Sunday, January 29, 2006

Authority in the Continuum

If there is one clearly identifiable reason why I withdrew from Canterbury, it was over the issue of its doctrine (increasingly questionable) and authority (apparently non-existent).

Out of curiosity, I have asked our contributing editors to offer their thoughts on the issue of authority in the Continuum. This first observation is from Fr Matthew Kirby. Your contributions are welcome.

The Affirmation of St Louis supplies the answer regarding historic sources of doctrinal authority: Scripture as interpreted by the consensual Tradition, particularly as expressed by the three Creeds and seven Ecumenical Councils.

As for a present living authority, because Anglican Catholics do not believe they represent the whole Catholic Church, when we defer to the Ordinary Magisterium we look to the consensual teaching of the bishops of the RCC and EOC, as well as ours.

As for the Extraordinary Magisterium, Anglicans have, ever since the Elizabethan Settlement, accepted that a truly Ecumenical Council received as such by the Church at large would be authoritative. However, we have not seen those Councils called Ecumenical by the RCC since the E-W schism as necessarily being so. Nevertheless, it may be that reception by the rest of the Catholic Church could manifest them as so in the event of re-union. The precise nature of the role of the Pope in the Extraordinary Magisterium is unresolved as yet in this ecumenical context. I do not believe this issue presents insurmountable problems, but that is personal opinion.


James the Thickheaded said...

Good prompting. Quite a number of beckoning Romans have pooh-poohed the Anglicans of all sorts over the question of authority....yet strangely give the Eastern Orthodox a pass. The EOC churches do have a document from a council in the 17th century? that approaches something of the Council of Trent in constituting a "Confession" o the fundamentals of the faith - if memory serves me. But the charge that the Anglicans have not its like has always been something of a difficulty....unless one considers the Prayerbook and a catholic understanding of the 39 Articles. Look forward to the next post.

Death Bredon said...

Some ecumenical problems & solutions:

1. The West accepts the Nicene- Constantinopalitan Councils, which formed the Creed commonly called Nicene, but seemed to hold a Tirnitarian doctrine in compatible with that council since the time of Augustine. However, recent controlling statements from the Vatican have evidenced greater agreement between the West and the East on the core of Christian Faith than ever. For instance, B16 was coronated in a liturgy sans filioque.

I believe that work is almost complete here!

2. The papal claims remain, as ever, a stumbling block. If the West wants to keep a strong papal role in a united church, then I believe that it must float trial balloons for such a role to the East and orthodox-catholic Anglicans rather than invite suggestions from the East, as JPII did.

Much work still needs to be done here.

3. Soteriology has also been a "sleeper" sticking point. The West's historic emphasis on substitionary atonement versus the Eastern emphasis on theosis and the corallary issue of Created v. Uncreated grace (Palamism v. Thomism) is a big, but usually ignored, difference between East and West. Perhaps continuing Anglicans can play a mediating role here.

More work needs to be done on this oft overlooked and extremely complex issue.

4. Although everyone accepts the Seventh Ecumenical Council on Images, only the East actually follows the dictates thereof with any degree of fidelity. The West needs to take a long hard look at the Council again and reevaluate its currently chaotic approach to sacred art. Also, an Eastern-ward resolution on the Reformation/Counter-Reformtion issue of eucharistic adoration -- of course the eucharist is to be adored, but ONLY in the context of reception -- could come of this, as the East uses proper icons for veneration, not the reserved sacrament.

The Work has not even begun on this "deep sleeper" issue, but again orthodox-catholic Anglicans could lead the way in threading the needle.

My two (or four!) cents.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...


Re: 3,

Strictly Anselmian concepts of atonement are not dogmatically required in the West. And even Ware admits, if I remember correctly, that substitutionary language can be found among E Fathers. No irreconcilable difference here.

Both E and W believe in Uncreated Grace. The West chooses to call the effects of Uncreated Grace on the created human nature created grace. Big deal. It's not as if anybody can deny that God's self-donation has an effect on the human person in its creaturely nature. And there is no assertion that created grace can exist independently of Uncreated Grace.

The Thomist vs. Palamite issue is one I have dealt with on Pontifications trying, indeed, to mediate. Again, there is no necessary difference on the level of dogma. It is permissible for Catholics of all jurisdictions to question either of these great theologians in the details of their systems and to accept their systems only on the understanding that they are limited human attempts to describe the Truth. No reason for division here either, IMHO.

Re: 4,

Bp Ware admits their is no theological (as opposed to liturgical) reason for the EO not to adore Christ in the Sacrament outside of reception. Very few EO of any ecumenical worth claim that the West has heretically disobeyed the 7th Council, even if they think our art is "too realistic" or whatever. Again, no real justification for separation here.


poetreader said...

I have a basic question as to what is the real utility of a binding confession of faith beyond what has been agreed by the universally accepted councils. Does such a binding statement on the part of one division of the Church really accomplish anything other than the fossilization of divisions?
Death and Fr. Matthew,
a really nice statement taken jointly. Here's my 2 cents worth:

re 1: I think the West stirred up an unnecessary controversy in the insertion of filioque. While neither version is incorrect in itself, it is my conviction that insisting upon either and categorically denying the other moves one very close to heresy. The East is quite correct in its insistence that only the Father can be considered the ultimate source of anything, but the West is quite correct in recognizing that Our Lord Himself often speaks of the Spirit as coming from Him. There are different senses in which 'proceed' may be taken, not all of which translate well into logical language. The only agreement possible is to agree that both statements contain aspects of the truth. It does appear that we are approaching that.

re 2. Yes, that's the only point that seems a major stumbling block. Many of us are not able to recognize either infallibility or universal jurisdiction as adhering to the successors of St. Peter, even while recognizing the rightness of his role as presider.

re 3. As with 1, The only problem IMHO is the insistence that one theory of the atonement is THE andwer to the question. Each view contains part of a ultimately infinite and incomprehensible reality. All of them are true and all of them are hopelessly inadequate. If this be recognized, there is no problem.

re 4. I've only got one problem here. It's Fr. Matthew's phrase, "very few EO of any ecumenical worth'". Is there any theologian not of ecumenical worth? If we are to find real unity, it is probably of the essence that the most difficult and seemingly obstinate parties be drawn into the discussion and that their thinking receive at least equal, and perhaps larger consideration than those who seem closer to the agreed center. If it's not heresy, it belongs solidly within the one church, even if it gives difficulties to many.