Thursday, August 14, 2008

Why I bother

I welcome the news that Bishop Jack Iker himself did not authorize the overtures to Rome by four of his priests; but, as I said in a comment, I am glad to have made my own remarks about what those priests wrote. It leads me to explain


The news about those members of the Diocese of Fort Worth (TEC) clergy who wish they were Romeward Bound, caused an e-mail list to be generated, and a great deal of e-ink to be wasted, about the wonderful process of conversion to the One True Church (well, one of the two that is). In some of these e-epistles well-meaning Roman Catholics openly addressed "the basic flaw of Anglican ecclesiology," and used other insulting phrases designed to put us in our place. Having had enough of this insensitive treatment I gave in to a gut reaction, an impulse to be equally offensive. I confess it: I have sinned. I hit "reply all" and wrote: "Why would anyone want to join the world's largest pederast conspiracy?" Someone pointed out that this communication was beneath me. True, it was. But, as Doctor Who (one of the real, original Doctors) said to Jo Grant: "What's wrong with being childish? I like being childish."

It really does get tiresome. In our churches we have people who possess varying levels of education, and unfortunately that can include members of the clergy. With bloggers and e-tome authors attacking Anglicanism itself--not the state of apostate bodies like the Episcopal Church, but Anglicanism dating back to the 16th century--it behooves some of us to come to the aid of those whose consciences are damaged by their words. Many of the fiercest attackers are Roman Catholics, and others are Calvinists who make the same arguments as the self-appointed Roman Catholic polemicists. The ignorance they demonstrate is cloaked by wordiness. They take thousands of words to prove that they don't know anything, and in the process look very clever to unsuspecting minds. Frankly, I prefer for banality to be served with brevity.

These writers use the same old worn-out talking points.

"Anglicanism is Protestant," they say. Of course, they have no idea what the word "Protestant" has always meant to Anglicans. The opposite of "Catholic" is not "Protestant" but rather, "unbeliever." As I have written before:

"The effort to embrace and continue the Catholic Faith was the motivation for embracing Protestantism in the time of the Reformation- or, rather, the Reformations. We believe that the efforts on the Continent of Europe threw away the baby with the bathwater, which is why Anglicans early on debated with Calvinists and Lutherans, sometimes more vigorously than with Rome. Anglicans debated as well with Puritans in England and Scottish Presbyterians...the definition of 'Catholic' should be based on its Credal use, as we use it in the Book of Common Prayer where either the Apostle’s Creed or the Creed called Nicene are part of all the major services (Article VIII). Combined with that other Creed, Quicunque Vult, or the Creed of St. Athanasius, we say we believe the Catholic Church and the Catholic Faith...I would indeed place the 'P' of Protestantism back in 'Anglicanism' to the via media degree required to make it truly Patristic, and so truly Scriptural and truly Catholic."

These polemicists argue that the Church of England was a confused mess with no clearly stated beliefs, filled with everything from High Churchmen to Puritans. This is a very popular bit of misinformation, too easily believed even by uneducated Anglicans themselves. How can they possibly imagine that the leaders of the English Church ever tolerated the excesses of the Puritans? Don't they know that Richard Hooker's famous Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity was written primarily to defend Anglicanism against Puritan sedition and heresy, and against Calvin's ecclesiology in general? Hooker wrote as an official representative of the Church, not as an individual with an opinion to be weighed equally among many others. The fact that Puritanism was always at odds with the Church authorities, always tried to overthrow each new version of The Articles of Religion as they were developing, and finally resorted to a revolution by civil war and the execution of a king, all seems to go right past them. The Puritans were the opponents of Anglicanism until after the Restoration, when they finally faced defeat and the rejection of the English population by and large.

The polemicists demonstrate that they cannot understand Anglican Formularies, trying to fit them into either a purely Calvinist or a purely Lutheran system, like a square into a round hole. They notice the same theological terminology in Anglican Articles that they see in the Continental Reformations, not appreciating two important facts: 1) This terminology was not new to anybody at the time, and 2) what matters in the Articles is not their similarity to either Calvinism or Lutheranism, but their divergence from them at just the point necessary to avoid the extremes of these systems.

For example, look at Article X:

X. Of Free Will.
THE condition of man after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works, to faith and calling upon God. Wherefore we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us that we may have a good will, and working with us when we have that good will.

A Calvinist goes further than saying we need the grace of God; he denies that freewill exists at all. Anglicanism goes right up to that line, and refuses to cross it. The divergence shouts very loudly, but the polemicists notice only the similar terminology.

Look at how close Article XVII comes:

XVII. Of Predestination and Election.
PREDESTINATION to life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby, before the foundations of the world were laid, He hath constantly decreed by His counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom He hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation as vessels made to honour. Wherefore they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God be called according to God's purpose by His Spirit working in due season; they through grace obey the calling; they be justified freely; they be made sons of God by adoption; they be made like the image of His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ; they walk religiously in good works; and at length by God's mercy they attain to everlasting felicity.

As the godly consideration of Predestination and our Election in Christ is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons and such as feeling in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh and their earthly members and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God: so for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God's Predestination is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the devil doth thrust them either into desperation or into wretchlessness of most unclean living no less perilous than desperation.

Furthermore, we must receive God's promises in such wise as they be generally set forth in Holy Scripture; and in our doings that will of God is to be followed which we have expressly declared unto us in the word of God.

This comes to the line, but again does not cross it. It may be at most somewhat Augustinian, but it is not Calvinist. It discourages the clergy from preaching Predestination. It does not allow for what is called the "perseverance of the saints," but rather teaches mortification and raising the mind to heaven, teaching the need to follow the expressed general will of God. This is not Calvinism, and the similar terminology makes the divergence all the more significant, if not the main point.

And so forth.

They say that Anglicans rejected the Real Presence. Article XXXV lists homilies that are to be considered Formularies. In the Homily Of the worthy receiving of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ we find these words:

"But thus much we must be sure to hold, that in the Supper of the Lord, there is no vaine Ceremonie, no bare signe, no vntrue figure of a thing absent (Matthew 26.26)...Whereas by the aduice of the Councell of Nicene, we ought to lift vp our mindes by fayth, and leauing these inferiour and earthly things, there seeke it, where the sunne of righteousnesse euer shineth (Council of Nicene, Concilium). Take then this lesson (O thou that art desirous of this Table) of Emissenus a godly Father, that when thou goest vp to the reuerend Communion, to be satisfied with spirituall meates, thou looke vp with fayth vpon the holy body and blood of thy GOD, thou maruayle with reuerence, thou touch it with the minde, thou receiue it with the hand of thy heart, and thou take it fully with thy inward man (Eusebius Emissenus, Serm. de Euchar.)."

Nonetheless, they will provide theories about the personal views of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer near his life's end, saying that he must have rejected the Real Presence; as if any one man's private view was official, and alone what matters.

And so forth.

In the massive e-mailing was a link to an article by my friend David Mills, editor of Touchstone, A journal of mere Christianity. I have long been a contributing editor for this magazine of ecumenical orthodoxy, with several articles published over the years. David was one of the first to recognize my writing as having any worth, and to promote it. He had long been a fighter within the Episcopal Church, trying to call it back to Christ. In 2001 he became a Roman Catholic. The recent article (which was on a blog) contained superb news analysis about the official Anglican Communion (you know, those other Anglicans who don't recognize us), but then made this rather astonishing statement.

"The Anglo-Catholics can forget trying to move the new GAFCON body (if there ever is one) a quarter-inch closer to Catholicism. They will live in an ecclesial body less liberal but no more Catholic than their old one. The price of their being rescued from liberalism is a kind of dhimmitude.

"Which might not be a bad thing. It might help them see more clearly just what that 'Anglo' means, and accept that Anglicanism is a Protestant movement. Then they can see that the polarity they thought they'd transcended is marked by its two poles for a reason, forcing them to choose one or the other. I pray my former comrades choose Catholicism, but if they don't, I think they would be happier and more fruitful were they better Protestants. And thereby, oddly enough, closer to the Catholic Church than they are now."

I do not expect the average Roman Catholic to understand that to classic Anglicans like us, Protestantism and Catholicism are not opposites, and not at all two poles. But, David Mills understands it, though he clearly disagrees. Our kind of Protestantism is meant to be a pure and better form of Catholicism, and so David would be wrong if his words were applied to those of us in the Continuum (though they fit the Canterbury Communion in its current state). For us there is no choice to be made between these two things, Protestantism and Catholicism, for they do not conflict. But, we are spared the usual song and dance of the polemicists, because David is above all that sort of thing.

I bother to defend Anglicanism against polemical attacks because these attacks damage the consciences of sincere believers. The attacks usually boil down to an attempt to make Anglicans doubt the validity of our sacraments, which is quite proper for TEC, but not at all true for us. The arguments are based on half-truths that distort the history of Anglican doctrine and the meaning of Anglican Formularies. They create ignorance rather than knowledge. Eventually, they always attack the validity of our orders, so that the poor soul who is ensnared by these arguments fails to learn the truth, and gets confused trying to learn it. Because he comes to doubt the validity of the sacraments he has been receiving, and therefore fears that they have no efficacy, he begins to doubt that his soul can be saved unless he flees to Rome (or Orthodoxy). This is based on fear, not on faith and not on learning, since learning would disabuse him of doubt.

The troubled, less-learned Anglican, attacked by bullying polemicists, needs to be taught by those of us who care to take the time to write or speak the necessary apologetics, and provide the instruction that he needs. Hear me: Your priest does have the authority to forgive sins; and what you eat and drink at the altar rail of the church is truly, in the words of the Anglican Formulary, "the holy body and blood of thy God."


Anonymous said...

This was a great post. I can tell that it came from your heart with concern for the brethren.

Thank you.


Anonymous said...

Father Hart:

So very well said. Thank you so much for taking the time to bother!

Traditional Anglicanism is the best path to Heaven, as I see it, or I wouldn't be here.

What we have is the best possible living example of the primitive, undivided catholic church of the first 1,000 years. We have the roadmap to practice that faith in the 1549, 1559, 1928 and other faithful prayerbooks.

We have the living faith that many lost souls throughout the world truly need. I pray that we will truly keep that faith by sharing it. Attempting to keep the faith, without sharing it, isn't keeping it at all.

1928 BCP Supporter

poetreader said...

Hear! Hear!

Anonymous said...

I do not accept your apology for the one-liner about "the world's largest pederast conspiracy." As distasteful as the topic is, and of course I know all about glass houses, I cannot accept the proposition that the RC homosexual scandal is off-the-table in ecumenical discussions. It would surely not be off the table in selecting a political candidate or a marriage partner! Yet another story broke this week of the Archdiocese of Chicago paying out some horrendous amount of money in a settlement. The total to date runs into the billions of dollars.
Yet Cardinals Law and Lavada live in comfort in the Vatican. Do the Tiber-swimmers wish to assume this financial burden? For all the dubious theologizing of the Ecumeniacs, I think I will pass on that opportunity. But I would respectfully ask how the Holy See can speak infallibly on faith and morals if it cannot protect its own faithful from sexual predators.

Fr. John said...

Amen to this Father! I share your frustrations of trying to reason with people who have none.

The great tragedy of the American people is that they truly believe they are well educated. They dive right into discussions and debates on topics of which they know little or nothing.

I too have a confession, I enjoy exposing the pretentious arrogance of such people. Most of them know little, or nothing, of Church history. If you want to make a Baptist squirm ask him where, and how his denomination came into being. One particularly aggressive Baptist assailant assured me it was founded by John the Baptist.

Likewise the Methodists rank and file know nothing of the careers of the Wesleys except perhaps their first names.

The Romans, who in any debate will ultimately start chanting "Peter" like a mantra, know almost nothing of the history of the development of the papacy or popes who have held and taught heresy. They revere St. Athanasius, but do not really know why.

They certainly have no understanding of the political situation in England that led to the rupture with Rome, but instead repeat the gross distortion that the Church of England was formed so a king could get a divorce. N.B. Roman enthusiasts, Henry wanted an annulment.

Too much TV and movie viewing have every letter writer penning missives to the editor of the local newspaper (and blogs too!)loading them down with superlatives. "I was never more outraged; this is the stupidest thing I ever heard of; or this politician is the worst ever." They don't really mean it, they just attack every issue this way because that is the level of discourse in America today.

And of Course they feel compelled to tear into every issue as though they were experts on that topic, when really they just have strong feelings about it, based on their feelings (emotions) and not belief.
They even write such as in, "I feel that Anglicans should all become Roman Catholics." I used to try and correct them that they really meant to write, "I believe that Anglican should become Roman Catholics," and argue it from that point. However I finally came to realize they were correct, they did "feel" that way, and had no rational claim to have a belief on the matter.

Remember the words of that great enemy of the Church Voltaire, "It is a triumph of reason to get along well with those who possess none."

RSC+ said...

Fr. Hart,

Thank you for writing this entry about why you persevere. As a seminarian in the Continuum, I find myself constantly tugged between the false dichotomy of "Catholics" and "Protestants." When this aspect of "Protestantism" strikes me as odd, or I cannot accept that "Catholic" position on something else (like, say, the Tridentine take on Justification), it often stirs me into second-guessing my identity as an Anglo-Catholic.

Your post helps me to remember that we Anglicans are, as you say, both Catholic and Protestant--resolutely both.

I have a question for you that is mildly off-topic: these last few entries have been very logical, very Scriptural--exactly what our apologetics should be. I find myself frequently in discourse with people who are either very emotional (squishy, even) or not exceptionally Scriptural. Do you (and anyone else here) have advice for how to frame a discussion with people who rely on emotion, rather than reason, or take a low view of Scripture? The ones who are both highly emotional and take a low view of Scripture still vex me too much to invite into a conversation.

Be well, and keep bothering!

Canon Tallis said...

Amen! Alleluia!

Anonymous said...

For your calm and patient defense of classical Anglicanism, we all very thankful.

First, it strengthens the Continuum in a catechitical way by reminding the faithful why we are here and reaffirming the our stand.

Second, it educates the ecclesial "homeless" and, at least, gives them no excuse should they choose, like the prodigal son, the repudiate their patrimony by crossing the Tiber or the Bosphorus.

Third, it witnesses to the world that classical Anglicanism is not a laughing stock -- only the sad devolution and adulteration that "official," modern Anglicanism has become.

Rev. Dr. Hassert said...

Amen. Well said.

Carlos said...

Right on Fr. Hart!

Fr. John said...

I offered the attachment below during the course of the discussion thread of the article by Fr. Hart on his conversation with Archbishop Hepworth. That piece, along with the comments, was pulled.

In light of this new piece by Fr. Hart, I want to make it available again to the readers of this blog.

I also provide the URL so one may read the article in its entirety.

I think the article, "Mass Without the Consecration," by Fr. Robert Taft, S.J., is instructive in the way the Roman Church approaches other communions. Taft's list of 'Catholic theological principles' is most helpful in understanding what Pope John Paul II called, "a positive ecumenism." The Archbishop of Canterbury would do well to reflect on this list in his dealings with the heretical TEC.

Additionally the list also provides those apostolic churches not in communion with Rome an idea of the standards the Roman Church has for an ecclesiastical body to be in communion with the pope, but self governing.

The article deals with a specific situation, the negotiation of Eucharistic hospitality between Rome and an Assyrian Church using the liturgy of Addai and Mari. That liturgy does not contain the words of consecration as spoken by our Lord at that first Eucharist.

I find myself in agreement with his list of principles. However, the problem of the papal claim to the have the unilateral power to translate doctrine into dogma remains.

I have to also wonder if Rome could ever view the continuing churches the way they view the ancient churches of the East.

Fr. Taft writes;

"So ecumenical scholarship seeks not confrontation but agreement and understanding. It strives to enter into the other’s point of view, to understand it insofar as possible with sympathy and agreement. It is a contest in reverse, a contest of love, one in which the parties seek to understand and justify not their own point of view, but that of their interlocutor. Such an effort and method, far from being baseless romanticism, is rooted in generally accepted evangelical and Catholic theological principles:
1. The theological foundation for this method is our faith that the Holy Spirit is with God’s Church, protecting the integrity of its witness, above all in the centuries of its undivided unity. Since some of the issues that divide us go right back to those centuries, one must ineluctably conclude that these differences do not affect the substance of the apostolic faith. For if they did, then contrary to Jesus’ promise (Mt 16:18), the “gates of hell” would indeed have prevailed against the Church.
2. Secondly, the Catholic Church recognizes the Eastern Churches to be the historic apostolic Christianity of the East, and Sister Churches of the Catholic Church. Consequently, no view of Christian tradition can be considered anything but partial that does not take full account of the age-old, traditional teaching of these Sister Churches. Any theology must be measured not only against the common tradition of the undivided Church, but also against the ongoing witness of the Spirit-guided apostolic Christendom of the East. That does not mean that East or West has never been wrong. It does mean that neither can be ignored.

3. An authentic magisterium cannot contradict itself. Therefore, without denying the legitimate development of doctrine, in the case of apparently conflicting traditions of East and West, preferential consideration must be given to the witness of the undivided Church. This is especially true with respect to later polemics resulting from unilateral departures from or developments out of the common tradition during the period of divided Christendom.

4. Those who have unilaterally modified a commonly accepted tradition of the undivided Church bear the principal responsibility for any divisions caused thereby. So it is incumbent first of all on them to seek an acceptable solution to that problem. This is especially true when those developments, albeit legitimate, maybe perceived by others as a narrowing of the tradition, or have been forged in the crucible of polemics, never a reliable pedagogue.

5. Within a single Church, any legitimate view of its own particular tradition must encompass the complete spectrum of its witnesses throughout the whole continuum of its history, and not just its’ most recent or currently popular expression.

6. Finally, doctrinal formulations produced in the heat of polemics must be construed narrowly, within the strict compass of the errors they were meant to confute. In 1551 N. 63 / Spring 2002 Bulletin / Centro Pro Unione 17 when Session 13, chapter 3-4 and canon 4 of the Council of Trent (1545-1563) defined that “immediately after the consecration statim post consecrationem),” and “by the consecration (per consecrationem),” and “once the consecration is accomplished (peracta consecratione),” the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ (Dz §§164O, 1642,1654), it was combating those who denied that transformation, not making a statement about its “moment” or “formula.”"

Read it all:

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Thank you Fr.John. The example you provide is just another example of Rome tearing down the arguments that have held up its 1896 conclusion about our Orders. They have now removed every argument that supports that conclusion, but are prisoners of their own unfortunate concept of infallibility, locking them into the conclusion as a precedent.

As I said before, that's their problem, not ours.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Shaugn wrote:

Do you (and anyone else here) have advice for how to frame a discussion with people who rely on emotion, rather than reason, or take a low view of Scripture?

I can't think of any verbal equivalent to the old movie "slap in the face" scene; that is, where the hero pulls someone out of hysteria by friendly-battery. "Thanks, I needed that." Emotion will not heed reason, otherwise liberal politicians would have to rely solely on the Democracy of the Dead to get any votes. The same is true in theology. I know of no way to speak reason to emotion.

Maybe someone else has a suggestion or method. But, all I can think of is: "If they hear not Moses and the prophets..."

Anonymous said...

Fr John said: 'The great tragedy of the American people is that they truly believe they are well educated. They dive right into discussions and debates on topics of which they know little or nothing.'

Alas, not just Americans! Here in Australia I once had a young lawyer who'd been to a Jesuit school and the best law school tell me that Henry VIII founded a new religion and that was what I belonged to!

My own knowledge of Church history is a bit patchy, but I do know that John the Baptist lived in the 16th century and was one of those who revived the Church, which had ceased to exist just after the close of the Acts of the Apostles. I also know that the Wesley brothers were called Cyril and Methodius. Also, I know that this 'Peter' business is true, because the Pope is a Time Lord who is a lot older then he looks.

There, how did I do?

Fr_Rob said...


It sounds like you're getting some good experience in seminary. The types of people you describe are exactly the same kinds of people you will (or should) be preaching and ministering to, counseling, and attempting to evangelize once you're a priest. There's a lot of information available, mostly in evangelical books, websites, etc. on apologetics and evangelism, regarding how to communicate the gospel with postmodern people, who tend not to be easily convinced by left-brained, rationalistic arguments (google "postmodern evangelism" for some examples) and who certainly don't have a high view of Scripture. Some examples that come to mind include using stories and personal testimonies, describing how you and others you know "feel" about certain things, and using literature, movies, and current cultural interests such as the paranormal. If they're liberals, use the kinds of appeals that liberals tend to buy into (such as the common good, helping your fellow man, pro-environment, etc., etc.). Remember the words of St. Paul: "to the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some" (1 Cor 9:22).

highchurchman said...

Regarding the word protestant! We were taught that Anglicans were Catholic, Protestants were classicly Lutheran, whilst Calvinists were Separatists! When Anglicans used the term protestant, so the rule went, we were referring to the political interference of the papacy in English politics. I.E. Under Elizabeth and such like.

As for the Word Anglican? It first appeared, in reference to the Church in the 8th, Cent. It was used in the Magna Charter in 1215AD and consistently in correspondence with foreign churches all through the Middle Ages. After the Donatist Schism (1564/1570) the term Roman was given to the schismatics to differentiate between them and the traditionalists, the Anglicans.

The blog Continuum and your articles are the best thing in Anglicanism today! All the best to yourself and your colleagues.


Anonymous said...

Fr. Hart, I've given you and this blog a hard time in the past. But I very much appreciate this post and your earlier commentary on the so-called "Eight Useful Findings."

And I, too, am annoyed with those who think Anglicans should all flee to Rome as I've posted this morning.

Anonymous said...

Fr Hart,

Could you recommend a couple books for me to read that give what you consider the "Classical Anglican" position? Excluding Richard Hooker (I have his works).


Fr. Robert Hart said...


If you want to see a few different lists put together by readers, lists that I endorse, look at the comments on a post from about two or three weeks ago: "Anglican and Unashamed." The resources mentioned in those comments are very good.