Monday, January 25, 2010

His Excellency's car!


Duck Soup (Paramount Pictures, 1933), one of the great epic war movies, or rather a Marx Brother's movie, features Groucho as His Excellency, Rufus T. Firefly. Early in the movie, Firefly, the Leader of the nation state Freedonia, emerges from his inauguration in a hurry to meet with the Parliament as the new Head of Government and Head of State. He shouts "His Excellency's car!" This cry is repeated around the palace and trumpets play a ceremonial fanfare in honor of the transport for their country's leader. With so much ado one expects a limousine, with several vehicles before and behind, filled with armed security men. Instead, an old motor cycle pulls up driven by Harpo, with a sidecar (and the joke does not end there).

All that fuss over a motorcycle got me thinking. Recently, I was directed to a blog where someone commented that he was unhappy with The Continuum, and that was because we did not do editorial cartwheels in delirious joy over the "historic occasion" of Anglicanorum Coetibus. In fact, the statement was made that we were "negative" about it. The truth is, we saw it in perspective. With numerous trumpets blaring about a "historic occasion" that was going to change the world, the reality seemed much more like his excellency's car, or like finding out that the long awaited answer to "the question of life, the universe and everything" is 42.

So, the Roman Catholic Church has expanded the Pastoral Provisions to make it easier for former Anglican clergy to take their wives with them into the really big denomination. So what? Even though our lack of enthusiasm for the new Roman constitution was expressed in no uncertain terms, let us get one thing very straight: We never criticized it; we analyzed it. The difference is quite important. We explained accurately what it is and what it is not, to clear up misinformation that continues to be spread.

In analyzing it, we put up a defense for Anglicans who still believe in The Affirmation of St. Louis, who want to be Anglican, and, (for many) whose TAC bishops don't. Those TAC bishops seemingly want to be Roman Catholics already! So, who is stopping them? Go for it. But, stop telling Anglicans that the Anglican way of living the Catholic faith is a failed 450 year-old experiment. We like our way of doing things, and we believe in it. If our fathers were such a bunch of numb skulls as the Tiber Swimmers believe, then what are they waiting for?

But, we have not criticized Rome or their constitution. After all, it is only right for Roman Catholics, if they really believe all that One True Church stuff, to try to bring people into their fold. But excuse us if we notice the following things.

1. Our fathers were not heretics; and

2. Though it is difficult for some to translate 16th century English into modern English, and to read their works in historical context, they were faithful Christians trying to teach the Catholic and Evangelical Faith in their country in their generation, under the pressures of that time, and

3. They did a good job of it, even if modern polemicists pervert and twist their words and their meaning.

Also, though we love and respect the See of Rome for its honorable place in Antiquity, and for its place of leadership among millions of our Christian brethren, let us be honest about their elephant in their living room. I know it is not polite to say anything about the large gray animal that takes up most of the room's air, and threatens to sit down on you if you go to sleep; but it may become necessary. We respectfully suggest that it would have been more diplomatic of Rome not to send a man with the baggage of Cardinal Levada, as if it had not been bad enough to make Cardinal Law, before him, the main man for the wannabe former Anglicans. The song "When will they ever learn?" comes to mind. More seriously, it makes us wonder if Rome really understands even now just how much of a scandal such men represent, and makes us question why anyone wants, at this point in history, to hand over the reins of leadership to them. They still need to get their own house in order; and we hope they will.

Nor does it seem polite, I suppose, to notice that Rome's recent letter to the TAC bishops, quoted only in part by their Archbishop in public statements, is not much of a big hurrah either. The way it was announced, and what it really turned out to be, is another "his Excellency's car!" scene. In a nutshell, Rome, having caught wind of certain people announcing and promising a "special deal" with new and improved "special norms," decided to ask the TAC bishops to rein in the rumors. There is no special deal. Anglicaorum Coetibus is all there is, and what you see is what you get-if you want it. That was the gist of the letter, and it merited no fanfare from Adelaide, Australia via Orlando, Florida, as if it was anticipated, or part of the plan. (One would think it was the answer to tonight's big question. But, never fear. Our leading contestants will get to answer that question, which is worth 230,000 dollars.)

Although some folks who call themselves Anglo-Catholics choose to label us "negative," in fact a whole blog calling itself The Anglo-Catholic, the truth is we are very positive about the future of Continuing Anglicanism (which is easy for me, having found a home in the Anglican Catholic Church). Our mission work is reaching many people across the world, and we see growth and vitality at home and abroad. I see it around me every day in the parish here.

But, for those whose enthusiasm over Rome's gesture has yet to die down to a reasonable level, and who want to be Roman Catholics, we wish them all the best. Nonetheless, we will continue to view things realistically. Anglicanorum Coetibus is merely Rome's newest policy for the same old opportunity that has been there all along, namely, to swim the Tiber. Go ahead, blow the trumpets over Rome's constitution, do cartwheels, jump up and down, and announce the biggest news in the history of mankind. But, in fact, "His Excellency's car!" is a motorcycle.

62 comments:

Anonymous said...

Fr Hart said.....
We respectfully suggest that it would have been more diplomatic of Rome not to send a man with the baggage of Cardinal Levada, as if it had not been bad enough to make Cardinal Law, before him, the main man for the wannabe former Anglicans.

Fr Hart,
I would be most grateful if you will define what you mean by writing these words...or are they just empty suggestions with no substance, in which case they should not be aired on this blog.

David

RC Cola said...

That picture is a riot! And not a bad analogy, either.

From everything I've seen, there is not a whole lot of difference between AC and merely swimming the Tiber alone. The difference is, from what I can see individual swimming has been replaced by a whole swim meet.

I'll say again, the Pope may have had good intentions, and some front-line priests will see the new Anglican Influx as a sort of reinforcements in the battle against rank modernism (or post-modernism).

Unfortunately for them, not everyone will be so enthusiastic--most notably the liberal bishops (redundant). The Anglican Influx will be about as well-received as rubber dog poop for Christmas. The libs don't have much in a way of a sense of humor, so gags gifts from the Pope don't go over too well.

Anonymous said...

There are various ways of thinking about the current stewing and fretting over the project which has brought about Anglicanorum coetibus.

1. We could say it is "much ado about nothing," which will produce little more than the so-called Pastoral Provision yielded a generation ago, merely an enlargement on the international scene.

2. We could say it is the jurisdictional suicide of TAC/ACA, in which Hepworth and his allied bishops will have their way at any cost, even wrecking their own sheepfolds. (I am tempted to draw an analogy between Hepworth and Barak Obama's devotion to his various socialist schemes.)

3. We might even say that it is an exercise in theological bankruptcy for a sizable group of people too ignorant to know their own Anglican faith, a generation which has forgotten its real roots in Jewel, Whitgift, Hooker, and Andrewes.

But of one thing I am quite sure. When the acolytes of Hepworth achieve their goal, they will not be happy with it. If one reads that blog which ought to be entitled "The Former Anglican," one finds story after story telling how "traditionalist" RC parishes are in confrontation with liberal bishops, numerous proposals for reinventing the Novus Ordo, speculation about the revival of the Sarum rite, etc. All the tarradiddle which makes RC's find Anglicanism stuffy, quaint and irrelevant.

Any prudent RC bishop would be wary of such people. Especially people who have no history of submission to authority. Especially people who emphasize so strongly their independence of local authority and separation into their own enclaves.

Time will tell.
LKW

Anonymous said...

Today's installment of "The Former Anglican" (perhaps better called The Never Anglican) begins like this:

"I look at the situation in the Catholic Church, and wonder why plans for improving the abysmal post-conciliar liturgical situation seem to be going so slowly."

Just imagine doing pre-marital counciling and the prospective bridegroom says of his fiance "I wonder how long it will take her to improve her abysmal housekeeping skills and learn to fix her hair properly." You know that this is no marriage made in heaven!
LKW

Fr. Robert Hart said...

David wrote:

Fr Hart,
I would be most grateful if you will define what you mean by writing these words...or are they just empty suggestions with no substance, in which case they should not be aired on this blog.


Are you the only person in the world who does not know? Both of these Cardinals rank highly in the RC priests sex abuse scandal. They shielded predator priests and reassigned them to unsuspecting parishes, where they added more victims to the list. Cardinal Law will never show his face in Boston again, nor Cardinal Levada in San Fransisco.

Both of these men should have been sent to a monastery for life, to do penance.

Anonymous said...

Fr Hart wrote:

"Both of these men should have been sent to a monastery for life, to do penance."

I do not agree. Obstruction of justice is criminal behavior. They should have been locked up, to do their penance in a prison chapel.
LKW

Fr. Robert Hart said...

That is a matter for the kind of authorities who have prisons, and can file for extradition.

Anonymous said...

There is something wrong with a church that gives it's law-breaking, sinful priests plush jobs at 'corporate headquarters' instead of the punishment true justice requires.

And why anyone would run to such organization, begging to be made part of it, is beyond me.

H1940

John A. Hollister said...

"They shielded predator priests and reassigned them to unsuspecting parishes, where they added more victims to the list."

Just so that David does not misunderstand, let it be clear that both Cardinals shielded KNOWN sexual predators. Further, the immense civil liability judgments and settlements that resulted, and that have threatened to bankrupt both Archdioceses, can be traced directly to those actions.

A church has no liability when a man, who has given it no reason to suspect his proclivities, attacks someone under his care. By the same token, however, when a church either deliberately ignores clear signs and warnings of a problem or, as in these particular cases, with actual knowledge of those problems, then tries to sweep them under the rug by simply reassigning the predators to new places where they can continue their activities unchecked, that church buys full liability for every bit of damage those men do after the adverse knowledge was had.

So every closed church building in Boston should have a sign on it, "Your tithe dollars at work. (Signed) Bernard Cardinal Law."

And all deals only with the secular side of things. It says nothing about the scandal to the faithful and to the world outside, the potential converts who have turned away from any thought of that church, the people whose faith has been weakened or even lost, the children scarred for life, the families brought unnecessarily under strain, the young men who have written off possible calls to Holy Orders, etc., etc., etc.

John A. Hollister+

Anonymous said...

Fr Hart said.......

Are you the only person in the world who does not know?

Perhaps not the only person, but yes I did not know.

David

Anonymous said...

Fr Hart said.....

That is a matter for the kind of authorities who have prisons, and can file for extradition.

Fr Hart
You are sounding sinister. I would urge the 'reconciliation approach'.

David

derril said...

Anonymous said "I am tempted to draw an analogy between Hepworth and Barak Obama's devotion to his various socialist schemes."

I like to keep politics, when possible, out of these discussions. I certainly don't agree with everything President Obama has done, but I also voted for President George W Bush and came to regret it.

Canon Tallis said...

And who, Father Hart, gave Levada his red hat and the authority which he presently exercises?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

David:

There is nothing "sinister" about pointing out that the Pope no longer has dungeons, which was simply my reply to another person's comment.

I hate the whole subject of the clergy sex abuse scandal. Unfortunately, putting Cardinal Levada in charge of the Anglicanorum Coetibus effort makes it exactly what I said, an elephant in their living room. No honest evaluation of the process can avoid it, for there it is, revealing just how they operate even now, when any other organization would have better sense. We rightly consider the problem politically, morally and spiritually. Frankly, it is no fun at all, and I would rather go back and watch one of those Marx Brothers movies I mentioned at the top.

Ken said...

Getting back to the AC...

The writers of The Anglo Catholic blog seem delusional. When the Roman comment on the "special deal" came out, it was like they were reading a competely different note.

David Gould said...

It is so easy to type like a madman in response to what one reads and end up with an emotive angry and non-Christian statement, so here goes....

It is entirely unconscionable that Law and Levada, who knowingly shielded pedophile priests from the secular law, and who ignored the command of Our Lord to protect children were given high offices in the Vatican.

As a survivor of clergy sexual abuse who successfully took on the Anglican Church in Tasmania over it's abysmal handling of this issue, I know only too well that the kind of response that Levada and company pursued is secondary abuse of victims.

Levada and Law knew that they had victims knocking at their door and failed to act, to provide healing, mercy and support to them, while shifting degenerate priests across their Archdiocese and across state borders to protect them.

I agree with Fr. Hart. They should spend the rest of their lives on their knees in a monastery begging Our Lord's mercy for their cold, calculated gambling with the life - and in some instances, the death of boys. girls, men and women victims of pedophile priests.

Reconciliation is a noble aspiration, but that can only come when men like Bernard Law unreservedly do penance and ask the forgiveness of the direct victims of abuse, the secondary victims - families and friends, and finally of the Church. Their actions shattered faith, lost countless vocations and imperiled the salvation of thousands of Catholics.

I would hope that some US public prosecutor will have enough evidence to seek to charge men like Law for aiding and abetting pedophiles where the evidence warrants.

Let us all pray that the God of love and mercy might restore to the Church those who have lost all faith in the Church because of pedophile priests and their protecting bishops and superiors.

Anonymous said...

The discussion of sex scandals in the RCC may be a diversion to our discussion. Let's say the sex scandals of flagrant homosexuality, pederasty, and hush money had never occurred and the RCC was morally pristine. We would still have some serious doctrinal issues, much larger than the comparatively shallow controversy over Anglican orders. After all, absorption into Rome would render that issue moot once and for all. But the issues over Justification would still stand. As someone once said, this is "the grand question." Lurking behind the Justification issue is a profoundly different doctrine of sin. I wouldnt be surprised if Roman notions of sin do not explain a lot about their winking at behavior the secular world and civil courts finds outrageous.
LKW

sir curmudgeon said...

I'm reminded of John Jewel's book, Apology of the Church of England. Anglicans would do well to read that short book. Written and published in Latin (being published in England and Europe) about 1560-62, it was (and is) an effective refutation of the accusations of the RC Church against the reformed English Church, as well as a most powerful presentation of the 'faith once delivered' as proven by Scripture and the early church Fathers. Many of the same issues remain today, making the book a must read for Christians of the Anglican persuasion.
Thank you Fr. Hart for your gracious, yet persistent stand for the testimony of Christ in the continuing Anglican Churches. I say 'gracious' because one is often not seen as gracious (no matter how hard they try to be so) when pointing out error and emphasizing the necessity of Biblical truth in order to have unity of the Spirit.
Jack

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Fr. Wells wrote:

Lurking behind the Justification issue is a profoundly different doctrine of sin. I wouldnt be surprised if Roman notions of sin do not explain a lot about their winking at behavior the secular world and civil courts finds outrageous.

Fr., this begs clarification. I think I understand what you mean, but I am not sure I do.

Anonymous said...

The RC tradition of moral theology, with late mediaeval and non-Biblical casuistry, distinctions between mortal and venial sin, between sin and concupiscence, particularly the notion that unconscious or unintentional acts are less heinous than conscious and intentional acts, have the inevitable effect of trivializing sin. The Reformation understood sin in are more tragic terms: sin is not merely occasional actions, to be neatly classified and explained, but a horrible predicament from which the sinner cannot emancipate himself.

If Cardinal Lavada or Law could convince himself that an act of sodomy were only a venial sin, then it could be dealt with through a light penance.
But a doctrine of sin which takes Romans 7 seriously ("O wretched man that I am, who can deliver me from this body of death") would be less prone to place the sodomite in another situation of temptation.
LKW

The Midland Agrarian said...

Fr Hart said.....

That is a matter for the kind of authorities who have prisons, and can file for extradition.

Fr. Wells wrote:

Lurking behind the Justification issue is a profoundly different doctrine of sin. I wouldnt be surprised if Roman notions of sin do not explain a lot about their winking at behavior the secular world and civil courts finds outrageous.

These two snippets led me to an interesting thought/question. Did not the Tudors reform some of the most scandalous applications of
"benefit of Clergy"? and Did not Rome fight that reform tooth and nail? Maybe there is a bit of hangover from the old days here with Law and co.and maybe it does point back to a theology where all are not equally in need of Christ's righteousness?
Richard

John A. Hollister said...

Well, there is a posting today on "The Former Anglican" blog that takes extreme umbrage (that's the sacrament for those who are fit to be tied) at image of Groucho's motorcycle.

I guess Fr. Hart really got under someone's skin with that one. The only thing that I found strange was the utter certainty with which the poster there was able to assert, "He aimed this at us, and we don't like it!"

Surely there is more than just one church group out there that could see itself reflected in Groucho's little Ruritanian country....

John A. Hollister+
"gluthiff"

Anonymous said...

John Jewel's book is available to read on Google books
http://books.google.com/books?id=soAXAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA32&dq=Apology+of+the+Church+of+England&output=text#c_top



alan

veriword: scour

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Fr. Hollister wrote:

Well, there is a posting today on "The Former Anglican" blog that takes extreme umbrage (that's the sacrament for those who are fit to be tied) at image of Groucho's motorcycle.

I was told that the man with the big scary face got it all wrong. Something about +Hepworth's car; which would show that their blogmeister commented without first reading (Prov. 18:13).

Fr. Wells wrote:

If Cardinal Lavada or Law could convince himself that an act of sodomy were only a venial sin, then it could be dealt with through a light penance.

Whereas that is true, they could not convince themselves of that from any standard RCC moral theology. Nonetheless, the problem with distinguishing between mortal and venial sins by means of a list amounts to a flawed effort at interpreting I John 5:16,17. What one man may do in ignorance another may do with malice. A sin unto death, or mortal sin, appears to be the willful and persistent kind, shutting out "hearty repentance and true faith."

But, trying to create a list in which specific actions are categorized has been the RC approach for centuries. I have seen that it blinds many individuals to the heart of the problem, the helpless condition of fallen mankind outside of Christ. It also blinds some of them to the radical nature of forgiveness only through and from Christ crucified and risen.

John A. Hollister said...

Two comments here made me think of something I read quite a while back. One was Fr. Wells' comment that if one could convince himself that sexual exploitation of a juvenile were merely "venial", then one could get away with imposing only a light penance. The other was Richard's comment about "benefit of clergy".

I wish I could remember the name of the author or the title of the book, but probably a decade or more ago I read an analysis of the R.C. sexual abuse crisis that was even then apparent. The author noted two factors that, in his estimation, tied into these two comments.

One, he claimed, was that Canon Law, following general European law, placed the Age of Consent at 14, where in North America and in British legal systems it is almost always several years higher than that.

So, he was suggesting, Europeans and those who live in closed systems influenced by European culture, such as the Curia, would not see ephebophilia as "child" molesting. That, of course, would tend to mitigate its severity in their eyes.

The second factor he cited was the closed culture of clericalism, which is, of course, intimately related to the Medieval exemption of even notional "clerics" from the jurisdiction of the secular legal systems.

This is the actual origin of "benefit of clergy" and was, as most will recall, also the genesis of the conflict between Henry II and Thomas a' Becket.

John A. Hollister+
"inghtspi"

RC Cola said...

Just got word from a contact who is still RC. He said that wolves in sheeps' clothing (e.g. Leveda) are trying to use Article III of A.C. to impose the new offertory and Eucharistic Prayers from the Novus Ordo Missae onto the incoming Anglicans.

Can you imagine the cognitive dissonance of praying those beautiful prayers in Elizabethan English and then suddenly switching to prayers that are as graceful as a...as a...I can't think of anything as clumsy as the language in the N.O. except for Jack Tripper in Three's Company, but I'm not sure that is absurd enough of an image.

Word is this was not foreseen by Benedict XVI, and he still may not be aware of what his subordinates are up to.

Anonymous said...

Father Hart wrote:

"...Nonetheless, the problem with distinguishing between mortal and venial sins by means of a list amounts to a flawed effort at interpreting I John 5:16,17...."


Father Hart -

If you are going to summarize the theology of the "other side" (the side those of us who are going to avail ourselves of the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution support) you should strive to present that side accurately, or refrain from attempting to set forth its position.

Any mortal sin must have three characterisics:

(1) Grevious matter (2) sufficient time and reflection (3) full consent of the will. Absent ALL three of these it is not a mortal sin.

Secondly, mortal sin may be dispense with by, and only by, sacramental confession.

There is no penance involved in remitting venial sin, per se. There is pennance involve in Sacramental Confession. While venial sin may well be dispensed with Sacramental Confession, it may also be dispensed with by other means: ie, the pious taking of Holy Water, entering a Consecrated Church, recitation of the Confiteor, reception of the Blessed Sacrament, to name but a few.

All of which presume and require contrition (perfect is preferred, but imperfect is sufficient.) One must have the proper intention.

Under certain conditions, the stealing of an apple may well be a mortal sin. Under certain conditions, the PERSON/MOTHER undergoing an abortion may not commit a mortal sin. (underage young girl, victim of an attack, and forced by her parents.)

Your vehement opposition to the theology of the Roman Church is well known, and comes as no surprise. What does surprise me in this post, is your erroneous statement, which I would have expected you to know better than to have made. The determinatin of mortal vs venial sin is not made by means of a list.


Faithfully,

Sean W. Reed

Anonymous said...

It could be reasonably argued that my comment on RC moral theology is a straw-man and a carricature of the real thing. But ideas do have consequences, and sometimes we may deduce the underlying idea from the evil consequence it has brought forth. And sometimes cartoons express the genuine reality.

I have been re-reading Fitz Allison's truly great book, "The Rise of Moralism," which I read 30 years ago and only now totally appreciate. Bp Allison's account is what triggered this line of reflection. This is one of the books which explains why Anglicanism is worth preserving.

Still, I don't think that RC moral scandals are our most effective argument against the concept advanced by Bp Hepworth and his co-partisans. Even if JP II, Benedict XVI, Mother Theresa and Fr Groeschel were the norm in the RC Church (and we should all know they are nothing of the kind), I would still say with my dying breath, Gratia sola, fide sola, per Christum solum. Hooker's grand question hangeth even yet.
LKW

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Sean Reed:

You have told me nothing I did not know already, nor has it contradicted what I said.

Your vehement opposition to the theology of the Roman Church is well known...

If it so well known, why was I unaware of it?

Anonymous said...

In view of Sean Reed's enlightening discourse, I respectfully withdraw my suggestion that my earlier brief summary of RC moral theology might be a carricature. If Sean has summarized RC moralism accurately, I do not wonder that there has been so much immorality, but stand amazed that there has been so little. Sean invites us to a perpetual Mardi Gras! His helpful information would be been of much comfort to the Pharisee in the temple. Intead of saying, "Lord, be merciful to me a sinner," he might have said, "Thanks, God, for making all my sins merely venial and so easily disposed of."
LKW

John A. Hollister said...

Sean Reed wrote, "There is no penance involved in remitting venial sin, per se.... While venial sin may well be dispensed with Sacramental Confession, it may also be dispensed with by other means: i.e., the pious taking of Holy Water...."

Love that holy water! Bring on the aspergillum, sprinkle away for all you're worth, and keep me out of that little box!

John A. Hollister+
"genit"

John A. Hollister said...

RC Cola reported that "wolves in sheeps' clothing (e.g. Leveda) are trying to use Article III of A.C. to impose the new offertory and Eucharistic Prayers from the Novus Ordo Missae onto the incoming Anglicans."

This reminded me of something many years ago and in a city not so far away. There, our local ACC parish was sometimes visited by one or two members of the local Lefebvrist branch (who would even take communion with us, although they would not cross the threshhold of a diocesan Roman Catholic church.)

One of them told me that, in the years leading up to Vatican II, he had been an enthusiastic member of the then-fashionable Liturgical Movement. "Of course, what we thought we'd get was what you have," he said, "not the Novus Ordo."

John A. Hollister+
"hoolo"
"seintsi"

Ken said...

I think the pedophile scandal in the RCC had less to do with traditional Catholic moral theology than the following:

1) closed clerical culture - the shepherds apparently think it is more important to protect the other shepherds than the sheep; this was disenginuously called "protecting the faithful from scandal".

2) infiltration of liberalism - the view that sin is passe' and modern psychological methods can make a man whole. Many, if not most, of the pedophiles were sent to psychologists for therapy

3) a homosexual subculture in the priesthood - this reinforced #1

Brian said...


Any mortal sin must have three characterisics:

(1) Grevious matter (2) sufficient time and reflection (3) full consent of the will. Absent ALL three of these it is not a mortal sin.


I'll forgive the rotten spelling, but this kind of hyper-defined theology is one big reason for staying on reformed side of the Tiber. (And this notion that entering a consecrated church somehow forgives sins is the point where suspicious theology gives way to outright magic. No thank you!)

Fr. Robert Hart said...

In defense of Sean Reed, it is very difficult to squeeze RC Moral Theology into a com box. I think his emphasis was on the need for the confessional for mortal sins; which, while not ideal if embraced as a mere legality, is helpful if embraced for honest and pastoral reasons. So, don't be so hard on the guy.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

"Of course, what we thought we'd get was what you have," he said, "not the Novus Ordo."

I thought the Pope was getting rid of the Nervous Order.

Fr. John said...

He's trying to, but the American branch of the RC Church is stalling in the hope that he will soon die.

Anonymous said...

In defense of the Roman Catholic Church, my experience has been that whatever may be in those dusty manuals they used to study in their seminaries, their working theology is very different from that offered by Sean Reed. I shook hands and was greeted warmly by the Bishop of St Augustine at the Rosary March on Jan 22. He did not even hint to me that abortion might sometimes be only a venial sin, to be atoned for by a few drops of holy water. The many RC priests and nuns of my experience take sin very seriously, and if they do not affirm Justification fide sola, they live and treat their neighbors as if it were true. Flannery O'Connor wrote that Confession does not make sin easy, rather it makes sin hard to repeat.

While Cardinals Law and Levada may exemplify RC morality as its nadir (and hard cases can push us into corners), I will repeat for the umpteenth time we have no business criticizing the Hepworth project on that basis. There is a saying about glass houses.
LKW

Fr. Robert Hart said...

(1) Grievous matter (2) sufficient time and reflection (3) full consent of the will. Absent ALL three of these it is not a mortal sin.

Come to think of it, I do have to take issue. First of all, even with this as a presentation of moral theology within RCC circles, the RCC still has its list of mortal and venial sins, and it is that list that generally gets the most attention.

"Grievous matter." What of light matter with grievous malice?

"Sufficient time and reflection." As opposed to what? A split second in which one decides to strike with the fist? That brings us to the third point.

I question what is meant by "full consent of the will." The implications go in two opposite directions:

1. Someone may have sinned with partial consent of the will, some part of him "under protest." Human beings are complicated creatures, and this seems possible. "I didn't really want to do it."

2. All deliberate actions involve the whole will. Regret may be present, but, finally, the decision was the act of the will.

So, what is meant by "full consent of the will"? The weakness in dwelling on these fine distinctions can make us look past the remedy, It is always "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." (Prov. 28:13) Fine distinctions between mortal and venial sins all become sin unto death if they keep us from going directly to the cross by means of confession with hearty repentance and true faith.

Anonymous said...

LKW wrote:

"...He did not even hint to me that abortion might sometimes be only a venial sin, to be atoned for by a few drops of holy water...."

Not sure who ever said differently, I did provide an example, which indicated in a certain set of circumstances that the single person who underwent an abortion would not commit mortal sin. That is not to say that 2-3 others would not have done so.

Please do not take my specific example of a specific set of circumstances out of context.


SWR

Anonymous said...

Father Hart -

While you are entitled to your own opinion, I have merely reflected the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.

While it is adequately set forth in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, you might find of interest checking out "Sin" "Sin and Penance" and "Penance" at http://www.americancatholictruthsociety.com/articles/sheen.htm

Archbishop Sheen does a masterful job of articulating the Roman Catholic Church's teaching, which even if you disagree with, I suspect you will find the audios of interest.

SWR

Canon Tallis said...

The whole conversation about Levada reminds me of nothing so much as a very obscene joke told by one Roman priest to another in my hearing at the local church supply store. And, no, I am not going to repeat it. But that reminded me that the current question is not new in the Roman Church and actually began with Hildebrand in the eleventh century in his campaign to end clerical marriage. It was probably forty five years ago in which I read the works of a French historian who quoted contemporary protests of what the papacy was doing and how to effect it they were actively encouraging homosexuality, especially among the upper clergy. It does not seem to have changed much since, especially if the Ryan Report in Ireland is to be given any weight.

The whole subject is unpleasant, but how do you protect children - at least as we in the English speaking world see them - if you are not aware of the problem. Look at the case of Levada and what we know of him and then take a look at what is said about him on the New Liturgical Movement blog even within the last month. Are they really quite that blind?

Veriword: wingt

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I received this via email from Archbishop Haverland:

It is not correct to say that traditional Catholic theology requires sacramental confession for the forgiveness of mortal sins. Perfect contrition always is thought to be sufficient. But traditional Catholic theology does hold that perfect contrition requires at least an implicit intention to confess sacramentally when and if opportunity arises.

The formal element of sin is the intention. Apparently trivial 'matter' can involve the will in mortal sin. But from the perspective of the outward observer, or the development of lists of sins as guides for moral examination, 'grave matter' (that is an objectively serious act of wrongdoing) is necessary to define a sin as materially mortal. The other elements listed below (sufficient time and reflection; consent of the will) remind us that an apparently or materially grave sin may be inadvertent or otherwise lack the formal element of sin by failure to include sinful intention. Generally the elements of a moral act are described as intention, matter, and circumstances.

The questions asked by Father Hart show that sins cannot simply be mechanically categorized into clear, foolproof lists. 'Murder' is a mortal sin, but murder is by definition wrongful killing, and it is not always simple to decide what acts of killing are wrongful or not. Any confessor dealing with a penitent who accuses himself of murder will ask questions which seek to determine culpability, intention, knowledge, advertence, deliberation, circumstances. The lists of sins are not thought to be determinative by theologians, but rather are guides for moral examination and consideration - and for those purposes they are often very useful.

Before we condemn Roman Catholic moral theology, remember how much of it is also found in Anglicanism: in Robert Sanderson and Jeremy Taylor in the 17th century, and in Kenneth Kirk and R.C. Mortimer in the 20th, to mention a few. The worst period of Anglican theology (18th century and 19th century before the Catholic revival) are also the period when Anglican moral theology largely disappeared. One of the glories of Anglican theology is the way in which Hooker, Sanderson, Taylor, Hammond, and the other Carolines revived the best of Scholastic moral reasoning.

+MDH

Anonymous said...

While Archbishop Haverland’s statement is interesting, it does not accurately and completely reflect the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.
This afternoon, I deliberately skipped over a minor point for clarity, which is that concerning the grace of final contrition for one immediately before death without the ability to make a confession and receive sacramental absolution.
In this case, perfect contrition, as Archbishop Haverland points out, and even imperfect contrition (as he does not point out) is sufficient to insure that the one dying is in a state of grace (free of mortal sin) at the moment of the particular judgment. (Immediately after death)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:
1441 Only God forgives sins.39 Since he is the Son of God, Jesus says of himself, "The Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins" and exercises this divine power: "Your sins are forgiven."40 Further, by virtue of his divine authority he gives this power to men to exercise in his name.41
1442 Christ has willed that in her prayer and life and action his whole Church should be the sign and instrument of the forgiveness and reconciliation that he acquired for us at the price of his blood. But he entrusted the exercise of the power of absolution to the apostolic ministry which he charged with the "ministry of reconciliation."42 The apostle is sent out "on behalf of Christ" with "God making his appeal" through him and pleading: "Be reconciled to God."43
1457 According to the Church's command, "after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year." Anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion, even if he experiences deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution, unless he has a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession. Children must go to the sacrament of Penance before receiving Holy Communion for the first time.
1493 One who desires to obtain reconciliation with God and with the Church, must confess to a priest all the unconfessed grave sins he remembers after having carefully examined his conscience. The confession of venial faults, without being necessary in itself, is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church.
1497 Individual and integral confession of grave sins followed by absolution remains the only ordinary means of reconciliation with God and with the Church.
1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: "Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent."131
1858 Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: "Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother."132 The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger.
1859 Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God's law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart133 do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.
(cont'd)

Anonymous said...

Archbishop Haverland’s opinion is also different from St. Thomas Aquinas, who writing in Summa had this to say in answer to the question: “Whether sin can be pardoned without Pennance?’

“...I answer that, It is impossible for a mortal actual sin to be pardoned without penance, if we speak of penance as a virtue. For, as sin is an offense against God, He pardons sin in the same way as he pardons an offense committed against Him. Now an offense is directly opposed to grace, since one man is said to be offended with another, because he excludes him from his grace. Now, as stated in I-II, 110, 1, the difference between the grace of God and the grace of man, is that the latter does not cause, but presupposes true or apparent goodness in him who is graced, whereas the grace of God causes goodness in the man who is graced, because the good-will of God, which is denoted by the word "grace," is the cause of all created good. Hence it is possible for a man to pardon an offense, for which he is offended with someone, without any change in the latter's will; but it is impossible that God pardon a man for an offense, without his will being changed. Now the offense of mortal sin is due to man's will being turned away from God, through being turned to some mutable good. Consequently, for the pardon of this offense against God, it is necessary for man's will to be so changed as to turn to God and to renounce having turned to something else in the aforesaid manner, together with a purpose of amendment; all of which belongs to the nature of penance as a virtue. Therefore it is impossible for a sin to be pardoned anyone without penance as a virtue.
But the sacrament of Penance, as stated above (Question 88, Article 3), is perfected by the priestly office of binding and loosing, without which God can forgive sins, even as Christ pardoned the adulterous woman, as related in John 8, and the woman that was a sinner, as related in Luke vii, whose sins, however, He did not forgive without the virtue of penance: for as Gregory states (Hom. xxxiii in Evang.), "He drew inwardly by grace," i.e. by penance, "her whom He received outwardly by His mercy."...”

(cont'd)

Anonymous said...

Additionally, Walter Farrell in his “Companion to Summa,” had this to say:

“...The effects of Penance: On sin: mortal and venial
It is not only that Penance can and does destroy any one mortal sin; even though thousands of such sins were to herd together like a gang of toughs, they would be just as helpless to resist the blood of Christ. Penance forgives all sin. It cannot wash the face of the soul, leaving smudges here and there in less prominent spots; no mortal sin is remitted without sanctifying grace which cannot live in the same soul with mortal sin for the simple reason that the will of man cannot go in different directions at the same time. The sins that must be submitted to the tribunal of this sacrament are the mortal sins that have not yet been forgiven; these are the primary objects against which this sacrament is directed, what the theologians call "necessary matter." The free matter, which may or may not be submitted to the judgment of the confessor as the penitent likes, consists of mortal sins already forgiven and venial sins; but there must be some sin told in the confessional or there can be no sacrament. The priest, asking about sins of one's past life, is not whiling away the idle hours; he is making sure that there is matter for the sacrament, guaranteeing that the sacrament, with its infallible increase in sanctifying grace, will be received.
Venial sin can be taken care of without the sacrament. It does not require a new infusion of grace, since it does not expel grace but dwells, though not joyously, in the same house with charity. Of course, the forgiveness of venial sin demands something of the virtue of penance, at least that implicit displeasure at venial sin which is implied in an act of charity; for not even these slight sins are to be snatched out of a man's hands as a noisy rattle is taken from a baby by a nervous mother. Wherever there is a movement of the will to God and away from sin, there is a forgiveness of venial sin; so in every new infusion of grace, venial sin is forgiven. On the contrary, wherever the will of man clings to his venial sin, no force in heaven or on earth will separate him from it. In actual fact, there are thousands of occasions for the forgiveness of venia1 sins. The reception of the sacraments, a fervent Our Father with its detestation of sin, acts of reverence to God such as the acceptance of the episcopal blessing, the use of holy water, genuflections, and so on, are all means of forgiving venial sin....”

SWR

Fr. Robert Hart said...

SWR (I assume Sean Reed):

I have enough Evangelicalism in my bones to be just a bit uncomfortable with this: "In actual fact, there are thousands of occasions for the forgiveness of venia1 sins. The reception of the sacraments, a fervent Our Father with its detestation of sin, acts of reverence to God such as the acceptance of the episcopal blessing, the use of holy water, genuflections, and so on, are all means of forgiving venial sin....”

I do not actually disagree, but, I do see the need for a caveat. Though I find the word "occasion" to be fairly safe, avoiding as it does the idea of forgiveness by the power of human works, it is wise to remember that these things have no efficacy apart from grace through faith. They could actually serve as a distraction if people are taught to regard them as something akin to a legal remedy or to magic. If I may dare to quote the feisty German: "If you think you have found God without the cross, you have found the Devil." Luther's emphasis on faith (which meant repentance and a life of faith), centered on Christ crucified, seems to provide a necessary balance to keep the efficacy of sacraments, and even sacramentals, in their proper perspective.

RC Cola said...

Fr. Hollister wrote:
One of them told me that, in the years leading up to Vatican II, he had been an enthusiastic member of the then-fashionable Liturgical Movement. "Of course, what we thought we'd get was what you have," he said, "not the Novus Ordo."

TRUE!!! While I'm too young to have been in the pre-Vatican II liturgical movement, I knew several people who were involved--none of whom were pleased by the result. For example, when the idea of having the readings and other propers of the Mass in the vernacular, it was expected that the English would be sacred English, not pedestrian (at best).

My experience was too look at the Anglican Missal I thought, "Why didn't they [e.g. Bugnini, et al.] give us this?"

Of course it's obvious why they didn't give us a New Mass as good as the old, or as good as the BCP, or as good as the Anglican Missal-- because they wanted to hand down a faith that was barely discernible from secular humanism. There is no period in history that I hate as much as the 20th century with its wretched ideas of "progress" and salvation through technology and scientism.

I disagree with the assessment that the sexual disorder problem and the even more shameful racketeering and blackmail used to cover it up is the result of traditional RC moral theology, or the RC theology of justification by grace alone. Rather, I think it is a direct result of a) active recruiting of homosexuals and other disordered men into the priesthood (and along with that, the active dismissal of straight and masculine candidates like me) and b) the theologie nouvelle, of which Universal Salvation is a cornerstone. Universal salvation kills me, and it is the antithesis of traditional RC theologies. Blame the 20th century, not the 10th - 16th.

Mark VA said...

From the Roman perspective:

I've found the letter from Archbishop Haverland, and the complementary quotes on the sacrament of confession from the Catechism of the Catholic Church by SWR, necessary to clarify the actual teachings of the Church.

To sum up the basic points:

- Self diagnosis and treatment by the penitent is the wrong path to take, even for venial sins, when the correct remedy of the sacrament of confession is available (i.e. not an emergency situation);

- There are divinely sanctioned objective criteria by which the priest, acting in Persona Christi, can determine the understanding the penitent has of his sinful acts, his resulting culpability, and the correct penance;

- "Lists of sins" (if such things exist at all) are not normative in this process, since they don't take into account the degree of the penitent's moral awareness of his acts. However, reflecting on the Ten Commandments, or the seven deadly sins, can be of aid to the penitent when examining his conscience prior to confession.

I'm not sure how the lampooning of "His Excellency's car!" ended up with the discussion on the nature of sin and the sacrament of confession, but somehow it has.

RC Cola said...

I can't believe I forgot this before...

One of the worst abuses of theology I have witness in relation to the sex abuse was a priest defending the abusers claiming that the sacraments they confected were still valid. That is, he was using the anti-Donatist statement ex opere operato to dismiss or downplay the grave seriousness of the sexual sins committed by RCC clergy.

In not exactly the same words this priest said, sure the priests might have committed statutory rape against a 14 year old boy, but what right do you (meaning me) have to judge them? They are "priests" and their sacraments are still valid, and you (meaning me) are just a layman, and not an important one at that, so pray, pay, and obey.

I won't make the mistake of blaming patristic theology for the sex abuse, but be aware that the argument is out there, repulsive as it is.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I'm not sure how the lampooning of "His Excellency's car!" ended up with the discussion on the nature of sin and the sacrament of confession, but somehow it has.

Real conversations tend to develop that way.

I disagree with the assessment that the sexual disorder problem and the even more shameful racketeering and blackmail used to cover it up is the result of traditional RC moral theology, or the RC theology of justification by grace alone.

I think Fr. Wells was reflecting on a strictly legalistic interpretation that can be twisted into a justification for treating certain sins lightly (remembering that legalism can be either oppressive or permissive, as a methodology of rationalization). However, sinner that he is, Man really needs no help at all in practicing self-deception. Apart from the grace of God, we all are masters of it.

RC Cola said...

True. Fr. Wells raised a good point that makes the legalistic mentality repulsive. It allowed those men to poo-poo extraordinarily grave sins as if they were mere gaffs in etiquette.

Anonymous said...

We have been treated to an example of how abortion may be merely a venial sin. Oh how persuasive, truly beyond argument! And oh how helpful to the crazy nun who goes to work for Planned Parenthood! If abortion, why not child molestation? Here is the ticket to an endless moral Disneyworld!
LKW

Anonymous said...

Fr Hart said:

"Fine distinctions between mortal and venial sins all become sin unto death if they keep us from going directly to the cross by means of confession with hearty repentance and true faith."

Very well put, Fr Hart.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Archbishop Haverland has had more to say via email to me:


I'm afraid Sean Reed is mistaken.

It is not for me to characterize the current state of Roman Catholic theology, when there are competent authorities in that Church who can do so much more properly. However, my characterization of traditional Roman Catholic thought is correct. Consider this from Henry Davis, S.J. (1935):

'Perfect contrition is sorrow that is elicited from the motive of disinterested love; imperfect contrition is a sorrow that is elicited from a less exalted motive, such as gratitude or fear of punishment. The former remits all sin apart from the Sacrament....' (Moral and Pastoral Theology. Volume III, p. 355)

Or again, S. Thomas writes that 'Penance is a redirection of mind, which, sorrowing for sin and proposing amendment, must turn again to God and away from sin: all this belongs to contrition. Without grace and charity this conversion is impossible. By contrition the offence against God is blotted out and the debt of eternal punishment cancelled.' (IV Contra Gentes 72)

The old Roman Catholic theory was that perfect contrition by itself, or imperfect contrition ('attrition') when combined with sacramental absolution, sufficed to remit all sins. Sacramental confession is, on this theory, generally necessary because of the ease with which many of us fool ourselves into thinking that our contrition is true, deep, sincere, and disinterested; because the sacrament was instituted by Christ as the normal remedy for sin after baptism; and also because the sacrament is required of the faithful by ecclesial precept at least annually. An intention to confess sacramentally is a step in the formation of sincere, perfect contrition, and a determination not to confess impedes the formation of such contrition. But perfect contrition remits sins by reuniting the sinner to God in love, which is the whole purpose of penance.

So, as I wrote previously, according to traditional Roman Catholic moral theology, perfect contrition suffices for the remission of sins.

+MDH

Sean W. Reed said...

LKW wrote:

"...We have been treated to an example of how abortion may be merely a venial sin. Oh how persuasive, truly beyond argument! And oh how helpful to the crazy nun who goes to work for Planned Parenthood! If abortion, why not child molestation? Here is the ticket to an endless moral Disneyworld! ..."

You have totally and completely missed the point of the acedemic example concerning abortion.

In the example given, and using the criteria given, the young girl would certainly have grievous matter and may well have sufficient time and reflection, but her parents forcing the issue against her will would mean she did not have full consent of the will.

Would a mortal sin occur, yes, both on the part of the doctor, the parents, and likely those assisting but not on the part of the young girl.

This is the second time you have presented this example I gave and appear to indicate that it somehow downplayed the seriousness of abortion. That is not the case. I merely presented two examples: (1) of stealing an apple which would normally be a minor issue, in a circumstance in which that could be a moral sin and (2) of the young girl undergoing an abortion against her will and demonstrating that for HER in those specific circumstances, she would not sin gravely, if at all.


Sean W. Reed

Fr. Robert Hart said...

So, the ease with which we may interpret our own emotions as "perfect contrition," by that reasoning, makes the norm of confession all the greater. No matter how we feel, we ought to confess. If perfect contrition exists anywhere in the heart of a sinner, it could be only by the Holy Spirit, Who is the One always present in what we call the state of grace.

Such teaching is genuinely universal, or so it seems to me. This is one area of that very large common ground we share with our Roman Catholic brethren, our Eastern Orthodox brethren, and to varying degrees with many Protestants.

Sean W. Reed said...

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

1484 "Individual, integral confession and absolution remain the only ordinary way for the faithful to reconcile themselves with God and the Church, unless physical or moral impossibility excuses from this kind of confession."95 There are profound reasons for this. Christ is at work in each of the sacraments. He personally addresses every sinner: "My son, your sins are forgiven."96 He is the physician tending each one of the sick who need him to cure them.97 He raises them up and reintegrates them into fraternal communion. Personal confession is thus the form most expressive of reconciliation with God and with the Church.

Perfect contrition, is not the ordinary means of dispensing mortal sin.

Sean W. Reed

Mark VA said...

From the Roman perspective:

Sean:

It seems we're all in agreement that personal confession is the ordinary means of forgiving sin, as instituted by our Lord.

My take on perfect contrition is this:

If I were stranded on a deserted island, or in imminent danger, I would confess all my sins to God and beg to be granted the grace of perfect contrition. If I was rescued, I would thank God, and head to the nearest confessional.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Further to the discussion between the Archbishop and Sean, I think they may be addressing different issues, not really disagreeing.

Abp Haverland states that in RC theology, perfect contrition is sufficient for the remission of even mortal sins before confession. This is undeniably true.

Sean is putting a subtly different point, though he is mistaking his Grace's words as denying it. His point is that in the RCC, the person conscious of mortal sin is not allowed to partake of Communion without going to Confession, even if they believe they have made an act of perfect contrition. This is also true. The RCC acknowledges that a person can be forgiven of mortal sin before sacramental Confession, but does not permit the person to rely on this path to forgiveness as sufficient preparation for Communion. Because they do not permit this, and this ecclesiastical precept is well-known, they also teach that a RC cannot make a genuine act of perfect contrition without the intention of still making a Sacramental Confession in due time.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

...but does not permit the person to rely on this path to forgiveness as sufficient preparation for Communion...they also teach that a RC cannot make a genuine act of perfect contrition without the intention of still making a Sacramental Confession in due time.

Profoundly simple, and prudent. The principle itself is not only RC, but simply C.

Anonymous said...

From today's installment ofThe Former Anglican:

"Now, Cardinal DiNardo suggests that there may be single Ordinariate in the USA, which then would presumably cover present Anglican Use parishes and at least the majority of those presently belonging to the ACA."

Apparently, reality is setting in an hopes are sinking.
LKW