Over at the National Schismatic Reporter, the journal of record for heretics and schismatics everywhere (aka Fishwrap), there is an article by one Richard Gaillardetz, the “Joseph Professor of Catholic Systematic Theology at Boston College”, ostensibly about women, ordination and the Magisterium. Guess where he comes down.
I was amused by some of his premises, which you are supposed to just accept.
The first premise isn’t so bad, but the second is a real hoot.
To wit, the first:
Today the term magisterium generally refers to the doctrinal teaching office and authority of the bishops in communion with the bishop of Rome.
Okay, here he is suggesting that, in the past, the Magisterium was probably something else than it is today (and could be something else in the future?).
Let’s move along to next premise:
Even as questions of doctrinal authority emerged with considerable vigor in the early church, it would be anachronistic to assume that the church of the first millennium experienced anything like our modern conflicts between the magisterium and theologians.
The contrary is true.
Maybe the writer has forgotten Arius?
Arius was a priest in the diocese of Alexandria in Egypt. We could call Alexandria an Archdiocese. Later it would be a Patriarchate. The Bishop of Alexandria, Alexander, convened a local synod of bishops and, with it, excommunicated Arius.
Has the writer forgotten Pelagius?
Pelagius was not a bishop and, as far as we know, not a priest. Some scholars think he may have been a monk, but there is no conclusive evidence for that. That leaves – wait for it – lay man.
The writer is correct that there were relatively few non-clerical theologians making problems in the ancient world, but it is hard to think of many theologians who caused more problems for the Church than Arius the priest and Pelagius the layman.
The theological problems of the modern age are nowhere near as serious as those of the Patristic era.
Here’s another example. Remember Nestorius?
Nestorius was the a bishop in Constantinople at the beginning of the fifth century. Nestorius had written in Greek to Pope Celestine, who did not read Greek. Celestine asked his Archdeacon named Leo (later Pope Leo the Great) to respond. Leo assigned the task to a young monk named John Cassian. This sounds like a curial process to me. And Jerome sure worked in the court of Pope Damasus, didn’t he?
It is absurd to suggest that the theological controversies we see today, in which the Roman Curia gets involved, are more serious than those of the 1st millennium, when there was supposedly a pristine, curia-less, happy era of consensus building in collegiality and sounding out the faithful in polls and in the pages of the Fishwrap (aka National Schismatic Reporter).