12 May 2009

A little more on AC XIV

Let's play a guessing game.

One of the following statements is from the Wittenberg faculty in 1674; the other is....not. Which is from that distinguished faculty and whence the other? (and no fair Googling!)

Statement A.

An Laici casu necessitatis possint absolvere, quemadmodum baptizare possunt?

Praesuppono, quaeri tantum de absolutione, an ea in casu necessitatis, a Laicis fieri debeat et possit: non vero quaestionem eam de subsequente Sacramenti Sanctae Eucharistiae exhibitione, hanc enim per Laicos nullo modo fieri posse (licet baptismus ab illis in casu necessitatis possit administrari, nec administratus debeat iterari) intelligi debere, nostri Theologi, uti notum est, passim demonstrant.

"Are laymen able to absolve in a case of necessity as they are able to baptize?

"I presuppose that the question is put only concerning absolution, whether it ought and is able to be performed by laymen in a case of necessity: this question is certainly not to be understood concerning the subsequent administration of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, for our theologians, as is known, demonstrate time and again that this is in no way able to come about through laymen (of course, baptism is able to be administered by them in a case of necessity, nor should the minister perform it again)."

Statement B.

Et hoc utique sacramentum nemo potest conficere, nisi sacerdos, qui fuerit rite ordinatus.

"And certainly, no one is able to perform this sacrament [the Eucharist] except a priest who has been ordained by rite (rite ordinatus)."

Note what occurs in both statements: the verb posse (to be able). Both statements say that a layman is not able to perform the Sacrament. Not that it would merely be impolite or against good order for a layman to preside at the Sacrament, but that he has no ability, power, or authority to do so. The verb debere (ought, should) builds on that reality. A layman ought not take upon himself the duty of presiding at the Supper because he, in fact, cannot because he has been given no authority to do so, by definition. Therefore, if some layperson should attempt to perform this sacrament, it would be no sacrament at all, but a blasphemy.

I am fully aware that some Lutherans of the 19th and 20th centuries disagree. But, gentle reader, do you think there is even the slimmest chance that the Wittenberg faculty of 1674 could have been right and these other Lutherans wrong? If you can admit even the slimmest chance that this is in fact the case, well then, this “lay ministry” business takes on something of an increased importance, wouldn't you say?

Look at the situation through the lens of the argumentation of Pascal's wager. If the Wittenberg faculty is wrong, and yet we follow their prescribed procedure and cease and desist any condoning of laity presiding over the Supper – what have we lost? Precious little – for all we will then lose is discord and disorder and the violation of the clear wording of AC XIV. But if we allow our consciences to be eased by the pronouncements of those 19th and 20th century Lutherans who say laity are able to (even if they ought not for the sake of good order) preside over the Supper and those theologians turn out to be wrong – egads, but we've got quite a bad situation on our hands.

At any rate, back to our game: which is which and whence the other?



Mike Keith said...

Great post - well said. I presnted at one of our District conferences n this very issue. I posted my paper, such as it is, on my blog:


Bryce P Wandrey said...

I am going to guess that the second is from the faculty because the first uses the 1st person singular pronoun. Hence, I will guess the first is from Chemnitz's Enchiridion.

Pr. H. R. said...


Great paper! What the MO Synod needs more than anything, in my opinion, is for her international partner churches to call her to repentance on this score. Keep up the good work.


I don't want to give anything away for our other contestants. I'll just encourage you and others to keep guessing. . .


WM Cwirla said...

There is a subtle difference. The first statement refers to the manner in which the Lord's Supper is given (or not); the second refers to the person doing it. The first statement is Lutheran; the second is Roman Catholic.

We come to the same conclusion but by different routes and for different reasons.

Pr. H. R. said...

I don't know that anybody's going to get closer - so I think we can give Cwirla the cigar.

The second quotation is from the Fourth Lateran Council, 1215.

And he also honed in on the appropriate verbiage. Lutherans talk about the exhibitio of the sacrament - its delivery/giving up/administration - which is not able to come about through laity (fieri per laicos).

Roman Catholics like to talk of a priest (sacerdos - another give away) confecting the Sacrament - conficere.

But it is interesting, isn't it, that as in so many other areas dealing with the sacraments we and Rome do end up in the same place through different paths. I think this is a testament to the Lutheran view of the need for the Reformation: the catholic Church needed reforming - accretions, false understandings of the right things, had crept in and needed to be cleared away. But no "new church" needed to be formed. . .