Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Beautiful?, Hillarious, and Sophistical Defense of the Papacy

Now I think it's pretty much an article of the Roman Church that the Papacy was instituted by Christ and always existed though it developed into the wonderful benevolent dictatorship it is today. But lots of liber- I mean historians say that the early Roman Church was actually ruled by presbyters and was all about peace, love, grooviness and women's ordination etc. This is the usual protestant and liberal Catholic story.

The other day I was reading a review of Eamon Duffy's book on the Papacy, and thought it would be orthodox as he pretty much destroyed the notion that people in England wanted Protestantism with his classic "The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England: 1400-1580". A great book I've had to read parts of for multiple courses on popular piety etc. Anyway his papacy book basically said the same Protestant thing that the Papacy/Universal Roman Bishopric was an innovation. Now as someone who has done no study of the issue beyond the basics I was a bit shaken.

But I was in Chapters (think Canadian Barnes and Noble) and picked up a book by a guy named Gary Wills called "Why I Am A Catholic" who described Newman's and his view of the Papacy (I think he attributed it to Waugh as well).

He said that the Ven. Cardinal saw Matt. 16:18 as a PROPHETIC statement about what would develop over time. So it was divinely prophesied by Christ even if it didn't really exist in the beginning.

That was the highest level of sophistry I'd ever seen haha. It's like when Presbyterians tell you "Justified by works and not by faith alone" means "justified before men". You just have to laugh as such a painful eisegesis (whatever the one is where you force your interpretation into the text).

But I thought about it for a second and laughed. Genius, really. I mean it's just the ultimate way of making whatever happens the fullfilled prophecy of Christ.

I need to study the history of the papacy some more (i'm hoping to get Steve Ray's "Upon This Rock") but in the mean time I feel strangely ok with that ultraliberal sophistical interpretation. I feel like the Emperor who said to Luther of the papacy 'divine or human in origins still it stands'. And from a post-modern legitimacy argument, you can't beat it for church organization and unity.


  1. A better book to get on the Papacy, would be "Studies on the Early Papacy" by Dom Jon Chapman

  2. I'll have to check that out. I know Dom Bede Griffiths did one that was fairly good as well but I haven't read it either.