Monday, September 20, 2010

Refuting TAC spin on unity

Because certain bishops of the TAC/ACA have resorted to bullying the consciences of members of their churches who are reluctant to convert to Roman Catholicism, especially on a false basis and against their consciences, someone has to present a proper interpretation of the Scriptures that those bishops use as a club, or nightstick. Recently, we found that it is no accident that Abp. Hepworth and company avoid frank discussion of theological issues that remain unresolved between Anglicans and the See of Rome. Rather, it was a deliberate strategy to "give the theologians nothing to discuss" while shoving Roman Catholicism down Anglican throats.

This will not go unnoticed on The Continuum. We will discuss theological issues, and invite TAC/ACA members to read what we have to say, including what we have said already. And, specifically, when it comes to the misuse of John chapter 17, about unity in the Church, I will repost a study (below) of what the High Priestly Prayer really says and means, originally posted by me on July 28, 2008--before Anglicanorum Coetibus was out to give the aforementioned TAC/ACA bishops a motive for increasing their abuse both of Scripture and of the consciences of people supposedly in their cure.

Unity and salvation

"Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." John 17:20,21

We hear this quoted often, and alluded to even more often. Almost never do we actually hear the full quotation. This should not be surprising in an age that thinks in sound bites, and that places greater emphasis on how people feel about issues, than on what they think about them. When we are treated to these allusions and partial quotations, the message seems to be this: Jesus really wants us to become one, and we have to make it happen. Put another way, God is praying to us, and we ought to hear His prayer.

And, if that seems wrong to you, good; well it should.

The emphasis of the Gospel according to St. John is twofold: It is the Trinity and the Incarnation. As it opens, John takes us behind the scenes of Genesis. The Hebrew name of the first book of the Bible means, "In the beginning." ( B'Rasheet, בְּרֵאשִׁית). John opens with this same phrase recognized by readers of the Septuagint (LXX), the standard Greek translation of the Old Testament; He too opens with, "In the beginning," (En Arche, ἐν ἀρχῇ ). In the Book of B'Rasheet, or Genesis, we are told what God did, the word "created" (bora, בָּרָא) following as the second word ("In the beginning" is all one word). If translated into English words, but retaining Hebrew syntax, it would say, "In the beginning created God the heavens and the earth." The emphasis is not on God himself, but on his work of creation. John, using the expression known to Greek readers of the LXX (ἐν ἀρχῇ ) alludes to the opening of Genesis in a very obvious way, but does not immediatley speak of God's work. First he lingers on God as God, and presents God as the Trinity.

"In the beginning was the Word (Logos, Λόγος), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God." (1:1,2)

Verse 2 is not superfluous; it mentions God the third time because, as this Gospel unfolds, we see the Son and we hear him speak of the other Comforter, that is the Spirit of Truth. The theme of God as Trinity is presented immediately. Then, with a bow to the Genesis narrative, John speaks of creation (בָּרָא): "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. " He speaks of the Logos as the One in whom there is life, that is, life that gives life, suggesting most strongly the creation of Man: "In him was life; and the life was the light of men." When we keep reading, and get to verse 14, the second great theme of John's Gospel is introduced. "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth."

It is only in the context of these two great themes that dominate the Gospel of John, the Trinity and the Incarnation of the Word, that we have any business interpreting the meaning of the High Priestly prayer of chapter 17. The first Unity that we must consider in the words of this prayer is the Unity of the Trinity. So, it opens: "These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. " (17:1-3) Our salvation is knowing God, and because whoever sees the Son sees the Father, and no man comes to the Father but by the Son (14:6-10), because God cannot be separated from God (for each Person is distinct, but inseparable), to know the Father requires that we know Jesus Christ. The only true God is known truly only by revelation, namely, Jesus Christ Whom he has sent; that is, the Word Incarnate.

By the time we get to the place where Jesus says, "Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are" (v.11), it ought to be clear that he is speaking to the Father, one Divine Person to another Divine Person, about our common salvation in himself. The meaning is eternal and salvific. It means, in effect, keep them in me. For, "this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. "

Understood correctly, "that may all be one" gives greater motivation to be unified among ourselves in common faith and thought, with charity; because we are one whether we live like it or not. A prayer spoken within the Godhead, which we are privileged to overhear, the Son addressing the Father, is as much a declaration as "Let there be light," or "Let us make man in our image." God has pronounced that his people are one, that is, that the Church is, as St. Paul says many times, "in Christ." The Church as a whole is "in Christ," and each member of the Church is "in Christ."

Like marriage, "one flesh"
We know that a married couple is no longer two, but one flesh. This is clear in Genesis, in the Gospels where Jesus explains that divorce is a mere fiction, and in the Epistles of Paul when he warns us to live within the boundaries of God's moral laws. To suggest that the eternal unity of the Church in Christ can really be broken, is akin to believing that human courts can undo the work of God in a valid sacramental marriage. The Church's various divorces, whether in 1054 or in the 16th century, do not annul its unity in Christ; for if it did, members would be cut off and die simply because of human failing. Where true faith is present, we are in Christ; and, unless one can rob a Christian of his faith, he cannot cut him off from Christ (Romans 4:16).

Our unity is both a present and eternal fact, because we are in Christ. We should make efforts to understand each other, to be very clear in communication, to work for the resolution of theological and political separation, and to cultivate charity by the grace of the Holy Spirit who is within us all. But, we must not let this become mere sentimentality, and neither must we feel anxiety or pressure to leap forward faster than honest and clear communication allow. We already are one in Christ, and can proceed toward a resolution of differences in polity only with theological clarity and respect for everyone's conscience.


Colin Chattan said...

"It was a deliberate strategy to "give the theologians nothing to discuss" while shoving Roman Catholicism down Anglican throats."

I think you're quite right here, Fr. Hart. Generally the promoters of "Anglicanorum Coetibus" simply gloss over or try to trivialize the traditional Anglican theological objections to submission to Rome (in similar fashion, ironically, to the Anglican Church of Canada establishment when they wished to foist WO on the Church) - such as papal infallibility, Purgatory (as defined by Rome), and the Marian dogmas. Or they engage in rather silly and, frankly, disingenuous casuistry - which must be somewhat disconcerting to orthodox Roman Catholics. One line of argument seems to be that you can become a full-fledged Roman without full assent to these additions to the deposit of the faith - signing up with your fingers crossed behind your back as it were(the approach apparently advocated by Bishop Mercer and illustrated by the arguments of a philosophy prof in Ottawa quoted in the Anglo-Catholic)! Gosh, why stop there? Why not cross your fingers over just about everything else as well, including WO, ordination and marriage of homosexuals, abortion, divorce, the whole nine yards (after all, the majority of RC's in North America and Europe are all in favour of these things while remaining in full communion, full "unity," with the Pope)? But I suppose one shouldn't be too surprised: it's yet another manifestation of a long-standing central element in the "Anglican patrimony": the old "Anglican fudge" so dear to good Anglican liberals and with which anyone who has had any significant exposure to Anglicanism cannot help but be familiar, alas! The bottom line of the AC promoters would, I think, be well understood by Henri de Navarre: "Unity" is worth a mass.

And of course those who cannot subscribe to the "new teaching", wishing to remain nothing more than continuing Anglicans, are tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail - exactly as we were 30 years ago when we fled from the Anglican Church of Canada in consequence of WO.

For some reason the old Who song, "Won't Get Fooled Again," is ringing in my ears.

Anonymous said...

Just a few weeks ago The Former Anglican was crowing with pride and delight over the unanimity displayed in the Synod of the ACCC as it embraced the glories of the Ordinariate. Already signs had appeared that the unanimity was not quite unanimous, even when all the big brass of ACCC showed up to put pressure on the voting members of the small assemblage.
Now the Former Anglican itself has to report that that whole thing is collapsing like a house of cards, with a significant split even within the cathedral parish in Ottawa. The essay by the philosophy professor was appalling. His argument boiled down to something like this: Since many RC's do not believe in various dogmas, you do not believe them either, just move along like nice little lemmings and don't make a fuss. Not philosophy, but philo-sophistry.

This and other brouhahas will not play well when reviewed in Rome and many chancery offices. The Pope's guarded remarks on the whole project during his recent trip to UK seems to suggest that he and his curia are backing away from the whole mess.

Colin Chattan said...

It isn't only the parish in Ottawa that has problems. I gather from my sources that two of the larger ACCC churches in Canada, St. John's in Victoria and St. Peter and St. Paul in Vancouver, have either lost or are continuing to lose significant numbers. Most of those departing St. John's are heading to Fr. Sinclair's new parish of St. Mark's under the aegis of Archbishop Provence, which is flourishing. I suspect that when the real significance and consequences of submission to Rome begin to dawn on the remaining members of the Annunciation in Ottawa a good number of them will join their brethren under Fr. Jardine (Fr. Jardine makes, by my count, the 11th priest officially to have left the ACCC over submission to Rome). The facade of unity and consensus, carefully contrived by the TAC bishops, continues to erode like a sand castle before the advancing tide.

John A. Hollister said...

As "LKW" noted, the Professor's argument for doubters' accepting "Anglicanorum Coetibus" despite their doubts is, in essence, "Many R.C.s don't believe Roman dogmas, so former Anglicans don't have to either."

This, of course, is wholly dishonest. R.C.s who reject basic Roman dogmas are wrong to continue holding themselves out as members of the Roman Communion, like the politicians who claim to be R.C. on election day but who support abortion. When an Anglican -- or anyone else -- converts to Roman Catholicism, he or she makes a solemn profession that he or she believes as the Roman Church teaches. If that profession is a lie, it is not just a lie to the receiving priest but to God, before whom it is made.

Just think of how the Ottawa Professor's formula would translate to other areas of human life. What would he say to a bridegroom who, just prior to making his vows at the altar, tells his groomsman, "Well, of course I don't believe in being faithful to my wife, but it doesn't matter that I'm about to promise that because lots of men who are already husbands cheat on their wives, too."

Or apply that same logic to employees who steal from their employers, or politicians who accept bribes, or church leaders who lie to their parishioners....

The fact that some who are already Roman Catholics erroneously think that Western notions of political democracy and autonomy apply to the monarchical Catholic Church is no justification for any would-be Anglican's perjuring himself or herself.

John A. Hollister+

Anonymous said...

As a former 'conservative Anglican' and now an Eastern Orthodox Christian layman,I never thought that the passage meant that we all had to 'get together'! That would mean that Christ was prophesying the divisions of His Church! God Forbid!
It always meant to me that we were to emulate the unity that Christ already has with His Father and the Holy spirit, that we would aspire to the unity that St. Peter speaks of in another place.

Rdr. James Morgan
Olympia, WA

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Fr. John Hollister wrote
If that profession is a lie, it is not just a lie to the receiving priest but to God, before whom it is made.

That brings to mind the closing musical number in Gilbert and Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore:

CAPT.I shall marry with a wife,
In my humble rank of life! (turning to BUTTER CUP.)
And you, my own, are she—
I must wander to and fro;
But wherever I may go,
I shall never be untrue to thee!
ALL. What, never?
CAPT.No, never!
ALL. What, never?!
CAPT.Hardly ever!
ALL. Hardly ever be untrue to thee.
Then give three cheers, and one cheer more
For the former Captain of the Pinafore.

Anonymous said...

Reader James Morgan has made a good point. John 17 has nothing whatever to do with the "Branch theory" or modern denominational system, whatever may be wrong in those realities.

And Canon Hollister has brought out the correct term for what the learned philosopher: Dishonesty.

It would seem that dishonesty is okay when it helps people embrace the Ordinariate, but a horrible sin when it moves in the opposite direction. The Former Anglican tonight is full of the screeching and yowling of those incensed that three TAC bishops have recovered their sanity. These poor men are called everything except cherubim. The Roman Catholic Church should rejoice that it has been spared such an inundation of "perjurious knaves."

John A. Hollister said...

And Fr. Hart's quotation from "HMS Pinafore" reminds one of the famous exchange between King George II of Great Britain and his Queen, Caroline of Ansbach, on the latter's deathbed.

The Queen urged the King to remarry, to which he is said to have responded, "No, I will have mistresses!" The Queen's reply is recorded as having been, "My God, that doesn't prevent it!"

Could she, by some miracle of time travel, have studied logic under Prof. Tingle?

John A. Hollister+

John A. Hollister+

Fr.James A.Chantler said...

The Canadian Church has been torn apart by those who would have us abandon our inheritance but we loyalists,with the help of Archbishops Haverland and Provence, are going to be alright.We think many of those who,so far, have not disassociated themselves from the Ordinariate enthusiasts will eventually reconnect with us:in fact this is already happening!

John A. Hollister said...

As another sample of the sort of reasoning that is being used to promote the "Ordinariates", I recently read the following in the current Pastoral Letter from the C of E's Bishop of Ebbsfleet to his flock:

"Henry VIII's divorce from his first wife was made possible by divorcing the whole English Church from the Holy See. The King was to be in charge of the Church and not the Pope. It is for this reason that we have been brought up on a diet of 'No popery!', the propaganda of the Tudor state and of Stuarts imperilled by the gunpowder plot. It is for this reason that the heir to the British crown cannot be a Catholic."

How shall I count the ways he plays fast and loose with the facts of history? Any reader of "The Anglican Continuum" will surely be aware that the split between Rome and Canterbury did not occur under Henry VIII but instead twelve years AFTER Henry's daughter, Elizabeth, ascended the throne.

Then what about "Stuarts imperilled by the gunpowder plot"? Bp. Burnham couples this riposte with the term "propaganda" as though Guy Fawkes & Co. didn't actually stuff the cellars of the Palace of Westminster with explosives, but of course they did. Why wouldn't the Stuarts have felt "imperilled" by those who, like XVIth Century jihadists, conspired to murder them?

As to the Heir to the Throne, many of us wish he were a Catholic but unfortunately he seems all too comfortable with the Modernist Church of Rowan the Druid. However, all that the Act of Succession restrains him from being is a ROMAN Catholic, but not from being a CATHOLIC.

This "Anglicanorum coetibus" business really can't be, at bottom, much good if all its supporters can do to promote it is to misrepresent what it says and/or what the history behind it is. Although God is able "to write straight with crooked lines", He does not seem customarily to work through those who are patently dishonest.

John A. Hollister+

William Tighe said...

"the split between Rome and Canterbury did not occur under Henry VIII but instead twelve years AFTER Henry's daughter, Elizabeth, ascended the throne"

Had you written "the final split" the assertion would have been unexceptionable, but Henry VIII eas excommunicated by Pope Clement VII on 11 July 1533, although the excommunicationwas not publicly promulgated, and Paul III did the same in the aftermath of the executions of Fisher and More in 1535, and had it publicly proclaimed on 17 December 1538. That this was accepted throughout the Catholic world in Europe is illustrated by the way in which Bishop Gardiner of Winchester, English ambassador to Charles V, who had connextions with the university at Louvain, and enjoyed sojourning there, was refused permission by the university authorities to say Mass, privately or publicly, or to join with the clergy in any public services.

I may be understanding the tenor of Canon Hollister's remarks, but it seems to me clear that there was, in fact, a breach of communion not only between Canterbury and Rome by 1540, but between Canterbury and the rest of Catholic Europe.

Mark VA said...

From an RC Traditionalist perspective:

It seems to me that the subject of Anglicanorum Coetibus is slowly drawing to a close. Those involved are in the process of making their decisions known - some will undoubtedly sail with Peter, and some will continue to, well, "continue".

The pros and cons have probably been repeated enough times to prod even the staunchest procrastinator to make up his or her mind. Wouldn't you agree that the "ad nauseum" limit may be fast approaching?

On a more personal note, I regard the continuing Anglican Churches as friends and allies of the Catholic Church, on most issues of cultural importance. I also hope that those questions still separating us will, with God's grace, be resolved in the future.