Item description for Creative Fidelity: Weighing and Interpreting Documents of the Magisterium by Francis A. Sullivan...
Creative Fidelity: Weighing and Interpreting Documents of the Magisterium by Francis A. Sullivan
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Studio: Wipf & Stock Publishers
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.7" Width: 6.34" Height: 0.5" Weight: 0.66 lbs.
Release Date Mar 1, 2003
Publisher Wipf & Stock Publishers
ISBN 1592442080 ISBN13 9781592442089
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levels of authority, degrees of adherence Mar 13, 2002
"If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."--Jn. 4:10
What is this gift of God, the revelation of God? No simple answer, not least of all for Catholics, who believe in faith that the revelation of God springs from the threefold origin of scripture, tradition, and magisterium.
Fr. Francis A. Sullivan, S.J. brings a fine, discerning intellect to bear on the question of the magisterium. With 36 years' grist of teaching experience at the venerable Gregorian University, Fr. Sullivan draws key distinctions that manifestly reject the excesses of the conservatives, for whom every declaration of the magisterium is to be accepted without question, as well as of the liberals, for whom every aspect of the magisterium that is not set forth as infallible dogma is to be contested and, for all practical purposes, discarded.
In order to define the different levels of authority by which doctrines are set forth as well as the varying degrees of adherence required, Fr. Sullivan uses as his framework the new Formula for the Profession of Faith that in 1989 was required as an oath for all those who assume a responsible position in the Church.
According to this formula, there are three kinds of doctrine: dogma infallibly or definitively taught, pertaining to the depositum fidei, which requires an act of faith; truths infallibly or definitively taught, pertaining indirectly to the deposit of faith, which must be firmly accepted and held; and non-definitive teachings of the Pope and the Bishops when they exercise their authoritative magisterium, which obliges the religious submission of will and intellect.
As in many instances throughout the book, Fr. Sullivan makes the following all-important distinction concerning religious submission to non-definitive teachings.
...The essential difference between "assent" and an attitude of willingness to accept the magisterium is that assent is an "either-or" proposition; one either gives one's assent or one does not. On the other hand, an attitude of willingness admits of varying degrees (p. 24).
I believe that any Catholic who wishes to genuinely understand the meaning of the term "magisterium," and, as a corollary, Church teaching, would benefit greatly from Fr. Sullivan's exposition.
Apt historical examples elucidate rather abstract ideas. To illustrate different degrees of dogmatic weight, for instance, Fr. Sullivan discusses three distinct Marian doctrines. The first is the virginal conception of Jesus, which has a clear basis in scripture and is consistent with Christian belief and Church teaching from earliest times. He says it is an instance of an infallible dogma taught by the ordinary and universal magisterium. The second doctrine is the perpetual virginity of Mary, which is not found in scripture although conciliar and papal documents witness to constant and universal belief. This, Fr. Sullivan opines, is a dogma but undefined. The third is the virginity of Mary in giving birth to Jesus. Fr. Sullivan agrees with Karl Rahner that this doctrine is not uniform, constant, nor clear enough to be recognized as a dogma.
The book dwells somewhat at length on infallible dogmas, so that it is apparent that here is where the author believes the most explanation is due.
Those who take issue with the magisterium will find provocative, enlightening, and persuasive discussions on, for example, the fourteenth-century papal bull Unam Sanctam, which posited the primacy of the spiritual over the temporal power, the Council of Trent on the indissolubility of marriage, or the present pope's 1994 apostolic letter on women priests.
Fr. Sullivan's dense style is not to everyone's taste. However, it is, in my opinion, lucid, eminently reasonable, and intellectually satisfying.
Paradoxically, from the dry text of doctrine flow the waters of devotion.