Sunday, June 14, 2015

A short note on history and theology

Here's a thought that occurred to me today, after reading another acrimonious thread on women's ordination prompted by comments made by the most recent member of the Irish hierarchy, Bishop Leo O’Reilly of Kilmore, grasping at straws as to how the Church might be revived in Ireland: history and theology are very intricately and inextricably bound together.

This is a point that also needs to be made with reference to the many live discussions in the Church today about the nature of marriage, the relationship of matrimony to orders, as well as with regard to issues arising from orders and gender.

Theology that is ahistorical is disincarnate. History devoid of theology is either deterministic or relativistic, depending on your approach, neither one being providentially guided.

This is true, too, of more fundamental matters. While the historical arguments about the defective way the filoque came to be in the Credo are demonstrably correct, I also think the double procession of the Spirit is more scriptural and simply better Trinitarian theology.

Hence, the ploy of invoking something that was either done only for a very short time and/or done on a localized basis can only be used to refute attempts at absolutizing statements, of which I have made a few- hopefully fewer over time, of the kind "The Church has never..." Take for example the canon from the Council of Ancyra, held in AD 314, permitting certain men being ordained deacons to request, prior to ordination, permission to be married after ordination. But such instances hardly stand as refutations of more normative practices, or even very interesting rebuttals.

When it comes to most matters of importance, it is useful to reflect on why the exception is the exception and did not become the rule. As Pope Francis recently told priests, a Church in which there is no discussion is a dead Church.

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