Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Rome 1, Continuers 0

The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande, the Rt Revd Jeffrey Steenson, has announced plans to renounce his orders and join the Roman Catholic Church. He did so in a statement to the House of Bishops.

Enquiring minds would like to know why he has not announced his plans to join the continuing movement.

Were none of the bishops or other clergy in New Mexico or west Texas aware of his plight? Did any of them open their arms to him? If not, why not? If so, can any of them tell us what his response was?

13 comments:

Invicta Veritas said...

Jeffrey Steenson has been an Anglo-Papalist for many years, probably even since before his ordinations in ECUSA in 1979 and 1980. If any of your readers would take the trouble to do so, they might find this comment thread (in response to a rather unpleasant liberal RC posting on the matter) of interest:

http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/index.php?id=1283

More to the point, however, the following link will lead you to a recent article by Steenson himself, which states pretty clearly that "Continuing Anglicanism" was never an option for him, and explains why:

http://www.dioceserg.org/index.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_download&gid=90

When Steenson was briefly president of the "Episcopal Synod of America" (now, of course, FIF/NA), he gave an address in 1991 at the annual theological conference at Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island that Wayne Hankey, Professor of Classics at the university there, then an Anglican priest (but who became a RC about 12 years ago), and in the course of this address he stated clearly, to the consternation of many there present, that the only solution for the difficulties of "Catholic Anglicans" was to seek reconciliation and communion with the "Petrine Ministry" of the Bishop of Rome. In several conversations that I have had with him over the past three years he has more than once stated that "the answer is B16." He writes that the March 2007 meeting of the ECUSA HoB was the turning point for him, but as bishop of the Rio Grande he was faced with a situation in which two-thirds of the ordinands "in the pipeline" were women, and although his predecessor, Bishop Kelshaw, agreed to ordain them on behalf of Steenson, still, as +Eric Kemp of Chichester once said (in Latin, of course) "What I do through another I do myself" (in regard to his refusal to "delegate" the ordination of women to a suffragan bishop, which in turn required Doc Carey to use his metropolitical authority to send a delegate of his own to ordain women for the Chichester Diocese), and he was in some difficulty about the issue of recognizing (i.e., concelebrating with) female clergy in the course of visiting parishes in his diocese.

It didn't help much either that a particular (R) Catholic priest who was in a position to advise Anglicans evidently said that "it doesn't matter to us whether you ordain any women, since we don't recognize any Anglican clergy as 'ordained' as the Catholic Church understands ordination."

Michael said...

I believe that a church with valid apostolic orders posesses, in one specific sense, the fullness of the catholic church. It provide the Eucharist, absolution, blessings, unction, and will hopefully - God have mercy - teach the apostolic faith. Thus, I see orthodox Anglicans, as well as Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics (and any others who have valid orders) as posessing all that is necessary to be a valid "particular church".

However, I agree with the RCs that the loss of communion with the rest of the Catholic Church leaves a "grave defect" or a "deep wound". I would insist that this loss of communion not only wounds Anglicans and Eastern Orthodox (despite their validity as a church), but also wounds Roman Catholics. We are all wounded because Christ intended for us to be "one body".

Until such time as the Lord restores unity to His Church, we are all in very deep trouble - Catholic, Anglican, Protestant, and Orthodox alike.

Therefore, I believe in the Continuing Church, because I believe that it is a real church, just as much as I believe the Roman Catholic Church is a real church. However, until they are one, we are missing a very important part of what it means to be the Church of Christ in the universal, Catholic sense.

For that reason, my fondest wish would be to see Anglicans in communion with the Holy See in such a way that they are "united, but not absorbed". I would hope that the entrance of bishops such as +Steenson into the Roman Catholic Church would provide some incentive for the Vatican to expand the Anglican use. There is no more hope for dialogue with the Anglican Communion as a whole, but +Michael Ramsey and HH Paul VI did express their desire to see the churches in full communion. As an Anglican, I still support that agreement, to the extent it can be fulfilled. And I humbly ask the successor of Peter to do all he can to fulfill it as well.

Albion Land said...

Invicta Veritas,

Good news, in a sense. From what you say it looks as if this gentleman was "lost" to Rome before the continuing movement even came into existence.

I just hope and pray no one does slip under our radar.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Invicta veritas wrote:

It didn't help much either that a particular (R) Catholic priest who was in a position to advise Anglicans evidently said that "it doesn't matter to us whether you ordain any women, since we don't recognize any Anglican clergy as 'ordained' as the Catholic Church understands ordination."

Actually, as our Anglican orders exist at this time, there is no statement about them at all from Rome. That the OC Infusion has resulted in the possibility of conditional ordination (as was used in the case of Graham Leonard), means that Rome has not really maintained a strict view of the matter that gives them a sure reason to be so very certain about application. The misunderstood remark of then Cardinal Ratzinger, which actually meant that Apostolicae Curae is less than dogma and could be rescinded, does not endorse the contents of the 1896 Bull, or renew them. It merely places them in a specific category. Nonehteless, a blanket acceptance of Anglican orders right now would send the wrong message, all thanks to apostates and revisionists. Besides, we don't recognize all Anglican orders either, since some of the them are clearly invalid as of 1976.

Michael wrote:

believe that a church with valid apostolic orders possesses, in one specific sense, the fullness of the catholic church.

Right. In a sense the doctrine of Divine Simplicity (that God is fully present when present anywhere, and fully active when active anywhere, that the Trinity is not divided in any divine work or manifestation) extends to the Church and the operation of sacraments. The Catholic Church has fullness because of Divine Simplicity and the One Who works through her. Therefore, where the sacraments exist, they exist fully and effectively. So, the need for unity to be restored to the Church does not lessen our experience of God and the efficacy of His salvation and grace.

However, I agree with the RCs that the loss of communion with the rest of the Catholic Church leaves a "grave defect" or a "deep wound".

I say this as a man who sees no reason whatsoever to swim the Tiber: This defect and wound is just as much a defect and wound in the Roman Catholic Church as anywhere else. Furthermore, The real defect and wound goes back to 1054 when the Patriarch of Rome assumed more authority than the Church had ever granted him by universal consent at any time (I expect here that someone may quote St. Maximus the Confessor out of the historical context that give his words about the See of Rome their actual meaning. It is an old trick, and I am wise to it).

For that reason, my fondest wish would be to see Anglicans in communion with the Holy See in such a way that they are "united, but not absorbed".

Don't we all? For this to happen Rome must put some things on the table and negotiate. It is not a simple matter of finding a way to be acceptable to them; they have to become acceptable to us, and to the Orthodox too. That is the only way forward. So, I am happy for Bishop Steenson, but cannot join him.

Sandra McColl said...

I'm a bit worried about the OC Infusion being used as a justification for certain present-day Anglican orders. Maybe we can use it with Rome, but for ourselves, surely we don't want to be part of a tradition that was invalid for more than 3 centuries (the 3 centuries which produced some of its best pastors, teachers and thinkers) and was then suddenly relegitimised.

As for reconciliation with Rome--yes, please! But could someone please explain to me how a single bishop or priest renouncing his ordained ministry and deserting his post to become what is most likely going to be a poster-boy 'convert' on the RC blogs is assisting with reconciliation? (That last was a rhetorical question, and Fr Hart has already answered it to my satisfaction, save to say that I am neither happy for nor happy about Bp Steenson, but feel betrayed, deserted and deeply insulted, as I always do when this sort of thing happens.)

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Sandra McColl wrote:
I'm a bit worried about the OC Infusion being used as a justification for certain present-day Anglican orders. Maybe we can use it with Rome, but for ourselves, surely we don't want to be part of a tradition that was invalid for more than 3 centuries (the 3 centuries which produced some of its best pastors, teachers and thinkers) and was then suddenly relegitimised.

Fr. John Hunwicke of the Church of England has called the Infusion "the Dutch Touch," as William Tighe is fond of quoting.

It should be clear from my writings on the Bull Apostolicae Curae (1896), and on the official response of the Archbishops of England, Saepius Officio (1897), that I stand on what the English Archbishops of Canterbury and York wrote. Their response was a sufficient apologetic to silence Rome, which never could defend their 1896 Bull. We never needed the "Dutch Touch." However, it was sought, initially in 1930, as a conciliatory gesture to Rome in the hope of eventual reunion, a measure to help them accept Anglicans (Brian Taylor's paper Accipe Spiritum Sanctum documents this). It was a treatment of the Roman position as if it were an infirmity (I will go further: a madness to humor). I agree with that understanding. AC is not our problem, but theirs. Our bishops, priests and deacons have remained valid from ++Matthew Parker on.

Sandra McColl said...

Thought you'd write something lik that, Fr Hart, but feel better for reading it.

poetreader said...

I've talked with Anglicans who think of the Dutch Touch as "making Anglican orders valid". I have only one answer for that:

"If you feel that way, you believe you belong to something that was illegitimate until a bit of near subterfuge was done. In that case you need to go talk to an RC priest today. It's dishonest to stay."

If we take such measures to ease a weak brother's conscience, that is a good thing. If we do it to salve our own conscience, then something is seriously wrong and has been all the time.

ed

John A. Hollister said...

Bp. Steenson, in his paper "The New Donatists", falls into two serious errors.

First, he stated that "Donatism did not represent a significant departure from creedal orthodoxy. But ... this is exactly what is happening in the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church in the USA.... [These are] the creedal questions: for instance, same-sex blessing held out as marriage is a doctrinal not a disciplinary matter. When a local church acts unilaterally against the counsel, indeed the pleas, of the rest of the Christian world, who is the schismatic?"

What is significant here is that while Bp. Steenson is willing to see male-female marriage and the maintenance of chastity as doctrinal issues, he apparently does not see the purported "ordination" of women as an equally communion-breaking matter. Yet the question is the same in both cases: whether the present, temporary stewards of the Church have the authority to alter the received, and therefore presumptively revelational, truths that the Church has always taught.

Second, he assumes that traditionalists question the sacramental validity of ECUSA and its allies on the ground of the personal unworthiness of ECUSA's leaders. This would be true Donatism but it is in fact a false depiction of the reasons for that question. Instead, those of us who doubt that ECUSA today either possesses or can confer valid Orders, and therefore doubt that it can validly confect and administer those Sacraments that depend upon an Apostolic ministry, do so not because of the manifest unworthinesss of ECUSA representatives such as Vickie Gene Robinson but on quite another ground. That is because we question the sacramental intention employed by an organization that pretends to ordain women to the same Order to which it attempts to ordain men and that thereafter holds those women out to the public as true Apostolic ministers -- such as the ineffable Dr. Jefferts Schori.

These failures that render utterly worthless his implicit criticisms of Continuing Anglicans.

John A. Hollister+

Fr Edward said...

From what I have observed here in the UK the CC’s remain, on the whole, an unattractive option for orthodox Anglican clergy. At a meeting I attended various ‘options’ for the future were discussed but almost straightaway the idea of joining or becoming a ‘Continuing Church’ was dismissed (along with any desire to maintain or preserve Prayer Book worship).

Whilst I have a deep respect for many CC Churchmen in the UK, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of a structured outreach to disaffected Canterbury clergy. At least most of us know the ‘process’ that heading to Rome entails, we know what is required, and what the likely outcome might be. The various CC’s, on the other hand, remain a bit of a mystery.

Albion Land said...

Fr Edward,

I am curious to know what sort of meeting it was you attended. Was it organised by disaffected C of E clergy? In the event, can you give a sense of why they were so loosely attached to the BCP?

As to your second point, you leave me a bit mystified. What can be more straightforward that contacting the continuing jurisdiction in mind and asking what is required for incardination?

As an example, I direct you to the following for the Anglican Catholic Church's Diocese of the United Kingdom:


http://www.anglicancatholic.org.uk/resources/index.html

Sandra McColl said...

Fr Edward, it's probably not really my place to say, but I imagine that the 'process' (in most cases, at least) involves something as elementary as finding out and using the bishop's phone number.

As to the attitude of the majority of the theological traditionalist clergy in England (and, unfortunately, Australia as well) to the BCP: I thank God for the USA and Canada.

Fr Edward said...

Thank you to those who responded to my post.

In response to Albion’s question, most Anglo-catholic clergy in the C of E use the modern Roman Rite and Breviary in their Parishes and would regard the BCP as being decidedly ‘Protestant’.

As to the ‘process’ of approaching Rome rather than a CC jurisdiction, my point was that, while Rome offers no guarantee of re-ordination, there is a structure with some degree of practical and financial support for both single and married former Anglican clergy. Above all, Rome seems to offer stability.

On the other hand the CCs (in the UK at least) remain something of an ‘unknown quantity’. Both Parishes and clergy appear to come and go and it is difficult to countenance a stable future ministry within something that appears so ‘fragile’ and ‘unpredictable’.

For those who have families / dependants and who seek a refuge from the instability of modern Anglicanism I can see why Rome appears the most straightforward option.