Monday, July 21, 2008

The inherent chauvinism of the antipapal mindset

{This is a work in progress}

More thoughts on Saturday's debate....

I was particularly struck by the patent acceptance that the Pauline letters are silent regarding the Pope. First, there should have been a clearer insistence that that says nothing about what we as Catholics think about the Gospels' mention of Peter's role.

Secondly, the more I think about it, the more I cannot blithely accept this premise, that Paul says nothing about the Church's structure. After all, the analogy of the Church as body does include the logical conclusion that there must be a centralized head in the Church.

If one were to only read 1 Corinthians, there would be no question on the matter. Chapter 12 is the most detailed discussion of how the body should not be at war with itself, nor should members denigrate each other.

To quote:

"12The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.14Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" 22On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.27Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues[d]? Do all interpret? 31But eagerly desire[e] the greater gifts. "

Note that Paul points to hypothetical instances of members of the body disregarding each other in disunity, and in mentioning the ear, the eye, and the head, he treats all components (including the head) as though they could be guilty of such a travesty.

If we are to assume that Paul's understanding of the body is a "headless horseman" capped by Christ as head, I would argue that Paul would not have evoked such imagery. He could talk of hands denigrating feet, but not eyes denigrating hands. For that would mean that Christ is sinning by spurning the hands, etc., and how can that be the case?

So we are left with the other passages where Paul DOES describe Christ as the head. What are we to make of these words? First, the Catholic should be quick to agree that of course, He is the Head of all believers, Pope and nun alike.

Secondly, the imagery of Christ as head should never be divorced from other imagery describing our relationship with Him. Indeed, the epistle that is most forceful about Him being the head is one where one cannot surgically separate another relationship. And that epistle would have to be the letter to the Ephesians. There we find the role of Christ as head is intimately united to His position as our divine spouse.

In Ephesians 5, we find this fact clearly delineated.

To quote:
22Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— 30for we are members of his body. 31"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."[c] 32This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

There is something here that I believe our Protestant brethren our overlooking in emphasizing Christ as the Head in passages such as this.

Note what Paul says in verse 23, and consider the fact that this element of Christ as head is compared to the husband as head of the wife.
First, it does evoke the marriage imagery that is strongly described in the Apocalypse of Saint John.
Secondly, note the correlation in terms of the human existence. Do wives submit to husbands as their head in some sort of amorphous body with no mind? I'm sure some married men wish this were the case, but that would be to exist in a loveless relationship. On the contrary, there is the struggle for harmony among two wills, such that while one may be the "lord" of the other, this does not negate the head/mind/will of the bride.

As such, both the use of logic and the fuller analysis of Ephesians leads us to repudiate the visible body of Christ as lacking a visible head. It is only some chauvinistic fancy that would keep us in denial of this reality, if we really consider Paul's usage of the phrase that Christ is the head of the Church in Ephesians 5.

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