Sunday, November 25, 2007

Is Roman Catholicism Catholic?

It has been a commonplace of Anglican Catholic thinking for a very long time that the answer to the above question is “Yes!” This is despite the fact that the answer has often been qualified in various ways.

For example, by distinguishing between fundamental and non-fundamental doctrines, a number of the Caroline Divines contended that while Rome had erred doctrinally, its errors did not touch the ecumenical Creeds or the basic nature of the Church in such a way to “un-Church” it. This was Archbishop Laud’s approach. Others argued that Rome had mistakenly and arrogantly elevated permissible but probably erroneous opinions to dogmatic level, but remained a part of the Catholic Church because it did not deny any true dogmas. Bishop Lancelot Andrewes took this tack with the matter of (hellish) purgatory. The Oxford Movement and its descendent Anglo-Catholicism, in the main, came gradually to the opinion that, while Roman dogmas might be capable of orthodox interpretation, their common interpretation and application within the Roman communion was often unorthodox and adverse to true Catholic principles. This approach also had 17th century antecedents, if I remember correctly.

None of these theories ever had binding authority, but what they held in common, that the RCC was part of the Catholic Church, was effectively authoritative, in that while recusant RCs were treated as schismatics within England, RC bishops have been persistently addressed or treated by Anglican bishops as fellow Catholic bishops elsewhere[1], and RCs were not officially treated as heretics or apostates anywhere by the C of E as a body. What all theories also have in common is that they see genuine problems with aspects of the “accepted” teaching of the Church of Rome but refuse to claim these problems are enough to excise it from THE Church. That the justification for this position varied in the specifics was partly due to differing evaluations of what Roman dogma actually was and meant (on both sides at times!), and partly due to subtle differences in ecclesiology. But underlying this was a settled perception that we were dealing, even in the midst of heated controversy, with fellow Catholics. This settled perception is an important datum, and one that should control our theological speculations. A general and consistent apprehension of a divine reality by a body of Catholics is perhaps even more important than the precise theological formulations relevant to it. That is, I think, what is often meant by the sensus fidelium.

Therefore, I was disturbed when I first read Bp Wright’s commentary (on his own jurisdiction’s website first) on the attempt at reunion with Rome by the TAC. This is the case even though I, like Bp Wright, would generally be classified as philo-Orthodox. I still possess the very “Eastern” Catechism co-authored by him when he was a part of our Church, commonly termed the “Wright-Price” Catechism, after its authors, and value it highly. (Its distinction between “capital-S” Saints and “small-s” saints, for example, is one of the best Catholic apologetics tools I have come across when dealing with that issue.) However, this recent essay appears not only to contradict the abovementioned sensus fidelium, but to possess a degree of internal incoherence in doing so. Allow me to juxtapose the relevant passages:

“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.”

“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.”

It is perhaps possible to harmonise these two sections, but even if one strained to do so there would remain the problem that the essay then purports to support the latter statements about the true ecclesiality of the RCC by quoting the RCC’s own statements about the true ecclesiality of other groups.

The problem with the essay is not that it is philo-Orthodox, but that it chooses to flatter by imitation that part of Eastern Orthodoxy that delights in maximising differences between East and West, usually by carefully selecting the evidence on both sides and making sweeping generalisations. Fr Dragas’ essay, linked to by Bp Wright, is a fair example of this unfortunate tendency.

Fr Dragas goes to a lot of trouble to show that, despite the fact the filioque clause is never specifically or explicitly mentioned in the pro-Photian Council’s decree on the Creed, its condemnation as heretical in itself is implicit and binding at an ecumenical level because those Easterners who signed off on it knew what the decree was really on about. However, he also virtually admits that the papal delegates did not. And they could hardly do so, since, as admitted by all, even those in the West such as the Pope who resisted the interpolation did so while defending its orthodoxy and refusing to excommunicate the large tracts of the Western Church that used the filioque in the Creed. In other words, we are expected to accept that a Council with minimal Western participation, whose few Western participants would not have consented if they had known or believed the filioque doctrine common to many Western Fathers and Doctors was being condemned, and whose condemnations were (deliberately?) entirely without specific examples having been given so as to promote such clear understanding, is expressive of the Ecumenical will of the Universal Church in repudiating the filioque doctrine root and branch. Sorry, but this is less than persuasive.

As for the claims by certain of our commenters that the differences really are irreconcilable, I remain unconvinced. The particular example most relied upon is the difference between the Roman doctrine of Papal Supremacy and the Orthodox doctrine of Conciliar Supremacy. But are the respective positions really so different when commonly and justifiably attached qualifications are taken into account? Did not the ancient and Eastern Church place great store in papal ratification of Ecumenical Councils and address him as leader of the Church in more than just nominal, honorific terms? Does not the RCC continue to recognise as ecumenical a Council which briefly effectively excommunicated a living pope, the Fifth? Does it not recognise also the Sixth, which excommunicated a dead Pope? And a mediaeval one which effectively unpoped 3 rival claimants to the Roman See? In combination with traditional Roman claims that a Pope can be recognised and certified as self-excommunicate by the Church and that reception of Papal decrees at least has a part to play in recognising when papal infallibility has been truly utilised, surely these facts show that the RCC does not necessarily teach an absolute, untouchable, unrestrained and unqualified supremacy of the bishop of Rome over an Ecumenical Council or over the Church as a whole?

Is it not better to assume as a default position that God has in fact protected each of these great bodies from truly leaving the Catholic fold, sometimes almost in spite of themselves? Is this not often the case with God’s dealings with his people? So, the good bishop’s essay notwithstanding, I remain an ecumenically “maximalist” Anglican Catholic. Even a philo-Orthodox Anglo-Papist, if you will. :-)

[1] E.g., Bp Antonio de Dominis was received into the C of E in the early 17th Century without abjuration of his previous jurisdiction. Abp Wake’s discussions with the French RC bishops in the 18th Century also followed this pattern of mutual recognition. The reply of the English Archbishops to Apostolicae Curae, addressed to the Pope and all Catholic bishops did so as well.


highchurchman said...

Is Roman Catholic Catholic?

It was indeed the verdict of our Fathers that Romanism, was Catholic. But, as you also point out there were two examples given where the doubt remains,These are covered by the generic term "authority," or as the Roman term has it the,Magisterium.
For Anglicans the authority is that of the Revelation of Christ,written into Scripture, explained and amplified by the Seven Ecumenical Councils and the Greek Fathers of the 3rd,Cent.This follows the Vincentium teachings.

We believe that Rome has added to the Deposit of Faith, not an incidental in my mind but an error that has been a major factor in the division of the Catholic Faith.

It is instructive also that when the present pope offered to look at the causes of the division between Catholics, he chose the two examples you have given plus one other. Jurisdiction, Infallibility and the patriarchy. The latter given him by the Ecumenical Council. It was the latter that he offered up as a sacrifice. This tells us something of the Papacies priorities.
The TAC, might have agreement with him and yourself, it seems, but there are many classical Anglicans and Traditionalists who reject the Roman ideas.

Anonymous said...

This is an excellent posting. The Roman Catholic Church recognised the problems that led to the Reformation - bad priests and corruption. This was largely tidied up by the Council of Trent and most of what the Protestants objected to was reformed.

Since Vatican II, the Roman Catholic Church has gone through another crisis – of faith and authority, and more recently there have been serious moral problems among a small minority of the clergy (eg. paedophilia). With the election of Benedict XVI, I see an earnest effort to emerge from the ideologies and fashions of the post-war period to establish a new Via Media between Tradition and modern pastoral needs (like having the vernacular in the liturgy).

No Church has been without its internal difficulties, from the worldwide Roman Catholic communion with all its local rites and uses, the various local Orthodox Churches, the Anglicans – both “Canterbury” and “Continuing”. We are all human and “semper reformandi” – constantly in need of reform and conversion. I know Bishop Wright rather well, and enormously esteem him and his theological knowledge. He was a founding member of the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius, and brought his pro-Orthodox position with him into the Anglican Catholic Church (of which he was a licensed priest when I first knew him). I saw quite a lot of him at the TAC Bishops’ meeting in Portsmouth last month. He obviously supported the Letter to Rome.

I was interested to see that Anglican Bishops had relations with the French Bishops in the 18th century – the days of Gallicanism to which 19th century Ultramontanism reacted. Interesting… I would very much appreciate some sources for study about these talks.

Fr. Anthony Chadwick – TAC chaplain in France

Mike L said...

Fr. Kirby:

Despite our broader differences, I must say that the above article is excellent.

It is indeed obscure how Wright could harmonize the two passages you juxtaposed. If Rome has departed from the Catholic Church into heresy, as the first statement says, then how could it be "spiritually dangerous" to claim that the Roman communion is "heretical and devoid of grace?" That's exactly what not a few Orthodox claim. Perhaps the good bishop is willing to court the danger—or perhaps he doesn't think having left the Church for heresy deprives one's church of grace. The latter is what Rome thinks about churches not in communion with her. As you imply, Wright may ironically have learned something from that.

I especially like your treatment of the council at Constantinople in 869, the "pro-Photian" council. I've had this debate with Perry Robinson already, and the argument you make is part of the argument I made.


Alice C. Linsley said...

I don't think that Bishop Wright's two passages can be reconciled. Neither does his suspicion about the catholicity of the Latin Church represent Orthodoxy in the main (as Fr. Hart notes).

Anonymous said...

This article highlights the fundamental differences in belief between Catholics and non-Catolics with regard to what constitutes the Catholic church. For a Catholic, the Catholic, Apostolic church is that visible, organized body immediately founded by Christ. For other Christians , the Catholic church is a kind of superchurch made up of all the different denominations.
Yet Christ established only one church, and identified himself completely with it. The Church is the mystical body of Christ and cannot be divided. Over the centuries of course, men have left the one Catholic church to pursue their own versions of the Christian faith. Disagreements between themselves resulted in split after split.
As John Henry Newman observed, 'Did St.Athanasius or St.Ambrose come suddenly to life, it cannot be doubted what communion he would take to be his own'. And,..'were those same Saints, who once sojourned, one in exile, one on embassy, at Treves, to come more northward still, and to travel until they reached another fair city, seated among groves, green meadows, and calm streams, the holy brothers would turn from many a high aisle or solemn cloister which they found there, and ask the way to some small chapel where Mass was said in the populous alley or forlorn suburb?'

Fr. Robert Hart said...

If Sts. Athanasius or Ambrose were suddenly here looking for the true Church, they would find us all and have sharp words about the divisions, much like those of St. Paul to the Corinthians. The idea that they would look for the Latin Rite Roman Catholic Church may have seemed obvious to Cardinal Newman, but it seems rather silly to me.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Hart wrote:

If Sts. Athanasius or Ambrose were suddenly here looking for the true Church, they would find us all and have sharp words about the divisions, much like those of St. Paul to the Corinthians. The idea that they would look for the Latin Rite Roman Catholic Church may have seemed obvious to Cardinal Newman, but it seems rather silly to me.

I am just now thinking back on St. Athanasius' rather gruesome experience with the Arians and trying to make sense of your view. Certainly, he would probably recognize Rome and Orthodoxy (yes, with sharp words about their division), the only two which actually succeed directly from the Apostolic Church. But I cannot see where he would have much sympathy with anyone in the Protestant world, ourselves included. Unlike most Protestants, we do claim to be Catholic, yet we still tolerate Reformation innovations wholly alien to the Catholic mindset. Granted, with the Affirmation of St. Louis, the Continuum has attempted to eliminate those Reformation novelties which diverge from Catholicism, but the fact remains that neither particular church in the visible Church has yet recognized our legitimacy, our Catholicity. Until such time as we are recognized by fellow Catholics, East or West, as being ourselves Catholic, our claim to being part of the One True Church is rather dubious, I should think.

Father, would you go into greater detail as to how you can be so certain that we are unquestionably part of the One True Church? I have never understood how so many of my fellow Anglicans can be so sure of this given our continued toleration in our church of heretics (the opposite of Catholic, as you know) who rely upon personal interpretation and who typically remain defiantly antagonistic toward the Catholic Church. Traditionally, Catholics like St. Athanasius declared such unreasonably tolerant Catholics anathema as much as they declared the heretics themselves anathema. So please help me to understand how you can be so sure that the Reformation innovations (divergences from Catholicism) which we tolerate do not exclude us from the One True Church.

Alice C. Linsley said...

And to me too!

Anonymous said...

St. Ambrose said, 'Where there is Peter, there is the Church and there also is salvation.'
St. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, martyred 202, was even more explicit. These are his words..'Because it would be too long in such a volume as this to enumerate the successions of all the churches, we point to the tradition of that very great and very ancient and universally known Church which was founded and established at Rome by the two glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul: we point, I say, to the tradition which this Church has from the Apostles, and to her faith proclaimed to men which comes down to our time through the succession of her bishops, and so we put to shame all who assemble in unauthorized meetings. For with this Church, because of its superior authority, every church must agree-that is the faithful everywhere-in communion with which Church the tradition of the Apostles has been always preserved by those who are everywhere.'
Even Martin Luther acknowledged that it would be wrong to leave the one, holy, Catholic church established by Christ in order to bring about change. Of course, he did leave. Later in life he appeared to regret his actions, when he said that he looked around and saw one sect believing one thing, and yet another sect believing yet another thing, and yet all claimed to be guided by the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit can only ever lead us to the truth, and truth is one not many, just as Christ's body, the Church, is one and can never be divided.
I pray that the Holy Spirit will lead all Christians to the fullness of truth in Christ's church.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

nonjuror wrote:
Unlike most Protestants, we do claim to be Catholic, yet we still tolerate Reformation innovations wholly alien to the Catholic mindset.

So, should we tolerate Roman innovations? And, if you think we are tolerating Protestant innovations then perhaps you could point out to me at least one- or a few if you prefer.

I have been amused often by some Roman Catholics who look at our adherence to old parts of the Catholic Tradition that their church has left behind, and wrongly see them as "Protestant innovations." The most amusing example is receiving Communion in the hand, a practice so old that some of Fathers bear witness to it, and that was normal until a certain point in the 18th century. But, to a RC who sees it, the assumption is made that it is Protestant. So too with many other things.

And he wrote:
I am just now thinking back on St. Athanasius' rather gruesome experience with the Arians and trying to make sense of your view.

This sentence seems to be incoherent. It is St. Athanasius who ought to be the Patron Saint of the Continuing Church movement. Like him, we have gone into a kind of exile because we maintain faithfulness to true Catholicism, the Anglican kind being, in our educated judgment, the best and most pure.

Christine has added a comment that appears to imply that Sts. Ambrose and Irenaeus wrote an endorsement for that rather large denomination that has created its own Protestant innovations, namely the Roman Catholic Church. One such innovation that caused serious division with the other ancient Patriarchates, and lasts to this day, is the innovation that "first in honor" somehow translates into Universal Primacy, a claim rejected by all of the Roman Patriarch's fellow Catholic Patriarchs of the time, and still is rejected by the Patriarchs in those Sees. Another such innovation is Papal Infallibility, an idea whose time had come in 1870, and not one year before.

Like another stream of quotations, namely the one from St. Maximos the Confessor that speaks so positively about the See of Rome, it is misleading to remove these quotations from their own particular context in history. In fact, it is ludicrous.

I believe that if Sts. Ambrose, Athanasius or Irenaeus were here today, they would rebuke all of us for not working hard enough to end divisions among Christians who embrace the Catholic Faith. They would not choose sides.

She wrote these words:
The Holy Spirit can only ever lead us to the truth, and truth is one not many, just as Christ's body, the Church, is one and can never be divided.

Divided in the ultimate sense, so as to be estranged from Christ? Of course it cannot be. Divided in such a real and true way that God recognizes only one party within the Body of Christ as valid? Not possible. Divided in outward appearance only, but in a way that the world sees, and with divisions that people cherish too much to repent of? Yes. This has happened.

Look at the words of St.Paul in I Cor. 1:11-13, and 3:3,4. The idea that there can be divisions only from, and not in any way within, the Church, falls apart in light of what this so clearly says.

As for trying to convert me to the ideas stated in these two comments, forget it. Both of them are wrong.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Christine and Nonjuror,

The first problem with your responses is that you appear not to have read the article I deliberately linked to at the very end of my post which deals with the very issue you both bring up, namely the visibility of the Church's unity and whether outward breaks in communion necessitate viewing one side as "in" and the other as "out". There is no point me repeating all of that here, except to say that the Church's actual treatment of some "schisms" in the past is counterfactual to the "ecclesiology of absolutely visible unity" you advocate. And I did not even give an exhaustive list in the article of relevant examples.

As for what the Fathers would have said or done if they suddenly appeared in our time, it is very easy to assert and impossible to prove what they would do in such a purely hypothetical situation, since there is no way of testing the said hypothesis. The proof texts offered for their purported adhesion to the principle "communion with Rome is absolutely essential" suffer from extreme naivety. After all, the Irenaean text's wording is notoriously controversial. And many Fathers wrote things quite inconsistent with the abovementioned principle or made no reference to it whatever even when discussing the constitution and structure of the Chruch and its authority! Who would St Augustine, one who condemned semi-Pelagianism and criticised excessive ritualism and deviations from Gospel simplicity, have "picked" during the pre-Reformation period when indulgences were being sold and Saint-centred secondary devotions (some undeniably superstitious) had virtually displaced the core of the Faith and regular lay Communion as normal practice? Who would the many primitive Fathers who decried all Christian use of violence to further the Faith have picked out of Eastern Orthodoxy and the Roman Catholic Church when the latter, but not the former, resorted for centuries to torture and execution by burning alive heretics or purported heretics. What would St John of Damascus, who explicitly rejected the filioque doctrine, said in 1054 when he found out the West had excommunicated the East partly on the basis it had omitted (!) the filioque from the Creed?

What about the fathers of the Fourth Ecumenical Council who refused to sign off on the Tome of Leo, despite the dogmatic Roman demand this be done automatically, until they had actually heard what it said to see if it was orthodox? How would they have reacted to Vatican I if suddenly transplanted to that time? Or the fathers of the Fifth Council who struck Pope Vigilius off the diptychs for resisting the doctrinal demands of the Council? Or those of the Sixth who excommunicated posthumously Pope Honorius? Or St Clement of Alexandria who explicitly denied all primacy insofar as it was attached to claims of authority among the Apostles over each other? Or St Augustine who explicitly allowed that a Roman decision could be reversed by an Ecumenical Council?

The point is that the evidence is not all one way.

So, the truth is that none of us can be sure of what they would do except by each of us dogmatically asserting: "I and my jurisdiction are orthodox, you and yours aren't, the Fathers were orthodox, therefore they would agree with me." This may be very gratifying but it doesn't get us very far.

At this point you might object, "OK, but what you say would only mean we cannot a priori be certain whether each Father would recognise the EOC or the RCC as the 'One True Church', but surely all would reject Anglican Catholic claims?" Well, I must again refer to the linked paper. The early "undivided" Church did in fact have some outward divisions that it did not universally treat as definitive. Some of these temporary "schisms" had universally recognised Saints on each side. The same is true of the mediaeval period. The Fathers apparently often used more discretion and moderation in these matters than many are wont to do now. And, remember, the Anglican Catholic position is that we would be in communion with both the RCC and EOC if they would allow it. This is quite different from the ancient, long-term schismatic or heretical bodies, who had no desire to be in communion with the mainstream Catholic bishops. Given that there is no dogmatic difference between us and the EOC, and that we Continuing Anglican Catholics have explicitly dumped the theological ambiguity the EOC said was the primary remaining barrier, and adhered to the normativity of Holy Tradition and the Seven Ecumenical Councils etc, perhaps the Fathers might have asked why communio in sacris has not been restored between, say, the ACC and EOC. It would be a good question, to which our answer would be, "If it was just up to us ...".

Finally, as to the toleration of heretics, there is in fact much less tolerance of this in the ACC than the RCC at present, but this hardly proves the RCC is not Catholic or that the ACC is exclusively so. In fact, the assertion that the patristic Church was always intolerant of heresy is a half-truth. Weak, ignorant or erroneous theology was often tolerated for significant periods, especially but not only among the laity, until things came to a head in explcict condemnations. And even after that dubious or marginal teaching was sometimes given the benefit of the doubt. Communion between the orthodox and "semi-Arians" is an example, as is the fascinating case of Bp Synesius of Cyrene. Don't forget that St Cyprian was willing to maintain communion with St Stephen, despite the latter holding and practising a doctrine of baptism that the former considered both serioulsy erroneous and sacrilegious. It is not wise to idealise the early Church and use such a mental creation as a stick to beat up modern jurisdictions for supposedly unparalleled defects.

Anonymous said...

When the Church solemnly defines a doctrine of Faith, she is simply reiterating a pre-existing belief. Solemn doctrines of Faith are usually a response to some controversy or heresy.
From the earliest times, the whole Church accepted the fact of the Pope's infallibility as evidenced in the writings of the early Fathers.
St. Cyprian, writing to St. Cornelius, said: 'Heretics have the audacity to take ship and present letters from profane and schismatical folk to the See of Peter and to the principal Church whence sprang the unity of the priesthood. They never seem to realize that these latter are the Romans whose faith the Apostle proclaimed and praised; to them infidelity can have no access.'
St. Augustine, preaching at Carthage on September 23rd 417, tells how two African Councils, Milevi and Carthage, had sent reports to Rome about the heresy of Pelagius. He wrote: 'Rome has sent back her rescripts, the case is finished; would that the error also were done away with.'
The Council of Ephesus calls Pope Celestine the 'guardian of the faith who teaches right doctrine because he is the successor of Blessed Peter the Apostle, the head of the whole faith, and the head of the Apostles.'
One more example. The Third Council of Constantinople approved that 'Peter's Apostolic Church has never departed from the way of truth into any error whatsoever.'
These are just a few examples. But at the end of the day, it is a matter of divine faith. If the Church Fathers do not have the power to convince, then we must leave things to the power of prayer and the Holy Spirit Himself.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Christine wrote:
…if the Church Fathers do not have the power to convince…”

Oh, but I am completely convinced. I am convinced that at that time in history the Church of Rome still maintained the excellent reputation of which those fathers spoke. So what?

You quote from the third Ecumenical Council. I suppose that the fifth and sixth Ecumenical Councils have nothing to add? Like, maybe something that puts the actual meaning of these words into their true and limited context? Like the condemnation of a pope, Pope Honorius, for heresy?

Anonymous said...

Fr. Kirby:

Thank you for an extremely thoughtful and detailed post. I for one did indeed miss the link at the end of your essay. Thank you for alerting me to it.

Fr. Hart:

As one who has on numerous occasions in the past found himself loudly cheering at his desk while reading your essays, I am mystified that you would adopt such a defensive tone when replying to such an ardent fan. It only stands to reason that someone styling himself "Nonjuror" would tend to agree with your criticisms of the Latin Church. I simply sought to understand the basis of your absolute confidence (which I envy) that you are today unquestionably within the bounds of the visible One True Church, something I have never known as a continuing Anglican (i.e. there has always been a doubt in my mind). But instead of eliminating that doubt, you have, through your evading of the issue, really only succeeded in heightening it. I remain a fan of your writings, but let me say as a fan that you and I both know that you can do better than this.

If you are willing to indulge me any further, let me try again by putting one simple, straightforward question to you which gets to the heart of the matter for me:

Even though they are in schism from each other, both Rome and Orthodoxy recognize the validity of each other's sacraments. Neither unquestionably, indisputably, and unequivocally recognizes the validity of our sacraments. Why should this fact not in any way, shape, or form engender doubt in my mind that I as a continuing Anglican am within the bounds of the visible (One True) Church?

Thank you.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

nonjurour wrote:
Neither unquestionably, indisputably, and unequivocally recognizes the validity of our sacraments.

At this point in time, Rome has contradicted the details of Apostolicae Curae to the point where it is a fact that they have no stated position whatsoever on current Anglican orders such as ours. They are stuck with the elephant in the living room, a document that they have to regard as authoritative even though they have themselves undermined all its claims (and have done so by better logic and more accurate facts than what passed for scholarship among them back in 1896). Even so, Saepius Officio is good enough for me to disregard Rome's view.

But, about Orthodoxy, can you actually point to any document or letter in which the Patriarchs rescinded their "acceptance of the validity of Anglican Ordinations" according to the letter from the Oecumenical Patriarch in 1922:

"1. That the ordination of Matthew Parker as Archbishop of Canterbury by four bishops is a fact established by history.

2. That in this and subsequent ordinations there are found in their fullness those orthodox and indispensable, visible and sensible elements of valid episcopal ordination - viz. the laying on of hands, the Epiclesis of the All-Holy Spirit and also the purpose to transmit the charisma of the Episcopal ministry.

3. That the orthodox theologians who have scientifically examined the question have almost unanimously come to the same conclusions and have declared themselves as accepting the validity of Anglican Orders.

4. That the practice in the Church affords no indication that the Orthodox Church has ever officially treated the validity of Anglican Orders as in doubt, in such a way as would point to the re-ordination of the Anglican clergy as required in the case of the union of the two Churches."

All of this leading to "the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, of July 28, 1922, [which] 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."

What happened was that in 1984, with the Dublin Agreed Statement, Archbishop Athenagoras announced that the heresy of women's "ordination" in some Anglican churches had brought to a close the goal of joining the two churches into one Church.

Now, since we have broken communion with the Cantuarians over the same issue, why should not the Continuing Anglicans and the Orthodox Church resume that goal, and those talks? And, these
talks should start up again with the assumption that we, who have never allowed the "ordination" of women, still have every reason to expect that the Orthodox continue to recognize our orders and our sacraments.

For some reason these facts are not as well known as they should be, or they often suffer what appears to be deliberate attempts to confuse the issue. The Orthodox Church did recognize our validity, and the only thing that made them withdraw it from the Canterbury Anglicans has no application to us.

Also, I have no doubts at all about the full validity of our churches within the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Absolutely none. What doubts were in my mind years ago, have been answered by thorough and relentless study. My first reason for coming on board in this blog was to make other Anglicans aware of the facts.

Albion Land said...

Fr Hart,

I am currently re-reading Timothy (Kallistos) Ware’s “The Orthodox Church (New Edition)” and, ironically, just last night was skimming over his remarks about Anglican orders (pp 317-321).

In it, he cites a 1922 declaration by Ecumenical Patriarch Meletios IV, in which he states that “Anglican orders possess the same validity as those of the Roman, Old Catholic and Armenian Churches possess, inasmuch as all essentials are found in them which are held indispensable from the Orthodox point of view.”

Ware adds that positive statements in a similar vein were made by the Churches of Jerusalem (1923), Cyprus (1923), Alexandria (1930) and Romania (1936).

Since then, no other statements of a positive nature have been made.

In contrast, in 1948, the Moscow Patriarchate came to a negative conclusion: “The Orthodox Church cannot agree to recognize the rightness of Anglican teaching on the sacraments in general, and on the sacrament of Holy Order in particular; and so it cannot recognize the validity of Anglican ordinations.” It added, however, that were the Anglican Church formally to endorse a confession of faith that the Orthodox Church ould acknowledge as fully Orthodox, the question could be reopened and a recognition might perhaps be possible.

Ware says the “main obstacle to closer relations with the Anglican communion is the comprehensiveness of Anglicanism, the extreme ambiguity of Anglican formularies, the wide variety of interpretations which these formularies permit.”

He cites General Alexander Kireev (1832-1910), who said: “We Easterners sincerely desire to come to an understanding with the great Anglican Church; but this happy result cannot be obtained … unless the Anglican Church itself becomes homogeneous and the doctrines of its different constitutive parts becomes identical.”

Therein, ladies and gentlemen, lies the challenge.

Albion Land said...

"Also, I have no doubts at all about the full validity of our churches within the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Absolutely none. What doubts were in my mind years ago, have been answered by thorough and relentless study. My first reason for coming on board in this blog was to make other Anglicans aware of the facts."

And here I thought along it had been my charming personality. :(

Albion Land said...

It would be interesting if someone (Fr Kirby) were to write a post on just what it is, if anything, that doctrinally separates continuing Anglicans from the Orthodox. I think he may have written something on this quite awhile back, but can't remember.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

These points were brought up because I was answering a question from an Anglican educated enough to go by the handle Nonjuror-therefore one who identifies with the Anglicanism of that very Catholic kind of Anglicanism from the tradition of Scotland.

Ware has mentioned the documents that I refer to constantly, and that you can read in their entirety on the Project Canterbury site. The opposing view of the Patriarch of Moscow is no surprise, inasmuch as he was Stalin's man, and Anglicanism was identified with the British Empire (and the faithful in Russia are very open about having gotten their Church back from the Communists).

Just about everything I have covered here was treated with more detail back in may '06. See

Alice C. Linsley said...

Thank you, Fr. Hart, for this valuable recap of the validity of Anglican orders (though not TEC orders) in the considered decision of Orthodoxy. Neither do I have a doubt that Continuing Anglicans are within the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.