Friday, October 24, 2014

In Praise of Pedantry

 Captain Mainwaring offers some advice to Private Pike in the BBC comedy series Dad’s Army
After Pope S John Paul and Pope Benedict I was hoping for a pope who really resembled Captain Mainwaring, Dad's Army's bean-counting bank manager of Walmington-on-Sea, someone with absolutely no imagination, its what I think a pope should be: as dull as possible.

It is this that is being described by that wise old, he would love the adjective, pedant of the Ordinariate Fr Hunwicke, he quotes Professor Roberto de Mattei, "perhaps the greatest Church historian of our time". De Mattei points out that no Bishop of Rome was a innovator, "[I]t is one of the reproaches urged against the Church of Rome, that it has originated nothing, and has only served as a sort of remora or break in the development of doctrine. And it is an objection which I embrace as a truth; for such I conceive to be the main purpose of its extraordinary gift. ".

Fr Hunwicke goes on to point out: This is the selfsame Papacy, acting in precisely the same way, which gave Marcion the brush-off when he turned up in Rome in the 140s with his proto-Nazi claptrap. The condemnation of Marcionism is not weakened by the fact that it rested on no "Conciliar Mandate", or by the complete absence of any brilliant teaching document issued by some wonderfully clever Roman Pontiff. 

He ends up saying, "Very occasionally, a Pope is, in addition to being Pope, also an important Teacher. One thinks of Innocent III, Benedict XIV, Benedict XVI. Thank God for such rare and glorious exceptions, such uncovenanted coincidences. But they are not what the Papacy is about. At base, the Pope is just the man who goes around sticking into the ground the notices which say BEWARE OF MINES."

Enjoy! but the apposite section starts at 25:00


August said...

The Eastern Orthodox think the popes have been quite innovative. Whether the popes actually are or not, they are at least like a bright flame that attracts the innovative moths. From a structural standpoint, the Vatican is dangerous.

Mark said...

Is what de Mattei saying really an accurate reflection of papal history? Or it is a theory of the papacy projected back onto history? In order to agree with de Mattei, one would have to believe that the introduction of the Filioque into the Creed wasn't an innovation, and one would have to believe that the papal reformation of the 11th century wasn't an innovation. If one regards it as axiomatic that the papacy has never innovated, one will inevitably find some way of arguing that the Filioque (for example) wasn't an innovation. But, if one begins with the history rather than with the axiom, the picture is much less clear. The Newman / de Mattei / Hunwicke thesis sounds good in theory, but does it really stand up to close scrutiny?

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