A Manual Of Catholic Theology, Based On Scheeben's Dogmatik
Joseph Wilhelm, D.D., PHD. And Thomas B. Scannell, D.D.
THE TRANSMISSION OF REVELATION.
SECT. 7.The Protestant Theory and the Catholic Theory concerning the Mode of transmitting and enforcing Revelation.
DIVINE Revelation, although destined for all men in all times and places, has not been communicated to each individual directly and immediately. Certain means have been appointed by God for this purpose. Catholics and Protestants, however, hold diametrically opposite views as to what these means are. We shall first state both theories, and then develop and prove the Catholic theory.
I. The Protestant theory takes two different forms, both alike opposed to the Catholic theory. According to the older Protestants, Holy Scripture, the divinely written document of Revelation, together with an interior illumination of the Holy Ghost, is the sole means whereby Revelation asserts itself to the individual. All other institutions or external means of communicating Revelation are the work of man, coming violently between Revelation and Faith, and destroying the supernatural character of the latter. Modern Protestants, however, admit the existence of other means of transmission besides Holy Writ itself, but they deny that such means are ordained by God and participate in the Divine character of Revelation; while some even go so far as to deny the supernatural character of Holy Scripture. Revealed truth is handed down by purely human witnesses, whose authority depends, not on the assistance of the Holy Ghost, but on their natural abilities and industry. Both forms protest the one in the name of Christian, the other in the name of natural, freedom against the notion of a Revelation imposing itself authoritatively on mankind; and they also protest against any living and visible authority claiming to be established by God and to have the right to impose the obedience of Faith.
II. The Catholic theory is a logical consequence of the nature of Revelation. Revelation is not simply intended for the comfort and edification of isolated individuals, but as a fruitful source of supernatural knowledge and life, and a sovereign rule of Faith, thought, and conduct for all mankind as a whole, and for each man in particular. God wills that by its means all men should be gathered into His kingdom of holiness and truth, and should obtain, by conformity to His Will, the happiness which He destines for them, at the same time rendering to Him the tribute of glory which is His due. Revelation is especially intended to be a principle of Faith, leading to an infallible knowledge of revealed truth, and also to he a law of Faith, by submitting to which all men may offer to God the most perfect homage of their intellect. Hence it follows that God should provide efficient means to enable mankind to acquire a complete, certain, and uniform knowledge of revealed truth, and to secure to Himself a uniform and universal worship founded on Faith. This exercise of God's Jus Majestatis over the mind of man is rightly insisted upon by the Vatican Council against the rationalistic tendencies of the day. Moreover, God could not cast upon the world the written document of His revealed Word, and leave it to an uncertain fate. Had He done so, the purposes of Revelation would have been completely frustrated. The only efficient mode of transmitting Revelation with authority is that the Word of God, after having once been spoken, should be continually proposed to mankind by His authorized envoys, and promulgated in His name and power as the principle and rule of Faith. These envoys are called the Teaching Body; their functions are called the Apostolate.
Thus, according to the Catholic theory, there is a means of transmitting Revelation distinct from Revelation itself and its written document; and this means, having been instituted by God, detracts in no way from the dignity of Revelation, but rather safeguards it. Other means of transmission, such as Scripture and history, are by no means excluded; they are, however, subordinate to the one essential and fundamental means.
SECT. 8.Further Explanation of the Catholic Theory.
I. The promulgation of revealed truth, being an act of God as Sovereign Lord of all creatures, must be made in the name of His sovereign authority and by ambassadors invested with a share of that authority. Their commission must consist of an appointment emanating from God, and they must be armed with the necessary credentials and the power of exacting Faith from those to whom they are sent. Thus qualified, the promulgation may be technically described as official, authentic, and authoritative: official, because made by persons whose proper office it is to publish like heralds in human affairs; authentic, because with the commission to promulgate there is connected a public dignity and authority, in virtue of which the holder guarantees the truth of his utterances, and makes them legally credible as in the case of public witnesses, such as registrars; authoritative, because the holder of the commission is the representative of God, invested with authority to exact Faith from his subordinates, and to keep efficient watch over its maintenance.
II. A threefold Divine co-operation is required for the attainment of the end of Revelation: the promulgation must be made under Divine guarantee, Divine legitimation and Divine sanction. The object of the Apostolate is to generate an absolute, supernatural, and Divine certainty of the Word of God. Moreover, the promulgating body claims a full and unconditional submission of the mind to the truths which it teaches. But this certainty could not be produced, and this submission could not be demanded, except by an infallible body. The intrinsic and invisible quality of infallibility is not enough to convey the authenticity and authority of the Apostolate to the knowledge of mankind some external mark is required. Christ proved the authority of His mission by miracles, and then instituted the Apostolate. His words and works were sufficient evidence for those who actually witnessed them. For us some other proof is necessary; and this may be either some special miracle accompanying the preaching of the Gospel, or the general moral miracle of the continuity and efficiency of the Apostolate. This subject will be treated at greater length in the treatise on Faith. The sanction of the Apostolate consists in the rewards and punishments reserved hereafter for those who accept or reject its teaching, and is the complement of its authority. Submission to Revelation is the fundamental condition of salvation, and consequently submission to the Apostolate, which is the means of transmitting Revelation, must be enforced by the same sanctions as submission to Revelation itself.
III. The act of promulgation must be a teaching (magisterium), and not a mere statement; this teaching must witness to its identity with the original Revelation, i.e. it must always show that what is taught is identical with what was revealed; it must be a teaching with authority that is, it must command the submission of the mind, because otherwise the unity and universality of the Faith could not be attained.
IV. The subject-matter of the Apostolate is co-extensive with the subject-matter of Revelation. It embraces, besides the truths directly revealed, those also which are intimately connected and inseparably interwoven therewith (cf. § 5). Divine Faith cannot indeed be commanded in the case of truths not directly revealed by God; nevertheless the Teaching Body, the living witness and ambassador plenipotentiary of the Word of God, must, when occasion requires, be empowered to impress the seal of authenticity on subordinate truths also, for without this power the object of the Apostolate would in many cases be thwarted. The Church exercises this power when authoritatively passing judgment on dogmatic facts (facta dogmatica), or applying minor censures to unsound propositions.
SECT. 9Demonstration of the Catholic Theory.
The Catholic theory that Revelation is transmitted and communicated by means of envoys and teachers accredited by God, is evident a priori, i.e. the consideration of the nature of Revelation and its object shows that no other theory is practically possible. There are, however, other proofs also, which are set forth under the following headings:-
I. Proof from our Lord's words.
1. The documentary proof of the institution of a teaching Apostolate is found in Holy Scripture exactly where we should expect to find it, viz, at the end of the Gospels and at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles.
(a) The first Evangelist, St. Matthew (xxviii. 18, 19), gives the narrative around which all the others group themselves. He shows, first, that the Apostles' mission is based upon the sovereign power of Christ, and he then characterizes this mission as the visible continuation of the mission of Christ the working of the Apostolate is described as an authorized teaching of the whole doctrine of Christ to all men of all times; lastly, baptism is stated to be the act by which all mankind are bound to become the disciples of the Apostolate. All power is given to Me in Heaven and on earth. Going therefore [in virtue of, and endowed with this My sovereign power, As the Father hath sent Me, I also send you John xx. 21] teach ye [make to yourselves disciples, teach as having power; cf. Mark i. 22] all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world. It is evident from the text that the promised presence of Christ is intended to secure the object of the Apostolate, and, consequently, that the Apostolate must be infallible. (See Bossuet, Instructions sur les Promesses faites á l'Eglise; and Wiseman, The Principal Doctrines and Practices of the Church, lect. iv.)
(b) The second Evangelist, St. Mark, describes the teaching of St. Matthew as a preaching, and mentions, instead of the intrinsic guarantee of infallibility, the extrinsic signs of authority and sanction. Go ye into the whole world and preach the Gospel to every creature [as an authorized message from the Creator and Sovereign Lord to all mankind as His creatures]. He that believeth [your preaching] and is baptized shall be saved but he that believeth not shall be condemned. And these signs shall follow them that believe: in My name they shall cast out devils
. But they [the eleven] going forth, preached everywhere: the Lord working withal, and confirming the word with signs that followed (xvi. 1520).
(c) The third Evangelist, St. Luke, draws attention to the mission to preach, but afterwards lays special stress on its principal act the authentic witnessing, and points to the Holy Ghost, of Whom the human witnesses are the mouthpiece, as the guarantee of the infallibility of the testimony. Thus it is written, and it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the dead on the third day; and that penance and the remission of sins should be preached in His name unto all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things, and I send the promise of My Father upon you (xxiv. 46-49). You shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost coming you, and you shall be witnesses unto Me in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the uttermost part of the earth (Acts i. 8).
(d) Whilst the synoptic Gospels chiefly describe the universal propagation and first diffusion of the doctrine of Christ, St. John, the fourth Evangelist, points out especially the unity, conservation, and application of the doctrine. He narrates, as the last act of our Lord, the appointment of a permanent visible Head of the Church. St. Peter is chosen to take the place of Christ, with power to feed mankind with the bread of doctrine (xxi. 15-17), and to lead them in the light of truth. The apostolic organism thus receives a firm centre and a permanent consistency. The abiding and invisible assistance of Christ announced in St. Matthew to the members of the Apostolate is here visibly embodied in His supreme representative to whom it was especially promised (Matt. xvi. 17-19; Luke xxii. 31, 32). Moreover, the very figure of a shepherd feeding his lambs and sheep contains an allusion to the authority and sanction of the promulgation of the Word (cf. John x. II sqq.; Ps. xxii; Ezech. xxxiv. 23).
Thus the last Evangelist comes back to the point from which St. Matthew started: All power is given to Me in Heaven and on earth. The mission of the Apostolate is an emanation from and a continuation of the mission of Christ, and consequently the functions of both are described in similar terms. Our Lord Himself is spoken of as a Doctor and Master, teaching as one having power (Mark i. 22); a Preacher of the Gospel sent by God to man (Luke iv. 16-21) ; a Witness, giving testimony to what He saw with the Father (John viii. 14-18); and, lastly as the Shepherd of the sheep (John x. II).
2. The beautiful picture of the institution of the Apostolate given at the end of the Gospel narratives is brought out more clearly when viewed side by side with the previous teaching of our Lord. The mission described iii Matt. xxviii. is represented in John xvii. 17, 18, as a continuation of the mission of Christ Himself: Sanctify them in truth: Thy word is truth. As Thou hast sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. Moreover the coercive authority spoken of by St. Matthew and St. Mark is mentioned by St. Luke x. 16 (cf. John xiii. 20 ; Matt. x. 40) on the occasion of the first preparatory mission of the seventy-two disciples. He that heareth you heareth Me and he that despiseth you despiseth Me; and he that despiseth Me despiseth Him that sent Me. And the promise of the Holy Ghost, Who, according to St. Luke's narrative, was to support and strengthen the testimony of the Apostles, is made at great length in St. John's account of our Lord's discourse at the Last Supper, in which the duration, importance, and efficacy of the Holy Ghost's assistance are declared. And I will ask the Father, and He shall give you another Paraclete, that He may abide with you for ever, the Spirit of truth, Whom the world cannot receive:
but you shall know Him; because He shall abide with you, and shall be in you (xiv. 16, 17). These things have I spoken to you, abiding with you. But the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, Whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring all things into your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you (ibid., 25, 26). But when the Paraclete cometh, Whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, Who proceedeth from the Father, He shall give testimony of Me: and you shall give testimony, because you are with Me from the beginning (xv. 26, 27). When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will teach you all truth (xvi. 13). It is plain that these promises were made to the Apostles as future propagators of the Faith, and the stress laid upon the functions of the Holy Ghost as the Spirit of truth, as Teacher and Witness, as Keeper of and Guide to the truth, is intended to show that the transmission of Revelation was to be endowed with all the qualifications required for its object, and especially with infallibility. Lastly, the Pastor appointed by Christ (John xxi. 15-17) had been previously designated as being strengthened in Faith in order to confirm his brethren, and as the rock which was to be the indestructible foundation of the Church (Luke xxii. 31, 32; Matt. xvi. 18).
These passages taken together may be summarized as follows. After accomplishing His own mission, Jesus Christ, in virtue of His absolute power and authority, sent into the world a body of teachers and preachers, presided over by one Head. They were His representatives, and had for their mission to publish to the world all revealed truth until the end of time. Their mission was not exclusively personal it was to extend to their successors. Mankind were bound to receive them as Christ Himself. That their word might be His word, and might be recognized as such, He promised them His presence and the aid of the Holy Ghost to guarantee the infallibility of their doctrine; He promised external and supernatural signs as vouchers for its authenticity; finally, He gave their doctrine an effective sanction by holding out an eternal reward to those who should faithfully adhere to it, and by threatening with eternal punishment those who should reject it.
This summary is a complete answer to certain difficulties drawn from detached texts of Holy Scripture, and likewise fills up the gaps in isolated passages. The picture we have drawn corresponds exactly, even in minute details, with the theory of the Catholic Church on the Apostolate. Certain points, as, for instance, the infallibility of the Apostolate in matters indirectly connected with Revelation, are at least implicitly and virtually contained in the texts quoted. There is even reason to maintain that the words, He shall lead you into all truth (John xvi. 13), imply the promise of the infallible guidance of the Holy Ghost in all truths necessary to the Church. It should also be noted that, although these passages, as a whole, apply to the future of the Christian dispensation, some of them apply chiefly to its commencement, e.g. the signs and wonders, and the ocular evidence of the Apostles. The transitory elements can, however, be easily distinguished, and are therefore no argument against the perpetuity of the essential elements required for the permanent object of Revelation the salvation of all mankind.
II. Proof from the writings of the Apostles.
The writings of the Apostles represent the Apostolate as an accomplished fact, destined to endure in all its essential elements until the end of time.
1. The theory is set forth especially in Rom. x. 8-19 and Eph. iv. 7-14. In the former passage, St. Paul insists on the necessity and importance of the apostolic preaching as the ordinary means of transmitting the doctrine of Christ. The word is nigh thee [i.e. all men, Jews and Gentiles], even in thy mouth, and in thy heart. This is the word of faith which we preach. For, if thou confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thy heart that God hath raised Him up from the dead, thou shalt be saved
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on Him in Whom they have not believed? Or how shall they believe Him of Whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they be sent? . . . Faith then cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ [as preached by those who have been sent]. . . . But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound hath gone forth into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the whole world. But all do not obey the Gospel [preached by the Apostles], for Isaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? In writing to the Ephesians the Apostle describes how the organic body of living teachers is by its manifold functions the means designed by God to produce the unity, firmness, and security of the universal Faith. He speaks more particularly about the organization of the Apostolate, as it existed in his own day, when the Apostles were still living, and the extraordinary graces (charismata) were still in full operation. His description is not that of the ordinary organization, which was to endure for all ages, but, in spite of this, it is plain that what he says of the importance of the earlier form, may also be applied to that which was to come. And He gave some apostles, and some prophets, and other some evangelists [both graces peculiar to the first epoch], and other some pastors and doctors [this alludes to the ordinary teachers, the bishops appointed by the Apostles] for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, until we all meet together into the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fulness of Christ: that henceforth we be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the wickedness of men, by cunning craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive (Eph. iv. 11-15). The Apostles were the foundation of the whole organization; after their death their place was taken by the successor of St. Peter, to whom the other pastors stand in the same relation as the first bishops stood to the Apostles.
2. In practice, the Apostles announced the Gospel, and carried on the work of their ministry; they represented themselves as the ambassadors of Christ (Rom. i. 5; xv. 18 ; I Cor. ii. 16 ; iii. 9, etc.), and, above all, as witnesses sent to the people by God; they proved the Divinity of their mission by signs and wonders, as Christ promised them (I Cor. ii. 4; 2 Cor. xii. 12; I Thess. i. 5, etc.); they demanded for the word of God, to which they bore authentic and authoritative witness, the obedience of Faith (Rom. i. 5), and claimed the power and the right to enforce respect for it: For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty to God unto the pulling down of fortifications, destroying counsels, and every height that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every understanding unto the obedience of Christ, and having in readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience shall be fulfilled (2 Cor. x. 4-6). They apply the sanction established by Christ, He that believeth not shall be condemned, and themselves pronounce the sentence. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema (Gal. i. 8).
The mode of promulgation, in its essentials, was to be permanent, and not to cease with the Apostles, as may be gathered from the principles laid down by St. Paul (Rom. x.) and from the fact that the Apostles appointed successors to themselves to watch over and keep the doctrine entrusted to them. Hold the form of sound words which thou hast heard of me . . . Keep the good thing committed to thy trust by the Holy Ghost Who dwelleth in us (2 Tim. i. 13, 14). They add the commandment to appoint further successors with the same charge. The things which thou hast heard of me by many witnesses, the same commend to faithful men who shall be fit to teach others also (2 Tim. ii. 2). The practical application of this system is thus described by St. Clement of Rome, the disciple of the Apostles: Christ was sent by God, and the Apostles by Christ. Therefore they went forth with the full persuading power of the Holy Ghost, announcing the coming of the kingdom of God. Through provinces and in towns they preached the word, and appointed the first fruits thereof, duly tried by the Spirit, to be the bishops and deacons of them that should believe. . . . They appointed the above-named, and then gave them command that when they came to die other approved men should succeed to their ministry (Ep. i. ad Cor.. nn. 42, 44).
This proof from Scripture by no means presupposes the inspiration of the books of the New Testament; it is enough for our present purpose to assume that they are authentic narratives. We thus do not fall into the vicious circle of proving the Apostolate from the inspired books, and the Inspiration of the books from the Apostolate. Nor do we make use of the authority of the Church in interpreting the texts. Their meaning is sufficiently manifest without any such help.
III. Historical proofs.
But we have historical proofs of unimpeachable character that already, in the first centuries, the Catholic Rule was held by the Fathers. St. Irenaeus, Origen, and Tertullian taught that, in consequence of the mission given to the Apostles, their successors preached the word with authenticity and authority; that the preaching of these successors infallibly reproduced the preaching of the Apostles; that, consequently, Ecclesiastical Tradition was to be followed, notwithstanding any private appeal to Holy Scripture or to any other historical documents.
1. St. Irenaeus insists upon these points against the Gnostics, who appealed to Scripture or to private historical documents.
(a) He insists upon the existence and importance of the mission of the Apostles, and also upon the succession in the Apostolate Therefore in every church there is, for all those who would fain see the truth, at hand to look unto, the tradition of the Apostles made manifest throughout the whole world; and we have it in our power to enumerate those who were by the Apostles instituted Bishops in the churches, and the successors of those Bishops down to ourselves, none of whom either taught or knew anything like unto the wild opinions of these men. For if the Apostles had known any hidden mysteries, which they apart and privately taught the perfect only, they would have delivered them before all others to those to whom they entrusted even the very churches. For they sought that they whom they left as successors, delivering unto them their own post of government, should be especially perfect and blameless in all things. He then demonstrates the continuity of succession in the church of Rome: But as it would be a very long task to enumerate, in such a volume as this, the successions of all the churches; pointing out that tradition which the greatest and most ancient and universally known church of Rome founded and constituted by the two most glorious Apostles Peter and Paul derives from the Apostles, and that faith announced to all men, which through the succession of (her) Bishops has come down to us, we confound all those who in any way, whether through self-complacency or vain-glory, or blindness and perverse opinion, assemble otherwise than as behoveth them. For to this church, on account of more potent principality, it is necessary that every church, that is, those who are on every side faithful, resort, in which (church) ever, by those who are on every side, has been preserved that tradition which is from the Apostles. . . . By this order and by this succession both that tradition which is in the Church from the Apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is a most complete demonstration that the vivifying faith is one and the same, which from the Apostles even until now, has been preserved in the Church and transmitted in truthfulness. After mentioning other disciples and successors of the Apostles, he continues Wherefore, since there are such proofs to show, we ought not still to seek amongst others for truth which it is easy to receive from the Church, seeing that the Apostles have brought together most fully into it, as into a rich repository, all whatever is of truth, that every one that willeth may draw out of it the drink of life. . . . But what if the Apostles had not left us writings: would it not have been needful to follow the order of that tradition which they delivered to those to whom they committed the churches an ordinance to which many of the barbarian nations who believe in Christ assent, having salvation written, without paper and ink, by the Spirit, in their hearts, and sedulously guarding the old tradition? (Adv. Haeres., 1. iii., 3, 4).
(b) Irenaeus then shows that the preaching of the Apostles, continued by their successors, contains a supernatural guarantee of infallibility through the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. The public teaching of the Church is everywhere uniform and equally enduring, and testified unto by Prophets and by Apostles, and by all the disciples, have demonstrated, through the first and intermediate and final period, and through the whole economy of God and that accustomed operation relative to the salvation of man, which is in our faith, which, having received from the Church, we guard (quam perceptam ab ecclesia custodimus); and which by the Spirit of God is ever in youthful freshness, like something excellent deposited in a beautiful vase, making even the very vase, wherein it is, seem newly formed (fresh with youth). For this office of God has been entrusted to the Church, as though for the breathing of life into His handiwork, unto the end that all the members that partake may be vivified; in this [office], too, is disposed the communication of Christ, that is, the Holy Spirit, the pledge of incorruption, the ladder whereby to ascend unto God. For in the Church, saith he, God hath placed Apostles, prophets, doctors, and every other work of the Spirit, of which all they are not partakers who do not hasten to the Church, but by their evil sentiment and most flagrant conduct defraud themselves of life. For where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church and every grace: but the Spirit is truth. Wherefore they who do not partake of that [Spirit] are neither nourished unto life from a mother's breasts, nor see the most clear spring which proceeds from Christ's body; but dig unto themselves broken cisterns out of earthy trenches, and out of the filth drink foul water, fleeing from the faith of the Church lest they be brought back; but rejecting the Spirit that they may not be instructed (lib. iii., c. 24).
(c) Lastly, Ireneus links together the Apostolic Succession and the supernatural guarantee of the Holy Ghost. Wherefore we ought to obey those presbyters who are in the Church, those who have a succession from the Apostles, as we have shown; who, with the succession of the episcopate, have received according to the good will of the Father the sure gift of truth; but the rest who depart from the principal succession, and assemble in any place whatever, we ought to hold suspected either as heretics and of an evil opinion, or as schismatics and proud, and as men pleasing themselves; or, again, as hypocrites doing this for gain's sake and vain-glory
. Where, therefore, the gifts of God are placed, there we ought to learn the truth, [from those] with whom is that succession of the Church which is from the Apostles; and that which is sound and irreprovable in conversation and unadulterated and incorruptible in discourse, abides. For they both guard that faith of ours in one God, Who made all things, and increase our love towards the Son of God, Who made such dispositions on our account, and they expound to us the Scriptures without danger, neither uttering blasphemy against God, nor dishonouring the patriarchs nor contemning the prophets (lib. iv. 26).
2. Origen, in the preface to his work De Principiis, states the principle of the Apostolate in the Church in the following pregnant terms: There being many who fancy that they think the things of Christ, and some of them think differently from those who have gone before, let there be preserved the ecclesiastical teaching which, transmitted by the order of succession from the Apostles, remains even to the present day in the churches: that alone is to be believed to be truth which in nothing differs from the ecclesiastical and apostolical tradition. And commenting on Matt. xxiv. 23, he says, As often as they [heretics] bring forward canonical Scriptures in which every Christian agrees and believes, they seem to say, 'Behold in the houses is the word of truth.' But we are not to credit them; nor to go out from the first and the ecclesiastical tradition; nor to believe otherwise than according as the churches of God have by succession transmitted to us. ... The truth is like the lightning which goeth out from the east and appeareth even into the west; such is the truth of the Church of God; for from it alone the sound hath gone forth into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.
3. Tertullian treats of this subject in his well-known work De Praescriptionibus. [Heretics] put forward the Scriptures and by this their boldness they forthwith move some persons; but in the actual encounter they weary the strong, catch the weak, send away the wavering anxious. We therefore interpose this first and foremost position: that they are not to be admitted to any discussion whatever touching the Scriptures. If these be those weapons of strength of theirs, in order that they may possess them, it ought to be seen to whom the possession of the Scriptures belongs, lest he may be admitted to it to whom it in no wise belongs
. Therefore there must be no appeal to the Scriptures, nor must the contest be constituted in these, in which the victory is either none or doubtful, or too little doubtful. For even though the debate on the Scriptures should not, so turn out as to confirm each party, the order of things required that this question should be first proposed, which is now the only one to be discussed, 'To whom belongs the faith itself; whose are the Scriptures; by whom, and through whom, and when and to whom was that rule delivered whereby men became Christians?' for wherever both the true Christian rule and faith shall be shown to be, there will be the true Scriptures and the true expositions and all the true Christian traditions (nn. 15, 19).
IV The Divine legitimation of the Apostolate.
A strong argument in favour of the Divine origin of the Apostolate, stronger even than the proof from the Holy Scriptures and early Fathers, may be drawn from its actual existence and working in the Catholic Church. If the power over the human mind and the infallible possession of Divine truth claimed by the Catholic hierarchy did not really come from God, the claim would be a horrible blasphemy, and the hierarchy would be the work of the devil. But if this were the case, it would be impossible for the Church to do all the good which she does, to contribute so wonderfully to the sanctification of mankind, and to be so constantly and so energetically attacked by the enemies of Christ. God would be bound to oppose and extirpate this monster of deception, which pretends to be the work of His hands and to be guided by His Spirit. He could not allow it to prevail so long, so universally, with such renown and success among the very best of mankind. But, far from doing this, God marvellously supports the Apostolate and confirms its authority from time to time by supernatural manifestations. These, of course, demonstrate the Divine origin of the Church as a whole, but they also demonstrate the Divine origin of the Apostolate which is the means of communicating the Faith which the Church professes.
SECT. 10. Organization of the Teaching Apostolate Its Relations with the two Powers and the two Hierarchical Orders instituted by Christ.
The usual place to treat of the Organization of the Teaching Apostolate is in the treatise on the Constitution of the Church. For our present purpose, however, which is to show to whom and in what manner belongs the right to expound and propose Revelation, it will be sufficient to give a clear notion of the two hierarchical powers.
I. The power to teach is vested by right, as well as by the institution of Christ, in those same dignitaries who are appointed to be the instruments of the Holy Ghost for the communication of His grace to mankind (potestas ordinis) and who are the representatives of Christ for the government of His kingdom upon earth (potestas jurisdictionis): in a word, the Apostolate belongs to the Hierarchy. But the Apostolate is not only intimately connected with the two above-named functions of the Hierarchy: it is also itself an hierarchical function. As such, its value and importance depend on the rank held by the members of the Hierarchy by right either of ordination or of jurisdiction. The Apostolate is not, however, an independent hierarchical function. It springs from and forms an essential part of the other two. To enlighten the mind with heavenly truth and to generate Faith are acts belonging to the very nature of the Power of Orders, inasmuch as in this way the gifts of the vivifying Spirit are dispensed. And the same may be said of the Power of Jurisdiction, for the noblest part of this power is to feed the flock of Christ on Faith, and so to guide it to salvation.
II. We have already distinguished two functions of the Apostolate : (1) the authentic witnessing to the doctrine of Christ, and (2) the authoritative enforcement of it. The first element belongs to the Power of Orders, the second to the Power of Jurisdiction.
1. The act of witnessing to the doctrine of Christ is not in itself an act of jurisdiction, but rather, as being a communication of grace and of supernatural life, belongs to the Power of Orders. The function of this power is to transmit the Grace of Christ, especially the grace of Faith, while the Apostolate transmits the truth of Christ and provides the subject-matter of the act of Faith. The members of the Hierarchy invested with the power of communicating the gifts of Grace in general and the gift of Faith in particular, are therefore also the instruments of the Holy Ghost in communicating the doctrine of Faith. The grace which they receive in their ordination consecrates them for and entitles them to both functions, so that they are, in a twofold sense, the dispensers of the mysteries of God. Hence the witnesses of the Apostolate, which was instituted to produce supernatural Faith, are invested with a supernatural character, a public dignity, and a power based upon an intimate union with the Holy Ghost. They represent the testimony of the Holy Ghost promised by Christ, because they are the instruments of the Holy Ghost. They cannot, however, individually claim infallibility, as will presently be shown.
The Power of Orders has different degrees which constitute the Hierarchy of Orders. To each of these degrees belongs a corresponding share in the right and power to expound revealed doctrine. The High Priests (the Pontiffs or Priests of the first order, i.e. the Bishops) alone possess the fulness of the Power of Orders, and are by themselves independent of any other order in the performance of their functions. Hence, in virtue of their Orders, the Bishops alone are, in a perfect sense, Fathers of the Faithful, independent teachers and authentic witnesses in their own right. The subordinate members of the Hierarchy of Orders receive their orders from the Bishops, and are mere auxiliaries. Thus the Deacons are exclusively called to assist in the functions of the higher orders, and the Priests of the second order, i.e. simple Priests, in the ordinary sense of the word, act as the Bishop's assistants, and often with his positive co-operation. Their participation in the Apostolate is limited, like their participation in the Power of Orders, and may be expressed in the same terms.
2. The act of imposing the doctrine of Christ, that is, of commanding adhesion to it, clearly appertains to the Power of Jurisdiction, especially to that branch of it which is called the Power of Teaching. Bishops, in virtue of their consecration, are called to the government of the Church; but this does not of itself constitute them rulers of any particular portion of the Christian flock, and therefore does not give them the right to command submission to their doctrinal utterances. This right is the result of, and is co-extensive with their jurisdiction, i.e. with their actual participation in the government of the Church. On the other hand, the right to act as authentic witnesses and as simple doctors, not imposing submission to their doctrine, is independent of their governing any flock, and may extend beyond the particular flock actually committed to their charge.
In general, the power of authoritative teaching implies complete jurisdiction over the domain of doctrine, and therefore includes (i) the right of administration, which entitles the holder of it to use the external means necessary for the propagation of the doctrine, especially to send out authorized missionaries; (2) the right of superintendence, together with the right of punishing, entitling the holder to forbid, prevent, or punish all external acts opposed to the propagation of the true doctrine; (3) judicial and legislative powers, including the right of prescribing external acts relating to the Faith, but having for their principal function the juridical and legal definition and prescription of the Faith. This last is the highest exercise of authoritative teaching, because it affects the innermost convictions of the mind; it is eminently Divine and supernatural, like the exercise of jurisdiction in the Sacrament of Penance, and like this, too, it implies that the holder represents Christ in a very special manner.
The right of authoritative teaching has various degrees. Simple Bishops, placed over only a portion of the Christian flock, possess only a partial and subordinate, and hence an imperfect and dependent, Power of Teaching. The Chief of the Episcopate, as Pastor of the entire flock, alone possesses the universal and sovereign, and hence complete and independent, Power of Teaching, to which the Bishops themselves must submit. The difference between his power and theirs appears most strikingly in the legal force of their respective doctrinal decisions. The Pope's decisions, as Christ's chief judge upon earth, alone have the force of laws, binding generally; whereas those given by the Bishops have only the force of a judicial sentence, binding the parties in the suit. In matters of Faith Bishops cannot make any laws for their respective dioceses, because a law requiring assent to a truth cannot be more restricted than truth itself, and, moreover, a law of this kind must proceed from an infallible lawgiver. Universality and infallibility are not the attributes of individual Bishops, but of the Pope alone; and therefore Bishops can make merely provisional laws for their own dioceses, subject to the approbation of the Sovereign Pontiff. It is not their business to give final decisions in controversies concerning the Faith, or to solve the doubts still tolerated in the Church their ministry is not even indispensable for these purposes. They are, indeed, judges empowered to decide whether a doctrine is in conformity with generally received dogma, but as individuals they cannot make a dogma or law of Faith. They wield the executive, not the legislative power. In short, although the Bishops are pre-eminently witnesses and doctors and, within certain limits, also judges of the Faith, yet their Head, the Pope, has the distinctive attributes of supreme promulgator of doctrine, universal judge in matters of Faith, arbiter in controversies of Faith, and Father and Teacher of all Christians (Council of Florence).
SECT. 11.Organization of the Apostolate (continued). Organization of the Teaching Body.
On the basis of what has been laid down in the foregoing section, we now proceed to treat of the organization of the members of the Apostolate, the allotment among them of apostolic powers and privileges, and more especially of the gift of infallibility.
It is manifest that there exists for the purposes of the Apostolate a number of different organs adjusted together so as to form one well-ordered whole, the several members of which share, according to their rank, in the various powers and privileges of the Apostolate. Taken in a wide sense, this body embraces all the members of the Church Teaching who in any way co-operate in the attainment of the ends of the Apostolate. In a narrower sense, however, the Teaching Body is understood to consist only of the highest members of the Hierarchy of Orders, who are at the same time by Divine institution the ordinary members of the Hierarchy of Jurisdiction, viz, the Pope and the Bishops. In them the fulness of the Apostolate resides, whereas the lower members are only their auxiliaries. We shall treat first of the organization of the Teaching Body itself; then of its auxiliaries; and lastly of its connection with the body of the Faithful.
I. The principles which determine the composition of the Teaching Body are the following:-
1. The first object to be attained by means of the Apostolate is the universal diffusion of Revelation, paving the way for supernatural Faith. For this purpose a number of consecrated organs of the Holy Ghost are required, to be authentic witnesses and teachers. As representatives of Christ, they must be endowed with a doctrinal authority corresponding to their rank, and must have power to appoint auxiliaries and to superintend and direct the Faith of their subjects.
2. The second object of the Apostolate is to produce unity of Faith and doctrine. To accomplish this, one supreme representative of Christ is required, to preside over the whole organization, and to possess a universal and sovereign doctrinal power.
3. The unity resulting from this sovereign power is threefold: material unity of the Teaching Body, consisting in the juridical union of the members with their Head, in virtue of which they have and hold their functions a unity resulting from the administrative power of their Head; harmonic and external unity in the activity of the members, arising from the power of superintendence; and formal and intrinsic unity of doctrine and Faith, produced by authoritative definition.
4. The unity of the Teaching Body is not that of a lifeless machine but of a living organism. Each member is formed to the likeness of the Head by God Himself, Who gives life to Head and members alike through the action of the Holy Ghost.
II. The original members of the Apostolate chosen by Christ Himself for the fundamental promulgation and propagation of the Gospel possessed the attributes of the Apostolate in an eminent degree. This was necessary in view of the objects they had to attain. Their superiority over their successors appears in the authenticity of the testimony of each of them taken individually, in the authoritative power to teach conferred upon all of them and not restricted to the chief Apostle, and lastly in the personal infallibility of every one of them. As they were the first witnesses of the doctrine of Christ they were not only the channels but also the sources of the Faith of every age, and therefore it was necessary that their testimony should be endowed with a special internal and external perfection. The internal perfection arose from the fact of their being eye-witnesses and ear-witnesses of the whole Revelation, and of their being so filled with the Holy Ghost that each of them possessed a complete and infallible knowledge of revealed doctrine; while the external perfection was the gift of miracles, by which they were enabled to confirm the authenticity of their testimony. Again, the Apostles were to give an efficient support to their Chief who was to be the permanent foundation of the Church in the original establishment of the kingdom of God upon earth, and particularly in the original promulgation of Christian truth. Each of them therefore received the same authority to teach as their Chief, although it was not purely and simply a sovereign authority. And, lastly, their infallibility was a necessary consequence of the authenticity of their testimony and the assistance of the Holy Ghost.
This view of the eminent character of the Apostolate as possessed by its original members is proved more by their conduct than by positive texts of Scripture. Besides, it is and always has been the view held by the whole Church.
III. As soon as the original and fundamental promulgation of the Gospel was complete there was no longer any necessity for the extraordinary Apostolate. Another object had now to be obtained: the conservation and consolidation of the apostolic doctrine in the Church. The place of the extraordinary Apostolate was taken by the Episcopate, i.e. the body of the ordinary members of the hierarchy established for the transmission of the grace and truth of Christ and the government of the Church. This Episcopal Apostolate is a continuation of the primitive Apostolate, and must therefore be derived from the Apostles; it must also in its nature and organization be homogeneous with the original, and yet at the same time must in some respects be different. The doctrinal and other personal and extraordinary powers of the Apostles ceased at their death. Their Head, in whom these powers were ordinary, alone transmitted them to his successors. In these, then, is invested the power of completing and perpetuating the Teaching Body by admitting into it new and duly authorized members. The Sovereign Pontiffs are the bond that unites the Bishops among themselves and connect them uninterruptedly with the primitive Apostolate. The Popes thus represent the original apostolic power in an eminent degree, wherefore their see is called emphatically the Apostolic See.
IV. The Apostolate has still, on the whole, the same objects as it originally had, and consequently must still be so constituted that it can give authentic and authoritative testimony; in other words, it must possess infallibility in doctrinal matters. Although this infallibility is no longer found in the individual members, nevertheless it can and ought to result from the unanimous testimony of the whole body. It ought, because otherwise universal Faith would be impossible; nay, universal heresy might take its place. It can, and as a matter of fact does, result, because the assistance of the Holy Ghost cannot be wanting to the Teaching Body as a whole, and the unanimous consent of all its members is a sure token that they reproduce the testimony of the Spirit of truth. Personal infallibility as a witness cannot be claimed even by the Chief of the Episcopate any more than by the subordinate members. Nevertheless when he pronounces a sovereign judgment in matters of Revelation, binding upon all, teachers as well as taught, he can and ought to be infallible. He ought, because otherwise the unity of Faith might turn into a unity of heresy. He can be, and in fact is infallible, because the Holy Ghost, the Guide of all Christ's representatives, cannot abandon the highest representative precisely in that very act which is the most essential expression of His assistance, and which in case of error would lead the whole Church astray. And, a fortiori, when the Head and the members of the Teaching Body are unanimous, their testimony is infallible. However, taken apart from the testimony of their Head, the testimony of even all the Bishops would not constitute an obligatory doctrinal definition, but simply a strong presumption. The Sovereign Pontiff alone can pronounce such a definition by reason of his universal jurisdiction, and then only in that exercise of it which enforces the unity of Faith in the whole Church.
V. The two Apostolates, or rather the two forms of the Apostolate, must however have certain points of difference, as indeed may be gathered from what has just been said. The Bishops are not, as the Apostles were, immediately chosen by Christ, but are selected by members of the Church. In the case of the Chief Bishop the person is designated by the members and then receives, not indeed from them but directly and immediately from Christ, the powers inherent in his office; the other Bishops are appointed to a particular see by the Chief Bishop, and receive their jurisdiction from him. Besides, he alone inherits the fulness of the Apostolate. Moreover, if we consider the authenticity of the testimony of the Bishops we must hold that the office of witness is conferred upon them directly by Christ in the sacrament of Orders; their admission to the office by the Sovereign Pontiff is merely a condition required for its lawful exercise. Nevertheless they are not eye and ear witnesses of what they teach. They gather their knowledge from intermediate witnesses or from the written documents, and do not possess individually the gift of infallibility.
The infallibility of the Church assumes a twofold form, corresponding with the twofold action of the Holy Ghost as Lord and Life-giver. As Lord, He gives infallibility to the governing Chief: as Life-giver, He bestows it on the entire Body, Head and members. The infallibility of the Head is required to produce universal unity of Faith; the infallibility of the Body is required to prevent a disastrous conflict between the Body and its Head, and also to deliver the mass of the Faithful from the danger of being led astray by their ordinary teachers in cases where no decision has been given by the Holy See. The two forms, moreover, support and strengthen each other mutually and prove the Apostolate to be a masterpiece of that Divine Wisdom which reacheth from end to end mightily and disposeth all things sweetly (Wisd. viii. I).
SECT. 12.Organization of the Apostolate (continued)The Auxiliary Members of the Teaching Body.
The Teaching Body is a living organism, and consequently has the power of producing auxiliary members to assist in its work, and of conferring upon them the credentials required for their different functions. These auxiliary members may be divided into two classes: (1) auxiliaries of the Bishops, and (2) auxiliaries of the Chief Bishop.
I. The ordinary auxiliaries of the Episcopate are the priests and deacons. They receive their orders and their jurisdiction from the Bishops, and hold an inferior rank in the Hierarchy. Their position as regards the office of teaching, though far below that of the Bishops, is nevertheless important. They are the official executive organs of the Bishops, their missionaries and heralds for the promulgation of doctrine. They have a special knowledge of doctrine, and they receive, by means of the sacrament of Holy Orders, a share in the teaching office of the Bishops, and in the doctrinal influence of the Holy Ghost. Hence their teaching possesses a peculiar value and dignity, which may, however, vary with their personal qualifications. Moreover the Bishops should, under certain circumstances, consult them in matters of doctrine, not, indeed, to receive direction from them, but in order to obtain information. When we remember the immense influence exercised by the uniform teaching of the clergy over the unity of Faith, we may fairly say that they participate in the infallibility of the Episcopate both extrinsically and intrinsically: extrinsically, because the universal consent of all the heralds is an external sign that they reproduce the exact message of the Holy Ghost; and intrinsically, inasmuch as by their ordination they obtain a share in the assistance of the Spirit of Truth promised to the Church.
When and where necessary, the Bishops have the power of erecting Schools or Seminaries for the religious or higher theological education of a portion of their flocks. The professors in these institutions are auxiliaries of the Bishops, and are, if possible, in still closer union with the Teaching Apostolate than the clergy engaged in the ministry.
II. The Chief of the Episcopate, in virtue of his universal teaching authority, has the power of sending Missionaries into regions beyond the bounds of the existing dioceses, and can also establish, even within the dioceses, Religious Orders as his own auxiliaries, subject immediately to himself. He can also found Universities for the more profound and scientific study of Revelation. He can make all these persons and corporations comparatively independent of the Bishops, and invest them with a teaching authority analogous to that of the Episcopate. The Universities of the Middle Ages, for example, were not private, or state, or even episcopal institutions. They derived their mission from the Popes, together with the power of perpetuating themselves by the creation of doctors and professors, and the power of passing judgment on matters of doctrine. These decisions, however, did not carry with them any binding force, because their authors had no jurisdiction; but they possessed a value superior to that of many episcopal decisions. It is evident that the importance of the Universities as representatives of the teaching of the Church depends upon their submission to the Apostolate, whose auxiliaries they are, and also upon the number, the personal qualifications, and influence of their members. Further, the Pope, in the exercise of his administrative power, can invest individual members of the inferior clergy, either for a time or permanently, with authoritative teaching power. But, even in this case, they are only auxiliaries of the Episcopate, existing side by side with it as, for instance, Abbots exempt from episcopal jurisdiction (Abbates nullius) and the generals of Religious Orders, or acting as delegates of the sovereign teaching power of the Popes, e.g. the Cardinals and the Roman Congregations. All these auxiliaries, like those above mentioned, are assisted by the Holy Ghost, but their decisions acquire force of law only when confirmed by the Head of the Apostolate.
III. From time to time the Holy Ghost raises certain persons to an extraordinary degree of supernatural knowledge. Their peculiar position gives them a special authority as guides for all the members of the Church. They are not, however, exempt from the universal law that within the Church no teaching is of value unless approved by lawful authority. In so far, then, as it is evident that the Pope and the Bishops approve of the doctrine of these burning and shining lights, such doctrine is to be considered as an infallible testimony coming from the Holy Ghost. Thus, in Apostolic times, Prophets and Evangelists (Eph. iv. ii) were given to the Apostles as extraordinary auxiliaries, not indeed for the purpose of enlightening the Apostles themselves, but to facilitate the diffusion and acceptance of their doctrine. In succeeding ages the Fathers and great Doctors have been of much use to the ordinary members of the Apostolate by helping them to a better knowledge of revealed truth. The function of these auxiliaries must, however, be carefully distinguished from those of the Prophets of the Old Testament. The former are not the organs of new revelations, nor do they possess independent authority they are merely the extraordinary supports of the ordinary Teaching Body.
It is indeed a great matter and ever to be borne in mind
that all Catholics should know that they should receive the doctors with the Church, not that they should quit the faith of the Church with the doctors ('se cum Ecclesia doctores recipere, non cum doctoribus Ecclesiae fidem deserere debere'). Vinc. of Lerins, Common. n. 17.
SECT. 13. Organization of the Apostolate (continued) Organic Union between the Teaching Body and the Body of the Faithful.
I. The Teaching Apostolate, with its auxiliaries on the one hand and the body of believers on the other, together constitute the Church. The union between them is not mechanical, but is like the mutual union of the members of a living organism. To obtain a correct idea of the relations between the two parts, we must bear in mind that infallibility and the other attributes granted to the Teaching Apostolate are intended only as means to secure an unerring Faith in the entire community, and that the supernatural Faith of all the members, both teachers and taught, is the result of the influence of the Holy Ghost. From this we infer that the teachers and their hearers compose one indivisible, complete organism, in which the teachers figure as the principal members, the head and the heart; that they constitute a homogeneous organism, because the teachers are at the same time believers, and because the belief of the Faithful is a testimony to and confirmation of the doctrines taught. They are an organism living supernaturally, because the Holy Ghost infuses into all the members the life of Faith by external teaching and internal grace. This union between teachers and taught likewise leads us to further consequences. The doctrine of Christ is manifested in two ways in authoritative proposition and in private belief. The latter form, being only an echo of the former, and, moreover, being the result of the action of the Holy Ghost, becomes in its turn a kind of testimony of doctrine. The private form reacts upon the public proposition and confirms it. The Faith of the whole Church cannot be wrong, and, therefore, what all believe must infallibly be true, and must represent the doctrine of Christ as well as do the teachings of the Apostolate. Nay, the external manifestations of the Holy Ghost may be seen especially in the Body of the Faithful, in its Martyrs and Confessors, and these manifestations constitute, in connection with the universal belief, a powerful motive of credibility.
II. This notion of the organic character of the Church will enable us to understand many expressions met with in Theology, e.g. the Church Teaching and the Church Hearing or Learning; the Mission and Authority of the Church, i.e. of the members of the Hierarchy; the Teaching Apostolate, or its Chief, represents the Church, i.e. not in the same way as a member of parliament represents his constituents, but in the sense that the Faith of the Apostolate or of its Chief is a true expression of the Faith of the whole Church. It has lately been said, Infallibility belongs only to the Church, but the Hierarchy is not the Church, and therefore the Hierarchy is not infallible. We might just as well say, Life belongs only to the body, but the head and heart are not the body, therefore the head and heart are not alive. This false notion originated either from a comparison between the Hierarchy and the parliaments of constitutional States, or from the materialistic conception of authority according to the formula: Authority is the result and sum-total of the power of the members taken individually, just as the total force of a material body is the result and sum-total of the energies of its parts. But, in truth, authority is a principle implanted in society by God in order to give it unity, life, and guidance. In order to give to the infallibility of the Church as broad a basis as possible, some well-meaning persons have adopted the materialistic view, and have made the universality and uniformity of the belief of the Faithful the chief motive of credibility. This theory, however, is naturalistic, and is opposed to the teaching of Scripture. Moreover, it is intrinsically weak, for without the independent authority of the Teaching Apostolate and the assistance of the Holy Ghost, uniformity and universality could never be brought about, or at least could not last for any length of time.
The attribute of infallibility belonging to the entire community of the Faithful manifests itself differently in its different parts. In the Teaching Body it is Active Infallibility, that is, inability to lead astray; in the Body Taught it is Passive Infallibility that is, incapability of being led astray.
SECT. 14.Organization of the Apostolate (concluded) External and Internal Indefectibility of Doctrine and Faith in the Church Recapitulation.
I. Intimately connected with the infallibility of the Church is her Indefectibility. There is, however, a difference between the two. Infallibility means merely that what the Church teaches cannot be false, whereas the notion of Indefectibility implies that the essentials of Revelation are at all times actually preached in the Church; that non-essentials are proposed, at least implicitly, and are held habitually; and that the inner, living Faith never fails. The Indefectibility of truth in the Church is less limited than the Infallibility. The perfection of the latter requires merely that no doctrine proposed for belief should be false, whereas the perfection of the former requires that all the parts of revealed doctrine should be actually, and at all times, expressed in the doctrine of the Church. Indefectibility admits of degrees, whereas a single failure, for a single day, on a single point of doctrine, on the part of the public teaching authority, would utterly destroy Infallibility.
II. The Indefectibility of the Teaching Body is at the same time a condition and a consequence of the Indefectibility of the Church. A distinction must, however, be drawn between the Indefectibility of the Head and the Indefectibility of the subordinate members. The individual who is the Head may die, but the authority of the Head does not die with him it is transmitted to his successor. On the other hand, the Teaching Body as a whole could not die or fail without irreparably destroying the continuity of authentic testimony. Again, the Pope's authority would not be injured if, when not exercising it (extra judicium), he professed a false doctrine, whereas the authenticity of the episcopal testimony would be destroyed if under any circumstances the whole body fell into heresy.
III. The Indefectibility of the Faith in individual members is closely connected with the external and social Indefectibility of the Church. The two stand to each as cause and effect, and act and react on each other. The interior Faith of individual members, even of the Pope and the Bishops, may fail; but it is impossible for the Faith to fail in the whole mass. The Infallibility and Indefectibility of the Church and of the Faith require on the part of the Head, that by means of his legislative and judicial power the law of Faith should be always infallibly proposed; but this does not require the infallibility and indefectibility of his own interior Faith and of his extrajudicial utterances. On the part of the Teaching Body as a whole, there is directly required merely that it should not fail collectively, which, of course, supposes that it does not err universally in its internal Faith. Lastly, on the part of the Body of the Faithful, it is directly and absolutely required that their inner Faith (sensus et virtus fidei) should never fail entirely, and also that the external profession should never be universally wrong.
The whole doctrine of the Organization of the Teaching Apostolate may be summarized as follows. The teaching function bound up with the two fundamental powers of the Hierarchy, Orders and Jurisdiction, fulfils all the requirements and attains all the purposes for which it was instituted. It transmits and enforces Revelation, and brings about unity and universality of Faith. It is a highly developed organism, with the members acting in perfect harmony, wherein the Holy Ghost operates, and whereby He gives manifold testimony to revealed truth, at the same time upholding and strengthening the action of individuals by means of the reciprocal action and reaction of the different organs. Just as God spoke to our fathers through the Prophets before the coming of Christ, at sundry times and in divers manners (Heb. i. I), so now does Jesus Christ speak to us at sundry times and in divers manners in the Church which is His body, and the fulness of Him Who is filled all in all (Eph. i. 23).
SECT. 15.Gradual Progress in the Transmission of Revelation Apostolic Deposit: Ecclesiastical Tradition: Rule of Faith
I. The office-holders in the Teaching Apostolate form one unbroken chain, derived from God, and consequently doctrine announced by them at any given time is a continuation and a development of the doctrine originally revealed, and is invested with the same Divine character Jesus Christ, the immediate Envoy of His Father, announced what He had heard from the Father; the Apostles, the immediate envoys of Christ, preached what they had heard from Christ and the Holy Ghost; the successors of the Apostles, the inheritors of the apostolic mission, in their turn taught and still teach the doctrine received from the Apostles, and thus Revelation has been handed down from generation to generation without a single break.
The transmission and the teaching of Revelation are really one and the same act under two different aspects. Whenever the Word of God is announced, it is also transmitted, and it cannot be transmitted without being announced in some form or other. Thus transmission and publication are not two acts of a distinct nature, as they would be if Revelation was handed down only by means of a written document, or on merely historical evidence. The Council of Trent tells us that Traditions, dictated by the Holy Ghost, have reached us from the Apostles, handed down as it were by hand, and it speaks of Traditions preserved by continual succession in the Catholic Church (sess. iv). The transmission is the work of living, authorized officials, who hand down Revelation to the lawful heirs of their office. We must, however, distinguish between the authenticity and the authority of the act of transmission. When, for instance, a council makes the belief in some dogma obligatory, this act contains a twofold element: it bears authentic witness to the existence of the dogma in the Apostolic Deposit, and it authoritatively imposes Faith in that dogma. The authentic testimony belongs to the whole Church, which, either in teaching or in professing belief, witnesses to the existence of certain truths, whereas the power of imposing the obligation of belief resides only in the governing body and its Head. But the word Tradition does not express any notion of Faith made obligatory, but only of Faith handed down by authentic witnesses. We shall therefore use the term in the latter sense, although, as a matter of fact, transmission and imposition usually go together.
II. Three phases, more or less divided by time, but still alike in their nature, may be observed in the development and gradual progress of the transmission of revealed doctrine: (1) The Apostles confiding the Deposit of Revelation to the Church with the obligation to continue its promulgation; (2) The transmission of Revelation in and by means of the Church; and (3) The enforcement of belief by the Rule of Faith imposed by the Chiefs of the Apostolate.
1. The Apostles were the original depositaries of Christian Revelation, as well as its first heralds. They handed over to their successors the truths which they possessed, together with the powers corresponding to their mission. This first stage is called Apostolic Tradition, or Apostolic Deposit, the latter expression being derived from I Tim. vi. 20, Keep that which is committed to thy trust (depositum). All subsequent knowledge of Revelation is drawn from the Apostolic Deposit, which is consequently said to be the Source or Fount of Faith.
The Apostolic Deposit was transmitted in a twofold form: by word of mouth and by writing. The New Testament, although composed by the Apostles or their disciples, is not a mere reproduction of the Apostolic teaching. It was written at God's command by men under His inspiration, and therefore it is, like the Old Testament, an original and authentic document of Revelation. Both Testaments were, as we shall see, transmitted to the Church by an authoritative act of the Apostolate. The Apostolic Deposit comprises, therefore, the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the oral teaching of the Apostles. By a process of desynonymization, the term Deposit has become restricted to the written Deposit, and the term Tradition to the oral teaching.
2. It is the Church's office to hold and to transmit the entire Deposit, written and oral, in its integrity, and to deal with it as the Apostles themselves would if they were still living. This action of the Church is called Active Tradition; the doctrines themselves are called Objective Tradition. The term Ecclesiastical Tradition is sometimes used in a narrow sense for the unwritten truths of Revelation, and stands in the same relation to the Holy Scriptures as the oral teaching of the Apostles stood. In the course of time this Tradition has also been committed to writing, and as a written Tradition its position with regard to the living Active Tradition is now analogous to that occupied by the Holy Scriptures.
3. But the Church has a further office. The heirs of Rule the Apostles have the right and duty to prescribe, promulgate, and maintain at all times and in behalf of the whole Church the teaching of the Apostles and of the Church in former ages; to impose and to enforce it as a doctrinal law binding upon all; and to give authoritative decisions on points obscure, controverted, or denied. In this capacity the Church acts as regulator of the Faith, and these doctrinal laws, together with the act of imposing them, are called the Rule of Faith. All the members of the Church are bound to submit their judgment in matters of Faith to this rule, and thus by practising the obedience of Faith to prove themselves living members of the one kingdom of Divine truth.
Thus we see that the Divine economy for preserving and enforcing Christian truth in the Church possesses in an eminent degree all the aids and guarantees which are made use of in civil society for the safe custody and interpretation of legal documents. In both there are documents of various kinds, witnesses, public and private, and judges of different rank. But in the Church the judges are at the same time witnesses, administrators, and legislators. In the Protestant theory there are written documents and nothing more.