Notes Regarding Student-Sent Reading (“The Primacy: The Small Print of Vatican I”)

These are just random notes regarding an article, Garrett Sweeny related to Papal Primacy and Pastor aeternus, “The Primacy: The Small Print of Vatican I”


Note, throughout, the general tone of Sweeny—a bit of a “swinging 68-er” in his interpretation of VII (some pet themes / authors come up—Küng, sensus fidelium as a theological locus in a sense that seems strong and problematic, tone which clearly is not that which we will take in our work together).


[96] It might be good to note why more conservative theologians have been hesitant to address this issue, given the names associated with limiting papal primacy.  (Likewise, too, the work done by JP II / Benedict XVI dissuaded many from wishing to limit the papacy.  Also, the general failure of bishops to actually exercise their rightful authority in a meaningful way theologically, liturgically, etc…..)


[99] “The vote of 5 July…”  This is telling tone regarding his bias. 


[100] “Dissatisfaction with the Constitution…”  You may benefit here from reading O’Malley’s brief and accessible: Vatican I: The Council and the Making of the Ultramontane Church.  Also, see Hittinger’s brief article in First Things:


There are two axes of the jurisdictional primacy issue:  Political; Ecclesial.  It seems that Sweeny wishes to emphasize the first at times, though inconsistently.  Overstates the political ambitions of Rome.  (See remarks below here as confirmation.)  Parse the distinctions here (see Josephinism and Gallicanism as examples of how these do interweave).  We’re more interested in the latter, of course.


[101] Not sure what to make of the “Italianism” claims.  No doubt true, though I wonder if it is a simplification.  Note in the first paragraph of this section, “Ratzinger….”  Sweeny is not clear if he is calling the interpretation of PA erroneous or the document itself.  We are not making the latter claim.  Instead, we are trying to articulate it as being developed more fully.  Be sure to get from me texts on intellectual / dogmatic development for parsing our concerns.


[103] Here is the problematic text about Sensus Fid.  Show the author is a man of his era


[104] Temporal power claims not correct; even by those who wanted to increase papal authority, maintenance of order was a wholly ecclesial affair; Sweeny makes it sound like there was a focus on temporal power in particular (by which he seems to mean political-temporal).  Se text at the very end of 104 and into 105


[105] See quote in first full paragraph; rather arrogant remark about the Orthodox Churches by Gastaldi


[106] “Curious though…”  He focuses on the fact that the V I decree / discussions are marked by that era.  However, one could also say, then, that the discussions after V II swayed a great deal into the direction of democracy (the hopes of the 20th century remained even after the devastations of the two Wars) and Conciliarism.  We’re trying to strike a virtuous middle between these extremes.


It may be good to articulate the way that our discussion of the common good helps us find this virtuous middleNote that our concerns today are actually about trying to deploy the appropriate notions from political philosophy within theology itself—noting, of course, that we’re elevating the notions as we use them.   We’re sharpening the philosophical tools of common good / subsidiarity to make use of them in theology here


[109] The texts on this page are useful.  Find Mansi Latin for any that you think will be of particular help.  I think that the Canon recommendation is interesting and a bit amusing.  (And the Latin is indeed quirky….!)


[110] The understanding of “Ordinary” here at the bottom is a little rhetorically cheap.  It means non-delegated.   See Journet’s discussion of the meaning of this term.  We still can (and must) hold that the Pope (or any leader of a universal whole) has ordinary authority—but that doesn’t mean “ordinary non-subsidiary”.  It just means, “By virtue of this office, He has the authority that he has.”


[111]  “Had the Primacy been debated…”  This is a very interesting point about how things might have been different if the documents were reversed in their writing / approval.


[113] See Zinelli’s mind-boggling quote, perhaps worth keeping for our own use, if only in a footnote: “Is there anyone…”


[114] You marked the “preservation of unity” as the task of the Papacy.  I agree.  However, we need to define this richly enough.  That is an essential part of our task.  Too often, this is presented as being a kind of “preservation of the unity of the parts, for the sake of the parts.”  This is implicitly based upon the model of political liberalism.


[116]  Cf. Deville also regarding the loss of the notion of the patriarch in the West.  I still remain convinced that the papacy is formally and eminently Bishop of Rome and universal authority.  (Cf. Journet)  Thus, there aren’t two parts / roles slapped together side by side.  However, this is somewhat like how (I’m using an analogy, mind you) God is at once Author of Nature and Author of Grace.  We can talk about this, but the point goes beyond our concerns.


[117] The paragraph from 116-117 (long on 117) is of use.


[120-121] I’m looking for an analogy here—it’s not strict and we need to be careful.  However, we need to make sure that “as a principle of unity” we consider the common good of the Church as, in a way, animating the activity of the whole.  The formal cause (which is vitally related to the end, especially in communal matters like this) is in the parts—the parts themselves are only what they are precisely because they are in this whole.   The temptation, too often fallen into, is to focus on the whole and forget the subsidiary role of the parts.  However, analogy involves both yes and no.  Thus, we can consider how the common good of the whole Church indeed animates all the parts (thereby also ensuring the ability of the Pope to be involved locally—but only because of that need of the whole) without thereby ruining the particular role of the part.  In any case, it is very important from a sane vocabulary, philosophically, to parse the part-whole distinctions involved here in the subsidiary elements.