Friday, April 23, 2010

A conversation with Chester

Poor Chester was ready to give up. After years of trying to build a parish as a priest, he was prepared to abandon Continuing Anglicanism in favor of the Roman Catholic Church. He thought that it was the logical conclusion of being an Anglo-Catholic, as he understood it. We talked well into the wee hours of the morning, as follows.

Chester: I cannot fathom why you like to write about Cranmer and Hooker, and guys like that. We don't need them anymore. The further we can get away from them, the better. Would you stick us in the sixteenth century?

Me: I would think that five hundred years creates a lot of distance in and of itself. Frankly, I would hate to live in the sixteenth century, and I am glad we have a more peaceful way of discussing religious differences. But, what is it you want to get away from?

Chester: Protestantism, the clear rejection of the consensus of the universal Church.

Me: Consensus as to what exactly?

Chester: To begin with, their view of the sacraments.

Me: Before I debate you on that, what is the real issue in your mind about the sacraments as the English Reformers saw them? Does it bother you, whatever you think they taught, for any special reason? To be more specific, are you, as a Continuing Anglican, afraid that some vitally important element is missing in your own church ?

Chester: Well, I am just not sure. What if their beliefs did, in some way, make the orders of our clergy null and void? You must admit that for Rome to believe that they did is no small matter.

Me: No small matter in what way, exactly? In 1896 Rome entered into their alleged study with a clear bias, and with the conclusion already decided before any evidence was presented. When they presented their evidence it was all based on completely faulty history and bad scholarship.

Chester: But, Rome's opinion may be more than mere opinion, considering the antiquity and authority of that See.

Me: Even if I granted that, which I don't, the truth remains the truth no matter who tells it, and falsehood is falsehood no matter who tells it, and no matter how sincerely they tell it. Nonetheless, aren't you aware that Rome itself has admitted, one by one over the many years between 1896 and now, that their historical facts were wrong when they wrote Apostolicae Curae? Indeed, they have been forced to admit that the historical corrections made in 1897 were right all along, in the answer of Canterbury and York called Saepius Officio. Indeed, Rome holds only to one argument now, having surrendered to our superior scholarship on all the others. All they have left is this objection: They insist that sufficient Sacramental Intention was lacking in the English Ordinal.

Chester: Well, wasn't it? Just look at the words spoken when a man is ordained a priest today, or consecrated as a bishop, and compare them to 1550. No mention was made of priesthood or of the office of bishop. Today we hear the words clearly, "Receive the Holy Ghost for the Office and Work of a Bishop in the Church of God," and "Receive the Holy Ghost for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God." But, until 1662, nothing was said to indicate what the Anglican Church was doing. There was no mention made of either office. With the long gap of over a century, repairing the damage so that men whose orders were invalid could say words with a clear Intention, was not enough. For, if Rome is right, they had no Orders to pass on, making their actions null and void. You have to admit, it is a good argument.

Me: No, I certainly do not. If it were any kind of reasonable argument, I would have sought for a solution long ago. But, it is not a good argument at all. If anything, it is the last thread they have to cling to, needing it desperately in order to hold on to their own problem of maintaining some appearance of Infallibility. The part of the Ordinal you refer to is called, in each case, The Accipe Spiritum Sanctum, "Receive the Holy Ghost." It was not created by Cranmer, but was simply a translation from the Latin in the Ordinal used in England before the Reformation, in fact as early as the fourteenth century if not earlier. Furthermore, it did not need to specify either the office of a bishop or a priest quite as obviously as we have heard it since 1662; but, it did state each office specifically and clearly. It did so by quoting the portions of Scripture known and recognized by the Church as applying respectively to either the office of bishop or priest.

"Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained," was recognized by the Church as the words of the risen Christ in John 20: 23, and was believed to be a clear reference to the priesthood. For, from the earliest times, Absolution has been understood as a priestly sacrament. And, the words, "And remember that thou stir up the grace of God, which is given thee by this Imposition of our hands; for God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and soberness," were recognized as the words of St. Paul to St. Timothy, in II Timothy 1:6,7, and considered as words that related directly to Timothy's episcopal office; for he was the Bishop of Ephesus. In terms of Sacramental Intention, what matters most is that this is how these words were understood.

Chester: That sounds like you're making it up.

Me: Why? Don't you know your Bible, for crying out loud? Or, do you think the scholars who wrote the Latin Ordinal didn't know the Bible in light of the teaching of the Church? Or, do you think Cranmer didn't know the Bible and how it was understood by the Church? Or, do you think he would have felt free to add to such old words? By the Scriptures quoted in those two rites from the Ordinal, the offices were specified and stated in terms clear enough to satisfy Rome before the Reformation. Their meaning and significance did not change by translating them into English.

Chester: If so, why did the Church of England bother to add the words about the office of bishop and priest? Obviously, the argument of Rome caused them to see the deficiency.

Me: The argument of Rome did not persuade them at all. They added those extra words for the same reason that the 1662 Book of Common Prayer highlighted many other things we associate today with a High Church view: They did it to stop the mouths of the Puritans. It had nothing to do with Rome, and even less to do with any doubts about the validity of English orders all along.

Besides, consider how weak the argument is anyway. We really don't need those extra words, or even the quotations from Scripture to specify the offices, inasmuch as the whole Rite does, in each case, specify which office it is. In the prayers, in the Scripture readings, in the presentation of the man himself, in the examination, and so on. What do you think the words, "this godly and wel learned man to be consecrated Bisshoppe," or the words, "to bee admitted to the ordre of Priesthode" meant (pardon the accent)? Did God forget those words, in each ordination and consecration, by the time they got around to the Accipe part? I mean He is the Ancient of Days, but He is not old.

Frankly, for the Roman argument to work, you would have to say that all those people got together, in each service of consecration and ordination for over a century, without really intending to do what they came there for in the first place, and with no regard for the Sacramental Intention of the Church that they claimed to believe in, and to be part of, each time they said either Creed. With Rome saying this is the only argument they have left, I think we can say "checkmate." The debate is over. Anglican Orders are valid and always were.

But, you see, I know why Rome can't admit that. Look at the official Anglican Communion, and consider why we too no longer accept the orders of many Anglican churches. Rome is faced with the same problem we are faced with, in terms of the Canterbury Communion, and that is why we have our Affirmation of St. Louis.

Chester: Oh come on! If our Orders were so sound, why were the Anglicans so eager to make their Orders certain by the Old Catholic Infusion?

Me: They weren't eager to do any such thing. The whole Infusion business was nothing more than an ecumenical gesture in the high hopes that some day the whole Catholic Church would come back together. It was to help Rome accept us, not to boost our own confidence. Brian Taylor has proved that well enough with thorough documentation. For us, the whole "Dutch Touch" business is meaningless. It is simply a part of history without much relevance to anything important.

Chester: Talk about meaningless history! You, with all your writing about The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion.

Me: Look, we all know that there are some dangerously silly people out there (like that fellow Charlie Ray) who want to separate the Articles from the rest of the Book of Common Prayer, as if they were meant to stand alone or have some independent authority. And, so they use them to try to push their own rather new version of Reformed theology down our throats. But, even with those folks causing trouble, it is mainly for people like you that I have written so much about the Thirty-Nine Articles. It is because you and your kind are so quick to believe the worst about early Anglicanism, and so lazy when you bother to read the Articles at all, that what little you recall about them only confuses you and increases your doubts. I have seen a need to untwist and unspin the Articles just to give them back their intended, and perfectly catholic meaning. Well, of course you are in what's left of the ACA; but, in the Anglican Catholic Church's edition of the American 1928 Book of Common Prayer, we have the Articles right where they always were. The Affirmation of St. Louis specifically affirms two editions of the Book of Common Prayer both of which contain them. The Table of Contents does not list them as an appendix, but simply lists them like any other part of the book; so, Chester old buddy, let's not go over that old ground again. But, separate from the Prayer Book as some independent manifesto? Well, that's just not what they were intended to be.

Chester: Well, you have to admit, they deny that we have seven sacraments. Right there in Article XXV it denies that we have but two; and, it forbids Eucharistic devotions. So, I personally have taken a razor and cut the accursed foul Protestant Articles out of each copy in my pews.

Me: I see you have not read what I have written about Article XXV, and why it affirms seven sacraments with two as "sacraments of the Gospel" specifically instituted by Christ (as our catechism puts it) as "generally necessary to salvation." I have made my argument more than once. Put simply, the very word "sacrament" is not a Biblical word, but a word the Church uses for mysteries it has recognized in the Bible.

Chester: Ok, I've read your arguments on The Continuum. But, what about the bit that says we aren't to carry the sacrament, or lift it up and all that?

Me: I just wrote something on that; and let me read it to you (here it is): "What we find is not a rejection of Christ's presence, and not a rejection of change. [Cranmer] affirms [as he calls it] 'sacramental mutation' as a reality, 'this wonderful sacramental and spiritual changing of the bread into the body of Christ.' But, the weight of Anglican emphasis taught the common people that the service was not merely the Mass; it was also Holy Communion, after centuries in which priests ate and drank the sacrament supposedly on behalf of the laity, who lived most of their lives in the presence of the sacrament only to see it lifted up, to gaze upon it while it was carried about (see Article XXV), rather than receiving it. Now, in restoration of the true and Catholic doctrine, they were all both invited and commanded to partake of Christ by faithful eating and drinking of the same."

So, if you want to do Eucharistic devotions go ahead; just don't forget what it is really about.

Chester: You do love to hear yourself talk. What an egotist.

Me: Ah! The ad hominem reply. That means, even if I grant your point and admit my fault, I win anyway.

Well, that was it, as it got to be late and we needed to go our separate ways. I don't know what Chester will decide.


Otto said...

Is this a real conversation?

Maybe one of you smart guys should challenge one of the AC guys to a moderated debate on any one of these subjects. That would be great to see. Have you thought about a podcast?

Great work!

Canon Tallis said...

And this person, if he is more than a necessary fiction, thinks of himself as an Anglo-Catholic? It is clear, painfully clear, that he has read neither Holy Scripture nor the fathers - nor does he understand them. He reminds me far too much of Bishop Gore's dismissal of those who have learned their theology from the penny pamphlets from the racks at Westminster Cathedral. I am sure that his liturgics and the worship of his parish are all imitation Roman with the missal on the altar and the mutilated prayer book in the pew. Just how much confidence in Anglicanism does that indicate and just precisely what does it say to those in the pew? It is very difficult to grow a parish, a diocese or a church if the actions of the priest or the bishop consist of a not so subtle dissing of the central document of the Anglican tradition which indicate to more intelligent and perceptive laity that the clergy have no real belief and confidence in the prayer book. You know, just like Chester.

I would also like to point out that Article XXV does not forbid the use of the Sacrament for such things as Benediction and the carrying of the Sacrament in procession, but only reminds us rather strongly that it was instituted for the purpose of being received by the Church in Holy Communion. That would mean as you have pointed out for its true Catholic purpose.

And quite frankly, Father Hart, I don't think that Charles wants the Articles taken out of the prayer book, but wants instead them properly understood in precisely the terms in which you have explained them. But at the same time that you have been treating them in the same terms as the such Anglican greats as Bishop Browne and Bicknell. But he has had a parish priest who could have been the very model of Chester and an ACC bishop who breathed a far too public sigh of relief after they chased Charles from the ACC. He, however, remains in the Continuum.

It is for precisely these reasons that this blog and your writing is so important. If we are going to grow classical prayer book Anglicanism and the Continuum, we can only do so if the clergy from deacon to archbishops actually believe in the faith of the classical, orthodox prayer books and are willing to put that faith into action. In short, to live it rather than merely give it lip service while they pretend to be quite something else.

1st Veriword: matiolli
2nd Veriword: Vedit

Fr. Robert Hart said...


Good idea. Do you have any names to suggest? Will the TAC/ACA bishops allow one of their people to debate us?

They could, of course, continue to write comments, but it appears they prefer to pretend that we would censor them, which is both a falsehood and a convenient excuse.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Canon Tallis:

If the man is necessary fiction, his position is not. Each of his arguments have been made in previous comments by people calling themselves Anglicans.

Canon Tallis said...

Father Hart,

I certainly recognized that his positions were more than representative of many who call themselves Anglicans. I equally recognized that everything you ascribed to him probably could be quoted almost exactly from the comments sections of this blog. But I am glad that Chester is an invention rather than some poor fellow who has swallowed the Tiber all but whole.

Absolutely excellent work.

Fr. Steve said...

Sadly, Fr. Hart, your Chester sounds very much like the Rector of the church I serve as the assistant. He fancies himself more of an Old Catholic, and would love nothing more than to rip the Articles out of the book. What stops him is the fact that it would drive the little flock we have away.

I keep after him to move back towards the Prayer Book, but we use the Missal on the altar, and only do Evening Prayer every other Sunday Night, which coincides with the Sunday's I'm not at work.

I have seen firsthand that this kind of attitude doesn't grow a church. We have had 3 people in the last 3 years come to the church. All I can do is shake my head and throw my hands in the air. Thankfully, I have a good Bishop in Archbishop Reber, who fully understand our situation.

AFS1970 said...

I too am glad that Chester is a Screwtape like fictional character, although likely made up of a composite of several actual people.

As to the substance of the article, I have always wondered about the Roman claim about lack of intent. I would think that even if everything else were not in place, intent would be the easiest to possess and the hardest to disprove. Think about the most questionable orders you have ever heard of, the intent was there, as someone intended to ordain someone else.

Canon Jerome Lloyd OSJV said...

An excellent article Fr Hart and most enlightening! Well said particularly re Saepius Officio and indeed the purpose of Old Catholic Infusion re an exercise in ecumenism. Such a shame that those efforts never really bore fruit and you know I am one who does not believe the present accomodating AC is the natural result of all that past effort!

Otto said...

Fr. Hart,

Instead of asking a Bishop for permission to debate one of the AC "champions" why dont you make a very public challenge via multiple media outlets(as you are able) to debate any one of the Bishops themselves.

At least consider the podcast thing though...while you're waiting for an opponent for the debate.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

No one has given me a reason to eat my hat, regarding the challenge that stands unanswered but by one failed attempt. I will debate any of them, including the Thunder from Down Under himself.

George said...

Can someone clarify the Intent component of the ordination process?

I was thinking what if the Bishop who is consecrating a Priest to a Bishop and does not have the intention to do so..."unworthily" per se , but still following all other things needed to consecrate. Is the person who believes he is receiving the gift of the Sacrament still receiving it?

Because according the 39 Articles in Art 26. However, if that is the case what than if the Bishop doesn't truly have Apostolic Succession but is lying?

(I understand this why 3 Bishops perform the consecration , however, I would think there was a time when only 1 Bishop was available). I know I will be corrected if I am going down the wrong line of reasoning and logic. This more of mental exercise than mine own arugment

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The sacrament is valid or not according to the Intention of the Church. It is enough for the Intention to be no more than "doing what the Church does."

Canon Tallis said...

But just how does one as a bishop truly indicate that one has the intention to do what the Church has always done? The easy answer is to use the Church's rite as fully and as completely in obedience to its rubrics as is possible under the circumstances. And I, for one, have always thought that such was the right answer. You strip yourself of all personal preferences, of all party signatures and simply do all that the Church has ordered in the most exact conformity to the Church's rite possible. Sadly that seems a thing all but impossible for for those Anglicans who think of themselves as 'evangelicals' and those on the 'partisan' Anglo-Catholic wing. The first seems to believe that the rite still needs to be purged of all those dreaded popish dregs while the later attempts to find as many ways as possible to do use such ornaments peculiar to Rome since the Council of Trent as well as all the latest Roman innovations. Consequently it is hardly to be wondered that doubts have been raised about the intent of the traditional Anglican ordinal since both extremes seem intent or adding or subtracting as much as possible, perhaps not from the words ordered to be said or sung, but from how the rite appears to the eye of the beholder. And for better or worse, we are all more prone to believe what we see than what we hear or even what is done.

When it came to ordinations to the diaconate and the priesthood, the most exact and the most impressive I ever saw were those done by the Rt. Rev'd Horace Donovan in the Cathedral of St John the Divine with the Rev'd Canon Edward West acting as Master of Ceremonies. If you attended the whole thing from sung Morning Prayer in one of the chapels which would be followed by the most solemn taking of the oaths by one candidate after another to the actual ceremonies of the ordinations themselves before the high altar, you would have believed yourself almost anywhere other than New York City in the sixties.

It is surely a shame that most of the damage that we have done to the Church has been done in the pursuit of proving one party or another in an ascendancy of power. Hopefully we are now growing beyond that and back to a perfection of what we are supposed to be and do.

John A. Hollister said...

George asked, "what than if the Bishop doesn't truly have Apostolic Succession but is lying? (I understand this why 3 Bishops perform the consecration....)"

I suspect that it is more common in our own day for someone who is not incontestably a bishop to purport to ordain than it was in times past, although it has probably always been a low-level, i.e., infrequent problem for the Church.

This is why it is so important that ordinations and the like only take place in the context of some real, functioning portion of the Church, that is, when some real pastoral office is being filled in which the ordinand will actually be serving some subsisting portion of the Church.

That is the real problems with vagantes: where their operations take place divorced from the real life of the Church, there is no guarantee that they will be properly conducted.

As an example of how important this connection with the functioning Church is, a clerical friend, who served for many years in one of the Eastern Rites of the Roman Communion, told me that in Eastern Christianity in general, one is never asked "By whom were you ordained?" Instead, he told me, one is always asked, "In what cathedral were you ordained?"

Thus it is the fact that a particular ordination occurred in the regular course of the on-going life of a real diocese that is taken to be the guarantee of regularity and good order.

The minimum three co-consecrators certainly do help assure that at least one who was present and acting in the ordination of a bishop was indeed himself validly a bishop, but probably the custom was really based in the disire to show that the new bishop was, at his creation, received into the fellowship -- communion -- of his neighboring bishops. Of course, that, too, is part of his being in the service of the real, functioning Church.

John A. Hollister+