Friday, April 11, 2008

The Papal Claims examined

By now it should be clear, even it loses me some friends, that my conscience will not allow me to stand by quietly and see Anglicans intimidated by those who claim we have anything less than a full and complete Catholic heritage, both in theology and valid sacraments. We are no less the Church than the Orthodox and Roman communions. The late Fr. Louis Tarsitano once stated that "the only reason to be Anglican is to avoid the innovations both of Protestantism and of Rome." With that I whole heartedly agree. People who write of the Via Media as some sort of flawed theory, as if it were something that does not actually exist, look rather silly to those of us who consciously walk it (for, I know most certainly, there is ground beneath my feet).

This reminds me that the Orthodox Church regard the Roman Catholic Church as the first and largest Protestant denomination. From their perspective it has certainly erred into creating a few innovations no less than the Calvinists and Lutherans. These are matters, of course, debatable among Christians; and we expect that such debate will continue, and we know that it can and should be motivated on all sides by charity. Even when, lamentably, it isn't, the debate goes on.

The following was posted by An Anglican Cleric on the Society of Archbishops Cranmer and Laud. A few of the details are overstated, including the charge that Roman Catholics regard the Pope as Head of the Church instead of Universal Primate and Vicar of Christ. Indeed, they too recognize the Lord Jesus Christ alone as Head of the Body. And, I have no doubt that a learned man, such as Dr. William Tighe for example, can find fault with even more fine points in the essay. Nonetheless, I am posting this here anyway, because some of the claims made by Roman Catholics reveal an approach to history that forces it to fit a dogmatic theological scheme, which often creates an awkward and unrealistic analysis of real events. History is not doctrine, but the record of facts. Our problem with some Roman Catholics is that when we defend our own Church, and state facts of history, they take that defense as an attack on their beliefs.

The problem I want to address, without causing offense to our Roman Catholic brethren (and we want to avoid being anti-[Roman] Catholic), is that too many Anglicans swallow anti-Anglicanism whole (and yet they remain Anglicans). Usually, it is evident that these people have no appreciation for the Anglican reformers and divines, no appreciation for the history of the Church, misread Anglican formularies by interpreting them (especially the Articles) with no grasp of the times in which they were written and of the English language of that era. The result is that they buy the criticism heaped on our heritage by modern Roman Catholic apologists, uncritically. This is why I have written about a school of Anglo-Papalists who have an inferiority complex concerning Rome. This is why I have been quoting long passages of Richard Hooker (as a start). And, when I read troubling remarks by the Archbishop of the TAC about "the mistakes of the last five hundred years," I am alarmed at the possibility that his words might represent an overwhelmingly negative appraisal of Anglicanism itself (we readily welcome, indeed request, clarification). However, since that rather large jurisdiction still names itself "Anglican," I take it that we may be given some reassuring explanation about what mistakes are seen to have been made, and by whom.

The first paragraph of what follows is rather strong, and comes across as a prosecutor's opening remarks. I did not write this, however, but merely offer it as a good counter balance to a lot of misinformation, and as containing things worthy of discussion.

The Papal Claims Examined
from Catholic Principles
The Revd Frank N. Westcott

It is a sad and most unfortunate fact, yet one which is easily capable of demonstration by any competent historian, that all along the ages, Rome’s interests have been advanced by forgeries and falsification of the Fathers; and that such interpolations are quoted with approval today, in Roman controversial books; and that it is not safe to accept patristic quotations in such books, without verifying them at first hand.

There are plenty of historic facts which are utterly inconsistent with the assumption that the supreme judicial and spiritual authority of the Church, has always been in the hands of the Bishops of Rome. For example: the first difficulty which required judicial action in the Apostolic Church, was settled by a council of the whole Church at Jerusalem, under the presidency, not of St. Peter, but of St. James, who pronounced sentence in his own name, without any regard to St. Peter.

When Victor, Bishop of Rome, AD 196, undertook to excommunicate the Asiatic Churches, because they disagreed with him about the time of the observance of Easter, he was rebuked by the other Bishops, including Irenaeus, and his excommunication was ignored, and had no effect whatever.

In the fourth century, the Council of Sardica allowed a condemned Bishop to appeal to Rome for a new trial, not as a recognized right, but as conferring a privilege. This canon of Sardica, was misquoted by the Bishops of Rome as being a canon of the Council of Nice in a controversy with the African Bishops. But the latter consulted the Eastern Patriarchs, and, so discovering the misquotation, replied to the Patriarch of Rome through his legates, “We find it enacted in no council of the Fathers, that any person may be sent as legates of your holiness . . . . Do not therefore at the request of any, send your clergy as agents for you, lest we seem to introduce into the Church of Christ, the ambitious pride of the world.”

The great Arian heresy which denied the divinity of our Lord, was settled by the Nicene Council, which was called, not by the Pope, but by the Emperor Constantine. Hosius presided, and the heresy was finally refuted, not through the pronouncement of the Pope, but through the argument of Athanasius; while Pope Liberius himself became a heretic.

Then the heresy denying the divinity of the Holy Ghost, was settled at the Council of Constantinople in 381, at which the Nicene Creed was reaffirmed, and the sentences defining doctrine concerning the Holy Ghost added, and the Roman Bishop was not present either in person or through his legates. Meletius of Antioch presided at the council, and was succeeded by Gregory Nazianzen, Patriarch of Constantinople; and so in the settlement of the two greatest heresies, the authority of the Bishop of Rome counted for little or nothing; and it is interesting to note that the Bishops assembled in council at Constantinople in 381, in their Epistle to the Western Bishops assembled at Rome, called the Church of Jerusalem the “Mother of all Churches.”

Of course the most complete refutation of the Roman claim of supremacy has been the historic position of the four patriarchates of the Eastern Church, which have never acknowledged the claims of such universal jurisdiction, and yet were in communion with the patriarch of Rome until the twelfth century.

The claims of supreme and spiritual jurisdiction over the whole Church, on the part of the Bishop of Rome, cannot stand the test of catholicity, and so become articles of faith, unless they have been acknowledged always, everywhere, and by all Catholics; and this we have shown to be historically incredible.

Roman Catholics are very fond of asserting that a visible Church must have a visible head; and that as there is no other Bishop who claims to be the head of the Church but the Pope of Rome, therefore he must be that head. We reply, that in the Holy Scriptures St. Paul asserts that Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church; and he nowhere recognizes any other head; though he constantly insists on the visible, organic nature of the Church itself. St. Augustine asserts the same fact, thus: “Since the whole Christ is made up of the head and the body, the head is our Saviour Himself, who suffered under Pontius Pilate, who now, after He has risen from the dead, sits at the right hand of God; but His body is the Church; not this Church, or that, but the Church scattered over all the world . . . . For the whole Church, made up of all the faithful, because all the faithful are members of Christ, has its head situate in the heavens which governs this body: though it is separated from their sight, yet it is bound to them by love.” Then again, it must be remembered that the greater part of the Catholic Church is made up of souls in Paradise, and therefore is not visible to us; and Christ is the Head of the Church to them, as well as to us. To them He may be visible.

But supposing the visible Church must have a visible head: we reply, as a practical matter of fact, the universal episcopate assembled in general council was from the first regarded as the head of the Church; the ultimate source and seat of authority, to which the Bishop of Rome himself was always subject: as is proved by the fact, that the universal episcopate settled heresies, defined the Faith, and deposed Popes who were themselves heretics, and excommunicated them. Gregory the Great, as we have seen, expressly repudiated the title of "universal Bishop” which he most certainly would not have done, if he had considered himself the “head of the Church,” in the modern Roman sense.

It makes a neat turn of an argument to say that the visible Church must have a visible head; and then to set forth the Pope as that head; but after all, it is merely a question of historic fact, and history points to the universal Episcopate as the head, and not to the Pope of Rome. If the Pope of Rome is the head of the Church, then when the Pope dies, apparently the Church has no head, and remains a headless monster, perhaps for several months, until another Pope is elected and enthroned. Surely this is a curious condition of things, that the Church should be continually sloughing off its head, and growing another, every generation or so; so that every little while it has no head at all. The collective episcopate does not die; but lives on from age to age, and as the head of the Church, is abiding and permanent.

The whole growth of the papal claims may be summarized by four words: Primacy, Supremacy, Sovereignty, and Infallibility. The Primacy of Rome, Anglicans admit to be lawful; not as of divine appointment, but as a matter of precedence and executive convenience, originating from the prominence of the Imperial city. The Supremacy of Rome, Anglicans reject, as disturbing the original balance of power defined by the general councils and canon law of the Church. The Sovereignty of Rome, Anglicans repudiate, as mere secular Imperialism transferred to the Church, from the State. The Infallibility of the Roman pontiffs, the Anglican Church denies, as an assumption by one man in the Church of a power, or faculty, conferred by our Lord on the Church as a whole. From what has been said, it seems evident that there is no scriptural evidence that St. Peter was appointed supreme head of the Church by our Lord, and that there is no historical evidence of any sort which proves that St. Peter ever attempted to transfer any authority, peculiar to himself to the Bishops of Rome; and that what the early Church conceded to the Patriarch of Rome, was a primacy of honor among equals, and not a supremacy of authority, by divine appointment.


Fr_Rob said...

This is a wonderful post. Thank you for including the superb piece from Fr. Westcott; I do not know him or the work quoted, but it sure seems worth finding and reading.

Canon Tallis said...

Another excellent source for an examination of the claims of the Roman Church is Richard Frederick Littledale's The Petrine Claims published by the SPCK in 1889. Rome was in full attack mode in those days and Littledale responded in kind but with better evidence from both Holy Scripture and the fathers.

It is a great shame that this has to be done when both we and Rome need to cleaning our own houses so that our example can match the Gospel which we preach.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. I believe the Orthodox would whole-heartedly agree with this.

Sadly even contemporary Roman Catholic "apologetic" works (such as "Jesus, Peter and the Keys,") are guilty of a very one-sided interpretation of Scripture and of ripping patristic quotations, especially from Eastern fathers, out of their literary and ecclesiological context to make them appear to support their position. Scriptural, patristic and historical evidence to the contrary is conveniently omitted.

Canon Tallis, I am glad to see that Littledale's "The Petrine Claims" is available online as a "Google Book."


Anonymous said...

In the spirit of a fair trial perhaps a response from the defence team is in order.
I would caution readers to examine the claims of Revd Westcott carefully as he seems a little myopic in his selection of scripture. Just his first point then as it would take too long and be too tiring to refute the whole rant.
James the lesser, the immediate leader of the Jerusalem community, did indeed make the pronouncement at the council of Jerusalem, as one would expect from any Bishop in his own diocese, even today the Pope does not outrank a Bishop in his dioceses (not to be confused with Papal Primacy which is a separate matter). This is not revelation, it is not disputed and it proves nothing, the only people impressed by this straw-man are those who do posesse even a basic understanding the structure of the Catholic Church.
A careful look at Acts 15 will reveal that James took his lead from Peter who pronounced on the matter just before Paul and Barnabas spoke to those gathered and then James finalised matters. Ask yourself why did Peter speak at all, James, Paul and Barnabas were directly involved in the dispute with the Pharisees but Peter didn’t need to be there so why was he if he was only another Apostle. Jerusalem wasn’t his area of responsibility and he was not a protagonist in the debate but had to travel especially for it. He spoke because the whole church looked to his supremacy of authority as chosen by the divine appointment of Christ, the first among equals if you like, and because he was recognised as such and expected to partake in the discussions, as is quite plain if one reads the NT with an open mind. This piece of exegesis from Revd Westcott is weak on fact and lacking in a joined-up understanding of scripture in terms of the historical and political events of the 1st Cent Judea.
It is pertinent to remember the words of another prominent Anglican (and an Oxford University Don) Anglican bishop John Henry Newman who also grappled with the problems between Protestantism and historical Christianity. Unlike Revd Westcott, he did not try to rewrite Church history. Instead he saw the fallacies Protestantism is built on, and converted to Catholicism. He wrote:
"And this one thing is certain…the Christianity of history is not Protestantism. If there ever were a safe truth, it is this. And Protestantism has ever felt it so… This is shown in the determination…of dispensing with historical Christianity altogether, and of forming a Christianity from the Bible alone: men never would have put [historical Christianity] aside, unless they had despaired of it…
“To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant."
Perhaps to quote the good Rev Westcott, Cardinal John Henry Newman was not a ‘competent historian’ or perhaps unaware that ‘Rome’s interests have been advanced by forgeries and falsification of the Fathers’ but if you have read any of Newman's works these claims are as easily dismissed as the rest of Rev Westcott’s.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The point drawn from Acts 15 is the weakest part of Westcott's argument. It is clear from Acts 11:18 that Peter's revelation (about how, not if, the Gentiles were to be included in Christ) became the doctrine of the Church, which Tradition (new as it was) was defended in Jerusalem from a heresy that suddenly arose to contradict it.

Nonetheless, Cardinal Newman's conclusion does conflict with other historical details that Westcott has set forth. Furthermore, I have already argued that "Protestant" is not the opposite of "Catholic," and that our Traditional (Continuing) Anglicanism is more true to the meaning of "Catholic" then is the Church of Rome. Westcott's other points show that "to be deep in history" is to notice Rome's own protestant innovations

PTB+ said...

--From their perspective it has certainly erred into creating a few innovations no less than the Calvinists and Lutherans. These are matters, of course, debatable among Christians; and we expect that such debate will continue--

I agree that up to this point in history the dogmatic "innovations" of the RCC may be debated among Christians without affecting the RCC's orthodoxy.
But, will the same be true if, as it is reported in this article:

the RCC may dogmatically declare the Blessed Virgin Mary to be "Co-Redemptrix" and "Mediatrix of all Grace?"
It is not the "liberal" RC's that are pushing for this, but rather the EWTN conservative and ultramontane types, many of whom already believe (and teach) it to be true.
They certainly have the current Pope's ear on other issues, might they gain his ear, and his approval, on this matter too?
If they do, and it is declared to be dogma, what will it do to the RCC's orthodoxy?

Paul Beutell+

Fr. Robert Hart said...

If they do, and it is declared to be dogma, what will it do to the RCC's orthodoxy?

It would shatter it.

PTB+ said...

Fr. Hart said:

"It would shatter it."

This is my thought also.

Paul Beutell+

Anonymous said...

To read, 'A Response to 7 Common Objections' to Mary as Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix of Grace, visit


Canon Tallis said...

And the dogmas about the bodily assumption of the blessed virgin and her immaculate conception along with the assertion of papal infallibility have not? Indeed Rome's simple demand that priests and bishops be celibate when St Paul twice makes them "the husbands of one wife" is an innovation and departure from the teaching of the most primitive church.
Anonymous's assertions to the contrary, Roman misuse of quotations from the father's and constant dependence upon forgeries is too well established for him to brush it away here. It is a fact and an unpleasant one. But Rome knows that she is in this for the long haul and that new generations will fail to read the old books which will disappear from the shelves of libraries and booksellers so that all they will have to do is repeat the old untruths to have them believed by a new generation.

St Paul bragged of having withstood Peter to his face. If Peter was whom the Roman See makes him to be, Paul would never have done it nor would he have bragged about it. But then Romans rarely read the Scriptures with a critical mind and there was a time when the average Roman was not allowed to read the Holy Scripture at all.

Anonymous said...

Dear All

The RCC does not teach or declare dogmatically that the Blessed Virgin Mary is "Co-Redemptrix" or "Mediatrix of all Grace", so if you will excuse the pun we are shatter proof on that.

The discipline that priests and bishops be celibate is simply that a discipline, this could be changed but I doubt it, still it doesn’t matter either way.

Indeed Paul did argue with Peter, I expect you are referring to Gal. 2:11-16.When this passage is read in context, it becomes clear that Paul was not questioning Peter’s teaching, but was admonishing him for failing to practice what he preached. Peter knew full well that Jews are saved in the different manner as the Gentiles, but by leaving table fellowship with the Gentiles, Peter’s actions were hypocritical. For this reason, Paul opposed him to his face, for by his actions he was "not straightforward about the truth of the gospel" (Gal. 2:14).

While this was a sin on Peter’s behalf, it does not infringe upon the gift of infallibility. After all, the Holy Spirit still used him to infallibly write two books of inerrant Scripture. By mentioning this, it is useful to draw a parallel between the inspiration of Scripture and the infallibility of the Church. While they are distinct, the fact that all Protestants accept the inerrancy of Scripture explains God’s reasons behind infallibility.

If God can take fallible and sinful men (the authors of sacred scripture) and transmit his truth through them without error, why would God not be able to take fallible, sinful men (the pope and bishops), and use them to preserve his teaching without error? This is the only safeguard that his Church has to keep the pure teaching of the apostles from being tainted. Otherwise, we are left with an inerrant document (the Bible), that is used by 30,000 different denominations to justify their contradictory teachings. The fault is not in the Scriptures but in the desire to part with its authoritative interpreter—the Church.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

JAT wrote:

The RCC does not teach or declare dogmatically that the Blessed Virgin Mary is "Co-Redemptrix" or "Mediatrix of all Grace", so if you will excuse the pun we are shatter proof on that.

Nor do I expect the RCC ever to officially teach any such thing. In fact, I expect the movement that pushes for this to be told to stop.

The fault is not in the Scriptures but in the desire to part with its authoritative interpreter—the Church.

On this point traditional Anglicans are in complete agreement (and I dare say that my lengthy quotations for Hooker have demonstrated this fact). The disagreement is about how we know the infallible teaching of the Church. To the RCC it is by the teaching authority of the Roman Magisterium, whereas to us it is the 1,2,3,4,5 and Scripture, Right Reason and Tradition ("the Church with her Authority"). This, we say, is not embodied in one man, but in the consensus of the Church when it was united in the first millennium, regarding those doctrines that all of us, when really up against it, not only believe, but would die for.

To begin with, we all say, for example, the Nicene/ Constantinopolitan Creed.

Anonymous said...

As much as I deplore the formulae
"Co-redemptrix" and "Mediatrix of all graces," I don't think such terms would necessarily "shatter" Rome's fundamental orthodoxy.

When our Lady is described as "Co-redemptrix," that is not quite the same as saying she is "co-Redemptrix." Our Lord Hemself is never described as "Co-redeemer" (which would indeed put Rome in serious jeopardy). Even in the worst presentations, Jesus is Redeemer and Mary is Co-redemptrix.
The point of the title Co-redemptrix (mind you I do not accept it for a minute, I'm only trying to understand it) is a statement of Mary's role in a redemption process, synergistically understood. However Mary is understood, she is a metaphor for the Church--for Calvinists and RC's alike. So describing Mary as "Co-redemptrix" is no more radical than describing the Church as a redemptive community.

"Mediatrix of all graces" is hardly more than a heightened way of saying "Mother of God." All grace and truth was in Christ Jesus, whom Mary brought into the world. If understood in a Christological way, the title is acceptable, if somewhat imprecise.

If I may lay my cards on the title,
for me the overwhelming and unresolved issue with Rome is Rome's obstinate confusion of justification and sanctification, which neutralizes the present reality of God's pardon and effectively subverts the Gospel.
When Rome grasps the meaning of
"simul iustus et peccator," then the idea of unity with Rome will become tolerable. But not until.
Laurence K. Wells

Alice C. Linsley said...

I say that from my perspective in Orthodoxy that is solid ground upon which you stand!

tdunbar said...

"We are no less the Church than the Orthodox and Roman communions."

Now to what, precisely, does that "We" refer, in concrete terms?

John Dixon said...

Bravo, excellent post.

One thing... you guys shellaced me for my eye witness account regarding Co-redemtrix claims and proselytization of the same on EWTN in a different thread. How is now your RCC guests admit it and you do not bat an eye? Seems like it is accepted now.

Words mean things and nuanced explanations generally seem fudge to me (being an Anglican qualifies me to be an expert at detecting fudge) Co Redemtrix is Co Redemtrix however you spell it. It is a claim that may have a lot of weasel words behind it but there is no accident in choosing it and certainly no doubt as to how the average RCC layman will perceive it. No doubt in my mind as to how the concept was presented on EWTN. Shattered? Truer words never spoke.

I acknowledge St Mary as a saint above saints and the mother of the Son of God but she is not my Redeemer. No special authority was conveyed to her at the foot of the Cross and Jesus had every opportunity to turn over the Church to her then and there. Seems as though authority was give to St John though, anybody know where Peter was?

By the way are you catholic or Catholic?


Anonymous said...

John, quite obviously you did not read my post to the end. And what you read, you read selectively.

To give your question a nuanced response, I am a Catholic but not a
Roman catholic. I spell and capitalize the word as found in 1928 BCP.
Laurence K. Wells+

Fr Matthew Kirby said...


While James was probably the leader of the Church in Jerusalem, the fact that the Council in Acts 15 was host to the Apostolate as a whole and making decisions for the whole Church mens it was not analogous to a local Council of the Patristic age but a General one. So, the non-presidency of Peter is interesting, at least. It doesn't prove he had no primacy, which primacy Anglican Catholics have always accepted anyway, but it does tend to relativise it by implying it is not the essentiallly monarchistic jurisdiction commonly conceived. Nobody here is denying Peter had an important role at the Council, though it was clearly partly founded in this circumstance on the fact that he had been given a direct revelation concerning the issue at hand! As, indeed, had Paul. As for why Peter was there at all, the account in context makes clear that the Apostles as a whole still used Jerualem as their "base".

Fr Hart,

I think that the last paragraph of Westcott is problematic. I do not believe the patristic consensus supports the idea that Roman Primacy was MERELY the result of civil prominence or convenient custom. The Petrine and Pauline roots of the Church, sanctified by their martyrdom, was also deemed important. Also, ARCIC's treatment of the principle that Roman Primacy was de juro divino has shown that it is not necessary to posit an explicit Dominical or Apostolic statement of the transmission of Petrine Primacy in order to accept that the later Roman Primacy is according to the will of God and His divine providential ordering. Once a Petrine Primacy among the Apostles is accepted from the Scriptures, even if it is seen not to be a monarchical lordship but a position of primus inter pares, the Church's later acceptance that "Peter to other Apostles" was analogically like "Pope to other bishops" can be seen as faithful to Scripture and Tradition.


The RCC defines justification to include both forgiveness of sins and initial sanctification. Many protestants have strictly distinguished the words, but acknowledged the forgiveness and renewal aspects are inseparable anyway. It should not be forgotten that the Council of Trent said that the forgiveness aspect of justification is entirely gratuitous and earned by Christ's merits, not by his disciples' merits or infused virtues. So this is a mere logomachy. Indeed, I think it is one founded in St Paul, who seems to use the j-word in the imputational Lutheran sense in Romans 4.2-8 but the impartational Tridentine sense in Romans 5.19 and Ephesians 4.24, for example. Mind you, even Trent only condemned the view that justification in that broader use of the word was solely imputational, so imputational aspects are not exclude even there.

Let us not argue about words. And let us remember that St Paul was neither wrting nor using a theological dictionary, so he was free to ue words with a variety of related but subtly distinct connotations, depending on the context.

William Tighe said...

Well, I think I'll leave the Anglicans to fight this one out among yourselves, for for every Westcott you also have a Trevor Jalland (*The Church and the Papacy* [1944] and *The Origin and Evolution of the Christian Church* [1948]) and a Gregory Dix (*Jurisdiction in the Early Church: Episcopal and Papal* [1937, repr. 1975]), who contradict many, or nearly all, of Westcott's theses.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Fr. Kirby wrote:

I think that the last paragraph of Westcott is problematic. I do not believe the patristic consensus supports the idea that Roman Primacy was MERELY the result of civil prominence or convenient custom.

That is true. However, first in honor and followed by Constantinople as second in honor, "because it is the new Rome." So, in the first Council of Constantinople (Canon 3), it is not far fetched to see a system that was rooted in the organization of the Roman empire. Nor was that bad, since it made sense at the time.

But, even in Ante-Nicene times, the church in Rome was given special regard for its doctrinal purity. This translated into an appellate role to come to the aid of other churches in resolving doctrinal questions.

Neither in that appellate role, nor in Canon 3 of the Council of Constantinople, do we see Universal Jurisdiction. And, the actions of later councils show clearly that the Church regarded the Patriarch in Rome as subject to the Conciliar authority of bishops, not as lord over them.

John wrote:
One thing... you guys shellaced me for my eye witness account regarding Co-redemtrix claims and proselytization of the same on EWTN in a different thread.

No, I said that you had gone too far, because you were charging that the Roman Magisterium was teaching that Mary was equal to Christ (making a creature equal to the Creator). I never denied the existence of this movement.

Words mean things and nuanced explanations generally seem fudge to me (being an Anglican qualifies me to be an expert at detecting fudge) Co Redemtrix is Co Redemtrix however you spell it. It is a claim that may have a lot of weasel words behind it but there is no accident in choosing it and certainly no doubt as to how the average RCC layman will perceive it.

How the average layman would perceive it is probably the whole problem. Would it shatter the orthodoxy of RC theologians? No, but laymen, and even the less educated among the clergy, would confuse her current role as a saint in glory (as opposed to her role as Theotokos when she took part in the Incarnation) with that of a second Mediator between God and Man.

Anonymous said...

Fr Kirby

"So this is a mere logomachy."

As far as Romans 5:19 is concerned, you are welcome to take "made righteous" in an impartational sense. Trouble is, however, the underlying Greek is not "dikaiow" but rather
"dikaion katasstathhsontai." This could refer to the eschatological acquittal of believers at the Great Assizes, or to the continuing forgiveness of believers as that continue to sin and continue to repent. I cannot see anything "impartational" in the verb kathisthmi.

But I am breathless at your dismissal of this controversy as a
"mere logomachy." I am well aware that the Roman doctrine can be spun and nuanced in such a way that it seems almost identical with that of Luther, Calvin, and Hooker. But these attempts plainly fail when the corollary doctrines of purgatory and indulgences are examined. If God's gracious act in categorically pardoning and accepting sinners as righteous in His sight, then purgatory in the customary Roman sense is a non sequitur. (This is NOT exclude the possibility of spiritual growth in the Intermediate State of Paradise--another matter altogether.)

As for your "mere logomachy," I have a vision of Pope Paul III, in convoking the Tridentine Council, writing to his cardinals, "Gentlemen, I know you are quite busy doing the Lord's work in your respective sees, but we need to get together for a logomachy." Whoever was right or wrong in the 16th century, both sides agreed that they were debating a real issue of genuine importance. I can hardly think of Fr. Martin Luther adding a 96th thesis, "Don't get too excited, friends and colleagues, this is a mere logomachy." This patronizing phrase is an insult to St John Fisher and to William Tyndale alike.
Laurence K. Wells
Laurence K. Wells

Fr_Rob said...

"If I may lay my cards on the title, for me the overwhelming and unresolved issue with Rome is Rome’s obstinate confusion of justification and sanctification, which neutralizes the present reality of God's pardon and effectively subverts the Gospel. When Rome grasps the meaning of 'simul iustus et peccator,' then the idea of unity with Rome will become tolerable. But not until."

Bravo, Fr. Wells. This really remains the main theological issue that separates Rome (and Eastern Orthodoxy) from the Protestant and Reformed Churches. Of course, there are many Protestant and Reformed Christians (as well as Anglo-Catholics) who also don't understand or agree with simul iustus et peccator. But, in all fairness, I wonder if it is really possible for Rome not to "confuse justification and sanctification"? What would happen to Rome's whole ecclesiastical system and way of life if that were to come to pass?

On a related note, I do not believe Rome could so easily dispense with clerical celibacy. While it may seem to some "simply" a matter of discipline, those of us who have been involved with starting churches know that the whole matter of church finance and funding is exceedingly complex, and indeed has taken the non-state-supported Protestant and Reformed Churches centuries to work out. The financial implications of a married RC priesthood, with the attendant ecclesiastical responsibilities of paying salaries, benefits, and pensions and caring for the priest’s family, are staggering.

I agree with John, who had indeed earlier pointed out the whole co-redemptrix issue as surfacing on EWTN. It seems to me that such belief and practice are fairly commonplace among average pew-sitting RCs (despite any qualifiers by the official theologians). It certainly was my wife's understanding, who was "born and raised" RC, and it accords with much popular RC Marian piety and devotion that I have encountered.

Anonymous said...

Fr Kirby: I don't believe that Ephesians 4:24 will help you much either. The key verb of the sentence is "put on," being the metaphor of a garment, external objective righteousness, iustitia aliena.
Whether Paul was using "righteousness and holiness" as synonyms or correlatives, well, you will just have to make up your mind. Personally, I see them related as the two dimensions of a rectangle.
Laurence K. Wells

Fr Matthew Kirby said...


You are neglecting 6 important facts:

1. Rom. 4.17 shows God's declarative word is also intrinsically a creative word. Ergo, cleansing decreed is cleansing done.

2. The underlying Gk verb translated "made" includes the meaning "to be in a certain state" and "to be established", and is clearly used in a more than imputational sense in James 4.4, for example.

3. The verb "put on" in Eph. 4.24 takes on an object which renders its meaning impartational: "the new man, created by God". Comparison with other Pauline usages establishes that this "new man" is no external status existing only in a legal fiction but the renewed inner nature given by grace.

4. Neither the RCC nor the EOC has now or ever understood "justification" to be solely and strictly imputational. This interpretation, especially if it is applied as a test of orthodoxy to exclude others as heretical in soteriology, has no authority from the patristic consensus and is thus ruled out for Anglican Catholics (if adhered to as mandatory or de fide).

5. Anglican divines have in fact never consensually agreed to the Lutheran interpretation and soteriology. Even the early Homily on Salvation contains elements inconsistent with pure imputationlism, never mind the teaching of such men as Bp Bull et al.

6. The Lutherans themselves seem to agree now that this is not a Church-dividing issue between them and the RCC.

Finally, while I agree the stereotyped separation of the temporal penalty from the eternal guilt due to sin in mediaeval RCism is problematic, and does tend to undermine the joy of justification unnecessarily by leaving a dread of the God who still demands his "pound" of pain, this distinction contains a truth. This truth needs integration with the Eastern and Anglican perspective, which emphasises the spiritual growth and purification needed after initial justification to "fulfill" it and to deal with the internal consequences of sin. This perspective was never entirely absent from the mediaeval RCC, but was obscured. It is now being re-captured.

Anonymous said...

Fr Kirby, for now I will confine myself to addressing only the last of your "six important facts."

"The Lutherans themselves seem to agree now that this is not a Church-dividing issue between them and the RCC."

I am not a Lutheran and have never been one. Frankly, the Lutheran view has always seemed to me a bit one-sided, with its heavy stress on justification and neglect of sanctification. The Reformed tradition, for all its Puritan warts, has a more balanced view, which captures both imputational and impartational aspects of salvation.

But your observation concerning the Lutherans seems to ignore the reality that it is mostly liberal Lutherans who have decided that Justification is "not a Church-dividing issue." A Lutheran who takes that position is likely to say that WO and SSB's are not "church-dividing issues" either.

Conservative Lutherans, maintaining orthodox positions on various otherissues, probably will not support you in that contention.
The LCMS and more conservative Lutheran bodies are officially on record as rejecting the alleged

The best RC presentation on Justification in my view is that of Hans Kung, who clearly sees what is at stake in this "mere logomachy."
But apparently few RC's follow him, and the CCC knows of Justification only in the progressive and subjective sense (properly called Sanctification, not in its forensic and objective sense--the sine qua non of the Gospel.
Laurence K. Wells

Anselm Lewis said...

With his permission and his review I have posted the ideas(rather unpopular ideas as he puts it)on my blog.
The Latin Rite Church is NOT the only Catholic Church. One does not need to be a member of the Latin Rite in order to have salvation, however (baring invincible ignorance which would include you anyway) one MUST be a member of the ONE Church of Christ no matter which form it takes. The superiority complex of some Latins is something which is disgusting and intolerable, Papal Supremacy does not mean as some have interrupted it to mean Latin Supremacy. The Pope is the Visible Head of the Universal Church of God, and there for belongs to NO Rite. The problem lay in that people confuse his actions as bishop of Rome as if they were his actions of Patriarch of the Latin Rite, and they confuse his actions of Patriarch of the Latin Rite as if they were his actions as Head of the Universal Church. It would be true to say that "the Pope is the Pope but not always", or in other words The Pope is always the head of the Universal Church yes, but he does not do everything as head of the Universal Church. Or another example is to say it is as if he were both Prince and Governor, the confusion is that people do not know when he is acting as prince and when he is acting as governor.

Anselm Lewis said...

"-Fr. Robert Hart said...

"JAT wrote:

The RCC does not teach or declare dogmatically that the Blessed Virgin Mary is "Co-Redemptrix" or "Mediatrix of all Grace", so if you will excuse the pun we are shatter proof on that."

Nor do I expect the RCC ever to officially teach any such thing. In fact, I expect the movement that pushes for this to be told to stop. -"

My Latin Friend attends the University where head of the Mary Co-Redemptrix guy teaches (cant remember his name) and he says he has gotten into many arguments with the guy about it. He says that the Doctrine properly understood is true enough, but the problem lay in what people THINK it is.
The Doctrine: God chose Mary to bare Christ and bring him into the world and thus, Christ coming through Mary was made Co(assistant) in Christ's redeeming the world. I don't see any problem with this. but i do agree with that,
Its understood meaning: will be that Mary is equal to Christ.

The same is true for Mary Mediatrix of all Grace Christ (incarnate Grace) came through Mary. thus it is not improper to say she is the Mediatrix of all Grace.

Again there is no problem with this teaching however the problem comes in its possible confusion.

Fr. Robert
"-To begin with, we all say, for example, the Nicene/ Constantinopolitan Creed.-"

Yes but we do not all believe it, which is the problem. do you think schori believes the Creed?

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Fr Wells,

First, let me apologise for referring to you only by initials while you were referring to me using "Fr". This was unintentionally rude. I had an idea you were in Orders (and in the ACC), but wasn't sure till I checked.

You said, "the CCC knows of Justification only in the progressive and subjective sense (properly called Sanctification, not in its forensic and objective sense--the sine qua non of the Gospel." Well, it certainly assumes justification includes both forgiveness and sanctification, but it does distinguish these two aspects within it (1989 and 1990 make this clear) and, just as importantly, refuses to make the forgiveness depend meritoriously on the regeneration/sanctification, which really addresses your concern. If you doubt this last statement, then re-read the following from the CCC: "no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness" from 2010 and "All our justice is blemished in your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in your own justice and to receive from your love the eternal possession of yourself."

As for objective vs subjective senses of the word, I must disagree with your application of these terms, though I know they are popularly used this way. It seems to me that imputational justification is subjective in God, in that it is an attitude he takes toward us based on nothing objectively within us. The only "objective" aspect of this connotation, it seems, is it meritorious ground in the Cross (and the will of God to forgive insofar as this can be said to subsist in the Divine Nature). The righteousness of the "not guilty" verdict, isolated in the abstract from other aspects of salvation, has no objective or substantial existence as an entity in itself. It is "relation".

However, the broader sense of justification includes, in addition to this changed relationship with God, and as a result of the said change (i.e., "Justification follows upon God's merciful initiative of offering forgiveness": CCC, 1990), an objective reality subsisting in the person justified. It is commonly claimed that under the RC definition of justification, this grace depends upon the "subjective" aspect of salvation, that is, the change in our moral behaviour, our acts of will. This is untrue. The Formal Cause (in modern language, the effect on our inner nature as it is "informed" by Grace) of justification, the very thing that is said to make us justified in this sense, is not our experienced growth in virtuous living but the divine creation of the "New Man" which enables such growth. This creative act in itself is monergistic and purely Divine, though its effect is to allow synergy between us and God. Our subjective experience of "increased righteousness" in the ethical sense is not the ontological basis of justification in the Tridentine meaning, then, properly speaking, but one consequence of it.

Fr_Rob said...

My comment about the staggering financial implications of a married priesthood for the Roman Church was validated by something I heard on NPR today in conjunction with the Pope's visit to the U.S. Roman Catholic parochial schools in the U.S. have been experiencing a sharp decline over the past two decades, with many hundreds of schools being closed, particularly in the inner cities. The reason, according to a scholar at the Fordham Institute in DC who tracks these things and who was being interviewed, comes down to one thing: money. Since there are no longer any nuns to teach in these schools, they have to pay lay teachers, which in turn drives up the cost of tuition beyond the means of most lower- and middle-class RCs. While it would not be impossible to teach RCs to tithe to help rectify this (apparently they are doing some of this in Wichita, KS), I think it would be a very hard sell for most RCs--in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Fr Kirby, no apologies necesary!
You may call me anything but Late-to-dinner. A very wise priest told me on my ordination day, "People will call you 'Father' just as soon as you earn the title, but not a day sooner."

I will not fight, bleed, and die for the terms "objective" and "subjective". My usage is purely a matter of convenience.

What I do plead for is a recognition of different aspects or dimensions of salvation. As all Christians (I hope!) know, there is a linear dimension, in which the sinner is progressively and very slowly changed, internally, so that the image of God is restored and he is transfigured. The initial point I believe is called regeneration, and the terminal point is glorification (which may indeed be
termed theosis). The line between the two is a lifetime of sanctification. So far I believe RC's and Evangelicals agree.

But what Evangelicals insist upon
is that besides this linear, progressive, internal process
(see how I avoided "subjective"?),
there is a punctiliar, decisive, and outward act of God, in which He forensically declares the guilty to be innocent, on the basis of Christ's merits. By custom, this is termed, on the basis of Romans 1--4, "Justification."

Roman Catholic theology (even in its greatly improved version in CCC) simply doesnt grasp this. It fails to see the distinction between outward status and inward condition. That distinction, which I regard as vitally essential for the Gospel itself, means that even when my inward condition is far from perfect, my outward status before God is already that of full and unequivocal pardon. This is summed up in the expression "simular iustus et peccator," which
Rome flatly refuses to accept (Hans Kung being an acception).

With all due respect, Father, you are quoting CCC 2010 out of context. It goes on to say, "Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity [whose charity? I might ask] we can then merit for outselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification." That's bad enough, but it get worse: "Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God's wisdom."
Semi-Pelagianism quickly feeds into a "health and wealth" prosperity gospel, what Paul called "allon euaggelion." (Galatians 1:6)
Laurence K. Wells+

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Fr Wells,

Well, I guess we'll have to agree to disagree. I do see the distinction you make in both Trent and the CCC, its just that they say "forgiveness" where you say "justification". But they state that it is unmerited by us, but merited by Christ. It is not dependent on how sanctified we are, at least with regard to the eternal guilt. That there is no justification without regeneration of sanctifying grace is also implied and is not problematic for us, being taught in the Prayer Book Baptismal rite, where we pray for "remission of sin by spiritual regeneration".

As for your objection to the "merit" word, are you sure that you are not over-reacting? Merit only relates to what you and they would call sanctification, but they would include as a second dimension of justification as whole salvation. Note three things about this merit. It is not "strict" to quote the CCC, i.e., based on a true equality between the good work and the reward. Instead, it is based on God's gratuitous promise to reward such works. And it is really equivalent to the biblical "reward", which is to be "plenteously" given to our good works, according to the Prayer Book Collect for the Sunday Next Before Advent.

Anonymous said...

Fr Kirby,
there is no doubt in my mind that regeneration is prior to justification. Regeneration, as I understand the NT, particularly John 3, is God's initial invasion of the corrupt human heart, the beginning of the process termed sanctification. Regeneration is truly an "infusion" of God's love.
By means of regeneration, the sinner is enabled to believe on Christ and repent of his sins. That's when Justification (absolute and complete change in legal status) occurs, with sanctification continuing.

Yes, we might have to agree to disagree. Whereas Luke said the publican went down to his house "justified" (perfect passive, indicating final Divine action), what would you say? Whereas Paul wrote "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, would you re-write this, as most mss do, as "let us have peace with God"? Whereas Paul wrote "There is therefore now no condemnation," would you say "there is still a little bit of condemnation"?

The antonymn in Romans of justification is condemnation. That should nail down the forensic usage of the word, indication a status, not an inward condition, a degree, not a process.
Laurence K. Wells

Albion Land said...

I have to chuckle here. Every time I read what Fr Kirby says in his debate with Fr Wells, I say "right on." Then Fr Wells comments in reply, and I say "right on."

I haven't felt either moved or qualified to contribute until jow, but I am struck by what Fr Wells says:

"The antonymn in Romans of justification is condemnation. That should nail down the forensic usage of the word, indication a status, not an inward condition, a degree, not a process."

This is where I find Orthodoxy so helpful. There is much more a sense of process, which is what to me is ultimately important, than of some sort of fixed state.

poetreader said...

I've been, in my checkered history, a very doctrinaire Missouri Synod Lutheran, an equally doctrinaire Pentecostal preacher (of pseido-Arminian stripe), and a pretty strong semi-Calvinist Evangelical. In other words, I've been struggling over these very issues for decades. One thing I've come to realize in that process is how extraordinarily difficult it is to pin crucial Scriptural terms to precise theological meanings. Each of these systems, as well as that of Rome, and apparently others as well, has within itself a developed and self-consistent concept of such terms as 'justification', 'sanctification', 'atonement', and many others. Each school, then, reads the Scriptures through the lens of this understanding. It does not appear to me that the Scriptures themselves or the Fathers after them bound themselves to such a rigidly self-consistent definition. As St. Paul said, "We preach Jesus Christ and him crucified," and, even in his deeply theological treatment, was careful to say, "I know nothing else among you."

I believe deep thought and even passionate discussion of these issues is essential to the healthy continuance of Catholic Christianity, but that it is not required of Catholics to hold to any organized system of interpretation, but merely to the propositions of the Creeds nnd the Ap[ostolic practices handed down to us, in sacramenta;, corporate, and individual relationship with the Christ. When more than this becomes a trest of fellowship, something has gone seriously awry,

I find myse;f in thorough agreement with both Fathers, Kirby and Wells, parting company with either only when the other is declared to be wrong. I see both sets of views as quite valid and non-contradictory descriptions of a reality far larger than either.


Anonymous said...

I am sincerely touched to read that Albion agrees with me at leat some of the time. But I hope he did not agree with a serious misspelling, when I wrote "a status, not an inward condition, a degree, not a process."
That should be a "DECREE, not a process."

I have written too much on this thread, and crave your forgiveness if I have sounded polemical at any point. This would not, I emphasize would not, be a communion-breaking issue between me and Fr Kirby.

So I will sign off by quoting from my favorite Arminian, Fr John Wesley.

"And can it be, tht I should gain,
an interest in the Saviour's blood?
Died he for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
that thou my God shouldst die for me?

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
fast bound in sin and nature's night;
thine eye diffused a quick'ning ray;
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
my chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine! Alive in Him, my living Head
and clothed in righteousness
bold I approach th' eternal throne,
and claim the crown, through Christ, my own."

Laurence K. Wells