I had mentioned that I was interested in discussing two aspects of the paper- its consideration of the rite of confirmation, and the relationship between official doctrinal teachings and the sensus fidelium. I'll give a brief summary of the whole article, and then get into these two points.
The idea for this article came from my reading of the June 2007 CDF responsa ad quaestiones on the doctrine of the Church. This document was written after Ratzinger's election to the papacy and exit from the CDF, but it carried on a good deal of his work in that body, which worked to clarify the ecclesial vision of Vatican II. Amongst other things, the document (or rather its accompanying commentary) quoted from the earlier Communionis notio, which stated, "the divisions among Christians prevent the Church from effecting the fullness of catholicity proper to her in those of her children who, though joined to her by baptism, are yet separated from full communion with her."
I have thought of my paper as in many ways a statement of "Why I am not (Roman) Catholic". It's purpose is to follow in the tradition of Melanchthon and others who have defended the full catholicity of the Reformation churches... to show that, far from holding a modernist, atomized understanding of the Church, the Protestant churches embrace a more robust sense of catholicity than those churches in communion with Rome insofar as its fullness is based on more dogmatically sound principles. Throughout my time writing the article, I went through moments of serious frustration with the ecumenical obstacle established by Rome's non-recognition of the Reformation churches as churches. At the same time, however, I attempted as much as possible to think through these problems from the perspective of post-conciliar Catholicism, in order to be fair about the terms upon which our unity and separation are based, from their perspective. I tried to show how catholicity as articulated in the postconciliar documents was problematic by an engagement with postconciliar thought rather than through a constructed Protestant ecclesiology that was set up in opposition to it. I believe one of the only Protestant sources I used for my argument was Wainwright, as an historical source on the rite of confirmation.
My basic argument was this: "fullness of the Spirit" and "fullness of catholicity" are two dogmatic notions of "fullness" that are helpfully considered alongside one another. The "fullness of the Spirit" is traditionally understood as being promised in the prophets and granted at Pentecost to the believers, and it is the inauguration of the Church in her fullest sense. Throughout the tradition (although there are numerous ambiguities in this history), the fullness of the Spirit has been tied to the initiatory rite of confirmation. Catholics recognize a common baptism with Protestants, though not the "fullness of the Spirit" as it is received in Protestant confirmation.
For those who share in the unity of Christian baptism and confess faith in Christ, there is then no way to be recognizable as Catholic Christians unless they accede to an episcopal structure whose end they have already obtained in their faith and baptism. For the Roman Catholic understanding of catholicity to withhold recognition of the fullness of the Spirit in these communities, simply because the servant of this fullness (the episcopate) is lacking, fails to recognize that the Spirit who is present in the believers of the Reformation churches is also the one who makes catholicity. In this case, one might well fail to regard even the baptism administered by the Reformation churches as adequate, to say nothing of the fullness of the Spirit received by believers in confirmation. It is certainly not as if any progress has been made in the recognition of 'common' baptism, so long as the source of this grace is not recognized by the servants of the source of this grace (again, the episcopate). (IJST 11.3: 289-90)
The rite of Confirmation: While my paper was going through the editorial process, I continued to feel some nagging about my use of the rite of confirmation in my argument. I had run across Aidan Kavanagh during my research for this paper and found him helpful, but for anyone who knows Kavanagh's work on confirmation, he is a provocative and challenging voice. Not least of my problems was the fact that Kavanagh disagrees with the mainstream understanding of the history of confirmation- that it arose (in Wainwright's words) from a "disintegration" of the initiation process of baptism and was separated to accomodate the infrequency of episcopal visits to any given parish. The bishop needed to administer the chrism, so it was axed from the unified sacrament and put on hold until the bishop was next in town, or later on, until a determined age of consent/decision, at which point the sacrament of confirmation was understood more as a rite of Christian maturity and strengthening.
Kavanagh makes a much different argument for the source of confirmation, asserts that the received view is mostly a matter of theologians botching the task of liturgics, and thus pulls a significant plank out of my argument. I set aside his dissent by punting to the centrality of theology itself for the current ecumenical situation, saying, "The main purpose of this study, however, concerns what the rite has come to represent on a theological level and how the rite has come to be structured on an ecclesiastical level with regard to the fullness of the Spirit and catholicity, so that Kavanagh’s account remains noteworthy without precluding the significance of the one below." (275 n.14)
I am personally not convinced by Kavanagh's argument, although he offers an important caution to theologians treading in liturgical territory. I hope to revisit his thesis on the history of confirmation at some point, and perhaps state my case on the matter in a fuller fashion. I have some ideas of where to go with such a project, but I have not adequately researched it at this point, and the Fullness paper simply wasn't the place for such a sustained argument to be made.
The Sensus Fidelium: During the review process, a reader commented that I might have also distinguished Catholic doctrine as presented by the hierarchy in official documents from its reception by the Church at large (sensus fidelium). I had my reasons for not making this distinction, but I think the point is an acute one and it's worth discussion.
I said above that I identified with the Communio perspective on Vatican II, and I think this is worth asserting again. It is often wrongly assumed that Protestants, because they are Protestant, would tend to fall on the Concilium side of the Concilium/Communio divide in postconciliar Catholic theology. I don't think this is a given. What one might call "Communio Protestantism" is a perfectly coherent stance; to be Protestant is not to be against hierarchy or the organic catholicity of the churches in communion. If anything, a Communio Protestantism is more compelling than a Communio Catholicism, which de facto affirms that the local church precedes the universal church (normally something that the communio program is assumed to be against) when it argues for the primacy of the bishop of the local church of Rome over the communion. A Communio Protestantism does not stumble over this distinctly Roman Catholic contradiction. (this is also why, although I'm very sympathetic to the program of Pro Ecclesia, I think the appeal by some of its Lutheran theologians to a Petrine primacy is a dead end)
So. I am not opposed in principle to the teaching of the curia or of Ratzinger as regards this question, and I do feel that the Communio structure is the most appropriate way to affirm postconciliar Catholic theology. I offer such stark criticisms of Ratzinger in my article precisely because I agree with him on so much concerning the catholicity of the Church.
I did not address the sensus fidelium (the "sense of the faithful") in my paper because whatever ecumenical reception might come "from below" in the fraternal bonds of lay or other Catholics, it is not this reception that ultimately matters in ecumenical dialogue with the Catholic Church. The basis of the non-recognition of the Reformation churches as churches remains at the level of the episcopate and the eucharist administered by the episcopate or its ordained representatives. It's not that I don't respect or recognize the counsel of the laity in the Church, but rather that the current problem of the fullness of catholicity stands above that counsel. And I think this is as it should be, in the Reformation churches as well as the churches in communion with Rome. The problem is not with the episcopal hierarchy itself- I assert in my paper that this hierarchy is an evangelical service and that the Reformation churches should not be opposed to it (285). The problem with the episcopate is how it is used as a criterion for catholicity with no apparent foundation except itself, rather than basing catholicity in the gift of the Spirit under which the episcopate stands as a servant (see especially p. 289 where I deal with a block quote from Ratzinger's Called to Communion).
I think I'll end on that note; hopefully that has clarified a bit of where I was coming from in this paper. I might also add that my paper in the Ecclesiastical Law Journal on the current crisis in the Anglican Communion reveals more about my views on episcopacy, the Church, and the Gospel, and may be a good read for triangulating my position, since it concerns an intra-communal rather than an inter-communal dispute. In that paper I actually borrow from the Concilium thinkers as well as Communio thinkers- this has more to do with the fact that the Concilium group has generally been more active in discussions of canon law (although I don't think that's so much the case now as it used to be), rather than with any shift in general sympathies on my part.