I am by no means a fan of the Desert's Child blog; in fact I think the woman who runs it, Katie Sherrod, usually has nothing worthwhile to say. Nonetheless, she has recently reported that Bishop Jack Leo Iker of Ft. Worth has approached the Roman Catholic Church, seeking to move his diocese from TEC into an arrangement that would be part of Anglican Use with the Pastoral Provisions. (Update: It is not Bp.Iker who has done this; but some of his clergy.) Up until now it seemed that they wanted to seek refuge in the Province of the Southern Cone. Well, I can't blame them for findng it distasteful to be joined at the hip to a Canadian "Southern Coner" bishop who still "ordains"women. But, I must question what they are saying now, not to dissuade them, but rather to help Continuing Anglicans stay on a right path. Included in the Diocese of FW communications is a "Preamble" with what they call "Eight Useful Findings." I shall quote portions below, and add commentary (the reason this lengthy bit is not quoted in its entirety is because of redundancy).
I. We believe the See of Peter is essential not optional
Unity with the Holy See is esse that is, essential for Catholic Christians (not bene esse, merely beneficial.) This is a concept which the Catholic Clergy in the Anglican Tradition have always believed (indeed it is one of the stated purposes of the SSC) but the rapid deterioration of the Anglican Communion makes it even more apparent now. The Prayer for Unity (John 17, that they all may be one) also compels us to pursue the possibility of reunion with Rome.
This "finding" is simply an acceptance of what Rome teaches about itself, namley a controverted doctrine that developed over centuries. True, that eventual reunion would be a necessary part of Church unity; but without theological honesty and, when necessary debate, such a version of unity cannot help but involve compromise of truth and conscience. Has any "Uniat"- if I may use the vulgar phrase- ever produced unity? Does the joining of a larger communion produce unity, or simply a change of venue?
The very name of the first Pope, Peter, Petrus is the "rock" - and we have seen that it is the Petrine office which is important not the personality of an individual pontiff.
Again, this is simply acceptance of Rome's doctrine, not a theological "finding."
In April 2006 our Diocesan Bishop and several of the clergy made a pilgrimage to Rome. At that time we were blessed to have an informal visit with his Eminence, Bernard Cardinal Law. At that meeting, Cardinal Law indicated that the Catholic Church was aware of the current difficulties faced by Anglo Catholics (and particularly the Anglo Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth) at this time and said, in essence, for us to "make an offer" that is, make a Proposal on how we might respond to the crisis in our branch of Christendom. After this pilgrimage, we began meeting with the full knowledge and support of our Bishop.
Cardinal Law was the man who covered up the sexual abuse scandals of Roman Catholic clergy. He is no better than the Liberal Episcopalians, a man who should not have been allowed to remain in his position. Why would joining his denomination be attractive, when his very presence in that office is morally indefensible?
We came to realize that, like the Prodigal Son in the Gospel, it is up to us to make the initiative to return to the rock from whence we were hewn. In essence, that trip crystallized for us the need for perusing unity with the See of Peter now. Since that time we have studied, we have met, we have prayed, and now we come to the Church with our conclusions.
As an Anglican I am offended by any idea that Anglican separation from Rome requires "repentance" as if that separation were a sin. The church of the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, Bloody Mary and such heresies as the abuse of indulgences (a false gospel-Galatians 1:8) was not the father in that parable. In fact, that father represented God, not the pope. Rome drove our fathers out by its own false gospels, making it necessary to reform the Church of many corruptions.
As Anglicans we realize that Henry VIII, the monarch who wrote "Defense of Seven Sacraments" and who was granted the title "Defender of the Faith", never intended to make any substantive or permanent changes in the Catholic faith. Indeed, the Reformation itself was intended to be for a limited time only, "a season", as the book of Ecclesiastes would say.
We believe that it is now time for a new Season. It is perhaps, time for a church of Reformation to die and a new unification among Christ's people be born: Unification possible only under the Holy Father.
The problem faced by Fort Worth is not Anglicanism, but rather the very un-Anglican, post-Christian TEC. That "church" died long ago; but it is not time for Anglicanism to die.
II. We believe a magisterium is needed desperately
"In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes." (Judges 21:25) This describes the day to day 'on the ground" reality in the Anglican Communion. Anglican "comprehensiveness" has no boundaries and no real center. For example, during the Reformation period under Elizabeth I, 1533-1603, there was an attempt to synthesize the Catholic and Protestant factions in the Church of England, resulting in the so-called "Elizabethan Settlement". Concerning the Eucharist, it was held that belief in the Real Presence of Christ was acceptable as well as the belief that the Eucharist was only a memorial or "remembrance" of something long ago. In essence the Anglican faith is what the parish priest says it is, and this varies widely with many contradictions. The Pentecostal/Evangelical/Charismatic expressions are just as valid as the Anglo-Catholic teaching. In most parts of the country, the parish priest is completely on his own.
First of all, that is simply bad history of doctrine, drawing hasty and inaccurate conclusions. They confuse Anglicanism with the modern state of TEC, and I pity all who have been blinded by that very problem. Every apostasy must first be apostasy from a specific communion; they confuse apostasy from Anglicanism with Anglicanism itself.
Formerly, a single prayer book (the 1662 Church of England Prayer Book was the pattern for all national prayer books) provided some glue, but with the proliferation of endless trial liturgies even that has disappeared.
This merely proves my point about apostasy. So, which is the problem; the Book of Common Prayer and that whole tradition, or the abandonment of it? If the latter, why blame that tradition?
The lack of a teaching office has resulted in communicating un-baptized persons, same-sex unions and liturgical chaos everywhere. There are no boundaries and it is all uncontrollable. This is not theory but day to day reality. Anglican "comprehensiveness" has no boundaries. Previously this absence of a center seemed to work when the various ecclesiastical parties (Low Church/Broad Church/High Church) largely worked within their own circles. Low Church people did not attend High Church parishes and vice versa.
Well, that last part is not true. Formerly, as in several decades ago, most of the division was between people of different tastes and style. But, most of this simply proves again my point about apostasy.
In looking at the disarray in the larger communion it is apparent that the Archbishop of Canterbury is incapable of providing decisive leadership. If there is a future, particularly for Catholic minded Anglicans, it is clear that a magisterium is absolutely essential.
Nonsense! "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." (Luke 16: 31) How much less a magisterium. Besides, do modern western Roman Catholics really heed their magisterium? Time for a reality check.
III. We believe the Catholic Faith is True
The Catholic Faith is given - it is true.
The Epistle to the Ephesians reminds us that as Christians we believe in "One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism". At the celebration of every Mass and in the recitation of any Daily Office we profess in the Creed "One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church". We have come to realize, to an extent even more fully than we had as Catholics in the Anglican Tradition, that our Blessed Lord has indeed founded only one true church: the Catholic Church.
I suppose that from within TEC Anglicanism looks hopeless. They can't see it from within the Anglicanism we know and practice, and that is too bad. But, to conclude that "the Catholic Church" means the Roman Catholic Church requires a leap in logic.
Unlike so many forms of Protestantism, Catholic teaching does not change on a whim to suit the transient issues of the day. In addition, the Catholic Faith is not just one option among many. Anglican comprehensiveness with Catholics, Evangelicals and Liberals, all following their own paths, leads to the disintegration and disunion which we in the Diocese of Fort Worth find ourselves. The Protestant/Low Church teachings, the Liberals experiential teachings are just not true. The Catholic faith, the Catholic practice, the Catholic teaching - is true.
Well, that's why we have the Affirmation of St. Louis. But, what they call "Anglican Comprehensiveness" is simply the desertion of Anglicanism as they already described it. Nonetheless, that is not the true meaning, but only how TEC and other apostate bodies have distorted it.
We know, and are living examples of the fact, that Catholic Witness has been present throughout the history of the Anglican Tradition. But it is now becoming weaker because of this idea, Catholic as one option among several. . . except here in Fort Worth, which is in so many ways unique (explored further in section VI).
And we are examples of that Catholic Witness, because we are the ones who maintain the Anglican Tradition.
IV. We believe the Anglican Communion shares the fatal flaws of The Episcopal Church
In our time of discernment, we have concluded that the difficulties we have faced in The Episcopal Church for the past thirty years will not be remedied by the Anglican Communion.
We believe that too. So, join us.
We know what happens in a church which lacks a magisterium and whose polity makes the continuing of a Catholic witness impossible. We have concluded the Anglican Communion provides not safe future for us. Our witness, rather than being honored, has been persecuted.
Again, "if they hear not Moses..." With Scripture, Right Reason and Tradition, there is no need of a magisterium. Without them, a magisterium is of no use. In the 16th century, at a time when our Fathers knew that "the Church of Rome hath also erred," the authority of the magisterium was an obstruction to the truth of the Gospel.
V. We believe our polity is in error
In the New Testament no congregation votes on its pastor! St. Paul would have been unelectable in all, except maybe Philippi! Without exception pastors are sent by higher authority.
This is an example of historical ignorance. In many places the ancient Church elected their bishops. That was not some new Protestant innovation.
In the United States, the democratic style of polity in The Episcopal Church, strongly resembling the legislative branch of the U.S. government (House of Bishops and House of Deputies, lay and ordained) has created doctrinal chaos. Samuel Seabury (1729-1796) the first American Episcopal bishop was fearful of having clergy and lay people voting on doctrinal matters. His fears were realized when an early General Convention put the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds up for grabs. The Nicene Creed was voted out, then back in; and then the Athanasian Creed lost the vote.
Anglican polity (read Hooker) does not allow the people to vote on doctrine. Bishop Seabury was able to quench the destructive fire, because he used his episcopal authority and taught. However, the idea of voting on doctrine has become the norm in the modern TEC; this is not a weakness of Anglican polity, but another manifestation of it having been abandoned.
In regard to the ordination of women, the 1976 General Convention changed the matter of a sacrament, established by Christ himself, simply by voting. Bishop Robert Terwilliger, formerly Suffragan of the Diocese of Dallas called it "voting our collective ignorance"!
No argument there.
We are in desperate need of a polity modeled on the New Testament and the early church.
So, why turn to Rome? Layers of Italian-style bureaucracy are not modeled on the New Testament and the early Church. Neither is the final rule of one man.
VI. We believe we are not the only ones
It has now become impossible for the Catholic minded people to exist and survive in the Episcopal Church. As a result of this, the Diocese of Fort Worth is working toward a realignment of itself into another Province of the Anglican Communion. We have chosen to join the Province of the Southern Cone in South America. We believe this arrangement is temporary. As the Anglican Communion attempts to reform itself, it is becoming more and more evident that this problematic at best.
I believe that Rome is a better option than the Episcopal Church, and, since Archbishop Venables allows Bishop Harvey to "ordain" women, a better option that the Southern Cone. But, Continuing Anglicanism is better at the present time than all of them.
VII. We believe Pope Benedict XVI understands our plight
Through his writings and his actions we believe that Pope Benedict XVI is sympathetic to our plight.
It is our belief that Pope Benedict XVI desires to uphold the Catholic faith whenever and wherever he finds it; especially in a world dominated by the super-dogma of relativism. It is this new dogma, this new denomination which motivates those who seek to remove the Catholic witness from The Episcopal Church.
On this, I have to agree. But, Pope Benedict XVI is not the whole RCC.
In October, 2003, members of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and other Episcopalians throughout the United States met in Plano, Texas for a conference titled, "A Place to Stand: A Call to Mission". That conference was called to unite further those who opposed the ordination of a partnered homosexual as a Bishop in The Episcopal Church. The highpoint of that conference was a letter from then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. It reads as follows:
From Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
The Vatican, on behalf of Pope John Paul II
I hasten to assure you of my heartfelt prayers for all those taking part in this convocation. The significance of your meeting is sensed far beyond Plano, and even in this City from which Saint Augustine of Canterbury was sent to confirm and strengthen the preaching of Christ's Gospel in England. Nor can I fail to recall that barely 120 years later, Saint Boniface brought that same Christian faith to my own forebears in Germany.
The lives of these saints show us how in the Church of Christ there is an unity in truth and a communion of grace which transcends the borders of any nation. With this is mind, I pray in particular that God's will may be done by all those who seek that unity in the truth, the gift of Christ himself.
With fraternal regards, I remain
Sincerely yours in Christ
+Joseph Cardinal Ratszinger
Notice that phrase, "unity in the truth." Therein lies the rub.
VIII. We believe there is a charism which the Anglican ethos has to offer to the Universal Church
The Catholic Faith, as it has been lived in the Anglican Tradition, is a thing of great beauty. Why are we making a plea for it to continue? It is because the Catholic faith and practice, as lived out in the Anglican Tradition, is a unique charism well worth preserving...
Twentieth century Anglo Catholic authors like C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot and earlier Anglican theologians such as William Law ("Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life") and George Herbert ("The Country Parson") have enriched and enlightened countless souls. The religious life, the devotional societies, the guilds, the priestly fraternities (like the Catholic Clerical Union and the SSC) all speak to an expression of Catholic piety which continues to be attractive to people in the twenty-first century and are worthy of preserving for future generations. To take but one (local) example: the large number of young men offering themselves for ordination in this Diocese speaks to this expression's ability to nurture vocations. Also the Catholic Liturgy in the Anglican Tradition is a thing of great elegance, holiness, of long antiquity and solemn reverence.
What is it that we can offer to the greater Church? We believe we can offer a Catholic expression which for too long has been separated from the Universal Church. This is a tradition of inspiring liturgy, devout spirituality, loving pastoral care and a living spirituality. We believe it has a special and unique witness to the Faith, which we humbly offer as a beautiful jewel in the Catholic crown.
I cannot help but notice that they value the Anglican ethos, but not the doctrines that have been drawn from an honest approach to Scripture, using Right Reason under the guidance of Tradition. The Anglican mind is either a restoration of the Biblical and Patristic mind, or it has been error all along. I say, that to abandon the genuine classic Anglican mind will not produce "unity in the truth."
If they must go to Rome, then let them go with our blessing. But, how sad that they cannot distinguish between modern TEC and the tradition we preserve.