Saturday, May 24, 2008

Duns Scotus the Papalist?

I came across the following quote today, in a discussion of the Joachim of Fiore's criticism of Peter Lombard, to the effect that his views entail a quaternity in divinis. It is from Reportatio I-A, d.5 pars 1 q.1 n.10: 

"Quantum ad primum errorem, respondet Papa et tenet pro Magistro Petro; et in hoc Papa confirmat et canonizat opinionem Petri, cuius auctoritas forte maior est quam scripturae vel sanctorum-sed non curo hoc asserere- et ostendit quod non sequitur consequentia quaternitatis..."

"As far as to the first error, the Pope responds and holds to Master Peter [Lombard]; and in this the Pope confirms and canonizes the opinion of Peter, whose authority perhaps is greater than scripture or the saints-but I do not care to assert this-and he shows that the consequence of quaternity does not follow..."

Now the relative pronoun 'cuius' is ambiguous, and could refer to either the Pope or Peter Lombard. In translation my natural sense is that it refers to Lombard, though that would be a rather odd claim. A bishop of Paris, who compiled various sayings of the fathers into a textbook is possessed of greater authority than the saints or scripture themselves? It seems more likely that it is referring to the Pope; after all, as one can read in his discussions of the Eucharist, Scotus is a firm believer in the authority of the Church to determine doctrine and holds to transubstantiation purely on the authority of Lateran IV.  This passage could be meant along those lines. And it is not so terribly far from the modern teachings on infallibility, etc., though one probably not want to take this to mean that the Pope has authority over scripture. Perhaps we might want also to substitute 'magisterium' for pope here. Well, that's all folks.

6 comments:

Michael said...

Since "papa" is the subject of the clause before the "cuius" clause and of the one after it, it makes by far more grammatical sense to read "cuius" as referring to the Pope.

Anyway I don't think that to say that the Pope's authority is *greater* than scripture is to say that the Pope has authority *over* scripture. For instance, the Pope cannot alter or decanonize scripture. I would take Scotus to be saying that if scripture and the Pope appeared to conflict, e.g. if the Pope declared something contrary to the apparent plain meaning of scripture (such as that we ought not to support the death penalty?), then the Pope is to be followed.

Just a conjecture.

Michael said...

Or: the Pope may have authority over scripture in the sense that he may be the arbiter of which books are canonical, or he has power to declare some version, e.g. the Vulgate, an approved and acceptable version, and so forth; but scripture cannot have the same kind of authority over the Pope, for obvious reasons.

I wonder if Scotus would accept the claim that if a Pope teaches heresy he ceases to be the Pope. If the Pope is the final arbiter of the *meaning* or interpretation of the scriptures and the saints, who would have the authority to declare him heretical? This reminds me of the Jansenist case, where they recognized the Pope's right to declare certain propositions heretical, but denied that he was the infallible arbiter of whether the condemned propositions were actually found in or meant by Jansenius' book.

Lee Faber said...

Later in the same question he says the following, which may clarify..."Ad dictum Ricardi: non video contra quem loquitur nisi contra Magistrum Petrum et Ecclesia approbat et confirmat sententiam suam; et ideo si contra eum loquitur Magister Petrus habet hic auctoritatem canonizatam, scilicet Ecclesiae, quae forte maior est quam scripturae, sicut dicit Augustinus Contra epistolam Fundamenti: "Evangelio non crederem, nisi ecclesiae credidissem".

Anonymous said...

"As far as to the first error, the Pope responds and holds to Master Peter [Lombard]; and in this the Pope confirms and canonizes the opinion of Peter, whose authority perhaps is greater than scripture or the saints"

Merely an amateur here, but simply looking at the English translation provided; could he perhaps be making a sarcastic remark or, if not, a flattering one that may exagerrate the competency of the person he is referring to in order to accentuate that person's importance (e.g., the cognitive powers of Scotus whose proficiency may perhaps surpass even that of Aquinas himself)?

God Bless,
e.

Lee Faber said...

Sorry, e., I am not quite sure what you mean. I doubt Scotus would be making a sarcastic remark, as in his view Church authorities can determine positive doctrine (such as his holding to transubstantiation only because Lateran IV tells him to).

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Faber:

Sorry, e., I am not quite sure what you mean. I doubt Scotus would be making a sarcastic remark, as in his view Church authorities can determine positive doctrine

It may be the latter of which I mentioned (i.e., a flattering remark).

For example, when one says about somebody they admire:

"I defer to Lee Faber, whose knowledge of Scotus may be greater than Scotus himself!"

Would that possibly be the manner in which he mentioned the Pope?

Of course, as I mentioned, I'm merely an amateur here trying to learn what bit of Scotus I can from experts such as yourselves; so kindly take my comments with a pound of salt ;^)

God Bless,
e.