Sunday, January 24, 2010

Doronzo - The Channels of Revelation: A Review


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Emmanuel Doronzo, O.M.I., The Science of Sacred Theology for Teachers, Book Three: The Channels of Revelation, Middleburg, VA: The Notre Dame Institute Press, 1973, 77pp.


A Book Review Submitted by:

Francisco J. Romero Carrasquillo
Universidad Panamericana, Campus Guadalajara


I. Introduction. The age of scholasticism in theology, or ‘the age of the manuals’ as it is sometimes derogatorily called, is generally thought to have ended with the opening of the Second Vatican Council.  Whereas it is true that most theologians by the close of this council ceased to use the scholastic method, nonetheless a few authors continued to do so.  Fr. Emmanuel Doronzo, OMI (1903-1976), professor of dogma at Catholic University of America, is one of the most impressive of these authors.  Immediately after this council, in 1966, he published a scholarly, two-volume scholastic manual of dogma in Latin, Theologia Dogmatica.  But, living, writing and teaching for a post-Vatican II American Catholic public, he also had the motive to write in English: in the following decade he published a four-volume series of small, very-readable theological treatises containing basic synopses of the different parts of traditional Thomistic fundamental theology, under the series title of The Science of Sacred Theology for Teachers.  The titles (and dates of publications) of the four booklets are: Introduction to Theology (1973), Revelation (1974), The Channels of Revelation (1974), and The Church (1976).  These four small volumes combine to form a substantial manual of traditional scholastic fundamental theology, written in a readable yet scholarly English style.  In the present review I wish to summarize and evaluate the merits and limitations of the third of these volumes in particular, The Channels of Revelation.[1]


II. Division and Organizing Principles of the Work.  The volume is divided into two parts and six chapters.  After a beginning-of-book, one-page bibliography and a brief introduction, Doronzo begins his treatment with Part One, titled the “Three Channels of Revelation,” which is divided into three chapters.  Chapter One is titled, “Scripture, The Written Deposit of Revelation”; Chapter Two is, “Tradition, The Living Deposit of Revelation”; and Chapter Three is, “The Magisterium, The Organ of Revelation.”  Part Two, “The Theological Contents of the Channels of Revelation” is also divided into three chapters.  Chapter Four is titled “Dogma”; Chapter Five is “Theological Conclusion”; and Chapter Six is called “Theological Notes and Censures.”  The book then closes with a glossary and an analytical index.


The principle of organization of this volume, then, is what both the theologians and the Magisterium before the Second Vatican Council called the Loci theologici (literally ‘theological places’, but sometimes translated as the ‘sources of revelation’), namely, Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.  Before this council, the teaching that was commonly accepted by theologians was that there are two Loci theologici or ‘sources of revelation’, Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, and that the latter was known through both the ‘Witnesses of Tradition’ and the ‘Organs of Tradition.’  The ‘Witnesses of Tradition’, on the one hand, are the Fathers of the Church, the theologians (the Doctors of the Church and other approved theologians) and the faithful.  These witnesses make Tradition known to us through their ‘monuments’, which include their writings and tangible expressions of piety (everything from theological works to pious writings of the saints, from catechisms to stained glass windows, from churches to cemeteries).  When a consensus on a certain theological issue was discovered within any of these groups, theologians used to take it as an indication that that theological position on which they were in consensus was revealed by God and handed down orally as part of Sacred Tradition.  The ‘Organs of Tradition’, on the other hand, are the ordinary Magisterium and the extraordinary Magisterium, whose teaching was (and is still today) considered also part of Sacred Tradition.[2]


The following table compares the division of the ‘Loci theologici’ of the pre-Vatican II theologians with Doronzo’s division of the ‘channels of revelation’.



Traditional ‘Theological Places’ (Loci theologici)

            I. Proper Loci
                        A. Sacred Scripture
                        B. Sacred Tradition
                                    1. The Organs of Sacred Tradition
                                                a. The solemn Magisterium
                                                b. The ordinary Magisterium
                                    2. The Witnesses of Sacred Tradition
                                                a. The Consensus of the Fathers
                                                b. The Consensus of the Theologians
                                                 c. The Consensus of the Faithful
            II. Extraneous Loci (e.g., philosophy, history, etc.)


Doronzo’s ‘Channels of Revelation’

I. The Sole Source of Revelation: Christ’s preaching
II. The Channels of Revelation
                        A. The Deposits of Revelation
                                    1. Sacred Scripture
                                    2. Sacred Tradition
                                                a. The Consensus of the Fathers
                                                b. The Consensus of the Theologians
                                                c. The Consensus of the Faithful
                        B. The Organ of Revelation: The Magisterium
                                    1. The solemn Magisterium
                                    2. The ordinary Magisterium



As Doronzo explains, the Second Vatican Council used a ‘reformed terminology’, according to which the historical event of Christ’s preaching is the sole ‘source’ (fons) of Divine Revelation, whereas Scripture and Tradition are the ‘deposit’ (depositum) of Divine Revelation, i.e., the ‘places’ (or Loci) where Revelation has been deposited (p. vi, note 3).  Doronzo also calls the Magisterium an ‘Organ of Revelation’ (thus borrowing, but slightly modifying, the traditional terminology of “organ of Tradition”).  Doronzo further gives the name of “Channels of Revelation” to the Deposit of Revelation (i.e., Scripture and Tradition) and the Organ of Revelation (i.e., Magisterium) taken collectively.  Thus, for Doronzo there are three ‘Channels’, namely, Scripture and Tradition (= the ‘Deposit’) and the Magisterium (= the ‘Organ’).


Thus, the main innovations in Doronzo’s division of his treatise are the following:


(a) Doronzo’s division focuses, not on what the division means for theology (cf. Loci theologici), but on what it means for Revelation (cf., ‘Channels of Revelation’);


(b) It creates a separate category besides Scripture and Tradition, namely, the event or ‘source’ of Revelation itself (Christ’s preaching);


(c) Whereas the pre-Vatican II theologians placed the Magisterium within Tradition, as an ‘Organ of Tradition’, Doronzo places it outside of it, as an ‘Organ of Revelation’.[3] 


(d) Doronzo’s distinction incorporates better the Second Vatican Council’s terminology.


It could be argued that, while some of these elements are positive, some are problematic.  The first (a) is especially problematic.  The fact that Doronzo is calling them the ‘Channels of Revelation’ shifts the attention from theology to revelation.  The traditional distinction was one among sources for theology; and, according to the traditional manuals,[4] theology has both proper and extraneous sources: the proper sources (Scripture and Tradition) contain divine revelation, whereas the extraneous sources (such as the writings of the philosophers) do not.  Thus, calling them ‘channels of revelation’ takes all these other important (if secondary) theological sources out of the picture altogether.  As Doronzo says after listing the original seven Loci theologici of Melchior Cano, including the three extraneous sources: “Discarding these three extrinsic ‘Loci’, which can only lightly confirm a theological truth and help a theological investigation, all the other seven ‘Loci’ can be reduced to three, namely Scripture, Magisterium, and Tradition” (p. vi).  The result is that we no longer are speaking of such a practical subject as the issue of where the theologian finds the raw data from which to do his science—an issue which pertains to theological methodology (and this was the intent of the traditional treatise on the Loci theologici)—but rather of the much heavier doctrinal issue of the interrelation of the deposits (sic) of revelation.  So for Doronzo to claim to adopt a ‘reformed’ terminology is problematic because to suggest that the new terminology on the Channels of Revelation is an improvement on the terminology of the Loci theologici amounts to an equivocation of terms.  Doronzo does not explicitly take note of this problem, although he does implicitly acknowledge a distinction between the concept of ‘locus theologicus and that of ‘Channel of Revelation’ in saying that the consensus of the faithful, apart from being a Witness of Tradition is also a distinct ‘theological place’.[5]


Elements (b) though (d) do seem positive, insofar as his division rightly acknolwedges the distinction between the event of Revelation and the Deposits of Revelation (something that is not altogether absent from traditional scholastic theology), and also insofar as it construes the Magisterium as something that is not altogether reducible to Sacred Tradition.  Doronzo thus arranges the division in a way that is more in line with the doctrine contained in Dei Verbum.  In this respect, he is also positing a division of the ‘Channels’ that harmonizes (better than the traditional division of the Loci) with the doctrine on the proximate and remote rules of faith.[6]


All of these points form, as it were, the foundational principles on which Doronzo builds and organizes his treatment on the Channels of Revelation.


III. Particular Points.  In Chapter One, Doronzo reasserts the traditional doctrine of the inerrancy of the entire text of Scripture as involving “the absolute exclusion of all error, even in other matters” beyond faith and morals (p. 6).  This shows that Doronzo did not accept the interpretation of Dei Verbum 11, popular at the time, which limits inerrancy to ‘saving truths.’  Doronzo grounds the inerrancy of Scripture on the dogma of inspiration, which makes God the author of the entire text of Scripture.


In this chapter, Doronzo introduces the senses of Scripture, presenting the traditional teaching on the literal and spiritual senses.  He, however, question the existence of the ‘ampler sense’ (sensus plenior).  His argument is that the ‘ampler sense’ would be somewhere between the literal and the spiritual sense, at once intended and not intended by the hagiographer.  This seems to him to mean that the words “carry an extra sense that they do not have, since they are words proceeding from the mind of the hagiographer, whom God uses as an instrument” (p. 6).   Thus, this sense would be at once literal and not literal.  This criticism of the ‘ampler sense’, however, seems to rest on the view that the ‘ampler sense’ is a sui generis category that is not reducible to the literal sense.  Other authors define the sensus plenior as a species or mode of the literal sense.  This way of conceiving the sensus plenior seems immune to Doronzo’s criticisms. 


One important point that Doronzo makes is that the ‘typical’ or spiritual sense is known only through revelation.  Recall that the literal sense lies the relationship that the words of Scripture have to their objective referent in reality (e.g., the word ‘woman’ in Genesis 3 has Eve as its objective referent), whereas the spiritual sense lies in the relationship that this referent has to another referent.  The hagiographer, of course, can intend the literal sense, because it is within his power to employ words to signify their natural referents.  The hagiographer, however, cannot create the things of which he speaks; only God can do this.  Thus, only God can assign to those things their own referents.  This act of assigning to things their own referents is itself an act of Revelation.  Thus, we see that in the New Testament, God reveals to us the spiritual sense of certain passages of the Old Testament.  Similarly, the spiritual sense of these and other passages of the Old Testament is revealed to us through Sacred Tradition (handed down orally and in non-canonical writings from the apostolic age to our own).  The interpreter, therefore, cannot arbitrarily decide what the spiritual sense of a passage is, but must rely on what has been handed down to us.


Toward the end of the Chapter One, Doronzo puts forth a very strong view on the value of the Latin Vulgate.   He argues that, because this version “alone has been declared authentic by the Magisterium, that is, in substantial conformity with the original text, the theologian can and must take it into consideration in his labor, giving it preference to any other version or the original text critically established” (p. 6).  This stands to reason, since no original text critically established has been approved by the Magisterium.  But Doronzo carefully notes that “the critical investigation of the original text is very useful to the theologian, even for the right understanding of the Vulgate” (ibid.).


In Chapter Two, Doronzo makes very helpful distinctions concerning tradition.  Doronzo makes an interesting distinction between what he calls ‘Active’ and ‘Objective’ Tradition.  Active Tradition is the very act of handing down the truths of Revelation, whereas Objective Tradition is the body of truths that are handed down (or the object of the act of handing down).  This distinction is helpful insofar as it can explain more clearly how the Magisterium relates to Tradition: the Magisterium is a separate entity from Objective Tradition, because it does not add any objective content to those truths that were handed down from the apostolic age to our own, but it is part of Active Tradition, insofar as it is through the Magisterium that the Objective Tradition is authoritatively proposed to the faithful for their belief.


He also distinguishes between what he calls ‘Integral’ Tradition and ‘Partial’ or ‘Unwritten’ Tradition.  Here he is alluding to the fact that whereas the term ‘Tradition’ is typically employed to refer to the oral handing down of truths, as opposed to Scripture, the written deposit of Revelation—and this is ‘Partial’ Tradition—, the term ‘Tradition’ can also be taken in a broader sense as being the whole deposit of revelation before it got differentiated into the multiple modes of being handed down (orally, in canonical writings, and in non-canonical writings)—and this is ‘Integral’ Tradition. 


This distinction is helpful for many reasons, in particular for settling the issue of which channel of Revelation has primacy over the others.  Integral Tradition, he notes, is (a) older, (b) ampler, and (c) more independent deposit than Scripture.  It is older than Scripture precisely because it preceded it in time.  It is ampler because all the truths that were communicated in Scripture proceeded from Integral Tradition, but not all the truths that were communicated in that Integral Tradition made their way into Scripture.  It is more independent because it is sufficient for the successful communication of Revelation, whereas Scripture is not.  But Doronzo notes that Scripture does have primacy over ‘Partial’ or ‘Unwritten’ Tradition because it is (a) written, and hence has a more permanent and definite character, and (b) because it is inspired and inerrant, whereas Unwritten Tradition is merely infallible.  It has, moreover, primacy also over the Magisterium, because, as Vatican II teaches, the Magisterium is not the Word of God itself, but merely its custodian and interpreter. 


Regarding the issue of to what extent Scripture is sufficient as deposit of revelation (i.e., whether it is substantially, or only virtually, sufficient), he states that there are four ways in which “Tradition truly completes and perfects Scripture”:

(a) “[S]everal matters concerning discipline (morals and usages) of divine origin and connected with revealed truths (for instance, infant Baptism) are found in Tradition and not sufficiently in Scripture”;

(b) “the canonicity and inspiration of Scripture as a whole is known only through Tradition and not through Scripture itself...”;

(c) “the knowledge of several truths, as derived from Scripture, is not certain unless it is completed by the data of Tradition...”;

(d) “the knowledge of other truths derived from Scripture is further illustrated and confirmed by Tradition” (pp. 16-17).
 

He concludes that all revealed truths are traceable back to Scripture as to their foundation, but Scripture itself is insufficient for our knowledge and understanding of those truths.



Toward the end of this second chapter, Doronzo makes notes on the ‘Witnesses of Tradition’.  First (pp. 22-24), he addresses the consensus of the faithful.  He gives two arguments, one from reason (based on an analogy with ‘common sense’, wherein lies a “kind of natural infallibility, resting on intuition,” and which relates to the sense of the faithful as the natural to the supernatural) and another argument from authority (based on the text of Vatican II’s Dei Verbum which speaks of the sensus fidelium).  Doronzo points out that it is natural for the learning Church (Ecclesia discens) to have this infallibility, as it is the whole Church, and not just the Magisterium (the Teaching Church, or Ecclesia docens) that enjoys the charism of infallibility.  Doronzo then provides rules for the use and interpretation of the consensus of the faithful, noting that it is known through its monuments, e.g., Christian literature, the practice of prayer and devotions, popular preaching, and Christian art (architectural, sculptural, pictorial), etc.


Then he turns to the consensus of Fathers (pp. 24-27) which, he points out, is the surest and easiest way to discover Tradition.  He first distinguishes two ways of regarding the Fathers: as Father as Witnesses of Tradition and as private doctors.  They are Witnesses of Tradition (and hence a locus theologicus) when they have a morally unanimous consensus on a certain point on faith and morals; they are mere private doctors when they teach something that does not pertain to faith or morals or when they teach something on faith and morals but lack the aforesaid moral consensus.  Doronzo then gives clear criteria for being a ‘Father of the Church’: a Church Father is he who, by reason of a (a) particular holiness, (b) eminent and orthodox doctrine, (c) remote antiquity, and (d) ecclesiastical approbation, had a connatural influence in the generation of the faithful and the propagation of the faith.  If a given writer lacks one of these four criteria, then he is not strictly a Church Father, but only an ‘Ecclesiastical Writer’.  Specifically those ecclesiastical writers who possess criteria (a) and (b), along with a special (d) ecclesiastical approbation, receive the name of ‘Doctor of the Church’.  Doronzo also defends the theological authority of the consensus of theologians on matters of faith and morals and that of St Thomas Aquinas in particular.


Chapter Three, which is only five pages long (pp. 33-37), is a brief discussion of the Magisterium as the Organ of Revelation.  He defines the Ordinary Magisterium as “that which is exercised in a common manner by the pastors of the Church (Pope and bishops) or under their direction, by means of ordinary... documents....  It can be either infallible or noninfallible” (pp. 33-34).  He then defines the Extraordinary Magisterium as a “formal, explicit, and solemn declaration, made only by the supreme authority of the Church, namely, the Roman Pontiff or an Ecumenical Council” (p. 34).  Although the pre-Vatican II theologians typically classified the Extraordinary Magisterium as infallible, given the phenomenon of Vatican II (an ex professo non-infallible Ecumenical Council), Doronzo here explicitly says that, “[d]epending on the will of this authority and on the mode or formula of the declaration, it [i.e., the Extraordinary Magisterium] can be either infallible (as are the definitions of Vatican I) or noninfallible (as are the Constitutions, Decrees, and Declarations of Vatican II)” (ibid.).  Doronzo then briefly explains the traditional doctrine on the proximate and remote rules of faith: whereas Scripture and Tradition form one remote rule of faith insofar as they form one deposit of Divine Revelation, the Church is the proximate rule of faith insofar as it is that through which the Catholic (faithful and theologian alike) knows, understands, and interprets the remote rule.  In the rest of the Chapter, Doronzo briefly discusses various norms for determining the probative value of the pronouncements of the Magisterium (e.g., whether a given pronouncement is infallible or not, what force it has as a theological proof, the relationship between the Ordinary and Extraordinary as theological loci, the proper and direct object of a dogmatic definition, etc.).


In Chapter Four, Doronzo discusses the immutability and development of dogma.  He explains in what sense a dogma can develop and in what sense it cannot, making the following observations: (a) from the beginning of the history of salvation until the death of the last apostle, there was an objective increment in the deposit of revealed truths, for instance, the coming of the Messias—and since then there can no longer be such an objective increment, at least understood in this sense; (b) there can be a subjective increment, however, insofar as we discover (subjectively) truths that had been already (objectively) revealed, for instance, the doctrine of the Consubstantiality of Christ and God the Father; and (c) given this progressive subjective increment, there is room for an objective increment in the sense of drawing out truths that are implicit in the revealed truths, for instance, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.  The rest of the Chapter discusses specifically the last two modes of development in more detail.


In Chapter Five, Doronzo moves on to discuss the concept of the theological conclusion.  He defines ‘theological conclusion’ as “a proposition (or a judgment or a truth), which through a discursive process is derived from a revealed principle.  It is called a conclusion, because it is not revealed in itself, but only deduced from a revealed truth....” (p. 52).  Thus, the theological conclusion is the conclusion of a syllogism at least one of whose premises is a revealed dogma (the other premise may or may not be a revealed dogma).  For instance:


Major Premise “God knows the day of the last judgment.”
Minor Premise: “Christ is God.”
Conclusion: “Therefore, Christ knows the day of the last judgment.”


In this case, both premises are revealed dogmas.  But take this other example:


Major Premise “Every human has a human will.”
Minor Premise: “Christ is human.”
Conclusion: “Therefore, Christ has a human will.”


In this case, the minor premise is de fide, but the major premise is a natural truth, knowable through human reason without the aid of Revelation.  These two are examples of theological conclusions properly so-called, which are to be distinguished from theological conclusions improperly so-called, which are mere explanations or reformulations of a certain dogma and, thus, do not represent a new conclusion that differs essentially from the dogma itself.             


In the subsequent pages (54-59), Doronzo moves on to the issue of the definability of theological conclusions, which was a problem that was hotly debated among theologians before the Second Vatican Council.              He says that all theologians agree that ‘theological conclusions improperly so-called’ are definable as dogmas.  They also agree that all ‘theological conclusions properly so-called’ whose premises are all de fide are also definable.  The controversy lies on whether ‘theological conclusions properly so-called’ that contain at least one natural truth that has not been revealed can be defined as dogma.  He contrasts the view of R.M. Schultes, OP, who holds that they cannot be defined, with that of F. Marín-Sola, who says they can, and defends the latter view as the more probable of the two.


Chapter Six, the last chapter, is a discussion of theological notes and censures.  At the beginning of the chapter, he defines ‘theological note’, in its dogmatic sense, as “a favorable judgment on the theological value of a doctrine (whether it is de fide or certain, or probable).”  He likewise defines ‘censure’ as an ‘unfavorable judgment [on the theological value of a doctrine].” They are normally used as a word pair, and are often used interchangeably.  Thus, for instance, the dogma of the Divinity of Christ can be assigned the note of de fide, and the Arian teaching (which denied this dogma) that Christ was not consubstantial with the Father could be assigned the corresponding censure of ‘heretical’.  Other doctrines of lesser rank might be given notes of lesser rank, such as “Catholic doctrine” or “theologically certain” and their opposite errors could be given the censure of “theological error.”


Doronzo then goes on to give a brief history of notes and censures, to discuss the issue of who is qualified to give or author these notes and censures (primarily the Magisterium, and secondarily the theologians), and the manner in which this is done.  Finally, he presents a division of these notes and censures.  His division is the following, according to decreasing rank (censures followed by their corresponding note in parenthesis):   heretical (de fide), erroneous (theologically certain), temerarious (highly probable), ill-sounding (correct sounding), offensive for pious ears (fitting for piety).  Toward the end of the chapter, Doronzo discusses the interpretation and use of these notes and censures.


The Glossary at the end is quite useful.   It contains eight total entries: (1) Analogy of Faith, (2) Argument-Conclusion, (3) Faith, (4) Magisterium, (5) Reason, (6) Revelation, (7) Source, channel, deposit, organ of revelation, and (8) Theological ‘loci’.  Each entry consists of the term and a succinct (dense, detailed, yet brief) explanation of the notion expressed by the term, it divisions, and other relevant observations.  The Analytical index has a similar layout: thirty terms, each followed by a paragraph in which every sentence is referenced to a page of the book.


IV. General Appraisal of the WorkIn these booklets, written well after Vatican II, Doronzo seems willing to accept a very traditional Thomistic interpretation of Vatican II, in particular of the constitution Dei Verbum on Divine Revelation.  He reacts very strongly, however, against the “theological irenicism and relativism, which began to creep among Catholic writers several years ago under the fallacious name of ‘The New Theology’, and which seems to make progress these days” (Introduction to Theology, p. iv), a theology which, he adds, represents “the kind of neo-modernism which is creeping into some theological circles after Vatican Council II” (Introduction to Theology, p. 43). Thus, the books are clearly the work of a traditional Catholic Thomist who wants to be faithful to Dei Verbum, and yet is vehemently opposed to the neo-modernism of the nouvelle théologie.  These volumes are indeed very interesting and valuable for historians of the theology of the period immediately following the Second Vatican Council.  It is especially valuable, however, for systematic theologians who want to do traditional scholastic theology in all its rigor but who nonetheless want to do so with an awareness of what the Second Vatican Council teaches.  If Vatican II in general, and Dei Verbum in particular, are to be interpreted in a way that is consonant with the Thomistic tradition, Doronzo’s four-volume set could be of much value.  
For the renascent scholastic theology of the 21st Century, these volumes represent the ideal harmonization of the nova and the vetera.




Endnotes:


[1] Henceforth all numbers in parentheses, unless otherwise noted, will refer to page numbers in this volume.


[2] This explanation is a simplified version of what is commonly found in the standard manuals of scholastic theology; cf. Garrigou-Lagrange, De revelatione per ecclesiam catholicam proposita (Rome: Marietti, 1950), p. 35ff; M. Nicolau, “Introductio in Theologiam” in Patres SJ in Hispania Professores, Sacrae theologiae summa, Vol. 1 (Madrid: Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 1952), p. 21; Adolphe Tanquerey, Synopsis theologiae dogmaticae fundamentalis (Paris; Rome: Desclée, 1937), pp. 715-716.


[3] And yet, at times he seems to speak in ways that approximate the old division: “By being the organ of revelation contained in Tradition, the Magisterium becomes also part of the active tradition, that is, one of the principal means by which the objective Tradition is transmitted, as we noted above (pp. 11, 18).”


[4] This point goes at least as far back as Aquinas; cf. ST I.1.8.


[5] Interestingly, when addressing the practical question of how a theologian knows that a given doctrine is contained in Sacred Tradition, he cites the ‘declaration of the Magisterium’ as the primary criterion (p. 18).  (This criterion is precisely why the traditional theologians locate the Magisterium as within Tradition and not as a separate category.)


[6] Doronzo explains this doctrine in p. 34 (see below).  Cf. M. Nicolau, “Introductio in Theologiam,” p. 21.


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