16 December 2017

The Curia Romana (2)

It is well-known that in the early centuries of the Church, the Bishop was the Sacramental centre of his Particular Church, and its Teacher who, assisted by the Holy Spirit, preserved and articulated the authentic teaching which that Church had received. But it seems that the presbyterium was the administrative body, the committee which took decisions, the body of men to whom the bishop turned for their consent before he even felt free to absolve a penitent or ordain a subdeacon. And this seems to have been very true in Rome. There are historians who believe that the Roman Church was, for centuries, governed by its presbyters and entirely lacked a 'monarchical Bishop'. I do not believe this theory, but the evidence upon which it is based does indicate the significance of the Roman presbyters. When a letter had to be sent to Corinth to sort out the disorders in the Church there, the earliest document we have of the exercise of a disciplinary Primacy by Rome, it was not sent in the name of the Bishop. Indeed, it has been argued that S Clement was not so much the Bishop/Pope, but just the presbyter in charge of correspondence! Again, I do not accept this, but, again, the fact that such an argument has been deployed does indicate the significance of the Presbyteratus Romanus. A little later, we have the account by Pope Cornelius of how a previous pope had begged for the favour of being allowed to ordain a particular presbyter who had been vetoed by the clergy and many of the laity; and Tertullian's (imaginative and scathing) account of Pope Callistus imploring the consent of the fraternitas to be allowed to absolve an adulterer. The Church of those centuries saw itself as corporate in a way that we find hard to imagine. Take the earliest letter to the Roman Church after S Paul's, the letter of S Ignatius: it does not actually mention a bishop; it is the Church which is said to preside (Kathemene). Nor does the passage in S Irenaeus which is our earliest evidence for the idea of the Roman Church as the locus par excellence of authentic doctrinal teaching contra haereses, locate that role specifically in the Pope, but in the Church. It all amounts, of course, to the precisely same thing; if Rome teaches authentic doctrine, and if its bishop is the ecclesiatical organ which enunciates that authentic teaching of the Roman Church ... well, Bob's your uncle. But these facts do bring me back to my initial point: Jorge Bergoglio is nothing; the Bishop of Rome is everything. Papa Bergoglio is Episcopus Romanus in et cum Ecclesia Romana. He is not a vagans.

My conclusion is the same as it was at the end of my first part. The Curia Romana is a body of theological significance. If I wished, in the time-honoured style of this University, to set a spoof quotation as an essay question, "Papa sine Curia Papa nullus: discuss" might occur to me ... and I would give deltas to those who argued in favour of or against the tag ... and better marks to those who subdivided their propositions and came out somewhere in the middle.
To be concluded.


Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Dear Father. ABS was on a flight back from Maine to Florida and he was reading The Roman Catechism and this particular passage was both eye-opening for his own self but also as it may or may not pertain to certain prelates in Rome whom often seem suffused with anger and bitterness when novelties are resisted.

Signs Of Spiritual Resurrection

The principal signs of this resurrection from sin which should be noted are taught us by the Apostle. For when he says: If you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, he distinctly tells us that they who desire to possess life, honour, repose and riches, there chiefly where Christ dwells, have truly risen with Christ.

When he adds: Mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth, he gives, as it were, another sign by which we may ascertain if we have truly risen with Christ. As a relish for food usually indicates a healthy state of the body, so with regard to the soul, if a person relishes whatever things are true, whatever modest, whatever just, whatever holy, and experiences within him the sweetness of heavenly things, this we may consider a very strong proof that such a one has risen with Christ Jesus to a new and spiritual life.

Marko Ivančičević said...

Well, i would say, episcopus sine presbyteratu, episcopus nullus. And by extension, Episcopus/Pontifex Romanus sine presbyteratu Romano, E/P. R. nullus, because Curia is Curia, but presbyterate isn't in confined to the Curia.

Presbyterate seems to me more organic and broader than the Curia, although, since it has existed it was a part of the Presbyterate.

The notion of the Church as a corporate entity exemplified in those examples you provided is something i like very much. It brings about a good balance between the authority of the pastor and him being attentive to the needs of sheep.

Adrian Furse said...

that sounds dangerously like the via media to me, Fr. How patrimonial

Randolph Crane said...

I will have to disagree absolutely and whole-heartedly.

If a bishop doesn't have a presbyterate, or a deaconate, that doesn't make his orders invalid. If he is a canonically consecrated bishop, then he is a canonically consecrated bishop. Just think of the Bishops at the Curia who don't even have a real diocese because it stopped to exist 1420 years ago. Or think of the assistant bishops in a diocese who also don't have a real diocese (it's more like the actual bishop has granted them refuge, and in turn they now assist him). And think of the mission bishops who are the very epitome of a "ep.us vagans". That would perhaps mean that S. Wynfreth Bonifacius was not a true bishop after all.

It was one of the great controversies if the 15th century, whether the Pope was part of the Church, whether he could exercise his authority as individual, or whether he PLUS the Curia were both "together" Pope. As far as I know, it has been decided that a) the Pope is part of the Church and doesn't stand above her, although his situation is somewhat peculiar; and b) it is him alone who is Pope, without the Curia.

I think we need to go back to the beginning of the orders. The bishop was the original High Priest of his diocese; he then appointed presbyteroi as his assistants because he couldn't be everywhere at the same time. The diakonoi were the ones caring for the poor and sick and the finances. It is clear that the presbyterium can only have supportive and advisory functions, as it is still today. The Curia can advise the Pope, but it is him who makes the final decision. Even his infalliblity is ex sese and not ex consensu Ecclesiæ.

If all cardinals inside and outside of Italy, along with all priests and deacons would die in a tragic air plane crash, the Pope would still be Pope. It is through his grace that anyone is anyone, not the other way around.

Also one has to keep in mind that the Curia was a relatively late invention.