Friday, April 25, 2008

Anglicans and a strong papacy

Anyone who paid even a small amount of attention to the news from here in America last week, must have noticed that the visit of Pope Benedict XVI underscores that fact that history has produced a role for the papal office that we can acknowledge as a fact: The pope is, in modern times, the single most visible Christian witness to the whole world. Another fact is that Joseph Ratzinger seems to have been prepared for this burden by the Holy Spirit, as he has lived his life cooperating with the grace of God to sanctification. Furthermore, having read a lot of his writings before and after his elevation, I remain deeply grateful to God for his apostolic and prophetic message, a message he has carried for several decades. In a book review for Touchstone six years ago, I wrote of him:

"Well-written theology does more than educate the mind. A good theologian takes his readers by the hand and leads them up the Mount of Transfiguration, where they can see the revelation of divine glory in the human face of Jesus Christ. A good theologian helps us to encounter God, because he knows God. Though his work is too objective to indulge in autobiography, his footprints are discernable in his pilgrimage to Zion and the temple."

Nothing in these years has diminished my respect for him, but rather it has only increased. On the day he was elected, as I watched live, I found myself (usually not the cheering sort) leaping out of my chair and cheering as I did when I was a child, when I saw Frank Robinson hit a home run.

In January, I wrote an article here entitled, Swim the Tiber without me. To date, it has produced 128 comments. It was the first of a few brief articles in which I wrote to defend Anglicanism against the accusations hurled at it by some modern Roman Catholics, firing back with a reminder that we have theological differences that have yet to be resolved, and that our principles in these matters are true and worth defending. Right away it was assumed I had addressed this to the TAC and its leaders. In fact, that was really not what prompted it.

What prompted it was the constant back door drainage of people, including priests, into the Roman Catholic Church for reasons that seemed more romantic than realistic, based on ignorance about Anglicanism, resulting usually in the very real dissatisfaction of individuals who have found the Roman Catholic experience in the United States to be all too much like the Episcopal Church. In fact, quite often it is.

In recent postings and comments it has been clear that Anglicans (if they understand Anglicanism) do not believe in the Universal Primacy of the papal office. That is, in fact, my position if by "primacy" we mean jurisdiction. However, at this point in history, much as the papal office has taken authority that rightly belongs to the Universal Episcopate operating through conciliar means, it is better not to upset the Roman applecart until a real work of unity is established by the Holy Spirit, one that will unite all Catholic Christians including traditional Anglicans and the Orthodox.

First of all, the Universal Episcopate remains in a state of internal schism that has been mostly the case since 1054. Second, if the Roman Catholic Church were to be more democratic at this time in history, we could well see the heresies of women's "ordination" and all that follows (Inclusive Language Liturgies, Same Sex Blessings, etc.) put on the table as real options within some of its Archdioceses. It is better right now that the pope have the power of his office to teach and keep them in line.

I would say, however, that the situation in the western Church may have been created by the power of that office, in a sense allowing the clergy, and the laity, to surrender diligence because the See of Rome was driving the bus, even when some of the turns (all celibate clergy) were very bad turns indeed. The problems tearing apart the Anglican Communion are, by this theory (which I believe to be most likely true), the indirect, if not direct, result of this, because Anglicanism has never really been free of its Roman Catholicism as part of the Anglican ethos. Nor do I suggest that we, as western Catholics, should attempt to be free from our own family history, even the parts of that history that, like many a real family, are filled with bitter contentions and strife. Anglicans will always be western, and more like Roman Catholics than anybody else.

But, even as that office may have helped to create this situation, we can thank God for placing a man in it who has the intention to purge his section of the Church from its evils (especially child molesting clergy), and to lead it in the ways of holiness. We can be thankful that God has given the care of about one billion people into the hands of a truly pastoral and saintly man. Right now, they need his authority, whatever we may think of it in theory. It is not a perfect situation, obviously, but it is the reality on the ground.

Ultimately, the unity of the Church is in the hands of God. I would like to remind us of recent words by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa :

"If one day all believers shall be reunited in one single body, it will happen like this, when we all are on our knees with a contrite and humiliated heart, under the great lordship of Christ...'Who is it that overcomes the world,' John writes in his first letter, 'if not those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God?' (1John 5:5). Sticking with this criterion, the fundamental distinction among Christians is not between Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants, but between those who believe that Christ is the Son of God and those who do not believe this."

We believe that Christ rose from the dead, so we may believe that all things are possible, and not only possible, but in the hands of the God who works according to both his wisdom and his love.

27 comments:

Sandra McColl said...

Since my present vow of silence embraces only the TAC's approach to Rome and does not extend to individual defections, I say first: yes, I agree.

Second, I wonder whether the particular attractiveness of the present Roman Pope is a cause of or catalyst for some of the recent defections.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely!
The current Pope is quite brilliant and is a strong voice in a wishy washy world. As an ACA Deacon, I find myself drawn to Rome because of him, yet, I am still an Anglican by conviction. Although, if you combine the Pope's strength and Anglicanism's failure at the moment, you do have a recipe for defection's towards Rome.

Timotheus

Albion Land said...

Let us be abundantly clear here: at no point are we engaged in a choice between accepting the pope entirely, on his terms and without questioning, or denying him altogether.

Except for things he might say with regard to some of the strange anomalies of Roman Catholicism, such as the "doctrine" of the Immaculate Conception, or about peculiar practices such as clerical celibacy or the extensive and high documented search for miracles on the part of potential saints, I can rarely think of a time when what he might pronounce would be at variance with what I believe and would myself pronounce if I were in a position to do so.

I have no problem, as an Anglican, citing this pope or any other as an authority on just about anything, and I often do.

Canon Tallis said...

Indeed, there are some parts of his pontificate that are very attractive, but it would pay Anglicans (and more especially the already Roman attracted kind) to remember that as attractive as he seems, his career was primarily that of an eccleastical politician who created much of what we see and approve as a means of getting to where he now is.

As a descendent of a number of his kind and one who read The Prince early and throughly, I think we need also to read his appointments and watch just who he places in high office in the curia. We need also to read (or to have read) the newspapers in his native Germany and in Rome for the local comment. I remember only too well my own Roman uncle's comments on Eugenio who was the pope of my youth and whose papacy seems almost centuries away. They were not flattering and turned out in time to be only too true - which is to say that the boys in the neighborhood know and remember the real you. And they are not likly to forget. Before we attempt to play in their neighhborhood we should at least attempt to know what they know.

Albion Land said...

Canon Tallis,

" ... an eccleastical politician who created much of what we see and approve ..."

What does this mean?

James said...

the constant back door drainage of people, including priests, into the Roman Catholic Church for reasons that seemed more romantic than realistic, based on ignorance about Anglicanism, resulting usually in the very real dissatisfaction of individuals who have found the Roman Catholic experience in the United States to be all too much like the Episcopal Church.

All too true, and maybe especially so in California. Rome seems at first a safe haven from all the strife of TEC and the craziness of the Continuum, but it has its own problems. As someone once told me, you might as well be Protestant.

I choose to defend the Catholic faith. I do not have access to a Continuing parish, but I hope to see a mission established in my town, and offer myself to God's service to assist such a venture, if it pleases Him.

It is much easier to throw in the towel and submit to Rome; parishes are everywhere, established communities flourish . . . the Continuum is much more difficult, but I believe that the Anglican heritage within the Church Catholic is worth working and fighting for.

Albion Land said...

James,

Any chance you could move to Nicosia? :>)

Anonymous said...

Albion,

Would that I could!

wnpaul said...

Canon Tallis,

in his native Germany (and the rest of the German-speaking world) Benedict XVI is highly respected by most of the people who do not take violent issue with the doctrinal and moral positions he upholds.

It is also not my impression that he "created much of what we see and approve as a means of getting to where he now is." I am taking issue here mainly with "as a means ...".

He seemed to be surprised at his election; so were most of my R.C. friends here in Austria, all from a circle around Vienna's archbishop Card. Christoph Schoenborn who has always been considered fairly close to Card. Ratzinger.

wnpaul said...

Fr. Hart,

going by my own experience with a ministry of reconciliation here in Austria which involves people from the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Pentecostal, independent Charismatic, and a few other traditions, and which has the blessing and support of Vienna's archbishop Christoph Cardinal Schoenborn, I can only underline Fr. Cantalmessa's words. That, indeed, is the basis of our initiative, and I believe that when God brings about a widespread realization of this truth in the wider church, and if the pope at such a time were a godly and holy man like Benedict, even some of the non-episcopally ruled churches would accept his ministry as a sign of unity.

But just like we non-episcopals need to learn to re-appreciate the value of bishops before this can happen, some of those real obstacles you mention in your "Swim the Tiber" article need to be resolved on the Roman side.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Canon Tallis

I really cannot think of Joseph Ratzinger's history in terms of politics. He was a priest who became an archbishop, then as a cardinal he was appointed to head the CDF, where he began making enemies by standing for orthodoxy. In the 60s he was considered a liberal(wearing his tie at Vatican II), and by the 80s he was considered a staunch conservative. The funny thing is that he really has never changed his major views; it is the times that changed.

Albion wrote:

Let us be abundantly clear here: at no point are we engaged in a choice between accepting the pope entirely, on his terms and without questioning, or denying him altogether.

Albion is right, and what he says is very Anglican. Benedict XVI is the Patriarch of Rome, a bishop in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. He is also a theologian par excellence. We need not accept all the papal claims to say that he is part of the Body of Christ, and a member we have need of. If I were to meet him I would kneel and ask for his blessing, and that would not compromise my Anglican convictions at all.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Let me throw the cat among the pigeons and say that I believe Anglican Catholics can sign the CCC to signify that it contains no heresy. And that such a signature does not require abandonment of criticism of past Roman errors, nor does it require admision one is not in the Church till one is outwardly placed in the RCC. I have argued all this before. For a good summary of why I think this, including links to necessary background explanation, see below:

http://anglicancontinuum.blogspot.com/2008/02/anglo-papalism-and-coherence.html

Yes, even Papal Supremacy and Infallibility can be accepted, once the many important additional qualifications are laid out, all of which can be sourced from RC sources. Or so I argue.

And I agree with Fr Hart that the past overcentralisation and overexertion of power in and by the papacy has quite possibly led to present rebellion. Think of a father who is too authoritarian, controlling, strict and occasionally unfair, prone to ignoring the advice of the other parent, and what happens if for whatever reason his authority is withdrawn or no longer felt and freedom is sensed. The children are likely to over-react and go wild. The mother, too, might behave irresponsibly or be incapable of maintaining balanced views of things.

Sean said...

Is there a period in the history of the English Church prior to the English Reformation that Anglicans look back on as ideal or orthodox vis-a-vis the papacy?

Also, was there any substantial Anglican monastic movement after the 16th century?

Last, who wrote the best, most comprehensive history of the English church?

No trick questions, just personally curious.

Sean

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Is there a period in the history of the English Church prior to the English Reformation that Anglicans look back on as ideal or orthodox vis-a-vis the papacy?

Yes, the Patristic period, also called The first millennium of the Church.

Also, was there any substantial Anglican monastic movement after the 16th century?

Yes, especially the Anglican Benedictines.

Last, who wrote the best, most comprehensive history of the English church?

That is a matter of opinion. I think most would agree that the best was by J.R.H. Moorman.

Albion Land said...

I would take issue here with Fr Hart's assertion that there has been a "substantial" Anglican monastic movement since the 16th century, at least if by substantial we mean numerous.

IIRC, there was no Anglican monasticism until the very last years of the 19th century, but with what real growth there was coming in the early years of the 20th century. While it is probably true that Benedictines represented the largest number of communities and of monks, even they were not numerous.

That said, Nashdom Abbey (today's Elmore Abbey) played a pivotal role in the Anglo-Catholicism of the 20th century. One of its own, Dom Gregory Dix, was also one of the most well-known Anglican writers of the 20th century.

Sadly, Elmore Abbey is today struggling to keep its doors open.

Anonymous said...

Without retreating one millimeter in our debate over Justification, I would have to agree with Fr Kirby's observation above on this thread. I have read most of the CCC carefully and found very little to disagree with. Most of it is truly excellent, and (as I have said before) I wish there were a comparable document that orthodox Anglicans could look to.

The CCC strikes a contrast with the Decrees of the Council of Trent and likewise with the Baltimore Catechism. That's nice, I suppose, but this brings up an entirely new problem: what are we to make of a religion which seems to reinvent itself periodically? It might be unfair to compare RCism with Mormonism (which has endless revelations of new truths all over the place) but an analogy does occur. SLC abolished polygamy; Rome has abolished quite a few things also. It is hard to see infallibility in a Church whose official theology is a nose of wax.
Laurence K. Wells

poetreader said...

Substantial doesn't necessarily have anything to do with numerous. The role of Nashdom Abbey, of Mirfield, of the Cowley Fathers, of the various Sisterhoods, and others in the late 19th and early 20th centuries has had a large effect upon the whole of Anglicanism, with influence reaching even into the Roman Church.

Also, though monasticism in its developed medieval form did not reemerge before the 19th century, there have been a number of semi-monastic experiments in Anglicanism before that time, many of which have had considerable influence on the wider church, I think especially of Nicholas Ferrer and the Little Gidding community.

ed

William Tighe said...

And, sadly, Elmore, like its one-time American offshoot, Three Rivers, has bought into both WO and SS, in the latter case since the 1970s and in the former since the late 1980s.

If you go to the website of St. John's TE"C" in Lodi, CA -- one of the churches in the Diocese of San Joaquin that is leading the fight to "remain Episcopal" -- you will see that its Rector is a former Abbot of Nashdom/Elmore. When you read the man's biography there -- well, 'nuff said.

Here is the link to the website:

http://www.stjohnsoflodi.org/

Sean said...

Father Hart (and others),
Thanks for the responses! To clarify: I thought the patristic period, with some possible exceptions, was seen to have ended around the sixth century? At any rate, you say that the first millennium reveals to us an ideal or orthodox relationship between the papacy and the English Church. Any exceptions? It seems well documented that the claims for papal primacy, beyond the usual Orthodox definitions of same, extend far back into the first millennium. So I would expect to find examples of the expression of papal authority and control that you would object to, but your response suggests that would not be the case. Is that right?

Regarding the monasteries, my use of the word substantial was probably sloppy, but I was trying to invoke the role played by monasteries in the life of the church in the Patristics era and beyond and I was curious to know if they existed at all after the reformation and if they did how they fit in to English religious life and political culture. I suppose I'm also curious to know if, in the early years after the older ones were suppressed, the atmosphere was somehow too toxic? Was there fear of competition even from a reformed church on the part of the government?

Or maybe I should just read the book recommendation and stop peppering you all with my questions?

Cheers,

Sean

Fr. Robert Hart said...

So I would expect to find examples of the expression of papal authority and control that you would object to, but your response suggests that would not be the case. Is that right?

I do not believe you will find such examples anywhere, including England. As a patriarch, who sent a missionary bishop, you will see a lot of advice and even directives as to how to go about that mission, sent from St. Gregory to St. Augustine. But, before the second half of the 11th century, you will not see the papacy attemping to exert control.

About monastic orders, I do not believe that the western church is influenced by them nearly as much as it was in ancient and early Medieval times. The monks created civilization in the European wilderness of post paganism, and sometimes extant paganism, at least as some view history. How do we recover their significance in the modern world?

Nonetheless, the existence of monasticism (monks and nuns) in Anglicanism separates it from all other Protestant churches.

What Bill Tighe says is all too true of the Episcopal Church, and what it has done to corrupt monasticism. But, there are fine Religious among American Anglicans, such as the Benedictine sisters at All Saints Convent in Catonsville Maryland.

John A. Hollister said...

I must agree with the suggestion that much of the attractiveness of the current Roman Church stems from the personal attractiveness of the two most recent Patriarchs of Rome. Nor is that at all unnatural nor unexpected: institutions manifest themselves in this physical world through the individual humans who represent them and who contact that world on their behalves.

Nor am I distressed by the administrative control the Roman Pontiff claims within his own Communion; I just wish he would more vigorously use that theoretical authority and power, such as by cleaning up his Communion's North American seminaries.

Where he and I would part company is over his Communion's official position that this power and authority was (a) left to him by St. Peter as a sort of family heirloom, and (b) applies to any part of the Church other than the present Roman Communion.

In my understanding, Our Lord left this power and authority, not to St. Peter as such but instead to the whole body of Apostles collegially. Further, I see no evidence that this power and authority was passed on to the Bishop of the capital of the Roman Empire in any way it was not also left to every other Bishop of the Church.

So I would maintain that the administrative dominance of the Roman Pope, within the Roman Communion, is simply an historical developement within that communion which may well have good institutional and prudential justifications but which is by no means of divine institution, unless by "divine" one means the general benevolent guidance of the Church by the Holy Spirit.

And that view, of course, completely vitiates any possibility that the head of the Roman Communion, acting on his sole authority, can pronounce real dogma. (By "'real' dogma" is here meant doctrinal formulations that are binding upon the souls and consciences of the faithful.)

Thus what concerns me is not the prospect of some Anglicans placing themselves (again, as between 664 AD and 1570 AD) under Roman oversight; it is the prospect that in doing so they might surrender (for themselves) Anglicanism's traditional views of Roman authority in order to accept certain current and very problematic Roman theories.

John A. Hollister+

Catholicdude15 said...

Anglicans (and all Protestants for that matter) miss the point of the papacy altogether. They seem to see the role of the Bishop of Rome as one which is aimed at strongarming the entire Church, ruling the Faithful from Rome with an iron fist. This is not the case. The Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church is vested with the responsibility of being the "Servus Servorum Dei," the Servant of the Servants of God. He serves the Church of Christ by safeguarding her doctrines and practices, not by serving as a divinely instituted dictator. The only way Christian Unity will ever be restored is if the non-Catholic Christians recognize the primacy of the Bishop of Rome and humbly submit themselves to his universal jurisdiction.

Albion Land said...

Fr Hart,

I'll leave the "dude" to you. Be gentle with him, as I suspect his years are yet few.

Sean said...

An aside, I wonder if any here have read Aidan Nichols essay on Anglican Uniatism (http://www.anglicanuse.org/Anglican_Uniatism.pdf)? Of possible interest to this thread and to the later thread on the post "C of E Prepares to Seal Its Apostacy" is his experience "as the representative of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales to a committee called the Official Shadow Working Party on Women in the Episcopate" in 2001 (go to page 27 of the .pdf).

Sean

John A. Hollister said...

Catholic Dude 15 wrote: "The Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church ... serves the Church of Christ by safeguarding her doctrines and practices, not by serving as a divinely instituted dictator."

That's not the answer you'll get if you ask U.S. Byzantine Catholics about him. After more than 70 years, they still resent the unilateral, dictatorial, and unpastoral imposition on them of the Western Rite's idiosyncratic clerical celibacy -- an act that was in complete violation not only of the Eastern Catholic Church's own canon law but of the undertakings given to each of them when they each placed themselves under Roman oversight.

One group so imposed upon decided not just to resent this coup but to do something about it; today we all those folks "Carpatho-Russian Orthodox" and they are under the more sympathetic oversight of the Patriarch of New Rome rather than the proven unsympathetic oversight of the Patriarch of Old Rome.

And why was this havoc wreaked on all these innocents? Because the Irish and Italian bishops of the North American "Latin" Rite could not be bothered to teach their flocks why Fr. Stanislavsky down the street had a wife and several children....

John A. Hollister+

poetreader said...

Dude,
one of the problems with the rather idealistic view you present of the papacy is that it's not consistently borne out by the history. True, there have been popes who have seemed to embody what you presented, and we of this day have seen more than one of them. For that, God is to be praised. And even those of us who do not recognize the overdone claims for papal authority, are pleased to follow such men as far as we may. However, there have been popes whose life and, yes, teaching, appall me in a very visceral fashion. Such men, should they speak truth, give others just cause to reject even that because of its source. History is no help at all for those who would establish these claims.

ed

Fr. Robert Hart said...

So Ed, you don't agree with Pope Urban II's decree, that those who would fight in the crusades were guaranteed salvation as a reward?