Monday, October 10, 2011
Returning to bad habits
Well, when in Rome, whether Georgia or New York, or even Italy, do as the Romans. A few former Anglicans are about to find out the hard way what that can mean. Today we have yet more news that shows why opposite camps in the Roman Catholic Church (RCC), "liberal" and "traditionalist," offer no safe haven to former Anglicans looking for orthodoxy in practice or teaching. The National Catholic Reporter tells us, "It's officially a trend now. A second diocese, Madison, Wis., has moved to restrict Communion under both species." And then it provides details. I was first alerted to this movement a few years ago, and learned that it is likely to become the rule again throughout much of the RCC.
The problem is very simple. In the RCC a return to the past is often a return to an innovation, in this case an innovation of the Medieval period, one that persisted through more than half of the Twentieth Century. But, like the rule of clerical celibacy, various doctrines such as Purgatory and the Treasury of Merits, Papal Infallibility, etc., we may pin point the place in history when it began. It did not begin with Jesus and the Apostles.
In fact, as one person commented, "This is a disturbing trend. Withholding the cup from the laity is a return to the old RC clericalism that should have died out half a century ago. After one has listened to the nonsense about why this is being forced here and there, the matter still is one of priestly disobedience to Jesus' clear intention: 'Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (cf. Matthew 26:26-28)'"
The arguments for returning to this bad habit remind me of how amusing it can be to hear complaints about "receiving in the hand." Like so many alleged Protestant innovations we Anglicans indulge in, receiving in the hand was the ancient practice about which me may read in some of the writings of the Fathers; receiving on the tongue is the innovation, dating way, way back to the eighteenth century. Receive on the tongue if you prefer; but, don't think it is fidelity to the catholic tradition.
What I really fear is the spectacle of some Anglican priest somewhere deciding that he ought to withhold the cup from the laity. I will not go so far as to call it a "half communion." But, I will call it disobedience to Christ's command.