Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Ascension

Acts 1:1-11
Luke 24: 49-53

The opening of the Book of Acts should remind us of an Old Testament story that foreshadows Christ's Ascension.

And Elijah said unto him, Tarry, I pray thee, here; for the LORD hath sent me to Jordan. And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And they two went on. And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went, and stood to view afar off: and they two stood by Jordan. And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground. And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so. And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces. He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan; And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the LORD God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over.
II Kings 2:6-14

Do you see in this story why the response is given to the priest, "and with thy spirit," rather than "and also be with you?" "The spirit of Elijah" does not refer simply to his own spirit, but to the grace of the Holy Spirit giving supernatural gifts to his human spirit. A careful reading of II Kings shows that Elisha goes on to do exactly everything in his miraculous ministry double what Elijah had done. For example, Elijah brought one child back to life, and Elisha brought two people back to life (one by relics, when the dead body of a young man was restored to life as his body touched Elisha's bones). Elisha did greater works than Elijah, that is, greater in number.

When we consider the Ascension, we must pay attention to the emphasis given by these scriptures to the coming of the Holy Spirit, so that the Apostolic Church would continue the ministry of Christ as an extension of his incarnation in the fallen world.

Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. Acts 1:8-11

Just as the prophet or prophets who wrote the Books of the Kings made points when writing about the foreshadowing, St. Luke has written these same points into his account of the fulfillment. Jesus tells them that they will receive power after the Holy Spirit will come upon them. They beheld him as he went up, just as Elisha beheld Elijah; or rather, Elisha had to look upon Elijah so that the scripture could foreshadow the fulfillment by Christ. With their eyes on his translation into that hidden dimension that surrounds us, called Heaven, the disciples beheld Christ as he is in spirit. That is, the incarnate Son of the Living God, a sight known as given only by the Holy Spirit. They saw the man who is firstborn, which means rightful heir, owning all of creation. They saw that his proper place is not in the fallen world, but at the Father's right hand.
They looked as the cloud took him out of their sight, presumably the cloud of witnesses who rose with him, as he lad captivity captive; and the disciples met to pray for ten days until he gave gifts to men, dividing the spoil with the strong- made strong because they receive the power (δύναμις) of the Holy Spirit.1

We have been led to think of the Ascension as Christ's coronation. This is not the emphasis of the scriptures, because the New Testament clearly reserves that significance to the day in which he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, when the Father will put every enemy under his feet. These scriptures we have read are concerned, rather, with the continuation of Christ's own charismatic (χάρις) ministry through his Church, to spread the Gospel to all nations in the working out of salvation among all peoples of the earth.2 "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father." (John 14:12) Elisha saw Elijah, and did greater works, double the number in fact. The Apostles saw Christ as he was taken out of their sight by the cloud, and the Church does greater works, because it is in many places where the Holy Spirit uses many hands to continue the works of Jesus Christ.

The emphasis on the Ascension that we receive from the scriptures we have read this day is expressed by Saint Paul.

But all these (charisms) worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many...Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? I Corinthians 12:11-14, 27-30

Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:8-13

These lists of gifts are different, along with yet other lists different still. What we see in these words of St. Paul, and what is taught clearly in the Book of Acts, is the dependence of the Apostolic Church on the Holy Spirit, for grace and power, to be Alter Christus to the world, just as the apostolic ministry of men in Holy Orders is Alter Christus to the Body of Christ. When I say "the Apostolic Church," I do not mean to speak in any way whatsoever of an era, the times of the Apostles. No. We are the Apostolic Church, as we learn from the Creeds, and the witness of the Fathers. The same Holy Spirit that was poured out on the day of Pentecost remains with us- if we dare to believe it. And, the Holy Spirit, after two thousand years of granting charismatic (χάρις) power (δύναμις) to the Body of Christ has never grown old or weary. Christ is seated at the Father's right hand, and he is very active through us in the fallen world where the people of every nation need to hear that witness proclaimed that we have received from the witnesses of his resurrection.

The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all. Ephesians 1:17-23

1. Matthew 27: 52, 53, Hebrews 12:1, Psalm 68:18, Isaiah 53: 12
2. Revelation 5:9

Die, Heretic Scum!

I couldn't resist this. I've seen it before, but it just brings howls of laughter every time it turns up again.

I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said, "Stop! Don't do it!"

"Why shouldn't I?" he said.

I said, "Well, there's so much to live for!"

He said, "Like what?"

I said, "Well, are you religious or atheist?"

He said, "Religious."

I said, "Me too! Are your Christian or Buddhist?"

He said, "Christian." I said, "Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?"

He said, "Protestant."

I said, "Me too! Are you Methodist or Baptist?"

He said, "Baptist!"

I said, "Wow! Me too! Are your Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?"

He said, "Baptist Church of God!"

I said, "Me too! Are your Original Baptist Church of God or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?"

He said, "Reformed Baptist Church of God!"

I said, "Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915?"

He said, "Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915!"

I said, "Die, heretic scum!" and pushed him off.

Monday, April 28, 2008

C of E Prepares to Seal Its Apostacy

Nigel McCulloch, the Church of England's bishop of Manchester, has just published a report by a group he headed that had been tasked with preparing draft legislation on the consecration of "women bishops." It would "appear from his introduction that the act is now a foregone conclusion, and the only question is how to bring it about

"It is possible to wonder what more there is to say about whether the Church of England should have women bishops. The Church of England has already been blessed by a series of substantial reports – notably the Rochester Report in 2004, and the series of documents that went to General Synod in 2006 from the Guildford Group, the Bishops of Guildford and Gloucester, and the Faith & Order Advisory Group

"This Report, nevertheless, breaks new ground and is of a different character from what has gone before. The task that the General Synod gave us in July 2006 was to prepare possible legislation, consistent with the Synod’s view that the time had come to explore in some detail what the practical implications would be of admitting women to the episcopate. This report, therefore, seeks to move the debate on from the ‘whether’ to the ‘how’. In so doing it sets out some key options, with illustrative legal material."

Full text of report is here

Here is the long and short of it:

"138. This is undoubtedly one of the most difficult circles to square. Having pondered the matter carefully, we believe that any possible solution needs to incorporate the following elements:

"a. A clear statement by the Church of England that, in admitting women into the episcopate, it is now fully committed to opening all orders of ministry to men and women;
"b. An acceptance on the part of those who, theologically, cannot receive the ministry of women priests and bishops or those ordained by them that the Church of England has decided to admit men and women equally to holy orders and that those whom the Church has duly ordained and appointed to office are the lawful holders of the office which they occupy and thus deserve due respect and lawful obedience;
"c. An acknowledgement by those in favour of women’s ordination that the theological convictions of those unable to receive the ordained ministry of women are within the spectrum of Anglican teaching and tradition and that those who hold them should, therefore, be able to receive pastoral and sacramental care in a way that is consistent with their convictions."

Quickly scanning this report, at no point do I ever see any theological discussion whatsoever, much less any theological argument in favour of the action being proposed. Perhaps, however, that has been dealt with in the previous reports.

To me, the message here, not a new one, is that people in the Church of England are free, indeed encouraged, to believe and practice whatever they wish, as long as it is appropriately sanctioned by legislation, or some lesser official regulation. The possibility that those beliefs might be entirely contradictory to each other, or that one might be contrary to the Catholic faith is of absolutely no import.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

They Eat Up My People

Excerpts from a meditation on Psalm 14 that I came across today on that most emminent of blogs, The Anchoress.

They eat up my people, as though they were eating bread.

How terribly we use and use-up each other, every day -- thoughtlessly -- whether we intend to or not.

How often we sin by simply, brusquely trodding over the humanity of the stranger, or the person we love, because we are so intent on whatever has captured our mind of a moment. We “eat each other up, like bread” which we consume carelessly and voraciously. We “throw each other away,” and not only in those big ways - abortion, euthanasia, or in “shutting away” the sick or inconvenient, but in the small ways, too. We ignore each other. We push aside. We pounce. We pressure. We scold. We think of other people as things, or as means to an end. We render each other meaningless, into ghosts and shadows, and we do it all day long.

I do it. All day long.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Anglicans and a strong papacy

Anyone who paid even a small amount of attention to the news from here in America last week, must have noticed that the visit of Pope Benedict XVI underscores that fact that history has produced a role for the papal office that we can acknowledge as a fact: The pope is, in modern times, the single most visible Christian witness to the whole world. Another fact is that Joseph Ratzinger seems to have been prepared for this burden by the Holy Spirit, as he has lived his life cooperating with the grace of God to sanctification. Furthermore, having read a lot of his writings before and after his elevation, I remain deeply grateful to God for his apostolic and prophetic message, a message he has carried for several decades. In a book review for Touchstone six years ago, I wrote of him:

"Well-written theology does more than educate the mind. A good theologian takes his readers by the hand and leads them up the Mount of Transfiguration, where they can see the revelation of divine glory in the human face of Jesus Christ. A good theologian helps us to encounter God, because he knows God. Though his work is too objective to indulge in autobiography, his footprints are discernable in his pilgrimage to Zion and the temple."

Nothing in these years has diminished my respect for him, but rather it has only increased. On the day he was elected, as I watched live, I found myself (usually not the cheering sort) leaping out of my chair and cheering as I did when I was a child, when I saw Frank Robinson hit a home run.

In January, I wrote an article here entitled, Swim the Tiber without me. To date, it has produced 128 comments. It was the first of a few brief articles in which I wrote to defend Anglicanism against the accusations hurled at it by some modern Roman Catholics, firing back with a reminder that we have theological differences that have yet to be resolved, and that our principles in these matters are true and worth defending. Right away it was assumed I had addressed this to the TAC and its leaders. In fact, that was really not what prompted it.

What prompted it was the constant back door drainage of people, including priests, into the Roman Catholic Church for reasons that seemed more romantic than realistic, based on ignorance about Anglicanism, resulting usually in the very real dissatisfaction of individuals who have found the Roman Catholic experience in the United States to be all too much like the Episcopal Church. In fact, quite often it is.

In recent postings and comments it has been clear that Anglicans (if they understand Anglicanism) do not believe in the Universal Primacy of the papal office. That is, in fact, my position if by "primacy" we mean jurisdiction. However, at this point in history, much as the papal office has taken authority that rightly belongs to the Universal Episcopate operating through conciliar means, it is better not to upset the Roman applecart until a real work of unity is established by the Holy Spirit, one that will unite all Catholic Christians including traditional Anglicans and the Orthodox.

First of all, the Universal Episcopate remains in a state of internal schism that has been mostly the case since 1054. Second, if the Roman Catholic Church were to be more democratic at this time in history, we could well see the heresies of women's "ordination" and all that follows (Inclusive Language Liturgies, Same Sex Blessings, etc.) put on the table as real options within some of its Archdioceses. It is better right now that the pope have the power of his office to teach and keep them in line.

I would say, however, that the situation in the western Church may have been created by the power of that office, in a sense allowing the clergy, and the laity, to surrender diligence because the See of Rome was driving the bus, even when some of the turns (all celibate clergy) were very bad turns indeed. The problems tearing apart the Anglican Communion are, by this theory (which I believe to be most likely true), the indirect, if not direct, result of this, because Anglicanism has never really been free of its Roman Catholicism as part of the Anglican ethos. Nor do I suggest that we, as western Catholics, should attempt to be free from our own family history, even the parts of that history that, like many a real family, are filled with bitter contentions and strife. Anglicans will always be western, and more like Roman Catholics than anybody else.

But, even as that office may have helped to create this situation, we can thank God for placing a man in it who has the intention to purge his section of the Church from its evils (especially child molesting clergy), and to lead it in the ways of holiness. We can be thankful that God has given the care of about one billion people into the hands of a truly pastoral and saintly man. Right now, they need his authority, whatever we may think of it in theory. It is not a perfect situation, obviously, but it is the reality on the ground.

Ultimately, the unity of the Church is in the hands of God. I would like to remind us of recent words by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa :

"If one day all believers shall be reunited in one single body, it will happen like this, when we all are on our knees with a contrite and humiliated heart, under the great lordship of Christ...'Who is it that overcomes the world,' John writes in his first letter, 'if not those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God?' (1John 5:5). Sticking with this criterion, the fundamental distinction among Christians is not between Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants, but between those who believe that Christ is the Son of God and those who do not believe this."

We believe that Christ rose from the dead, so we may believe that all things are possible, and not only possible, but in the hands of the God who works according to both his wisdom and his love.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


A reminder that I am following the Orthodox calendar for Easter this year, which means that I have just begun the Triduum.

I give thanks that I have managed to stay true to my Lenten regime of abstaining from all meat and dairy products. I am now bringing that to a close, marking Good Friday with a 24-hour fast from all solid food.

I am only a bit over five hours into it and my stomach is already rumbling, though that is probably more psychological than anything.

Pray that I may be steadfast in my discipline and in my devotions.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Would That It Could Be So

The Quilliam Foundation is a counter extremism think tank. Created by former activists of radical Islamist organisations, our founders are familiar with the mindset and methods of extremist groups. Now under the guidance of mainstream Muslim scholars, we believe that Western Muslims should revive Western Islam, our Andalusian heritage of pluralism and respect, and thereby find harmony in West-Islam relations.

Western Muslims should be free from the cultural baggage of the Indian subcontinent, or the political burdens of the Arab world. We were born and raised in a milieu that is different from the Muslim East. As such, our future and progeny belong here. Just as Muslims across the globe have adopted from and adapted to local cultures and traditions, while remaining true to the essence of their faith, Western Muslims should pioneer new thinking for our new times. Here, Muslim scholastic giants, such as the noble Abdullah bin Bayyah and Sheikh Ali Goma (Mufti of Egypt), have provided ample guidance.

Here is the URL

Internal Affair?

We've got several threads going here occasioned by the TAC/RCC discussions, and, I guess, this is yet another. I've heard comments that question some of what has been written here on the grounds that much of the comment comes from outside TAC, as if the whole thing were simply an internal matter of one "jurisdiction."

The suggestion was made that there ought to be "full disclosure" of who we are. Well, we've been very open and our affiliations have been discussed many times, but, if there be any doubts, here it is all in one place.

Poetreader (Ed Pacht, that's me) is a laymember of TAC/ACA
Albion (owner of the blog) is a Reader in the ACC, based in Cyprus.
Fr. Matthew Kirby is an Australian priest of ACC
Fr. Robert Hart has served in APCK, and is now with the Anglican Diocese of the Chesapeake.

Both fathers have written extensively and theologically about the discussion, and Albion has put his journalistic skills to work in looking at the events. All three, to my view, have been marginally overcritical of my jurisdiction, but have also raised questions and points that have already given me concern. It has been asked, "What business do these outsiders have telling us what we need to do?" This brings me to the point of this post.

The matter of the approach of a considerable part of the Continuum toward Rome is not and cannot be the internal affair of any one jurisdiction, or at least that is the case if we mean a fraction of what we say about the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. The problem is that there are "jurisdictions". There is no way to justify this fact without adopting an essentially Protestant world-view. We of Continuing Anglicanism have felt a freedom not granted by Our Lord, to separate from one another on whatever issues we determine to be important. That has to end. It simply cannot be justified without adopting false ideas as to what the Church really is.

Now, the reality on the ground is that all these separated outfits do exist, and that there are thorny problems involved in healing the rifts. However, if we mean what we say, we can't accept those divisions as reflecting a real separation. In other words, I am fully convinced that what we (TAC) do as a body is never an isolated internal affair. It belongs to the entire Continuum. In fact, we are plain wrong to do anything of great importance without the full knowledge and advice (whether we can accept the advise or not) of our brethren of other jurisdictions. If we are all Catholic Anglicans, it is the business of all of us. TAC, by the same token, is both allowed and obligated to comment on "internal affairs of, for instance, ACC.

I am an Anglican, an heir of a given tradition within the one single Church established by Christ. I am not a member of a separated sect and refuse to act as though I am.


Monday, April 21, 2008

What Does It Say?

I originally posted this as a comment on the preceeding thread, "They Did Sign It," but it occurred to me that this should appear separately, for separate comment.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church contains a section entitled The episcopal college and its head, the Pope. I present it here, in full:

880 When Christ instituted the Twelve, "he constituted [them] in the form of a college or permanent assembly, at the head of which he placed Peter, chosen from among them."398 Just as "by the Lord's institution, St. Peter and the rest of the apostles constitute a single apostolic college, so in like fashion the Roman Pontiff, Peter's successor, and the bishops, the successors of the apostles, are related with and united to one another."399

881 The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the "rock" of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock.400 "The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to its head."401 This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church's very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope.

882 The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter's successor, "is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful."402 "For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered."403 (My emphasis. The footnote here, 403, directs us to Lumen Gentium 22; cf. Christus Dominus 2,9.)

883 "The college or body of bishops has no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter's successor, as its head." As such, this college has "supreme and full authority over the universal Church; but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff. 404 (My emphasis. Lumen Gentium 22; cf. Codex Iuris Canonici, can 336.)

884 "The college of bishops exercises power over the universal Church in a solemn manner in an ecumenical council."405 But "there never is an ecumenical council which is not confirmed or at least recognized as such by Peter's successor."406 (My emphasis)

885 "This college, in so far as it is composed of many members, is the expression of the variety and universality of the People of God; and of the unity of the flock of Christ, in so far as it is assembled under one head."407

886 "The individual bishops are the visible source and foundation of unity in their own particular Churches."408 As such, they "exercise their pastoral office over the portion of the People of God assigned to them,"409 (my emphasis) assisted by priests and deacons. But, as a member of the episcopal college, each bishop shares in the concern for all the Churches.410 The bishops exercise this care first "by ruling well their own Churches as portions of the universal Church," and so contributing "to the welfare of the whole Mystical Body, which, from another point of view, is a corporate body of Churches."411 They extend it especially to the poor,412 to those persecuted for the faith, as well as to missionaries who are working throughout the world.

887 Neighboring particular Churches who share the same culture form ecclesiastical provinces or larger groupings called patriarchates or regions.413 The bishops of these groupings can meet in synods or provincial councils. "In a like fashion, the episcopal conferences at the present time are in a position to contribute in many and fruitful ways to the concrete realization of the collegiate spirit."414

It does not even take a careful reading of the above to conclude that the CCC speaks of the absolute supremacy of the pope, and I cannot think of any Anglican who would, in good conscience, agree to that. I do not.

If that were genuinely the TAC's view, then I would not be able to acknowledge the TAC as even being an Anglican jurisdiction. It would be interesting to see what constitutional steps were taken in advance of the signing of letter/book. If I recall correctly, I was told that the synods of virtually every diocese in the TAC approved of the action, but it would be interesting to see the wording of the resolution(s) presented for approval.

They Did Sign It

I want to sort this out once and for all, and will do it in the words of Archbishop John Hepworth. It has been stated as much here already, but I want to repeat it: they did sign it.

The following comes from The Pennant, vol. 30, no. 1, parish magazine of St George's Church, Columbus, Ohio of February 2008. It purports to have been written by Archbishop Hepworth and I believe that it was, as it is consistent with what he told me privately prior to the October 2007 synod in Portsmouth.

I quote in part:

"On 9th October last I returned to Rome with Bishops Mercer and Wilkinson ... This time we met with the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the body appointed by the Holy See to receive applications for "Corporate Reunion" from churches that are not in Communion with the Holy See, and we carried a letter solemnly signed by the Bishops and Vicars General of the Traditional Anglican Communion during a Votive Mass for Unity in the venerable church of Saint Agatha in Portsmouth, England, where we had just completed a powerful Plenary Meeting. (My emphasis).

"May I share with you some of the letter's content and promise …

"On our acceptance of the catholic faith:

"We accept that the most complete and authentic expression and application of the catholic faith in this moment of time is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church…" (My emphasis)

It can't be any clearer than that.

I am also in receipt of a private communication from someone who attended the synod, and whose honesty I have no reason to doubt. In part, this person said:

"Their signing the letter addressed to the Roman authorities and putting their signatures in the catechism was a public act during a public Mass in a church whose door was wide open. I have held the catechism book in my hands and have seen all the signatures in it." (Source's emphasis)

The logical conclusion that one must draw is that anyone who asserts that the bishops have not endorsed the CCC either does not know the truth or, if you will allow the euphemism, is being economical with it.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Society of St Michael

The recent article on clergy education has brought to my attention the existence of an organization I previously knew nothing about -- the Society of St Michael.

Its website describes it as a "fraternity of Anglican clergy, organized as a society of apostolic life."

The site also says: "The Society of St Michael interprets the Catholic Faith in complete accord with the Catechism of the Catholic Church."

I would be interested to know who founded this society, when, and why. In particular, I am curious as to how Anglican clergy can be in "complete accord" with the CCC. If I were to find myself in such accord, I could imagine no reason why I should not become a member of the Roman Catholic Church.

I do not mean to be aggressive here, but I do not follow the logic.

Whateverrrr ...

Those of you who have teenage children, or know one with any degree of familiarity, will be aware of their passion, or should I say, dispassion, for the word whatever.

Now after just that one sentence, the rest of you will probably be scratching your head in puzzlement. Whatever?

Bear with me. Let's first go for a definition here, courtesy of Merriam-Webster. We have whatevers that are pronouns, adjectives and adverbs:

1 a: anything or everything that b: no matter what c: whatnot 2: what 1a(1) —used to express astonishment or perplexity

1 a: any…that : all…that b: no matter what 2: of any kind at all —used after the substantive it modifies with any or with an expressed or implied negative

in any case : whatever the case may be —sometimes used interjectionally to suggest the unimportance of an issue or decision between alternatives

So. Bored? Confused? Can you imagine any teenager able to give any of those definitions, or even want to? I can't.

So why their passion for the word, and why am I going on like this?

Have a look at the adverbial use of the word, and there you will find the answer: the unimportance of an issue or a decision between alternatives.

Many of you are of the age that you can recall the saying, may have even repeated it yourself: What if they gave a war and nobody came?

There was another one that I was particularly fond of in the more cynical years of my youth: Tomorrow has been canceled due to lack of interest.

Whateverrrr. Imagine it being said with the final R drawn out in a bored tone of voice, the sign of a W being made with raised forefingers and crossed thumbs.

Okay, I've made my point. We all know that teenagers, as a rule, have difficult being bothered about anything. It's just too much trouble. (Unless, of course, it's something they want). But try to make a point about morality, or propriety, or good manners, and you'll often as not get that glazed look as the thumbs and forefingers go into action and whateverrrr drawls out.

Now I don't want to offend what I am sure are the hundreds of regular teenage readers of The Continuum, so let me make a disclaimer right here. These attitudes are normal for you, and are part of what makes it fun being a kid. Remember, I used to be the same.

But as St Paul said to the Corinthians: "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things."

I am not talking to you as you are today, but as you may be tomorrow, when you are the parents, or aunts and uncles, of other teenagers. Will you still be saying whateverrrr?

And more importantly, I am also thinking about those people who today are parents, and aunts and uncles.

And I am thinking of them because they are among the most frightening, even dangerous, people in the world. Yes. Moms and dads we all know. Hard-working. Responsible. Thrifty. Perhaps even Little League coaches or den mothers.

Frightening and dangerous because deep down inside, they are still saying whateverrrr when it comes to acknowledging God and their place in His cosmos. They just can't be bothered. It's too much like hard work, and it gets in the way of them enjoying what little freedom and spare cash they might have.

(Ironically, I was late reading my Office this morning, and as I did so, I found that the three psalms appointed for today were 95 (Venite, exultemus), 96 (Cantate Domino) and 97 (Dominus regnavit). These three psalms, in a way, sum up what I am driving at.

"Say among the heathen that the LORD reigneth: the world also shall be established that it shall not be moved: he shall judge the people righteously. Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fullness thereof. Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice. Before the LORD: for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth." (96.10-end)

"The LORD reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof. Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne. A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about. His lightnings enlightened the world: the earth saw, and trembled. The hills melted like wax at the presence of the LORD, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory." (97.1-6)

O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also. The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land. O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker." (95.1-6)

It takes someone very brave, or very foolish, to say whateverrrr in the face of those few verses. But people do it every day. Indeed one of the psalms even speaks of them: "The fool hath said in his heart there is no God."

They are born, grow up, go to work, build families, retire and die without ever having even heard those words, much less pondered on them or embraced them. These are people who live down the street from you, perhaps even next door, not in the wilds of some far-off tropical paradise.

What prompted this rambling discourse was a comment made by Fr Rob on "Fr. Nalls et al on clergy education," where he said, in part:

"Our clergy ... need to know how to plant and build up churches, evangelize, lead people in evangelism and in start-up situations, work with other denominations, and function in what is truly a post-Christian, missionary, and interdenominational setting. The Evangelical schools educate, train, and build skills in those areas, whereas even the best and most 'orthodox' of the denominational schools are much more geared toward a caretaker ministry model and an institutional setting in which the infrastructure has long been in place." (Emphasis mine).

And what he is talking about here is of supreme importance to us. As has been said so many times on this blog, most recently I believe in this very thread, the continuing movement will not survive, indeed does not deserve to survive, if it limits its mission to being one of providing a caretaker ministry. We must be the Church, not in the sense of THE Church, but in the sense of the CHURCH. And that requires of us today to begin focusing our minds, prayers and energies on the Whateverrrrs of this world. Those people we can't even describe as post-Christian, not even by the somewhat dated terms of heathen or pagan, but as simply apathetic.

I mentioned earlier that I consider them frightening, even dangerous. The reason is because they cannot be counted on to be counted when a matter of great moral import arises. In contrast, I honour people who describe themselves as atheists, because at least they care enough about something, whatever it may be, that they seek to deny that there is a God who can be said to be that something. And I hold more hope that eventually they could begin to perceive that something is really Something. And that's a start.

The Whateverrrrs must also be enormously sad people. Imagine living one's life to the tune of Thomas Hobbes' "hymn" -- Short, Brutish and Nasty. Here today. Gone tomorrow. And that's it. I mean really, why not just cancel tomorrow?

How do we inspire those of the crossed thumbs and raised forefingers? That is the great challenge facing us all.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Necessary Admissions

One of the great barriers to Anglican Catholics considering corporate reunion with Rome is that we perceive a demand on the other side of the Tiber for a mere submission which would involve two deliberate lies by us. The first would be an unqualified affirmation that Rome's actions and common or approved teachings in the past (relevant to the broken relationship between our Churches) have not been at fault. The second, related to the first, is a dishonest denial of our identity. This demand is implicit in the official approach, wherein we are characterised as properly schismatic, heretical and without valid Orders, and explicit in the polemic of those I will call Anti-Anglican Roman Catholic Apologists (AARCAs herein), in particular those apologists for the RCC who engage Anglican Catholics with the attitude and arguments of Cardinal Newman and take Apostolicae Curae as at least practically infallible.

My aim in this post is to lay out some of the admissions Rome would have to make before many of us could take seriously its claim to pursue honest reconciliation. Subsidiary to that aim is another one. The history of the unending controversy between us and the AARCAs is such that further conversation appears utterly futile unless AARCAs are willing to stipulate to certain facts and some manifest moral implications before we would be obliged to consider or listen to anything new they had to say. (This is partly because we need to clear the ground of outdated irrelevancies and summarise established historical facts.) I will contend, therefore, that the abovementioned admissions are a precondition for further conversation about these matters at the popular level. Indeed, I will suggest that in future, Anglican Catholic apologists should simply link or refer to this list of admissions and tell their AARCA interlocutors they will not be engaged in debate until they make the necessary stipulations. This may seem an arrogant or presumptious attempt to curtail the debate, but the deepest reason for my pursuing this secondary aim will, I hope, become abundantly clear below.

The admissions that will be posited as a sine qua non for progress deal with: the Roman denial of the validity of Anglican Orders; the Papal Supremacy claimed and imposed by Rome at the time of separation; and the moral and doctrinal errors and superstitions officially approved, encouraged or tolerated by Rome at the time of separation. There will be very little debateable arguing and much recounting of simple fact. I will generally let the facts speak for themselves.

Part 1.

First, I will lay out in roughly chronological order the reasons commonly given for denying the validity of Anglican Orders by AARCAs and the Vatican from the 16th Century onwards, in conjunction with certain relevant and undeniable facts relating to these reasons. A to I below come from the 16th Century and early 17th Century, D to H being sourced from some of the most active early AARCAs, men such as Sanders, Parsons and Kellison. The rest date from the later 17th Century onwards, and J to L (and, it is sometimes claimed, M) were eventually included in the abovementioned Papal Bull, Apostolicae Curae.

A. Orders given by the Edwardine Ordinal were simply asserted to be invalid or "counterfeit" by RC divines at the Marian restoration of papal jurisdiction. Detailed theological reasons were not given at this stage. Fact: There is scholarly debate about how universally affected clergy were re-ordained and precisely what portion of the ordination was repeated. The instructions from Rome to Cardinal Pole had ambiguities, with it being unclear whether certain commands to ordain referred to those ordained by the English rite or those not ordained at all who received "benefices" or those ordained by another reformed rite but illicitly allowed to function as clergy in their own congregations by King Edward. There is early testimony that some clergy only had the anointing of the hands supplied. And other testimony that various Marian bishops clearly taught the invalidity and need for absolute reordination, as noted above. There was no binding decision on the English Ordinal as such.

B. After Elizabeth's accession to the throne and restoration of the English Ordinal and Book of Common Prayer, orders so bestowed were said to be either illicit or invalid because performed by schismatics and canonically ultra vires, invalid because performed by married men, or because the Roman rite was not used, or even because the ordinal had not been approved by Parliament when first used! Facts: No modern Roman theologian today accepts any of these as sufficient to invalidate orders. The official modern Roman position on Anglican Orders does not refer to any of these factors.

C. Pope Paul IV denied the validity of the Anglican episcopate because the Anglican Ordinal included an explicit denial of papal jurisdiction, since the pope believed that episcopal ordination did not give new sacramental grace (the episcopate being then commonly seen as the same order as the priesthood, except with larger pastoral powers and having the authority to confirm and ordain "unbound") but did signify the grant of episcopal jurisdiction by the Pope. Hence, rejection of papal jurisdiction meant the episcopate could not be given. Facts: No modern Roman theologian today accepts any of these as sufficient to invalidate orders. The official modern Roman position on Anglican Orders does not refer to any of these factors. Indeed, this theory of the episcopate was effectively abandoned at Vatican II.

D. One early accusation against the Anglican hierarchy was that no "Matter" was used in their ordinations, not even the laying on of hands, notwithstanding what the Ordinal says. A related early accusation denied the use of any "Form". There was, in fact, a denial that some bishops had been consecrated at all before they took up their posts. Fact: These are false accusations, as now admitted by all RC historians and theologians.

E. The "Nag's Head Fable" claimed that Archbishop Parker, the first Elizabethan Primate, had not been really consecrated at all, but appointed in some way at the Nag's Head Tavern. Fact: This is a false claim, as now admitted by all RC historians and theologians.

F. It was alleged that a later Archbishop of Canterbury, Whitgift, had received his ordination from the Queen. Fact: This is a false claim, as now admitted by all RC historians and theologians.

G. It was alleged that the records produced which contradicted the Nag's Head story had been forged by Anglicans. Fact: This is a false claim, as now admitted by all RC historians and theologians.

H. It was then claimed that it didn't matter what really happened with Archbishop Parker anyway, since his chief consecrator, Bishop Barlow had never been consecrated himself. Fact: This is a false claim, as now admitted by all RC historians and theologians.

I. It was commonly asserted that the absence of the "Tradition of the Instruments" in the Anglican rite made it invalid, since an earlier Pope had defined this as the Matter of the sacrament of order. Fact: This ceremony is not the true Matter and is not necessary to valid ordination, as now admitted by all RC theologians and as definitively taught by the RCC.

J. The original Form of the English Ordinal was said to be invalid because it specified neither the precise order to be conferred nor any of the primary roles appropriate to that order. The words "Receive the Holy Ghost", used for both priests and bishops, are thus insufficient. Facts: The words in what was commonly considered the Form of the English rites were not only "Receive the Holy Ghost" but as follows: For the priesthood, "RECEIVE the holy goste, whose synnes thou doest forgeve, they are forgeven: and whose sinnes thou doest retaine, thei are retained: and be thou a faithful despensor of the word of god, and of his holy Sacramentes. In the name of the father, and of the sonne, and of the holy gost. Amen. TAKE thou aucthoritie to preache the word of god, and to minister the holy Sacramentes ..." (Emphasis added. NB: The Council of Trent particularly connected the sacerdotal office with the key role of forgiveness of sins by absolution.) For the episcopate, "TAKE the holy gost, and remember that thou stirre up the grace of god, whiche is in thee, by imposicion of handes: for god hath not geven us the spirite of feare, but of power, and love, and of sobernesse. GEVE hede unto reading, exhortacion and doctrine. Thinke upon these thinges conteined in this boke [the Bible just then given], be diligent in them, that the encrease comyng therby, may be manyfest unto all men. Take hede unto thyselfe, and unto teaching, and be diligent in doing them, for by doing this thou shalt save thyselfe, and them that heare thee; bee to the flocke of Christ a shepeheard, not a wolfe: feede them, devoure them not; holde up the weake, heale the sicke, binde together the broken, bryng againe the outcastes, seke the lost. Be so mercifull, that you be not to remisse, so minister discipline, that ye forgeat not mercy; that when the chief shepheard shal come, ye may receyve the immarcessible croune of glory, through Jesus Christ our lord. Amen." (Emphasis added. NB: The Council of Trent particularly connected the episcopal office with the key role of preaching.) The quotations from Scripture within each form were those specifically associated with these offices by contemporary respected scholars, including Erasmus. Also, it is virtually universal opinion in the RCC that ecclesiastical rites must be interpreted as a "moral unity", so that each part gives contextual meaning to each other part. This is why it is now accepted and officially taught that the essential form and matter of the old Roman rites were not simultaneous (the Form preceeding the Matter) and did not need to be. Here are some excerpts of earlier prayers in the English rite. For priests, "mercifully behold these thy servantes, now called to the Office of Priesthode, and replenish them so wyth the trueth of thy doctryne, and innocencie of lyfe, that both by worde and good example, they may faythfully serve thee in thys office". For bishops, "sende thy grace upon him, they he may duely execute the office wherunto he is called ... mercifully beholde this thy servaunt, now called to the worke and ministerie of a Bisshoppe, and replenishe him so with the trueth of thy doctryne, and innocencie of life, that both by worde and dede, he may faithfully serve thee in this office". Apostolicae Curae mentions that some of these prayers might have sufficed as supplying an adequate form, but for the next two objections.

K. The Intention to convey the traditional Catholic Orders was said to be absent, an intention to create a new set of offices sharing only the name was said to replace it. Facts: The Preface to the Ordinal specifically states the intent, using the very word intent, as follows: "from the Apostles tyme, there hathe bene these orders of Ministers in Christes church, Bisshoppes, Priestes, and Deacons, ... therfore to the entent these orders shoulde bee continued ... no man (not beynge at thys presente Bisshop, Priest, nor Deacon) shall execute anye of them, excepte he be ... admitted, accordynge to the forme hereafter folowinge" [emphasis added]. Apostolicae Curae does not quote or mention the Preface at all, not even to dispute it.

L. The Intention was said to be proven absent from and adverse to the sacrament of Order in our rites by the complete denial of Eucharistic Sacrifice generally in the church and by the inbuilt heresy (the "native character" as the bull put it) involved in deletion of all references to consecration of the Eucharist and offering sacrifice in the Ordinal. Facts: Although direct reference to consecrating the Eucharist is not made in the rite, all acknowledge that such consecration is included in "ministering the sacraments", which is mentioned. The Book of Common Prayer, in which the Ordinal is placed, has always reserved that consecrating role to priests and bishops. In the Elizabethan period, when the denial of Eucharistic Sacrifice is purported to have vitiated all episcopal consecrations from Parker onwards, the following Anglican statements appeared. The Prayer Book's Liturgy calls this service a "perpetual memory" of the Sacrifice and a "sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving". The 28th of the 39 Articles says that the “Supper of the Lord is … a Sacrament [= "effectual sign" according to Article 25] of our Redemption by Christ’s death”. In other words, the Sacrament signifies and effects our salvation by the Sacrifice of the Cross. Bishop Jewel (1522-71), in his defence of the Anglican position, quotes St. Augustine with approval: “ ‘Christ hath given us to celebrate in His Church, an image or token of that Sacrifice for the remembrance of His Passion.’ Again he saith, ‘After CHRIST'S ascension into heaven, the Flesh and Blood of this Sacrifice is continued by a Sacrament of remembrance.’ ” [emphasis added] Defence of the Apology. Part II. And then there is the subscription in 1567 of Archbishop Parker and 14 other bishops to the mediaeval homily of Archbishop Aelfric (A.D. 995), containing the following (with spelling modernised): “Once suffered Christ himself but yet nevertheless his suffering is daily renewed at the mass through mystery of the holy housel” [emphasis added]. Housel was the old English word for sacrifice, especially in reference to the Eucharist. It is appropriate to again compare these historical facts with the statement of the papal bull that “all idea … of sacrifice has been rejected”. And to compare the above statements with the fact that Aquinas in the Summa Theologica gives two reasons he considers sufficient to call the Mass a Sacrifice, namely that it "commemorates" and "represents" as an "image" the Sacrifice of the Cross and that it conveys its saving effects (P3, Q73, A4; P3, Q83, A1), which original Sacrifice itself can never be repeated (P3, Q22, A5). Similarly, the RC theologian Masure in the 20th Century taught that the Eucharist is a sacrifice simply because it "efficaciously signifies" the Sacrifice of the Cross, but that there is no fresh immolation of Christ on the altar (The Christian Sacrifice, 1943). Both these men's works, of course, have the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, meaning they are within the bounds of Roman orthodoxy. In Saepius Officio, the official response of the two English Primates to the papal bull, the Anglican doctrine is explained similarly, drawing on the liturgy: "We continue a perpetual memory of the precious death of Christ ... we plead and represent before the Father the sacrifice of the cross, and by it we confidently entreat remission of sins and all other benefits of the Lord’s Passion for all the whole Church" [emphasis added]. Nevertheless, the Vatican's letter in response said that this doctrine was "not that of the Roman Catholic Church."

M. In response to Anglican reference to the Ordinal's Preface to verify their intention to "do as the Church does", RC theologian Clark replied that the bull did not really argue that the Anglicans did not have a general intention to do as the Church does (cf. K), nor that this intention was undermined by a mere heretical understanding (cf. L). Instead, he claimed that the Pope had in fact argued that the admitted general intention was vitiated by a positive contrary intention to exclude the conferring of a sacrificial role, this contrary intention being imposed by the omission of all sacrificial language from the Ordinal. Facts: The group responsible for the original English Ordinal probably had a mixture of more Catholic and more Protestant churchmen, and accepted the pattern recapitulated in the canons of an ancient Council of Carthage. However, it is generally accepted by theologians that a Church is not committed to the beliefs of any of the authors of a rite except as those beliefs are expressed in the rite itself so as to "inform" the intent of the users of it. There are no positive statements denying the sacrificial aspect of priestly ministry in the Ordinal. However, such a statement was supplied in a suggested draft by the Lutheran Bucer to the English Reformers. They did not include it. The Book of Common Prayer specifically notes the principles behind various omissions made at the Reformation in the preface "Of Ceremonies", and says that some were omitted due to number and complexity, some due to eventual abuse despite their original goodness, and some but not all due to their intrinsic unworthiness. That is, not all omission was outright rejection at the English Reformation. As for the Pope's real meaning in Apostolicae Curae, it is notable that he nowhere admits or implies even the Church of England's general intent to do as the Church does, nor does he refer to any duality or inconsistency of intention. He says the correct intention is "wanting" and the actual intention involved "rejecting what the Church does". He does not speak of an intention to reject one particular part of what the Church does while accepting the rest.

N. Clark, however, seems to have had a kind of fallback position, in that he argued that the RCC can simply declare and make sacraments invalid by, for example, changing the acceptable conditions for validity by fiat, as it has done before with Marriage. Specifically, he states that the RCC "has an effective power to restrict sacramental validity" (Anglican Orders and Defect of Intention, 1956:10). Therefore, the decision that the Anglican Ordinal fails to satisfy the necessary conditions might theoretically be seen as incontestable and self-fulfilling. In a sense, they would then be invalid because Rome said they are. Facts: This approach, which ironically leads us back to A to a large extent, is obviously unanswerable if its premisses are granted. It is, however, not the argument of Apostolicae Curae, which appears to assume an argument is actually necessary.

I cannot (and I do not believe I am obliged to) accept that any Roman Catholic, once made aware of this history, has any right to begin a new attack on our Orders without at least first admitting that part or most of the past record of RCs and their Church in this regard has been deeply shameful. I am morally certain that the above facts speak for themselves to a great extent and display a significant amount of malice, disingenuousness and vincible ignorance on the other side. The constant shifting of ground by AARCAs as each place staked out is washed away by the truth, in combination with the refusal to stop and consider what has gone before, convinces me that enough is enough. I ask AARCAs either to show that the statements above are untrue or to stipulate that they are factual. In the latter case, if such a stipulation does not include acceptance of the shamefulness abovementioned, it may be that further conversation is still worthless, since an inability by an AARCA to agree with us on the theological shallowness of B and C or the disgraceful calumny of D to H, for example, would indicate moral and other premisses too incommensurable for further conversation to have any hope of genuine communication.

As M appears to confirm, Anglican Catholics cannot make any headway with many of their AARCA interlocutors because of an act of will (to assert Anglican Orders null and void) by them that is effectively a priori and incapable of ever being overturned by reasoning. At best, this is impossible for them to avoid as they perceive this to be necessitated by their act of faith in all RC doctrine. For people such as these, I have no criticism, only the request to at least pause, take seriously the above facts and understand why we will remain unconvinced of their position and perhaps be unwilling to debate the point further with them. At worst, an AARCA may believe that such an intransigence is not absolutely necessitated, but choose it out of pride and contempt towards us or possibly blameworthy ignorance. I say blameworthy because much of what is above should be known by those who claim any expert knowledge in this area, and without such expert knowledge it is doubtful one should make arguments that one knows will offend (because they deny the fundamental self-understanding in sacred matters of your "opponents"), since one will be causing offence without the objective assurance that might justify such action. Put simply, if people (who are not morally certain on other grounds related to an act of faith) want to tell us we belong to pseudo-churches consisting solely of laymen, with some laymen pretending to be Catholic clergy, they are obliged to be very, very sure of themselves because they have done all the necessary research.

If the reader senses some exasperation and anger, he is not led astray by this intuition. It is hard to stress too much the sorrow and affront caused by the Roman claims against our Orders and the history of their development. We have been, in effect, told we are self-deceived frauds, yet often through manifestly fraudulent or erroneous assertions. It is made worse by the fact that they come from those with whom we share so much, and with whom we would have peace and reconciliation. Indeed, they proceed from a Church whose Orders and whose men in Orders we have always received as equivalent to our own, while being told by it that we intended to replace those very Orders. So, we ask that AARCAs not attempt to continue the attack without first either refuting or stipulating to the above history, and in the latter case admitting the very poor impression justifiably created by this history.

As for official dialogue between the Churches, even here I think that such a stipulation of facts should be requested by the Anglican Catholic side when it comes to discussing Orders. Since the aim of such dialogue -- reconciliation -- is different to the aim of mutually opposed apologetical debates -- proving your side right and the other wrong -- admission of past blame for invalid and egregious arguments is far less relevant (especially since the institution is not automatically responsible for all its apologists' tactics). But we should still make sure relevant and significant facts in our favour are out in the open early. And we owe it to Rome to be honest with them about our moral certainty that we have the Apostolic Succession and our refusal to accept absolute re-ordinations in the event of reunion, since such acceptance would constitute deliberate sacrelige on our part.

Part 2.

Our second topic is the Papal Supremacy as it existed and operated, and according to the powers it claimed for itself, at the time of the English Reformation. Historic Facts: Briefly, it may be said that the highly authoritative Unam Sanctum of the 14th Century, which taught that the Pope could command the civil power and the use of its "sword" and, in this context, decreed that it was "absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff", created the impression the Pope was claiming imperial rather than spiritual powers. This impression was reinforced by other acts. There had been tensions between England and the Papacy over Roman interventions in both temporalities and spiritualities for centuries. These and related facts, in combination with the papal excommunication of 1570 which purported to also depose Elizabeth, and papal machinations to have her assasinated or her country invaded, confirmed for the Church of England at that decisive time that the Papacy was now committed to unspiritual, proud and violent usurpation. This was the kind of Papal jurisdiction rejected. Purely spiritual primacy was not dogmatically rejected. For example, Queen Elizabeth I acknowledged in her negotiations on behalf of Church of England the right of the Pope to preside at a free General Council, though not as "universal bishop". King James I acknowledged Roman primacy if it followed the pattern of the original Petrine primacy. Theologians and bishops such as Bramhall similarly distinguished between usurped papal powers, especially civil, and a valid and beneficial universal primacy. Corresponding modern facts: The modern papacy now makes no such claim to imperium, is encouraging some devolution of authority in the Church and has begun to return to "first millenium" principles in explaining its Primacy, effectively admitting the unnecessary nature of certain later accompaniments to this Primacy. That is, elements we criticised have been abandoned or are being modified. This is not the papacy then refused by us. Indeed, the papacy refused by us is now, to an increasing degree, disclaimed by the "papists", despite the difficulty caused by Vatican I in the meantime.

Part 3.

Our third topic is the erroneous teaching allowed or approved by Rome at and after the time of the Reformation, even though not dogmatised. A similar treatment of this issue appear earlier on this weblog.

Historic Facts: It was maintained at that time in the RCC without censure in approved works that the worship paid to the Divine nature, latreia, was also due to images of Christ, the Trinity, to relics of the "true Cross", to relics supposedly of Christ's blood, hair or nails, and to crucifixes. Even the Council of Trent did not make entirely clear that adoration of Christ could not be paid via an image of him, in that it said "by the images ... we adore Christ". On the other hand, it denied any divinity in the images "on account of which they are to be woshipped" and made all honour to images "due honour". After Trent there were still writers uncondemned by Rome who justified adoring the divinity represented in the image, using the image as a proximate object of worship. Corresponding Doctrinal Fact: This is not in accordance with the teaching of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, which only allows a maximum honour of proskunesis to any image. It is, according to this Council, the objectively mortal sin of idolatry, and is heretical.

Historic Facts: Other serious deficiencies affecting popular instruction or guidance in faith and morals were: the multiplication and encouraged veneration of and trust in false relics; disapproval or deliberate lack of encouragement of lay access to Scripture in their own tongue; authorised prayers to the Saints worded so they implied to the common man Saints were direct authors of benefits; assertions that Mary could command Christ and that she was to be approached as the more merciful when a Christian was afraid to approach Jesus, since He is the Judge; portraying the Intermediate State as temporary Hell-fire inflicted primarily as divine vengeance; teaching that the Mass involved an extra, fresh immolation of Christ, that is, a repeated offering of Him; and permitting or commanding the torturing of "heretics" to gain confessions.

Corresponding Relevant Facts: Every single one of these problems had been long-lasting and widespread but has since been effectively corrected in some way by the RCC since that time, but not all at the time of Trent and the Counter-Reformation. Every single one of them was a reason the English Reformers said they were justified in carrying out reform independent of Rome and those in submission to it and sharing these deficiencies. Thus a break in communion was accepted (though not initiated) by the Church of England on the basis of identified errors in the Western, Papal communion that were serious and appeared to Anglicans to be practically authoritative in that communion.

Such breaks in communion had occured in the past for perceived misbehaviour or error at a less than dogmatic level. E.g., the removal of Pope Vigilius from the diptychs at the Fifth Ecumenical Council till he would confirm an earlier anathematisation of heresy. Also, the Acacian schism began due to a papal decision to break communion not because of heresy personally held or taught by Acacius but his tolerant communion with a hierarch who fluctuated between Chalcedonian orthodoxy and Monophytism. The schism persisted because of the refusal of one of Acacius' personally orthodox successors to anathematise his predecessor, even though he did excommunicate undoubted Monophysites. (A number of afterwards universally recognised Saints lived and died faithful communicants on each side of this schism, though it was complete at the time. This has been pointed to by some theologians as evidence that this schism for reasons other than error in dogma did not really cause either side to be outside the Catholic Church.)


Unless the facts listed in part 1 are admitted, our nature as particular Churches will continue to be impugned or denied carelessly and automatically and this will darken any dialogue that occurs. Unless all the above facts in parts 2 and 3 are admitted, the nature of the original schism between Rome and the Church of England cannot be fairly characterised or put into context. Especially since it is not the case that all theologians in good standing in the RCC or Eastern Orthodox Church assert or accept that every kind of schism affecting the Catholic Church must leave one side properly out of it, as I have noted before. We do not need to approach Rome as if repentant rebels, begging for re-admittance to the Fold.

Finally, and on a more eirenic note, it is incontestable that Anglican Catholics too must stipulate to important and undeniable facts: Anglican Churches also tolerated or even encouraged at various times much material heresy among their bishops, clergy and laity, despite also not "dogmatising" the heresies by imposing manifest error on their officially binding formularies. They allowed the corruptions of latitudinarian indifference to infect their faith and practice, such deficiencies being no less destructive than the corruptions within the Roman communion. Anglican theologians were often slow to admit the logical deductions from their principles and separate Patristic and Catholic wheat from the chaff of certain Western mediaeval excesses. They also did not sufficiently discriminate in their criticisms between common opinion and true doctrine in the RCC, and did not always interpret those doctrines with a just or charitable eye. Many of our liturgies were for a long time unecessarily minimalist in certain areas, such as prayer for the dead, where only implicit requests or traces remained, e.g., pleading the Sacrifice of the Cross "for all [God's] whole Church" in Holy Communion, or asking God in the Burial office "to hasten [his] kingdom" that both the living and the "departed in the true faith" might have their "perfect consummation and bliss" at the Resurrection, but not referring at all to the intermediate state in this prayer. And, although the English State's bloody persecution of RCs for treason was often unjust, the English Church did not do enough to challenge this wickedness, and often defended these actions as if all those executed were truly malicious towards or a danger to the State, overlooking the vicious and insincere motivations of certain agents of that State. So, both sides do have things of which to repent, but both sides should approach each other as genuine sister Churches, realising that each has in fact already moved toward the other.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Preaching, why we do it Part II

Following up on an earlier post, I want to offer a brief and simple overview to keep those of us who preach focused on the rhyme and reason for entering the pulpit in the first place. These are practical items.

1. Preaching must be pastoral.

A good sermon need not be the most clever, the finest writing, nor a brilliant display of theater or performing arts. On the other hand, it must not become merely a ceremonial routine, something to get through because, well, there it is in the rubrics. A good sermon must come from a pastoral heart, and be delivered by a father who loves his congregation and wants to feed them. It must come from a physician who wants to heal wounds, diagnose illness, and provide a cure. This is why I advise you who preach, not to look at the ceiling, the door to the church, or any other fixed point, but to move your eyes across the congregation, engaging people face to face, while you speak to their minds and hearts. This is about feeding them, curing their souls, helping them to know the Father and Jesus Christ whom he has sent (John 17:3). It must never become anything less, and it is your responsibility to see that it does not.

2. Preaching must be theological

By "theological" I do not mean academic, since the challenge in preaching is not to speak to scholars and theologians, but to communicate to everyone. That, far more than academic speaking, is the more difficult. By "theological" I mean that it must be based on the revelation of God in scripture, and it must bring out the true meaning.

Believe it or not, people really do want to understand their Faith. Some clergy think that people will choke on theology, and that it is best not to present it to them. The people have just said the great Creed of our Faith, a creed filled with the most profound words that summarize the whole Bible, and therefore contain the height and depth of Divine revelation. It is a literary puzzle also, jumping from metaphor to direct statement of fact; for example: "...light of light, very God of very God..." If they can say these words, they deserve some explanation. And, it is your responsibility and office to teach them.

The Incarnation, which includes the entirety of the Gospel, is theology- real theology as revealed by God. In order to meet the needs of the people, in line with point number one above, this is the medicine, and the food.

3. Preaching must be Biblical

You are called and ordained to preach the Word of God, not your own ideas; not even your own good ideas. The scriptures have been read to the whole congregation, and you have no need to find anything else for your material. Furthermore, you must not draw from any other material as your main text and direction. You must draw out the meaning of the scriptures.

At the risk of looking egotistical, I will quote another earlier post:

"While walking the earth, the Son of God proclaimed that the Old Testament scriptures were, in fact, actually testifying about Him. After His resurrection He expounded on the meaning of all the scriptures as the things concerning Himself, and opened the minds of His disciples to understand them.

"So, too, the New Testament is rich with the reports of Christ’s actions, His words, His life, His death and His resurrection. They tell us, also, who He is: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God… And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:1,2, 14).” It goes on to tell us how His Incarnation is extended in this world through time and space by His Church, founded by Him and indwelt by His Spirit. The doctrines of that Church are forever enshrined in the Epistles, and our hope made firm by the last prophetic Revelation.

"This is the hammer that breaks the rock in pieces, a fire that bursts forth and blazes, consuming everything, and making new life. It is a power that transcends every natural force, and every embellishment of those forces, electric or atomic. “The voice of the Lord is mighty in operation; the voice of the LORD is a glorious voice…the voice of the LORD shaketh the wilderness (Psalm 29: 4, 7 BCP).” The scriptures kill and make alive, meeting the truest and deepest needs of man. And yet, many clergymen struggle very hard, trying to think of something to say. Why?

"Every seminary everywhere ought to teach a very important principle: It is not the duty of the clergy to blunt the sharpness, to soften the hammer, or to quench the fire. Woe to the preacher who protects the people from the word that kills, because he protects them also from being made alive- truly and forever alive. Woe to the preacher who acts as a buffer, deflecting the force of the scriptures to soften the blow, because in protecting from the stroke, he prevents the healing. If his labors in the pulpit amount to a lifetime of standing between the people and the word of God, reducing its effect, taming it and making it polite, presentable and harmless, he will have nothing to show for it in the end but wood, hay and stubble instead of gold, silver and precious stones.

"It far easier to preach if a man will ride the scriptures like a wave, letting them make their own point, and arrive at their own destination (informed by the Tradition of the Church). If the passages that have been read speak of life and death, then elaborate on life and death. If they speak of repentance then preach that men should repent. When they encourage faith, proclaim faith. When they warn of Hell and the judgment to come, then blow the trumpet as a faithful watchman on the walls. When they comfort, speak as a pastor who feeds the sheep. Let the meaning of the scriptures be expounded to their full effect, proclaiming from them the truth that affects the eternal destiny of the souls in your care."

There it is: 1. Pastoral 2.Theological 3. Scriptural.

One last word of advice: If all this seems a bit too much for a mere man, all the better. Pray earnestly for the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit, both in giving you grace and power to preach, and to the people the grace to hear and receive. None of us can afford anything less than prayerful dependence on the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

St John the Evangelist, Nicosia

I am honoured and humbled to announce that Archbishop Mark Haverland has made me a Reader in the Anglican Catholic Church and has authorised me to preach my own sermons.

We have been discussing the prospect of my planting an ACC mission here in Cyprus, and this was the first step toward that eventual end.

I would welcome your prayers as we move forward toward making St John the Evangelist mission in Nicosia a reality. I would also welcome any practical suggestions or material help you might wish to make, such as spare prayerbooks, church furnishings, etc.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Fr. Nalls et al on clergy education

The Rev. Charles Nalls, SSM , The Rev. Mr. Jason Dechenne, SSM, and The Rev. Richard Sutter, SSM have written a paper about clergy education, a subject we have discussed here .

From the beginning of the traditional or “continuing” movement, the question of a qualified, educated and well-formed clergy has been most problematic. Untrained, poorly trained and/or poorly formed deacons, priests and elect have caused difficulties in evangelization and, indeed, simply maintaining existing parishes. A proliferation of unaccredited or specious seminaries, as well as the willingness of men to “train” in these entities, has cast the movement into further disrepute. Even in instances in which continuing Anglican bodies have attempted organic seminaries, results have been inconsistent and the popular image is one of the “diploma mill.”

This paper proffers some suggestions for remedying the formation-education crisis in a cost and time effective manner, using existing, accredited educational sources.

The rest of this paper is available by clicking here.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Queer Incarnation

I didn't have the stomach to investigate whether this is a required course at the Episcopal Divinity School, or merely an elective. A pox on these people and their blasphemy.

The incarnation is sometimes presented as an arithmetic problem: What do you get when you add some divinity to a human body? But thinking about incarnation has to start much further back, in the realization that accounts of Jesus show us how little we understand about either divinity or bodies, much less about how bodies can show, act, and becomes divine. Just here and theology of the incarnation can learn from works of queer theory and the writings of queer thinkers. The body of Jesus- despised, de-sexed, and yet miraculously distributed- invites us to an exchange of bodies along the margins of human power and its certainties. We will think about the queerness of Jesus' body with the help of some traditional texts on incarnation and passion (Athanasius, Bonaventure, Aquinas, Julian) and much more recent work on gender performance, bodily transition or transformation, and the rituals of camp.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


I admit that what follows is a re-run from 2006.

The Epistle. 1 St. Pet. ii. 11f The Gospel. St. John xvi. 16f

When I was very young, a mere teenager, I had a good friend who was color-blind. It was during a very sunny afternoon that I, as a passenger in his car, saw how dangerous it is to dispense with an idea just because it is old. Stop lights, in case you have not noticed, are always lined up the same way from top to bottom. The red light at the top, the yellow light in the middle, and the green light at the bottom. Furthermore, they have long visors that cast enough of a shadow that even a very sunny day cannot hide which color light is on. But, some very clever person had managed to redesign the stop light. The ugly visors were gone, and the light was not hanging up and down, but sideways, horizontally. Because the light was horizontal my color-blind friend was becoming panicky- was the light green or red? He figured the middle was still the place where yellow would be, but what about the rest of it? He could not see green from red; and now he could not rely on the vertical system that all color-blind drivers have always used. But, I could not help him; because without the visors, on a sunny day, it was impossible for anyone, color-blind or not, to see which light was on. We escaped with our lives. Others were not so fortunate, and in a few accidents some people were killed.

The lesson is simple: Anyone who wants to change a tradition should be forced to answer a question, and forced to answer it correctly. Correctly, that is, instead of according to his prejudices, especially prejudices against things he thinks old fashioned. The question would be, why does the tradition exist? Why, for example, do we teach children to read using what is called phonics? An old idea, admittedly. All the more reason to keep it, since it is time tested and proven. For some reason we are being subjected quite a lot to new ideas which are still theoretical, still untried, still experimental and subject to failure, in preference to the tried and true. If the traffic light designer had been forced to answer why the lights hang vertically, and to answer why the visors are there- whether or not he finds them to be attractive- lives would have been spared.

So, remember that rule. No tradition should be overturned unless you know exactly why the tradition exists; and I mean the real reason why, not based on logic plus assumption, but based on logic plus fact. Furthermore, you had better be sure that your experiment is worth the abandonment of the tried and true, time tested and proven. You had better be very sure that your wisdom exceeds that of many generations and of their experiences.

It is a joy to baptize anyone, and a rare joy for some to witness an adult baptism. You will notice that we had two witnesses up here in addition to our server and myself. The rubrics say that we should do this when using the baptismal font. Why?

Before I answer that question, I want to tell you something I learned from a Rabbi named Harold White back in Maryland. He told about a family in which a young mother kept alive a tradition that had been passed down from her grandmother’s time. When cooking a roast beef, she would cut it in two and roast it in two small pans. One day, at a family gathering, the question was put to her why she did this, and she replied that her mother had always done it that way. When asked why she had always done it that way, the mother was able to refer the question to the elderly grandmother, who was present herself at this gathering. She said, “The reason I cooked it that way was because we were so poor we could not afford a large roasting pan. But we had two little pans.” And then Rabbi White asked me a question: “Now then, upon learning this, does the young mother stop this tradition and use one large pan, or does she continue the family tradition?” I disappointed the Rabbi, because my immediate reply was, “If there is really no need to go to the trouble of cutting the roast in two, why not use just one pan?” “No. She continues the family tradition,” he told me. “Now it has special meaning: We were once so poor that we had to cook it this way. God carried us through that time.” I thought about that, and saw that this is a valuable lesson from a mind trained in Judaism. I thought of passages in the Torah where Moses tells the people of Israel that after they enter the Land of Promise, they are to observe certain traditions, and that is in order to teach their children: “We were once slaves in Egypt, and God brought us out by a Mighty Hand”

So, why do the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer tell us to have two witnesses for an adult baptism? Because we were once criminals in the Roman Empire. In the early centuries of our Faith, the Church was persecuted by the Roman authorities. The sentence of death hung over the head of every Christian any time he might be caught. To gather together in Church every Sunday was dangerous, because to be found out, coming together for this Eucharist, would mean not only arrest, but certain trial and execution, with a trial so brief as to make the sentence of death a summary judgment. And, the only way to escape execution, carried out the same day, was to renounce Christ and offer a sacrifice to Caesar as a god. During those centuries the Church spread and grew, even though hundreds of thousands of Christians were put to death for their Faith.

However, as willing as Christians were to die for their Faith, they were also practical. To invite martyrdom when it was avoidable and unnecessary, was something that the Church condemned as a form of suicide. If caught, if interrogated, the Christian dies rather than renounce His Savior. But, he does not invite it, or cause it to come about that he has to be caught or interrogated. He dies if he must; but he lives unless martyrdom becomes the only way to be faithful to the One Who died for us, Jesus Christ.

In those years, most of the people being baptized were adult converts turning to God from paganism. Even after a time of preparation as catechumens, it was not until their baptism that they entered into the hidden and secret places where the Eucharist was offered. The presence of witnesses, which historians are more likely to call sponsors, was a practical way of knowing at least something about the identity of the people being admitted for the first time into the general gathering of the church. If an unknown person could sneak in he could be an informant, and hand over the whole church gathered there to the authorities. So, every convert coming to be baptized was recognized and sponsored by witnesses. It was simply a means of trying to have some kind of practical security.

So, we have the two witnesses when baptism occurs here in the church at the font. They are not needed to make the sacrament valid. All we need for that is the Form, the Matter and the Intention of the sacrament of baptism. But, taking a lesson from our parent religion, Judaism, we look to the past and use our traditions as a way to teach. We were once criminals in the Roman Empire, and many of our fathers, and mothers too, gave their lives as martyrs. The Church- the same Church that we belong to, to this day- survived and thrived nonetheless, thanks be to God. The sight of sponsoring witnesses reminds us that the Church was not suicidal, but that it did thrive in the midst of danger. This danger lasted from Nero to Constantine, roughly two and a half centuries. And, even today Christians are being turned into martyrs for their Faith. The earliest generations of the Church knew that the faith of Christ is worth dying for; and for all we know, the day may come that we will need to know that as well, even here in America. We were once criminals in the Roman Empire, as the people of Israel once were slaves in Egypt. From the tradition, even this little rubric, learn a valuable lesson.

In the recent weeks, leading up to Easter, we kept getting closer and closer to Passion tide and Holy Week. In our liturgical tradition we lived through the troubles and fears of those ancient disciples; the five hundred disciples and the apostles who were closest to the Lord. Think again of the words He spoke to them: “A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father…Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.”

In Passion tide we hid from our eyes the things that remind us our Lord’s presence, all under purple veils. When you walked through the door on Easter the veils were gone, and you rejoiced at the presence of the Risen Christ. For a while you did not see Him, then you saw Him, and your joy could not be taken from you. Think about what the disciples had gone through; their Lord was dead. They had placed not only their love, but also all their hope, in this one Man. He had said that he was One with the Father, that He would be the salvation not only of Israel, but the light to the Gentiles, the hope for all nations. Several times He told them how it would be. He would be handed over and crucified, and rise the third day. But, like most of us, they could only hear just so much.

And, instead of watching Him take an earthly throne and seize the power that justly belonged to the Son of David as King in Jerusalem, they saw that he was humiliated, unjustly condemned, and given to the Romans to die the worst death of all, the death of the cross. Their hope was shattered. They mourned and wept while the world rejoiced. But, after three days He appeared to them alive again. He had not conquered Rome; he had conquered the real enemy. He had overcome sin and death. He had been the Suffering Servant spoken of by Isaiah the prophet; now he was the man who died, and would, as the prophet had said, after dying “prolong His days” as the one in whose hand the will of the Lord would prevail.

Their joy no man could take from them.

In a few weeks we celebrate the Day of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church. In every way our traditions teach us and remind us of those most important events that changed the world forever, because we are able to walk through our salvation history.

We do many things that seem not to make sense to a carnal and unspiritual mind. But, it is our wisdom if we learn from these traditions.