Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Is totalitarianism acceptable in the episcopacy?

We see on the internet, the following quotation (or its variants) employed by the über-pious, acting as church police, to end any discussion concerning disagreement with a bishop:
“Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic Church. It is not lawful to baptize or give communion without the consent of the bishop. On the other hand, whatever has his approval is pleasing to God.” — Saint Ignatius of Antioch *c. 35, 108†
Now, what they universally do not do, is to tell you that this is neither a canonical statement, nor the only word!

Now, the Epistles of Saint Paul are canonical. Saint Paul listed requirements for the office of bishop:
A FAITHFUL saying: if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. It behoveth therefore a bishop to be blameless, the husband of one wife, sober, prudent, of good behaviour, chaste, given to hospitality, a teacher, not given to wine, no striker, but modest, not quarrelsome, not covetous, but one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all chastity. But if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God? Not a neophyte: lest being puffed up with pride, he fall into the judgment of the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony of them who are without: lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. — 1 Timothy iii.1-7

For a bishop must be without crime, as the steward of God: not proud, not subject to anger, not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre: but given to hospitality, gentle, sober, just, holy, continent, embracing that faithful word which is according to doctrine, that he may be able to exhort in sound doctrine, and to convince the gainsayers. — Titus i.7-9
Now, after St. Paul and St. Ignatius there are other saints who had opinions:
“No one who is unwanted should be made a bishop; the desire and consent of the clergy and the people and the order is required.” — Saint Celestine I (pope 422-432)

“The one who is to be head over all should be elected by all.” — Saint Leo the Great (pope 440-461)

“It is essential to exclude all those unwanted and unasked for, if the people are not to be crossed and end by despising or hating their bishop. If they cannot have the candidate they desire, the people may all turn away from religion unduly.” — Saint Leo the Great

“I do not think there are many among Bishops that will be saved, but many more that perish: and the reason is, that it is an affair that requires a great mind.” — Saint John Chrysostom * c. 349, 409†

“The road to Hell is paved with the bones of priests and monks, and the skulls of bishops are the lamp posts that light the path.” — (often attributed) Saint John Chrysostom (may be a restating of previous line?)

“When there is an imminent danger for the Faith, Prelates must be questioned, even publicly, by their subjects.” — Saint Thomas Aquinas *1225, 1274†
Now, getting back to Ignatius, when taken as an absolute (as it is when quoted), he is wrong. The first ecumenical council of the church was at Nicaea in 325. Many bishops there were Arian heretics. The Arians, were non-trinitarian Christians. The council confirmed the Trinity, and a Trinitarian formula for baptism. The Catholic Church recognises baptism by this formula only, and it doe not have to be a Catholic baptism. A Lutheran baptism counts. Mormons are not trinitarian [and it goes beyond that], their baptisms do not count as valid for trinitarian Christians.

Now, the Arians continued for centuries. The Arians did not stop activity after the Nicene Council. If one follows this extremist interpretation of Ignatius, then all trinitarian
(Catholics) Christians living in Arian led dioceses were schismatic? heretical? renegades? rebels? unfaithful? Or were they faithful Catholics living under the jurisdiction of a heretical bishop?

Over the centuries bishops were appointed, or elected in various ways, and by various electors. Nepotism and simony were amongst the methods. Bishops have been removed from office.

Getting back to the titular question of this essay: Is totalitarianism acceptable in the episcopacy? It depends who you are: for a democrat the answer is,
“No”; for a fascist the answer is, “Yes”.

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