"Let unity, the greatest good of all goods, be your preoccupation." - St. Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to St. Polycarp)

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Ecclesial Euthyphro

Do you submit to your magisterial authority because you agree with your magisterial authority, or do you agree with your magisterial authority because you submit to your magisterial authority?

6 comments:

contrarian 78 said...

Surely these can't be mutually exclusive, even in the Protestant view. The Church teaches the truth and we also have some amount of consideration of their claims that we make, especially when we were outside of her arms.

Principium unitatis said...

The position you seem to be proposing does not look like a middle position. It looks like "submitting because we agree".

- Bryan

contrarian 78 said...

Perhaps I can better explain what I mean by comparing our relationship with the church with our parents, especially since Cyprian and others call the Church our mother.

If we doubted whether our parents were good, we could consider the logic of their demands of us. The more we trust them, however, we learn to submit even when we are unsure of their motivations in telling us to do something. Thus, I think that there is at least a temporal progression of trusting because one has searched the scriptures, the laws of nature, and one's own heart, and then one learns to trust implicitly, even when one has emotional qualms with particular claims.

As many have said with regard to the Protestant/Catholic debate, the issue is not submitting to Purgatory/Mary/Saints/Rosary/Confession/What have you, it's understanding what
one's authority is in life.

Principium unitatis said...

Thanks for your reply. It seems to me that a child starts from a position of trusting (at least unless that trust is destroyed). The young child agrees with his parents because he trusts them. It is not the case that he trusts them because he agrees with them. As the child grows older, he transitions into an adult-adult relationship with his parents. While we continue to honor our parents until their death, on account of our coming from them and on account of all that they have given us, yet when we reach adulthood, our relationship with our parents no longer involves submission or obedience of a superior to an inferior.

Therefore, the relationship of adult children to their parents, since it is not a relationship involving something like 'magisterial authority', is not analogous to the relationship between the lay person and the Church. The *child*-parent relation *is* analogous to that of the lay person to the Church. But as I showed above, in the *child*-parent relationship, the child agrees because he trusts, not the other way around.

So again, I don't see any third position.

My "Ecclesial Euthyphro" is just another way of asking: Is the proper order 'faith seeking understanding', or 'understanding seeking faith'?

- Bryan

contrarian 78 said...

Bryan,
The analogy needs further consideration. I agree with what you are saying, if we are actually born into the family. However, if we are adopted at a later age, it is a known fact that the instillation of trust in parental values is a more delicate matter. After all, adopted children sometimes have a different set of values from what their birth parents/orphanage gave them.

Principium unitatis said...

I think you're right that adopted children do not necessarily trust their adoptive parents immediately. Even so, when these children do come to trust their adopted parents, I think they do so not because they first agree with all that the parents are saying, but because they grasp the love and sincerity revealed in the parents' character, as well as their authority as adults, as well as their superior wisdom. But trust is not the same thing as authority. I trust friends, but that does not mean that I treat them as authorities over me.

My "Ecclesial Euthyphro" question is not about the relation of trust and agreement, but about the relation between ecclesial *authority* and agreement. Does magisterial authority ultimately depend on agreement, or does agreement ultimately depend on magisterial authority? So my question is fully compatible with there being intermediaries between magisterial authority and agreement. For example, consider the following two statements:

(1) I agree because I submit because I trust because I perceive magisterial authority.

(2) I submit because I attribute magisterial authority because I trust because I agree.

Statement (1) still has agreement depend on magisterial authority, even though submission is based on trust. Statement (2), by contrast, still makes submission depend on agreement, even though magisterial authority is based on trust. If in statement (1), the term 'magisterial authority' is defined in terms of agreement or based at least in part on agreement, then (1) essentially collapses into (2).

- Bryan