Recently on ReformedCatholicism.com, my comment under this thread prompted Protestant pastor Kevin Johnson to write this response.
In the course of the discussion I asked the following question:
What then is the ground of magisterial authority, if it is not sacramental succession from the Apostles?Peter Escalante answered:
The Holy Spirit and sanctified reason, and the usual human means of publicly articulating and formulating common knowledge: namely, taking counsel together.To which I replied:
First, I do not see the conjunction of these three as the explicit grounds of magisterial authority anywhere in the NT or the Fathers. What I see in the NT and the Fathers as the ground of magisterial authority is the laying on of hands by Apostles, or by bishops in sacramental succession from the Apostles.
Second, apart from sacramental ordination, the determination of who has the Holy Spirit and who is following the Holy Spirit pushes this ground [i.e. having the Holy Spirit] either to each individual (which is individualism) or to the third conjunct, i.e. common knowledge. And the same can be said of the determination of who has and is following "sanctified reason". So if individualism is to be avoided, then the first two conjuncts themselves can be grounded only on the third and remaining conjunct: "common knowledge".
One problem with making "common knowledge" the ground of magisterial authority is the same problem we see in Habermas' political theory: Who gets to decide who gets to participate in the "publicly articulating and formulating common knowledge" activity? There is no neutral non-question-begging starting point in deciding who gets to participate in this activity. Those who take it to themselves to decide who gets to participate in such an activity are doing so without the grounding of authority that would (in theory) be provided by the "publicly articulating and formulating common knowledge" activity.
Moreover, no such public activity has determined that the conjunction of these three criteria (or that the activity of "publicly articulating and formulating common knowledge") is the ground of magisterial authority. So the assertion that the conjunction of these three is the ground of magisterial authority is self-contradictory in the sense that it fails its own test.
If majority vote were the means by which magisterial authority is grounded, then the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics and 225 million Orthodox would vote that authority is grounded in sacramental succession from the Apostles, and that would outweigh the vote by the 590 million Protestants that magisterial authority is grounded in "common knowledge". So in order to defend your position, you would have to rule out of this communal activity of "publicly articulating and formulating common knowledge" those who disagree with you. But if you can do so, then so can anyone else. And then "common knowledge" is a farce. "Common knowledge" then becomes "the beliefs of those who agree with me", or "what the majority *would* believe if they only knew what I know". That is nothing short of individualism. So it seems to me that your proposed grounding for magisterial authority does not avoid individualism (and thus the intrinsic disposition to fragmentation that necessarily accompanies individualism). And if so, then it has not been shown that my claim that individualism is the only alternative to sacramentally grounded magisterial authority is false.
Happy fifteenth birthday son; we love you more than ever.