Thursday, August 03, 2006

A Clarification of the Doctrinal Meaning of Reformation in the Early 16th c.

What I find strange about the almost uncritical connection many Protestants and Anglicans still make between the doctrines of the Lutheran movement and the idea of reform in the Church is the fact that the theological antecedents to Lutheranism were already condemned nearly a century earlier, not by a triumphalist papacy, but by the conciliarist reform council of Constance. If you were an orthodox churchman in the first half of the 16th c., whether you were a reformer (not to be confused with Evangelical) or a staunch curialist, you regarded Wycliffe and Huss simply as notorious heretics condemned by the very spirit of reform which saw the elimination of heresy as one goal in the renewal of the Church. Even the reformed and anti-scholastic chancellor of the University of Paris, Jean de Gerson - admired by Luther - unquestioningly joined in the prosecution and condemnation of Huss. It must have seemed to many if not most of Luther’s contemporaries that he was suggesting the outrageous idea that heresy can accomplish reformation. They, of course, saw these things as antithetical. Their reasoning was that reform meant not a change in doctrine but a return to authentic practice based upon the orthodox doctrine of the Church.

What we fail to perceive after four centuries of denominational fracturing, conflict and now dialogue, modernism, historical consciousness, etc. is the absurdity and revulsion with which the suggestion of a change in doctrine would have been met at the end of the Middle Ages.

25 comments:

dmartin said...

Your comments are true. Without the backing of the German Prince's there would have been no Luther and no Protestant Reformation. I believe that a Reformation had been and was continuing to take place but through the slow yet proper channels. Luther would have been nothing more than another defrocked priest if the German's didn't want to get out of their "taxes" to Rome. They saw their way out and took it. And it worked well for the German hierarchy but broke and splintered the Church.

Thomas said...

It is interesting to meditate on the fact that catholic reformers were unambiguously hostile to "evangelical" heresy a century prior to Luther.

You are right that Luther was initially just one more voice calling for reformation among others. Even his appeal to an ecumenical council had become so common leading up to Lateran V that it was outlawed by the Pope. The reforming tradition in fact goes back at least to the restoration of the Roman Papacy at the end of the 14th c. Since then it had varying regional success. The reformation of Spanish Catholicism was very influential on the Council of Trent.

Interesting Facts:

Most of Luther’s criticisms of the late medieval indulgence trade had already been made. One of its critics was none other than Cardinal Cajetan himself.

The 95 Theses – contrary to the myth of All Hallow's Eve 1517 – were written for academic disputation not as a charter of the Protestant Reform.

The 95 Theses actually first drew the ire of certain Dominicans in Germany not for its criticism of the abuse of indulgences (Tetzel) but for certain statements regarding Papal power.

The 95 Theses recognizes, within certain limits, the Papacy, indulgences and purgatory.

Minus a few blemishes, the 95 Theses is a Catholic document and had Luther not allowed his very effective early critics to radicalize him, it might be regarded today by the Catholic Church as a monument to the reform which lead up to Trent.

melvinmelvin said...

I would be careful about calling Gerson anti-scholastic.

Thomas said...

melvinmelvin,

Maybe "anti-scholastic" is too general. He certainly anticipated much of the latter humanist and protestant criticm of the various divisions and conflicts plaugeing late medieval university theology.

melvin2melvin said...

First, anti-scholastic is way to general.

Second, you also refer to Gerson as "reformed." What can this possibly mean. Do you mean that he is Calvinist. You could not possibly mean that since he lived prior to the "Reformation." Do you mena he was a proto-Calvinist. Clearly you could not mean this either. Do you mean that a conciliarist was reformed? Are you advocating conciliarism? Or are you suggesting that he was personally reformed, which if you are, who cares (other than God of course).

I have always been suspicious of these anticipation theories of Ozment and others. The anticipation is so superficial as not to merit serious study. So did St. Thomas anticipate Hitler because he liked order? Or did St. Augustine anticipate Freud because he believed in the power of concupiscience. These "anticipations" as so facile. Absurd.

Nor do I think that he anticipated Protestant criticisms of scholasticism.

I am not entirely convinced that "various divisions and conflicts" were "plaugeing" late medieval university theology. This is to entirely buy into a certain interpretation of Medieval theology. For what is relevant to later Medieval theology is certianly relvent to earilier. That is to say the theological program of St. Thomas was certainly caused a conflict. St. Bonaventure himself was not particularly happy with it. Moreover, The "division" as you style it was not entirely bad after all there are 33 doctors of the church from various schools. Many of which are at odds with each other (even if not over doctrine but for that matter most nominalists were die hard catholics whose general objections to elements of the Catholic faith were in the philosophical order not the doctrinal) That is if you think of late Medieval objections to transubstantiation they were in the philosophical order. Some nominalists basically argued that it was philosophically absurd but were in the next breath to affirm it as a matter of faith.

Thomas said...

melvin2melvin,

Gerson was certainly not a Calvinist. My point is precisely that the terms ‘reformed’ or ‘reforming’ are not necessarily linked to the theology of the Lutheran movement or its late medieval antecedents. In other words, if we are going to be historically objective, we must learn to separate in our minds the vast 15th & 16th c. reform movement in general from the particular theological agenda of the Protestant Reformers. Also, there is a habit in popular Protestant literature of looking for the background to the 16th c. reform in figures such as Wycliffe and Huss. This is extremely historically myopic since there was a vast reforming movement starting in the 14th c. and moving through the 15th c. and early 16th c. among orthodox Churchmen. And frankly had it not been for the late medieval (Renaissance) Papacy, which seriously retarded its progress (initially), this mainstream reform movement would likely have diffused the forces which (possibly) inevitably lead to the Lutheran revolt.

Conciliarism – despite its latter condemnation (though some dispute it) – was a program of reform. The council of Constance called for regular meetings of an ecumenical council to carry out the ordinary governance of the universal Church, which included oversight of the pope. The awareness of the need for reform in the Church did not begin with Luther. The expression “head and members” can be traced back to the 14th c. It also issued decrees concerning clerical education, residence, etc. (and in this it anticipated both Lateran V and Trent). I am not advocating Conciliarism. I am simply observing that those who were zealous for reform (and who were also not Papal patsies – in fact Gerson and others of the time have some very sobering things to say about the origin, power and place of the Papacy) were is no sense proto-Lutherans. There is no essential connection between the spirit of reform and the evangelical doctrines of the 16th c.

Gerson’s criticisms of 14th c. scholasticism were similar in certain respects to the criticisms made by the later humanists and protestant reformers.

As for late medieval theology, you are right that there are different interpretations of the character of the period (Gilson, Oberman, etc.). As a pretty convinced Thomist, however, I favor Gilson’s theory of a general decline (which is essentially Unklarheit), and which happily lends itself to a critical interpretation of the roots of the Reformation.

-Thomas

melvin2melvin said...

Thomas,

Frist, Unklarheit? Really? This again is an absurd theory. As you seem to portray it, it is fundamentally problematic from a Catholic perspective. In fact many "pretty convinced Thomists" when they this discuss this matter confuse essentially two orders. The first is the order of theology, that is to say the explication, systematic or otherwise (depending on the theological system to which one is adhering), with the order of faith, i.e. doctrines of holy mother church. The theory, whether Gilsonian or Lortzian (these really piggybacked each other) fails to make this essential distinction. So if one looks at "the general decline" one might be correct with respect to the order of theology but not with respect to the order of faith. If Unklarheit existed in the order of faith it is difficult to understand why Luther protested and why there was a vigorous papal response (both of which assume no or little unklarheit). Moreover, the facile interpretation of Luther that he did not understand "true Thomism" is not to the point since he opposed things in both orders. That is he attacked bad theological justifications of Catholic doctrine but also the doctrine itself. Both Eck and Cochlaeus seemed convinced there was no fundamental unklarheit infecting the church. Moreover, in the order of faith what one sees is that the early respondants to Martin Luther were not all thomists in fact many of them had been adherents of the via moderna. Moreover, Luther seems to have opposed several thomistic opinions (although where he got these from is another matter.)

You write, "Conciliarism – despite its latter condemnation (though some dispute it) – was a program of reform." This can not be seriously maintained. If it is condemned it not a theory of reform. This is like saying that the albigensians were reforms. If you look at the lives of the perfecti what one sees are lives that are radically holy (at least in appearance). The reason why they are not turly reformed is because they hold corrupt doctrine. Thus there are principles at work in albigensianism as in conciliarism which can not be called reformed. Again this is to look at the superficial not the essential (any good Thomist should love this distinction). Hence it can not be said that the conciliarists are any more "reformed" than albigensians or Lutherans."

Thomas said...

melvin2melvin,

You wrote: “Frist, Unklarheit? Really? This again is an absurd theory.”

Correct me is I am wrong, but wasn’t the council of Trent the first ecumenical council to define the nature of justification? Granted, the theology of justification which it taught had been in existence for some time and is essentially the Thomistic one in which justification is framed in terms of the efficient, formal (infused) and final cause. It also made certain clarifications designed to distance the Catholic understanding from Pelagianism, on the one hand, and Lutheranism on the other. Does this not, however, amount to a crossing of the categories of which you wrote (i.e. faith & theology)? And it is not like there was only one view of justification prior to the Council. The Dominican, the Franciscan, the Augustinian views were different. It seems to me that Trent “clarified” the exact position of the Roman Church with respect to the nature of justification.

You wrote: “If [Conciliarism] is condemned it not a theory of reform.”

My point was not to identify conciliarism with “reformed” Catholicism. Rather, I am saying that the main contributors to the Council of Constance, such as Gerson, saw the Council as an opportunity not only to resolve the Papal schism, but to reform the life of the Church in general and yet never flinched in their repudiation of Wycliffe and Huss (i.e. obviously they did not feel that a change in doctrine was necessary in the reform of the Church). I am not saying that Gerson was a conciliarist; however, the Council of Constance is still counted as an ecumenical council and it happened to endorse conciliarism.

I am not certain what your problem is exactly with the basic observation I am making which is that the call for reform predated the Reformation and in certain parts of Christendom was fulfilled without any need for the theology of Luther.

melvin2melvin said...

Thomas,

You write, "Correct me is I am wrong, but wasn’t the council of Trent the first ecumenical council to define the nature of justification?" The answer to this question is yes but it is the wrong question. That is to say you should be asking is this the first magisterial statment on justification and the answer to this would be no. Recall that the subject, as the scholastics would call it, of the magisterium is not just a council but but also the pope, and the bishops when dispersed throughout the world teach in union with the pope. Or perhaps you have read to much conciliarist theology.

It did not really make certain statements to distance itself from Pelagian thought it simply incorporated preexisting statements of the magisterium into Trent.

Your write concerning the five causes "Does this not, however, amount to a crossing of the categories of which you wrote (i.e. faith & theology)?" You should be more careful about what is going on at the Council.This explanation is not an adoption of Thomistic explanations of justification. It is simply an adoption which even the Franciscans recognized. Recall that the franciscans were more numerous than the Dominicans and were not about to let the Doms simply define their schools view.

There was no inherent ambiguity in the Church's teaching on justification. Think about what you are saying. This turths defined by trent as de fide that is to say they are revealed truths. What one would have to say then is that the magisterium essentially did not understand a revealed truth. Moreover, the council father, from all schools (not withstanding Seripando and Contarini), were virtually unanimous in aggreement on the issue from the start. If they were not how could they have come to a decision. How was it so easy for a couple of Jesuits to foil the plans of some Cardinals and papal legates who support dubious views of justification. The teory of unklarheit does not accoutn for any of this.

You write, "I am not saying that Gerson was a conciliarist;" He was.

"however, the Council of Constance is still counted as an ecumenical council and it happened to endorse conciliarism." Did it? You might want to find out how much of this council is accepted by the currect magisterium and reformulate your response.

You write, "I am not certain what your problem is exactly with the basic observation I am making which is that the call for reform predated the Reformation and in certain parts of Christendom was fulfilled without any need for the theology of Luther." I have not problem with your thesis just with your arguments used to support it. Think about what you are saying in your other arguments and see how it corresponds with your thesis. You state that the church did not need Luther to reform itself and then you say that there was unklarheit in doctrine. If there was this fundamental lack of clarity then we apparently did need Luther to remind the Catholic church of dotrines that it once held. Luther's whole point was not to reform the moral life of the Church, which in any event he thought was impossible,it was essentially to reform doctrine. In fact this is how Luther always distinguished himself from all other "reformers" he was about doctrine (faith) and they were about the moral life, theology, etc.

Melvin rocks!!!!!!!!

Thomas said...

melvin2melvin,

I do not know how you got the strange idea that I am a conciliarist. You are correct in saying that the Papal magisterium repudiated the concilarist decree of Constance (Haec sancta). However, the Council itself promulgated this decree. Thus historically, the Council of Constance is a conciliarist Council. I am a Roman Catholic, so I am not bound by the teaching of a council that does not ultimately have Papal approbation. But let’s be honest about what happened. We accept the line of Popes chosen for us by the authority of the same Council that decreed to limit the power of the Popes by subordinating them to the universal jurisdiction of a lawfully assembled ecumenical council. Perhaps that strange fact can help us to appreciate the skepticism of our Protestant brethren.

As for Luther’s role leading up to the Tridentine decree on justification, clarifications in Church teaching have almost always, if not always, been precipitated by challanges to the traditional interpretations of divine truth. Perhaps you could speculate that were it not for the Lutheran movement, the Council of Trent – like the Fifth Lateran Council – would have restricted itself to moral and institutional reform measures rather than disputed points of theology. But this is far from saying that authentic reform required a change in doctrine.

You wrote: “It did not really make certain statements to distance itself from Pelagian thought it simply incorporated preexisting statements of the magisterium into Trent.”

With the advent of Lutheranism, the Church came face-to-face with what could be called the extreme opposite of Pelagianism. In other words, the extreme limits of Christian soteriology finally emerged as marked by Pelagianism on one end and Lutheransim on the other. Interestingly the formative period in Western Catholic theology falls between the full appearance of these two extremes. The conciliar text (session VI) reflects an emerging awareness of the middle position Catholic soteriology must take.

As to the nature of justification, perhaps it is too strong to describe the teaching of the Council as formally Thomistic. Nevertheless, the influence of the Angelic doctor over the Council is not disputed. What, in your opinion, does the Council of Trent say about infused habits of grace? This was a disputed point between the ‘via antigua' and the ‘via moderna' prior to the Council, was it not? It certainly had much to do with Luther’s early criticisms of scholastic theology (Heidelberg Disputation 1517).

melvin2melvin said...

You write, "let’s be honest about what happened. We accept the line of Popes chosen for us by the authority of the same Council that decreed to limit the power of the Popes by subordinating them to the universal jurisdiction of a lawfully assembled ecumenical council."
There are two points to be made about this the first is doctrinal and the second historical.

Doctrinal - By definition a council can not do this nor was it ever able to do this. The point is that no council is able to subordinate a pope to a council. Beside Councils do not have "universal jurisdiction", as you style it, according to Vatican I only the pope does.

Historical - The council didn ot actually elect the pontiff. A conclave was held begining of Nov 9 and ending on nov. 11, 1417. It is true that the council decided how the conclave would be conducted procedurally but that is not the same thing as deciding who the pontiff is. You may note the council did not pronounce judgement against Gregory XII (Roman line) but only John and Benedict.

You write, "But this is far from saying that authentic reform required a change in doctrine." I am not sure what you mean by this an think you did not understand my argument. My point in the previous post is that Luther's whole protest was a protest against doctrine. It was not any other type of "reform." As I pointed out, Luther did not care for the other types of Reform (morals etc.) Given that his reform was a doctrinal one, i.e. he opposed what he took to be the teaching of the church there can not have been all that much unklarheit on the level of faith. The catholic reaction in the years prior to Trent demonstrate this fact. Even in the discussions at Trent virtually no one had a big problem with what was ultimately defined precisely because they took this as already settled in what we would now call the ordinary universal magisterium.

You write, "The conciliar text (session VI) reflects an emerging awareness of the middle position Catholic soteriology must take."
Again there is a historical problem. This is not the first time that this issue had been raised. It was faought out in the Patristic period immediately after Augustine and was fought out again in the Medieaval period, albeit in a slightly different form but it is still the opposite reaction from Pelagius.
Besides are you really suggesting that Luther showed up and then all the sudden the church said, "oh I see we are the middle way." Just read Exsurge Domine and see that Luther's doctrines were rejected from the beginning. Moroever it can not be an "emerging position" since if one reads Aquinas one sees the doctrinal content of Trent asserted as doctrine. Thomas does not propose it tentatively as a hyposthesis but qua doctrine as does Bonaventure for that matter.

You write, "the influence of the Angelic doctor over the Council is not disputed." You must be kidding right? Not disputed. Aquinas is mentioned in the debates of the Council but he is mentioned far less that Augustine and only marginally more thatn Ambrose and slighlty more than Bernard.

"What, in your opinion, does the Council of Trent say about infused habits of grace? This was a disputed point between the ‘via antigua' and the ‘via moderna' prior to the Council, was it not?" Here again you must be assuming that the via antiqua is in fact the same as Thomism. When in fact the via antiqua was much broader than this and included Bonaventure and the Augusitnian school etc.

Lastly, it is not correct to characterize the via antiqua and the via moderna on doctrinal grounds. These are more appropriate philosophical differences. After all there are all sorts of Augustinians who were members of the via antiqua. That is to say they were committed to essentially thomistic doctrines of grace and non thomistic philosophical principles. So the question of infused habits can not be resolved by either articfically dividing up late medieaval theology or by pointing out this single issue.

This is what I call non-Thomistic thomism. The followers of St. Thomas generally are content to reduce late Medieval theological problems to a rejection of the Thomistic theology and philosophy. Gilson encouraged this much it has little to back it up with respect to hisotrical theology. Any theory must account for the facts. Fact one. All sorts of via moderna adherents were violent theological opponents of Luther.
Fact two. The response to Luther on the part of the magisterium demonstrates no unklarheit.
Fact three. The response of the controversialists to Luther show no unklarheit.
Fact four. Many of the dominicans trained in the via antiqua in Germany defected to Luthranism. If a proper understanding of Thomism is essential not to be hoodwinked into Lutheranism then why does this happen? They could have all packed up and moved south and continued the fight but do not.

Melvin the destroyer!!!!

dmartin said...

Melvin seems to be a little bit full of himself:

"Melvin rocks!!!!!!!! "


"Melvin the destroyer!!!!"

I didn't realize this was a contest. Are you a theologue? I am interested in the debate but without the caustic attitude.

melvin2melvin said...

dmartin,

Not full of myself, just having fun. Read it in that spirit. I expect "Thomas the Slain" to do the same. Notice I do not interject too much of this in the argument.

melvin2melvin said...

What is a "theologue"?

melvin2melvin said...

I should clarify what is a "theologue" as you use it.

dmartin said...

Melvin,
I am using the word theologue with a negative connotation, rather than its natural meaning, which is basically a student of theology. Instead I am using it in a derogartory way. I am using it in the sense of someone who uses theology for knowledge and argument rather than for spiritual purposes.

melvin2melvin said...

How do you know that I am not using it for spiritual purposes? You can not so why would you make such an accusation. Everyone on these blogs always seems so knowledgeable about other people's intent. After all based on your post I am to assume that your intent is good and certainly you could protest that it is but that does not change the fact that I do not "know" that it is.

It is, after all, a maxim of St. Ignatius that "it should be supposed that every good Christian ought to be more eager to put a good interpretation on a neighbor's statement than to condemn it. Further, if one cannot interpret it favorably, one should ask how the other means it. If that meaning is wrong, one should correct the person with love, and if this is not enough, one should search out every appropriate means through which, by understanding the statement in a good way, it may be saved."

But for the sake of argument lets say that I am acting in this way (which I am not) what does it matter. All that should matter is whether my argument is good; not whether I appear to others to be saintly or good. Aquinas did not care whether the particular Greek he was borrowing from was an unreformed homosexual, a baby killer (think Aristotle), or a pagan dog. For Aquinas the goal was the truth.

Moreover, it used to be common in Christianity both Catholic and Protestant to engage in disputations in which one argues proximately for the sake arguing. Remotely however the goal was to be better at it so when one actually confronts a real opponent one could actually hold one's ground which is a spirtual enterprise.

Now Thomas' conclusion was actually a good one; however, the arguments on which he bases it are seriously flawed.

dmartin said...

You are right. How did you intend your comments:

"Melvin rocks!!!!!!!! "

"Melvin the destroyer!!!!"

These, no the face, seem bragadocious, arrogant, and prideful. But, please, interpret them for me. What did you mean by them? I am not correcting your reasoning, but your presentation. St. Paul and St. John tells us to do everything in love and not boastful (1 Cor. 13). Tell me, were these comments loving? That is my point. Maybe the reason people rush to these sorts of judgements is because the writer makes it easy. Many a person can be won over with argumentation, but many more with patience and love. I'm sorry, but your comments and attitudes are coming over as arrogant. I will try to put the best possible spin on your comments from here on out, but it would be helpful if you were able to tone your "internet attitude" down.

dmartin said...

By the way, I never called you a theologue, I merely asked was this your intention, because your "internet etiquete" appeared as such.

Thomas said...

melvin2melvin,

You wrote: “By definition a council can not do this nor was it ever able to do this. The point is that no council is able to subordinate a pope to a council. Beside Councils do not have "universal jurisdiction", as you style it, according to Vatican I only the pope does.”

As ‘I’ style it? What are you talking about? I am simply reporting what Constance said. I am not suggesting that it is true. Why do you keep implying that I am a conciliarist? There is really no good response I can make to you as long as you keep muddling my position.

But I will make the following points:

It was certainly not immediately evident to all following the Council of Constance that its earlier decrees were null (despite the respect shown to the legates of Gregory XII). In fact, Martin V conceded to the Council of Pavia/Siena which met five years after Constance in accordance with the decree Frequens which was itself an extension of Haec sancta being a program of reform governed by regular meetings of ecumenical councils. The Council of Basil which also met in accordance with Frequens thought nothing of appealing to Haec sancta in its conflict with Eugene IV. Granted, doctrinal clarification came, but not when one would have expected it (i.e. Trent). Instead it had to wait until Vatican I.

melvin2melvin said...

Thomas,


You write, "As ‘I’ style it? What are you talking about?"

Read your own statement:

"We accept the line of Popes chosen for us by the authority of the same Council that decreed to limit the power of the Popes by subordinating them to the universal jurisdiction of a lawfully assembled ecumenical council."

Notice at the end of your comment you state, "subordinatiny then to the universal jurisdiction of a lawfully assembled ecumenical council." Ecumenical council's do not have universal jurisdiction so I do not accept this point (nor should you). Notice at the beginning you state "we accept." Only a concilarist would accept this (which, of course, I do not think you really are; but then you should be more careful about this type of language). If I muddled your position it is because it was not sufficiently clear.

You write, "Granted, doctrinal clarification came, but not when one would have expected it (i.e. Trent). Instead it had to wait until Vatican I." This is not true historically. Pius II issued the bull Exsecrabilis promulgated on January 18, 1460 “The execrable and hitherto unheard of abuse has grown up in our day, that certain persons, imbued with the spirit of rebellion, and not from a desire to secure a better judgment, but to escape the punishment of some offense which they have committed, presume to appeal to a future council from the Roman Pontiff, the vicar of Jesus Christ, to whom in the person of the blessed PETER was said: "Feed my sheep" [John 21:17], and, "Whatever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven" [Matt. 16:19]. . . . Wishing therefore to expel this pestiferous poison far from the Church of Christ and to care for the salvation of the flock entrusted to us, and to remove every cause of offense from the fold of our Savior . . . we condemn all such appeals and disprove them as erroneous and detestable.” DS 717. This was the death of conciliarism.

Thomas said...

You wrote: “Ecumenical council's do not have universal jurisdiction so I do not accept this point (nor should you).”

This statement is erroneous if taken in an unqualified sense. Of course ecumenical councils have universal jurisdiction. That is by definition the character of a universal council. The one condition is that there can be no ecumenical council without the approbation of the Apostolic See.

As for the Council of Constance, my point was that the authority of neither the Avignonese nor the Pisan Popes were recognized and that the Roman Pope was only nominally recognized as part of a compromise which saw his resignation as the necessary means to ending the schism. In better times the conciliarism of the first sessions of the Council would have eliminated it from orthodox memory – much like the Robber Synod of Ephesus. However, because of the compromised condition of Papal authority (i.e. no one could say for certain who the true Pope was) the same Council that openly espoused conciliarism (although it is granted that Haec sancta did not have the doctrinal force of the later Sacrosancta) was allowed to accept the resignation of the Roman Pope and take the necessary steps to elect a successor.

You wrote: “This was the death of conciliarism.”

The difference between ‘Exsecrabilis’ and ‘Pastor Aeternus’ requires very little explanation. The former is clearly a disciplinary decree limited in scope whereas the latter is a doctrinal one. In other words, given the developed formal decree on conciliarism at the latter sessions of Basil (Sacrosancta), Exsecrabilis is a poor refutation. In fact, Exsecrabilis had very little effect as a disciplinary injunction. Appeals to an ecumenical council continued to be made as evidenced by the unabashedly hopeful expressions of confidence in the reformatory power of an ecumenical council at the opening session of the Fifth Lateran Council. People in general continued to believe that councils - not Popes - would bring about a reform of the Church. For this reason, Luther wasn’t acting particularly heretical when he made an appeal to an ecumenical council. Rather, he was acting like many other reformers in the early 16th c.

I would characterize Exsecrabilis, not as the death blow to conciliarism – even St. Thomas More favored conciliarist ideas and it formed the basis to Gallicanism – but as a step forward in the late medieval and principally Dominican driven development of formal ecclesiological Papal supremacy.

melvin2melvin said...

Thomas,

You wrote, "You wrote (citing me): “Ecumenical council's do not have universal jurisdiction so I do not accept this point (nor should you).” This statement is erroneous if taken in an unqualified sense. Of course ecumenical councils have universal jurisdiction. That is by definition the character of a universal council. The one condition is that there can be no ecumenical council without the approbation of the Apostolic See."

Actually this statement is not erroneous if taken in an unqualified sense. Only one "subject" in the church has "universal jurisdiction" that is the Pope. This doctrine was defined at Vatican I. It does not matter in what sense one takes it in. The pope's jurisdiction is universal in three ways. First, it is universal geographically since there is no country, local church, or parish to which it does not extend. It is also universal as to object since it extends to all teachings on faith and morals but also to the discompose and government of the universal church.
Finally, it is universal as to subject, that is there is no one who falls outside the "jurisdiction" of the pontiff. The problem is that an ecumenical council is not universal as to subject since a council can not judge a Pope. if there is an exception that it cannot be an all call, i.e. universal. See the problem is that you used the phrase "universal jurisdiction" which in Catholic theology has a rather precise meaning.


"The difference between ‘Exsecrabilis’ and ‘Pastor Aeternus’ requires very little explanation. The former is clearly a disciplinary decree limited in scope whereas the latter is a doctrinal one." On what basis do you claim that this is "is clearly a disciplinary decree"? Pius' contemporaries would have been surprised to hear this.

You wrote, "Luther wasn’t acting particularly heretical when he made an appeal to an ecumenical council." Yes and No. It depends on which appeal you are talking about. When Luther called for a general council to resolve difficulties this is, as you correctly point out, common practice (hence St. Thomas More). But if you are talking about the appeal from Exsurge Domine then Luther was a heretic in this sense. Notice that St. Thomas More does not appeal from an existing decision of a Pontiff to a future Council.


What do you mean by St. Thomas More favored conciliarist ides. There is a far amount of literature on this and it is hardly conclusive.

jbrim said...

Methinks Melvin talks to much.

itiscuriousthat said...

Dear me....

Reading along I could not help but notice the blood smears - in fact -the massacre found over these comment posts.

Seriously though -

If you want to check out another melvin2melvin thrashing, follow the 47 comments in this link:

http://closedcafeteria.blogspot.com/2006/07/joint-declaration-on-justification.html

Melvin2melvin poses as the pseudonym "bonifatius" on that one.

Cheers Mates!