Friday, November 16, 2007

Bishop Michael Wright on the TAC and Rome

The following presents a point of view that deserves to be considered, but, like most things that cross jurisdictional lines of thought on this blog, it does not necessarily reflect the views of The Continuum, namely, the host and those of us who are contributors. The point of view of the author, Bishop Michael Wright of The Holy Catholic Church Western Rite, is clearly more in line with Orthodoxy than with Rome. Ironically, the use of the term "Western Rite" should indicate the "Eastern" point of view to those of you "in the know." By e-mail, Bishop Wright has told me:

"I was present at the Portsmouth Synod. It was a well-run and extremely pleasant occasion. When it came to the Letter [to the See of Rome] approval was unanimous. A draft text had been prepared and presented but the only debate was about minor amendments. It was this unanimity which made me wonder whether the leadership really understood the nature of the commitment it was making."

This gets to the heart of the matter. Is the TAC really anticipating that Rome will grant full sacramental communion any time in the near future? I would venture to say, "no." The whole idea that Rome will do anything in a hurry, or that full sacramental communion could be only months or years away is unrealistic. And, from Archbishop Hepworth to the lowliest Deacon, they probably know that it will take a lot of discussion. To be realistic, the reply from Rome could, potentially, restore the kind of earnest discussions that no longer take place between them and the Anglican Communion. However, if such discussions can begin to take place between the TAC and Rome, that is, the kind with a real goal and purpose of unity, this would not fill in the other great blank from Anglican history. In the old days, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion were working toward a goal of Reunion with Rome (not a simple surrender, but rather something that required Rome to consider the Anglican views- which was taken seriously over there), while at the same time working on unity to become one Church with the Orthodox. If the scenario were to involve a restoration of this newer kind of "East-West" via media that lasted through the Archbishoprics of Lang to Ramsey, where can we see any such approach to the Orthodox at this present time?
- Fr. Robert Hart

"I must leave you to form your own conclusions, but for me the Affirmation of St Louis provides a clear line of direction and responsibility for the Continuing Churches."

+Michael M Wright

A brief study by Bishop Michael Wright
It is now well known that the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) is seeking union with the See of Rome. To quote the official statement authorised by the Primate, Archbishop John Hepworth: “The College of Bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) met in Plenary Session in Portsmouth, England, in the first week of October 2007. The Bishops and Vicars-General unanimously agreed to the text of a letter to the See of Rome seeking full, corporate, sacramental union. The letter was signed solemnly by all the College and entrusted to the Primate and two bishops chosen by the College to be presented to the Holy See. The letter was cordially received at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith....”

The action of the Portsmouth Synod is a courageous step to take as it invites misunderstanding by those of other Churches and even risks rejection by some within the TAC’s own membership. Moreover this is a new departure, the first example of a ‘Continuing Anglican Church’ seeking a wider Catholic unity by stepping outside the area of the ‘Continuum’. The question remains however whether this action furthers true Catholic unity.
The Roman Church claims to be the original Catholic Church unchanged from the time of the Apostles onward. For those who think thus - and this seems to be true of the TAC leadership - union with Rome is the first obvious step on the way to restoring full Christian unity. However, in the interest of true union this claim has to be challenged.

The unity of the primitive Catholic Church was established in the following way. Throughout the whole collection of New Testament Epistles there are exhortations ‘to be of one mind’ and ‘to have the mind of Christ’ This theme appears notably in the Epistles of Saints Paul, Peter, and John - it is an understanding common to all three. To have a ‘different mind’ is the same as maintaining a different Gospel because the effect of receiving in Baptism and Eucharist the life of Christ through the Holy Spirit is to unite believers in one mind - the ‘mind of Christ.’ We see this concern to maintain a ‘common mind’ in the face of a particular problem in the account of the First Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15). When the assembly has reached a ‘common mind’ on the question of dietary regulations it is able to announce that the agreement has been achieved by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is left to St James to summarise the conclusion reached by the Council. James acts as Council’s voice. All subsequent Councils of the Church, whether local or involving wider areas of consultation (even to the point of those having ecumenical status) reflect the same pattern - a pattern exemplified at its most basic level by the 34th Apostolic Canon.

Unity is achieved through the maintenance of a ‘common mind’ with Christ. The achievement of a ‘common mind’ is proof of the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit. The unity and identity of the Catholic Church comes about through sacramental incorporation by the Holy Spirit into Christ’s risen life - and thus the possession of His mind.

The maintenance of a ‘common mind’ linking the Apostolic Twelve with their successors the bishops with their flocks is at the heart of what we call the Holy Tradition and this in turn is the consequence of the abiding, active and direct presence of the Holy Spirit within the Church. For the same reason heretics, those of a ‘different mind’, even if they administer an outward form of Christian baptism, do not receive the grace of the Holy Spirit uniting the believer to Christ and making him a member of His Body, the Catholic Church.
In the course of time the Catholic Church had to come to a ‘common mind’ over the doctrinal standing of various movements which threatened conflict within the Church. Arianism, for example, was eventually rejected by the ‘common mind’ established through the first two Ecumenical Councils. Subsequent Ecumenical Councils dealt in a similar ‘conciliar’ manner with other movements and this accounts for the series of Seven Councils acknowledged by the Orthodox and Roman Churches alike (as also by those Anglicans abiding by the Affirmation of St Louis). The ‘conciliar’ ecclesiology was far more than a convenient way of achieving a majority consensus, it was essential to the nature of the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church therefore is a sacramental fellowship, a koinônia linking heaven and earth, uniting all members, corporately and individually, with the life and mind of Christ through the Holy Spirit. Any challenge to this ‘conciliar’ ecclesiology overturns the very nature of the Catholic Church and constitutes the intrusion of a ‘different mind’, marking a departure into heretical isolation.
Historically the Roman Church came to occupy the chief position among the great patriarchal sees of the Church, but its confirmation, along with the other great patriarchates, of the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils indicated no more than that the ‘conciliar’ process of consultation was now complete. All this changed following the Eighth Ecumenical Council.

It is little known that there is an 8th Ecumenical Council and it is not the Council listed by the Roman Church. In AD 869 a council was held at Constantinople with the purpose of deposing the Patriarch Photios. The council was driven by the political agenda of the then Byzantine Emperor Basil. Ten years later another Council was held which restored St Photios as Patriarch, declared the previous council null and void, and also condemned any addition to the Creed (the Frankish ‘filioque’ clause was the target). This Council was fully endorsed by all five Patriarchs and for almost two hundred years thereafter was recognised universally as the 8th Ecumenical Council (880). Toward the end of this period the Church in Rome, now under the dominant influence of the Frankish Church, inserted the Frankish ‘filioque’ clause into the Creed. This was done unilaterally, ignoring the authentically Catholic ‘conciliar’ procedures observed and maintained by all previous popes. Some decades later the Roman Pope ceased, again unilaterally, to recognise the true 8th Council in favour of the earlier abrogated council (this earlier council is the one still listed by the Roman Church as the 8th Council).
These actions mark the replacement within the great Western Patriarchate of the essential Catholic ‘conciliar’ ecclesiology. The ‘common mind’ was now to be imposed by a single individual claiming a special delegated authority as the successor of Peter and Vicar of Christ. Although this notion had grown up slowly over many centuries within the Western Patriarchate, this was the first time it was put to the open test and it was never universally received - it was not, in short, the ‘common mind’ of the Catholic Church. With this action the Roman patriarchate broke away from the Catholic Church and has remained unreconciled to this day, still asserting, as in Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, that:

“In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power.” (Lumen Gentium, Chapter 3 section 22)

In this way the Roman Church has long since abandoned the authentic Catholic Church and set up a Church with a ‘different mind’. Judged by the Tradition of the Catholic Church this is a departure into heresy. From the Orthodox Church point of view the requirement for reunion of the two Churches is the stark demand that the Roman Church repents and repudiates its innovative ecclesiology. A thousand years of separation have also created other doctrinal obstacles, teachings which have no place in the authentic patristic Tradition - these also would have to be repudiated.

This is a brief blunt sketch of the background against which the decision of the TAC leadership has been made. Much that is written about Christian reunion ignores the gravity of the breach between the Catholic Church and the Roman Church. There is an unfounded assumption that the great divide is between Rome and the Churches of the Reformation and that once this obstacle has been removed the far older dispute will be easily resolved. It would seem that the TAC leadership is taking the road to Rome ignoring (probably not even aware of) the far greater gulf between ‘East’ and ‘West’.
On the other hand The Affirmation of St Louis remains loyal to the original, authentic conciliar’ ecclesiology of the Catholic Church, firmly rooted in Scripture and Tradition. If the intentions of the TAC are fulfilled and ‘full, corporate, sacramental union’ with Rome is achieved it will be less a Catholic Church than it is at present - so is its journey really necessary?

Meanwhile it is spiritually dangerous to claim that the Roman Church and, for that matter, all Churches originating in the Western Patriarchate, are heretical and false Churches devoid of grace. Faithfulness to the Holy Tradition can be turned into a new legalism which stifles the voice of the Holy Spirit and creates blindness toward spiritual reality. It is encouraging therefore to be able to quote another aspect of the Roman Church’s Lumen Gentium:

“The Church recognizes that in many ways she is linked with those who, being baptized, are honoured with the name of Christian, though they do not profess the faith in its entirety or do not preserve unity of communion with the successor of Peter. For there are many who honour Sacred Scripture, taking it as a norm of belief and a pattern of life, and who show a sincere zeal. They lovingly believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ, the Son of God and Saviour. They are consecrated by baptism, in which they are united with Christ. They also recognize and accept other sacraments within their own Churches or ecclesiastical communities. Many of them rejoice in the episcopate, celebrate the Holy Eucharist and cultivate devotion toward the Virgin Mother of God. They also share with us in prayer and other spiritual benefits. Likewise we can say that in some real way they are joined with us in the Holy Spirit, for to them too He gives His gifts and graces whereby He is operative among them with His sanctifying power. Some indeed He has strengthened to the extent of the shedding of their blood. In all of Christ's disciples the Spirit arouses the desire to be peacefully united, in the manner determined by Christ, as one flock under one shepherd, and He prompts them to pursue this end. Mother Church never ceases to pray, hope and work that this may come about. She exhorts her children to purification and renewal so that the sign of Christ may shine more brightly over the face of the earth.” (Lumen Gentium, Chapter 2 section 15)

What is remarkable about this statement is that it acknowledges that Christians outside the confines of the Roman Church are united to Christ by baptism and likewise participate in the Holy Spirit. This statement can only mean, if unintentionally, that the Orthodox Church possesses the essential elements which constitute the Body of Christ - is, in fact, authentically Catholic. The same judgement applies also to those Continuing Anglicans committed to the Fundamental Doctrinal and Moral Principles set out in the Affirmation of St Louis. The Roman Church, of course, insists on a further requirement, acknowledgement of the unique status of the Roman Papacy, but this adds nothing to the Catholic and salvific reality which it admits to be possessed by Churches outside its self-defined confines.

In summary, union with Rome only makes sense once unity is restored between all five ancient patriarchates of the Catholic Church and the ‘common mind’ broken by the Roman Church is once more restored. The present action of the TAC has no significance in terms of furthering the unity of the Church. Meanwhile it is our responsibility to maintain our present witness to the authentic ecclesiology of the undivided Catholic Church, for this is the standard to which all must return if there is to be the true unity which Christ wills and of which he himself is the abiding foundation.

NOTE: The actual course of events and relationship between the two Councils was establish some sixty years ago by the Roman Catholic Church historian, Francis Dvornik. Since that time much discussion and research has been devoted to the matter. The best recent account which gives the necessary priority to the doctrinal issues is by Fr George Dragas.


Michael said...

My response, whenever the Orthodox question is brought up, is to say that although the Affirmation calls for restoration of communion with both Orthodox and Catholics, both East and West affirm (in some sense or another) the primacy of the Roman Patriarchate. Since Eastern Orthodox leaders (or at least the Ecumenical Patriarchate) also have pledged to seek unity with Rome, the Vatican provides a focus of unity to work with, in seeking unity with Orthodox as well as Catholics.

Secondly, there have been plenty of dialogue efforts between TAC and Eastern Orthodox leaders. Some people in the TAC have a very long history with Orthodox Christians. My home parish spent a good part of its early days worshiping in an Orthodox church hall, and an Orthodox parish now worships in our church. Also, a Romanian Orthodox Archbishop was a guest at a TAC consecration in Canada earlier this year.

Finally, in a recent issue of the Messenger Journal, there is a report that the TAC province in South Africa was involved in a dialogue with the Patriarchate of Alexandria, and it was hoped that an intercommunion agreement would come out of that.

The main problem with dialogue with Eastern Orthodox churches is the multiplicity of Orthodox jurisdictions in North America. Between that and the weakened state of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, it is hard to know who to talk to. I'm not sure if there is any Orthodox group able, at this point, to respond to a request such as the TAC is making of the Vatican.

The announcement yesterday of the latest step in Roman-Orthodox unity, the Revenna statement, also comes into play here. There are increasing rumbles of something big breaking on that issue, probably not for a while, but comparatively quickly (when one considers the 950 years the schism has gone on for). More and more, I think the Orthodox or Catholic question will be irrelevent, because it will become more and more clear that these churches are on a path to reconciliation of some sort.

Whichever way the HCC-WR would like to approach the matter of unity - by talking to the Vatican, Canstantinople, or some other Patriarchate - this is the time to do so. And yes, that journey, in one form or another, is necessary. And, whatever way it begins, the journey's end must include full communion with the Holy See.

Anonymous said...

"In summary, union with Rome only makes sense once unity is restored between all five ancient patriarchates of the Catholic Church and the ‘common mind’ broken by the Roman Church is once more restored. The present action of the TAC has no significance in terms of furthering the unity of the Church".

This is of course true if you believe that "Rome has erred".
Does the TAC believe so?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

For a while it appeared that real reconciliation between Rome and the Orthodox Patriarchates would come as each crossed the Anglican bridge to each other. Is this hope being restored? That is the big question.

poetreader said...

To Antonio:
Yes, many in the TAC do believe that Rome has erred in many ways. I am one that believes this to be something to be said of every part of divided Christianity, something we must all say of ourselves if we are ever to come to the unity for which Jesus prayed. "We have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep," as the confession at MP & EP says.

To Fr. Hart:
Was it ever realistic to believe that Rome and Constantinople ever really sought or even welcomed any role of Anglicanism as a mediator? Much as I tried to believe such a thing, I never could see any real evidence of it.

To Michael:
Yes, it is time for such movement on all fronts. Whether they seem practical or likely or neither, the effort must be made.


Anonymous said...

I would put things more simply than Michael and say that you have to start somewhere. If I am making a chair (which I have never done), I know that it won't stand on one leg but will need the other three. It does not, however, mean that I haven't got nearer to the completion of said chair by sticking the first leg on.

Anonymous said...

"Was it ever realistic to believe that Rome and Constantinople ever really sought or even welcomed any role of Anglicanism as a mediator? Much as I tried to believe such a thing, I never could see any real evidence of it."

I can't think of anything more unlikely to be honest. De facto it would be an affirmation, by both parties, of the Branch Theory and the validity of Anglican orders. More likely if there was to be a mediator it would be the Melkites, given their somewhat special relationship to both parties, but even that is highly unlikely due to political sensitivities.


Anonymous said...

Having recently come into the ACA, I am actually in favor of this union with Rome. It has been through many long hours of prayer and reading that my conscience has been formed in that direction. "Unity without absorption" sounds good to me.

Pax Vobiscum


Fr. Robert Hart said...

Conor wrote:
"Was it ever realistic to believe that Rome and Constantinople ever really sought or even welcomed any role of Anglicanism as a mediator?..."I can't think of anything more unlikely to be honest. De facto it would be an affirmation, by both parties, of the Branch Theory and the validity of Anglican orders.

The facts of history show that Rome and the Anglican Communion were working towards Reunion, and that the Orthodox were working with the Anglicans for the purpose of joining the two communions into one Church. Since these were going on at the same time, the result would have been a healing of the Great Schism. What derailed these two efforts was the "ordination"of women. Was the AC sought out as a mediator? No. Rather, it was simply accepted as one.

And, yes, the Orthodox did make quite official their "acceptance of the validity of Anglican Ordinations, and, adhering to the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, of July 28, 1922, pronounces that if priests, ordained by Anglican Bishops, accede to Orthodoxy, they should not be re-ordained, as persons baptized by Anglicans are not rebaptized." So, Conor, you need to read the facts. Like it or not, the Anglicans were not ever treated the way some RC purists would wish.

Anonymous said...

Whenever this issue of the TAC and Rome comes up, there invariably seems to be a fair degree of ambiguity and confusion about what actually is being proposed -- the fault for which ambiguity, I think, lies as often with the respondants as it does with the TAC. But I think the ambiguity is quite real and would benefit from explicit clarification by the TAC.

Let us distinguish between "papal primacy" and "papal supremacy".

By "papal primacy" I mean that primacy of honor which even the Orthodox accept. This notion of "primacy of honor" has the force of antiquity and patristic affirmation.

By "papal supremacy", in contrast, I mean the Roman elaborations on this notion - those not accepted by the Orthodox - of "universal ordinary jurisdiction" and "papal infallibility."

No thoughtful or historically informed person - certainly no anglocatholic - could object to a desire to restore union with Rome and accept "papal primacy" in the first sense. Such a desire is, indeed, no more than obedience to our Lord's wish "that they all may be one." And if this is what the TAC is pursuing, and if folks realized this, I think many of the objecting voices -- with the exception, of course, of knee-jerk anti-catholic Protestant reactions -- would fall silent.

It is the perception that the union being sought accepts the _second_ notion -- papal _supremacy_ -- which, I think, causes the most concern. "In what sense" it might reasonably be asked "are you an Anglican if you accept papal infallibility and universal ordinary jurisdiction? Are you not, in this case, simply a disobedient Roman Catholic, refusing to accept the very papal authority in which you claim to believe by maintaining membership in a non-Roman not-in-communion-with-Rome ecclesial organization for the sake of maintaining the liturgy and practice of that 'not really Church' (because not Roman) body?"

It is this perception (right or wrong) which has prevented some people, clergy and even parishes from joining the TAC when they might otherwise have at least considered it.

I think if people realized (assuming that this is, indeed, the case) that the TAC isn't proposing an unthinking acceptance of and capitulation to the Roman innovations of "papal supremacy" -- if the TAC clarified this situation -- that reaction to these proposals might not be as negative.


Alice C. Linsley said...

The primacy of the Roman Patriarch remains an issue between East and West, largely because they two sides define "primacy" differently. Then there are the difference approaches to theology: mystical or systematic. I sense that Rome is still suspicious of mysticism.

A review of Martin Luther’s 95 Thesis reveals that Luther’s argument with Rome centered on his understanding of the Blood of Jesus. The Pope had claimed saving equality with the Blood of Jesus and this political claim overthrew the integrity of the Priesthood. This is what Luther disputed in the first eight of his thesis. To what degree has Rome looked at this? The Roman Church today isn't what it was in the 15th century, but has this been addressed and corrected?

Anonymous said...

LP’s distinction between ‘papal primacy’ and ‘papal supremacy’ is helpful. The TAC request for ‘full corporate sacramental communion’ with the See of Rome does not seem compatible with the phrase ‘Union without absorption’ which your anonymous contributor puts forward. The latter phrase suggests that the TAC expects to remains a distinct self-governing ‘sister Church’ in full communion with the Roman See. Such a relationship would come naturally to Churches which accepted ‘Papal primacy’ as LP expounds it, but would be impossible on the basis of ‘papal supremacy’. The acceptance by Rome of full communion on the basis of ‘papal primacy’ would be revolutionary indeed, undoing all developments within Western Christendom for the last thousand years .

Although we do not yet know the precise terms of the request, it is difficult, therefore, to see that any headway can be made without acknowledgement by the TAC of ‘papal supremacy’. There are TAC members who declare “We are seeking union with Rome but are not becoming Roman Catholics. Presumably what is meant is that the TAC hopes to be placed in a special category which allows the use of treasured Anglican ways - without interference from the local Roman hierarchy. It would not be difficult for Rome to grant this - there are many precedents already - provided there is no compromising of ‘papal supremacy’.

Although it is fashionable for Churches to talk of ‘progress towards unity’ such unity is not a matter of negotiation. The unity of the Church is a ‘given’ and this is why the unbridgeable gulf exists between ‘papal primacy’ and ‘papal supremacy’. The unity of the Church is a ‘given’ because it is based on the unity (koinônia) of the Holy Trinity, made available by grace to the created order through the incarnation of the Son, (John 17, verse 11 and also verses 22 and 23).

We are not dealing with a disciplinary schism between two vast and ancient ecclesiastical bodies - the Orthodox and the Roman Churches: we are faced with the fundamental question of how Christ relates to his Church. ‘Papal primacy’ accords with the direct sacramental presence of Christ living in his Church; ‘Papal supremacy’ claims a Christ who bestows the grace of his presence by through a specified delegate - the successor of Peter. If one ecclesiology is true the other is false, there is no escape from this conclusion.

It has been my intention here to make a harsh contrast between the two ecclesiologies. We must have a clear understanding of the nature of the problem before we can move toward a proper in depth solution.

poetreader said...

If one ecclesiology is true the other is false, there is no escape from this conclusion.

Does that necessarily follow? Is it not possible that both statements reflect an incomplete understanding of the situation? In other words, that neither is entirely true? The history of theology is littered with attempts to draw bald opposition between concepts that are merely parts of a complete and not entirely comprehensible truth. Is God One or is He three? Is Jesus God or is He man? Is He best described as one or as two? In all of these cases, to take one of two seemingly contradictory propositions and to deny the other is to commit serious heresy. Similar concerns come in in the attempt to contrast predestination and free will, to oppose faith and works, to define the nature of the Presence in the Sacrament, and on and on. Orthodoxy is the acceptance of all that is revealed as true, whether we have been able to find how the concepts coexist or not.

For all their faults, I do see in the pronouncements of Vatican II a real attempt to allow these seemingly opposed concepts to work together, with or without full understanding. Both sides of +Wright's dichotomy appear to be expressed clearly and definitively as absolute truth in these documents, and that is probably as it should be.

I tend to think of Christian unity by means of a parable. It is as if I owned a single large farm. My ownership is completely uncontested and I have all the requisite deeds in my possession. However, an enemy has erected a fence right across the middle of my farm and it has become necessary to administer the two sides separately. On one side I've appointed a manager to run things for me. On the other side it seemed better to set up a board of directors. I'm in close contact with both administrations.
I insist that I still have only one farm. Which side, then is the real farm?

I'm convinced that the apparent division of the one Church persists primarily because the wrong questions are constantly being asked. I'm already a part of the one true Church. My part of the farm doesn't need to become identical with other parts for this to be true. The problem isn't me, and it isn't them. It's the fence. Let it come down.


Anonymous said...

It's an attractive and sympathetic parable. But I don't think it's accurate... in three key points.

The owner - God - owns the farm - the Church - and has left managers in place - bishops.

For a time they got along - perhaps not agreeing on all details of management or in their understanding of the owner's wishes, but still working together, each manager tending a part of the farm.

Eventually, however, a disagreement arises over management of one particular small field... with the result that THE MANAGERS THEMSELVES built the fence.

Secondly, while as Anglicans we may say that we believe both East and West to be genuine and equally - albeit divided - parts of the one true church, neither the East nor Rome says this.

Rome does not believe the East has the fullness of the Catholic Church (though it may have some valid elements) because it is not in communion with the See of Peter; the East believes Rome has abandoned the fulness of faith (e.g. in adopting the filioque) and adopted a novel and erroneous ecclesiology ("papal supremacy").

So from their perspective, it is ultimately (regardless of the political niceties of nuance) not the "Anglican" view of one farm divided by a fence, with each side still an equally valid part of the farm, but rather each "side" believes that they _are_ the full farm... and that what lies beyond the fence, though "farm-like", is not actually the owner's one true farm.

Thirdly, neither does either side believe "oh, the owner set up one way of governance for this part and one way of governance for that."

Rather, the East looks to the company of the apostles, the apostolic succession, and the conciliarism of the early Church and says "_this_ is how the owner wishes the 'managers' to work together -- one perhaps with a primacy of honor but all with an equality of authority" and so believes that Rome does not embody merely an "acceptable alternate" polity, but, in fact, a false one disobedient to the early church and will of Christ. For them, those Roman 'managers' walked off the farm and set up an adjacent, disobedient farm-like institution when they abandoned the will and instructions of the owner.

Correspondingly, Rome believes papal supremacy to be present in Christ's charge to St. Peter and the practices of the early Church, and that her current teaching of papal supremacy, while not explicit in all the practices of the early Church, is nonetheless implicit... and that her current teaching about universal ordinary jurisdiction, papal infallibility, etc are a valid development of ecclesiastical doctrine... and that the East has erred by rejecting that development and, thus, been cut off from the fullness of the true Church.

You can't say "oh, it works one way in this portion and another way in that portion"... because Rome's claim is that the pope has universal ordinary jurisdiction over _all_ the Church, that only those bishops who are in full communion with Rome (and thus who accept these teachings of universal ordinary jurisdiction and infallibility) are the _full_ and _real_ Church.

To propose, thus, that "oh, it works one way in this portion of the one true Church and another way and that portion" is thus, in fact, to reject Rome's position altogether.

So the 'solution' isn't simply a case of simply waving away a fence put up by an enemy and ceasing to bicker over it.

Not only has this fence been put up by the "managers" themselves, it also was put up not arbitrarily, but erected based on genuine and ultimately incompatible differences about how the 'owner' wants the 'farm' to be managed... indeed, over what the 'farm' actually is.

The fence isn't the problem. It's a sign of the problem, its clearest manifestation, but it's not the root of the problem... it's not the cause; it's the result.

The cause is these incompatible understandings of "ecclesiology", "communion" and "Church"... and all their ramifications.

And it will not be until these differences are reconciled that the "fence" can actually be torn down in any meaningful way.


Ken said...

Here's my speculation FWIW:

There will be no intercommunion between TAC and the RCC forthcoming but...

assuming the reports that the Vatican had a hand in producing the request from TAC are true, this request will give the Vatican an opportunity to "reconsider" Leo XIII's appraisal of Anglican orders in light of the intervening years.

A possible outcome of this is to declare the bishops of TAC (as well as others) as validly ordained bishops in apostolic succession. This would result in a very limited intercommunion such as what the RCC currently has with the Orthodox (sharing in sacraments in "emergency" situations).

This ploy would be used to attract dissaffected Anglicans worldwide to TAC from the hopelessly corrupt Anglican Communion (which is splitting anyway), but Anglican who wouldn't go to Rome directly. This fits in well with B16's call for a catholic spiritual renewal of Europe (Western Civilization). In fact, this call is the overarching goal of his pontificate. Everything else must be seen in that light such as the freeing of the TLM, Orthodox relations, etc.

Anonymous said...

Love it, Ed!

poetreader said...


1. Certainly the managers built the fence, even though its building was at the urging of an enemy. I should have put that more explicitly in the parable. Did they have the authority or the ability to divide ownership of the farm? Were they able, then, to make it into two separate farms? No, the church remains God's property, undivided in the owner's opinion.

2. Neither group of managers recognizes the fields beyond the fence as part of the farm. Granted. But what effect does that have on the title deed? The deed still treats of it as one farm, and so it is.

3. Though management on both sides does remain in touch with the Owner, neither is actually following His instructions accurately, and He, in effect, is tolerating disobedience in both fields -- for the time being.

In the fact that each refuses to recognize the reality that the other side is fully a part of the farm, the fields are cooperating in the maintenance of a fence that is thoroughly in opposition to the owner's will. This being the case, both managements, though able to point, rightly, with pride to much they have accomplished in thre part of the field where they labor, both put themselves in danger of hearing those dreadful words at the final day: "I never knew you."

The wall HAS to come down. Its destruction may well require, as I implied above, admission that it is not always possible to resolve seeming contradictions, and the humility to admit the weakness of our own understanding. The filioque, the position of the papacy, and several other issues are among those that divide only because we allow them to divide.


Anonymous said...

In the fact that each refuses to recognize the reality that the other side is fully a part of the farm, the fields are cooperating in the maintenance of a fence that is thoroughly in opposition to the owner's will.

I agree with you that this is, as it were, the "Anglican" way of viewing the situation.

The thing is, it is neither the Roman nor the Eastern view.

And they would look at this perspective and say it is just as wrong-headed and dangerous and disobedient as you say theirs is.

I'm not trying to say that I think your view is wrong -- but, rather, to point out that given all its presuppositions (presuppositions not shared by either Rome nor the East) saying "oh, just tear down that fence; you're both equally valid (and equally disobedient) parts of the Church" isn't a starting point for conversation or action so much as it would be, rather, the culmination of a great deal of theological and ecclesiastical discussion and compromise requiring those on both "sides" of the fence to significantly reconsider their understanding of the Church.

Which is, I think, what +MW had in mind when he described the differences between the present ecclesiological beliefs of the two parties as "irreconcilable".


Fr. Robert Hart said...

Irreconcilable only because each rejects the "branch theory" based upon their mutual exclusion of each other, and their "One True Church" theory. The two "one true churches" have rejected the obvious fact that each of them (with us) is simply a part- a branch- of the whole.

Alice C. Linsley said...

The branch theory isn't very satisifying to me. I don't find it in Scripture or in the Tradition of the Church. To speak quaintly, I wonder what God sees as the Church when He looks down? I suspect that He sees those who recognize, honor and participate in the Blood of Jesus.

poetreader said...

Exactly, Fr. Hart.

Neither of their views is unacceptable in the light of Scripture and Tradition. The views are not irreconcilable except insofar as they are declared to be so, in other words, in the declaration that the other is, on the face of it, false, It is that latter proposition that is false. The only thing that really needs to change is the insistence on exclusivity -- in otgher words, the fence that they have jointly erected.

That being said, however, I've never liked the expression "branch theory" very much. A branch is only connected with the trunk at its point of origin, continuing separate beyond that point. In the Church of God, however, we are intimately connected, each with every other, both then and now. If there is any separation beyond mere appearance, that is a sign of sinful fence-building. Even though we have differing traditions in several areas of our life in Christ, we are one, and we are not only nourished by our common source, but we continue to nourish one another. "Branch" gives a bit more recognition to a real division than should be permitted. Let the walls come down!


Anonymous said...

2 observations:

The views are not irreconcilable except insofar as they are declared to be so, in other words, in the declaration that the other is, on the face of it, false

I'm not sure I see this.

The East says that the "final authority" in the Church is found in Ecumenical Councils of all bishops of the Church. Rome says that, rather, final authority rests in a single Patriarch, the bishop of Rome, who has universal ordinary jurisdiction over all of Christendom - a primacy not just of honor but of authority and power; that his ex cathedra pronouncements are infallible and have an authority equal to that of an Ecumenical Council.

Either the pope of Rome has this authority and power - this "papal supremacy" - or not. How are these two views not mutually exclusive? This isn't a matter of politics or public relations, but of simple propositional logic... not to mention common sense.

It's not just that Rome and the East declare the positions are irreconcilable, the positions ARE irreconcilable, because mutually (and logically) exclusive.

Both "sides" can't just simply "recognize" each other as full fellow Christians without any other changes.

Because lack of recognition isn't the sum total of the division - rather, the lack or recognition is based on serious disagreements. Such recognition would require subsantive changes in theology and ecclesiology on one or both sides for it to be anything other than empty words.

Of course, this isn't to say that such changes wouldn't be right and proper... indeed, the anglocatholic position would seem to be that such changes are necessary and desirable.

Nevertheless, even with that being the case, I think the idea that the only thing separating the two "sides" is lack of mutual recognition -- that their theology and ecclesiology is, otherwise, mutually compatible -- is to misunderstand the actual, substantive divisions between East and West.

And no cure can procede on the basis of a false diagnosis.


Getting back to the initial thread:

If the "branch theory" (or whatever other metaphor better suits) is accurate, then what exactly is the TAC proposing?

If they are proposing to accept "papal supremacy" (as defined in a previous post) then they are, in effect, rejecting the "branch theory"... for they are saying that the Roman "branch" is, in fact, the whole tree, and both Anglicanism and Orthodoxy defective and incomplete for not accepting the theories of universal ordinary jurisdiction and infallibility.

They are, in effect, proposing to abandon anglocatholicism and convert to Roman Catholicism... even if doing so with the Anglican missal in tow.

If not -- if they are accepting merely the "primacy of honor" as the East also understands and accepts it but not papal "supremacy" -- then they would seem to be proposing "full, sacramental communion" under conditions which - as I understand it - Rome has never offered it to anyone (including the Orthodox and the PNCC) before... nor, indeed, could accept it without changing its official teaching.

And it would seem to me that Rome - which historically has taken the "long view" of such matters - would rightly respond that non-Canturbury Anglicanism needs to get its own house in order, divisions mended, and identity coherent before any significant discussions about a "uniate Anglicanism" (with all its theological pitfalls) could meaningfully be pursued.

As long as "continuing" Anglicanism speaks with many voices -- and as long as the TAC (or any other) body is ambiguous about its own identity and parameters (catholic? protestant? Rome/FIFNA/REC-allied?) -- I can't imagine Rome entering any serious discussions other than those facilitating absorbtion.


Anonymous said...

I don't like 'branch theory' because branches are naturally occurring things and the term suggests (to me) that there is something legitimate or intended about the 'branching' process. My own image was of a cracked plate, which needs to be put back together again. Then I read Ed's illegitimately fenced farm theory and I think it might supplant my image.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The weakness of the metaphor of branches is that it sounds as if it is all a natural and good thing. No, the divisions are not good, and the closest thing we find in scripture is in I Corinthians 1:11-13; 3:3-5. Nonetheless, the division spoken of there does not "unchurch" the parties. So, the strength of the metaphor of branches is that it does not fail to recognize the connection that still exists, namely, to the Vine.

No metaphor is perfect.

Fr Richard Sutter said...

It seems to me that Bishop Wright (I don't know of what jurisdiction the gentleman is a part, other than to observe that he is not in the Traditional Anglican Communion) is, to judge by his writings, what I suppose we must call an "oriento-phile" for lack of any other term. I mean by this that he appears to be enamored of the Eastern Churches and their approaches to theology. Indeed, he is so enamored that he seems to have adopted their theology entire. While entire discussions could center on this fact alone, it is, alas, unprofitable at the least and damaging at the greatest extreme.

Regardless of how Wright may prefer to think, the fact remains that Anglicanism is not a part of the Eastern Churches no matter how many historical revisionists may try to twist and, er, revise history. Anglicanism is Western. The Pope is Anglicanism's rightful Patriarch, as it is from the Western Patriarch that Anglicanism separated half a century after the East went its own way separate from the West. If we want to see Christ's Church reunited, and I submit that we must want it, as Christ wants it, then the logical healing of splits must come from the lesser to the greater, from the relatively recent to the further in the past. Traditional Anglicans must be reunited with the Western Church before the West and East can hope to reunite once again. There are, as has been observed some serious theological issues that the West and East need to work on. On the other hand, Traditional Anglicanism stands, as her primate has said, with no major theological differences justifying her separation from her parent church. May God speedily grant us the unity he so deeply desires for us.

poetreader said...

1. Fr, Hart is very specific in identifying Bishop Wright. There is no mystery as to his affiliation. He is with the Holy Catholic Church - Western Rite, a Britain centered group allied with the holy Catholic Church - Anglican Rite in the US. Both groups separated from the ACC in the nineties. The American group was in talks with TAC just a couple of years ago.

2. Anglicanism, from the time of its separate operation under the Tudors has sought connections of one sort or another with the Eastern Churches, and has quoted Eastern sources with a great deal of favor. To attempt to deny this is fully as bad historically as to attempt to prove that English Christianity was never Western. That, of course, is its primary heritage, but, at least since the Reformation, and probably to some extent before that time, influence from the East has been important. Rome does not, at this point, take the kind of rigidly anti-Eastern approach here stated. RC thinking, in fact, is making a great effort to come to terms with Eastern ways of thinking about theology. Should we be doing otherwise?

3. Whatever may be the theoretical right relationship with Rome (a question that certainly needs to be discussed) it is unreasonable to the point of ridiculous to claim that we think and act like Roman Catholics. We don't. If we did we wouldn't be waiting for some kind of corporate reunion before accepting the fulness of Papal authority. We'd be there already, on whatever terms were offered. There is a difference, an important one, even in the case of extreme Anglo-Papalists; enough of a difference to justify continuing a separated existence. If there is no such difference, then continued separation is nothing but a manifestation of pride, and thus of sin.

4. Archbishop Hepworth is not "Traditional Anglicanism's Primate". That is an arrogant thing to say. In the regrettably divided state of our movement, there are multiple jurisdictions, each with its own primate, and that statement simply unchurches them all. I've expressed my displeasure with some of what I see as narrowness in other jurisdictions, but this statement makes all the others pale by comparison. As a member of TAC and of ACA, I am deeply offended by that attitude.


Fr Richard Sutter said...

1. Ah yes, the "Holy Catholic Church - Anglican/Western Rites." The fellows who sided with the bishop that was excommunicated from the ACC for punching a brother bishop.

2. No denial of periodic overtures from some Anglicans (notably the non-Jurors) over the years to the East. The point, which was clearly stated, was that such approaches should be a lower priority than mending the schism within the West first.

3. No one said "that we think and act like Roman Catholics." What was said is the clear and simple statement that there is no theological difference sufficient to justify separation. This is a direct quotation from Archbishop Hepworth. However, it was stated that "continued separation is nothing but a manifestation of pride, and thus of sin." Quite right. And this reason is why such separation needs to be corrected.

4. The Traditional Anglican Communion has one primate, who is Archbishop John Hepworth. This makes him "Traditional Anglicanism's Primate". Mr Pacht must be intentionally, willfully misunderstanding, a skill that we find sadly none too rare in the continuum.

As a Traditional Anglican priest, I happen to find a layman so presumptuously and disrespectfully to address a priest deeply offensive.

Albion Land said...

Fr Sutter,

I had intended to write a separate post on your latest comment, and on one that one of my co-hosts rejected for publication earlier this week, but have decided to keep the matter under the radar for now.

And I had intended to entitle the thread "A Layman Dares to Speak."

This blog was created by, is owned and controlled by a layman -- me. I find your insinuation that it is above the station of a layman to speak directly and forcefully to a clergyman to be the utmost in pomposity and arrogance.

Furthermore, I find your remarks to my co-host Ed Pacht to be thoroughly unwarranted. Ed is one of the gentlest and most gentlemanly people I have ever come across, and I have never seen a disrespectful word come from his keyboard.

Let me remind you, and all readers, of the rules here. Robust debate is not only welcomed, is is encouraged. Impoliteness, on the other hand, is not tolerated.

I will say no more on the matter.

Alice C. Linsley said...

That is my experience of Ed Pacht also, Albion.

We all need to learn the humility of Christ, starting with me.

Fr Richard Sutter said...

Courtesy and respect are sadly lacking in the world today. I didn't think robust was intended to be a synonym for rude. Sorry to trouble you.

poetreader said...

Truly, Father Sutter, I hate to speak sharply to anyone, let alone a priest, but when a man is consistently rude and abusive to others, answering a disagreement over concrete issues with personal attacks, both on me and on Bishop Wright, he is not fulfilling his calling to be a faithful shepherd of the sheep.

A pastor is called to be an imitator of the Good Shepherd, and his life and ministry are expected to be in accord with Psalm 23, with John 10, and NOT with Ezekiel 34. You'll take umbrage, I'm sure, but I need to comment that I pray for you to become that kind of pastor.

By the way, Robust argument is just what I was trying to produce by answering specific statements with reasons I gave. Rudeness is things like ignoring the specific identification of Bp. Wright as if it hadn't been given, and then making nasty comments after being corrected, and like telling the clergy 'in charge of this board" (who aren't) to muzzle a fellow contributor. I have very little patience with rudeness and a great enjoyment of robust discussion. Though I often disagree with your statements, Father, your input is valuable, but I humbly request that your input be given with the courtesy and respect that you say is in short supply. Frankly, I haven't seen it yet.


Fr. Robert Hart said...

I find your insinuation that it is above the station of a layman to speak directly and forcefully to a clergyman to be the utmost in pomposity and arrogance.

Any clergyman who expects otherwise needs a tougher skin.

On a serious level, what if the layman in question is a prophet, if I may dare to use that word?

Anonymous said...

A simple query - at what dates were all those who claimed to be part of the Church undivided? do we know the marks of the church from the reaching of the undivided church and know the undivided church from the fact that it has those marks?

Anonymous said...

Talking about pomposity I find it amusing how all the clergy arrogate to themselves the title "father". It was unknown in England except for religious until the nineteenth century and was extended to seculars by Cardinal Manning in the 1870's. In catholic countries such as Italy religious are "padre" and seculars are "don".