söndag 28 september 2014

Between Vigilantius and the Waldensians

I have heard Protestants say or more recently read them write* that:

  • Benedict XVI/Ratzinger was wrong to affirm the need of Apostolic Succession and to affirm at same time that Protestantism lacked it;
  • since to them the continuation of the Church was not tied to the presence of legitimate pastors;
  • that a Church - here is the new item for today - was present in the Cottian Alps independently of Rome. And thus, it is presumed, independently of Apostolic Succession as we understand it.

This presumed Church in the Cottian Alps - was the claim insofar as I understood it - had Waldensians simply continuing the non-Roman Catholicism of Vigilantius. Never mind Vigilantius was rather from the Pyrenees! Richard Bennet is Irish, but he shows an US American disregard for European geography here!

Now, Vigilantius' Treaty or other utterance is not preserved to us. His positions are cited and refuted in Contra Vigilantium by Saint Jerome -and the Church Father is presuming Vigilantius or at least anyone else hearing of this would respect the Papal practise of praying over the full body relics of Saints Peter and Paul. Does not quite seem as if Vigilantius belonged to another confession or ecclesiastic body than Saint Jerome, even more so as Vigilantius was only presbyter, not bishop. One must therefore presume he depended on a bishop. Indeed, Exsuperius of Toulouse being his bishop did favour the views of Vigilantius and Saint Jerome intervened because Riparius, also a presbyter, brought forth the complaints against this. Now, this act of the good Catholic Riparius may be a precedent for making appeals against an apostate bishop, and even to good Theologians not necessarily Popes, but not Vigilantius and Exsuperius for Protestantism. Now, like Saint Jerome and Saint Augustine, Vigalantius lived in the 4th and 5th Centuries. Waldensians are recorded as a sect differring from Catholics in the 12th Century.

Here is a little problem for their theory. If Vigilantius was a Protestant rather than just a radical priest of the Vatican II type of disciplinary dissolution - despite depending on a bishop! - and if Protestants survived where he had lived to when they were Waldensians:

  • how come they did not preserve the precious treaty of Vigilantius by copying? Of course, if Vigilantius was Pyrenees and they were Cottian Alps, there might have been some Geographical difficulty, but if the lost treaty of Vigilantius could spread to where Saint Jerome could answer it, why not to the Cottian Alps, if there were proto-Albigensians there who might have been willing to preserve it?
  • And, did they accept the Bible translation of Saint Jerome, the Vulgate, despite Saint Jerome being a defender of reverence to relics, vigils, burning of tapers, despite defending the sending of alms to Jerusalem, despite his defending monkish poverty and virginal chastity?

    What happened when the language spoken in the Cottian Alps drifted further and further away from being basically one sound per each letter written in Latin?** For the Catholic Community, we know what Alcuin did. He made clergymen pronounce Latin as written, probably even more letter by letter than when Christianity began.** As a byproduct writing down the sounds of spoken speech, also letter by letter, started, first no doubt sporadically, as usual preparation for obligatory sermon in vulgar tongue,*** with different individual makeshifts for sounds not found in Alcuin's Latin pronunication, then written Romance languages emerged. But when exactly did writing Latin leave place to writing Occitan in the Cottian Alps? Would these presumed Waldensians also have been reading the Gospel in Latin pronounced as by the people, then obeyed the reform of Alcuin (despite him being a Catholic who venerated relics and wanted monks to be poor and chaste!) then read the Gospel in Alcuin's Latin and then found (what a coincidence with the Council of Tours, if so!) the people needed a translation and then introduced an Occitan suspiciously similar to that produced in Catholic countries like most of the Carolingian Empire? Or what happened? How did it affect the supposed Waldensian community there?

  • Do we have any traces of the supposed Waldensian community at all, between Vigilantius and the historic Waldensians?

Because, if we haven't, neither the kind of traces I have detailed out as possible, nor in general, how can anyone in his right mind affirm there was an uninterrupted Protestant community there?

If it agreed with Vigilantius in censoring relics, how come there are no conflicts with surrounding Catholicism up to the time of the Waldensians? I do not necessarily mean violent conflicts, but things like ...

  • Was there any Catholic in the 8th C who complained about the men in the Cottian Alps who refused to honour relics (as Vigilantius had done and as Waldensians would do)?
  • Was there any Cottian Alps Protestant who during the 10th C, the Dark Century of Papacy wrote anything like "look what comes of honouring relics"?
  • When the supposed Cottian Alps' Protestants saw Iconoclasm in the East, when Emperors agreed on icons what Vigilantius had said about relics and what Waldensians would say about both, but when they were also persecuting Iconodules, i e Catholics, despite the Waldensian tenet against persecuting anyone, as per La Nobla Leçoun, which whether originally Waldensian or not is one writing accepted by Waldensians, do we see any debates among the supposed Cottian Alps' community of Protestants as to which side to take or as to be neutral?

As far as I know, the answer to these three questions is a very resounding NO.

Now, there is another question than indefectibility of the Church involved in the Catholic claim that Apostolic Necessity is necessary.

Berean Bacon is claming the Cottian Alps got their Christianity independently of Rome, in the Apostolic age. That is indeed possible. I do not know it for a fact, but it is possible. The Catholic claim of Apostolic Succession is not concerned with only succession from St Peter in Rome, or from Sts Peter and Paul in Rome, but with succession from the TWELVE. One can be a bishop, in the Catholic sense, and not trace one's lineage as bishop back to St Peter. But one cannot be so and not trace one's lineage back to the TWELVE, of whom St Peter was foremost but of whom he was only one.

Bergamo got its bishop from St Barnabas - codisciple with St Paul of Gamaliel, only seriously considered named rival of St Paul about the canonic writing to the Hebrews - and St Barnabas was ordained or consecrated in Jerusalem along with St Paul before going off as missionary bishops, unless my memory of Acts or Pauline Epistles misleads me. Whether the Simon mentioned was St Peter or Kephas, or someone else, the cheirotonia did go back to the TWELVE. St Paul and the SEVENTY got their succession from them. Spain certainly got a lineage from St James the Greater, brother of Saint John, son of Zebedee. India certainly got a lineage from Saint Thomas Didymus.

These lineages persist also outside the Catholic Community. There is an ontological as well as a juridical side to episcopacy. The ability to ordain priests for the celebration of Holy Mass is there in a schismatic bishop, like those obeying the wrong "Pope" during the Western Schism. It is present in a bishop who is a heretic, like a Monophysite or a Nestorian. When heretical Monothelite bishops became Catholics, forming the Maronite Community, they needed no reordination, no reconsecration. It is only on the juridical side that episcopacy is automatically deficient or lacking when outside and especially when pertinaciously against the true Church.

And the earliest pastors of Protestantism at the Reformation did not receive episcopacy, excepting one Swede. And he did NOT transmit it, because he did NOT intend to. He changed the ritual because he did not believe in the Holy Mass.

Now, we are not monomaniacs about episcopacy irrespective of "congregation" (as they would say), just because Berean Beacon are blind to it and accuses us of being such.

A Catholic "congregation" without a bishop does not cease to be Catholic. It is widowed (as a bishop represents the Bridegroom), but it is not automatically in heresy or schism because it lacks a bishop.

The so-called Petite Église - it means "little Church" - accused Pius VII of apostasy because of his concordate with Napoleon I, for one thing because he made peace with revolutionary clergy (their practises had been condemned in Auctorem Fidei by Pope Pius VI when he condemned the Synod of Pistoia) and for another because he excommunicated remaining Counterrevolutionaries, remaining Chouans. Cadoudal died, executed by Napoleon's men, in communion with Little Church and not with Pius VII. As these considered Pius VII a non-Pope and traitor, they went into schism. They came to lack bishops and after some time even priests.

But it was their consideration of Pius VII which made them schismatic, not just the misfortune of lacking bishops and priests. And this lack could not make them heretics either. When their last priests died, there was noone who could celebrate Holy Mass with them. Their parishes were not just widowed, but now crippled as well. But did they take the Eucharist in the hands of laymen? No. They were not heretics or Protestants. They trusted episcopacy and Holy Mass continued elsewhere, as Christ had promised. They continued Baptism, which laymen can confer in cases of necessity, and they continued marriages, which the spouses are the ones conferring.

But the Protestants seeing no bishop sided with them saw no need for this limitation. They did not see that a congfregation without a bishop even though retaining the faith, is crippled, unable to continue where it is the Holy Eucharist : it has to unite itself to Holy Eucharist celebrated elsewhere.

That is what makes Protestantism so special as a heresy. There is a semi-episcopal or pseudo-epicopal variety of it recently forming the Porvoo Communion.° But it can show no correct episcopal lineage.

In the Cottian Alps, Waldensians finally did not even try to show such a thing, not when joining hands with Calvinists. But for all i know - and better historians than I will confirm it in some detail, I doubt not, if there is time for it before the world ends - Christianity in the Cottian Alps, previous to Waldensians, had bishops, had Holy Mass, had Seven Sacraments. And as Vigilantius was anyway in the Pyrenees, it honoured relics too.

And of course Vigilantius was no Protestant. He agreed with Protestants in some things, at least before getting the answer from Saint Jerome, like about relics. But he did not agree with them about Holy Mass or Apostolic Succession, nor about Seven Sacraments and Episcopal order.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Bpi, Georges Pompidou

NewAdvent : Fathers : Jerome : Against Vigilantius

* Richard Bennet in Berean Beacon, not linking.

** As long as the discrepancy was basically B and V (originally pronounced W) coinciding between vowels as our v, and the ten vowels of Latin, five long and five short, being simplified to the seven mid long vowels of Proto-Romance, and loss of nasality of nasal vowels spelled as vowel plus final m, as long as the morphological impact of this phonetic change was limited to making accusative agrum coincide with ablative agro, or future with perfect as in vocabit/vocavit, vocabimus/vocavimus, it was feasible to consider the written Latin as a way of writing the spoken language. But changes did not stop there. As to Alcuin's pronunciation, -um was not just not omitted or pronounced like -o, but -u- and -m were pronounced as two sounds, as we do today too, rather than as two letters for a nasal -u.

*** Council of Tours of 813 took note of fact that as Alcuin's pronunciation of the Gospel in Latin was not that of the people, these did not understand it. And those speaking a Germanic language, like Frankish or Burgundian, didn't understand it anyway. So, one decided after the Gospel a priest on a Sunday or Holiday had to explain its content in the vulgar tongue. This decision was taken within few decades of Alcuin's reform.

° Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists. Swedish Lutherans being closer than the others to having episcopal succession and even these not even near, when you consider what Laurentius Petri did.

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