Friday, May 02, 2008

To self-appointed apologists for Rome

We are very happy to read the occasional comment from members of the Roman Catholic Church who feel motivated by charity to straighten us out. We appreciate them even more than we do Baptists and Calvinists who try to do the same thing. And we certainly appreciate them more than Reasserters who don't understand the meaning of "generally necessary for salvation," because they don't even know what I just quoted. But, dear apologists for Rome, please accept our charity when we give advice about how to spare yourselves embarrassment. We strongly suggest that you think deeply before making these particular arguments.

1. Matthew 16:18 proves that the Pope is everything Vatican I says he is.

Don't you think that maybe you need to develop this a bit to keep it from being a leap in logic from point A to point Z?

2. Here is a list of Patristic quotations that prove all the papal claims.

Don't you know that Anglicans and Orthodox have been way ahead of Rome in reading the Fathers for the last few- not years, but- centuries? If not, let us be the first to inform you of this fact.

3. A list of quotations from Maximos the Confessor proves that he believed everything Rome teaches about the papacy.

Don't you think that maybe historical context might be just a wee bit relevant?

4. Henry VIII started the Church of England.

Well, we have already dealt that the death blow. Just read The Henry you say.

5. It was all about divorce.

Same answer as number 4.

6. The Fathers knew that the Catholic Church is the true Church; or, as Cardinal Newman argued, when you go to any city and ask for the Catholic Church everybody knows what you really mean.

Buy a Dictionary and look up the definition of "Nominalism."

7. You Anglicans have problems, but we have a pope, and so we have no problems at all.

The answer to that is rather short: Get real.

8. You have women priests.

No, we do not. The Anglican Continuum is not the Anglican Communion.

9. Apostolicae Curae says...

Please! If the scholars in Rome find that Bull to be embarrassing, so should you. If not, please know that when we read it we are embarrassed for you.

Please understand, we are not saying that Rome cannot make reasonable and logical defense of its position. We are saying, to those who use the above arguments, that you can't, apparently. Of course, Anglican apologists have done a fine job of holding their own over the centuries, so rehashing old worn-out and refuted, or outdated, attacks on us is a waste of time and energy. Traditional Anglicans have answered it all before, and done rather well I might add.


D. Straw said...

Four of the five original Patriarchs went East…And…None of them have ever been lured back by any of these arguments.

Anonymous said...

Well stated, and beyond argument as far as I am concerned. But be it remembered that it was theologically and spiritually necessary to depart from Rome at least three hundred years before 1870 (Papal Infallibility) and 1896 (Apostolicae Curae). The fundamental issue, as Richard Hooker saw things, was not papal claims but Justification by Faith Alone. Even if Rome back-tracked on papal claims and Anglican orders, that profound issue would remain unresolved.

Now as far as the self-apologists for Rome who regularly serenade us with their siren songs, it seems to me their is something out of kilter in your profession. A person who divorces his/her spouse and marries another should not regularly hang out with his/her former spouse. The "Anglican Use" advocates remind me of someone who likes to sleep with his/her new partner, but still craves the old partner's cooking. These self-appointed apologists need to decide which brand of Christianity they are ready to commit to and leave the rest of us alone.
Laurence K. Wells

Fr. Robert Hart said...

...Justification by Faith Alone.

There is a problem here. In modern ears this lends itself to very serious misunderstanding, and must be defined all over again. As it was used in the C of E during those earlier years, and as it is used today, mean two very different things.

Warwickensis said...

"7. Anglicans have problems, but we have a pope, and so we have no problems at all.

The answer to that is rather short: Get real."

I concur Fr. Hart.

What's the point of having a Pope if you don't listen to him?

Anonymous said...

I don't see the conflict between Anglicans and Catholics as a matter of choosing who to get in bed with, so much as like having to choose between two parents.

The Church is supposed to be one. And, if we are all really baptized into Christ, then we are mystically one. So, why should I make a choice? I choose Christ, I choose his church. There may be disagreements over exactly what that means, but at the end of the day there is no question of loyalty - I must be faithful to the whole messy lot of it, somehow.

For me, I agree with the arguements against ordinary universal jurisdiction, and I believe that Anglican orders (barring inovations) are valid - I also think there are serious questions to be raised about Vatican I, or at least that it must be allowed to propose a distinctly Anglican way of receiving this council (some Eastern Catholics have suggested that their churches must receive the councils in accordance with their own theological tradition).

However, I do think that there is enough within the Fathers, and the tradition of the first millenium to warrent attempting, if at all possible, for Anglicans to put some of this behind us, and to find a way of seeking unity with the Holy See on the same basis as the many Eastern rite communities (some of which have come into communion with Rome comparatively recently). Since Vatican II, they have moved forwards in re-asserting their Eastern nature (including theological distinctives). There are complementary, yet different, understandings of the Trinity, and the liturgy, a different approach to many matters of spirituality, and even some theologians who are committed to a distinctly Eastern understanding of the Papal office and the unity of the church. Their commitment is simultaneously to a unified church, under the primacy of the Pope, and to faithfulness to the Eastern tradition in all of its fulness. Many will assert that they are in communion with the See of Rome subject to the understanding of the first millenium church, and they undertake ecumenical discussions with the Orthodox on that basis.

This, in my humble opinion, is a way that Anglicans can seek church unity with integrity and faithfulness; it is, at least, worth serious inquiry.

(Miracles still happen: today I was in Taybeh, in the West Bank. The group I'm touring with spoke with the Latin priest there, and he told us that the village's Catholic and Orthodox communities have agreed to common feast days - the New calendar date for Christmas, and the Orthodox calculation for Easter.)

Michael Trolly

Albion Land said...

Fr Hart,

I think a separate post here on justification would be in order, as it is a subject that is widely misunderstood -- particularly in the context of the ultra-Protestant concept of "once saved, always saved" and its competition with parodies on works.

Albion Land said...


I hope that while you were in Taybeh you were able to sample its most famous product.

Anonymous said...

"In modern ears this [Justification by faith alone] lends itself to very serious misunderstanding, and must be defined all over again. "

True enough. "Modern ears" for the most part are theologically illiterate and prone to hear things inaccurately. For example, this slogan might be taken to mean salvation by making a decision fo Christ. Or it might mean Justification by theological correctness. Or it might mean the Antinomian heresy. Correctly understood, Justification by faith alone means none of these.

And yes, a thread on the doctrine of salvation (of which justification is only one out of several dimensions) would be welcome and helpful.
Laurence K. Wells

Anonymous said...

Hey Fr. Hart,
What is the Anglican teaching on Infallibility? Is it Sola Scriptura? Or, is there some type of Anglican Magisterium that define doctrine infallibly?

Thanks and God Bless,

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The concept of Sola Scriptura is impossible to discuss briefly, because it is yet another thing that means something very different from it meant when it was used by Reformers, and, frankly, by St. Thomas Aquinas who coined the phrase (there were no new doctrines at the Reformation, just different takes on old debates).

The Church is Infallible, and the teaching of the Church cannot be divorced from scripture. The unity of the Church was greatly disturbed by the Patriarch of Rome in 1054, making further Ecumenical (Oecumenical) Councils impossible. But, all necessary dogma was clearly established in the First Millennium by a Church that remained basically united.

Anglican 1,2,3,4,5 is the answer. One Canon in two Testaments, three Creeds, four formulative Councils in five centuries (plus three more to defend what was formulated in the four, making the seven). Lancelot Andrewes really laid that out well.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...


Anglican Catholics, even from the time of the Reformation, have taught that the Church's authority in teaching still continues, and that it is mainly focussed in the teaching of the episcopate as a whole. They also have accepted that Christians should accept the authority of later Councils if they were to be held genuinely free and ecumenical. So, while I agree with what Fr Hart has said, I think this extra information is important lest it seem the Anglican concept of authority is purely historical, rather than a contemporary reality. We believe in the binding nature of the normal consensual teaching of the Church, which RCs call the Ordinary Magisterium. We just recognise a larger group as within that Magisterium, that is , we include the voice of Eastern Orthodox and of our own bishops, for example.

Anonymous said...

Oh, yes, Albion. We picked up a case. :-) Very good stuff; I hope they begin importing it to North America soon. - Michael