Pope John Paul II and the Church

By Peter Hebblethwaite | Go to book overview

46
Alternative of cowed silence strange way to defend faith

( July 13, 1990) The "Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian," published June 26, says it is addressed primarily to bishops and through them to theologians. At the end it "earnestly" invites bishops "to maintain and develop trust with theologians in the fellowship of charity."

The aim of fostering trust is unlikely to be achieved. No less trusting a document can be imagined. For throughout the entire instruction, "the theologian" is presented as a troublemaker who challenges the magisterium because he does not love the church and has sold out to worldliness.

Protestant theologians, should they read it, will rub their eyes in astonishment as they come across a theological system in which there appears to be only one source of truth, that is, the magisterium (the instruction invariably capitalizes the M in magisterium).

They will recall the conciliar debates about the two-source theory of truth, where the two sources meant scripture and tradition. They will remember the lucid statement of Dei Verbum that "the teaching office (the magisterium) is not above the word of God, but serves it."

Yet, in the instruction, the magisterium takes on an independent existence. "All the acts of the magisterium," it declares, "derive from the same source, that is, from Christ who desires that his people walk in the entire truth." All? Yes, all. On this conception, the magisterium has an unmediated hot line to Christ.

This makes it a very powerful instrument, indeed. There seems to be no limit to its range. The quality of infallibility, even when not expressly invoked, extends into disciplinary matters: "Magisterial decisions in matters of discipline, even if they are not guaranteed by the charism of infallibility, are not without divine assistance and call for the adherence of the faithful."

It is difficult to know what this means, for no examples are given. Perhaps we would have to conclude that the persecution of theologians such as Yves Congar and Henri de Lubac in the 1950s

-201-

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