I managed to raid my brother’s book supply the other week. Among some of my finds was The Growth of Medieval Theology by Jaroslav Pelikan. While my schedule means it will be some time until I manage to finish it, I figured I would try and post some of the more interesting quotes I come across. Well read individuals may find most of these quotes old hat.
The authority of this one catholic church was guaranteed and maintained by those who held ecclesiastical office. Christ had ordained offices of varying dignity in the church. ... This identification of Christian ministers as priests in the Levitical succession, which had begun in the early church, did not obliterate the teaching, likewise a part of early Christian doctrine, that by virtue of their baptism all Christian believers participated in a priestly ministry. The “royal priesthood” described in the New Testament pertained to all, not only to the ordained clergy, for “all those who have been elected by grace are called priests.” Neither functionally nor doctrinally, however, did this idea of the universal priesthood of believers modify the concentration of theologians and churchmen on the ordained priesthood and its qualifications for the ministry of preaching and administering the sacraments.
Perhaps it is my ignorance, but I find the emphasis given to authoritative teaching quite remarkable. From my reading, it appears that fitting in to the “catholic” tradition of what the apostles handed down was considered the most essential thing to maintain in the church. Thus all the councils can be seen as attempts at preventing this tradition from an inevitable wandering. In this sense, priesthood authority matters less than an acceptance of tradition. The latter guarantees the former. The former does not guarantee a continuation of the latter. Indeed a previous quote summarizes this view quite nicely.
As a result, one could go so far as to charge that “any one who disturbs the unity of that holy church which Jesus came to bring together is striving as far as he can to undermine Jesus himself.”...So fundamental was the unity of the catholic church to Christian faith and life that apart from its fellowship all faith was vain and all good works were devoid of reward; only within “the unity of the catholic church and the concord of the Christian religion” could either faith or works have any value.