06 October 2015

A Close Reading of Pastor Aeternus (2)

(Today I continue my close reading of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ, Pastor Aeternus, promulgated by Bl. Pope Pius IX at Vatican I.  Yesterday's post is here, and a full index of this series is here.  The series will continue tomorrow with the third chapter.)


We therefore teach and declare that, according to the testimony of the Gospel, the primacy of jurisdiction over the universal Church of God was immediately and directly promised and given to Blessed Peter the Apostle by Christ the Lord. 

[Several points of note:
  1. What was given: primacy of jurisdiction over the universal Church.
  2. Who gave it: Christ the Lord.
  3. How it was given: promised immediately and directly.
  4. To whom it was given: to Blessed Peter the Apostle.
Additionally, note that the council grounds its teaching in "the testimony of the Gospel".  In other words, it is proposed as a received teaching, and not as an invention of the council fathers.]

For it was to Simon alone, 

[Note: Simon alone, i.e. not Simon, together with James and John, not to the whole company of the Apostles.]

to whom he had already said, "You shall be called Cephas" (John 1:42), that the Lord, after the confession made by him, saying, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God", addressed these solemn words: "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father, who is in heaven. And I say to you, that you are Peter, 

["Tu es Petrus".  Petrus, Peter, means "rock".  Christ is literally saying "You are Rock, and on this rock I will build my Church." Yves Congar, the famous liberal theologian who pulled many strings at Vatican II, once complained that this line had been used to justify too much.  He also complained about the cult of the Blessed Virgin, saying the same thing about the Angel's "Gratia plena".]

and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound, even in heaven. And whatever you shall release on earth shall be released, even in heaven." (Mt 16:16-19). 

And it was upon Simon alone that Jesus, after His Resurrection, bestowed the jurisdiction of Chief Pastor and Ruler over all His fold, by the words: "Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep." (John 21:15-17). 

At open variance with this clear doctrine of Holy Scripture, as it has ever been understood by the Catholic Church, are the perverse opinions

[How refreshing it is for the pastors of the Church to stand for the truth with such dedication and zeal that they are willing to call errors gravely contrary to it "perverse opinions"!]

of those who, while they distort the form of government established by Christ the Lord in His Church, 

[Christ established not just a Church, not just an assembly of believers, but an organized body, with a definite mode of governance.  Order is an essential feature of the integrity of any living thing.  The order of the membership of the body of Christ is one of its characteristic attributes, which makes it what it is.]

deny that Peter, in his single person, preferably to all the other Apostles, whether taken separately or together, was endowed by Christ with a true and proper primacy of jurisdiction; or of those who assert that the same primacy was not bestowed immediately and directly upon Blessed Peter himself, but upon the Church, and through the Church on Peter as her Minister. 

[Note that Peter is not elected by the will of the faithful, or the Church as a whole.  The council here militates against the application of any Lockean legitimacy-fictions to the ecclesiastical government.  Authority in the Church is not derived from the consent of the governed, but from on high.]

If anyone, therefore, shall say that Blessed Peter the Apostle was not appointed the Prince of all the Apostles and the visible Head of the whole Church Militant; or that the same, directly and immediately, received from the same, Our Lord Jesus Christ, a primacy of honor only, and not of true and proper jurisdiction; let him be anathema. 

[This is the first formal definition in the constitution. A definition is the formal establishment of the limits of what can be held by those who profess the Catholic faith. Often definitions are stated negatively, as rejections of views which are incompatible with Christian faith. This definition has two parts:
  1. Peter was appointed prince of the apostles and visible head of the Church Militant. 
  2. Peter was given a primacy of true jurisdiction immediately by Christ.]


That which the Prince of Shepherds and great Shepherd of the sheep, Jesus Christ our Lord, established in the person of the Blessed Apostle Peter to secure the perpetual welfare and lasting good of the Church, must, by the same institution, necessarily remain unceasingly in the Church; 

[Reasoning: if Christ made Peter the visible principle of unity in the Church, then the principle of unity established in Peter should remain, even after Peter's death, for the good of the Church.]

which, being founded upon the Rock, will stand firm to the end of the world. For none can doubt, and it is known to all ages, that the holy and Blessed Peter, the Prince and Chief of the Apostles, the pillar of the faith and foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of mankind, and lives, presides, and judges, to this day and always, in his successors the Bishops of the Holy See of Rome, which was founded by him, and consecrated by his blood. [7]

[The Holy See of Rome was founded by Peter and Consecrated by his blood.  In it the apostolic primacy, the pillar of the faith, the keys of the kingdom, the foundation of the Catholic Church are preserved, to the present day and always.] 

Thus, whosoever succeeds Peter in this Chair, obtains, by the institution of Christ Himself, the Primacy of Peter over the whole Church. Therefore, the disposition of truth remains, and Blessed Peter, persevering in the fortitude of the Rock that he accepted, has not relinquished the governance of the Church that he received. [8]

[The primacy of jurisdiction remains.  This is the first thing noted.  After this, it is observed that the "disposition of truth" remains as well.  The nature of this "disposition of truth" will be clarified in the later sections of the document.] 

Therefore, it has always been necessary that each Church -- that is, those who are the faithful everywhere -- should agree with the Roman Church, because of the greater power of the principality that She has received, in order that, all being joined together in the unity of that Seat, from the veneration of which the rights of communion flows to all, might associate closely as members of one Head, in the compact unity of the body.

[The communion or universal agreement and unity in fellowship among the Churches is tied to their agreement and unity in fellowship with the Roman Church, which serves as the visible principle of the unity of the whole Catholic Church. Interesting that the text switches here from speaking of Peter to speaking of the Roman Church.  It does not say that it has always been necessary that the faithful everywhere agree with the Pope.  But it is necessary for all the faithful, and all the local churches, to agree with the Roman Church.  In other words, the deposit of faith as preserved at Rome is normative for the whole Church.  The council is re-affirming the famous principle of St. Irenaeus: "For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority".  (Against Heresies, III.3.2] 

If then, any should deny that it is by the institution of Christ the Lord and by Divine right, that Blessed Peter should have a perpetual line of successors in the Primacy over the Universal Church, or that the Roman Pontiff' is the successor of Blessed Peter in this primacy; let him be anathema. 

[The constitution's second definition establishes two things:
(1) That Christ instituted a perpetual succession to the Petrine primacy over the Church.
(2) That the Roman Pontiffs are the successors in the primacy.]

(To be continued tomorrow...  A complete index of this series can be found here.)