Friday, October 19, 2007

The problem of "magisterialism"

A fine piece by Fr. Ripperger of the FSSP seminary in Nebraska, on the distinction between traditionalists and neo-conservative Catholics:
Neo-conservatives have fallen into this way of thinking i.e. the only standard by which they judge orthodoxy is whether or not one follows the current magisterium. Traditionalists, as a general rule, tend to be orthodox in the sense that they are obedient to the current magisterium, even though they disagree about matters of discipline and have some reservations about some aspects of current magisterial teachings which seem to contradict the previous magisterium (e.g. the role of the ecumenical movement). Traditionalists tend to take not just the current magisterium as their norm but Scripture(41), intrinsic tradition, extrinsic tradition and the current magisterium as the principles of judgment of correct Catholic thinking. This is what distinguishes traditionalists and neo-conservatives i.e. their perspectives regarding the role of ecclesiastical tradition and how the current magisterium relates to it.
My only gripe is that Fr. Ripperger's analysis doesn't go far enough; he doesn't root the problem of magisterialism in our collective abandonment of the fourth note of the Church: apostolicity. In fact, he seems to take for granted how the Catholic Church has largely reduced "apostolicity" itself to a positivistic attribute, a quasi-magical and mechanical passing down from bishop to bishop of that precious lump of ecclesiastical authority. Apostolicity, however, is, more broadly, the mens ecclesiae which he speaks of. Furthermore, he doesn't address the way "traditionalist Catholicism" has its own problems with amnesia by paying little more than lip service to the first millennium of undivided Catholic Christianity and hence has no sense of a shared apostolicity with the other ancient churches of the East and Orient. Finally there's no confrontation with the way our doctrines on the papacy (particularly its juridical aggrandizement) have been interpreted and applied to contribute to the magisterial positivism he so reviles.