Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Authority in the Continuum

Fr Robert Hart

That the use of contraceptives under any circumstances is wrong, and that no consequences of avoiding it, however painful these may be, can make it right, is the only answer that Scripture as interpreted by the Church permits to be given to enquirers; and the contents of this article are dictated by my conviction that, in the present moral crisis, it should be given with unqualified clarity.
Francis Hall, 1930

We have seen in the article by Fr. Kirby that the Continuing Churches did, from the start, declare their allegiance to the Tradition of the ancient “Undivided” Church of the first millennium. Without the Tradition of the Church, both Scripture and Reason are blown about by every wind of doctrine, a point so obvious as to be self-evident. But, do we really submit ourselves to the Tradition of the Church, allowing that Tradition to interpret Scripture and to impart the Right Reason of the mind of Christ?

To every Continuing Anglican the thorny question must rise, just what Anglicanism are we continuing? The Anglicanism of 1978? Well, in 1978 the Saint Louis Fathers (if I may coin a new phrase) were very clear that things already had gone too far. So, then, how about 1958? If so, why? 1930? Again, why? Obviously, the answer is not based upon a time, a golden era. Such an era has never existed. The answer is that we are continuing the Anglicanism of the First Millennium, even though Anglicanism, as such, did not exist.

What else can we mean by saying that we believe in Scripture, Right Reason and Tradition? Whatever distinctly Anglican things have been given to us, all of our Formularies including the Book of Common Prayer, authority does not rest on any kind of genuine Anglican Authenticity; it rests upon the teaching authority of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. And, if we think that Authentic Anglicanism requires that we compromise or negate the teaching of the Church from Apostolic times, then we must, as good Anglicans reject Authentic Anglicanism for True Anglicanism- which simply means, for the truth. We do not say anything about being the Anglican Church in the Creeds, but about being the Catholic Church. And so we are. We are part of the Church that traces its history through the sacramental reality that includes, as part of the essence of its being, the Apostolic Succession.

But, if one issue demonstrates that we have a long way to go in recovering genuine Catholic principles, it is contraception. We are clear on abortion; we know that it is murder. But, do we understand that in order to be faithful to the Tradition we cannot accept innovations, not even Anglican ones? Liberal acceptance of contraception is a defiance of the Tradition that we claim to believe. This one issue has turned the love between the sexes within the sacrament of matrimony, into nothing more than a glorified form of masturbation. For, the issue has gone from love and procreation to satisfaction of a desire; that is, as the chief end and goal of coming together as one flesh. It is acquiescence to the spirit of the times that Christians enter into marriage, and into marital relations, thinking only of gratification, and nothing more.

However, it is not necessary for me to make the argument. I refer every reader to what was written by Francis Hall after the 1930 Lambeth Conference. I have posted the link at the beginning of this article. I will add only the link to another essay by Bishop Charles Gore, to which Hall referred.


axegrinder said...

Thanks for the links to Hall and Gore.

I am relatively new to the Anglican blogosphere. I have been making the rounds for about a month. I apologize if the following comment has been dealt with thoroughly elsewhere.

I would like to hear about how the Continuing Movement is going to deal with the issue of divorce and remarriage, especially as regards the clergy.

I am a part of the REC parish in Jackson, MS. I am troubled by the presence of divorced and remarried clergy in the REC. Is the APA on board with this practice? If not, how can they unify with the REC?

I am sorry to bring in the issue of divorce and remarriage in the comments of a post on contraception. I have been eager to hear some traditional Anglican voices on this issue.

Fr Robert Hart said...

It is relevant, because I mentioned contraception in the context of authority, that is, the authority whereby the Church teaches.

By 1936 the situation was reversed from what it had been under Henry VIII. Now the Church blocked the king from being able to marry a divorced woman, causing him to abdicate. The only way that someone who is divorced can remarry is if the former marriage has been duly annulled, which means there must be grounds for an annulment. The rule is the same as in the Roman Catholic Church, and the old rules of the Church of England. However, this can be abused, and I believe that in some cases it has been. Nonetheless, throughout most Continuing jurisdictions the rule is correct and based upon the Tradition that has long been understood, at least in the West.

William Tighe said...


Things may have changed in the last year or so, but until that time the APA was, of all Comtinuing Anglican bodies, the one most tolerant of divorce-and-remarriage among its clergy. At one point, all of its bishops had been divorced and remarried at least once, and some more than once. (My source for most of this information was my late friend [and fellow contributor to *Touchstone*] the Rev'd Dr Louis Tarsitano [d. Jan. 2005].)

I have heard at third hand that the APA has "cleaned up its act" precisely because of the insistence of the REC in this matter -- but if the REC itself tolerates divorce-and-remarriage among its clergy, then perhaps the more recent reports are simply smokescreens.

poetreader said...

Both areas being discussed are areas where Christians demonstrate just how little they desire to have the mind of God, and to what lengths they are willing to go to achieve their own desires.

The Scriptural and Traditional view of sexuality is extremely simple. Sex exists to express simultaneously two things that cannot be divided: The unity of man and wife in holy matrimony, and the desire to be fruitful and multiply. The pleasurable aspects exist only in service to this dual purpose and as a result of following it. Anything else is illegitimate and thus sinful.

Can one engage in sex outside of marriage without violating this principle? Where there is no unity of man and wife. and no desire that this unity be furthered by children, one cannot.

Can one engage in sex within marriage while intending that there no be children? Frankly I can't find a reconciliation here even if it be something 'natural' like the rhythm method. How can one perform an act intended to be fruitful while taking measures to frustrate its major purpose? I'm afraid I find Rome's determination to permit the rhythm method while forbidding 'artificial' methods to be just as much an evidence of a desire to frustrate God's plan as any other, as it rises from the same mindset.

As far as I can see, the Catholic teaching prior to extremely recent times is this: If you don't want kids, be celibate.

Matrimony is entered with a vow that it is 'Till death us do part'. To marry with any other intent than permanancy, whatever the circumstances may be is to declare willingness to break asunder what God hath joined. To enter marriage with any provision or expectation of a way out (including prenuptual agreements)is already sin. Humans being fallible and sinful, it sometimes happens that a marriage cannot be kept intact. Even in such a case, the marriage, in which God has made them one, has not been dissolved, and I don't see how either can really be eligible to remarry. Even the case of an 'innocent party' is not as clear as one might think. Do you have a wife, seek not to be loosed, as the Apostle said.

What about annulment? I don't know why anyone would be willing to seek annulment except in the most clearcut of cases. Annulment is not divorce, but it is an open declaration that, since the marriage was never valid, the couple has, bluntly, been living in sin.

Does all this mean that we. the Church, need to come down hard and strong on the least infraction of all this? Well, though what I have outlined is the Law (so far as I can understand anyway), and violation is sin, we must remember that the Catholic Faith is not primarily an enforcer of law, but a dispenser of mercy. I believe we are called upon by Our Saviour to declare what is the law, but to answer the reality of sin with the reality of the Cross. That's what Sacraments do.

But the Law, as St. Paul said, shows us what is our sin to call us to repentance.


James the Thickheaded said...

Y'know, the temptation to write on marriage is enormous. And as a happily married 25-year vet - I know that would bore most folks so I won't other than to say that my experience over the years has led me to wonder in trying to understand my good fortune and its continued blossoming when many around me seem to not be so blessed or for that matter endure. And the best that I could figure was that a good marriage really does illuminate a deeper understanding of our relationship to God. Indeed, it was my puzzlement in this that brought me to seek a relationship with God that would be at least as good, as filling and as everyday engaged. Yep, its gonna gag most folks, but that's what I think both relationships are supposed to be.

So I am bassackwards at they say. Which is why I guess I am just another red-blooded American guy who got lucky on two accounts. Better lucky than smart as they say. Few make this point these days as wives have increasingly become just another consumer product and get "put away" if they cease to amuse and entertain. Serial polygamy continues proliferate like all the other brands. "Gimme another Cindy Crawford only younger and richer!" Right.

No, but I wanted to respond more specifically to the authority matter. I enjoyed Haverland's comment that he no longer uses the word "Continuuing". I tend to agree that this word probably adds little and simply leads to the question suggested: Just what are we continuing? Further, with all the brouhaha, perhaps we might even wonder at times whether Anglican isn't adding an increasingly a negative connotation of squishy, what-ever-you-want-it-to-be sensibility. The Affirmation made a bold statement, but there seems to be more that should follow. Anglican in this context reflects strictly an historic origin, and yet oddly in many ways reflects an origin within a laregly hostile parentage. We remain as small a group as anglocatholics as I think there is anywhere within Christendom....are we really a separate group? If so, why? Was that intentional, necessity, or simply an accident of history? What then to do about it now? There are so many hostile groups within and beyond the anglican communion that refer to our worship as insincere and worse....that at times one wonders: if we truly do appeal more to the clergy than to the common man....assuming this is an accurate can this perception be turned to advantage? I am certain it can be, and therefore, think perhaps it should.

Death Bredon said...

Dear Fr. Hart,

I must heartily disagree on several points.

First, as a matter of history, Anglo-Catholicism, or Ritualism as it was orginally called, has not inhereited the Mantle of the Oxford Movement. To the contrary, the vast majority of the Tractarians were opposed to Counter Reformation ritual, ceremony, and spirituality as well as being most decidedly opposed to the Council of Trent. Rather, only a radical minority of the Oxford Movement Tractarians urged Tridentine dogma and most of these men had the intellectual honesty and deceny to convert to Rome. Their progeny however, in light of Vatican I, bucked their Anglican Bishops and started an Old-Catholic Movement within the Cantuar Communion. The Zenith was reached in the 1930s and, in the Denver Continuum, it has reached its nadir. Indeed, with its widespread use of the Missal Mass, the Priests Handbook, and the Traditional St. Augustine Prayerbook, the Continuum has carried on the banner of anglo-Catholic Ritualism.

In contrast, the mantle of Oxford Movement may only be said to belong to the remaining Old High Churchmen that can still be found--perhaps Peter Toon.

Second, only the Roman Catholic Church dogmatically teaches that artificial contraception (excepting that form of contrception commonly called Vatican Roullette, which use of such human artifices as calendars and thermomators)is prohibited even among married couples that are open to children. An odd, internally incoherent doctrine, given its bizarre exception for the least effective and most unhealthy form of artificial contraception, but there you have it.

The Orthodox Church has never so dogmatized, though a minority of Orthodox jurisdictions so teach. Likewise, even in the Continuum, the Anglican Catholic Church and the Anglican Provence of Christ the King do not follow Rome on this one.

Only the doctrine of Papal Infallibility clearly and convingly supports Rome's selective ban on artificial contraception as dogma. Thus, to dogmatize the latter, logically one must dogmatize the former. Hence, I would suggest that, per your own arguments, that your theory of Catholic authority is none other than Vatican I.

Anonymous said...

To answer the above, Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon (priest of the Antiochene Orthodox Church) has continued to maintain that the Orthodox Church does not need to state a "dogma" to know that contraception is a sin. Did you read Hall's essay? The Church Tradition in this matter predates Vatican I by about 1800 years. Have you read Saint John Chrysostom about this? Have you seen the 1900 Lambeth Conference statement about this?

If we have no distinctive theology of our own, but follow the Tradition of the Undivided Church of the First Millenium, then we cannot innovate a liberal doctrine on any issue.

Fr Robert Hart said...

To answer the above, Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon (priest of the Antiochene Orthodox Church) has continued to maintain that the Orthodox Church does not need to state a "dogma" to know that contraception is a sin. Did you read Hall's essay? The Church Tradition in this matter predates Vatican I by about 1800 years. Have you read Saint John Chrysostom about this? Have you seen the 1900 Lambeth Conference statement about this?

If we have no distinctive theology of our own, but follow the Tradition of the Undivided Church of the First Millenium, then we cannot innovate a liberal doctrine on any issue.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...


Fr Hart makes an important point regarding the powerful testimony of constant and consistent teaching -- even when the teaching has not been officially dogmatised. That is the point of the Vincentian Canon, of course.

As for your desire to differentiate cleanly between the Oxford Movement and the pro-Tridentine Ritualists, I think history would suggest many, perhaps most, members of the former developed either into the latter or into Catholic Anglicans (with an ecumenical and philo-Orthodox stance, often) who were at least willing to approach RCC doctrine more eirenically and constructively than polemically. Given their historic context, their initial desperation to be seen as anti-Papist was understandable. Given their principles, as men committed to the fulness of the Catholic Faith held in common by East and West, but to be expressed in a Western and English way, their later maturation into a more positive (yet still not uncritical) attitude to the RCC was probably inevitable.

Also, one should separate liturgical and ritual issues from doctrinal ones. For example, Newman was never a ritualist, always celebrating North End etc. while Anglican, despite his pro-Tridentine theology. And some ritualists are more theologically Eastern than Western in emphasis, in my experience. You have over-simplified the historical and contemporaneous picture in order to paint those you agree with as the heroes with integrity and those you don't as dishonest interlopers.

As a result, you are led to the astonishing choice of Toon as a modern true exponent of the Oxford Movement. This is almost a reductio ad absurdum. Toon hedges badly on the Real Presence, which puts him outside the ancient East-West consensus and therefore makes his Catholicity more than doubtful.


Death Bredon said...

The ancient orthodox-catholic tradition clearly and convincingly spoke against abortifacient contraception. Whether that position transfers to all conctraception as consensual dogma is doubtful, as the vast majority most of Orthodoxy, Traditional Anglo-Catholicism, and by Rome itself hold that certain forms of contraception are licit within marriages open to children -- as even Rome allows one form of birth control that employs human artifice.

Thus, n.o.v. Fr. Reardon and Francis Hall -- erudite, good and Godly men, but hardly the most authoritative voices in Christendom or even their own communions -- the catholic witness allows for no dogmatization here.

Pious opinions to be respected, yes. But no clear dogmatic definition. It is one thing to say argue that birth control is immoral but another to pronounce a dogma on it when the witness of tradition and the contemporary witness of the Church Catholic are unclear. Indeed, I haven't heard of any Patriarch anathemitizing another on the issue of Birth Control and it has never, in my experience, been raise as one of the serious ecumenical stubling block.

In any event, given the variance of opinions and the odd inconsistency within the Roman position, perhaps clarifying counciliar definition and lay evaluation/reception of same are needed.

Anonymous said...

Dear Fr. Hart, Mr. Bredon, and anyone else, I don't see in the Hall and Gore articles where anti-contraception has been the constant teaching of the Church universal. As Mr. Bredon points out, it seems to be a "pious opinion", and I do know that Augustine and Aquinas were against it (anonymous adds Chrysostom also). But did the Church *teach* against this before 1930? I know holy Church has been against abortifacients, but is any and all contraception or so-called "base coupling" condemned historically, and by whom, where and when?

I have heard it claimed that the Church "has always spoken against" all contraception, but haven't yet seen where or when this was.

For, it is one thing to have a common theological opinion--e.g. it was common in the medieval period to say that all sex even within marriage was at least venially sinful; this was the common opinion of theologians following Augustine and Gregory the Great--but quite another thing for the Church to actually *teach* something. Bishop Gore says the Church has the power to "bind"--where has She bound this issue, pre-1930?

Anonymous said...

The Letter of Barnabas

"Moreover, he [Moses] has rightly detested the weasel [Lev. 11:29]. For he means, ‘Thou shall not be like to those whom we hear of as committing wickedness with the mouth with the body through uncleanness [orally consummated sex]; nor shall thou be joined to those impure women who commit iniquity with the mouth with the body through uncleanness’" (Letter of Barnabas 10:8 [A.D. 74]).

Clement of Alexandria

"Because of its divine institution for the propagation of man, the seed is not to be vainly ejaculated, nor is it to be damaged, nor is it to be wasted" (The Instructor of Children 2:10:91:2 [A.D. 191]).

"To have coitus other than to procreate children is to do injury to nature" (ibid., 2:10:95:3).


"[Christian women with male concubines], on account of their prominent ancestry and great property, the so-called faithful want no children from slaves or lowborn commoners, [so] they use drugs of sterility or bind themselves tightly in order to expel a fetus which has already been engendered" (Refutation of All Heresies 9:12 [A.D. 225]).


"[Some] complain of the scantiness of their means, and allege that they have not enough for bringing up more children, as though, in truth, their means were in [their] power . . . or God did not daily make the rich poor and the poor rich. Wherefore, if any one on any account of poverty shall be unable to bring up children, it is better to abstain from relations with his wife" (Divine Institutes 6:20 [A.D. 307]).

"God gave us eyes not to see and desire pleasure, but to see acts to be performed for the needs of life; so too, the genital [’generating’] part of the body, as the name itself teaches, has been received by us for no other purpose than the generation of offspring" (ibid., 6:23:18).

Council of Nicaea I

"[I]f anyone in sound health has castrated himself, it behooves that such a one, if enrolled among the clergy, should cease [from his ministry], and that from henceforth no such person should be promoted. But, as it is evident that this is said of those who willfully do the thing and presume to castrate themselves, so if any have been made eunuchs by barbarians, or by their masters, and should otherwise be found worthy, such men this canon admits to the clergy" (Canon 1 [A.D. 325]).

Epiphanius of Salamis

"They [certain Egyptian heretics] exercise genital acts, yet prevent the conceiving of children. Not in order to produce offspring, but to satisfy lust, are they eager for corruption" (Medicine Chest Against Heresies 26:5:2 [A.D. 375]).


"This proves that you [Manicheans] approve of having a wife, not for the procreation of children, but for the gratification of passion. In marriage, as the marriage law declares, the man and woman come together for the procreation of children. Therefore, whoever makes the procreation of children a greater sin than copulation, forbids marriage and makes the woman not a wife but a mistress, who for some gifts presented to her is joined to the man to gratify his passion" (The Morals of the Manichees 18:65 [A.D. 388]).

"You [Manicheans] make your auditors adulterers of their wives when they take care lest the women with whom they copulate conceive. They take wives according to the laws of matrimony by tablets announcing that the marriage is contracted to procreate children; and then, fearing because of your law [against childbearing] . . . they copulate in a shameful union only to satisfy lust for their wives. They are unwilling to have children, on whose account alone marriages are made. How is it, then, that you are not those prohibiting marriage, as the apostle predicted of you so long ago [1 Tim. 4:1–4], when you try to take from marriage what marriage is? When this is taken away, husbands are shameful lovers, wives are harlots, bridal chambers are brothels, fathers-in-law are pimps" (Against Faustus 15:7 [A.D. 400]).

"For thus the eternal law, that is, the will of God creator of all creatures, taking counsel for the conservation of natural order, not to serve lust, but to see to the preservation of the race, permits the delight of mortal flesh to be released from the control of reason in copulation only to propagate progeny" (ibid., 22:30).

"For necessary sexual intercourse for begetting [children] is alone worthy of marriage. But that which goes beyond this necessity no longer follows reason but lust. And yet it pertains to the character of marriage . . . to yield it to the partner lest by fornication the other sin damnably [through adultery]. . . . [T]hey [must] not turn away from them the mercy of God . . . by changing the natural use into that which is against nature, which is more damnable when it is done in the case of husband or wife. For, whereas that natural use, when it pass beyond the compact of marriage, that is, beyond the necessity of begetting [children], is pardonable in the case of a wife, damnable in the case of a harlot; that which is against nature is execrable when done in the case of a harlot, but more execrable in the case of a wife. Of so great power is the ordinance of the Creator, and the order of creation, that . . . when the man shall wish to use a body part of the wife not allowed for this purpose [orally or anally consummated sex], the wife is more shameful, if she suffer it to take place in her own case, than if in the case of another woman" (The Good of Marriage 11–12 [A.D. 401]).


"I am supposing, then, although you are not lying [with your wife] for the sake of procreating offspring, you are not for the sake of lust obstructing their procreation by an evil prayer or an evil deed. Those who do this, although they are called husband and wife, are not; nor do they retain any reality of marriage, but with a respectable name cover a shame. Sometimes this lustful cruelty, or cruel lust, comes to this, that they even procure poisons of sterility. . . . Assuredly if both husband and wife are like this, they are not married, and if they were like this from the beginning they come together not joined in matrimony but in seduction. If both are not like this, I dare to say that either the wife is in a fashion the harlot of her husband or he is an adulterer with his own wife" (Marriage and Concupiscence 1:15:17 [A.D. 419]).

John Chrysostom

"Why do you sow where the field is eager to destroy the fruit, where there are medicines of sterility [oral contraceptives], where there is murder before birth? You do not even let a harlot remain only a harlot, but you make her a murderess as well. . . . Indeed, it is something worse than murder, and I do not know what to call it; for she does not kill what is formed but prevents its formation. What then? Do you condemn the gift of God and fight with his [natural] laws? . . . Yet such turpitude . . . the matter still seems indifferent to many men—even to many men having wives. In this indifference of the married men there is greater evil filth; for then poisons are prepared, not against the womb of a prostitute, but against your injured wife. Against her are these innumerable tricks" (Homilies on Romans 24 [A.D. 391]).

"[I]n truth, all men know that they who are under the power of this disease [the sin of covetousness] are wearied even of their father’s old age [wishing him to die so they can inherit]; and that which is sweet, and universally desirable, the having of children, they esteem grievous and unwelcome. Many at least with this view have even paid money to be childless, and have mutilated nature, not only killing the newborn, but even acting to prevent their beginning to live" (Homilies on Matthew 28:5 [A.D. 391]).

"[T]he man who has mutilated himself, in fact, is subject even to a curse, as Paul says, ‘I would that they who trouble you would cut the whole thing off’ [Gal. 5:12]. And very reasonably, for such a person is venturing on the deeds of murderers, and giving occasion to them that slander God’s creation, and opens the mouths of the Manicheans, and is guilty of the same unlawful acts as they that mutilate themselves among the Greeks. For to cut off our members has been from the beginning a work of demonical agency, and satanic device, that they may bring up a bad report upon the works of God, that they may mar this living creature, that imputing all not to the choice, but to the nature of our members, the more part of them may sin in security as being irresponsible, and doubly harm this living creature, both by mutilating the members and by impeding the forwardness of the free choice in behalf of good deeds" (ibid., 62:3).

"Observe how bitterly he [Paul] speaks against their deceivers . . . ‘I would that they which trouble you would cut the whole thing off’ [Gal. 5:12]. . . . On this account he curses them, and his meaning is as follows: ‘For them I have no concern, "A man that is heretical after the first and second admonition refuse" [Titus 3:10]. If they will, let them not only be circumcised but mutilated.’ Where then are those who dare to mutilate themselves, seeing that they draw down the apostolic curse, and accuse the workmanship of God, and take part with the Manichees?" (Commentary on Galatians 5:12 [A.D. 395]).


"But I wonder why he [the heretic Jovinianus] set Judah and Tamar before us for an example, unless perchance even harlots give him pleasure; or Onan, who was slain because he grudged his brother seed. Does he imagine that we approve of any sexual intercourse except for the procreation of children?" (Against Jovinian 1:19 [A.D. 393]).

"You may see a number of women who are widows before they are wives. Others, indeed, will drink sterility and murder a man not yet born, [and some commit abortion]" (Letters 22:13 [A.D. 396]).

Caesarius of Arles

"Who is he who cannot warn that no woman may take a potion so that she is unable to conceive or condemns in herself the nature which God willed to be fecund? As often as she could have conceived or given birth, of that many homicides she will be held guilty, and, unless she undergoes suitable penance, she will be damned by eternal death in hell. If a woman does not wish to have children, let her enter into a religious agreement with her husband; for chastity is the sole sterility of a Christian woman" (Sermons 1:12 [A.D. 522]).

Fr Robert Hart said...

Thanks to whoever put up that collection of patristic quotations.
From a modern Orthodox Patriarch, the following could be added (which was based on everything the OC had ever taught up to that time):
We assure you that we remain close to you, above all in these recent days when you have taken the good step of publishing the encyclical Humanae Vitae. We are in total agreement with you, and wish you all God's help to continue your mission in the world."
{Telegram from Patriarch Athenagoras to Pope Paul VI, 9 August 1968, reprinted in Towards the Healing of Schism, ed. & trans. E.J. Stormon (1987), p. 197}

To answer Deth (above) the fact that Rome allows NFP (which I presume is what you are referring to) is consistent with what they have always said in this matter. And, it is quite reasonable. The first chapter of the Epsilte to the Romans condemns the actions of women who lus after women, and men who lust after men, as acting against nature (which means against the intentions of the Creator). The principle by which we condemn "homosexuality" -to use a non-word - is that it is aginst nature. And, what is artificial contraception but an act that is against nature? But NFP is not against nature at all. So, agree or disgree with what Rome has said; but grant them the consistency of their logic. I see their point, and regard it as quite convincing.

Nonetheless, I do not see anyone who is citing mistakes in Hall's essay, or in Gore's warnings. Frankly, their warning that acceptance of contraception would lead to acceptance of abortion has proved to be prophetic.

And, let us remember that the subject (in which I have raised one issue as a sub topic) is that of authority. If Hall is right, then we must again ask just what Anglicanism we are "continuing." Now, if we travel back before 1930, the issue itself dissolves intonon-existence. And, this shows that the consensus prior to that year was firmly against. Do we ahve any authority to change universal Christian consensus going back (at least) to the Patristic era?

Departures said...

There are many resources on Anglicanism and contraception here:

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Further to NFP and the Patristic Catena implying the early universal teaching was that sexual intercourse within marriage was only legitimate if undertaken with the specific and positive intention to procreate, it is worth noting that Chrysostom and others disagreed with that extreme a thesis. Chrysostom even said that there was nothing to criticise in married couples joining together after they had ceased to be fertile due to age. So, there is, it seems, a true consensus against artificial contraception (and not just that which causes abortions or enables fronication, but even within marriage) but not against sexual acts within marriage knowingly undertaken without any chance of procreation.

However, since a number of the explicit condemnations of contraception in the Fathers proceed from the more extreme view, and this view is now rejected through generally accepted teaching that the unitive end of marriage is as important as the procreative end, we should be careful not to use arguments, even from the Fathers, based on false premises. Thus, our use of them has to be selective. This, BTW, is not an argument by me to justify contraception.

Fr Robert Hart said...

The examples of Zacharias and Elizabeth, and Abraham and Sarah, illustrate the fact that when life is not deliberately prevented, miracles may occcur in bodies that no longer have natural procreative powers.

Anonymous said...

In the "Catholic Catechism" by John Hardon S.J., he mentions in the section on contraception that in all the world and all through time local councils of bishops had condemned artificial contraception. Yet in the posts above by anonymous, I see the sermons of just a few individual bishops, some of them connected with abortifacients. BTW, the Book of Barnabas, last I noticed, was not canonical (and seems not to be very informed about weasels).

Does anybody know about these many local councils? I am trying to locate the thread of official teaching on this point in the first millennium, and am not sure where to look.

Death Bredon said...

I have read the posted florium of "'patristic' consensus" and I am underwhemled (as I have always been).

First, as already noted, most of the quotes that actually to speak clearly and directly to contraception do not clearly and unequivacally apply to non-abortiofacients.

Second, the quotes that might cover all contraception are not even uttered by Universally recognized Fathers of the Undivided Church. I'm far from certain that the Christian East ever considered Hippolytus, Jerome, Augustine and the guy from Arles (who?), as major Fathers representing the consensus of the mind of the Church, especially on matters of humansexuality.

Third, the stern semi-Manichean triumvirate of Amrose, Jerome, and Augustine is very bizaree in toto -- with Ambrose and Augustine both implying that, even during procreative coitus, the couple should strive not to derive sexual please, which seems to be in and of itself evil. And, if they are to be considere binding authorities, the even the NFP of and RC's is heretical.

Fourth, the semi-Manicheeans, do not in fact represent the consensus patrum on human sexuality. Far from it. The majority of the Fathers had a much more positive view of even nonprocreative marital relations, as expressions of love.

* * * *

I think Fr. John Breck of St. Vlads is the leading expert on this subject, at least in the English-Speaing Orthodox Communion. He has written several balanced books on the topic that fairly collect and restate the Tradition. His synthesis is as follows: while nonarbortifacient contraception in marital relations is not sinful in itself, if it is undertaking with a broadly "contraceptive mindest" (i.e., seeking the permanent prevention of pregnancy without very good and grave cause) rather than as a family planning device for spacing of children, then it is sinful. Otherwise, nonprocreative marital realtions (by chance or planning -- NFP or other nonabortifacient methods) are positive and godly acts.

I'll stick with Fr. Breck as my contemporary mouth of the Tradition on the matter, as he best reconciles and synthesizes all the concerns of the Fathers both Eatern and Western alike, as well as the contemporary, official positions of most the Orthodox Church (as well as the unoffical position the RC laity).

Death Bredon said...

Mr. Kirby,

The reason I deny the Ritualists and their contemporary Anglo-Catholic progeny the Oxford Movement's Mantle is because only a small minority of the the Tractarians and their supporters would go for Ritualism and Tirdentine Anglo-Catholicism. It's just unfair to let the radical minority of movement, out of touch with its center, to run of with its flag. But that is precisely the kind of dishonesty or delusion regarding intellectual/religious history that is prevelant in contemprorary Anglo-Cathocism.

If Tridentine Anglo-Catholics, whether liturgically or doctrinally or both (the two really shouldn't and can't be split in the catholic understand), want to justify themselves, they need to argue Trent on its merits (not on papal support as they reject Vatican I) and not invoke the Oxford Movement or the Caroline Divinity that undergirded its center.

As for Fr. Toon, perhaps you are right. But, the true heir to the Oxford Movement would have to be someone with a catholic understanding of the Church without going in for a Tridentine understanding, and somehow how accepts the 39 Articles and the Book of Common Prayer. Say, the United Episcopal Church? But Toon is most certainly much, much closer to the Oxford/Tractarian mark than most of the APCK, ACC, ACA, etc.

Anonymous said...

Dear Death Bredon,

Have you a good title by Fr. Breck?

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Mr Bredon,

You stated, with reference to the patristic quotations given above that "the quotes that might cover all contraception are not even uttered by Universally recognized Fathers of the Undivided Church. I'm far from certain that the Christian East ever considered Hippolytus, Jerome, Augustine and the guy from Arles (who?), as major Fathers representing the consensus of the mind of the Church". This statement is problematic in three ways. Firstly, even if we were to excise Ss. Hippolytus, Jerome, Caesarius of Arles and Augustine from the list of "Universally recognised Fathers", for the sake of argument, we would still have the statements of St John Chrysostom, the premier Eastern Doctor of his age. His references to her who "does not kill what is formed but prevents its formation" and those "not only killing the newborn, but even acting to prevent their beginning to live" are overwhelming evidence that he condemned non-abortifacient contraception. And, given that he is the Father usually cited as having the most positive view of sex within marriage and avoiding the extremism of much of the Western tradition, this condemnation of his is very significant. Secondly, Augustine was recognised as one of the great Fathers at the Fifth Ecumenical Council and his position as a Saint is still acknowledged to this day in the East (see The canonisation of the other men you mentioned was also accepted before the E-W schism. Thirdly, your dismissal of the saintly Abp of Arles as if he were a non-entity is offensive. No Saint should be referred to in this belittling fashion.

I have no particular disagreement with the substance of your third and fourth points. Indeed, I said something similar myself above. Nevertheless, it should be noted that, strictly speaking, Augustine in these quotations does not condemn sexual pleasure within marriage as sinful in itself, but characterises it as venially sinful if it is a motivational cause rather than merely a consequence of the act. Like you, I do not agree with even that, but it is worthwhile to accurately represent those with whom we disagree.

However, the rejection of the views of Augustine, Pope Gregory, and a plethora of other Fathers, E and W, who had opinions such as the belief sexual intercourse was a result of the Fall, does not change the fact that there is no mention of the active prevention of conception by the Fathers that is positive, but many that are negative. This in conjunction with the constant teaching of the whole Church before the 20th Century is what makes it the default position that all artificial contraception is impermissible.

It is not about papal infallibility ex cathedra, which was not even invoked over Humanae Vitae, it is about Holy Tradition and eschewing any apparent innovations, unless it can be shown conclusively that the context addressed by the Fathers is essentially different to that faced today in some theologically significant way. The burden of proof lies on the innovators. I do not dogmatically rule out the possibility that such conditions could be fulfilled. For example, the oft-cited divine command in Genesis to "be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth" assumes there is a point when the Earth is full -- and environmental considerations would be relevant to this. And, it is possible that, once extreme Western views have been excised from consideration as being both unbiblical and not satisfying the Vincentian Canon, the remaining condemnations of contraception might be found to all assume permanent sterilisation or incipient abortion or sinful motives related to social status or wealth etc., rather than merely spacing out children. Maybe, but maybe not. It is at least as likely we will find a universal condemnation implicitly or explicitly based on both Scripture and Natural Law that makes all such nuances irrelevant. The point is that the burden of proof is entirely on the shoulders of those who wish to justify artificial contraception. And surely that is reasonable?

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Mr Bredon,

Re: Anglo-Catholicism and the Tractarians,

You said “only a small minority of the … Tractarians and their supporters would go for Ritualism and Tirdentine [sic] Anglo-Catholicism. It's just unfair to let the radical minority of movement, out of touch with its center, to run of with its flag.”

Radical minority? There is no real argument but that the three great leaders of the Oxford Movement from the beginning were Pusey, Keble and Newman. Newman became a RC some time after writing Tract 90, which interpreted the 39 Articles to conform with most of Trent’s teaching. Keble wrote a famous letter to Justice Coleridge defending that Tract. Pusey wrote a famous “Eirenicon” that suggested the real problem Anglican Catholics had with the RCC was not so much its official dogmatic decrees on their own but how its teachings were put into practice by dangerous devotional excesses and popular (but non-binding) conceptions. He also defended the ceremonial associated with Eucharistic Adoration in an 1867 sermon, “Will Ye also Go Away?”

The second level of leading lights of the Oxford Movement with intellectual clout and influence included Froude, Wilberforce, Palmer and Church. The second and third of these went to Rome and Church became famous for vetoing the condemnation of Tract 90 in university convocation.

Even the most anti-Tridentine Tracts, such as 71, condemn Trent not so much for its doctrinal statements in and of themselves, since the Tracts effectively admit the possibility they can be interpreted in an orthodox fashion, but for the way the doctrines were usually interpreted and applied within the RCC and for the anathemas attached. And Tract 34 is explicitly pro-ritual and pro-ceremonial.

So, all in all, it is pretty clear that any attempt to characterise as marginal or extreme Tractarians who were pro-Tridentine (or at least not rigidly anti-Tridentine) or ritualist in liturgical sympathies is bound to fail. While the Oxford Movement was by no means homogenous, it always had a strong impetus towards minimising rather than maximising differences with the RCC, and avoiding unqualified condemnations of the latter Church’s dogma.

As a result of a better appreciation by Anglican Catholics of what really was common to E and W before the schism (which standard is repeatedly appealed to by the Tractarians), as well as a move away from extreme interpretations and applications of their own doctrines by the RCC towards more ecumenically sensitive and balanced understandings, especially since Vatican II, the “anti-Papist” animus of the Caroline Divines and the early stages of the Catholic Revival in England has become less and less relevant. This does not mean Anglo-Catholics are all willing to sign-off on Trent or other RC dogmatic decrees thoughtlessly or automatically. Those of us who see Anglican Catholicism as Western Orthodoxy are more cautious than that. Nevertheless, it is the belief of many of us that no RC dogma need be interpreted in an unorthodox way, even if originally expressed within a strongly Augustinian or Scholastic framework. Even the bugbear of Transubstantiation is now seen by RCs as:- not demanding any acceptance of Thomist-Aristotelian categories; not providing an explanation of the Real Presence in physical terms but a statement of its metaphysical factuality; and not denying the reality of the sacramental bread and wine in terms of their unchanged physical and chemical properties. Purgatory is hardly ever explained in terms of literal fiery torture. The “absolute necessity” of submission to the Pope for salvation is surrounded with so many qualifications the “absolute” is effectively turned into “relative”! Superstitious use of Sacred Art is discouraged in practice as well as theory (sometimes even to excess in the direction of irreverence). Indeed, it is amazing how many of these problems -- corresponding to Caroline and Tractarian criticisms of RC practice and common theological assumptions -- have been subject to real reform, yet without denying the “letter” of Trent.

One of the most strident criticisms of Trent and the RCC in the early Oxford Movement, was that it encouraged idolatry in practice if not in theory by justifying the Invocation of Saints and Veneration of Images. A better look at the East and the more advanced Caroline Divines was always going to cause them to revise this position – though without giving up criticisms of excesses that, as it turns out, defy the Seventh Ecumenical Council anyway, are not accepted by Trent and, as noted above, are largely absent now. E.g., adoring the Cross with latria (as was defended by Aquinas) or honouring images in themselves rather than on account of their saintly Prototype (as was defended by Bellarmine).

If you are coming from a philo-Orthodox position, then I must ask why it is Trent that so upsets you. The main doctrinal work of the Council of Trent was to deny that justification was merely forensic imputation (a legal fiction), uphold all Seven Sacraments, affirm that the Bread and Wine are truly converted into the Body and Blood of Christ, affirm the Eucharistic Sacrifice, and defend the traditional practices of invoking the Saints and reverencing their images. Which of these do you think the Eastern Orthodox would object to as heretical? When the EO criticise Rome is it Trent at which they focus their fire? Did they not closely imitate the Roman reaction to Calvinism etc. in the Confession of Dositheus?

As for Toon, his unreliability on the doctrines of Eucharistic Presence and Sacrifice and his overt support for a comprehensiveness that would include definitively Protestant and even Calvinist teaching in Continuing Anglicanism put him clearly at odds with the Tractarians and the Catholic consensus, unlike the ACC, APCK, etc, which are committed to the fullness of Holy Tradition and what is common to E and W. By the way, we also accept and use the BCP and make discriminating use of the Articles, without treating them as a dogmatic source.