is? The way we look at it, Rome deviated far from what the earliest church believed and practiced. Is it really the case that there is more disagreement among Protestants than there was in New Testament times? Or is it rather the case that the Roman way of defining things in such a way as to exclude everyone else is sort of a pox upon the body, that must be gotten rid of?

    The only other option is that God did not provide a means to achieve this oneness and that we are all thrown back on our own resources in discerning the truth about these things: a daunting prospect, to be sure.

    Oh, Christ does not “build” the church, he “provides the means” i.e., the Roman hierarchy, by which we all work together to help him build (or to help him clean up the mess at this point).

    Again, you have to argue that the Roman hierarchy is “the means” that “he provides.” You are just merely assuming it.

  70. Michael,

    I’d be glad to take up the issues you ask me about, but I’d first like to ask Steven, since this is his blog, how far he wants this to go on this thread. Steven?

  71. Michael,

    Let me start by saying that I continue to read you charitably, and to trust that you write in good faith. But my presuming good faith on your part doesn’t change the conclusion I must sadly draw,at least for now, which is that you have basically withdrawn as a serious interlocutor here. But to wrap up, for readers’ sake, I will address some of your remarks.

    On misreadings. I can understand, given your unfamiliarity with Protestant doctrine and your investment in a certain metanarrative, why you might persist in thinking that you are not misreading us in general; cognitive dissonance is frustrating and distressing, and makes one want to hold tighter to the paradigm being called into question by new facts. So I understand your persistence in that regard. But you have not an inch of ground to stand on with respect to the particular misreadings you committed. Let’s review.

    I made it clear that I used the word “common” in order to highlight that beatitude is a common good, because I side with De Koninck against Eschmann, whereas you mistook me to mean “lowest common material denominator” or something of that sort. But even after I made clear why I used the word, you persist in holding at all costs to your initial reading, which is worlds away from what I myself said I meant. Let’s be clear: you didn’t demonstrate that I make a bad argument or expressed a false idea, you claimed that I used a word in a certain sense, even after I clarified that I had used it in quite another. Now, by persisting in your reading, you are either calling me a liar (which you aren’t), or you think it was some Freudian slip where I *thought* I meant “common” as in “common good” but was somehow actually disclosing the dark depths of my modernist, Protestant subconscious, despite myself. So, since you’re not calling me a liar, you must be saying I am incapable of conscious meaningful expression. Now, I am little surprised, given that you have already said earlier that you think my expressions are precise and lucid, and given further that you have not as of yet claimed to be a reader of hearts or a telepathic psychoanalyst, that you could persist in reading me directly contrary to what I wrote. I would think that if charity and civility were not sufficient to restrain you from such claims, at least rhetorical self-interest would, since your claims here don’t reflect well on your willingness to read fairly, to say the least. And what I say here about your insistence in misreading the word “common”, could be said of your other misreadings of myself and Pastor Wedgeworth; to mention only one, re/Kant: you mentioned Kant as a point of comparison, and I, following the method of proceeding from the more known to the less, since you were evidently familiar with Kant but not with Protestant doctrine, allowed the comparison as a starting point, while making sharp qualifications. And yet, you attempt to use this, out of context, as some exhibit of evidence. I am disappointed but not, at this point, surprised.

    On definitions: you say I focused exclusively on power in defining politics, but that only follows if your misreading above is true- and it isn’t. I defined politics as the architectonic art of ordering men toward their highest common good, which is a purely classical definition. In fact, I used the word “end”, which is expressly teleological- it is English for “telos”- and obviously assumes nature. So your claim is without any foundation.

    On politics as an art: you are going directly against Aristotle and Thomas, both of whom expressly and repeatedly call politics an art. Personal prudence is art-like, according to Thomas, but it is immanent rather transitive (doing rather than making); whereas, since the legal order of the commonwealth is a thing to be made, it is transitive from the side of the ruler, and thus an art. If Aristotle and Thomas however are insufficient authorities for you, you might consult Gaudium et Spes, 75, which expressly calls politics the “difficult but noble art”.

    On the Reformers, natural law, and history: you say we are reading them against a weight of evidence- but you’ve actually provided none of that evidence here, except a little snippet from a secondary source. So what this gets down to is, our account of the Reformers goes against the narrative you’ve pieced together from secondary sources- and I doubt that any of those are serious monographs on Reformers. I am not your history instructor, so it does not fall to me to teach you the actual record or the distinctions to be made within it. But for readers’ sake, and for yours, I will say that a good coverage of primary source loci, for those without the Latin necessary for the primary texts themselves, can be found in S. Grabill’s “Rediscovering the Natural Law in Reformed Theological Ethics”; and a very good overview is also to be found in WJT Kirby’s article “Richard Hooker’s Discourse on Natural Law in the Context of the Magisterial Reformation,” which can be read at the online journal Animus. On Strauss and the early moderns: also at Animus, Neil Robertson deftly handles Strauss’ genealogizing view as he gives it in “Natural Right and History”- the article is “Leo Strauss and Early Modern Political Thought”. Interested readers would also profit from Joshua Mitchell’s books “Not By Reason Alone.” On Belloc: it is worth discussing him, since he is an example of the problematic origins of RC pop apologetic ideas. Belloc is a delightful man of letters, who was occasionally prescient- a quality by no means unique to him in his day. As an essayist and poet, he is often (though not always) excellent. As a popular historian, he was close to being a hack journalist, and careless of truth. For a frank and balanced recognition of this, and Belloc’s other oddities, from an admirer, this is worth a read:


    Belloc is no one to build a case on, in other words. On the topic of the Reformers and natural law, interested readers can be pointed to many other sources, primary and secondary, if they would like.

    Michael, you are clearly a bright person, and evidently very idealistic (so much so, in fact, that the puffs of your enthusiasm sometimes inflate letters to capital stature: “Sacramental Life”, et c; and you are clearly most at home when rhapsodizing: ” dynamic life-giving coherence”, “habitation and a name”, et c). But it seems just as clear that you are not interested in having a real discussion with us, but rather, in getting us to hear the tale you have to tell, which has so far been much more rhapsody than argument. The thing is, we have all heard it, and have found it wanting, long ago.

    A last thought. I presume of course that you are Christian in the evangelical sense, that is, that you have received Christ. That can indeed occur within the RCC. But there is something I must ask you to consider, based on your remarks. You are clearly concerned with “Modernity”, and speak of its advent as a kind of Fall of Man. You also seem to think that metaphysics is a sort of religious anchor which saves us from “modernity”. In fact, you have called the “Chain of Being” ( a term, by the way, which many historians of medieval philosophy find seriously questionable as descriptive of the ancient view) “reality” itself. The trouble is that, classically speaking, only God is Reality itself; but the “chain of being” includes creatures, and for Thomas, there is no community of being between God the creatures, only analogy of being; creatures participate Reality, but do not constitute it. The “chain of being”, if taken as “reality” itself, thus looks like a divine-creature compound. I worry a little, given your remarks, that such a compound, taken to be revealed by the Papal office in a “kerygma of metaphysics” wherein the Pope is the “Vicar of the Chain of Being”, might be the object of faith for religion as you might be conceiving it. If so, I would invite you to consider whether this is really Christianity. For Christianity, the “Chain of Being” is not the bridge of salvation, across some abyss of the “Modern”; rather, the Cross is the bridge of our salvation over the abyss of the Fall and our sin. I hope you will understand my striking a personal note here, and I hope that my concerns for you as a brother are unfounded. In any case, I wish you many blessings, and peace.


  72. “Why is it that you seem to assume that ‘authentic’ faith must be accompanied by fuzzy reasoning, a belittling of the church hierarchy, lack of concern with orthodoxy, and a penchant for kitschy manifestations of Catholic culture? ”

    At the risk of overstaying my welcome here, I will just respond briefly that I think Mr. Hickman has read more into my critique than is actually there. I don’t think him any less Catholic, in spite of being misguided. But I don’t find his stubborn resistance to serious historical study to be very helpful to the Catholic cause. Nor his seeming need to make all Catholicism equal “X”; something that benefits his particular theories in sync with the neo-ultramontanism of a select few Catholics. But the term “Catholic” demands a large tent and rigorous analysis, as De Lubac again writes in one of his works:

    “To see in Catholicism one religion among others, one system among others, even if it be added that it is the only true religion, the only system that works, is to mistake its very nature, or at least to stop at the threshhold. Catholicism is religion itself. It is the form that humanity must put on in order finally to be itself. It is the only reality which involves by its existence no opposition. It is therefore the very opposite of a ‘closed society’. Like its Founder it is eternal and sure of itself, and the very intransigence in matters of principle which prevents its ever being ensnared by transitory things secures for it a flexibility of infinite comprehensiveness, the very opposite of harsh exclusiveness which charactarizes the sectarian spirit… The Church is at home everywhere, and everyone should feel himself at home in the Church. Thus the risen Christ, when he shows himself to his friends, takes on the countenance of all races and each hears him in his own tongue.”

    I don’t think the Church can meet her calling by employing easy polemics against philosophical straw men.

  73. Pingback: The varieties of Christian politics « City of God

  74. Pingback: ‘The only really distinct trait of “modernity” consists in the imagination that there is such a thing’ by Peter Escalante | Creakings of a Cog in God's Machine

  75. Pingback: Passing the Apostolic Buck: A Succession of What Exactly? | Deus Ex Machina

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