Revered and Reviled

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Revered and Reviled

A Re-Examination of Vatican Council I

Revered and Reviled explores the ways that Vatican Council I influenced the important issues of papal primacy and the infallible teaching magisterium of the Pope. The book clarifies and corrects many misunderstood concepts and conclusions about the first Council.

Revered and Reviled explores the ways that Vatican Council I influenced the important issues of papal primacy and the infallible teaching magisterium of the Pope. The book clarifies and corrects many misunderstood concepts and conclusions about the first Council. Although this is, first and foremost, a church history, it is written with the educated lay reader in mind. Vatican Council I laid the groundwork for critical issues relating to the Pope's power, especially the subjects of papal primacy and infallibility. The Council's conclusion remain important today, as Pope Francis looks toward synodality as the way of the Catholic Church. In essence, Revered and Reviled is hugely important because it is the first book to correct long-held misconceptions that have guided the philosophical position of the Catholic church for the last 145 years. With broad distribution, it should impact Catholic scholars, theologians and the faithful around the world.

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The two Vatican Councils are often perceived as polar opposites. Vatican I is often seen as closing the door to the modern world, while Vatican II is understood as thrusting those same doors open. This discontinuity is especially pronounced in the descriptions of the ways the two councils construe the papacy and the episcopate. What Bishop John R. Quinn advances, however, is that no such discontinuity exists, that the First Vatican Council’s clarifications on the papacy prepared the way for the Second Vatican Council to fill in the teaching on the role of the bishops.

Quinn writes that this book is for the “moderately educated reader who wishes to have a deeper knowledge of the important issues of papal primacy and of the infallible teaching magisterium of the Pope” (vii). Throughout, he argues against a maximalist interpretation of Vatican I and papal infallibility, which asserts that “the Pope by reason of the primacy must govern all aspects of church life all over the world and that he is infallible in almost all his public teachings” (vii). This extreme interpretation of Vatican I is maintained not by modern-day ultramontanes, but by those who moved too quickly to reject its pronouncements; for example, Hans Küng caricatures infallibility in this way in order to further his own rejection of it. Where Küng sees rupture, Quinn sees continuity.

In chapter one, Quinn discusses how, contrary to his intentions of a weaker, controllable papacy, Napoleon actually prompted the growth of a more centralized government within the church and a more prestigious papacy. The end result was the rise of a more extreme ultramontanism throughout Europe, which a-historically reconstructed the primacy of the papacy in terms of sovereignty.

In chapter two, Quinn turns his attention to Pius IX and his Syllabus of Errors, paying attention to the influences that led to its formulation ahead of Vatican I. By contextualizing the most alarming propositions with attention to their originating documents, the reader is led to see how the allergy of papal theologians to historical context resulted in pithily expressed propositions that polarized public opinion. Whether or not the Syllabus was covered by papal infallibility divided the ultramontane camp of Manning and the more balanced camp of Newman. Ultimately, despite the intentions of Pius IX, Quinn concludes, “Vatican Council I did not become the Council of the Syllabus” (33).

Chapter three shifts attention to the Council itself and the drafting of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ, Pastor aeternus. Situating the 112 book reviews primacy of the pope within the context of primacy of jurisdiction, this constitution does not reduce the role of bishops to being mere functionaries of a papal sovereign—an exaggerated “maximalist” interpretation. Since the Council was suspended before the second section of the document concerning the role of the episcopate could be debated and enacted, in many cases the maximalist interpretation of papal primacy errantly prevailed, only to be corrected definitively at the next Vatican Council.

Chapter four hones in on the central question of papal infallibility. Without getting caught in the weeds of the many details now available to historians, Quinn incisively surveys the polarization of the issue both prior to and during the Council, which ultimately led to a restrained definition palatable to almost all the Council fathers. Appended to the end of this chapter, Quinn summarizes Newman’s line of reasoning from his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk in explanation and defense of papal infallibility.

Chapter five reevaluates Vatican I by addressing the fourfold contention of August Hasler that the Council was invalid. This brief foray into the controversy raised by Hasler gives Quinn an opportunity to further contextualizes the personality of Pius IX and bolster the legitimacy of the Council in the mind of the reader.

In Chapter six, “Newman and Vatican I,” Quinn turns his attention to Newman himself. Newman before the Council defended the church in his work Apologia pro vita sua, wherein he gives a history of his own religious views. In this work, Newman limited himself to discussing the infallibility of the church as a whole and not the particular infallibility as expressed in the papacy. After the Council, seeing the need to quell public opinion in England against the Catholic Church in light of Pastor aeternus, Newman composed the Letter to the Duke of Norfolk, which explained infallibility while also defending the individual role of conscience. This chapter could be greatly enhanced by attention to Newman’s unique contribution to the study of faith and history in the Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. As is evidenced in the Apologia, Newman retained a remarkable consistency of thought throughout his life and his opposition to the prospect of a conciliar definition of infallibility followed the principles he laid down twenty years prior in the Essay on Development. Conversely, it would be interesting to know whether Newman’s notes of development were explicitly employed by proponents of the definition of papal infallibility. Nevertheless, as Quinn makes clear, whether or not Newman’s ideas were instrumental in the construction of, or the response to the definition, his witness certainly was.

In the last chapter, Quinn quickly traces the developments in ecclesial governance and teaching since Vatican I and resituates his central thesis for the church of today: “The Council is not an obstacle to a more collegial exercise of the primacy or an obstacle to the stated intention of Pope Francis for synodality newman studies journal 16.2 113 as the way of the Catholic Church” (116). While avoiding saturating this work with anachronistic analysis of present papal practices, the author clearly aims to draw out implications for contemporary church governance.

This work does not claim to be an in-depth study of the history and theology of the First Vatican Council, but instead functions as an historically insightful introduction. Although this book would work well as a starting place for scholars of Newman’s thought, it is not meant to be an exhaustive account of the intersection of Newman’s idea of development and the First Vatican Council. Instead, Newman’s presence on these pages provides a real contemporaneous embodiment of the careful measured acceptance of papal infallibility.

PETER J. GRUBER, C.O. The Pittsburgh Oratory of St. Philip Neri

Newman Studies Journal, Volume 16, Issue 2, Winter 2019, pp. 111-113

Published by The Catholic University of America Press


9780824523299
Hardcover / 128 pages
Dimensions: 6 x 9
HERDER & HERDER, 2017

Keywords:
Religion, Christianity, Catholic, History
Categories:
History