30 August 2011


A.  "We come now to questions which demand a somewhat more fundamental reflection.  I perceive a first problem, which is moving increasingly into the foreground of the debates, reflected in the remark that the Study Guild makes its own "all those declarations of the Magisterium issued under the prerogative of infallibility, which belongs to the Church as Christ's gift", whereas in all other judgments, the decision would depend on the weight of argument.  Initially, this sounds very illuminating, but on closer examination it proves to be quite problematical, since it means for all intents and purposes that doctrinal decisions can exist—if at all—solely in situations where the Church may lay claim to infallibility;  outside of this sphere, only argument would hold weight.  The result is that there could be no certainty shared by the whole community of the Church.  It seems to me that we have before us a typically Western restriction and legalistic reduction of the notion of faith which radicalizes certain one-sided developments which began to make their appearance around the High Middle Ages.  A parallel may render the issue clearer:  from about the thirteenth century on, interest in the conditions necessary for validity begins to push every other consideration to the margin of sacramental theology.  Increasingly, everything ceases to matter except the alternative between valid and invalid.  Those elements which do not affect validity appear to be ultimately trivial and interchangeable.  Thus in the case of the Eucharist, for example,this is expressed in an ever-stronger fixation on the words of consecration; that which is actually constitutive for validity becomes more and more strictly limited.  Meanwhile, the eye for the living structure of the Church's liturgy is progressively lost.  Everything other than the words of consecration appears to be mere ceremony, which happens to have evolved into its present form but in principle might just as easily have been omitted.  [...]  A good part of the liturgical crisis of the Reformation was due to these constrictive tendencies, which are also the key to understanding the liturgical crisis of the present.  If today the entire liturgy has become the playground of private "creativity", which can romp at will just as long as the words of consecration are kept in place, at work is the same reduction of vision whose origin lies in an erroneous development typical of the West but quite unthinkable in the Eastern Church."
  —  Joseph Ratzinger, "The Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian"
in The Nature and Mission of Theology, pp. 111-112.

B.  In the rest of the essay quoted above, Ratzinger goes on to give a parallel account of the history of infallibility.  The whole essay is worth reading, as is Donum Veritatis, the Instruction by the Holy Office on the role of the theologian.

 C.  I'm serious about the hyphens.  Someone please tell me the rule.