All posts tagged: papacy

Vatican I: Loss and Gain in the Governance of the Catholic Church

Let us begin by reminding ourselves of three basic points that are pertinent to our topic. First, every decision is a choice between two goods. Otherwise, we would not have to go through the process of decision-making. This means decisions seem almost by definition to entail some measure of loss. Second, every decision is subject to the law of unintended consequences. Decisions enter into the give-and-take of the historical process and get mauled by it. When we make a decision, we cannot foresee all the contingencies that will affect how it later fares. Third, many decisions entail implications of which we are not aware at the time, which means that sometimes we are not doing what we think we are doing. The First Vatican Council issued only two decrees, the first, Dei Filius, on the relationship between faith and reason, and the second, Pastor Aeternus, on papal primacy and infallibility. Although it is not obvious, both decrees were intended as statements against the modern world, that is, the world that came into being in the …

A Defense of Ultramontanism Contra Gallicanism

The term “ultramontanism” has seen a bit of a resurgence in recent Catholic conversations as a pejorative used by both traditional and progressive Catholics. In so doing, both sides align themselves with doctrinal heterodoxy. Brian Flanagan has recently published a brief study of the term in the National Catholic Reporter, noting the return of the term in “First Things, The New York Times, and the Catholic blogosphere and Twitter.”  Like those involved with the term in Catholic journalism and social media, Flanagan too misunderstands the Church’s teaching on ultramontanism. The extension of the term has shifted in recent years. During the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, it was used against traditionally-minded Catholics (those who lauded Pope Benedict’s words, actions, and even shoes) by those who would self-identify as progressive. Today, traditionally-minded Catholics use the term against the progressive or liberal members of the Church who treat interviews with Pope Francis as infallible. In short, a perceived shift between the academic-conservative papacy of Benedict and the pastoral-collegial papacy of Francis has effected a shift regarding who …

Petrine Primacy: Who Can Speak on Behalf of the Orthodox Church?

Concerning the question of whether the Orthodox Church needs a primus, and especially at the universal level, I will appeal to a personal experience. In 2005, I was given permission to attend the deliberations of the International Joint Commission on the Theological Dialogue between the two churches, which convened, after a hiatus, in Belgrade. I remember how that experience led me to the paradoxical realization that the Orthodox churches cannot unite with Rome as long as they are not united with Rome. What I mean by this paradox is that the very absence of the authority that a primus would have exercised at the pan-Orthodox level hinders the efforts of remedying this institutional lacuna. In other words, the fact that the Orthodox churches today refuse to recognize a Rome-like primacy among themselves becomes the major problem in their dialogue with Rome. Episcopal Equality For one of the fundamental presuppositions of any dialogue, especially a theological dialogue, is consistency. The demand for consistency is related, in my opinion, to the question of authority. Who can speak …