14 October 2012

TUTISSIMUS INDEX (4): eodem sensu eademque sententia

If S Vincent of Lerins had never written his Commonitorium, I doubt if we ordinary chaps would have ever heard of him. As it is, there is a recurrent suspicion that he could be deemed a Western Orthodox whose theology lacked the precision which S Augustine brought, if he did, into some areas of Christian thought. The Tractarians liked S Vincent's insistence that orthodoxy consists of what has been believed semper et ubique et ab omnibus [always and everywhere and by all]. But this is because it enabled them to appeal to the consensus of the first millennium against the errors of both popery and protestantism. However, for such a purpose it is a somewhat broken reed. There have always been errors within the Christian community, so that as a standard of orthodoxy this rule is ineffective. If you want to tell an Arian that he is not a Catholic, quod semper quod ubique quod ab omnibus will simply inspire him to ask in exasperation whereabouts in the Scriptures and Tradition homoousios is to be found. An argumentative Gnostic might observe of the Gospel of S Luke that en pote ote ouk en.


It seems to have been for this reason that Vatican II, like much of the Magisterium, has fought shy of canonising 'the Vincentian Canon'. It made a rare appearance when the CDF explained the status of Ordinatio sacerdotalis (dealing with the Ordination of women) as a document to be adhered to semper et ubique et ab omnibus - thus interestingly treating it as a directive for the future rather than as a diagnostic rooted in the past.

But the other Vincentian imperative ... his statement that development in Doctrine must be eodem sensu eademque sententia ... has been transformed, by iteration, into a central piece of the Magisterium. You will find it in Ineffabilis Deus, by which in 1854 S Pius IX defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. It appears in the Constitution of Vatican I Dei filius (at the end, just before the anathemas). S Pius X's Pascendi Dominici gregis repeats (para 28) these words of Dei filius in its treatment of Modernism, and the phrase was incorporated into the Anti-Modernist Oath taken by all clergy until 1967. After B John XXIII used it in his highly significant and programmatic Address at the start of Vatican II, it was repeated in Gaudium et spes (para 62), and B John Paul II, interestingly, extended its use from Dogmatic to Moral Theology in Veritatis splendor (para 53). And, if the Rule of Believing really is established by the Rule of Praying, then eodem sensu eademque sententia is right at the heart, not only of Vatican II, but also of the 'Spirit of Vatican II' as enunciated by the post-Conciliar liturgical changes: it is to be read each year in the Liturgia Horarum (Vol 4 p299) ... which cropped up only a couple of days ago. It is not surprising that our Holy Father cited these words in his programmatic Address to the Roman Curia in 2005.

If Vatican II, as Porta fidei tells us, is a tutissimus index for the future, then eodem sensu eademque sententia is in turn a tutissimus index for discerning the true meaning of the Conciliar documents and their role in the life of the Church.
Concluded.

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.

12 October 2012

TUTISSIMUS INDEX (2): eodem sensu eademque sententia

Right-thinking people do not commonly recommend reading of the Tablet, but today I wish to commend to you a letter printed there on December 14 1991, and written by John Finnis, Professor of International Law in this University. Or, rather, this post will extensively plagiarise his letter, so you may feel you need not bother to search it out.

Cardinal Hume had quoted the words of B John XIII at the opening of Vatican II:  "The substance of the ancient deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another". The cardinal went on to claim that this "was considered at the time to be quite controversial"; and the (now) Bishop of Guildford had, quite separately, claimed that these words caused "nervousness" in Rome and that by the time the pope's words were published in Acta Apostolicae Sedis six weeks later, they had been substantially changed, to something reactionary, 'curial', and objectionable. The Tablet, as you might expect, had weighed in with an editorial. Finnis with waspish elegance suggested that "A form critic would ... opine that behind both of these statements stand" words published by Peter Hebblethwaite in his biography of the beatus, and went on "The facts discoverable by anyone with access to a library are quite inconsistent with the grave allegation".

Professor Finnis pointed out that Osservatore Romano had printed, the very day after the Pontiff had spoken, his (Latin) words in the form in which AAS subsequently printed them, and my - perhaps imperfect - recollection is that John Finnis later secured clinching evidence from a radio recording that B John XXIII did indeed utter these words.

Which words? eodem sensu eademque sententia. Finnis translated the Latin text of the passage concerned as "This certain and unchangeable teaching, to which faith assent [or:submission] should be given, needs to be explored and expounded in the way our times call for. For the deposit of Faith, i.e. the truths which are contained in our venerable teaching, is one thing; another thing is the manner in which those truths are enunciated, keeping the same meaning and the same judgement [or: opinion]".

Hebblethwaite, I should explain to younger readers, was a former Jesuit who had cornered the narrative of that period and whose account continues even today to go the rounds, fuelling a hermeneutic of rupture with regard to Vatican II. You may have seen his wife being filmed by the TV cameras as the crowd outside S Peter's watched the white smoke rise from the chimney during the last conclave. She yelped in anguish as she realised that such a speedy end to the papal election could only mean that "Ratzinger has been elected".

Win some, lose some.
I hope next to trace the history of eodem sensu eademque sententia.

11 October 2012

TUTISSIMUS INDEX: (1) eodem sensu eademque sententia

The Holy Father, in his letter Porta Fidei, has described the Second Vatican Council as a tutissimus index, a profoundly safe pointer for our age (index means your index finger which you point with when giving directions; vernacular translations have employed the term compass .... readers may wonder whether this is quite the same thing). As we prepare for the Year of Faith, I suspect that many of us will be meditating upon what lies at the heart of the significance of Vatican II. An understanding of this is essential; for example, by using the phrase hoc tempus in the heading of Gaudium et spes the Council itself makes clear that much of the detail of that document will inevitably be of less immediate relevance in a world, fifty years later, whose problems were undreamed of a couple of generations before. Illud conciliare tempus non est hoc nostrum tempus! Amidst so much that is bound to be transient, where can we find the safe and enduring dogmatic heart of the Council? Its tutissimus index?

Pope Benedict XVI gave us a pretty tutus index here in his celebrated 2005 Discorso ai Membri della Curia. He referred us to and quoted from the Discorso d'apertura del Concilio of Blessed John XXIII, delivered on the Feast of the Maternity of our Lady, October 11 1962. But ... what did Blessed John actually say? Here there is a most lamentable confusion which is still extant and which is even perpetuated and accentuated by - it appears - current Vatican employees. Let me explain ... even if this does take me into some intricacies.

I presume that the authentic text of the Holy Father's Address to his Curia, since I cannot find a Latin version, was delivered in Italian. In this version, he cites the words of Papa Roncalli about expressing the Faith in ways adapted to our own time, concluding, as Pope John did, with the phrase conservando ad esse tuttavia lo stesso senso e la stessa portata. In the original Latin of Pope John, this is eodem tamen sensu eademque sententia.  But the English version of Pope Benedict's quotation from Pope John concludes "The substance of the ancient doctrine of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another ..." In other words, the quotation is cut short in such a way (after "another ...") as to imply that Pope John did not say eodem sensu eademque sententia. Then, after  those quotation marks, the English quotation continues retaining the same meaning and message. This is indeed, in my view, a fairish, if not particularly good, rendering of eodem sensu eademque sententia. But the point is that the English translator implies .... and presumably thought ... that those words were not part of Pope John's original text but had been added by Pope Benedict.


It then becomes clear why the English translator has made this rather significant and profoundly deplorable mistake.  In brackets, he gives his source: "(The Documents of Vatican II, Walter M. Abbott, S.J., p 715)". Abbott's English translation of the Conciliar documents was what my generation put upon its bookshelves. But here, Abbott is not giving an accurate rendering of the Latin. In fact, Abbott omitted the words eodem sensu eademque sententia from his rendering of what the Pope had actually said. I think, I hope, that I should blame the English translator of Pope Benedict's words for simple error rather than for conspiracy. Here is what must have happened.

He had, on his bookshelf as I do on mine, Abbott's yellowing little paperback, and he looked at that rather than bothering himself with Acta Apostolicae Sedis. But, in doing so, he has, as far as Anglophone readers are concerned, considerably muddied the waters for anybody who is trying to trace the lineaments and history of a phrase which is of very considerable Magisterial significance, and he has badly blunted the intended impact of the Holy Father's teaching with regard to the Second Vatican Council and the hermeneutic by which it should be understood.

I propose to deal next with the nefarious hand of Peter Hebblethwaite in constructing the 'liberal' narrative of what Pope John's Council was all about, and then, having cleared away the rubbish, to examine the history of eodem sensu eademque sententia from S Paul (en toi autoi noi kai en tei autei gnomei) down to the present day.

9 October 2012

Blessed John Henry Newman

Back from a wonderful trip; to the Shrine of Blessed John Henry, in Birmingham. You might think that just being in such a place on such a day as his Solemnity would be wonderful enough; but there is more to it than that. Just before First Vespers of the Solemnity, I was privileged to be invited to witness the reception of the Habit of S Philip by a former pupil of mine, Mr Andrew Wagstaff. And the next morning, the feast itself, I offered the Holy sacrifice.

Andrew and I go back quite some time. He was one of the very ablest of my theological students at Lancing; then he shone equally in the Theological Faculty in Oxford. He managed the serving at Pusey House in Oxford (I had the title of Senior Research Fellow there while I was priest in charge of S Thomas's); then he became a barrister. Now ... well, you see where it has all led. But I had better come clean about something else: a month ago I spent a week in the Birmingham Oratory, lending a very inadequate hand with the clerical work of the House. And what a welcoming, vibrant place it is; both in terms of the Fathers and Brothers, and of the congregation. (Ah, and Pushkin the Cat as well!) Youth and Enthusiasm mark both! There was a good congregation at the (Extraordinary Form) High Mass on the Sunday, at which I celebrated and preached. During some of the other Sunday Masses, a couple of which were packed out, I occupied a confessional; one of those nice Baroque confessionals, in which there is a sliding panel each side and as the penitent to your left departs, you slide the shutter back, heave over onto the right buttock, and hear the confession that side, thus rocking back and forth non-stop. The queues lasted until after the end of Mass.

Incidentally, you can find on the internet lovely pictures of the Ordination and First Mass of Fr Martin Stamnestroe in Oslo ... he is another former Anglican, another graduate of Pusey House. I remember happy days sitting in his study chatting and and admiring his superb collection of liturgical books. And there is the news of the profession of a new novice in the now formally erected Redemptorist community on Papa Stronsay, very dear friends of mine. No lack of signs of growth, at least as things seem from my viewpoint in the Church; and a fair bit of that growth seems to happen among the very able. Oh, and the Ordinariate's first two new home-grown seminarians are getting under way. We really do seem to be moving on from the arid years. Vivat Papa.

But back to the Birmingham Oratory. Fr Anton, the Parish Priest, very kindly made me free of 'the Cardinal's' study (with adjacent chapel). Little discoveries can be as satisfactory as large ones; we all know that on Monday December 3, Newman left Oxford for the foreign travels which led him to Sicily, serious illness, and the writing of Lead kindly light. The day before, he preached a University Sermon which could be regarded as the start of the Catholic Revival in the Church of England. But what was he doing on the preceding Saturday? I can now reveal the Truth. He was shopping ... for books. Devout tomes? Deary me, No. He bought a pocket copy of Thucydides; and one of Pindar. Isn't it a lovely mental picture; the slender, donnish, very English figure, sweat pouring down his face as he plodded round the bumps near Syracuse and traced (Thucydides in hand) the footprints of the ill-fated Athenian Expedition during the Peloponnesian War; then sitting in a cafe (I think I detected slight wine marks on some pages) and reading Pindar's mannered encomia upon the equestrian victories of Sicilian rulers in the Games.

Newman once said, I think, that he could never be a saint; because he loved literature too much. But Classicists, evidently, can become saints!

How very fortunate the inhabitants of Birmingham (and its surrounding areas) are, to have such a wonderful shrine in their midst; to be able to go to Mass in such a flourishing and well-run church. And one with such a large car-park behind it!