13 October 2012

TUTISSIMUS INDEX (3): eodem sensu eademque sententia

Eodem sensu eademque sententia. To be blunt, these words (explained in the previous sections of this series) irritated - and irritate - those who see Vatican II as constituting a rupture with the past. This superb phrase makes clear that Catholic teaching is essentially unchangeable, even though the Church's understanding of her inheritance grows ever more mature. Eodem sensu eademque sententia is a red rag to any and every errant bull ... and all the more so because it appears in the Anti-Modernist oath which S Pius X, author of Pascendi Dominici gregis and hammer of the Modernists, imposed upon office-holders. But stay: I am jumping ahead of my narrative.

S Vincent of Lerins (c434) is often given the credit for this elegant and lapidary affirmation of continuity and identity within Catholic Tradition. Less often do people point out that he seems to have got it from S Paul. We had better look at S Paul's words and their context.

Given the sense of urgency with which the Man from Tarsus felt to teach the Gospel to the whole oikoumene, it is hardly surprising that he repeatedly received information that a crisis had arisen in an imperfectly formed ekklesia from which he had just moved on. So it was undoubtedly with a sense of deja vu that he sat down to dictate a letter to his Corinthian converts hoping thereby to repair the damage just reported to him by Chloe's People. He beseeches them dia tou onomatos tou Kuriou hemon Iesou Christou (notice this explicit insistence on his Apostolic Magisterium: "through the authority of the Lord's Name"), to "say [legete] the same thing"; to eschew schismata; and to be "fitted together [katertismenoi]" in (RSV) "the same mind and in the same judgement". S Vincent read this in his Latin Bible as eodem sensu eademque sententia; S Paul had written en toi autoi noi kai en tei autei gnomei*.

 S Paul is urging the Corinthians to a synchronic unity. It is not be a vague pluralist unity in which different, even contradictory, statements can be judged, "deep down", to mean the same. To auto legete pantes, he insists. He requires a unity manifested in verbal identity.And, for a subsequent Christian generation, diachronic unity - 'vertically' down through the history of the Church - is going to be just as important as the 'horizontal' unity within a particular community at a particular time. So S Vincent of Lerins very properly expanded the reference of the phrase to the development of Christian doctrine generation by generation. But it never ceases to retain its Pauline synchronic reference; most recently when Paul VI aptly quoted I Corinthians 1:10 in Humanae vitae.
I hope to continue this exploration.
*Perhaps I should explain that, like Professor James Diggle, the OCT editor of Euripides, and the papyrological community, I see merit in writing my iotas adscript.


johnf said...

Thank you for these 3 posts Father. Very interesting

GOR said...

It has seemed to me that recent decades have mirrored very well the Corinthian turmoil St. Paul addressed – even without the benefit of an ecumenical council c. 55 A.D.

And if - despite the personal instruction of the Apostle to the Gentiles himself - the Corinthians could stray so far, should we be surprised that history repeats itself with less-apostolic instruction in our day?

But we may yet be saved, despite the stultitia praedicationis of the many – or by that of the few.

Jesse said...

Thanks so much, Father, for this stimulating series. (And congratulations on your return to blogging: I have been remembering you with thanks and intercession in the Daily Office.)

Your point about synchronic and diachronic unanimity can hardly be overemphasized. I am put in mind of a passage from Edward Norman's Anglican Difficulties (pp. 104-5):

For this [i.e. the consensus fidelium], plainly, unity is a necessary condition, and a test for the existence of ecclesiastical authenticity has been the continued integration of each local Church with the communion originally instituted by the apostles. [...] The authority of the Church does not derive from legal conditions like the regularity of orders -- important though they may be for other reasons -- but from what is actually being taught at any time, and from showing that this body of teaching corresponds with what is being taught universally.

In other words, a General Council's decrees do not derive their authority from being issued by a General Council of the world's bishops in the valid apostolic succession (though only such an assembly my issue them), but because the decrees are in evident continuity and harmony with what the Church has always taught.

Perhaps we might say, in line Chesterton's nugget about Tradition as the "democracy of the dead," that it's not just the bishops who happen to be "walking about" who get a vote at a General Council!

motuproprio said...

The first footnote to 'Gaudium et Spes' has frequently been overlooked.
'Interpretanda est igitur Constitutio iuxta normas generales theologicae interpretationis, et quidem ratione habita, praesertim in secunda eius parte, adiunctorum mutabilium cum quibus res de quibus agitur natura sua connectuntur.'

Figulus said...

The very words "in uno sensu atque in eadem sententia" appear in the office of reading for the dedication of a church, (Origenis Homilia 9, 1-2: PG 12, 871-872). The editor did not seem to recognize them as the words of the Apostle, since he neglected to italicize them, although he italicized other of Origen's quotes and allusions. This occurrence of the phrase seems to to this reader to emphasize the synchronous over the diachronous, but the diachronous sense is hinted at by a mention of the apostles who lived before us. The Catechist seems to be saying that when we worship in unity and without contention, that we, like the apostles, might be made living stones of the altar on which Christ offers his sacrifice to the father.

If I have time today, I'll see what the wretched ICEL translation makes of this paragraph.