Thursday, 13 September 2012

The Death of the Ante-Pope and the Dialectics of Catholicism

An interesting take on the recent death of the man who could have been pope, Cardinal Martini, by Leonardo de Chirico:

"According to public opinion, Martini represents a view that is the polar opposite of that of John Paul II and Benedict XVI in the Roman Catholic world. The former has been called "liberal", "progressive", "democratic", "left-wing", while the latter has been labeled as "conservative", "traditional", "authoritarian", "right-wing". With these conventional categories, one could map the entire Roman Catholic spectrum.

As a matter of fact, the public opinion needs to find polarizations, needs to put one figure against another, and needs to find conflicts within a given social body. Many times these polarizations reflect reality; others simply project oppositions that are not there. In the case of Martini, both observations are true. They are true because Roman Catholicism is based on multiple on-going tensions that sway one way or another but are meant to be kept in balance. In other words, John Paul II needed Martini and Martini needed John Paul II. The first maintained balance, while the second explored new fields. Martini spoke to the center-left, while Wojtyla spoke to the center-right, so that the whole spectrum was covered. Roman Catholicism as a whole needs both the defender of the already given balance and the explorer of new settlements.

In the Roman Catholic system, the Pope is supposed to fight against "anti-popes", but is likely to encourage "ante-popes" that would stretch the Roman Catholic synthesis further, so that what is now felt as disturbing avant-garde will be center-stage tomorrow. In this sense, the "ante-pope" Martini, who arrived too late to become Pope, will perhaps serve as a model for future Popes.

Leonardo De Chirico is lecturer in theology at IFED (Istituto di Formazione Evangelica e Documentazione) in Padova, Italy, and editor of the theological journal Studi di teologia. After twelve years of church planting and then pastoring a Reformed Baptist church in Ferrara, since 2009 he is involved in a church planting work in central Rome. He has degrees in history (Bologna) and theology (ETCW, Bridgend, UK). His PhD was obtained from King's College, London, and subsequently published as Evangelical Theological Perspectives on post-Vatican II Roman Catholicism (Frankfurt-Oxford: Peter Lang 2003)."
Read the whole thing here.

Whether de Chirico is correct in his prediction that Martini will serve as an ante-Pope or model for the next Pope will be known soon enough. But he is accurate in his assessment of the role that the impetus to synthesise disparate "truths" and movements plays in Romanism. I suspect this trait attracts many intellectual converts to Rome...people who, almost by definition, haven't come to grips with the noetic effects of sin. Those who have come to grips with the radical effects of sin upon human reasoning, however, are likely to see Rome as a fatal compromise with paganism. Indeed, Karl Barth, the most influential Protestant theologian of the 20th century, called the analogia entis the invention of the anti-Christ. As it happens, I disagree with a lot of what I have read in Barth, but on this point I believe his insight was profound.       


SCEcclesia said...

"I suspect this trait attracts many intellectual converts to Rome...people who, almost by definition, haven't come to grips with the noetic effects of sin."

Suspect away, Pastor Mark, but you are wrong.You can scrap "thesis #297" on why "intellectuals" convert to Catholicism. But don't be discouraged. Have another go. You'll work it out in the end!

Also, we dumb Catholics tend to credit the Holy Spirit with some input to the election of popes and even more to the guidance of popes in office. None yet has led us astray. Of course, the Holy Spirit could let us down one day... do you think?

Lvka said...

Karl Barth called the analogia entis the invention of the anti-Christ

The fine line between letting ourselves be fashioned in God's image and fashioning for ourselves idols in our own image ? Or what was he refering to ?

Mark Henderson said...

You got it, Lucian.

That's a bit of a tetchy response, David. But Since you bring up the Holy Spirit's guidance of the college of cardinals in their choice of Pope, and the SPirit's subsequent guidance of the Pope, what are we to do with Pope Stephen VI (896–897), who had his predecessor Pope Formosus exhumed, tried, de-fingered, briefly reburied, and thrown in the Tiber? Or Pope John XII (955–964), who gave land to a mistress, murdered several people, and was killed by a man who caught him in bed with his wife? Or Pope Urban VI (1378–1389), who complained that he did not hear enough screaming when Cardinals who had conspired against him were tortured? Or Pope Alexander VI (Borgia) (1492–1503), guilty of nepotism and so beloved that his unattended corpse swelled until it could barely fit in a coffin? Does the Holy Spirit make mistakes? And what to do with the Western Schism, when the same body of cardinals elected two popes who reigned simultaneously? Did the Holy Spirit make another mistake? This is the trouble with all of Rome's distinctive claims - they can sound great on paper but they fail at the bar of history.

Lvka said...

I've said it before, I'll say it again: the Calvinist dogma of the Perseverence of the Saints is the equivalent of the Roman Catholic teaching about the Infailibility (or dogmatic perseverance) of the Pope.

Mark Henderson said...

In both cases the error begins with the doctrine of God and revelation. The Romanists must believe that God's voice is somehow absent from the church on earth, so that he needs a human voice endowed with the divine attirbute of infallibility, which we can actually ascribe only to God.
With the Calvinists, they have attempted to search the depths of what God has not revealed to us, posited the eternal decree of election, and drawn the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints from that as a logical conclusion despite the various scriptural warnings against presumption and carelessness on the path of salvation.

Schütz said...

All of the popes you mention were evident sinners, as are many priests and bishops (and not a few Lutheran pastors). Which of them promulgated heretical doctrine? None of them.

Damo said...

I see At st pats in toowoomba there is a ecumenical talk with hindus and other religions sharing their faith,I see this as a bit disturbing as so many Christians at this moment in time are being persecuted by Hindus and moslems,just watch the Doc Furious Love,the Gospel is exclusive not a orgy of comphromise ,I mean letting Hindus in Church to talk about Hinduism,what next

Mark Henderson said...

That's called "begging the question", David. Merely asserting it doesn't make it so.

Truly disturbing!
It's one thing to co-operate in civil affairs, but what fellowship does light have with darkeness?
But, as I suggested, Roman Catholicism can assimilate all religious faiths given enough time.

Mark Henderson said...

And besides David, you've ignored the crisis that the Western Schism presented at the time and the questions it still raises today.
Not to mention the cognitive dissonance that the immoral popes must provoke in sensitive Catholic minds today.