10Jan BOOK REVIEW: The Curia is the Pope – by Dr John O’Loughlin Kennedy (plus video link to book launch)

Review by Joseph S. O’Leary, who has lived in Japan since 1983. He taught in Sophia University and was a research professor in Nanzan University. Publications include Conventional and Ultimate Truth: A Key for Fundamental Theology (University of Notre Dame Press, 2015).

The Curia is the Pope – by Dr John O’Loughlin Kennedy

This book invites comparison with that of the author’s namesake Liam Kennedy, Who Was Responsible for the Troubles?: The Northern Ireland Conflict (McGill-Queens University Press, 2020). Both are books that hurt, and with the weapon of irrefutable fact. Both will draw howls of rage. Both risk being buried in silence. Both will elicit a double defensive reaction: a resort to apologetics, which attempts to render harmless the facts reported, and a resort to blind piety, which refuses to subject the sublime image of the Papacy or of the Republican heroes to the normal processes of critical assessment. The authors of both books will be classed in an alleged tradition, that of Voltairean mockery in the one case, that of Home Rule Castle Catholics and West Britons in the other. Liam Kennedy’s is the more effective book, since its narrow focus, thirty years of terrorist activity, allows for forensic accuracy and can let the facts speak for themselves, whereas the book under review grapples with two millennia of church history, though attempting to limit its focus to the more manageable topic of the role of the Vatican bureaucracy. Bombings, assassinations, and kneecappings have an obviously unpleasant quality that the alleged Vatican crimes lack. The Vatican has not killed anyone since 1870 (execution of Risorgimento leaders; military casualties up to 20 September, 1870, the last day of the Papal States, on which five hundred died), though it could be alleged that its intransigence on issues such as contraception, abortion, and LGBT rights has cost many lives. All the actions of the Vatican since 1870 that the author sees as criminal have many defenders, who will dismiss his long list of complaints as a biased rant. Compositionally, the book is weakened by repetitiveness and over-insistence. A good editor would have got the author to discuss each topic in one place, instead of coming back to all of them again and again, facilitated by his practice of drawing up long miscellaneous lists to illustrate his charges. There is also a problem of tone. Sustaining a constant note of indignation as he pours scorn on the entire career of the Vatican, he will be dismissed as being in the grip of what von Balthasar called ‘the anti-Roman affect.’

Although the book collects a great variety of disedifying facts from church history, its central focus on bureaucracy is where its scholarly merit most shines. Critique of bureaucracy is a juicy theme for sociologists, such as Pierre Bourdieu, philosophers, such as Herbert Marcuse, Jürgen Habermas, or Ivan Illich, and even for comedy, as in the TV series Yes, Minister. Today, universities and hospitals groan under the stress of an ‘audit culture’ that demands that professors, doctors, and nurses, far from being helped by administrators in their work of teaching or healing, are forced to become administrators themselves, devoting much time and energy to reporting and assessing their own performance. often according to distorting rationalistic criteria.

The author applies the critique of bureaucracy to the Roman Curia. Judging it by its success in implementing Vatican II, or rather in thwarting it, he discerns that it is clearly a dysfunctional organization, one dedicated to its own smooth functioning rather than to the purpose it nominally serves. Popes, formed within the system, are victims of ‘regulatory capture’ (p. 11), being managed by the apparatus they are supposed to be governing. The conclave of 2013 elected ‘someone who could rise above curial groupthink’ (p. 11), but in the short years of a pontificate is there much that the tenant of the papal office can do? Francis has used the technique of dismissing obstructionist personnel such as Cardinal Müller and Cardinal Burke, as well as lower level bureaucrats. The rage exhibited by those two cardinals may be symptomatic of icy relations between the Pope and his bureaucracy, who regularly receive a tongue-lashing from him at year’s end (which itself may indicate a degree of frustration and impotence on his part). Curial reform would demand a comprehensive overhaul of procedures that is beyond the power of one individual, and would in any case distract him totally from his pastoral mission. So the Popes let the bureaucrats get on with their jobs, while directing the papal voice to the multitudes in addresses, encyclicals, and missionary journeys. The result sometimes suggests that the Pope is a figurehead, making all the right noises, but bereft of power to implement the message. Synods or a Council might be the way to overcome this situation.

The author summarizes the message and mission of Jesus and of his disciples is somewhat sweeping terms, centred on love and mercy. He does not object to the pre-Constantinian Church as defended against heresy by such figures as Ignatius of Antioch and Irenaeus. Yet many of his criticisms of the Vatican bureaucracy could spill over into this earlier period as well and even into the Gospels. Critics of Christianity do not observe a protective reserve in regard to St Paul or Jesus himself. For the author, in any case, things began to go seriously wrong when the Church enjoyed imperial patronage from 311 AD. This brought radical changes including: ‘1. The definitive end to persecution of Christians by imperial authorities. 2. A professional lifelong priesthood restricted to men and, by default, the official invention of the laity. 3. A long-established and powerful religious bureaucracy headquartered in Rome. 4. The dominance of the Latin language in Church affairs. 5. The pervading influence of Roman Law on Church law and ultimately on the civil legal systems of Europe. 6. Law, with its emphasis on externalities, assumed a centrality not accorded to it by Jesus or St Paul. 7. A new understanding of Baptism. 8. The slaughter policy for heresy. 9. Clergy participation in the machinery of the Roman Empire, including security, postal services, travel privileges, and salaries. 10. The diocesan structure of governance and finance. 11. Ecumenical Councils’ (pp. 21-2).

Of these, only no. 8—treatment of heresy as a capital offence (as well as paganism, from Constantius’s edict against sacrifices in 356 AD)—would be generally seen as a bad thing today, thanks to modern thinking on religious freedom and to the Church’s own change of attitude as sealed at Vatican II. The act of repentance organized by John Paul II on Ash Wednesday, 2000, takes cognizance of this, and the ‘purification of memory’ he urged includes ongoing scholarly examination of the facts of the various inquisitions (which were not exactly a ‘slaughter,’ being under tight juridical control). ‘Refusing to worship the customary gods was a legal offence punishable by death. The Edict of Thessalonica [380 AD] replaced the gods with God. It did not repeal the legal requirement to worship with its gruesome sanction…. Justinian’s codification of Roman Law in the sixth century, however, included the death penalty for heresy and his Code became the foundational model for civil law in many parts of Europe’ (p. 30). ‘Heretics were executed in England until 1612. In Spain, the last was hanged in 1862 at Valencia’ (p. 31)—a typo for 1826, when Cayetano Ripoll, a schoolteacher accused of deism, was the last victim of the Spanish Inquisition. This is all a great scandal, frequently invoked to disqualify not only the Catholic Church but the Christian religion. But as the author insists, it must be clocked up to human error and guilt, rather than to the divine mission of the Church.

Under no. 2 we are told that the conversion of the Roman priesthood, a state bureaucracy, changed the nature of ministry: ‘When the Roman priests, who had been trained meticulously in the various forms of sacrifice appropriate to the different gods, became Christians they would naturally have focused on uniformity in the liturgy and on the sacrificial element. This may have contributed to the change of emphasis as the sacrificial element in the Lord’s Supper overtook and gradually surpassed the commemorative dimension’ (p. 24). If so, no wonder there is so neat a fit between Cicero’s On Duties and St Ambrose’s On the Duties of Ministers. I note however, with regard to no. 4, that Latin replaced Greek as the liturgical language already in the third century. Under no. 3 we learn that with the Christianization of the ancient priestly bureaucracy the Bishop of Rome was landed with ‘the leadership of the religious bureaucracy. There was a major challenge in the education, retraining and redeployment of personnel including the heads of religious affairs in the various provinces and dioceses’ (p. 25). But was there really a large-scale recycling of pagan priests as Christian ones? Offhand, I cannot think of any of the fourth-century bishops who had begun their careers as pagan priests. ‘Rome was not satisfied with the pre-eminence accorded it by the bishops of the world. The primacy of honour and recognition as the court of final appeal was not enough. The bureaucracy had governed before and would have felt it was entitled to govern again. The Roman mind-set required that this should be established in law as well as in tradition. The Roman ambition to dominate has been a recurring feature of Church history ever since’ (p. 26). But the duty to govern is not solely an ambition to dominate. ‘One can see how the bureaucracy under the Pontifex Maximus inevitably developed the further primacy; that of orthodoxy’ (p. 26). Yet the author finds the papal primacy asserted by pre-Constantinian popes, and as early as Irenaeus we find the bishop of Rome invoked as one of the bulwarks of orthodoxy at a time when the all-enveloping welter of Gnosticism, docetism, and Marcionism were a real threat to Christian survival. The model of imperial power does not explain everything.

Under no. 6 the author deplores the legalism of the Latin Church: ‘This facilitates control, but at a cost; the letter overwhelms the spirit, the theoretical outshines the actual, the legal fiction can supersede the fact, profession can easily be equated with belief. The Roman officials adopted Christianity as individuals, but the bureaucracy resisted conversion. As we have seen, bureaucracies don’t do compassion. They are so essentially self-centred that they have trouble understanding the dynamics of love. Power and control are what they understand. Consequently, they prioritise rules. The Roman bureaucracy of today gives many of St Augustine’s opinions a quasi-scriptural status, but it does not make a guideline out of his advice to “love and do what thou wilt”’ (p. 30). A more sympathetic approach might begin from the role of law in Augustine’s own church. It is hard to see how any legal system at all could survive the author’s strictures. Church legal and bureaucratic culture, as in the literature of the decretists and decretalists in the high middle ages surely deserves some tribute of admiration, as do the contemporaneous artistic and scholarly achievements unmatched before and since: the Cathedrals and Scholasticism, vast collective enterprises that owe much to efficient church bureaucracy. Indeed, it is doubtful if the Catholic Church could have outlived so many monarchies and empires without a strong legal backbone. Other religions have been just as sturdy, to be sure, but they too have accumulated a vast body of law.

Despite his negative view of how the clerical church developed, the author admits that ‘Christ gave us the institutional Church as part of his Promise to be with his followers until the end of time. We would quite literally be lost without it. It is very reasonable to infer some form of hierarchical intention’ (p. 38). However, an all too human dynamic has distorted this intention: ‘the basic principle of hierarchical structure – that an office or a position should carry authority commensurate with its responsibilities – has been largely forgotten. The principle of subsidiarity, much preached to others, is routinely turned on its head in the Church’s own affairs’ (pp. 40-1). To climb the ladder of ecclesiastical promotion oaths of total fidelity to the Magisterium are required: ‘The faithful, knowing of the oaths, are apt to wonder if the preacher is saying something because he really believes it or because his job depends on it. They sense his less-than-honest reserve on certain topics or that he avoids preaching on them at all. The priest who says things in private that he cannot say in his homily is a commonplace. If, as has been said, the faith is caught not taught, it tends to be caught from people we know and respect and whom we can trust to tell the truth about what they believe themselves’ (p. 42). Today priests keep silent in the pulpit on controverted matters, and are sometimes discouraged by their bishops from preaching on them even in support of the Vatican line. But there is a good aspect to this: the tacit recognition by the clergy that preaching, like the Gospel itself, should chiefly appeal to conscience only in general terms, leaving application to the intelligence and freedom of the hearers. (This discussion is only one example of how the book shifts back and forth between ancient and modern, which has a dizzying effect on the reader and does not make for historical sensitivity and seasoned assessment.

In his fifth chapter the author proposes ‘an alternative structure.’ This begins in the ‘periphery,’ in the first six centuries of Irish Christianity. ‘The loss of the monastic structure and the Norman invasion finally brought to an end the greatest and most sustained missionary movement the world has ever seen. Rome does not seem to have appreciated the Irish contribution to the re-Christianisation of Europe’ (p. 55). But what about the modern worldwide missions promoted by the Vatican since the sixteenth century? The author goes on to rehearse the papal claims to spiritual and temporal power in the Middle Ages, with emphasis on its bureaucratic apparatus, and on the way the interpretation of Scripture was subjected to its needs: ‘Interpretation must be related to current realities. Interpretation of revelation in relation to everyday life must change with our growing understanding of the world we live in. This would be easier to understand if the focus was still on how we live rather than what we profess. The papacy, however, is obsessed with maintaining its own inerrancy and the long-standing claim that its conclusions continue to be right even when the reasoning is seen to be wrong…. Fear of losing authority, makes Rome reluctant to change interpretations, even when they no longer fit with mankind’s grasp of reality… and a superior grasp of reality is one characteristic of effective leadership. Regrettably, the papacy has lost credibility at times through collective fear that honest re-interpretation might erode its claim to divine authority. It has resisted, at times for over a hundred years, before accepting that new knowledge and new understanding may call for revised interpretation’ (p. 62). In practice, it seems that Rome, animated only by a will to power and forever resisting the Spirit, can never get anything right. But in reality one could find many instances where the Vatican has been ahead of its time, and has been inspired to implement ‘what we profess’ in ‘how we live.’ Consider Vatican support of St Francis and countless charitable orders, or consider the Social Teaching of the Church since 1891. Of course the Church has to care for consistency in its teaching, and in this respect its performance deserves much more respect than the author is willing to accord it. He comes close to the jejune hermeneutics of the SSPX, which pounces on every apparent contradiction and rejects the practice of doctrinal development or the careful recontextualization of older outlooks (such as that of the Council of Constance at Vatican II).

Even the Priesthood and the Eucharist, the author claims, became an usurpation of the original meal-event celebrated by lay communities into the third century: ‘When sacramental ordination was introduced it came to be understood as conferring on the priest of the power to confect the Eucharist. This became a cornerstone of the prestige and mystique of the Christian priesthood but is theologically insupportable. Below we quote Thomas Aquinas in another context: “The sacrament is not wrought by… the celebrant or the recipient, but by the power of God.” All the Church authorities can do is to give authority in accordance with their regulations governing the implementation of the command to “Do This”… The involvement and participation of the faithful diminished progressively as the profession officially monopolised each of the charisms and developed privileges that were later protected by canon law. This is an essential element of clericalism that could be remedied simply and directly by any pope’ (p. 66). It’s not clear what is being proposed here or how a pope could bring it about by simple fiat. Perhaps the reference is merely to the recent stonewalling about celibacy and women’s ordination (the former since 1967 and the latter since 1976). Church order as such is not a specialty of the Roman Church, and the roles of ordained ministers as presiding the Eucharist are appreciated in Anglicanism, Lutheranism, and Calvinism as well (where women pastors have been accepted only from the 1970s). The author suggests that tens of thousands of trained catechists in Africa ‘could easily be taught to lead the community in the celebration of Mass, as St Paul would have done…. Only the man-made rules stand in the way. Ordaining the catechists or authorising the congregation to celebrate, however, would impact the status and mystique of the priesthood’ (p. 68). But on this and the other issues cited as blocked by bureaucratic ineptitude, it is clear that movement is afoot, though it takes lots of time and patience for a church of 1,300,000,000 members, one of whose four credal marks is Unity, to make such changes. Frankly, as I read this book I hear a lot of noisy splashing, and I fear the sound is that of the baby being thrown out with the bathwater.

Church condemnation of Pelagianism is reduced, again, to desire for control (p. 79), something that Luther and Calvin, lauded just a few paragraphs earlier, would never say. Here, as in many other cases, the Vatican has been a beacon of theological depth, to a degree that outshines its errors or slowness in doctrinal development. Having surveyed twenty doctrinal decisions, culminating in papal primacy and infallibility, the author detects ‘ambition’ as the motive underlying all of them. ‘The common characteristic of all the above decisions is that each one added to the power and influence of the pope and the central Roman bureaucracy which together make up the papacy. Each decision could have been expected from any large secular bureaucracy without any inspiration from the Holy Spirit. The group dynamic in the bureaucracy prioritises pride over humility, power over service, law over love, authority over conscience and obedience to its directives over all the other virtues’ (p. 84). Were none of the labourers in the Vatican vineyard animated by a spirit of service and are the Popes liars when, since Gregory the Great, they use the title servus servorum Dei?

The most gripping historical section in the book concerns Pius IX’s decades-long campaign to have Papal Infallibility defined (Chapter 7). The success of this individual initiative might undercut the thesis of the pope as curial puppet. Later, announcing Vatican II, ’Pope John XXIII outfoxed the bureaucracy. He caught the curia off guard with a surprise announcement without prior consultation. He knew what he was doing. Once the Pope had made a public commitment, the curia had no choice but to show unity, get into line and proceed, however reluctantly.’ (p. 100). Pius IX has been compared with President Trump, and one wishes that the Curia had been a more effective brake on him. His Council however sharply limited his dogmatic ambitions. The dogma of infallibility turned out to be much less impressive than promised, hedged round with conditions that made the exercise of this papal privilege virtually impossible. But it did surround the figure of the Pope, shorn of his territories, with a blaze of glory. That mystique reached its acme in Pius XII, a figure who seemed to speak from heaven. John Paul II’s overwhelming mediatic presence had little to do with infallibility, though he exploited the authority conferred by the papal primacy. Pseudo-infalllibility was the cement of his teaching. ‘If a doctrine proves difficult to defend, the curia, instead of revising it or encouraging discussion among the faithful under the promised guidance of the Spirit, have resorted to options that are hard to reconcile with the teachings or example of Jesus. Some of these options: 1. Exhort the faithful to accept the illogicality as another mystery of religion. 2. Ban discussion of the subject among Catholics. 3. Castigate thinking Catholics who continue to seek the truth or explanations and accuse them of intellectual pride and/or disloyalty. Refuse permission for them to speak at meetings held on church property. 4. Treat the questioner as a heretic and excommunicate him. 5. If the questioner is a member of a religious congregation and is unable in conscience to conform or recant to the satisfaction of the CDF, force their congregation to expel them. 6. If the dissenter is ordained, remove him from public ministry, silence him and forbid him to admit the truth about his silencing, under a further threat of removal from the priestly state’ (pp. 125-6). The solution seems to be more synodality and less curiality, more dialogue and less diktat.

Chapter 12, with a welcome narrowing of focus, devotes forty pages to demonstrating that ‘current Church teaching on the ordination of women is based on two remarkably inadequate magisterial documents which fall apart on careful reading. At one key point they contradict one another. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has tried to compensate for their weakness by mendaciously declaring the latest one infallible’ (p. 189), and also by falsely claiming that these teachings are based on consultation of the world’s bishops, whereas in fact the Vatican bureaucracy dread such consultation as being unlikely to yield the desired result. A difficulty with addressing this is that the low quality of the bureaucratic arguments is a function of an act of power and control that is unamenable to argument and that excludes the possibility of dialogue. The author’s persistence and patience are all the more commendable. Much the same can be said of Chapter 14 on the Vatican’s handling of moral theology (set in the context of ‘unwinding’ Vatican II). Chapter 15 gives ten examples of ‘management failings’ ranging from the curial manipulation of the vote against ordaining married men at the 1971 Synod to the failure of Querida Amazonia to address the same issue. These failures ‘cannot be brushed aside as exceptions. They are systemic. Each of them has its roots in the structure, traditions, and priorities of the curia empowered by the decisions of 1870’ (p. 237). Chapter 16 on Ecumenism notes: ‘Ostensibly, Ut Unum Sint is a panegyric on ecumenism. Regrettably, however, John Paul (or some official editing the text) slipped back into the old mind-frame of reunionism in one crucial sentence defining unity in terms of “doctrinal, sacramental and hierarchical communion.” This becomes the operative phrase, overriding all the inspiring rhetoric in the encyclical. It substitutes a demand for a unity characterised by the profession of one set of doctrinal propositions and seven sacraments, and by acceptance of one form of governance’ (p. 249).

St John Henry Newman is the great modern apologist for the Church in face of its unsightly historical blots: ‘And I hold in veneration/ For the love of Him alone/ Holy Church as His creation/ And her teachings as His own.’ But Newman is quoted here only tendentiously, as a critic of Vatican I. (Something similar might be said of Yves Congar, Henri de Lubac, Edward Schillebeeckx, and Hans Küng, all of whom could provide material for a glowing account of the Church as a living organism, a community indefectibly led by the Spirit.) Newman believed that the Church is visited at privileged times by ‘effusions’ of the Holy Spirit that relaunch it on its mission. Vatican II was one such effusion, and we are still drawing on it today. I believe that the rich resources of post Vatican II theological culture and pastoral experience provide the basis for a serene and creative rethinking of churchhood in continuity with tradition.

Joseph S. O’Leary

 

“The Curia is the Pope” Paperback, 245 x 175 mm, 316 pp. €25, plus p&p.

Published by Mount Salus Press, Delgany, A63TD74, Co Wicklow, Ireland.

For more information go to https://www.mountsaluspress.com/ where you can buy in paperback or download for screen reading. Also available from Amazon, in Paperback or in Kindle format.

The video link for the Zoom launch of the book is below, with Ursula Halligan in the Chair, along with Soline Humbert, Mícheál Ó Siadhail and author John O’Loughlin Kennedy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDRvXtdih0g&feature=youtu.be

 

5 Responses

  1. Sean+O'Conaill

    ‘Christ gave us the institutional Church as part of his Promise to be with his followers until the end of time. We would quite literally be lost without it. It is very reasonable to infer some form of hierarchical intention.’ (p. 38)

    We do not need to ‘infer’ that for Jesus ‘hierarchy’ and priesthood had to do not with regulatory control but with unconditional love and service. Jesus told us this both implicitly [in the example he himself gave in his eschewing of all power over others from the temptations in the desert to Gethsemane] and explicitly in the instruction not to Lord it over others. (Matt 20:25)

    It is in fact far easier to find in the Gospels a defence of whistleblowing against ‘moral policing’ than support for a ‘heavy’ clerical institution. This also helps to explain the centrifugal historical impact of any overweening Christian regulatory institution.

    Furthermore, the regulatory moral theology that emerged after 311 inevitably lost sight of a human weakness for imitative acquisition, named in the 9th and 10th commandments as ‘covetousness’. We need look no further for the sin that led to the internal paralysis of the Curia revealed by ‘Vatileaks’ – a mirror of the rivalry of brothers archetypically described in the myth of Cain and Abel. This will ALWAYS accompany concentrations of status and power, even in religious institutions.

    But who in the Curia ever named that sin?

    It has fallen to the Catholic Curia therefore to be history’s greatest witness to the futility of concentrations of regulatory moral control – as the virtually total indifference to and contempt for the Curia that prevails in Ireland now illustrates. Francis is therefore far more influential here than the Curia.

    Who will ever forget that it was these particular moral policemen who concealed the clerical abuse of children at the highest level to preserve the myth of saintly clerical celibacy – and that it became belatedly active in the cause of child safeguarding only AFTER this cat was well out of the bag?

    Moral policemen can only discredit the divine authority for whom they claim to speak – and this is very obviously the reason that Jesus promised us all ‘the counsellor’ (e.g. John 14: 26-28). The centrifugal influence of the Curia will never be overcome, while the Gospel and ‘the counsellor’ are now available to everyone.

    The Curia is useful only from the perspective of understanding the institutional church as tending toward museum rather than garden. It can only ever illustrate the point of Jesus’s critique of the moral police of his own time: ‘Alas for you lawyers who have taken away the key of knowledge! You have not gone in yourselves and have prevented others from going in who wanted to.’ (Luke 11: 52)

  2. Joe O'Leary

    “Jesus announced the Kingdom, and it was the Church which came” (Loisy). But that arrival of church and hierarchy is found within the New Testament itself.

    I was surprised in 1977 to realize that Matthew 23 could be seen as directed against clericalist Irish Catholicism. Matthew himself must have been thinking of his own church rather than the Pharisees of Jesus’ time some fifty to sixty years earlier.

    Question for Sean: how are we to interpret Matthew 16:19 and 18:18 for today?

  3. Paddy Ferry

    Joe, your review is excellent, definitely one for the archives to be referred occasionally in the future.

    In relation to the conversation now beginning between yourself and Sean, perhaps it is worth noting the words of Kieran O’Mahony OSA once again.

    “In common with many other biblical scholars, I would affirm the following. Firstly, the historical Jesus encountered very few non-Jews. His ministry was “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”. Jesus did not foresee a separate religious movement, later given the name Christianity.

    Much less did he foresee a Church (the term is found in the Gospels in Matthew alone), with specific structures and ministries. In the New Testament, varieties of ministries are indeed evident, in particular in Paul, Matthew and Luke-Acts. Towards the end of the first century, these settled into servants, elders and overseers (the later deacons, priests and bishops). The Council of Trent, in affirming that all seven sacraments were somehow instituted by Jesus, made the mistake of accepting the way the Reformers posed the question. This was unnecessary (though understandable in pre-critical times) and brings with it insurmountable historical difficulties.

    If the above is substantially accurate, then the historical Jesus “ordained” nobody at all and the Last Supper was not an ordination service, simply because the historical Jesus did not reckon with a body separate from his own Jewish faith.”

  4. Soline Humbert

    The video of the launch (link given at end of Joe O Leary’s review)
    also includes a contribution by THOMAS O’LOUGHLIN, professor of historical theology,on the subject of infallibility and truth. Starts @30 mn in recording.

  5. Sean O’Conaill

    Re Matt 16:19 and 18:: 18. It would not make sense, surely, to suppose that here Jesus, was issuing a licence to breach the commandment of love or the obligation of forgiveness. Justice also surely must be inviolable – so the ‘whatever’ would be subject to that as well.

    I find it difficult to discern what particular situations Jesus was thinking of here, unless it was situations of particular controversy – such as e.g. the hugely important issue of admitting gentiles to communion.

    I need to think more on this, obviously – and to read up on the history of exegesis of these verses.

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