Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Liberal Catholic Historians: Anti-Catholic John Bugay Loves Them for His Polemical Purposes
Francis Christopher Oakley

This is a confirmation of something I have observed for years: when fighting the Catholic Church, the more virulently opposed Protestants will latch onto anyone at all in an effort to establish their opinions.

Like Jehovah's Witnesses, atheists, and Muslims (strange bedfellows but quite similar in this respect), they are happy to enlist liberal, dissident, heterodox Catholic historians, because they trust them more to give them the truth. Imagine them doing this with Protestant scholars! The same person who enlists a dissident Catholic scholar for polemical purposes will disdain liberal dissidents in their own denominations.

But when it comes to the Catholic Church, anything goes! Not only is the liberal welcomed as an ally in the All-Important Fight to denigrate the Catholic Church; it is even denied that he really is a liberal (hence the cynical use of quotations around the words conservative and liberal below)!

John Bugay Tim, I think it is the "liberal" Catholics who are more willing to be honest with history. That'll be a great work to look into. (10-5-10)

John Bugay But I think there is "literally no support" for that which is most foundational to the most ardent of them, and that is the notion of a "divine institution" of the papacy. (10-9-10)

For related reading, see:

Brian Tierney, Hans Kung, et al: Inveterate Enemies of Papal "Tyranny" and Infallibility

Does the History of the Papacy Contradict Catholic Ecclesiology?

Dollinger's, Liberal and Old Catholics' "Semi- Historical Positivism" and Rejection of Papal Infallibility / Cardinal Newman's Critique 



Nick said...

It just gets tiring seeing people appeal to worthless sources. I mean, seriously, is there no longer pride for one's work? Pride in their intellectual endeavors?

When one simply hunts for a scholar/theologian (particularly a liberal or dissident one), they've got an agenda, and it's not a Truth seeking nor genuinely apologetic one.

And it's good to mention JWs and LDS here and such, because they do the same thing. They smear this or that teaching and leave it up to the catholic to scrub the graffiti off the walls. And it's a tactic of the devil, because it ties down the Catholic with clean up work and damage control so that they cannot go onto actual issues of substance.

I just finished a post of an astonishingly bad anti-Catholic article by William Webster where he misquotes the ECFs to claim they taught Sola Scriptura - and this right after he makes outrageously bad claims FOR the doctrine itself.

Dave Armstrong said...

Yep; all the fathers believed in SS cuz Webster and David T. King Tut say so!

And I have some oceanfront property in Kansas to sell anyone who believes that . . .

Randy said...

I don't know if it is fair to call them worthless sources. They are intelligent people coming from a certain perspective. The problem here is not just that you are quoting the same person. The problem is the strong parallel between their argument against the church and their argument against scripture. To embrace one and not the other is quite strange. Often they don't even try and draw a distinction between the two. Like they can make the problem go away by ignoring it.

romishgraffiti said...

Don't forgot the most important ingredient: That the pope hasn't personally come down Donald Trump style to remove said dissident scholar means he approves. Faugh.

Adomnan said...

Tim Enloe was booted out of the "Reformed" fundamentalist club a few years back. It seems he's trying to worm his way back in. To do so, he'll have to make amends with the great anti-Catholic panjandrum, James White. No doubt Tim is working on that. Attacking Catholics on Boors All will help, but Tim has a lot of crow yet to eat before he'll get White's seal of approval.

John Bugay would quote Osama bin Laden with approval if OBL dissed the papacy or the Catholic Church.

Bugay is trying to undermine the papacy by quoting scholars who say there was no "monarchical bishop" in Rome until later in the second century. Yet, the scholars Bugay cites rely on the description of the Roman church during the time of Clement I (88-96 AD) found in the "Shepherd of Herman."

It turns out, though, that the "Shepherd of Hermas" -- we know this from the 170 AD Muratorian Fragment -- was written in 140-155 AD or maybe later. The Fragment says it was written "quite recently in our own time" during the pontificate of Pius I, Hermas's brother.

Therefore, the scholars who rely on Hermas are using a document written 55-70 years later than the events it describes that includes a made-up historical setting. These scholars would never be so slipshod if they weren't desperate to find corroboration for their pet theories about early church structure, and they can't find anything other than the "Shepherd," a historical romance written three or four generations late.

Now, as I said, I don't think the "Shepherd's" description of the historical situation is reliable. The better evidence shows something like a monarchical bishop in Rome from the beginning. We see this, for example, in the Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, where Clement describes a three-tier structure of church offices using the Old Testament parallel "high priest, priests, levites," which would correspond to "leading bishop-presbyter, presbyters, deacons."

However, even if Rome did at first have a plurality of what we would call "bishops" (presiders over the eucharist) -- which is possible given the city's size, diversity and the existence of several churches -- this would not present a problem for the early history of the papacy. For continuity in the papacy, it would have been necessary only that one of the several "bishops" in Rome held the Petrine Office in succession from Peter. In this scenario, it was the person holding the Petrine Office who later became the monarchical bishop of Rome once that position emerged definitively in the second eentury.

Bugay makes the mistake of assuming that the holder of the Petrine Office had to be the monarachical bishop of Rome from the beginning. That's not true. It would be enough if he were a bishop at Rome, even if not the only bishop.

Spoils23m said...


I wanted to chime in on something that Adomnan said:

"However, even if Rome did at first have a plurality of what we would call "bishops" (presiders over the eucharist) -- which is possible given the city's size, diversity and the existence of several churches -- ***this would not present a problem for the early history of the papacy***." (emphasis mine)

So far as I can tell... history doesn't seem to record it being a problem either...


Adomnan said...

Spoils23m: So far as I can tell... history doesn't seem to record it being a problem either...

Adomnan: Yes. Even Hermas, in the probably pseudo-historical setting of his "Shepherd," says that Clement was the bishop-presbyter whose duty, or "job," it was to write to the other churches. Sounds like, even according to Hermas, Clement held the Petrine Office with its responsiblity for churches throughout the world. Why else would his primary function be to "write to the other churches?"

We possess one of these letters of Clement, the one he wrote to the Corinthians, in which he not only gave them authoritative instruction, but dispatched representatives to bring an end to their schism. In other words, the office entailed not just letter-writing, but direct oversight and intervention.

Moreover, Hermas was the brother of Pius I, whom the Muratorian Fragment describes as monarchical bishop of Rome within 15 years of his pontificate. It hardly seems likely that Hermas, of all people, meant to suggest that Rome once lacked the very office his brother occupied at the time he was writing.

Finally, there is no indication of any dissent or upheaval within the Roman Church in the mid second century, which one might expect if a new institutional structure were being imposed on the community. Consequently, the only reasonable inference is that either 1) there always was a monarhical bishop at Rome and no new organization arose in the second century (the most probable inference) or 2) if there was a plurality of bishops at Rome in the earliest period, there was always one preeminent bishop-presbyter who developed into a monarchical bishop with no resistance. He was preeminent and unopposed precisely because he was the successor of Peter in the universal office entrusted to Peter by Christ.

Adomnan said...

John Bugay described Hermas as "a primary eyewitness source regarding the leadership structure of the early church at Rome."

What a howler! The Muratorian Fragment, which Bugay himself cited, says that Hermas wrote sometime around the middle of the second century, but Hermas purports to describe in passing the structure of the Roman Church about 60-65 years earlier. Why in the world should anyone accept this as a "primary eyewitness source"?

It's weird. The same liberal scholars who will cavalierly dismiss the Acts of the Apostles as a unreliable historical source, although it was certainly written within 30 or 40 years of the events it describes, eagerly seize on the testimony of a mid-second century historical romance with invented details as "primary" and "eyewitness." Who are they kidding? Oh, yes: John Bugay.

I don't think Hermas's observations, even if accurate, impugn Catholic teaching about the papacy in any way. Nevertheless, I find it bizarre that liberal historians, and their occasional admirers like Bugay, suspend their skepticism when it comes to this late and rather inventive document. Could it be that they think they can use it to further an anti-papal agenda?

To call Hermas "a primary eyewitness" is a lie, pure and simple.

Paul Hoffer said...

It is truly "wondrous" to see such folks dismiss the eyewitness of St. Paul's letters to Timothy and Titus, Acts, Ignatius, "there is no church without a bishop" that he mentions a number of letters, the importance of succession lists in Hegesippus and Iraneus, the oral traditions that were gathered together by Eusebius and the Liber Pontificalis, the fact that every single schismatic and heretical group patterned themselves after the same structure of a three-fold hierarchy and the witness of the Church itself which is a living witness of events back then, but yet rely on the allegorical writings of Hermas as an eye-witness and missing the point of the testimony he offers as well.

Most importantly, Mr. Bugay misses the point of Fortesque when he started his Lampesian cheer, faith seeks understanding, not the otherway around.

Off to class now. God bless!

Paul Hoffer said...

Oops, one last point--if all these early writings disprove the existence of apostolic succession as some of our separated brethren claim, why did none of the heretics use it to undermine the authority of the Catholic Church use it prior to 15th-16th centuries?

Dave Armstrong said...

Bugay is the classic example of a guy who thinks he knows so much (about Catholicism, in his case) but in fact knows very little.

Adomnan said...

Those who question the existence of a so-called "monarchical bishop" in some early churches like Rome, Corinth and Philippi posit that, instead of a ruling bishop, these churches had colleges of bishops-presbyters with no distinction of rank. What they are saying, in effect, is that these churches were ruled by headless committees.

I have never in my entire life encountered an effective decision-making organization that was ruled by a committee with no head. A book club maybe, but a church? Yet, people who believe the early Roman church was run by a committee with no head want us to assume that this most effective and active church became the point of reference for Christian orthodoxy, as Irenaeus tells us, and intervened in the affairs of other churches (e.g., Corinth) with both authoritative teaching and legates, while it was run by an anarchic committee?

What did they do, vote on whatever came up? Where is there any hint of committees voting on doctrinal or even administrative matters in the early church? When Judas was to replaced, the Apostles -- at Peter's instruction! -- did not vote on his replacement. They cast lots.

Who decided how often and where they'd meet? Who chaired the meetings? Who decided what would be on the agenda? Most importantly, how did they make decisions and carry out policy, which obviously the Roman church did very successfully and uniformly?

The Roman church -- that is, the Catholic Church in Rome -- acted in unison, as a single body. It was not a loosely connected network of house churches, whose leaders met from time to time to palaver (if they weren't feuding). It spoke with a single voice as we see both in Clement's letter to the Corinthians and in Ignatius's letter to the Roman church.

This notion of a committee without a chairman ruling the Church in Rome or Corinth at some early point is a fantasy that could only be hatched in an ivory tower. It would never exist in the real world. Any college of bishop-presbyters would have to have had a head; and there is no fundamental difference between the head of a college of bishop-presbyters and a monarchical bishop. There is only a difference in terminology.