“'Tis not many oaths - That makes the truth, But the plain single vow - That is vowed true.”
Lately, I have been pondering my ordination vows which I took in accordance with the Ordinal of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. It’s been but a few short years since my diaconal Ordination in June 2001, the day before the 423rd anniversary of the first use of any office of the Book of Common Prayer on soil that is now part of the fifty states of the United States. Shorter still since being Ordered an Anglican priest one year later on the Feast of St. Columba, in June 2002. It is hard, now, to remember a time when my daily attire was not basic black, or an Army uniform of one sort or another marked with the Cross of Christ.
Given that that these events took place in the warmth of June, rather than the cold of a December weekday in Advent, my thoughts of familiar people, the Mass, the hands imposed, and the vows undertaken took me a bit by surprise. But it was the last bit, the vows taken, that drove my reverie and ultimately this essay. For someone had sent me an article amidst the ordinary e-chaff that touched on vows. It was written by a Roman Catholic priest by the name of Fr. Paul Sullins who works just across the street from where I am doing post-graduate work. It is interesting in that, in the wake of the Apostolic Constitution, the “re-ordination” question has been a frequent topic of discussion amongst my Roman-Catholic colleagues at the Pontifical Faculty where I have been studying for a number of years.
A Weak Affirmation
A former Episcopalian, Fr. Sullins entered the Roman Catholic Church under the Pastoral Provision and teaches at The Catholic University of America. Recently, he penned his reflections on the rationale for absolute ordination of Anglican clergy entering into the full communion of the Catholic Church. In these reflections so thoughtfully sent to me by someone who I know meant well, Fr. Sullins purports to address the concerns of Anglican priests coming into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. Apparently, some of these priests take pause or even offense at the prospect of being unconditionally ordained to Roman Catholic orders. According to Fr. Sullins, “[t]his action is perceived to imply a negative evaluation of Anglican ministry or orders, as if they were worthless or perhaps only a pretense.”
I will not repeat Fr. Sullins’s short article, other than to note that the gist of his argument is that one should not conflate or confuse Roman Catholic ordination with Episcopalian ordination. “Surely”, notes the good father, “someone who recognizes the deficiencies of Anglicanism enough to be led to come into full communion with the Roman Church cannot expect that Church to recognize Anglican orders as a rule.” Apart from some casual presumption in that statement, Fr. Sullins goes on to the big difficulty. Even if, as an Anglican, one is “blessed to be ordained by a Catholic bishop in apostolic succession, who spoke the Catholic words with Catholic intent”, how could the Roman Catholic Church ever “decide, in each instance, which Anglican ordinations may be valid (or, technically, licit) and which not?”
How, indeed? Well, the author does admit that Bishop Graham Leonard was conditionally ordained when he became a Roman Catholic priest in the mid-1990s because of the presence of the “Dutch touch” in the form of an Old Catholic bishop at his original ordination. But this did not continue, when the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome decided that the best course was to ordain all future Anglicans absolutely, so as to resolve any and all possible doubt about the validity of their Roman Catholic orders.
Why was this decision made? Well, in Fr. Sullins’ view, “the overriding concern was consideration for the confidence of the laity in the validity of the central sacrament of the priesthood-the Eucharist-as they would receive it from the hands of the former Anglican priest.” Let see, without regard to whether one might be repeating a valid sacrament, we repeat that sacrament because of potential concerns on the part of lay people who may not even know the priest’s provenance unless he (a) tells them or (b) tips up with his wife. That’s surely a valid reason for sacrilege. Oh, and never mind the Encyclical Apostolica Curiae of Leo XIII declaring Anglican Orders “absolutely null and utterly void.” That’s “strong affirmation” by the Roman Catholic Church of the prior ministry of its former Anglican priests.
Then there is the prayer for a former Anglican now-Roman Catholic ordinand which allows that that “not a few of the sacred actions of the Christian religion as carried out in communities separated from [the Roman Catholic Church] can truly engender a life of grace and can rightly be described as providing access to the community of salvation.” There’s a relief to the former Anglican clergyman who might be fretting over his sacraments—not a few of them may have had an effect.
The Words We Said
So it is that I began to ponder again what may have happened at my diaconal and priestly ordinations-as well as those of Anglican bishops-apart from some dandy liturgy, great music and a nice reception after. Just what was going on? What transpired and what did I pledge my own life to? And, why are so many in Anglican Orders ready to pitch those Orders over the side in the hope that they will be ordained in a new Roman Catholic structure. (We’ll put aside the question of education, formation and those oh so pesky marriage questions on which true believers believe that they are going to be given a pass.)
In the first place, there was the question of Apostolic Succession. After all, it
is evident unto all men, diligently reading Holy Scripture and ancient Authors, that from the Apostles’ time there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ’s Church,-Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. Which Offices were evermore had in such reverend estimation, that no man might presume to execute any of them, except he were first called, tried, examined, and known to have such qualities as are requisite for the same; and also by public Prayer, with Imposition of Hands, were approved and admitted thereunto by lawful Authority. And therefore, to the intent that these Orders may be continued, and reverently used and esteemed in this Church, no man shall be accounted or taken to be a lawful Bishop, Priest, or Deacon, in this Church, or suffered to execute any of the said Functions, except he be called, tried, examined, and admitted thereunto, according to the Form hereafter following, or hath had Episcopal Consecration or Ordination.
Preface to the Ordinal, 1928 Book of Common Prayer (emphasis added).
So, what we are talking about is continuing Succession through a lawful bishop who, after Imposition of Hands, ordains a man who has been called, tried, examined, and admitted to those orders. Not to be flip, but, it just doesn’t take two Roman Catholic seminary degrees with two years of courses in the 1983 Code of Canon Law (including that bit governing orders), nearly fifteen years of ecclesiastical and religious law practice and qualification as an expert trial witness in church law to say that this looks mighty similar to the requisites of Book IV, Part I, Title VI of the Code. Of course the official version is in Latin, but the English text should be sufficient. But, I digress.
At the heart of the Ordering of an Anglican Deacon lies the following exchange between the candidate and the Bishop. I have italicized a few pertinent points.
DO you trust that you are inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon you this Office and Ministration, to serve God for the promoting of his glory, and the edifying of his people?
Answer. I trust so.
Bishop. Do you think that you are truly called, according to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, and according to the Canons of this Church, to the Ministry of the same?
Answer. I think so.
Bishop. Are you persuaded that the Holy Scriptures contain all Doctrine required as necessary for eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ?
Answer. I am so persuaded.
Bishop. Will you diligently read the same unto the people assembled in the Church where you shall be appointed to serve?
Answer. I will.
Bishop. It appertaineth to the Office of a Deacon, in the Church where he shall be appointed to serve, to assist the Priest in Divine Service, and specially when he ministereth the Holy Communion, and to help him in the distribution thereof; and to read Holy Scriptures and Homilies in the Church; and to instruct the youth in the Catechism; in the absence of the Priest to baptize infants; and to preach, if he be admitted thereto by the Bishop. And furthermore, it is his Office, where provision is so made, to search for the sick, poor, and impotent people of the Parish, that they may be relieved with the alms of the Parishioners, or others. Will you do this gladly and willingly?
Answer. I will so do, by the help of God.
Bishop. Will you apply all your diligence to frame and fashion your own lives, and the lives of your families, according to the Doctrine of Christ; and to make both yourselves and them, as much as in you lieth, wholesome examples of the flock of Christ?
Answer. I will so do, the Lord being my helper.
Bishop. Will you reverently obey your Bishop, and other chief Ministers, who, according to the Canons of the Church, may have the charge and government over you; following with a glad mind and will their godly admonitions?
Answer. I will endeavour so to do, the Lord being my helper.
So it is that an Anglican deacon trusts that he is inwardly moved by the Holy Spirit to execute that Order in the Church for the service of God and the edification of his people. This includes Baptism and assisting with the administration of Holy Communion. The Deacon does so by the help of God and trusting in the Holy Ghost that he is moved to do so. What’s wrong, then, in a little absolute ordination?
When Do You Stop Trusting the Holy Ghost?
When does a man stop trusting the Holy Ghost that he once declared that he was inwardly moved to do? Did he have his fingers crossed when he took the oath? Or, did he simply stop trusting that same Holy Spirit having had hands laid on him and having been given Authority to execute the Office of a Deacon in the Church committed to him In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost? Did the oath-taker rejecting his original ordination vow in the Holy Catholic Church simply not mean what he said ab initio (i.e. when he made his original profession). Or, did he come to believe later that he really was not inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to have taken the vow in the first place, perhaps because he has come to believe that the Sacrament was invalid or on some other basis.
This is precisely the issue raised by Bishop Charles Grafton in discussing the sacrilege of re-ordination. The bottom line involves several possibilities. First, one was simply lying during the oath and never believed that he was being conferred anything at all. That is pretty startling since the oath involves a profession of trust in the Holy Spirit that what is going on is, in fact, going on. Worse, one did trust the Holy Spirit, but has decided no longer to do so for purposes of getting in the “big Church”. Finally, the possibility is that the person so ordained comes to believe that the “failed experiment” of Anglicanism never conferred a valid order, and that it all was a mistake.
In this latter case, to borrow from the Declaration Dominus Iesus, if you now believe that “this Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in [subsistit in] the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him”, you are obliged to join her right now. Therefore, one should immediately take off the collar, make penance and stop gulling people into thinking that you are a deacon or any other sort of catholic clergy.
In the former case, one is at best a liar or a tragic outright denier of the Holy Ghost, as Bp. Grafton pointed out. You are in the state of exceptionally grave sin, and should make immediate penance lest sudden death overtake you before repenting of an offense against the Holy Ghost. Again, though, you must take off the collar as you have denied your vow.
The Words We Said Next
But let’s turn to what we profess when we are Ordered priests. The charge is more extensive as the range of Sacraments are involved and the oath makes that clear. As well, there are the additional responsibilities and authority conferred.
DO you think in your heart, that you are truly called, according to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, and according to the Canons of this Church, to the Order and Ministry of Priesthood?
Answer. I think it.
Bishop. Are you persuaded that the Holy Scriptures contain all Doctrine required as necessary for eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ? And are you determined, out of the said Scriptures to instruct the people committed to your charge; and to teach nothing, as necessary to eternal salvation, but that which you shall be persuaded may be concluded and proved by the Scripture?
Answer. I am so persuaded, and have so determined, by God’s grace.
Bishop. Will you then give your faithful diligence always so to minister the Doctrine and Sacraments, and the Discipline of Christ, as the Lord hath commanded, and as this Church hath received the same, according to the Commandments of God; so that you may teach the people committed to your Cure and Charge with all diligence to keep and observe the same?
Answer. I will so do, by the help of the Lord.
Bishop. Will you be ready, with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away from the Church all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God's Word; and to use both public and private monitions and exhortations, as well to the sick as to the whole, within your Cures, as need shall require, and occasion shall be given?
Answer. I will, the Lord being my helper.
Bishop. Will you be diligent in Prayers, and in reading the Holy Scriptures, and in such studies as help to the knowledge of the same, laying aside the study of the world and the flesh?
Answer. I will endeavour so to do, the Lord being my helper.
Bishop. Will you be diligent to frame and fashion your own selves, and your families, according to the Doctrine of Christ; and to make both yourselves and them, as much as in you lieth, wholesome examples and patterns to the flock of Christ?
Answer. I will apply myself thereto, the Lord being my helper.
Bishop. Will you maintain and set forwards, as much as lieth in you, quietness, peace, and love, among all Christian people, and especially among them that are or shall be committed to your charge?
Answer. I will so do, the Lord being my helper.
Bishop. Will you reverently obey your Bishop, and other chief Ministers, who, according to the Canons of the Church, may have the charge and government over you; following with a glad mind and will their godly admonitions, and submitting yourselves to their godly judgments?
Answer. I will so do, the Lord being my helper.
What Were You Thinking?
The issue remains essentially the same but all that messy doctrine gets involved. If we just agree that the priest has agreed to teach nothing, as necessary to eternal salvation, but that which you shall be persuaded may be concluded and proved by the Scripture, then there is a major oath problem. What did one think or believe at the time of his priesting? Without rehearsing the range of pious beliefs (and I hold fast to most of them), can we say that belief in the Immaculate Conception or the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a soteriological requirement? Even St. Thomas Aquinas had some pretty grave arguments against that first bit, although he believed she was personally sinless. Salvific? I couldn’t say it at the time of my ordination, I can't prove it now, and I can’t demand it of my parishioners.
But what of the oath to “faithful diligence always so to minister the Doctrine and Sacraments, and the Discipline of Christ, as the Lord hath commanded, and as this Church hath received the same, according to the Commandments of God?” To be absolutely ordained is to say that that you haven’t been administering Sacraments or Doctrine. Period. No matter what the spin that a “something” may or may not have happened that was “nice” is a denial of validity. Again, you either were lying at the time of the oath or, having discovered the “fullness of truth” you now live a lie.
The blunt answer is that you aren’t administering real Sacraments, take off the collar and the vestments. Take them off right now. Rome doesn't believe you are administering real Sacraments. And what of the people you claim to serve? Well, Anglican folks who have just as much of a right to be sure of the Sacraments of their priests as do Roman Catholic laity. If you don’t believe them real, have the guts and honesty of Fr. Christopher Phillips, now a successful Anglican Use/Pastoral Provision priest, who took off his Anglican collar when he reached that point. Otherwise, you are committing a spiritual fraud, and there are no two ways about it if you accept Rome’s position. And, it bears reiteration that even under the Apostolic Constitution you must accept all of her doctrine and dogma to get in the club no matter what “secret deal” some purport to exist.
The Words a Few of Us Said
Finally, I took a look at the oath of a traditional Anglican bishop. I’ve only been to two Anglican episcopal consecrations, so I wanted to check on an aging memory. This should give senior clergy on the Trans-Tiberian Railway even more pause.
ARE you persuaded that you are truly called to this Ministration, according to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the order of this Church?
Answer. I am so persuaded.
Bishop. Are you persuaded that the Holy Scriptures contain all Doctrine required as necessary for eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ? And are you determined out of the same Holy Scriptures to instruct the people committed to your charge; and to teach or maintain nothing, as necessary to eternal salvation, but that which you shall be persuaded may be concluded and proved by the same?
Answer. I am so persuaded, and determined, by God's grace.
Bishop. Will you then faithfully exercise yourself in the Holy Scriptures, and call upon God by prayer for the true understanding of the same; so that you may be able by them to teach and exhort with wholesome Doctrine, and to withstand and convince the gainsayers?
Answer. I will so do, by the help of God.
Bishop. Are you ready, with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away from the Church all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to God's Word; and both privately and openly to call upon and encourage others to the same?
Answer. I am ready, the Lord being my helper.
Bishop. Will you deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; that you may show yourself in all things an example of good works unto others, that the adversary may be ashamed, having nothing to say against you?
Answer. I will so do, the Lord being my helper.
Bishop. Will you maintain and set forward, as much as shall lie in you, quietness, love, and peace among all men; and diligently exercise such discipline as by the authority of God's Word, and by the order of this Church, is committed to you?
Answer. I will so do, by the help of God.
Bishop. Will you be faithful in Ordaining, sending, or laying hands upon others?
Answer. I will so be, by the help of God.
Bishop. Will you show yourself gentle, and be merciful for Christ’s sake to poor and needy people, and to all strangers destitute of help?
Answer. I will so show myself, by God’s help.
Send Back the Miter (Or Is It Mitre?)
There you have it-a trinity of promises by the time one is selected to be bishop that he is persuaded that it is the action of the Holy Ghost and the will of Jesus Christ that he is to be a bishop. That’s supposed to be certitude. How does one fall away from that affirmation, that bit of faith? This isn't "oops". It obviously is ever so much more than an “oops”. It is a denial of the ontological change that comes with the Sacrament of Orders. It is a denial of the will of Christ. One cannot deny it, unless, one comes to the belief that the Sacrament is invalid and that he is not a real bishop (or priest, or deacon).
In that case, the Holy Spirit and the will of Christ must have been off on Consecration day, and you need to stop playing about. Send the miter back to the purveyor of ecclesiastical garments from whence it came and be a good and faithful Christian layman. This is precisely what several former Episcopal Church bishops have done (albeit after their retirement checks began their regular appearance). To do otherwise is to mock the people who trust that the ring and the staff and the rest of the get up mean that you are a real bishop.
These words may seem harsh, particularly to the recent “Roman enthusiast”. Ornate words, personal attack, or outright willful denial cannot alter the fact that the Roman Catholic Church holds Anglican Orders invalid, absent some “super, secret, special deal” in which poor old Pope Leo XIII is tossed overboard. If you embrace the Roman Catholic Church, then you must stop functioning as clergy, right now. To do otherwise is to be going over with your doctrinal fingers crossed. To swear an oath without genuinely meaning merely to be a Roman Catholic priest is the most cynical and damning kind of untruth.
Oaths and Vows
We live in a time in which oaths and vows seem to have ever less meaning. In the day, our political leaders pledged to each other their lives, their Fortunes, and their sacred Honor. (The capitalizations weren’t typographical errors.) Now, oaths of office seem as malleable as human desire would make them. We need not even start with vows of Holy Matrimony so lovingly pledged-even “traditional” Anglicans have run roughshod over them. It appears that these oaths and vows no matter how vital or sacred to the good order of society are variously without real substance, taken by those with crossed fingers or supplanted with newer oaths and vows as perceived truth moves one. So be it.
As for me, I know that the Ordination vows I took had real content, and I am certain that the Holy Spirit was helping me along to take them. I think I would have played the coward otherwise, as I couldn’t have imagined such an enormous thing absent God’s strength.
However, I do not, and never have, harbored the illusion that my Anglican ordination made me a Roman Catholic priest. It did, though, make me a catholic priest standing in a long line of the same. When I took my vows, I said what I meant and I meant what I said. The ontological change was palpable, and I have no doubt that I am a priest in valid Orders, administering valid Sacraments. It is for this reason that I could not bring myself to renounce my orders when asked by the Roman Catholic Church—a Church I love, esteem, and in which I have been theologically trained.
This is a position that many of my Roman Catholic brothers, thankfully, understand. Indeed, they are far more sympathetic to the issue and more charitable than the latest crop of “enthusiasts” seem to be able to manage. (I do not use the terms Anglican or Anglo-Catholic for you as you publicly have rejected the substance of those terms to embrace Roman Catholicism at whatever cost.)
For those whose vows are dear to them and, we pray, dear to God, let us honor them and drive on, whether deacon, or priest or bishop. There is work to be about as we are commanded, and we have special answer to make on that Dreadful Day. It will not go well if we are unfaithful to our responsibilities taken on at Ordination.
As for those who would renounce let us simply say, “So go now. Right now.” Be honest to your conscience. Take off your collars and for Heaven’s sake be good Roman Catholics, not the cafeteria sort. There are too many of such already and those even worse.
But this time, this time for once and for always, when you take the oath of submission, or even another set of vows to Orders, for the sake of your soul, say what you mean and mean what you say.
Amen! Amen! Amen! Brilliant to the point that I hope you are required to preach exactly such sermons over and over again at ordinations.
"As for those who would renounce let us simply say, “So go now. Right now.”
Why does the "hurry up and go" litany appeal to so many on this blog? Why are you in such a hurry for the TAC to go? Is it that the longer the process take and the more details become available, the better the people understand the intent of the Pope in the AC and the less your arguments against the AC matter?
Anglo-Catholics have always had reunion with the Holy See in mind. Say, for example, those who do go demonstrate the situation is extremely satisfactory; won’t those whom you have cajoled into remaining "continuers" blame you for their missed opportunity?
Wouldn't it be better to view the AC with charity, hoping all things? What makes you so confident in your ability to discern the Pope's intention toward Anglicans is sinister? And since you believe others to be making such a huge mistake; why are you urging haste?
Does a wise father urge his child to walk up to the edge of Niagara Falls?
"Why does the "hurry up and go" litany appeal to so many on this blog?"
Although I do not recall using this specific argument, it would seem that the point is to say, "Put up or shut up." From it earliest germination, there has been a tone of unreality in all the TAC/ACA pronouncements. In yesterday's installment from "The Anglo-Catholic," they are beginning to acknowledge the extreme opposition to this concept in the RC Church. They admit that it was liberal RC bishops who kept the "Pastoral Provision" from ever getting off the ground. Perhaps the thought is slowly stealing over them that the same opposition will promptly bollix the "Ordinariates" proposed by Benedict XVI. Perhaps they are waking up to what Rome has emphatically said about married bishops.
Abp Hepworth has offered to resign for the sake of unity, but so far he has not done so. And would a bishop who refuses to obey his own Canons regarding retirement be willing to obey directives issued from the Vatican?
Bp Falk claims to await yet another document specially designed for the TAC. Could that claim be simply a stalling tactic, borrowing time to keep his Church together and to wiggle out of the whole proposal?
If "The Anglo-Catholic" were fundamentally serious, it would have called itself "The Former Anglican."
You are making several false assumprions here.
"Why are you in such a hurry for the TAC to go?"
You are assuming that the TAC, as a body, is going. There is no way of speaking of numbers at this point, but it remains very true that TAC is far from presenting a united front on this matter. I am one of many TAC members who will not be taking that route. I am in agreement with Fr. Nalls that those who have their minfs made up to go should simply go, follow their conscoiences, and leave the rest of us in peace so that we can get on with the Lord's work without all the paralyzing divisiveness.
"Anglo-Catholics have always had reunion with the Holy See in mind."
As do I, but not on such terms as these, which require a submission to and affirmation of papal claims I (with many others) am unable to accept.
"Wouldn't it be better to view the AC with charity, hoping all things?"
Does that involve hoping that the operative document does not mean what it says and that the ultimate result will be in contradiction to what it clearly says? That's not hope, that's fairy tales. I can read the AC. It is quite clear indeed as to what it says. Yes, from Rome's viewpoint it is a generous offer, but to a Classic Anglican, it is impossible.
"What makes you so confident in your ability to discern the Pope's intention toward Anglicans is sinister?"
What on earth gives you the idea that anyone thinks the pope to be sinister in his intent? I've seen little but appreciation of his generosity here -- though what he has felt able to offer does not satisfy what we are able to accept.
"why are you urging haste?"
Well, we do not believe that sincere acceptance of these terms by those who believe those claims is a thing that will threaten salvation, but we do believe that it is a danger to the soul to continue to do that which one believes to be less than valid. Those who accept the Roman claims need to make their move as quickly as they can, for their own spiritual welfare. By the same token, it would be putting ourselves in sever spiritual danger to pretend to accept what we cannot. A house divided against itself cannot stand. The issues and the divisions have been made clear. If there is to be a separation, let it be done quickly, so we can all get on with our calling.
Anyone familiar with the entire corpus of what can and should be considered "Anglo-Catholic writings, especially the text of the Book of Common Prayer itself, knows that Anglicans have placed a very high value one the unity of the Church universal - but only in so far as such unity was agreeable to Holy Scripture as interpreted by the Fathers, the Creeds and the undisputed councils. And just as none of those were caught up in the myth of the papacy, there is no reason to desire union and especially not submission to an unrepentant and unreformed Rome which in far too many things has placed itself in opposition to the plain text of Holy Scripture itself.
Truth should hold pride of place above unity and does for those of us who aspire - whatever our personal failings - to be classical Anglicans and Catholic Christians. When and where there is a difference between what Scripture teaches and demands that differs from what any group that calls itself Christian does and believes, I would hope that we place ourselves on the side of the clear word of Holy Scripture, those who wrote it and the Church which canonized it.
From the Roman perspective:
The often repeated advice on this blog "So go now. Right now” carries with it very unfortunate undertones. First, one is reminded of the similar words Christ used during the Last Supper with reference to Judas. Second, this insistence on haste can be viewed as uncharitable. Such decisions are not to be taken lightly. These are intimate matters of the heart which we're not privileged to know, and which often take time. It is not my intention to say that these are the motives here, but merely to point out that this urging of haste may not be prudent or charitable.
"Make haste slowly", as Romans used to say.
Brave and Noble Anonymous,
I prefer blue over green. The dentist across the street is the finest in all the city, but his office is painted green throughout. I believe I have an abscess. The infection could spread and I could die. I must see the dentist across the street. I’ll wait until he paints an examination room blue.
Does a wise father urge his child to walk up to the edge of Niagara Falls?
So you think going to Rome is like jumping the falls? Few have ever survived it, just consider all the Romanists who cannot turn away from looking back after leaving. They seem preoccupied at best.
""Wouldn't it be better to view the AC with charity, hoping all things?"
I may be one of the few here but I see no charity in the call for Anglican Orders to be null and void. None.
"Those who accept the Roman claims need to make their move as quickly as they can, for their own spiritual welfare. By the same token, it would be putting ourselves in sever spiritual danger to pretend to accept what we cannot. A house divided against itself cannot stand."
OK, but the TAC and its leadership's position have been known for years. It was publicized and confirmed in national synods well before the historic Portsmouth signing. There have been no changes made in this position. All the TAC leadership has done since the release of the AC is to urge patience and charity. They have repeatedly assured folks that further clarification is forthcoming. Why does this blog encourage a hurry-up-and-do-it approach now, when it did not do so prior to the AC’s release?
The TAC leadership (representing their people) signed the CCC and made this statement regarding the Pope well before the present controversy:
"We accept the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, the successor of Peter, which is a ministry of teaching and discerning the faith and a 'perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity' and understand this ministry is essential to the Church founded by Jesus Christ."
Ed and Fr. Nalls, you are reasonable individuals so I cannot understand why only now you have decided to voice strong opposition to Rome’s offer before all of the details are know. I don’t understand the premature distrust you have regarding the promised clarifications both Bishops Hepworth and Falk have promised Rome will produce. I should have expected you both, rather than jumping to hasty and possibly injurious conclusions, to have taken a “wait and see” approach. Again, I see no need to hurry. Rome has not told anyone to hurry-up-and-do-it. The TAC bishops have not told anyone to hurry-up-and-do-it.
Why are you so compelled to urge those who are willing to be patient to hurry-up-and-do-it?
“If there is to be a separation, let it be done quickly, so we can all get on with our calling.”
I see patience and charity as our calling in all Christian matters; nothing should be done in haste. And what else could be more beneficial to our calling than a united Catholic Church? Let us wait and see with all long-suffering and patience what it is that the Lord will do. Engendering strife and bitterness accomplishes nothing good.
"Do you mean to say that all the time I thought I was receiving the body and blood of Christ I was actually receiving bread and wine?"
That is the question that must be going through the minds of TAC/ACA laity at this moment.
Are we saying to TAC/ACA laity, get out now!? No, we are not. The message of "give it up, let it go!," is aimed at the clergy, especially the bishops, who should know better.
Here is the matter, If I know that my orders are valid then my submission to absolute ordination would be an act of blasphemy, or as some would have it, sacrilege. The ACA bishops and some clergy seem to rationalize this by saying that the unity of the Church trumps any consideration of this fact. Certainly Mr. Falk and Mr. Campese are aware that their own orders have always been valid ones, but they have already done this re-ordination thing once before, haven't they? So "let us do evil so that good may come," is their philosphy, at least concerning the sacrament of holy orders.
This is why we ask, actually demand, that they take off their uniforms now. They have done a great disservice to their laity, contributed to the discrediting of the Anglican Continuum, and created a great scandal amongst us by the de facto renunciation of their Holy Orders. Why wait until the day that they receive their absolute Roman ones to renounce them de jure?
Who are they kidding? Us, or just themselves?
Oh, life without honor!
The completely anonymous Anonymous wrote,
1. "'Why does the "hurry up and go' litany appeal to so many on this blog? Why are you in such a hurry for the TAC to go?"
Actually, not only are most of us not in a hurry for the TAC to plunge into the Tiber, but we don't think it is going to do so. What we do think will happen is that most TAC bishops, a portion of the TAC clergy, and probably relatively few of its laity will desert the TAC and go over to Rome.
Schisms are always painful so it is best for the health and well-being of all concerned to get that over and done with as soon as can be, so, at least for those who have been left behind, the healing and rebuilding process can begin as rapidly as possible.
The present situation, in which the TAC struggles with internal divisions and its people feel "neither fish nor fowl" can be good for no one.
2. "Is it that the longer the process take and the more details become available, the better the people understand the intent of the Pope in the AC and the less your arguments against the AC matter?"
No, we are quite confident that, the longer the process takes and the more details that become available, the better the people will understand that the Pope (the Roman one, mind you) meant precisely what he told his representatives to say.
3. "[W]on’t those whom you have cajoled into remaining 'continuers' blame you for their missed opportunity?"
Would that we had as much influence as this Anonymous credits us with. But we don't, so all we can do is suggest considerations that people engaged in conscientious consideration may take into account.
As for any "missed opportunity", the opportunity to covert to Roman Catholicism always exists. Nor, now that this Apostolic Constitution has been promulgated, will it likely be withdrawn. So anyone who decides to stay in the TAC and who later regrets that decision can always follow its former leadership over the jumps and through the ditches to the Roman finish line.
Rome will not punish them for having come later rather than sooner.
John A. Hollister+
Rome believes its own propaganda, and its own doctrines (deriving the first from the second). In their view, they can be patient and hope that Anglicans will become true Catholics, and see their own efforts as missionary and evangelistic (insulting to us, but sincere nonetheless). They cannot urge haste, therefore, since they assume that would drive away potential converts. So, we are not engaging Rome in these essays.
This is a game, and the game is poker. Those who claim to believe in the teachings of The Catechism of the [Roman] Catholic Church have already declared their belief in an entire doctrinal system. That system teaches that anyone who knows that the "fullness" is in "the Catholic Church (as they define "the catholic Church") united under the Successor of Peter" and yet remains outside of her, is in mortal sin and in danger of damnation. For, it is no longer a matter of "invincible ignorance." Yes, that is RC teaching (as if you didn't know).
Therefore, our hand is played by calling the bluff of Abps. Hepworth and Falk, and all who have followed them this far. How dare they endanger the souls of people for whom they have created a dilemma of conscience (which dilemma did not exist when they were happy to be Anglicans)? They have led people to a conclusion about nothing less than their own salvation (if they really believe the Roman Catechism they signed), but themselves stand in the gateway to let no one pass.
I am aware of Abp. Hepworth's ability to keep this going on for years and years more, telling people all kinds of esoteric rubbish that sounds wise to their uneducated ears. He is a master of that craft.
The anonymous Anonymous (a.A.) wrote:
All the TAC leadership has done since the release of the AC is to urge patience and charity. They have repeatedly assured folks that further clarification is forthcoming.
In the words of Doctor Who (#4), answering the truism, "See here, Doctor, a little patience goes a long way," he replied, "True, but too much patience goes absolutely nowhere." I begin to believe that urging of patience in this matter has become a strategy designed for just that purpose-to go absolutely nowhere. Otherwise, why would anyone still be promising, in the words of the a.A., "further clarification."
"They have repeatedly assured folks that further clarification is forthcoming." Really? No one in Rome has confirmed this rumor, no one at all. It is quite apparent that Rome has said all that they care to say. To the petition of the TAC in 2007, the obvious answer is "No." That is, "You cannot be in full corporate communion with the See of Rome unless you convert. We will give you the Personal Ordinariate to make it easier for your clergy to enter the Pastoral Provisions, and extension of the 'Anglican' Use, but don't expect much more."
The fact that a TAC apologist even mentions "further clarification" is a bluff, no doubt a sincerely related bluff that has worked on him. To Abps. Hepworth and Falk, and others, we are saying, Lay your cards on the table. Urging too much patience, and promising further clarification, is all one big bluff.
(When the time is ripe we will have more to say about priorities and missionary work.)
As an Orthodox priest, I have been watching the Anglicanorum Coetibus development from, as it were, a distance. But parts of the discussions remind me of the not infrequent conversations I have had in the past ten years with some Anglican clergymen. They have told me, for example, that if women are ordained or if women are made bishops they will become Orthodox. My response is and has always been: either you are converted to Orthodoxy or you are not, what the Anglican Church does or does not do is utterly irrelevant. Conversion is not some sort of ecclesiastical insurance policy to be claimed on later, a “lifeboat” option in response to unacceptable situations. And, by the way, if you are converted to Orthodoxy in your heart and mind - from that very moment you must cease to appear as, practice as or claim to be an Anglican priest or, indeed, an Anglican. I remain entirely unclear how someone, claiming to hold to the fullness of the Roman Catholic faith, can continue to dress and practice as an Anglican priest or bishop rather than immediately and unconditionally submit to Rome. Putting aside the question of Anglican orders, surely it is fraud to appear as an Anglican while actually being (even if not formally) a Roman Catholic? Is this essentially about stipends and property?
Fr. Gregory said: Is this essentially about stipends and property?
I think you hit the nail right square on the head there, Fr. Gregory.
"Fr. Gregory said: Is this essentially about stipends and property?
I think you hit the nail right square on the head there, Fr. Gregory."
Yes, why risk it all on a move to Rome. Stay safely where you are. But if you do go - go now. As far as some of us are concerned, now is not fast enough. If you don't go now at the urging of this blog you are a hypocrite!
I think Fr. Gregory's hypothetical question was really about those who urge a Tiber swim, and then say "wait till we give the word."
Whether property, stipend or not, I think the honorable thing to do is to act on one's convictions; especially if that be a clergyman or Bishop who serves a flock.
Let each make his intention known so that we all may adjust without confusion or ill will. But go or stay, do it so that all can get on with the task given to us.
If you believe the AC is your tonic then take it. If not so be it. What purpose does the shepherd serve if he has (or seems to have) no idea where the pasture is?
Declare your intent; provide for those you leave behind; direct those that are going. Why should there be any delay if one has conviction!
I would be cautious with the label "hypocrite". A person can be honestly wrong, even honestly self-contradictory -- still wrong, but at least honest. There's plenty of criticism to be made on the facts without the need to judge motivations.
That said, though I am prepared to believe that many or most of those preparing to leave are entirely convinced of the consistency of their position (though I have trouble figuring out how they got there), and am perfectly willing to concider them honest and upright; I continue to believe their conclusions wrong, and continue to urge, for their own good and for ours, that the move they desire to make be made very quickly. A house divided against itself cannot stand.
I remain entirely unclear how someone, claiming to hold to the fullness of the Roman Catholic faith, can continue to dress and practice as an Anglican priest or bishop rather than immediately and unconditionally submit to Rome.
Well, perhaps this something like a marriage on the rocks. Sometimes it seems clear that it can't go on, that it is intolerable. At other times there seems some hope. And then there are the children - surely we ought to play for time, for their benefit? But then someone else says it is better to the children to be frank and to clear the air and not subject them to a sham. Should we stay and pretend? Should we go and deal with whatever happens as it happens? Further, for the couple it isn't always pretence. That weekend we spent in the country last month - it seemed that we were really back together as we once were. Yesterday was hell. It is a muddle, the messages are not clear, it can't be reduced to a simple binary logic: go, no go. Sometimes it is a go and mostly it is a muddle. There are surely many Anglicans who feel that their relation to some form of Anglicanism is rather like this, especially if they feel that they have been betrayed.
I am not arguing in favour of staying or leaving, only suggesting that those who have mapped out their position in such clear and uncertain terms don't seem to take into account the admittedly exasperating human muddle.
I guess that is supposed to mean something.
I thought "muddle" was a Can'twebury-it charism.
From the Roman perspective:
Your post is charitable and probably closest to the heart of the matter.
I agree that Andrew's post is of charitable intent, but it falls far short of the heart of the matter.
You see, in the case of divorce, the moral theology is clearcut. Regardless of the gravity of the reason behind it, Divorce is the breaking of a most solemn vow, the rending apart of a bond that God himself has made. The weakness of humanity makes such a horrible choice often appear to be inevitable, and we, in our kindness, tend to look for ways to say that it is OK. It's not. Objectively speaking it is always sin. While God knows (and His Church speaking for Him recognizes) the weakness of humanity and our propensity to sin, he does forgive, The Cross stands before us and the Sacraments are given to proclaim and administer this very forgiveness; but still sin is sin, and, though forgiven, is never endorsed. Attempting to apply this model to the current controversies is fraught with logical and moral perils.
Yes, Andrew, your intent is appreciated: we do need to approach these serious decisions with understanding, patience, and gentleness. Both sides have been expressing a lot of judgment and anger, and have been disparaging one another in rather uncharitable terms, and somehow that needs to end, but the issues are still clear, and there still is something decidedly discomforting about the stance of those who seek to join a church that claims their orders to be void and yet remain comfortable with continuing to exercise them where they still are.
All I can see is that this breech of unity should never happen. There is a breaking of vows involved, a dissolution of bonds I believe to have been brought about by God. But there is perhaps a bit more in this image: It has often happened that a husband seeking divorce continues to live with his wife, continues the appearance of a marriage he is already denying, and yet carries on a romance with another woman. If his mind is made up, and the separation is already decided, would it not be better for him to do it quickly than to prolong the pain of pretence?
I'm not being bitter or dismissive in urging those who are decided in favor of AC to get on with it quickly, and in the meantime to make a clean break. I do urge, however, for their own good (as they place their own conscience in a difficult position), for the good of those of us who will continue (as our work is being distracted by all this controversy), and for the good of the unbelievers around us (who are certainly neither edified nor drawn by all the bitterness and confusion of this "muddle") - that they end the appearance of wavering and of double loyalty and get on with it as quickly as possible.
In response to a reader who said that he could not understand why folks don't do the right thing, that is go or don't go, I suggested that humans do not always or often act in this way. There is usually a muddle, and since we are not simply creatures of reason and logic but flesh and blood, it can take time to sort through the competing claims of ideas and feelings, hopes and hurts, illusion and disillusionment.
Some have not patience for muddle, especially when they see things so clearly and act in big, decisive ways.
I did not mean to suggest that the muddle is right, just that it is what it is - and that while to be exasperated by the muddle of others is only to be expected by the brisk intellects on-line, surely the brisk should cultivate a bit more imagination in understanding the muddled.
Agreed, but it still needs to be pointed out that the muddle, when it does exist, is inevitably doing a great deal of harm of its own. Those caught in such a muddle do need to be reminded that it needs to be resolved as soon as possible, not only for their own good, but for the good of those around them. In short, such a muddled situation may have to be tolerated, and muddled souls need to be treated with compassion, but a muddle is not a good thing and there is good reason for seeking to resolve it quickly.
From the Roman perspective:
Your thoughts on divorce are spot on. With that in mind, however, please note that during the Reformation in England it also took some time for the dissolution of certain bonds to be accomplished, and for a new religious identity to be articulated to the people.
It seems that these things are inherently messy, and take on a life span of their own.
Mark VA seems to be making the usual Roman Catholic "gotcha" point in an almost subtle way. In fact, the Church of England established no new Church at all, and the beginning of the break from Rome that lasted was not during the reign of Henry VIII, but that of Elizabeth I (have you RC fellows ever heard of Mary Tudor?). As for the C of E and divorce, when the king wanted to marry a divorced woman in 1936, he had to abdicate the throne inasmuch as he was, in effect, excommunicating himself.
From the Roman perspective:
All right Father Hart, you got me (I think) -please consider my previous post as nutterly void.
But seriously, I was thinking of the bonds with the Papacy, not those of king Henry VIII.
Yes, I know. You saw Henry VIII as dissolving the bonds with the papacy; but, the Pope dissolved bonds with the C of E when Elizabeth I (three monarchs later, though but one generation later) was on the throne. My 1936 reference shows how exactly Henry's ideal was turned around on the throne itself.
From the Roman perspective:
This is such old history – Elizabeth’s Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity (AD 1559), and her subsequent excommunication about ten years later (Regnans in Excelsis, AD 1570). Ten years of her rule, without her being excommunicated - a rather long time.
Like I said before, things of this nature don't like to be rushed.
Especially as she as guilty of being Anne Boleyn's daughter, which was the real issue with the Spanish masters who ruled the Pope.
Mark VA wrote: "Ten years of [Queen Elizabeth I's] rule, without her being excommunicated - a rather long time. Like I said before, things of this nature don't like to be rushed."
Certainly not. Nor was the real purpose of her excommunication rushed in the slightest; was it the Spanish who first said "Revenge is a dish best eaten cold"?
For that excommunication in 1570 was simply part of the groundwork for what went down in history as the Spanish Armada -- but which, while planned in 1570, did not actually get under way until 1588!
Perhaps that delay was merely 16th Century Spanish bureaucratic inefficiency (remember, Philip's family ruled in Vienna, where the word "Schlamperei" was invented) or perhaps it was a sly way of distancing a crassly political act from its real motivation.
John A. Hollister+
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