Full Text for Church History 3 - Volume 7 - Roman Catholicism (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY CH3-007 PROFESSOR LAWRENCE REST PROFESSOR WILL SCHUMACHER Captioning Provided By: Caption First, Inc. P.O. Box 1924 Lombard, IL 60148 800-825-5234 ***** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communications Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. ***** >> PAUL: I�m glad that Nick asked that question. It�s made me realize that we�ve also spoken of Roman Catholics in terms of their response to the Lutherans and the Reformed in kind of a compare and contrast fashion. Yet I think I'd like to ask some questions about the Catholic Church�s internal affairs, for the lack of a better term. For example, I've heard of papal infallibility. What does this mean, and how do Catholics understand this doctrine? >> DR. LAWRENCE REST: Paul, you're right. Nick really did put his finger on something important: namely, Eastern Christianity and its development over the course of the years that we're studying. Roman Catholicism, too, is worthy of its own independent consideration. And we've already spoken about some of the pressures that it's felt. You will recall Febronianism, Gallicanism, and Josephism, all under the larger umbrella of Erastianism. Those were kind of the political elements that Roman Catholicism faced. But also in terms of its internal life, it had some unique experiences as well. Dr. Schumacher will talk about Roman Catholic missions very specifically in the latter part of this course. However, at this point, what I'd like to focus on are some of the interesting developments and crucial developments within Roman Catholicism in the 1700's and 1800's anticipating some unique challenges that Roman Catholicism would face into the 20th century. Roman Catholicism it came to America as a result of mission work many times on the part of the Jesuit order but other orders as well and in the groundbreaking work of people like Father Marquette and the like of actually laying out the paths to the North American interior are inspiring stories and are stories that we would do well to recall. Even as what we now today know as the United States and Canada began to be settled by Roman Catholic missionaries in the very early 1600's and then through the 1700's. Roman Catholicism found itself facing some very unique challenges. This was particularly in the case -- particularly true in the case of Roman Catholics in their area of strongest numerical representation in the American colonies: namely, in Maryland. Here in Maryland, and scattered in other parts of the U.S. colonies, but not too far, in Maryland and otherwise, we see Roman Catholics having to grapple with a new reality. That new reality is the church on its own lacking specific sponsorship of the state. And Roman Catholicism, as it begins to develop in America, already in the 1600's and through the 1700's finds itself facing some different kinds of challenges. The most basic of which was the lack of priests. Now, you're familiar with the reality of Roman Catholic hierarchy and the manner in which the pope is the bishop of the church as a whole. He is represented by bishops and then priests beneath that. And for the church to exist and for the church to function, it is necessary within the Roman Catholic tradition for a priest to be present. Oftentimes, that activity on the part of the priest extends to the temporal well-being of a particular community. And the priest, under the authority of the bishop, has the responsibility of managing the church�s affairs. Here in America in the 1600's and 1700's, that simply was not the case. The reason? Priests were so few. As a result, Roman Catholics had to face a unique set of circumstances that had not faced the church before; namely, how does the church function without state sponsorship and without the presence of a priest. In the vacuum, laymen began to take over responsibility for the basic organization of the church�s affairs. They built the churches out of their own funds. They ran the churches as best they were able. As a result, in American Catholicism, there emerged a unique activity, a unique approach to Roman Catholic Church life called trusteeism. And these trustees were simply responsible, in the lack of the presence of a priest, these trustees simply took over the responsibilities for leading the church. As such, they sought out priests. They sought to get priests to serve the particular congregations. They worked with one another with other congregations to secure the services of a priest and did everything within their power to not only maintain church life from day to day, but also to extend the mission of the church. As the 1600's passed into the 1700's, and the 1700's passed into the 1800's, things began to change. With an influx of immigrants, many of whom were German, Roman Catholicism's face in America began to change. Roman Catholicism also experienced the large influx of Irish immigrants. And then later in the 1800's, Italian immigrants and Polish immigrants would also fill out the roles of Roman Catholic churches. As these folks came to American shores, they helped change the character of the American church. The earlier settlers had largely been English Catholics, and those who had taken responsibility for the church as trustees had a long history of having to work in a semi democratic situation. But the new immigrants had oftentimes not had the same experience. They were used to the hierarchical structures of European Christianity, and not surprisingly, as they arrived on American shores, they sought to mold their church in the form of those familiar structures. The result, with the appointment of an American bishop in the first part of the 1800's, Roman Catholicism became increasingly hierarchal here in the United States and increasingly took on the shape and character of the older Roman Catholicism of the European scene. This will be most clearly borne out as things move from trusteeism to the centrality of the bishop and the bishop being the one who explains and applies people doctrine and papal decrees. Roman Catholicism, in other words, moves from being a semi democratic entity to being a rigidly hierarchal one as the bishop exercises authority for shaping all of the church as life. And one element, one key element, of the bishop�s responsibility in this respect is his putting forward the decrease of both the councils and ultimately of the popes. Roman Catholic theology in the 19th century undergoes some significant changes. Commonly held opinions are decreed to be dogma at various points. For example, in the mid-19th century, the decree of the Immaculate Conception of Mary becomes official church teaching. Previous to this time, it was not on the books, if you will, and therefore, was not a required belief on the part of Roman Catholics. However, from this time forward, it became simply required that Catholics believe that Mary was conceived without sin. Sometimes we miss that point a little bit, Paul, that we think of the Immaculate Conception as applying to Jesus. In this respect in Roman Catholic theology, it specifically applies to Mary. Mary comes into this world without sin. Those who resisted this way of thinking, which included certainly Protestants generally and Lutherans specifically, but also some Roman Catholics who resisted this doctrinal innovation expressed their displeasure and their resistance, and many of these then were the recipients of the condemnation of the church in the so-called syllabus of errors. That is a Roman Catholic document outlining the errors of other Christians, those errors literally placing them outside the church. And finally, all this comes to a head, as you rightly mentioned, in the decree of papal infallibility. The First Vatican Council meets in the years 1870, 1871. The intent is to strengthen the papacy, the papacy which had been so weakened, as we saw before, by Erastianism generally, now seeking for itself strong and established position on the basis of this notion of papal infallibility. But it is a notion that has a limited scope. Papal infallibility does not extend to every word that the pope states. Rather, it is simply applied to those words he speaks ex cathedra, or that is from the chair, from the bishop's chair, speaking as representative or Vicar of Christ here in this world. So there is a sense in which the papacy is strengthened. There is certainly a sense in which the papacy is empowered, but popes generally used this authority and this power in a limited scope speaking only to very specific instances. By way of example, popes spoke against radical democracy. There were points at which popes expressed their displeasure over, for example, the movement toward unions in America in the latter part of the 19th century. And later on in the 20th century, perhaps the most controversial statement of a pope ex cathedra was the proclamation of the bodily assumption of Mary, teaching that Mary, because she was without sin and because she gave birth to the man Jesus, was in fact herself not one to taste death but simply assumed into heaven as her life had run its course. This created tension, even within Roman Catholicism. And Roman Catholicism would find itself pressed as it faced these inner tensions. Among these inner tensions was the question of the role of the higher critical study of the scriptures and the nature of dogma, the nature of the church. All of these questions would come together in a second council. But, Paul, we'll talk about that a little bit later in the course. ***** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communications Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. *****