What You Don't Hear in the Call to Communion

In his discussion of medieval university faculty’s achievement of academic freedom (of a sort), Francis Oakely writes the following:

By the following century (fourteenth), moreover, the Parisian Faculty of Theology was so confident of its independent standing as to denounce as heterodox a novel doctrinal take on the Beatific Vision that Pope John XXII had ventilated in a series of sermons preached at the papal court in 1331-1332. And such was that Faculty’s standing and prestige that the hapless pope, a very distinguished canon lawyer but self-confessedly no theologian, accordingly withdrew his endorsement of the suspect doctrine. (The Mortgage of the Past, 64)

Lest CTCer’s suspect that Oakley is some post-Vatican II renegade Roman Catholic historian, they might want to consider what the Catholic Encyclopedia says about the same pope:

In the last years of John’s pontificate there arose a dogmatic conflict about the Beatific Vision, which was brought on by himself, and which his enemies made use of to discredit him. Before his elevation to the Holy See, he had written a work on this question, in which he stated that the souls of the blessed departed do not see God until after the Last Judgment. After becoming pope, he advanced the same teaching in his sermons. In this he met with strong opposition, many theologians, who adhered to the usual opinion that the blessed departed did see God before the Resurrection of the Body and the Last Judgment, even calling his view heretical. A great commotion was aroused in the University of Paris when the General of the Minorites and a Dominican tried to disseminate there the pope’s view. Pope John wrote to King Philip IV on the matter (November, 1333), and emphasized the fact that, as long as the Holy See had not given a decision, the theologians enjoyed perfect freedom in this matter. In December, 1333, the theologians at Paris, after a consultation on the question, decided in favour of the doctrine that the souls of the blessed departed saw God immediately after death or after their complete purification; at the same time they pointed out that the pope had given no decision on this question but only advanced his personal opinion, and now petitioned the pope to confirm their decision. John appointed a commission at Avignon to study the writings of the Fathers, and to discuss further the disputed question. In a consistory held on 3 January, 1334, the pope explicitly declared that he had never meant to teach aught contrary to Holy Scripture or the rule of faith and in fact had not intended to give any decision whatever. Before his death he withdrew his former opinion, and declared his belief that souls separated from their bodies enjoyed in heaven the Beatific Vision.

5 thoughts on “What You Don't Hear in the Call to Communion

  1. Pesky scholars ferreting out truth claims. Obviously didn’t get the memo of faith. Let’s see, the pope doesn’t trust his bible scholars since 1980/1981, mismanages the vatican bank, he can be had by his butler and he’s got no exegetical commentaries forthcoming. What, is it the Charism of pointy hats and sequins? As I said, we never made points as an RC apologist saying; “Look see we have our pope, what do you have?” You scored points as an RC going; “We’ve been around longer than the last fashion trend. We feed the homeless. We clothe the homeless. We confer dignity to the dead and dying, We actually do church not rotary club. We educate your children. We have an entire monastic order doing just that(whatever it is). Our priest can knock your pastor out. We have educational institutions providing moral theology at the highest levels and providing a moral compass for new and boundary blurring technologies. We aren’t afraid of alcohol or smoking.” NEVER did you say; “Hey look at our head guy”.


  2. I will say Pope John XXII sounds like he was a decent fellow. A canon lawyer trying to do theology must resemble a trial attorney trying to do taxes — not pretty.


  3. Thanks Erik. I wish more Reformed folks were aware of this kind of history. It’s nice to imagine “we’re all catholics”, or “we listen to the church fathers”, but it’s important to understand the kind of world they operated in.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.