To the Protestant Reformation

Various lights and shadows characterize any stocktaking we care to make about the theory and practice of the Church's life from the third to the sixteenth century. The seven general councils, from Nicaea I in 325 to Nicaea II in 787, proved lastingly fruitful in laying down the main lines for Christian faith in Christ and the tripersonal God. The Creed that came from Constantinople I in 381 spread in the East and West, and became commonly professed at the Eucharist, as well as being used by Eastern Christians at baptism. But after the time of the Patriarch Photius in the ninth century, the unilateral addition in the West of the Filioque ('from the Son)' became a running sore in relations between Catholics and Orthodox (see Chs. 1 and 4). For some centuries the sacraments of initiation were administered together. But then, in Western Christianity, baptism, First Communion, and confirmation could be separated by years; any lively sense of a single rite of passage through which new members of the Church were justified and sanctified disappeared. The spread of 'auricular' ('in the ear') confession or penance from the end of the sixth century undoubtedly meant some gain, inasmuch, for example, as the earlier system of communal reconciliation through the bishop could be excessively rigorous. But it also meant loss, since penance became an affair between God and a sinful individual and no longer a sacrament of reconciliation with the Church as well as with God. The vivid consciousness of the Church as a people on pilgrimage to the final Kingdom (see the end of Ch. 6) waned. And so too did the awareness that all the baptized make up the Church and share in a common priesthood (see 1 Pet. 2: 5, 9). More and more the Church seemed divided into a lay majority and a clerical minority, and even limited to the clerical minority—an unfortunate misunderstanding still expressed in some ways of speaking. To say that 'so and so went into the Church' does not mean that the person in question accepted Christian baptism but rather that he or she was ordained and entered the clerical profession. When people ask, 'What does the Church think?', sadly one has to recognize that they want to know the views either of the local bishop, or of the all bishops of a country, or of the pope himself. Many Catholics and others still use the 'Church' in a way that refers only to the official leaders and teachers.

Our first two chapters drew attention to fresh initiatives, which appeared in the early centuries and continue to enrich today the Catholic Church and much of Christianity: the rise of monasticism; ongoing missionary activity that spread faith in Jesus Christ; the practice of pilgrimages; the growth of Christian art, architecture, and music; and the founding of religious orders that knew no national frontiers and strengthened the growth of higher learning. Many things happened in and to the Church, and at least in some cases the lasting fruits show the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Yet for many centuries official teachers and learned theologians (down to the time of Anselm of Canterbury very often the same persons) hardly offered any explicit reflections on the nature and mission of the Church.

This absence of ecclesiology or study of the Church was no 'bad thing' in the sense that down to the Second Council of Nicaea in the eighth century much energy was spent in elucidating and defending basic Christian faith in Jesus Christ and the Trinity revealed through his life, death, and resurrection. In an image used by some early writers, Jesus is the sun and the Church is the moon. Clarifying Christology or doctrine about Jesus Christ obviously takes precedence over any development of ecclesiology.

In any case, from the early fifth century barbarian invasions from the North ravaged Europe and parts of North Africa, and checked doctrinal developments that might otherwise have taken place. From the early seventh century Muslim forces began to take over much of the Middle East; by the early eighth century Islam had taken possession of North Africa and Spain. This pressure from the South also played its part in limiting theological reflection. Christian leaders were forced to make the survival of Church life their major priority.

In those turbulent times the spiritual and, to some extent, political authority of the bishop of Rome emerged. As we noted in Ch. 1, in the early second century Ignatius of Antioch greeted the Church of Rome as 'worthy of honour' and 'presiding in love', recalled Peter and Paul who had been martyred there, but mentioned no bishop of the city (Epistle to the Romans, opening greeting, and 4. 3). More than a century later Cyprian, as the same chapter observed, in the first version of his work on the unity of the Catholic Church, put the rhetorical question: 'if someone deserts the Chair of Peter upon which the Church was built, has he still confidence that he is in the Church?' Although all seven of the first general councils of the Church took place in the East (in what is modern Turkey), the primacy in authority of the bishop of Rome featured. At the Council of Ephesus in 431, the Legate of the Pope made a declaration that would be cited at Vatican I in 1870 to support St Peter's primacy continuing in his successors (DH 3056; ND 822). Like Cyprian, this declaration and subsequent ones quoted or at least echoed the language of Matthew 16: 18—19 about the founding of the Church on the rock of Peter and his being given the keys of the Kingdom. Twenty years after the Council of Ephesus, when the bishops at the Council of Chalcedon had listened to the Tomus or Letter to Flavian written by Pope Leo I, they exclaimed: 'Peter has spoken through the mouth of Leo.'191

From the sixth century the title of 'Patriarch' was given to the bishops of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. The patriarchs

191 On biblical and theological issues about the papal ministry see B. Byrne, 'Peter as Resurrection Witness in the Lucan Narrative', in D. Kendall and S. T. Davis, The Convergence of Theology (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2001), 19—33; J. M. Miller, The Shepherd and the Rock: Origins, Development and Mission of the Papacy (Huntington, Ind.: Our Sunday Visitor, 1995); G. O'Collins and D. Kendall, 'The Petrine Ministry as Easter Witness', The Bible for Theology (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1997), 117—30; P. Perkins, Peter: Apostle for the Whole Church (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000); B. Steimer and M. G. Parker, Dictionary of the Popes and the Papacy (New York: Crossroad, 2001); J. M. R. Tillard, The Bishop of Rome (London: SPCK, 1983); and many articles in P. Levillain (ed.), The Papacy: An Encyclopedia (3 vols.; London: Routledge, 2002).

exercised wide authority in such ways as appointing bishops to major dioceses and judging appeals to their jurisdiction. With a proper sensitivity to East—West tensions, a few months after his election Pope Gregory the Great, as we noted in Ch. 1, sent a circular letter in ad 591 to the Eastern patriarchs to assure them of his fidelity to the four Gospels and to the first four general councils of the Church (from Nicaea I in 325 down to Chalcedon in 451). But, as we also saw, various forces conspired to bring a tragic break, traditionally dated to the mutual excommunications of July 1054, between the patriarch of Constantinople or Ecumenical Patriarch and the bishop of Rome or Patriarch of the West. That formalized the still unhealed break between the Orthodox (Greek for 'right belief') and the Catholic Churches. The Orthodox acknowledge as normative guides to faith only the first seven general councils (up to Nicaea II in 787). The particular Orthodox churches are autonomous or 'autocephalous' (Greek for 'having its own head'), being governed by their own synods, led by patriarchs or metropolitan archbishops, enjoying communion with one another, and normally attributing the primacy of honour to the patriarch of Constantinople, but not in communion with nor acknowledging the universal primacy of the pope or Patriarch of the West.192

A new development followed soon after the official break between Constantinople and Rome: the development of Western canon law by Gratian, a twelfth-century monk from Bologna who put together in an organized way legal rulings from councils, popes, and the Church Fathers in his Concordance of Discordant Canons (usually known as the Decree of Gratian of 1141), a treatise which took for granted a sharp distinction between clergy and laity, or between what he called 'two classes of Christians' (2. 12. 1).193 The stage was set for the growth of a canonical or juridical view of the Church, which further alienated the Orthodox, who

192 For a brief, further account of such terms as 'Autocephalous', 'Orthodoxy, 'Patriarch', and 'Primacy', see G. O'Collins and E. G. Farrugia, A Concise Dictionary of Theology (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, rev. edn. 2000 ). For a longer account see R. Roberson, Eastern Christian Churches (Rome: Pontifical Oriental Institute, 6th edn. 1999). For the role of patriarchs, see Y. Congar, 'Le Pape comme patriarche d'Occident: approche d'une realité trop négligée', Istina , 28 (1983), 374—90; W. de Vries, 'The Origin of Eastern Patriarchates and their Relationship to the Power of the Pope', One in Christ , 2 (1966), 50—69, 130—42.

193 Gratian's distinction (or should one say separation?) between clergy and laity prevailed for many centuries. Thus in his 1906 encyclical VehementerNos ('Our being extremely [concerned]'), Pope Pius X wrote: 'The Church is essentially an unequal society, that is, a society comprising two categories of persons, the pastors and the flock, those who occupy a rank in the different degrees of the hierarchy and the multitude of the faithful' (no. 8).

see the Church as the way to attain holiness and union with God through the process of divinization (see Ch. 6). Rivalry in the West between secular and ecclesiastical powers set the nature of Church authority high on the agenda. The centralizing policies of Gregory VII (pope 1073—85) and, even more of Innocent III (pope 1198—1216)—the first pope to use regularly a title dating from the eighth century, that of 'Vicar of Christ' (which completely superseded the older title of 'Vicar of Peter')—involved papal claims to exercise jurisdiction over the whole Church and even to dictate to temporal sovereigns in such major secular affairs as the election of the Holy Roman Emperor. This development, which reached its height in the theory and practice of Innocent III, took the power of the papacy well beyond the role envisaged by Cyprian, Leo the Great, and Gregory the Great. For them the bishop of Rome was the centre of unity in the true faith, and the final court of appeal in matters involving the authentic tradition that comes to us from the apostles.

Various spiritual movements, e.g. the Albigensians (see Ch. 2), which—along with false views about redemption—emphasized personal holiness and the fraternal communion of the faithful, protested against a vision of the Church dominated by clerical power. When condemning such movements in 1215, the Fourth Lateran Council applied the language of Cyprian to the current situation: 'there is one universal Church of the faithful outside which no one at all is saved' (DH 802; ND 21).

From the end of the thirteenth century and through much of the fourteenth, the relationship between the spiritual power of popes and the temporal power of princes dominated thinking about the Church. Medieval thinking associated the two powers with the 'two swords' produced by the disciples shortly before Jesus was arrested (Luke 22: 38). Boniface VIII (pope 1294—1303) reached for that image when he recognized the two 'swords' or powers, but went on to claim that his spiritual power should control any temporal power. He sought to exercise papal authority over the princes of his day, and claimed jurisdiction over every human being (DH 870-5; ND 804). He died a month after being briefly imprisoned by mercenaries sent by the French king. Six years later, the French Clement V (pope 1305-14) initiated the 'Babylonian Captivity' or seventy-year exile of the popes by fixing his residence at Avignon in 1309. Even after the papacy returned to Rome, 'the Great Schism' for thirty-nine years divided Christendom between various popes and antipopes, a situation that ended only when the Council of Constance elected Martin V (pope 1417-31).

In its famous decree Haec Sancta ('this Holy [Synod]*) of 1415, one which some scholars hold to be intended only as a practical measure to deal with the crisis of the Great Schism, the Council maintained that it received its authority immediately from Christ and was vested with superiority over any pope. The same decree expressed the intention of 'uniting and reforming the Church in its head and members' (ND 806). When opening the First Council of Lyons in 1245, Innocent IV, as we saw, spoke of various 'wounds' of the Church. This language of 'head and members' and of 'wounds' implied a sense of the Church as the one, united, visible Body of Christ—a belief that would be severely questioned in the sixteenth century.

Just before the Protestant Reformation began, the arrival of the Europeans in the Americas challenged the universality of Christ's redemption and its mediation through the Church. Since the early centuries most Christians seem vaguely to have imagined that all human beings had somehow heard the Gospel proclaimed; unbelievers were those who refused to accept Christ and enter the Church through baptism. As we saw in Ch. 2, the discoveries initiated by Columbus in 1492 revealed the existence of millions of human beings who for many centuries never had the slightest chance of believing in Christ and joining the Church. How could one sustain the axiom 'outside the Church no salvation' in the rigorous way understood, for instance, by Boniface VIII and by a 1442 decree from the Council of Florence (DH 1351; ND 810, 1005)? It took centuries before Vatican II recognized that, whereas all are 'called' to belong to the Church, millions of people will never in fact have the chance of accepting the call, remain mysteriously 'related' to the Church (Lumen Gentium, 13, 16), and can find salvation through the power of the Holy Spirit who joins them to the crucified and risen Christ (Gaudium et Spes, 22). But we are jumping ahead of ourselves and must go back to the sixteenth century.

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