Monday, November 10, 2014

"Vincentian Canon and Unanimous Consent of the Fathers"

Always worth reading, Boniface has a fine analysis of "Vincentian Canon and Unanimous Consent of the Fathers" (Unam Sanctam Catholicam). Cardinal Newman's Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, which was in part provoked by the challenges posed by the 17th century Protestant divine, William Chillingworth's argument that the Catholic claim of "unanimous consent of the fathers" is a mere illusion. Newman's Essay, he shows, may be regarded in a sense as nothing other than an elaboration of the principles of the Vincentian Canon, "Quod Ubique, Quod Semper, Quod ab Omnibus" -- namely, that the Catholic Faith consists in that which has been believed "everywhere, always, and by all."

What is particularly interesting in this post is how the author brings to bear in his analysis the ingenious application of five criteria for applying the Vincentian Canon formulated by Fr. Christian Cochini in his masterful study of clerical celibacy, Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy(Ignatius Press, 1990), which he applies particularly to the Catholicity of Church teaching on clerical celibacy. These criteria include that a point of doctrine or discipline can be said to be kept by the whole Church at a given time in history if (1) the majority of those invested with the moral and intellectual authority of the Church during that age share the same opinions about it; (2) it is kept by the Apostolic Churches; (3) kept by all the bishops as expressed in their corporate judgments; (4) between that time and the Apostolic age there is no decision coming from any authorized hierarchical authority attesting to the existence of a contrary belief or practice; and (5) during the same time the point in question was never contested in the name of a contrary tradition by any of the apostolic churches.

Of course, these points are each expanded upon in the article.