Bishops of History Response, Catholicism, Fractionation

The Paradigmatic Bishops of History-Final note on Fractionation


'We still have a few minor issues to work out: I want a huge wedding and he wants to be single.'
Truly compatible?

d. Conclusions

BOH concludes that it has successful proposed a model of fractionation that is amenable to its narrative of history. Yet, BOH makes what is, in my opinion, a schizophrenic statement,

According to this account, the apostles first ordained bishops and deacons, just as St. Clement describes, and then as the apostles died off, these bishops ordained mere presbyters to assist them, and preserve the threefold order that had existed under the apostles. Conceptually, even the development of jurisdictional monepiscopacy would not be contrary to Catholic orthodoxy.

If the notion of jurisdictional monepiscopacy could develop, then I do not know how BOH can retain it’s argument.  The point being argued by every scholar I cited is that the original model of government was the presbyter-bishops were equals and that the notion of one of them possessing “jurisdictional authority” over another was the development of the monarchical episcopate. My argument has been that the title “presbyter” and “bishop” were interchangeable and only later came to distinguish one office from another. There was no such thing in the earliest polity of a “mere” presbyter. And if BOH concedes that among these presbyter-bishops none of them had “jurisdictional authority” over another, then this serves to negate the idea that a Petrine office had been handed on to successors, for none of them, in themselves, would have been the “principle of unity” of the Church. Perhaps BOH means something much more restricted than I do when I speak of development.

BOH is citing an article by Tim Troutman about Holy Orders and the Sacrificial Priesthood where the article concludes,

We argued that presbyterial ordinations were unheard of in the early Church, and explained that the titles of archbishop and cardinal do not constitute additions to the apostolic three-tier hierarchy of the clergy. Historical evidence confirms that the Catholic hierarchy, as it has developed, is compatible with the early Church.

Christian communities that lack the monepiscopal hierarchy cannot support their divergence from ancient tradition either by the authority of the Church Fathers or even by the Scriptures. On the contrary, the overwhelming majority of Christians throughout the ages have been under the authority of particular Churches that preserve this apostolic foundation of Church hierarchy. Common to Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglicans, this hierarchy alone represents a coherent interpretation of the New Testament and early Church evidence.

Much of the material from BOH is borrowed from this post (much of it almost verbatim). It is clear that Tim is arguing here strongly for monepiscopcal authority, but he does leave open the possibility for a form of plurality. He says,

If original presbyterial government means simply that presbyters were sometimes referred to as bishops (and vice versa), it might be a matter of semantics. But if one means that the episcopacy is an innovation by a generation subsequent to the apostolic age and that it rose from a system of collegial leadership, this opinion is not supported by the evidence. It is also possible that St. Jerome did, in fact, believe that the distinction between bishop and presbyter was of ecclesial and not divine origin. In this case, he would simply have been mistaken, although there are good reasons to believe that he understood, as the Catholic Church does, the distinction of orders to be of divine origin.

In other words, what Tim is proposing is that it is possible that the original polity may have been such where presbyter=bishop (and there seems to be a tactic admission Jerome may in fact be saying this, contra BOH’s comments in the Clement section). According to Tim, however, the time frame for this possibility is constricted until the death the last Apostole because monepiscopal government must be of divine and not “eccleisal” origin. Roman Catholic historians would probably object to the distinction between divine and ecclesial origin, but this reinforces that for CtC, development is not an acceptable option for jurisdictional authority and monarchical episcopacy.

Thus, my judgment is that BOH is ambiguous when it claims that plurality of leadership is consistent with a monarchical episcopate and that the “development of jurisdictional authority is not contrary to Catholic orthodoxy.” In point of fact, BOH believes that this development cannot have occurred after the death of Peter (c. 65). In order for the development to be “divine” it needs to come from the Apostles, but the evidence in this fractionation section provides substantial evidence that supreme jurisdictional authority is an “ecclesial development.”

I must once again *emphatically* deny the suggestion that this was a “primordial” “catastrophic” error and that it means there must have been a “grand conspiracy comparable to getting all the employees of NASA to fake the Moon landing, and no one coming forward to reveal it, and no outsider finding out.” This development was organic, slow-moving, and took decades and decades to coalesce. Some may see this development as God forsaking the church, but a significant number see it as God’s providential hand guiding the Church through his Spirit. BOH may protest that it’s either it’s narrative or we are “to be pitied above all men,” but while the evidence may undermine BOH’s expression of Catholicism, it does not undermine Catholicism en toto or Christianity.


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