Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Papal Bull

Regarding the Pope’s July 10th DOCUMENT REGARDING CERTAIN ASPECTS OF CHURCH DOCTRINE, I believe much more needs to be said, especially after reading the comments to the piece that Albion posted earlier today.

To begin with, the Document that declared Anglican orders invalid is not a Roman Catholic dogma. The much misunderstood document Ad Tuendam Fidem, written by then Cardinal Ratzinger, mentioned Anglican orders strictly for the purpose of distinguishing the level of authority it has from dogma. In short, the position is that any teaching issued by the Magesterium in Rome must be treated as infallible by faithful Catholics, even if it does not rise to the level of dogma. In the same category as Apostolicae Curae (the 1896 Papal Bull which declared our orders invalid) therefore, then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger placed canonization of saints. In fact, certain canonizations have been rescinded: Saint Christopher was “uncanonized” long ago (since he probably never even existed), and even the case of Thomas A' Kempis had to be reopened since it was alleged that the scratches inside his coffin (assumed dead by mistake like many people prior to the age of modern medicine) indicated that he died in a state of fear- a rather harsh conclusion, since no one wants to suffocate. Nonetheless, the fact is, then Cardinal Ratzinger was opening the possibility that Apostolicae Curae could be rescinded, however subtle his approach was, but that faithful Catholics need to abide by its teaching. It is not dogma in the Roman Catholic Church, and never has been.

Also, in the archives of this blog from April 2006, it is easy to find my reasons for dismissing Apostolicae Curae, as well as further apologetics by Fr. Kirby to the same effect. Nothing much needed to be added to Saepius Officio (Archbishops of England, 1897) and The Question of Anglican Orders by Dom Gregory Dix (1945). Also worth consulting is Absolutely Null and Utterly Void by Fr. John Jay Hughes, a Roman Catholic priest who advocated in favor of reopening the question, and who was critical of the whole process of “investigation” that took place in the production of Apostolicae Curae.

Now, let me put forth a proper Anglican position on this whole document of July 10th.

First of all, it is time for some of our dear Anglo-Catholic brethren to stop trembling before the seat of Rome, as if we accept their standards as our own. It has always been the Anglican way to give the scriptures top priority in every matter of Faith and Doctrine, and to interpret the scriptures in accord with the earliest Patristic teaching, and the known beliefs of the ancient Church. The Affirmation of St. Louis has developed this into an adherence to the Seven Ecumenical Councils, with logic that follows from the earlier Anglican doctors, though concluding more boldly than the English Reformers and the Divines managed to do.

Second, we are not a Christian community “born out of the Reformation of the sixteenth century.” The first Archbishop of Canterbury (although we are not part of the Canterbury Communion in its present shape- yes I know) was Saint Augustine, not Thomas Cranmer or even Matthew Parker. The Church of England, especially in “round two” under Elizabeth, did not see itself as a new church, but, rather as the same Church of England, and it preserved much more of the Catholic faith and form than the Continental Protestants did.

Third, our answer to Rome is that, instead of this category, we belong to the other category they mentioned (“The Council wanted to adopt the traditional use of the term. 'Because these Churches, although separated, have true sacraments and above all - because of the apostolic succession - the priesthood and the Eucharist, by means of which they remain linked to us by very close bonds,' they merit the title of 'particular or local Churches,' and are called sister Churches of the particular Catholic Churches.”), and then only at the very least. For instead of being merely “a true particular church” we are, with them and the Orthodox, “One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.” “I believe in the Catholic Church,” is credo with us, and with no regard for whether or not the Magesterium in Rome accepts the fact. Let them say, if they must, to another member of the Body of Christ, “we have no need of thee.” We do not meekly reply, “then I am not of the Body.” We say, instead, “We do have need of thee, and you have need of us as well.”

Nonetheless, the communities that actually were born out of the Reformation, instead of simply having been affected by it (as was the case with the Church of England), namely, the Lutherans, the Calvinists, and the Zwinglians, along with Anabaptists, and then later along with Methodists and others, fit quite nicely into the definitions in the papal document. We also believe “that these separated churches and Communities, though we believe they suffer from defects, are deprived neither of significance nor importance in the mystery of salvation. In fact the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as instruments of salvation, whose value derives from that fullness of grace and of truth which has been entrusted to the Catholic Church.”

To return to my first point, it is time for Anglicans to rediscover the power of their own tradition, and to affirm its essentially Catholic character. In fact, we do have an Evangelical strain in our tradition, even a Protestant strain. However, these are because our Catholic beliefs remain pure from Roman innovations, such as Universal Primacy and the very recent novelty of Papal Infallibility. Frankly, if it is not in the Bible, it is not necessary for salvation, and every true doctrine may be proved thereby. Universal Primacy and Papal Infallibility cannot be proved by “most certain warrant of holy scripture.”


poetreader said...

Bravo, Father.
Finally a sensible and balanced voice! I've been fielding what I consider to be rather foolish comments on this all day. Thank you also for clarifying Cardinal Ratzinger's statement. I had hoped it was a bit more nuanced than had been presented, and apparently it is. I'd heard it but hadn't been able to locate the quote.


Unknown said...

Two comments (once again, from an RC lay theologian with great esteem for the Continuing Anglican community). First, Fr. Hart wrote that, "any teaching issued by the Magesterium in Rome must be treated as infallible by faithful Catholics, even if it does not rise to the level of dogma." This could be a bit misleading, since it makes it sound as if almost ad hoc Vatican pronouncement is considered on par with dogma, which is hardly the case. In order to be considered infallible, according to the Roman Church, a teaching must be the ordinary, consistent, and universal teaching of the Church, a somewhat higher bar than Fr. Hart's description might suggest to the uninitiated.

Second, it is interesting to note that Fr. Hart, like many Anglicans, sees in St. Augustine of Canterbury's episcopacy the founding of the Anglican Church. This would make the Anglican Church the product of a Roman mission, and unquestionably part of Roman jurisdiction.

At least one Continuing Anglican priest I know argues, instead, that when Augustine arrived at Kent, the Church was already flourishing throughout England, and that Kent was about the only still-pagan part of the island.

The first theory would seem to subjugate the Anglican Church to the pope's authority, while the second would place it on par with other non-Roman Churches.

ACC Member said...

Father Hart:

Thank you for saying what is obvious. Anglican Catholics have a catholic faith that goes back far beyond the Reformation.

It is time that those who are Anglo-Catholics start remembering their own catholic heritage. I liked very much your comment that Anglo-Catholics need to stop trembling before Rome.

The Continuum left ECUSA because ECUSA decided it had the right to change the faith/practice/order of the church as it sees fit.

I know lots of former Roman Catholics who left the RC, when in Vatican II, the Roman Catholic Church did the same thing as ECUSA would do a few years later. The faith/practice/order of the Roman Church was changed to suit the trends of the time. Those former RCs tell me they left because suddenly, on a whim, the Roman church told them that everything it had taught them their whole lives was wrong. They realized that if the Roman church had misled them about the faith either before or after Vatican II, they could never trust it to teach them faith again.

ECUSA was wrong to assume it change the faith with innovations as it sees fit. I believe the same applies to the Roman Catholic Church.

Brian McKee, nO/C.G.S.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Thank you, Fr. Hart, for this excellent piece. It is balanced and presents the Anglican Catholic position well. Anglo-Catholics have nothing of which to be ashamed in seeking to be recognized as a "sister" by virtue of the Vatican's criteria.

Should there be any doubt about the catholicity of Anglican Catholics, it should be remembered that the Anglican Prayer Book tradition has as its foundation the Sarum Rite (which Rome claims is valid) and the teachings of the Church Fathers (which Rome also claims as authoritative).

Anonymous said...

"Frankly, if it is not in the Bible, it is not necessary for salvation, and every true doctrine may be proved thereby."

i) Where is that (that every true doctrine may be proved by the Bible) in the Bible?

Anonymous said...

'Anonymous', you said...

"i) Where is that (that every true doctrine may be proved by the Bible) in the Bible? "

I don't think that's stated anywhere specifically in the Bible, nor does it have to be. Such, however, seems to be the patristic consensus regarding Scripture--not that Scripture is [i]formally[/i] sufficient, but that it is [i]materially[/i] sufficient doctrines necessary for salvation. In other words it's not "[i]sola[/i] scriptura" but "scriptura omnia continet".

Fr. Robert Hart said...


Thank you for reading and commenting. I am surprised by your response, because what I said was then Cardinal Ratzinger made the distinction between the level of teaching that embraces the subject at hand, and dogma. This is a very important point because most people mistake his real meaning in Ad Tuendam Fidem for the very opposite.

Furthermore, I did not say that the only origin of the Church in England was the mission of Saint Augustine of Canterbury. I said he was the first Archbishop of Canterbury, which is a simple historical fact; and that the English Reformation did not create a new church, but continued the existing one. After St. Augustine had firmly established the See in Kent, unity was acheived between the older British Celtic Church and the newer English Church at the Council of Hertford in 673, at which time one united Ecclesia Anglicana took the place of two divided bodies.

As for your last point, the reasons for separation from the Pope became an issue once he tried to incite Civil War in England, and demand the execution of Queen Elizabeth I, mainly because he was under the power of the king of Spain. He kicked the Church of England out of his Commmunion (I am speaking of "round two."). Furthermore, since we cannot accept doctrinal innovations, whether of Rome or Protestantism, we cannot simply bow to either; so any implications in the fact that it was Pope Gregory that sent St. Augustine, applied to the modern times, requires a lot of work. We cannot simply abandon theological priciples and submit to the See of Rome.

Anonymous wrote:
i) Where is that (that every true doctrine may be proved by the Bible) in the Bible?

To accept my answer you must be prepared to see why it is that sola scriptura (at least in the modern sense) is a dead end that keeps people in a looped tautology. The Bible never tells us that it is a closed Canon. For that we must rely on the authority of the Tradition of the Church, which has been guided into all truth by the Spirit of Truth, in declaring the Canon of Scripture to be closed.

Anglicans affirm, on this basis, that the scriptures "contain all things necessary for salvation." If you can think of something necessary for salvation that is not contained in the Bible, please bring it to our attention.

Furthermore, just because we cannot accept the free for all sola scriptura that has developed out of the continental Reformed churches and the contamination of modern "pop" religion, does not mean that we can set aside the genuine Patristic method for establishing dogma; namely, a use of scripture that is more akin to the methods of Evagelicals than some ACs may be comfortable with. The positions taken at the Ecumenical Councils were driven by scripture, interpreted with the help of precedent, but based mainly on the revelation in the Bible itself. Any attempt to untangle the Bible from the Apostolic Tradition of the Church is impossible; and the attempt cannot fail to cause a disaster every time.

I hope that answer helps you.

Dustin Ashes said...

Prior to Augustine the 'Anglo' church was known as 3 bishops from the island are noted as attending the Arles council in Gaul in 314. Christianity was in the 'British' Isles long before Rome sent Augustine to organize us into a proper church.

In retrospect St Augustine efforts seem to have failed to a degree as Anglicans apperently left to their own devices, refuse to be an organized religion. Must be the minerals in the blue face paint.


Continuing Home said...

Interesting. Fr. McGrath has weighed in on this also.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Hart-- thank you for your comments on sola scriptura--however, why then will Anglicans not accept the "Apocrypha" although it was part of the Canon pre-Reformation (was it not?, I assume it was) which is used by our Roman Brothers in the justification of purgatory, etc.

JE Roweland

Anonymous said...

Excellent post and excellent responses! I heartily endorse Fr Hart's conclusions and thank him for his reminders on the interpretation of Vatican documents: They must be read carefully and attentively, which is one thing almost no religion reporter for the secular media seems capable of doing. (Indeed, I sometimes suspect that the prime qualification for such reporters at most dailies is that they know little and believe nothing about their subject matter! The exceptions - Julia Duin of the Washington Times comes to mind - tend to prove the rule.)

This is why when I read the breathless report in the regional daily here, I immediately looked up the document and read it. It confirmed my suspicion that there was nothing there to sensationalize, nothing that was even news and fueled another suspicion - namely, that it gave the mainstream media another chance to cry "Torquemada!", having just seen the legality of the Tridentine Mass affirmed just the week before. Few, if any, who read this blog are unaware that the mainstream media (and secular liberals as a whole) are unremittingly anti-catholic. (They're also unremittingly anti-semitic, but are usually pretty quiet about that since it is considered poor taste and tactics to admit it. That, however, is another story.)

The bottom line is that people who are securely Anglican don't really have the time or the inclination to engage in the twin distractions of heavy-duty pope-bashing or of looking for the crumbs that might fall to us from Rome's table.

Fr Samuel Edwards

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Fr. Hart-- thank you for your comments on sola scriptura--however, why then will Anglicans not accept the "Apocrypha" although it was part of the Canon pre-Reformation (was it not?, I assume it was) which is used by our Roman Brothers in the justification of purgatory, etc

This question always gets me into trouble with Low Churchmen. Frankly, if you read Article VI carefully, you discover that the worst thing it says about the Apocrypha is that the Church "doth not apply them to establish any doctrine." But, they are to be read, and they are to be read in the Lectionary, as was always the practice in the Church of England. Also, they were in the Church of England's official Bible, including the King James Bible, first printed as late as 1611 (even though it takes online work to purchase a copy of the whole King James Bible). Finally, Artcile VI does, in fact, list them among them by name in a separate section, just as it does the books of the Hebrew Old Testament.

What does all this mean?

First of all, not applying them to establish doctrine is confusing. Does it mean that they are not really scripture? Or, is this following the example of certain of the Church fathers, including Saint Athanasius, who simply did not find them useful for the purpose of establishing doctrine? With whom were the Church of England doctors debating? Rome? Not really; they more or less simply dismissed specific "Romish" practices and doctrines with little or no debate. But, they were quite actively debating Puritans at home and some of the Contintental Protestants, for whom such books carried no real weight as the word of the Lord. Was this the reason? Or, is it likely that the English Church noticed that these are not the books that proclaim the great facts of revelation essential to doctrine? (They really aren't you know. You cannot use them for the essential dogmas except by way of allusions, allegories and suggestions. You just will not find the same power of Messianic hope as in the Hebrew Bible, even with the greatness of the Book of Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, the latter being the most powerful book among them).

These questions cannot be answered definitvely; but we can conclude that Anglicans are supposed to read these books "for eample of life and instruction of manners" (which is is far more significant than the word "manners" may seem to suggest in modern usage), and that they must do so in Church and in the use of the Daily Office, and that the Article does, in fact, list them as part of scripture, and that the English Bible contained them.

And, yes, they are named in Article VI, the article that identifies the scriptures, so what else should we conclude?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Fr. Edwards wrote:

(Indeed, I sometimes suspect that the prime qualification for such reporters at most dailies is that they know little and believe nothing about their subject matter! The exceptions - Julia Duin of the Washington Times comes to mind - tend to prove the rule.)

Yes, she is the exception; so is the Washington Times in general.

As for most of them, I believe they are required to pass an IQ test- and by "pass" I mean, show a sufficiently low score.