Saturday, April 06, 2013
The Living Magisterium
Messy thing the Incarnation: it is all about nappies and bodilly fluids on the part of the Incarnate and worry and misunderstanding on those who love him. If only God became a set of ideas, rather than a person. I have been fascinated by the reaction of a few clerical bloggers and twitterers who either shocked or delighted by finding themselves in the "precarious class", the bottom one, of the BBC's class survey. I have always been amused that there actually exist one or two Catholic institutions that would refuse admittance to Jesus because he wasn't really the right class - not enough quarterings on his Father's side.
At times I am a little horrified by my own reaction to people: would it have been possible that if I lived in first century Palestine that I might have lost the chance of salvation simply because I had a predjudice against Gallilean's wth bad table manners, who had just too much of the odour of the fish market about them? The terrifying thing is that it is possible!
Protestants really have things much better than us, they believe in book, which can be translated, printed, edited and even bound exactly to their taste. We however believe in a person but who rather dangerously is brought to us by other people. "Whoever listens to you listens to me". Frightening!
I knew of a rather "refined" woman who having been received into the Church by a rather charming, well educated, aristocratic Irish priest, she promptly lapsed when he was replaced by a rather boorish and dull English one. She stayed lapsed for thirty years while he was in her parish, coming back only a few months before her death.
Being Catholic is about our relationship with the Church. What unites us to it is the theological virtue of Charity and therefore the recognition that we have no choice but to love - remember Jesus commands us to love, "I give you a New Commandment: Love on another". It is this commandment to love which is at the basis of a Catholic sense of Communion.
I had a conversation with a follower of the SSPX recently, it was late and I wasn't thinking clearly, his concern was that Rome was now demanding Bishop Fellay et al accept the "Living Magisterium". We could both agree on the meaning of "Magisterium". It is after all something tangible it can be found in various catechisms or Denziger, we had a problem with "Living Magisterium".
As important as doctrine is, merely accepting a list of proposition does not make one a Catholic. In fact many good Anglicans, who have not joined the Ordinariate but stayed in the Anglican Communion could do that with more understanding than many Catholics, but evidently they are not Catholics. What makes a person Catholic is communion with Bishops in Communion with the Pope and wanting to be in that Communion for love of Christ.
The precarious nature of Catholicism is that everything depends on an obedient filial love (even if one loathes or disagrees violently with them) of the Pope and those bishops in Communion with him. The Magisterium cannot be treated by Catholics as Protestants treat the Bible. We must treat it as something which "is being" passed on and therefore something living, rather than something which "was once" passed on and therefore is now dead.
The Apostolic Faith, the Living Magisterium, comes from the Bishops in Communion with the Pope, they and those in Communion with them are the possessors of it, it exists in their communion, rather than as something separate from them. It comes from their Apostolicity, rather than being found on a library shelf in a book.
This is the difference between the Magisterium as some object and something alive within the Church. Thus whether the Pope wears red or black shoes, is ascetic like Pius V or a blackguard like Alexander VI, it is in him and those Bishops in Communion with him where we find the Living Magisterium, apart from him it is something dead, the home of bookworms and experts, beetles and historians.
The problem for the SSPX (and Protestantism) is the objectivaction of the Magisterium and seperating from the life of the Church, it is a heresy that springs from regarding the teaching of Christ as something that can be contained on a printing page rather than something which is lived and living.
In the messiness of the Incarnation the Living Magisterium is to be found in the prejudices, myopia, stupidity, folly, sin, ineffectuality, even infidelity and heresy of the Apostolic college - if I were God I would do things differently but I am not - thank God!
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