Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Part 2 - Engwer on Augustine and Roman Catholicism

Part 2 - Engwer, Augustine on Authority

Well, “Part 1” of this series was a total waste of time and disastrous for Mr. Engwer.  Let’s move on to “Part 2” - and the page which takes us to this part says it is (Part 2), but within the document it says “Part 4” so we’re obviously being bounced about within another response which is somewhat disjointed.

The Church, Authority, And Infallibility (Part 4): Augustine On Tradition And The Papacy

Some of what Augustine defined as catholic tradition is inconsistent with the tradition of Roman Catholicism. For example, he claims that the necessity of baptism for infant salvation is part of the Christian faith (On The Soul And Its Origin, 2:17). In contrast, Catholicism encourages people to "entrust them [unbaptized children] to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them" and "hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism" (Catechism Of The Catholic Church, 1261).

Finally!  Some primary source material to look at!  I have added links to the sources above, in case the reader would like to look at context.  Let us first state that even today a faithful Catholic could argue as St. Augustine did for infant baptism,  CCC 1261 merely states that we can only entrust their souls to the mercy of God.  It’s still God’s choice, salvation, damnation or the speculative “Limbo.”  

Now while clearly Mr. Engwer is trying to dig up inconsistencies (which he has yet to do), one has to question his support of St. Augustine - since, as I understand it, his denomination does not believe in infant baptism at all.

Augustine approvingly quotes Ambrose's comments to the effect that Jesus is the only immaculately conceived human, and he writes that Ambrose's view is consistent with "the catholic faith" (On The Grace Of Christ, And On Original Sin, 2:47-48). In contrast, Catholicism claims that Mary's immaculate conception is part of the faith always held by the church. Catholics often claim to agree with Augustine's principles of church authority, yet they reject some of the conclusions he arrived at through the application of those principles.

Again, the link above is added by me.  The actual quote is:
It was no cohabitation with a husband which opened the secrets of the Virgin's womb; rather was it the Holy Ghost which infused immaculate seed into her unviolated womb. For the Lord Jesus alone of those who are born of woman is holy, inasmuch as He experienced not the contact of earthly corruption, by reason of the novelty of His immaculate birth; nay, He repelled it by His heavenly majesty.
And the definition of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin is:
We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.
Note, the definition does not say the Blessed Virgin was wholly freed from Original Sin, but was preserved from the STAIN of Original Sin.  Jesus indeed was the only one who was born of a woman who was completely preserved from all sin.

As the Catholic patristic scholar Robert Eno noted in his comments I quoted in my last post, Augustine contradicted Catholicism by placing the authority of ecumenical councils above that of Roman bishops.

Mr. Engwer asserted this, but he didn’t document where St. Augustine actually said what Eno states.  So again we’re left with unsubstantiated claims which are nothing more than invalid assertions and I’m not going to do Engwer’s homework for him.  If this is a valid citation, let him come up with valid and verifiable sources.

Yet, Dave Armstrong writes:
Rather than cite the numerous Augustine utterances concerning Roman primacy, J. N. D. Kelly's assessment will suffice for our purposes:
It goes without saying that Augustine identifies the Church with the universal Catholic Church of his day, with its hierarchy and sacraments, and with its centre at Rome.
(Early Christian Doctrines, HarperSanFrancisco, revised edition of 1978, 412-413)
Here's what Kelly goes on to say, several pages later:
"At the same time there is no evidence that he was prepared to ascribe to the bishop of Rome, in his capacity as successor of St. Peter, a sovereign and infallible doctrinal magisterium. For example, when in his controversy with Julian of Eclanum he appealed to Innocent, his view was that the Pope was only the mouthpiece of truths which the Roman church had held from ancient times in harmony with other Catholic churches. Nor was he willing, in practical matters, to surrender one jot of the disciplinary independence of the African church which Cyprian had defended so stoutly in his day. The truth is that the doctrine of the Roman primacy played only a minor role in his ecclesiology, as also in his personal religious thinking." (Early Christian Doctrines [New York: Continuum, 2003], p. 419)

So, what Mr. Engwer and Armstrong have pointed out is J.N.D. Kelly is inconsistent in his assessment of St. Augustine.  You know, I’m OK with that!

Kelly compares Augustine's view to Cyprian's, something I've also done. In my 2008 article Dave was responding to, I cited a passage in Augustine (On Baptism, Against The Donatists, 2:2-4) that's inconsistent with Roman Catholic ecclesiology. In that passage, Augustine gives his approval to one of Cyprian's anti-papal comments:
"For no one of us sets himself up as a bishop of bishops, or, by tyrannical terror, forces his colleagues to a necessity of obeying, inasmuch as every bishop, in the free use of his liberty and power, has the right of forming his own judgment, and can no more be judged by another than he can himself judge another. But we must all await the judgment of our Lord Jesus Christ, who alone has the power both of setting us in the government of His Church, and of judging of our acts therein." (On Baptism, Against The Donatists, 2:2)

Just after what I've quoted above, Augustine comments:
"Now let the proud and swelling necks of the heretics raise themselves, if they dare, against the holy humility of this address." (On Baptism, Against The Donatists, 2:3)

Here's how Dave responds:
The same contra-Catholic argument is made about St. Gregory the Great's denial of being a universal bishop (that has a perfectly orthodox Catholic explanation), but the sense appears to be the same in both cases: a bishop has jurisdiction in his own domain, and is not merely an agent of the pope. The same Gregory who eschewed the title "universal bishop" also made many explicit proclamations of papal supremacy. And this is true of St. Augustine as well.

All these out of context quotes going back and forth!  Well, at least in this “Part 2” we’re dealing with primary sources so the objective and/or interested reader can actually go to those sources and verify context.  The more contextual response to Engwer’s citing of Augustine here would be to back up a little, go to Chapter 1 of that same document where we read:
Here is a passage in which Cyprian records what we also learn in holy Scripture, that the Apostle Peter, in whom the primacy of the apostles shines with such exceeding grace, was corrected by the later Apostle Paul, when he adopted a custom in the matter of circumcision at variance with the demands of truth. If it was therefore possible for Peter in some point to walk not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, so as to compel the Gentiles to judaize,  (On Baptism, Against The Donatists, 1:2)
So St. Augustine, through his quote from Cyprian, demonstrates that while St. Peter’s see is definitely one of primacy - the one in that seat may not always walk uprightly and may need someone else, like a St. Paul, or even a Church council, to step in and make a correction.  So, even the bishop with primacy is not above correction - THAT is the point of this part of St. Augustine’s On Baptism, Against the Donatists.

Dave doesn't demonstrate that Cyprian was saying the same thing he attributes to Gregory the Great. Rather, he just asserts that the two were saying the same thing. The qualifications Dave refers to aren't present in Cyprian's comments, and we have no reason to conclude that Cyprian was responding to a denial that "a bishop has jurisdiction in his own domain". Rather, the comments Augustine cites from Cyprian come from the context of Cyprian's dispute with the Roman bishop Stephen over heretical baptism. Cyprian and his fellow North African bishops were asserting their independence from the bishop of Rome. They weren't just saying that they had local jurisdiction under the universal jurisdiction of the Roman bishop, as if their possession of local jurisdiction was in dispute. Rather, they were denying that there is any bishop of bishops. For there to be a bishop of bishops, you would need to have "bishops" to begin with. Nobody in the dispute was denying that the North African bishops had local authority as bishops. Rather, the issue was whether they were beneath the authority of the bishop of Rome. Cyprian denies that they were. That's a contradiction of the papacy, which is foundational to Roman Catholicism. Cyprian was addressing "a necessity of obeying" another bishop, not whether he had local authority while having to obey the bishop of Rome. If the issue under dispute is whether you have local authority while submitting to a higher authority you must obey, you don't address such a dispute by denying that you have to obey any other bishop. Dave's interpretation of Cyprian doesn't make sense, which probably explains why he says more about Gregory the Great than he does about what Cyprian wrote. Both Cyprian's words and his actions are most naturally interpreted in an anti-papal sense. Dave hasn't given us any reason to read his qualifications into the text.

See here for some examples of modern scholarship's affirmation of Cyprian's anti-papal view of church government. That article just linked includes a citation of J.N.D. Kelly, the source Dave cited above concerning Augustine. I also cite some Catholic scholars on the subject.

Just before the passage Dave is responding to, Augustine wrote:

"Wherefore, if Peter, on doing this, is corrected by his later colleague Paul [in Galatians 2], and is yet preserved by the bond of peace and unity till he is promoted to martyrdom, how much more readily and constantly should we prefer, either to the authority of a single bishop, or to the Council of a single province, the rule that has been established by the statutes of the universal Church?" (On Baptism, Against The Donatists, 2:1)

But Augustine's approval of Cyprian's anti-papal ecclesiology is just the beginning of the problems this section in Augustine poses for a Catholic. In my next post, I'll address the remainder of the passage and its implications for the claims of Roman Catholicism.

As I have shown, Cyprian’s discourse is not “anti-papal” - but rather, as St. Augustine did too, was a clarification of the fact that even the bishop who holds the primacy (the Bishop of Rome, St. Peter’s successor) was not above correction.  I’m not going to try to get between Jason and Dave here - my goal was to show that Jason’s rendition of the events of the late 4th and early 5th century is not wholly accurate and seen only through an anti-Catholic perspective - and I believe I have accomplished this goal.

On to “Part 3.”

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