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The Assumption of Mary: Development of Doctrine

The Feast of the Assumption is an excellent time to take a look at it as a development of doctrine in light of Cardinal Newman’ s test to determine whether something is a development or a corruption in regard to the doctrine of the Church:

1. Preservation of Type-

This is readily suggested by the analogy of physical growth, which is such that the parts and proportions of the developed form, however altered, correspond to those which belong to its rudiments. The adult animal has the {172} same make, as it had on its birth; young birds do not grow into fishes, nor does the child degenerate into the brute, wild or domestic, of which he is by inheritance lord. Vincentius of Lerins adopts this illustration in distinct reference to Christian doctrine. “Let the soul’s religion,” he says, “imitate the law of the body, which, as years go on, developes indeed and opens out its due proportions, and yet remains identically what it was.

In his encyclical which defined the dogma MUNIFICENTISSIMUS DEUS, go here to read it, Pope Pius XII was at pains to show that this dogma logically developed in the life of the Church over the centuries.  Pius pointed out that belief in the physical assumption of Mary into Heaven was no novelty:

In the liturgical books which deal with the feast either of the dormition or of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin there are expressions that agree in testifying that, when the Virgin Mother of God passed from this earthly exile to heaven, what happened to her sacred body was, by the decree of divine Providence, in keeping with the dignity of the Mother of the Word Incarnate, and with the other privileges she had been accorded. Thus, to cite an illustrious example, this is set forth in that sacramentary which Adrian I, our predecessor of immortal memory, sent to the Emperor Charlemagne. These words are found in this volume: “Venerable to us, O Lord, is the festivity of this day on which the holy Mother of God suffered temporal death, but still could not be kept down by the bonds of death, who has begotten your Son our Lord incarnate from herself.”

Thus defining this dogma was a filling out of what had historically come before.

2.  Continuity of Principles-

As in mathematical creations figures are formed on distinct formulæ, which are the laws under which they are developed, so it is in ethical and political subjects. Doctrines expand variously according to the mind, individual or social, into which they are received; and the peculiarities of the recipient are the regulating power, the law, the organization, or, as it may be called, the form of the development. The life of doctrines may be said to consist in the law or principle which they embody.

Principles are abstract and general, doctrines relate to facts; doctrines develope, and principles at first sight do not; doctrines grow and are enlarged, principles are permanent; doctrines are intellectual, and principles are more immediately ethical and practical. Systems live in principles and represent doctrines. Personal responsibility is a principle, the Being of a God is a doctrine; from that doctrine all theology has come in due course, whereas that {179} principle is not clearer under the Gospel than in paradise, and depends, not on belief in an Almighty Governor, but on conscience.

Pope Pius quoted Saint John Damascene:  Thus St. John Damascene, an outstanding herald of this traditional truth, spoke out with powerful eloquence when he compared the bodily Assumption of the loving Mother of God with her other prerogatives and privileges. “It was fitting that she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting that the spouse, whom the Father had taken to himself, should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby received into her heart the sword of sorrow which she had escaped in the act of giving birth to him, should look upon him as he sits with the Father. It was fitting that God’s Mother should possess what belongs to her Son, and that she should be honored by every creature as the Mother and as the handmaid of God.”(17)

The Church had long venerated the unique role that Mary was chosen to play in God’s plan of salvation.  That Mary did not taste of mortal death was a logical drawing out of the principle of that role and the gifts that God gave her for that role.

3.  Power of Assimilation-

In the physical world, whatever has life is characterized by growth, so that in no respect to grow is to cease to live. It grows by taking into its own substance external materials; and this absorption or assimilation is completed when the materials appropriated come to belong to it or enter into its unity. Two things cannot become one, except there be a power of assimilation in one or the other. Sometimes assimilation is effected only with an effort; it {186} is possible to die of repletion, and there are animals who lie torpid for a time under the contest between the foreign substance and the assimilating power. And different food is proper for different recipients.

This analogy may be taken to illustrate certain peculiarities in the growth or development in ideas, which were noticed in the first Chapter. It is otherwise with mathematical and other abstract creations, which, like the soul itself, are solitary and self-dependent; but doctrines and views which relate to man are not placed in a void, but in the crowded world, and make way for themselves by interpenetration, and develope by absorption. Facts and opinions, which have hitherto been regarded in other relations and grouped round other centres, henceforth are gradually attracted to a new influence and subjected to a new sovereign. They are modified, laid down afresh, thrust aside, as the case may be. A new element of order and composition has come among them; and its life is proved by this capacity of expansion, without disarrangement or dissolution. An eclectic, conservative, assimilating, healing, moulding process, a unitive power, is of the essence, and a third test, of a faithful development.

Pius XII demonstrated how the belief in the Assumption over the centuries was aided and strengthened by developments within the Church, for example Scholastic Theology:

 

4. Among the scholastic theologians there have not been lacking those who, wishing to inquire more profoundly into divinely revealed truths and desirous of showing the harmony that exists between what is termed the theological demonstration and the Catholic faith, have always considered it worthy of note that this privilege of the Virgin Mary’s Assumption is in wonderful accord with those divine truths given us in Holy Scripture.

25. When they go on to explain this point, they adduce various proofs to throw light on this privilege of Mary. As the first element of these demonstrations, they insist upon the fact that, out of filial love for his mother, Jesus Christ has willed that she be assumed into heaven. They base the strength of their proofs on the incomparable dignity of her divine motherhood and of all those prerogatives which follow from it. These include her exalted holiness, entirely surpassing the sanctity of all men and of the angels, the intimate union of Mary with her Son, and the affection of preeminent love which the Son has for his most worthy Mother.

26. Often there are theologians and preachers who, following in the footsteps of the holy Fathers,(20) have been rather free in their use of events and expressions taken from Sacred Scripture to explain their belief in the Assumption. Thus, to mention only a few of the texts rather frequently cited in this fashion, some have employed the words of the psalmist: “Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you and the ark, which you have sanctified”(21); and have looked upon the Ark of the Covenant, built of incorruptible wood and placed in the Lord’s temple, as a type of the most pure body of the Virgin Mary, preserved and exempt from all the corruption of the tomb and raised up to such glory in heaven. Treating of this subject, they also describe her as the Queen entering triumphantly into the royal halls of heaven and sitting at the right hand of the divine Redeemer.(22) Likewise they mention the Spouse of the Canticles “that goes up by the desert, as a pillar of smoke of aromatical spices, of myrrh and frankincense” to be crowned.(23) These are proposed as depicting that heavenly Queen and heavenly Spouse who has been lifted up to the courts of heaven with the divine Bridegroom.

27. Moreover, the scholastic Doctors have recognized the Assumption of the Virgin Mother of God as something signified, not only in various figures of the Old Testament, but also in that woman clothed with the sun whom John the Apostle contemplated on the Island of Patmos.(24) Similarly they have given special attention to these words of the New Testament: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women,”(25) since they saw, in the mystery of the Assumption, the fulfillment of that most perfect grace granted to the Blessed Virgin and the special blessing that countered the curse of Eve.

28. Thus, during the earliest period of scholastic theology, that most pious man, Amadeus, Bishop of Lausarme, held that the Virgin Mary’s flesh had remained incorrupt-for it is wrong to believe that her body has seen corruption-because it was really united again to her soul and, together with it, crowned with great glory in the heavenly courts. “For she was full of grace and blessed among women. She alone merited to conceive the true God of true God, whom as a virgin, she brought forth, to whom as a virgin she gave milk, fondling him in her lap, and in all things she waited upon him with loving care.”(26)

In the development of a doctrine the kernel of an idea usually exists from very early in the history of the Church, and the idea takes strength from subsequent developments in the life of the Church.

4.  Logical Sequence-

Logic is the organization of thought, and, as being such, is a security for the faithfulness of intellectual developments; and the necessity of using it is undeniable as far as this, that its rules must not be transgressed. That it is not brought into exercise in every instance of doctrinal development is owing to the varieties of mental constitution, whether in communities or in individuals, with whom great truths or seeming truths are lodged. The question indeed may be asked whether a development can be other in any case than a logical operation; but, if by this is meant a conscious reasoning from premisses to conclusion, of course the answer must be in the negative. {190} An idea under one or other of its aspects grows in the mind by remaining there; it becomes familiar and distinct, and is viewed in its relations; it leads to other aspects, and these again to others, subtle, recondite, original, according to the character, intellectual and moral, of the recipient; and thus a body of thought is gradually formed without his recognizing what is going on within him. And all this while, or at least from time to time, external circumstances elicit into formal statement the thoughts which are coming into being in the depths of his mind; and soon he has to begin to defend them; and then again a further process must take place, of analyzing his statements and ascertaining their dependence one on another. And thus he is led to regard as consequences, and to trace to principles, what hitherto he has discerned by a moral perception and adopted on sympathy; and logic is brought in to arrange and inculcate what no science was employed in gaining.

And so in the same way, such intellectual processes, as are carried on silently and spontaneously in the mind of a party or school, of necessity come to light at a later date, and are recognized, and their issues are scientifically arranged. And then logic has the further function of propagation; analogy, the nature of the case, antecedent probability, application of principles, congruity, expedience, being some of the methods of proof by which the development is continued from mind to mind and established in the faith of the community.

Pius XII, in this most historical of Encyclicals, was at pains to show how the dogma of the Assumption developed down through the long centuries:

 

13. Various testimonies, indications and signs of this common belief of the Church are evident from remote times down through the course of the centuries; and this same belief becomes more clearly manifest from day to day.

In the recitation of the Pope we see how the dogma advanced from simple belief  as its implications were thought about and written about by some of the greatest luminaries of the Church.  This was no flash in the pan development but rather the fruit of many centuries of thought.

5.  Anticipation of its Future-

Since, when an idea is living, that is, influential and effective, it is sure to develope according to its own nature, and the tendencies, which are carried out on the long run, may under favourable circumstances show themselves early as well as late, and logic is the same in all ages, instances of a development which is to come, though vague and isolated, may occur from the very first, though a lapse of time be necessary to bring them to perfection. And since developments are in great measure only aspects of the idea from which they proceed, and all of them are natural consequences of it, it is often a matter of accident in what {196} order they are carried out in individual minds; and it is in no wise strange that here and there definite specimens of advanced teaching should very early occur, which in the historical course are not found till a late day. The fact, then, of such early or recurring intimations of tendencies which afterwards are fully realized, is a sort of evidence that those later and more systematic fulfilments are only in accordance with the original idea.

2.

Nothing is more common, for instance, than accounts or legends of the anticipations, which great men have given in boyhood of the bent of their minds, as afterwards displayed in their history; so much so that the popular expectation has sometimes led to the invention of them. The child Cyrus mimics a despot’s power, and St. Athanasius is elected Bishop by his playfellows.

It is noticeable that in the eleventh century, when the Russians were but pirates upon the Black Sea, Constantinople was their aim; and that a prophesy was in circulation in that city that they should one day gain possession of it.

Pius noted that from ancient times a Feast of the Assumption was celebrated in the Church, both East and West:

16. This belief of the sacred pastors and of Christ’s faithful is universally manifested still more splendidly by the fact that, since ancient times, there have been both in the East and in the West solemn liturgical offices commemorating this privilege. The holy Fathers and Doctors of the Church have never failed to draw enlightenment from this fact since, as everyone knows, the sacred liturgy, “because it is the profession, subject to the supreme teaching authority within the Church, of heavenly truths, can supply proofs and testimonies of no small value for deciding a particular point of Christian doctrine.”(10)

6.  Conservative Action Upon Its Past-

As developments which are preceded by definite indications have a fair presumption in their favour, so those which do but contradict and reverse the course of doctrine which has been developed before them, and out of which they spring, are certainly corrupt; for a corruption is a development in that very stage in which it ceases to illustrate, and begins to disturb, the acquisitions gained in its previous history.

It is the rule of creation, or rather of the phenomena which it presents, that life passes on to its termination by a gradual, imperceptible course of change. There is ever a maximum in earthly excellence, and the operation of the same causes which made things great makes them small again. Weakness is but the resulting product of power. Events move in cycles; all things come round, “the sun ariseth and goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.” Flowers first bloom, and then fade; fruit ripens and decays. The fermenting process, unless stopped at the due point, corrupts the liquor which it has created. The grace of spring, the richness of autumn are but for a moment, and worldly moralists bid us Carpe diem, for we shall have no second opportunity. Virtue seems to lie in a mean, between vice and vice; and as it grew out of imperfection, so to grow into enormity. There is a limit to human knowledge, and both sacred and {200} profane writers witness that overwisdom is folly. And in the political world states rise and fall, the instruments of their aggrandizement becoming the weapons of their destruction. And hence the frequent ethical maxims, such as, “Ne quid nimis,” “Medio tutissimus,” “Vaulting ambition,” which seem to imply that too much of what is good is evil.

So great a paradox of course cannot be maintained as that truth literally leads to falsehood, or that there can be an excess of virtue; but the appearance of things and the popular language about them will at least serve us in obtaining an additional test for the discrimination of a bonâ fide development of an idea from its corruption.

A true development, then, may be described as one which is conservative of the course of antecedent developments being really those antecedents and something besides them: it is an addition which illustrates, not obscures, corroborates, not corrects, the body of thought from which it proceeds; and this is its characteristic as contrasted with a corruption.

Pope Pius noted the long historical pedigree of the dogma of the Assumption:  Since the universal Church, within which dwells the Spirit of Truth who infallibly directs it toward an ever more perfect knowledge of the revealed truths, has expressed its own belief many times over the course of the centuries, … 

Here was no reversal or contradiction of prior Church teaching, but rather its confirmation.

7.  Chronic Vigor-

Since the corruption of an idea, as far as the appearance goes, is a sort of accident or affection of its development, being the end of a course, and a transition-state leading to a crisis, it is, as has been observed above, a brief and rapid process. While ideas live in men’s minds, they are ever enlarging into fuller development: they will not be stationary in their corruption any more than before it; and dissolution is that further state to which corruption tends. Corruption cannot, therefore, be of long standing; and thus duration is another test of a faithful development.

Pius in MUNIFICENTISSIMUS DEUS demonstrated the vigor of the idea of the Assumption that had existed since the dawn of the Church.  It was no novelty dreamed up in his own century, or his hobby horse that defied what had come before in the history of the Church.  The dogma of the Assumption is a classic example of a true development of doctrine.  I will leave to another day an example of a manifest corruption disguised as a development of doctrine.

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PopeWatch: Development of Doctrine

Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, among his many other services to the Church, clarified the concept of development of doctrine as opposed to corruptions of doctrine that occasionally fasten on the Church and are shed off by the Church over time.

Newman posited seven notes, I would call them tests, for determining whether something is a development of doctrine or a corruption.

1.  Preservation of Type

2.  Continuity of Principles

3.  Power of Assimilation

4.  Logical Sequence

5.  Anticipation of Its Future

6.  Conservative Action upon Its Past

7.  Chronic Vigour

PopeWatch defies anyone to argue with a straight face that what Pope Francis has done in reversing the Church teaching on capital punishment is anything but a corruption of doctrine using the Newman test.

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Cardinal Newman’s Theory of Development of Doctrine and the Synod

 

 

Back during Lent in 2010 I did a series looking at Cardinal Newman’s theory regarding the Development of Doctrine:

 

Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, among his many other services to the Church, clarified the concept of development of doctrine as opposed to corruptions of doctrine that occasionally fasten on the Church and are shed off by the Church over time.

Newman posited seven notes, I would call them tests, for determining whether something is a development of doctrine or a corruption.

1.  Preservation of Type

2.  Continuity of Principles

3.  Power of Assimilation

4.  Logical Sequence

5.  Anticipation of Its Future

6.  Conservative Action upon Its Past

7.  Chronic Vigour

Each of these notes are explained by Newman in detail.  The concepts aren’t simple either in theory or in application, at least to me, but Newman does a first rate job of explaining them. 

I posited that Newman’s seven tests could be used to look at various teachings of the Church to see if a particular teaching was a development of doctrine or a corruption that had crept temporarily into the Church.  Now Father Juan R. Velez has taken the seven tests and applied them to the giving of communion to people divorced and remarried whose first marriages have not been annulled by the Church:

 

Newman’s seven tests are as follows:

1. Preservation of the type or identity happens when a doctrine or belief retains its type from start to end. Newman gives as an example the external development of Christianity into the Roman Catholic Church. Throughout the ages it has maintained its identity as “a religious communion claiming divine commission,” a well organized and disciplined body” which faithful to its founder is considered as fanatical, superstitious and ignorant by its persecutors. The Church remains true to its type in the view of the world, and this unity of type serves as a guarantee of its development.

2. By continuity of principles, Newman explained: “A development, to be faithful, must retain both the doctrine and the principle with which it started.” He enumerates various Catholic principles such as: dogmas as irrevocable supernatural truths, the principle of faith, the sacramental principle derived from the doctrine of the Incarnation, the mystical interpretation of Scripture also derived from the doctrine of the Incarnation, and the principle of grace (325-326).

3. Assimilative Power refers to interpenetration of doctrines. “A living idea becomes many, yet remains one” (186). Newman referred to doctrines and rites, which were assimilated slowly and carefully and with much difficulty over time.

4. Logical Consequence does not refer to a syllogism, but to a gradual growth that, although unintentional, has a logical character, and an “evident naturalness” (191).

5. Anticipation of its future means that there are “early intimations of tendencies which afterwards are fully realized (…) in accordance with the original idea” (196).

6. Conservative Action requires new doctrines to protect earlier doctrines. In the words of St. Vincent quoted by Newman, it is profectus fidei non permutatio (progress in faith not its change into something else). He gives as an example devotion to St. Mary that, far from corrupting doctrine about Christ’s unique mediation, “subserves, illustrates, protects the doctrine of our Lord’s loving kindness and mediation” (202).

7. Lastly, chronic Vigor (or vigorous action from first to last) refers to the duration of ideas whereas something corrupt cannot be long standing.

Applying these tests, Newman came to believe that Catholic doctrine on Purgatory, original sin, devotion to the saints, prayer for the deceased is true doctrine. He was aware that there were disagreements between the hierarchy before a teaching was settled. He explained in support of the existence of doctrinal development:

I grant that there are ‘Bishops against Bishops in Church history, Fathers against Fathers, Fathers against themselves,’ for such differences in individual writers are consistent with, or rather are involved in the very idea of doctrinal development, and consequently are no real objection to it; the one essential question is whether the recognized organ of teaching, the Church herself, acting through Pope or Council as the oracle of heaven, has ever contradicted her own enunciations. If so, the hypothesis which I am advocating is at once shattered; but, till I have positive and distinct evidence of the fact, I am slow to give credence to the existence of so great an improbability. (120-121)

One example of true doctrinal development is the dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. We can verify this by applying to it the seven tests Newman described:

1. The Role of Mary is not changed; there is preservation of the type or identity.

2. Mary is honored because she is the Mother of God, which is a continuity of principle of the honor given to God.

3. Although Christians believed early on that the saints intercede in heaven for their brethren on earth, the belief in the Virgin Mary’s special intercession as the Mother of God grew among Christians.

4. It stands to reason that Christ would honor his mother. The dogma is a logical consequence of Christ’s teaching and example.

5. The Archangel announced to Mary her mission, and at the Visitation Elizabeth and Simeon praised her. In this, we see an anticipation of future honors given to her.

6. Celebrating this Marian privilege reminds us of Mary’s Role. Thus, the liturgy has a conservative action on its early beliefs and practices.

7. Chronic vigor or vitality can be observed in the celebration of Mary’s life and her union with Christ, which exerts new energy in the life of the faithful of all ages.

The question of Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics

Having examined Newman’s tests, we now examine if they apply to the doctrine that Communion for divorced and remarried persons is an authentic development. In other words, what would Cardinal Newman have said in his intervention at the Synod for Families?

First, however, we should reaffirm, as Pope John Paul II did in the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, that divorced and remarried Catholics remain part of the Church. As members of the Church, they should be accepted and helped to live the faith. They should be encouraged to pray and to seek a path of reconciliation with God. Those who have a just cause should be helped to obtain a declaration of nullity of the previous bond and helped to receive the sacrament of marriage. All should be understood and supported with prayer and friendship.

It should also be mentioned that in the Church’s history there have been doctrinal developments in matters regarding marriage. A notable one is the doctrine on the canonical form of marriage. The Council of Trent mandated that a sacramental marriage should have as witness a qualified representative of the Church, normally the pastor of the parish church.

Although marriage situations vary, the following is an application of Newman’s tests to the general consideration of the proposed doctrine of Communion of divorced and remarried persons.

1. Acceptance of Communion for divorced and remarried persons does not preserve the type of marriage, which entails indissolubility. The type of marriage with Christ’s permanent love for the Church, his bride, is broken.

2. This new doctrine establishes a new principle, namely that in some cases marriage is dissoluble; marriage is not permanent. There is thus a discontinuity with earlier doctrine.

3. The proposed doctrine seems to assimilate the Christian practice of mercy and forgiveness, but it contradicts others such as justice with regard to the obligations that derive from the nature of marriage. It is doubtful that it can pass the test of assimilative power.

4. Communion in these circumstances does not follow the penitential practice present since the early Church by which a person in a state of sin must leave the situation of sin and follow a path of conversion before being reconciled to the Church, thus coming into Communion.

5. Christ’s teaching about the permanence of marriage and the sin of adultery does not anticipate in any way this new doctrine of divorce and remarriage, and less of Communion for those who are sadly in this situation.

6. Admission to Communion of divorced persons who have entered a second bond does not have a protective action on the practice of marriage in the Church. Instead of having a conservative action, it weakens marriage by removing one of the consequences to divorce and remarriage.

7. Newman would also argue that the proposed doctrine would not add vitality to the Christian reality of sacramental marriage. On the contrary, the practice of divorce and remarriage, and in some places of Communion for persons divorced and remarried, have become more accepted.

Given this analysis, it is very doubtful that the doctrine on Communion for divorced and remarried persons proposed by Cardinal Walter Kasper can be considered authentic development of doctrine. Fr. Juan José Perez Soba has pointed out the doctrinal errors of Cardinal Kasper’s position on the marriage bond (Zenit.org, March 25, 2014). It is in no way the doctrinal development that St. Vincent of Lérins and Blessed Cardinal Newman envisioned. At the Synod Newman would instead argue how Sacred Scripture and Church Tradition uphold the indissolubility of the marriage bond.

Furthermore, Newman would caution against haste in questions of possible doctrinal development: “The theology of the Church is not random combination of various opinions, but a diligent, patient working out of one doctrine from many materials. The conduct of Popes, Councils, Fathers, betokens the slow, painful, anxious taking up of new truths into an existing body of belief” (366). Continue Reading

Cardinal Newman-Development of Doctrine-Seventh Note-Chronic Vigor

The final installment in my series on the Seven Notes, I would call them tests, which Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman developed for determining whether some aspect of Church teaching is a development of doctrine or a corruption of doctrine.  We began with Note Six-Conservative Action Upon Its Past, and I would highly recommend that any one who has not read the first post in the series read it here before reading this post.  We then proceeded with an examination of the First Note-Preservation of Type here,  the Second Note-Continuity of Principles here , the Third Note-Power of Assimilation here , the Fourth Note-Logical Sequence here and the Fifth Note-Anticipation of Its Future here.  This post will deal with the Seventh and final note-Chronic Vigor.

Newman notes that a sign of a corruption of an idea is that it is relatively brief:

While ideas live in men’s minds, they are ever enlarging into fuller development: they will not be stationary in their corruption any more than before it; and dissolution is that further state to which corruption tends. Corruption cannot, therefore, be of long standing; and thus duration is another test of a faithful development.

Newman contends that heresies, the classic corruption of an idea, are always short:

The course of heresies is always short; it is an intermediate state between life and death, or what is like death; or, if it does not result in death, it is resolved into some new, perhaps opposite, course of error, which lays no claim to be connected with it. And in this way indeed, but in this way only, an heretical principle will continue in life many years, first running one way, then another.

Corruption of an idea is therefore distinguished from the development of an idea by its transitory character.

Newman on the Seventh Note: Continue Reading

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Cardinal Newman Development of Doctrine-Fifth Note-Anticipation of Its Future

Continuing on with my series on the Seven Notes, I would call them tests, which Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman developed for determining whether some aspect of Church teaching is a development of doctrine or a corruption of doctrine.  We began with Note Six-Conservative Action Upon Its Past, and I would highly recommend that any one who has not read the first post in the series read it here before reading this post.  We then proceeded with an examination of the First Note-Preservation of Type here,  the Second Note-Continuity of Principles here , the Third Note-Power of Assimilation here and the Fourth Note-Logical Sequence here.  This post will deal with the Fifth Note-Anticipation of Its Future.

Newman contends that in the development of an idea we may see anticipations of future developments at any early stage in the history of an idea.  Such anticipations may serve as evidence, after such an anticipation of a development comes to fruition, that we are seeing a true development and not a corruption of the idea.  Newman demonstrates what he is talking about by noting stories of the lives of great men when an early event anticipates the later course that a life is to take.    

Nothing is more common, for instance, than accounts or legends of the anticipations, which great men have given in boyhood of the bent of their minds, as afterwards displayed in their history; so much so that the popular expectation has sometimes led to the invention of them. The child Cyrus mimics a despot’s power, and St. Athanasius is elected Bishop by his playfellows.

In the world of English politics Newman sees in the reign of James I an early use of patronage to influence political parties. 

In the reign of James the First, we have an observable anticipation of the system of influence in the management of political parties, which was developed by Sir R. Walpole a century afterwards. This attempt is traced by a living writer to the ingenuity of Lord Bacon. “He submitted to the King that there were expedients for more judiciously managing a House of Commons; … that much might be done by forethought towards filling the House with well-affected persons, winning or blinding the lawyers … and drawing the chief constituent bodies of the assembly, the country gentlemen, the merchants, the courtiers, to act for the King’s advantage; that it would be expedient to tender voluntarily certain graces and modifications of the King’s prerogative,” &c. The writer adds, “This circumstance, like several others in the present reign, is curious, as it shows the rise of a systematic parliamentary influence, which was one day to become the mainspring of government.”

Newman saw the Lutheranism of his time as sunk in heresy or infidelity.  He sees anticipations of this in the positions of Martin Luther.

Lutheranism has by this time become in most places almost simple heresy or infidelity; it has terminated, if it has even yet reached its limit, in a denial both of the Canon and the Creed, nay, of many principles of morals. Accordingly the question arises, whether these conclusions are in fairness to be connected with its original teaching or are a corruption. And it is no little aid towards its resolution to find that Luther himself at one time rejected the Apocalypse, called the Epistle of St. James “straminea,” condemned the word “Trinity,” fell into a kind of Eutychianism in his view of the Holy Eucharist, and in a particular case sanctioned bigamy. Calvinism, again, in various distinct countries, has become Socinianism, and Calvin himself seems to have denied our Lord’s Eternal Sonship and ridiculed the Nicene Creed.

Newman concludes by stating that a definite anticipation of a future development in an idea is evidence of a true development rather than a corruption.

Newman on the Fifth Note: Continue Reading

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Cardinal Newman Development of Doctrine-First Note-Preservation of Type

Continuing on with my series on the seven notes, I would call them tests, which Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman developed for determining whether some aspect of Church teaching is a development of doctrine or a corruption of doctrine.  We began with Note Six-Conservative Action Upon Its Past, and I would highly recommend that any one who has not read the first post in the series read it here before proceeding with this post.  We will now take the remaining notes in numerical order.  This post will deal with the First Note-Preservation of Type.

In regard to Preservation of Type, Cardinal Newman takes pains to point out that the idea underlying the doctrine remains of the same type while the external manifestations of the idea may change greatly.  His illustration from Roman history conveys his point well:

On the other hand, real perversions and corruptions are often not so unlike externally to the doctrine from which they come, as are changes which are consistent with it and true developments. When Rome changed from a Republic to an Empire, it was a real alteration of polity, or what may be called a corruption; yet in appearance the change was small. The old offices or functions of government remained: it was only that the Imperator, or Commander in Chief, concentrated them in his own person.  Augustus was Consul and Tribune, Supreme Pontiff and Censor, and the Imperial rule was, in the words of Gibbon, “an absolute monarchy disguised by the forms of a commonwealth.” On the other hand, when the dissimulation of Augustus was exchanged for the ostentation of Dioclesian, the real alteration of constitution was trivial, but the appearance of change was great. Instead of plain Consul, Censor, and Tribune, Dioclesian became Dominus or King, assumed the diadem, and threw around him the forms of a court.

In other words in determining  whether there has been the preservation of type in a development of doctrine we must look at the substance and ignore the form.  For example, in the Middle Ages laymen would often receive communion once a year out of great reverence for the body of Christ.  Now we are encouraged to be frequent communicants.  However, the underlying reverence that the Church commands for the body and blood of Christ remains the same.

Cardinal Newman concludes:

An idea then does not always bear about it the same external image; this circumstance, however, has no force to weaken the argument for its substantial identity, as drawn from its external sameness, when such sameness remains. On the contrary, for that very reason, unity of type becomes so much the surer guarantee of the healthiness and soundness of developments, when it is persistently preserved in spite of their number or importance.

Newman on the First Note:

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Cardinal Newman Development of Doctrine-Sixth Note-Conservative Action Upon its Past

 

Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, among his many other services to the Church, clarified the concept of development of doctrine as opposed to corruptions of doctrine that occasionally fasten on the Church and are shed off by the Church over time.

Newman posited seven notes, I would call them tests, for determining whether something is a development of doctrine or a corruption.

1.  Preservation of Type

2.  Continuity of Principles

3.  Power of Assimilation

4.  Logical Sequence

5.  Anticipation of Its Future

6.  Conservative Action upon Its Past

7.  Chronic Vigour

Each of these notes are explained by Newman in detail.  The concepts aren’t simple either in theory or in application, at least to me, but Newman does a first rate job of explaining them.  The note that has always fascinated me is number six, no doubt because I have always found history fascinating, and the history of the Church especially so.

Newman is quite clear that under the Sixth Note a Development of Doctrine does not reverse what has gone before:  

A true development, then, may be described as one which is conservative of the course of antecedent developments being really those antecedents and something besides them: it is an addition which illustrates, not obscures, corroborates, not corrects, the body of thought from which it proceeds; and this is its characteristic as contrasted with a corruption.

As developments which are preceded by definite indications have a fair presumption in their favour, so those which do but contradict and reverse the course of doctrine which has been developed before them, and out of which they spring, are certainly corrupt; for a corruption is a development in that very stage in which it ceases to illustrate, and begins to disturb, the acquisitions gained in its previous history.

Newman sums up the Sixth Note as follows:  

And thus a sixth test of a true development is that it is of a tendency conservative of what has gone before it.

We live in a time of massive change for the Church.  Change there has always been in the Church, but change on the scale since the calling of the Second Vatican Council is unprecedented.  Newman gives us an analytical tool in his theory of Development of Doctrine to try to discern what changes represent true developments of doctrine and what changes are mere corruptions fastened upon  the Church due to popular intellectual and political movements and prejudices of our time, or reactions to such movements and prejudices,   rather than organic developments from the past history of the Church. 

An example of an organic development of doctrine and what I think is a corruption will now be given.  An organic development is illustrated by Pius XII’s proclamation of the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary.  In Munificentissimus Deus Pius XII took pains to show how the doctrine had developed over the centuries.  An example of a corruption I think is the Syllabus of Errors of Pius IX.  Although a defense of the Syllabus can be mounted, and I have done so in the past, and there is much in the Syllabus that is still held by the Church,  it is also fairly obvious that Pio Nono was writing largely in reaction to intellectual and political trends in his time with which he was not in sympathy.  Pio Nono was deeply wedded to an intellectual and political world view that was dying before his eyes.  He sought to enlist the Church in support of what he cherished.  Time has demonstrated that, great Pope though he was, the attempt of Pius in the Syllabus of Errors to outline how the Church should deal with the modern world has proven transitory and a corruption that the Church today merely ignores.  Pope Benedict, before he became Pope, referred to Gaudium et Spes as a “counter-Syllabus”.  What new bedrock doctrines and teachings of the Church, which have made an appearance over the last few pontificates, will be totally ignored by popes a century or more hence, only time will reveal, although Newman and his Development of Doctrine analysis may give us hints.  Continue Reading

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The Debate is about Authority

Witnessing the continued implosion of the Anglicans and the ELCA over matters of Christian morality, I am intrigued by the way present circumstances have inspired renewed consideration of tradition, authority and obedience.

As I wrote a few months ago (“On the troubles within the ELCA” American Catholic September 7, 2009): “What is interesting, at least from this Catholic perspective, is the extent to which the critics of recent decisions recognize the seeds of their present troubles woven into the very fabric of their tradition.”

In a recent post to First Things‘ “On the Square”, Rusty Reno described the crisis of those experiencing “the agony of mainline Protestantism” thus:

One either recommits oneself to the troubled world of mainline Protestantism with articulate criticisms, but also with a spirit of sacrifice, as he so powerfully evokes. Or one stumbles forward-who can see in advance by what uncertain steps?-and abandons oneself, not to “orthodoxy” or “true doctrine” or “good theology,” but to the tender care of Mother Church.

As Joe Carter (First Things) noted, as with the Anglicans, so a faction of Lutherans have chosen a third route — forming a new Lutheran church body separate from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Meanwhile, it appears that the homosexuality debate is fanning faculty and student protests at Calvin College — the furor instigated by a memo reminding faculty that they were bound to the confessional documents of the Christian Reformed Church: Continue Reading

Catholic View of the Political Community (Part 2)

Here I continue with the slow build-up of an authentic Catholic worldview on the true nature of the Political Community- as outlined by the authoritative Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (Chapter 8). This second paragraph contains more of the Old Testament outlook on Kingship, with the earthly kings of Israel finding their deepest fulfillment in Christ the King. But there is more to be said about the political community and responsibilities of citizen(s) and ruler(s). We will see the development in the social doctrine as we go forward through the Compendium’s teachings. We cannot point to one specific epoch in the history of the Church and the Chosen People, and make final assertions about things- we must look closely at how the current doctrines of the Church have developed, so we can see the consistent core principles. Here goes with paragraph 378:

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