Monday, December 03, 2012
An Authority We Do Not Possess
What makes me a Catholic?
It is surely that I adhere to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Faith; in short the faith handed on to, by and from the Apostles.
The Apostles were the first witnesses of Jesus Christ, they in turn handed on their "ministry" to others to have "epi-scope" (oversight) of the Church. Today we call those who exercise this oversight Bishops, and Priests who in scriptural terms are the successors of the Presbyters.
This "oversight" was to do what the Apostles themselves had done: to govern the Church through "word and sacrament". Unlike the Apostle, bishops and priests, though their successors lack one vital element: that of being "first witnesses to the Resurrection". The role of a bishop is not to introduce new doctrine but to ensure the passing on of the Apostolic Faith, without addition or subtraction.
Though in the East there might be grave concern over a Western sense of the "development" of doctrine, both East and West believe that although there is degree of legitimate adaptation to time and place the main role of the bishop is to hand on that which they have received from the Apostles to the next generation.
The ancient Churches all believe what has been given to one generation has to in turn be passed on to the nest, this what is meant by "Tradition", nothing added, nothing removed!
Deacon Nick reports various "calls to Obedience" springing up in England and Wales, following on from Ireland, Austria etc. The American National Catholic Reporter, the US Tablet, has decided to come out in favour of women's ordination.
At the root of this disobedience is a claim to an authority to do something which the Church simply does not have. Protestant communities might indeed think they can do anything, ordain who they wish or change doctrine at will or whim, the ancient Churches understand their power is very limited. We are God's servants not his masters, though we have authority to change bread into the Body and Blood of Christ or forgive the most horrendous sins and although we can open the gates of heaven itself, our authority is limited. We cannot even for the most pastoral reasons substitute rice cakes for bread or sake for wine in the Eucharist or change the words of Baptism from those given in St Matthews Gospel.
Pope John Paul's teaching on the ordination of women, was not his own, and therefore something that can be changed or challenged, it wasn't in that sense "positive" teaching but simply stating, as he said, "the Church has no authority" to ordain women. It is the same answer all the Patriarchs of the ancient Churches would given had they been asked.
Again, it is my contention that those "Liberals" who so energetically want to break with tradition, are in fact modern Ultramontanists, they actually want the Church to claim an authority it does not possess and has no right to claim. These movements are obsessed by "the Church", they want to exalt the Church above any position given to it by the image of any renaissance or Counter Reformation Pope, the only parallels are those mad nineteenth century French Jesuits, who went completely over the top on Papal Infallibility.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake