Refutation of William Webster's Fundamental Misunderstanding of Development of Doctrine

(with particular reference to the papacy, Vatican I, Pope Leo XIII, St. Vincent of Lerins, and Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman)

The following is a direct reply to Protestant polemicist William Webster's article: The Repudiation of the Doctrine of Development as it Relates to the Papacy by Vatican I and Pope Leo XIII. His article was largely in response to certain assertions in Steve Ray's book Upon This Rock. I break up his paragraphs in order to create a more readable back-and-forth dialogue (as is my custom), but readers can easily link to Mr. Webster's original to check for context, if that is desired. Webster's words will be in blue.


Ray of Light Concerning Papal Development

One of the claims being made by present day Roman Catholic apologists is that, as an institution, the papacy was something that developed over time.

As indeed every other doctrine held by Catholics and Protestants has, whether in understanding and/or in application.

In his book, Upon This Rock, Steve Ray represents this position. He uses the metaphor of the acorn and the oak. In critiquing my book, The Matthew 16 Controversy, Peter and the Rock, Ray states:

My good friend Steve Ray (we have known each other since 1983 - many of those years as Protestant evangelicals) is exactly right, and presently I endeavor to show why he is, and why William Webster is wrong, by means of many different avenues of historical and theological arguments and analogies.

Now, there is an implicit admission in these statements. Steve Ray is admitting to the fact that the papacy was not there from the very beginning. It was subject to a process of development and growth over time. This is a simple historical fact recognized by historians of nearly every persuasion.

Indeed, all the elements which flow from the essential aspects of the papacy took time to develop fully. Thus the papacy as we know it today (i.e., post-Vatican I, when papal infallibility was defined) was not present "full-blown" in the first century. This should neither surprise nor scandalize Catholics, as if it were a "difficulty." The essence of the papacy has been there all along, and that is precisely what Catholic apologists and any others who understand the true nature of Newmanian, Vincentian development of doctrine refer to, when they speak of doctrines having been "present from the beginning," or as "part of the apostolic deposit passed on from Jesus to the Apostles." Nor is this at all contrary to the teaching of the First Vatican Council or Leo XIII, as I will demonstrate. Mr. Webster simply has no case.

The essence of the papacy is Petrine primacy and divinely-granted jurisdiction over the Church universal. I have recounted many biblical and historical arguments in this regard in the following paper: 50 NT Proofs for Petrine Primacy & the Papacy. Since my analysis in that paper is entirely grounded in the Bible (the sole formal principle of authority for Mr. Webster - assuming he espouses sola Scriptura), therefore the only development these essential, presuppositional aspects of the papacy have undergone - in a remote, somewhat tongue-in-cheek sense - would be the development entailed in the process of determining the canon of the New Testament.

But I find it interesting that Mr. Webster cuts out the second half of Steve Ray's paragraph, which he cites. I believe that the reader will be able to understand why:

{Ray, ibid., p. 184; emphasis added}

This shows that Mr. Webster's reasoning would also apply to doctrines he himself also holds (as indeed Newman argued in his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine), therefore causing his case to more or less collapse, thus it was better that this was not revealed in a paper such as his present one - it makes for too much extra work, and we are all very busy . . .

Vatican I and Authoritative Biblical Interpretation

The problem for Roman Catholics is not whether there was development. The problem lies in the fact that Vatican I says there was no development.

Of course the Council claims no such thing. It asserts that the papacy was present from the beginning, and Mr. Webster falsely assumes that therefore the papacy as understood and practiced post-1870 is being referred to as having been present all along (i.e., the "oak tree" rather than the "acorn"). It is easy to "win" an argument with a straw man of one's own making (whether it is intentional or not).

In other words there was no acorn. It was a full blown oak from the very beginning and was therefore the practice of the Church from the very beginnning.

Again, this is a gratuitous and false assumption. Such a thing is never stated by Vatican I. And what is stated is wrongly interpreted by Mr. Webster, as I will demonstrate in due course. It so happens that I have previously "anticipated" Mr. Webster's argument here (in exchanges with others) and have - I believe - (by means of Newman himself) satisfactorily "answered" his contentions already: The Development of the Papacy (Newman).

Vatican I reaffirmed the decree of the Council of Trent on the Unanimous Consent of the Fathers which has to do specifically with the interpretation of Scripture. It states that it is unlawful to interpret Scripture in any way contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.

I assume Mr. Webster makes reference to the Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith, chapter II, "Of Revelation" (ending):

This passage does not - strictly speaking - deal with mandatory interpretations of particular Scripture verses. The Church - in this instance, as always - is much more concerned with true doctrines, as opposed to absolute requirements of belief with regard to any given biblical passage. That's why the Council speaks of "the true meaning and interpretation of Holy Scripture" (i.e., as a whole; as a set of doctrinal beliefs, or the crystallization of Holy Tradition), rather than of "the true meaning and interpretation of every individual passage of Holy Scripture." The Church would, therefore, contend that Holy Scripture teaches the doctrine of the papacy, and that anyone who would deny that is in the wrong, and is opposed to the "unanimous consent" of the Fathers.

Mr. Webster, therefore (inadvertantly, I assume) sets up false premises, upon which he bases his argument, which he apparently considers compelling and clear-cut. It rests upon a supposed conciliar requirement to interpret individual biblical passages in the way it itself interprets them, and an alleged claim that all the Fathers indeed interpreted them in this fashion. But these demands and claims simply do not occur in the Council's decrees. Like many non-Catholic controversialists, Mr. Webster falls prey to the temptation of attributing to the Catholic Church an objectionable and excessive "dogmatism" which goes beyond what the Church claims for itself.

Vatican I then proceeds to set forth its teachings on papal primacy and infallibility with the interpretation of Matthew 16:18, John 21:15-17 and Luke 22:32 as the basis for its teachings.

So far, Mr. Webster is correct. Like any good Protestant, the Catholic Church seeks to offer biblical rationale for its beliefs.

And then it states that the interpretations that it gives and the conclusions it draws from these interpretations, in terms of the practice of the Church, has been that which has ever been taught in the Church and practiced by it.

In terms of the essence of the papacy, and the kernels contained in these passages, yes. But as we will shortly see, Mr. Webster falsely charges that the Church is making an untrue claim about historical exegesis - a contention which I cannot find in the texts he cites (perhaps I missed it, and Mr. Webster can point this out to me).

Here is what Vatican I says:

(Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom (New York: Harper, 1877), Dogmatic Decrees of the Vatican Council, Chp. 4, pp. 266-71).

[remainder of lengthy citation from Vatican I deleted - the reader may read it on the link provided on top]

Notice here that Vatican I states that its interpretation of Matthew 16 and John 21 has been the interpretation that has ever been understood in the Church. That is, from them very beginning.

If by this, Mr. Webster is implying that the Council claimed all the Fathers interpreted these particular passages in the same fashion, it simply did not do so. A crucial distinction must be made at this point. The Council (and Catholic apologists today) can and may use various biblical texts in order to support some particular Catholic doctrine. Vatican I, then, is in effect arguing:

Note that this is quite different (vastly different, in terms of logic) from arguing the following, which - if I am not mistaken - Mr. Webster falsely claims that Vatican I is doing: In other words, the beliefs themselves and the particular biblical rationale and proof texts for those beliefs are not one and the same. Thus, even if not all Fathers accepted the interpretations of certain "papal" passages which are frequently used in Catholic apologetics today, that does not mean that they therefore rejected the doctrine of the papacy. Mr. Webster has subtly altered the sense of Vatican I and "smuggled in" notions which are not actually present in the documents themselves, in order to bolster his anti-papal case. Again, I don't contend that he is being deliberately deceitful. The logic is sufficiently subtle to have been botched in its application, a faux pas all proponents of a particular viewpoint are prone to commit, in their zeal and passion for the ideas they hold. But now that this logical fallacy has been pointed out and exposed, Mr. Webster must honestly face it.

"Unanimous Consent" of the Fathers: What Exactly Does it Mean?

Furthermore, one must precisely understand what is meant by the "unanimous consent" of the Fathers. Steve Ray has written about this as well:

Vatican I, Cardinal Newman, & the Papacy vs. William Webster

It further states that Peter was given a primacy of jurisdiction from the very beginning by Christ himself and that this primacy was passed on to Peter’s successors, the bishops of Rome. This, it says, has been known to all ages.

Indeed, jurisdiction was present from the beginning, and recognized by the Fathers, as fully evidenced in my 50 NT Proofs for Petrine Primacy & the Papacy and in great depth in Steve Ray's book Upon This Rock. It was present when Jesus gave to St. Peter the "keys of the kingdom," and renamed him "Rock," with strongly implied (and soon-exercised) ecclesiological preeminence, as shown in the many passages I detail. The successors are a matter of historical fact. Rome became the center of the Church by God's design: Sts. Peter and Paul were martyred there, after all. American Christians have scarcely any notion of the place and function of martyrdom in the Christian life. Rome was also obviously key in terms of influencing the Roman Empire. But I digress . . .

In other words, there was no acorn. According to Vatican I, the papacy was a full blown oak from the very beginning because it was established by Christ himself.

The Council never asserts that it was a "full-blown oak from the very beginning" (because that would be clearly untrue). Nothing in the documents contradicts development of doctrine - rightly understood - in the least. The fact that the papacy was established by Christ Himself does not mean that it would initially look and operate in the same manner as it does today, after nearly 2000 years of development. Cardinal Newman writes very eloquently (as always) about this notion:

{Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, 1878 ed., Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 1989, pp. 148-155; Part 1, Chapter 4, Section 3}

And then it states that this teaching is part of the content of saving faith. To deviate from this teaching is to incur the loss of salvation. This is an explicit affirmation that outside the Church of Rome there is no salvation.

This is true, but of course it must be understood how this teaching is applied (a task beyond our immediate purview). There are many "loopholes" which allow for ignorance and lessened culpability due to a variety of factors in which a given individual may not be at fault for his unbelief. Catholic teaching in this regard is very biblical, nuanced, and complex, unlike, e.g., Calvinist and other fundamentalist Protestant views which consign whole classes of people to damnation and hell due to double predestination and their never having heard the gospel. I have many links about this topic on my Ecumenism and Salvation "Outside" the Church page.

Later on, in its teaching on papal infallibility, Vatican I states:

[omitted second portion of the citation]

Vatican I is basing its teaching of papal infallibility on the interpretation of Luke 22:32. A teaching or tradition which it says was received from the very beginning of the Christian faith. The Council asserts that the doctrine of papal infallibility is a divinely revealed dogma and all who refuse to embrace it are placed under anathema.

It does not assert that the entire teaching is based on Luke 22:32. It merely gives that passage as a proof text, not for papal infallibility per se, but rather, for the indefectibility of the Church, as centered and grounded in the orthodoxy of the popes. Again, this does not mean that absolutely every Father took this interpretation of Luke 22:32, if that is what is being implied. What was received from the beginning was papal primacy and universal jurisdiction, which is the essence and "seed" of papal infallibility, just as the biblical statement "Jesus is Lord" is the "seed" of the exceedingly complex and highly-philosophical Chalcedonian Christology of 451 A.D.

If Christology itself - the very doctrine of God - took over 400 years to "sort itself out," so to speak (actually, even longer, as the Monothelite heresy was yet to appear), why not the papacy? In 451, Pope St. Leo the Great was reigning, and was a key figure in determining orthodox Christology (accepted to this day by all three branches of Christianity). The papacy was quite robust and "full-blown" by then, as most historians would agree. See my paper: Pope Leo the Great & Papal Supremacy. As for papal infallibility: true Christian authority must have a divinely-ordained means to protect it from error. We serve a God of truth, not of relativism and confusion. Ultimately, this "protector" is the Holy Spirit Himself, according to such passages as John 14:26 and 16:13.

Vatican I, Vincent of Lerins, Verities, & Verbal Gymnastics

Before moving on to Mr. Webster's misguided accusations concerning the teaching of Pope Leo XIII vis-a-vis Vatican I and development, let us briefly note the fact that Vatican I - far from rejecting it - embraced development of doctrine. There can be no question of this whatsoever, as I will now prove.

Here is a portion of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith, ch. 4, "Of Faith and Reason," from Dogmatic Canons and Decrees (Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1977; reprint of 1912 ed. of authorized translations of the Councils of Trent and Vatican I, Imprimatur by John Cardinal Farley of New York, pp. 232-233):

This expresses precisely the Vincentian and Newmanian (and Catholic) understanding of the development of doctrines which remain essentially unchanged. Development is emphatically not evolution per se, which is the transformation or change of one thing into something else. The two concepts are entirely distinct philosophically and linguistically. Shortly I shall cite Pope St. Pius X, who makes precisely this distinction in a papal encyclical.

Here is a second translation of the passage, from The Christian Faith: Doctrinal Documents of the Catholic Church, edited by J. Neuner and J. Dupuis, NY: Alba House, 5th revised and enlarged ed., 1990, p. 47:

Perhaps, in the words of the prison guard in Cool Hand Luke, "what we have here is a failure to communicate." There is no conflict whatever between Cardinal Newman's thesis in his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine and the above infallible pronouncement of an Ecumenical Council (during his own lifetime, in fact). Vatican I cites St. Vincent of Lerins as a precedent, just as Newman himself had 25 years earlier. It cites the very passage which is - from all accounts - the classic exposition of dogmatic development in the Fathers - the very inspiration of Newman to expand upon the notion further. St. Vincent even draws the analogy of the organic growth of bodies, using a metaphor ("seed") which is the same notion as the "acorn and the oak tree" which Mr. Webster so disdains.

And here is the excerpt from St. Vincent of Lerins which Vatican I cited (Notebooks, 23:28-30), from yet another translation (Jurgens, William A., ed. and tr., The Faith of the Early Fathers, 3 volumes, Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, vol. 3, 1979, p.265). I will provide the context, with the portion utilized by Vatican I in-between ***'s. Note that by citing this passage - given the explicit context - Vatican I is implicitly and beyond doubt giving sanction to the notion of doctrinal development. It is expressly denying (contra Webster) that Catholic doctrine (including, by extension, the papacy) starts as an "oak tree" rather than as a seed or acorn:

{the first ellipses (. . . ) are in Jurgens' version; the second set is my own}

If this weren't a striking enough disproof of Mr. Webster's claim that Vatican I opposes doctrinal development, in the same work, St. Vincent expresses his famous dictum (often cited by Protestant polemicists against development):

{Notebooks, 2,3. Jurgens, William A., ed. and tr., The Faith of the Early Fathers (FEF), 3 volumes, Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1970, vol. 3, p.263}

Obviously, unchanging essence and developing, progressing non-essential elements are compatible, according to St. Vincent, Newman, and Vatican I. Here we have almost all the elements outlined by Newman fourteen centuries later, yet Protestant controversialists such as George Salmon and William Webster continue to claim that Newman's views were a radical departure from Catholic precedent! How silly; how sad!

To establish the fact that St. Vincent of Lerins is a key figure in the "development of development of doctrine," I shall now cite Pope St. Pius X, and four specialists on the history of Christian doctrine: two Catholic and two Protestant scholars, respectively:

{Pope St. Pius X, Pascendi Dominici Gregis, "On the Doctrine of the Modernists," 8 September 1907, section 28}

Note how the pope who is known for his opposition to theological modernism, or liberalism - in his famous encyclical on that very subject -, cites the same passage from Vatican I which I have noted, including the citation from St. Vincent (which is at the very end). He contends that development of doctrine is neither "evolution" (which he contrasts to it) nor modernism. By extension, then, he is verifying that Vatican I upheld development of doctrine (as explicated by St. Vincent and more recently in the same sense by Cardinal Newman) as entirely orthodox and Catholic.

He states this outright: "Nor is the development of our knowledge, even concerning the faith, barred by this pronouncement; on the contrary, it is supported and maintained." Nothing could be more clear. This is another nail in the coffin of Mr. Webster's claims. The papacy is one of many doctrines contained in "the faith" and the apostolic deposit. It develops like all the other dogmas, and like all the beliefs in Protestantism as well - including the canon of Scripture itself (much as many Protestants would seek to deny this).

{The Faith of the Early Fathers, vol. III, William A. Jurgens, Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1979, p. 262} {Patrology, Johannes Quasten, vol. IV, ed. Angelo di Berardino, tr. Placid Solari, Allen, TX: Christian Classics, 1977, from ch. 8, by Adalbert Hamman, pp. 548-550} {History of the Christian Church, vol. 3: Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity, Philip Schaff, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974 (orig. 1910), p. 344} {Early Christian Doctrines, J.N.D. Kelly, San Francisco: HarperCollins, rev. ed., 1978, pp. 50-51}

Salmon and Dead Horses (Being Beaten)

The Anglican George Salmon's The Infallibility of the Church (originally 1890) apparently remains an inspiration for the anti-infallibility, anti-development polemics of the current generation of anti-Catholic crusaders, such as William Webster and James White. Yet it has been refuted decisively twice, by B.C. Butler, in his The Church and Infallibility: A Reply to the Abridged "Salmon"' and also in a series of articles in The Irish Ecclesiastical Record, in 1901 and 1902 (1)

Nevertheless, even the more ecumenical Protestant apologists Norman Geisler and Ralph MacKenzie claimed in 1995, in a major critique of Catholicism, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences, (2) that Salmon's book has "never really been answered by the Catholic Church." Geisler and MacKenzie cite Salmon as a "witness" for their case (3).

George Salmon revealed in his book his profoundly biased ignorance not only concerning papal infallibility, but also with regard to even the basics of the development of doctrine:

Here Salmon (like Webster) is quixotically fighting a straw man of his own making and seeking to sophistically force his readers into the acceptance of a false and altogether logically unnecessary dichotomy: that development of doctrine implies change in the essence or substance of a doctrine and therefore is utterly contrary to the claims of the Church to be the Guardian and Custodian of an authoritative tradition of never-changing dogma. But this is emphatically not the Catholic belief, nor that of Newman, to whom Salmon was largely responding. Nor is it true that development was a "new" theory introduced by Cardinal Newman into Catholicism, while the "old theory" was otherwise. This is unanswerably proven by the writing of St. Vincent of Lerins, above (themselves paralleled by St. Augustine and other Fathers well familiar with the orthodox notion of development).

Pope Leo XIII: Foe of Development of Doctrine and Newman?

The papal encyclical, Satis Cognitum, written by Pope Leo XIII in 1896, is a commentary on and papal confirmation of the teachings of Vatican I. As to the issue of doctrinal development, Leo makes it quite clear that Vatican I leaves no room for such a concept in its teachings.

If indeed this were true (it assuredly is not), then I would find it exceedingly odd that Pope Leo XIII would name John Henry Newman a Cardinal in 1879, soon after becoming pope (1878). Why would he do that for the famous exponent of the classic treatment of development of doctrine, if he himself rejected that same notion? No; as before, Mr. Webster is (consciously or not) subtly switching definitions and statements of a pope and a Council in order to make it appear that there is a glaring contradiction, when in fact there is none. Such a mythical state of affairs is beyond absurd:

{Marvin R. O'Connell, "Newman and Liberalism," in Newman Today, edited by Stanley L. Jaki, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989, p. 87} {Ibid., p. 87; Letter of Newman to R.W. Church, 11 March 1879, Letters and Diaries, vol. XXIX, p. 72}

Ian Ker, author of the massive 764-page biography John Henry Newman (Oxford University Press, 1988) expands upon Pope Leo XIII in relation to Newman:

{p. 715}

Newman wrote:

{in Ker, ibid., pp. 716-717; Letters and Diaries, vol. XXIX, p. 160}

Such is the lot of great men; geniuses; those ahead of their time. Now Mr. Webster joins this miserable, deluded company of those who pretend that Newman was a heterodox Catholic, and that his theory of development is somehow un-Catholic, or - even worse - a deliberately cynical method of rationalization intended to whitewash so-called "contradictions" of Catholic doctrinal history.

Leo states over and over again that the papacy was fully established by Christ from the very beginning and that it has been the foundation of the constitution of the Church and recognized as such from the very start and throughout all ages.

True enough, in the sense which I have repeatedly stressed.

He further affirms that Vatican I’s teaching has been the constant belief of every age and and is therefore not a novel doctrine:

Merciful heavens! A "novel doctrine" is something like sola Scriptura, or sola fide, the latter of which Protestant apologist Norman Geisler states that no one believed it from the time of St. Paul to Luther (and Catholics would also strongly deny that Paul taught it). Likewise, noted Protestant scholar Alister McGrath confesses:

{Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification, the Beginnings to the Reformation, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993, pp. 186-187}

Many other innovations of Protestantism - established against all contrary Church precedent - amply qualify as true "novelties." The papacy (even considered as explicitly infallible) - whatever one thinks of it - is surely not in the same league as all the brand-new Protestant inventions. But let us see what Mr. Webster selects from Pope Leo XIII's encyclical, to supposedly bolster his tenuous claims:

Again, this is not at all inconsistent with the idea of a primitive version of the papacy consistently developing into the institution we see today. Mr. Webster simply begs the question by assuming that Pope Leo refers throughout to a full-fledged papacy, and not to the essential, unchanging seed of the later developed papacy, in the person of St. Peter. Leo XIII never makes any statement explicitly denouncing development (which is Mr. Webster's thesis, after all).

And when he refers to the papacy as the "constant belief," he is expressing himself no differently than a Protestant who states that "the divinity of Christ has always been believed," or "the Trinity was always believed," or the New Testament was always accepted by 1st-century Christians, when they know full well (if they know their Church history at all) that the doctrines of God (trinitarian theology) and especially Christ (Christology) also underwent much development (Two Natures, Athanasian Creed, Theotokos, battles with heretics such as the Monothelites, Arians, and Sabellians) while at the same time remaining the same in essence.

Likewise, there wasn't total consensus about the New Testament until the canon was finalized in the late 4th century. Yet Scripture was what it was all along: inspired and God-breathed. The Church did not make it so (as Vatican I itself explicitly affirms). Protestants, in speaking of the broad consensus of the early Fathers with regard to the canon of Scripture, are basically asserting the "unanimous consent of the Fathers" in the way a Catholic would argue. Likewise, the papacy was what it was, all along, even if not all recognized it. Not all recognized Jesus as the Messiah and Lord, either. That is no disproof.

Conclusion: Folly, False "Facts," and Fallacies

The Roman Catholic Church, itself, has officially stated that there was no development of this doctrine in the early Church.

Where? This certainly hasn't been shown by Mr. Webster. He has to make false deductions and redefine words and phrases to make his nonexistent case, whereas I have clearly demonstrated the opposite, right from the explicit text of Vatican I.

After all, if the fullness of the definition of papal primacy as defined by Vatican I was instituted by Christ immediately upon Peter, as both Vatican I and Leo XIII affirm, then there is no room for development.

This is a classic case of Mr. Webster's fallacious logic and curious rhetorical method. Where is it stated that the "fullness of definition of papal primacy" was conferred upon Peter? The primacy itself was given to him; the duty and prerogatives of the papal office, and the keys of the kingdom, but none of that implies that a full understanding or application, or unanimous acknowledgement by others is therefore also present from the beginning. The thing itself - in its essential aspects, or nature, is present. And that is what develops, without inner contradiction or change of principle, as Newman ably pointed out in the long citation above.

It was instituted by Christ himself and was therefore present from the very beginning and would have been recognized as such by the Church as Vatican I states: ‘Whence, whosoever succeeds to Peter in this See, does by the institution of Christ himself obtain the Primacy of Peter over the whole Church’, a fact which Vatican I says has been known to all ages leading to the practice ‘that it has at all times been necessary that every particular Church—that is to say, the faithful throughout the world—should agree with the Roman Church, on account of the greater authority of the princedom which this has received.’ This documentation completely demolishes present day Roman Catholic apologists' theory of development. They are at odds with the magisterium of their own Church. Indeed, these apologists must set forth a theory of development because of the historical reality, but such a theory is at open variance with the clear teaching of Vatican I and Leo XIII.

Hardly. As shown, Vatican I explicitly accepted development of doctrine, citing the very passage from St. Vincent Lerins which is the classic exposition in the Fathers - essentially identical to Newman's analysis. Pope Leo XIII made Newman a Cardinal - his very first appointment, meant to send a message, yet Mr. Webster would have us believe that he was diametrically opposed to the thought for which Newman was most famous (and notorious, in some circles): development of doctrine. So we are to believe that Leo XIII made a Cardinal someone he regarded as a rank heretic? I suppose any absurd, surreal scenario within the Catholic Church is possible in the minds of many of her more - shall we say - zealous critics. Likewise, the very next pope, and vigorous condemner of modernism, Pope St. Pius X, also supported not only St. Vincent of Lerins, as we saw above, but also John Henry Newman (see below).

Thus, there is quite positive evidence that development of doctrine was (and is) indeed accepted by the Catholic Church. Mr. Webster, on the other hand, in order to put forth his thesis, must rely on distortions of what development means, and improbable deductions from indirect suggestions in conciliar and papal documents, which he interprets as hostile to development. It's a wrongheaded enterprise from the get-go. Newman was orthodox, despite what Webster, Salmon, and other Protestant polemicists would have us believe:

{Preface to Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine by Charles Fredrick Harrold, New York: Longmans, 1949 pp. vii-ix}

So when we analyze these papal teachings in the light of history it is perfectly legitimate to ask the question on two levels. As to the actual insitution of the papacy, do we find the teachings of Vatican I expressed by the fathers of the Church in their practice?

Not in its fullness, but this is not required in order for both unchanging essence and developing secondary aspects to harmoniously coexist.

And secondly, as to the issue of interpretation, do we find a unanimous consent of the fathers regarding Vatican I’s interpretation of Matthew 16:18, John 21:15-17 and Luke 22:32 that supports papal primacy and infallibility? In both cases the answer is a decided no.

As already shown, consensus on individual Scripture verses is not required by the Church, and Mr. Webster has not documented that Vatican I taught otherwise. What is required is assent to the essential premises and characteristics of the doctrine, which were indeed there from the beginning, from the time of Christ's commissioning of St. Peter. Mr. Webster's case therefore collapses, having been shown to be woefully insufficient or outright contradicted in all of its main points of contention.

I close with a quote from the Protestant apologist C.S. Lewis, which confirms the Newmanian and Catholic understanding of development of doctrine:

{God in the Dock, ed. Walter Hooper, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970, pp.44-47. From "Dogma and the Universe," The Guardian, March 19, 1943, p.96 / March 26, 1943, pp.104,107}

For further study on development of doctrine, Cardinal Newman, and the papacy, see:

How Newman Convinced me of the Apostolicity of the Catholic Church
Cardinal Newman on the Papacy & Councils
Newman on Papal Infallibility
Overview of Development of Doctrine (Transcript of a Television Interview)
Dialogues on Development of Doctrine, Newman, & Anglican vs. Catholic Authority
Dialogue: The East and Development of Doctrine (particularly with regard to papal
The Development of Doctrine (Apologetics Index Page)
Apologia Pro Vita Sua  {Newman: original 1864 ed.}
An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine  {Newman: 1845; revised ed. of 1878}
The Theory of Developments in Religious Doctrine {Newman: 1843; from Oxford University Sermons}
An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent  {Newman: 1870}
On the Pope and His Office in the Church (Newman)

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Copyright 2000 by Dave Armstrong. All rights reserved.