Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Anglicans and the BVM

I have just come across an article published in Britain's The Daily Mail following Rowan Williams recent visit to Lourdes.

It asserts two things. First, it claims +Rowan is the first archbishop of Canterbury to accept visions of the Blessed Virgin as historical fact, with a claim that he thereby accepts the RC doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, and also criticises him for acknowledging the BVM as the Mother of God.

Secondly, it asserts that he "praised the lives of the saints, another devotion seen as distinctively Roman Catholic."

The latter assertion is patently false, but I am wondering whether the claim about ABCs and the BVM is true.

A final observation. I know nothing about Simon Caldwell, the author of this piece, but he would do well to become a regular reader of one of our featured blogs, Get Religion, which critiques journalistic coverage of religion. He has shown himself to be woefully ignorant of Anglican theology, and seems to be taking guidance on it exclusively from the Protestant Truth Society. The result is to portray the Church of England as nothing more than another Protestant denomination, therefore setting up the straw man of +Rowan as having drifted from the right path. (Heaven knows there's already enough evidence of that without using straw men).

Following is part of the article:

"The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, was yesterday branded a 'papal puppet' after he became the first leader of the Church of England to accept visions of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes as historical fact.

"He asserted that 18 visions of Our Lady allegedly experienced by Bernadette Soubirous in 1858 were true.

"His words shocked millions of Protestants worldwide because they not only signified a break with Protestant teaching on the Virgin Mary but also Dr Williams's personal acceptance of the Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, which is explicitly linked to the apparitions.

"The archbishop made his remarks during a three-day visit to the shrine in the French Pyrenees - the first ever by a leader of the Church of England.

"In a homily he preached at an international Mass there, Dr Williams spoke about the apparitions without any qualifications.

"'When Mary came to Bernadette, she came at first as an anonymous figure, a beautiful lady, a mysterious 'thing', not yet identified as the Lord's spotless mother,' Dr Williams said.

"'And Bernadette - uneducated, uninstructed in doctrine - leapt with joy, recognising that here was life, here was healing,'" he said.

"'Only bit by bit does Bernadette find the words to let the world know; only bit by bit, we might say, does she discover how to listen to the Lady and echo what she has to tell us.'

"He also praised the lives of the saints, another devotion seen as distinctively Roman Catholic.

"'It may be when we encounter a person in whom we sense that the words we rather half-heartedly use about God are a living and actual reality,' he said.

"'That's why the lives of the saints, ancient and modern, matter so much.'

"Afterwards he was severely criticised by the Protestant Truth Society, a group of Anglicans and nonconformists committed to upholding the ideals of the Protestant Reformation.

"The Rev Jeremy Brooks, director of ministry for the group, said: 'All true Protestants will be appalled that the Archbishop of Canterbury has visited Lourdes, and preached there.

"'Lourdes represents everything about Roman Catholicism that the Protestant Reformation ejected, including apparitions, mariolatry and the veneration of saints.

"'The archbishop's simple presence there is a wholesale compromise, and his sermon which included a reference to Mary as 'the Mother of God' is a complete denial of Protestant orthodoxy.'"

"He added: 'At a time when our country is crying out for clear Biblical leadership, it is nothing short of tragic that our supposedly Protestant archbishop is behaving as little more than a papal puppet.'"


poetreader said...

If this Jermey Brooks is rightly quoted in his outright denial and disapproval of the term "Mother of God, one would not be out of place to demand that he defend his Christology. As the council which called ger Theotokos was well aware, denial that she is the Mother of God is very near to denial that he Son is God. I could agree with some of his objection to the ABC's visit to Lourdes, but this comment makes him as much a heretic as ++Wiliams.


Fr William Bauer said...

One of the first seven Councils determined that Mary could and should be called the Mother of God. This truth along with the declaration that those who say she was not ever-virgin are anathema come from early Christianity and adequately identify those who are anathema.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe in the Immaculate Conception (and this doesn't stop me from praying the Hail Mary), but if Rowan Williams wants to, he can be my guest.

This whole thing is a PR move to take column inches/pixels away from his ongoing failure of leadership in the crisis facing the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. The fact that this is stirring up a minor controversy only makes it a better tool for obfuscation.

Anonymous said...

Jeremy Brooks is cleary a Nestorian. As for Rowan, his statements at Lourdes are some of the first that have made any sense in a long time....glad to hear them.

Canon Tallis said...

The Protestant Truth Society which was first headed by a pornographer is one of those organizations which have long attempted to create an entirely false idea of the "doctrine, discipline and worship" plainly set forth in the classical Books of Common Prayer of the Anglican Communion. It and those its ilk would have you believe that the religion of the prayer book is that of the continental reformers instead of a plain attempt to regain the Catholic faith and practise of the Church which wrote and collected the books of the New Testament, formulated the creeds and began the tradition of the general councils.

Fortunately in this blog and a few others like it the faith of the English Reformation and its prayer book is set forth with an exactness which should make all us happy. Our job is to make those in our parishes, dioceses and larger organizations which collectively make up the most Catholic and Orthodox portion those who call themselves Anglican not only aware of the blog but constant readers of same we will do a great deal to offset the false witness of such persons and organizations.

poetreader said...

Canon Tallis:
I am a bit troubled by your comment. While I agree entirely with your assessment of the Protestant Truth Society as it stands (and a singularly unhelpfuil phenomenon it is), I don't think that your opening comment about the founder does anything but muddy the waters. That would have far better been left unsaid. Without this rather ad hominem opening, the condemnation of this group on the merits (or rather the lack thereof) of what it says would have been stronger if an extraneous issue were not introduced.

To everyone else:
if this issue be further discussed (as well it could be - these folk do indeed have the potential of doing harm) I feel it would be far better to concentrate on the meat of what is actually being promoted than on what a past figure may or may not have done.


Fr. Robert Hart said...

Before getting further into my comment, I ask Canon Tallis please to give us means to verify the charge that the PTS was founded by a pornographer.

As for this Brooks fellow, Luther and even Zwingli would consider him a heretic. They insisted on calling the Virgin Mary "the Mother of God." Brooks confuses Protestantism with Nestorianism, which proves that he lacks the competence to intelligently discuss this subject.

The quotation about the Blessed Virgin Mary as Mother of God comes from the Canon of Chalcedon. Anglicans teach that this Council is to be received. The word used in the Greek was Theotokos. Modern Orthodox converts, to distance themselves from anything western (perhaps including High Noon and The Searchers) try to tell us, "it doesn't mean mother of God, but 'birth giver of God.'" Frankly, that is the most idiotic thing I have heard that did not come from a journalist. A "birth giver" is, by definition, a mother (or, as Plato put it, "duh!").

Here is the quotation from the Council of Chalcedon, the fourth Ecumenical Council: "So, following the saintly fathers, we all with one voice teach the confession of one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the same truly God and truly man, of a rational soul and a body; consubstantial with the Father as regards his divinity, and the same consubstantial with us as regards his humanity; like us in all respects except for sin; begotten before the ages from the Father as regards his divinity, and in the last days the same for us and for our salvation from Mary, the virgin mother of God (God-bearer Theotokos) as regards his humanity; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten, acknowledged in two natures which undergo no confusion, no change, no division, no separation; at no point was the difference between the natures taken away through the union, but rather the property of both natures is preserved and comes together into a single person and a single subsistent being; he is not parted or divided into two persons, but is one and the same only-begotten Son, God, Word, Lord Jesus Christ, just as the prophets taught from the beginning about him, and as the Lord Jesus Christ himself instructed us, and as the creed of the fathers handed it down to us."

Canon Tallis said...

Have none of you read the standard works of the beginnings of the Church revival and the dear fellow who led the ritual rites? Have none of you ever stood in one of the churches where the Protestant
Truth Society pushed themselves inside and destroyed all of the furnishings intended by the Ornaments Rubrics? It was only twenty years ago or less than the rector of a parish church built only a couple of years before Keble preached his sermon on National Apostasy opened the vestment drawers in its sacristry to reverently pull from it a red chasuble ripped into small pieces by a Protestant Truth Society mob but painfully reconstructed by the ladies of his parish and worn on only the greatest of ocassions since. You do make me realize how very old I have become and for how long this struggle has been my own.

Don't worry, I will get you the proper references and proofs. But I guess I should realize that when something happened a bit over a hundred and fifty years ago, it would hardly be in the memory of things which really matter.

Anonymous said...

Canon Tallis:
You say that Anglicans were trying to regain the Catholic faith....etc.
Are you saying that the Church that Jesus left to guide us (when He ascended into heaven) somehow 'went wrong', which is the reason why ya'll had to regain the faith??

poetreader said...

But we didn't ask for proof of the negative nature of their acts and teachings -- that much is obvious and deserving of strong condemnation, but merely of a specific matter that has little direct bearing on the heretical nature of the group. The precise allegation could be and has been made with regard to other persons of impeccably orthodox and Catholic theology (and may indeed be true in some of those cases). It's wrong in either set of hands, but says little about the truth of the claims made. If you hadn't made that specific statement such a l;eading feature of your comment, I'd be shouting approval, but ....


William Tighe said...

Two points, if I may:

1. Fr. Hart is certainly correct about the ignorance (and even stupidity) of those Orthodox who try to make a distinction between "Theotokos" and "Mother of God." Are they not aware that almost evert Orthodox ikon of the Theotokos has in its upper left-hand corner the Greek letters Mu and Rho ("M" and "R" in English) and in the upper right Theta and Upsilon ("Th" and "U" on English) -- abbreviations for, respectively, "Meter" and "Theou" or "Mother" and "God's?"

2. The Assyrians (the Holy Orthodox Apostolic Church of the east and of the Assyrians), who, while they disclaim the label "Nestorian" nevertheless count Nestorius as a saint and doctor and reject the Council of Ephesus of 431 (the Third Ecumenical Council) and anathematize the term "Yaldath Alaha" = "Theotokos" = "Mother of God," nevertheless entitle the BVM as "Mother of Our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ." I wonder of Mr. Brooks would go even so far, but, rather, "out-nestorianize the Nestorians."

Anonymous said...

Who is Rowan Williams? ;-)

Albion Land said...

I have still seen no commentary on the truth or not of the assertion that +Rowan is the first ABC to acknowledge the veracity of Marian apparations.

I had thought for sure that our emminent resident historian might have something to say on that.

Anonymous said...

'I have still seen no commentary on the truth or not of the assertion that +Rowan is the first ABC to acknowledge the veracity of Marian apparations.'

Given the descent into heresy over which he has provided, does it really matter what he believes? (Mind you, I wouldn't be surprised if Michael Ramsey had had a soft spot for Walsingham, and I'd be very surprised if most ABCs between the apparation and Cranmer hadn't. Walsingham's a lot older than Lourdes in that respect, you know.)

Fr. Robert Hart said...


I think that the word regain may be strong. I think restore is better, and only in the sense of a certain kind of restoration. That is, as in restoring a work of art by cleansing away various layers of impurities that build up. The original work is still there, but the surface needs cleaning.

Anonymous said...

This is off the subject of Rowan Williams, but certainly related to the Anglican view of the BVM.

I noticed a few days ago this statement on the website of the HCC-AR: "The Church knows also of one who has not only passed beyond the resurrection but attained to the fullness of deification - the Blessed Virgin Mary." (

I'm not aware of anyone within Christian orthodoxy who would claim that St. Mary is divine. This seems to me to be a clear departure from the received faith of the Church--in fact, it is heresy.

There are some other interesting remarks on the website about St. Mary and the fact that the HCC-AR's (apparently) developing positions about her are causing division within the group ( It isn't my intent to start an HCC-AR bashing party, but I thought that this position on the divinity of St. Mary would be of interest in this discussion.

Anonymous said...

Father Hart,
So at what point did the CC build up so many impurities as to become different than the CC that Christ left us? Are you saying that your continuing church has always existed and has been the retainer of orthodoxy and truth? And how do the existance of the Orthodox churches fall into this view?

poetreader said...

This is off the subject of Rowan Williams, but certainly related to the Anglican view of the BVM.

I noticed a few days ago this statement on the website of the HCC-AR: "The Church knows also of one who has not only passed beyond the resurrection but attained to the fullness of deification - the Blessed Virgin Mary." (

I'm not aware of anyone within Christian orthodoxy who would claim that St. Mary is divine. This seems to me to be a clear departure from the received faith of the Church--in fact, it is heresy.

I'm not happy with the group, especially not with its habit of taking somewhat extreme positions and using the most extreme wording they can come up with to state them. However, they are not saying what you quite understandably are hearing them as saying. Deification in this context does not mean being made a god, but rather being restored to the image of God, which is quite another concept. It is a specific concept of Eastern theology which sits rather strangely in a group as Western as HCC-AR, and is expressed in language that sounds bizarre to heirs of the Reformation, but is not actually unscriptural. We were made in the image of God, but we fell, though Adam, into sin, and that image was either destroyed or seriously marred (depending on who is commenting on it). "Deification" in this context is a rather inadequate translation of the Greek "theosis", central to the thinking of the Eastern Fathers about the Atonement. This really isn't the place for a thorough examination of atonement theories Eastern and Western, but the point is that this is what the writer had in mind. In the traditional view, May is the first mere human to be entirely restored in heaven to the state we shall all attain at last, to the fullness of the image of God. Wish they'd been less provokative in their way of expressing that -- but that's how they do.

There are some other interesting remarks on the website about St. Mary and the fact that the HCC-AR's (apparently) developing positions about her are causing division within the group ( It isn't my intent to start an HCC-AR bashing party, but I thought that this position on the divinity of St. Mary would be of interest in this discussion.

Let's just say that I'm not in accord with everything said there,. but these are all positions that one finds in certain of the early Fathers of the Church. Some, such as her status as theotokos, bearer or mother of God, are essential beliefs, defined by early councils, in defense of Christology. Others are defensible as pious beliefs, but indefensible as dogma. In other words I do not object at all to the fact that HCC-AR believes that list of teachings to be true, but I do object rather strongly to their definition that all of them must be believed for one to be an orthodox Christian. -- just as I object to those who become angered that they do believe them.

It remains true, regardless of what the more radical Reformers may have asserted, that Mary, by God's amazing grace, does stand at the heart of the Gospel, that her words spoken to the angel Gabriel. "Be it unto me according to thy word," are a vital link in the Incarnation and life of Our Lord, and thus of our salvation. I believe further, on the strength of Hebrews 12:1 and other passages, that the saints who have gone before are watching us and praying for us, and so it is that I ask them and preeminently her, not to save me, nor to work miracles for me, but certainly to pray for me.

Now, Father Daniel, if you are the same that I've written to before, I realize you will not agree with all I've written. OK. That's as it is. Can we nonetheless dwell together as brethren who trust in the salvation wrought upon that holy Cross? I hope so.

ed pacht

Anonymous said...

Ed, not sure why you think I will disagree with you. St. Mary has a very prominent place in the Church, as she should. However, my understanding of what the HCC-AR states on its website is that St. Mary is somehow participant in the godhead. This, in its essence, is heresy. All the other "pious beliefs" aside, this isn't something that should be taught in the Church of God.

Like you, I find it a far fetch to claim that "pious beliefs" about St. Mary are necessary for salvation or the communion of the Church. As Archbishop Mark Haverland states in his book "Anglican Catholic Faith and Practice", such beliefs may be important, but they are hardly necessary to right doctrine (my paraphrase).

poetreader said...

Fr. Daniel,
I recommend that you do some reading about "theosis" or "divinization". Off-brand as I may consider HCC-AR to be, I cannot imagine them intending what you think you are reading. Their words, in context of the teaching of the Eastern Fathers, has no implications of Mary's being "somehow participant in the Godhead". There may be much to question or even condemn in their teaching -- that's a question to be investigated, but you are quite simply misreading their statement entirely. You see, I could affirm every word of the sentence you are attacking, and affirm it joyfully, though suggesting that it be worded more clearly. The Blessed Virgin is a mere human, but stands uniquely in a position before God to which we are all called by the redemption of the Cross. "Divinization" in that sense is the ultimate destiny of every faithful Christian -- and that does not make us, in Kenneth Copeland's famous phrase, "little gods", but men restored to His image.

Now, I could ask that we cease from debating about what someone else believes. If you want to discuss my beliefs, or those of any of the participants, or if you wish to express your own in positive terms, or to discuss classic Anglican sources, that's just what we're here for.

Though circumstances keep dragging us back that way, it is not our purpose to find people to condemn.


Fr. Robert Hart said...


So at what point did the CC build up so many impurities as to become different than the CC that Christ left us?

I did not say different from, but presented a metaphor of impurity that had built up to obscure the original. The Gospel became difficult to perceive behind all those layers.

Are you saying that your continuing church has always existed and has been the retainer of orthodoxy and truth?

Yes, even if it shocks you. The Church has never been destroyed, and we belong to that Church.

And how do the existence of the Orthodox churches fall into this view?

They also belong to that Church, but not without some of the same kind of build up. In fact, our ecclesiology makes room for them, and yours does not.

Anonymous said...

Canon Tallis and Fr. Hart,

'regain the Catholic faith and practise of the Church which wrote and collected the books of the New Testament' say your continuing churches belong to this Church....did this Church not have a pope?? Yes, it did!

Anonymous said...

Sandra said:
"I wouldn't be surprised if Michael Ramsey had had a soft spot for Walsingham, and I'd be very surprised if most ABCs between the apparation and Cranmer hadn't."

++Ramsey certainly preached at Walsingham, as did ++Runcie. ++Williams preached the other year.

Fr Edward

Anonymous said...

I have finally gotten around to reading the comments on this thread, and this strikes me as the most (by far) astute observation:

"Given the descent into heresy over which he [Rowan Williams} has provided, does it really matter what he believes? "

Indeed. Who cares where RW goes for a continental holiday? Any pronouncements from him on Mariology are about as important as his membership in a Society of Druids. Another exercise in dilletantism.

And I believe it was Ephesus, not Chalcedon (the 3rd, not the 4th council) which gave approval to the expression "Theotokos." And I would not be too quick to dismiss the distinction between Theotokos and Meter Theou (Gentrix Dei and Mater Dei). When the Councils and the Fathers insisted on the term Thotokos, were they making a statement about Jesus or about Mary? The term Theotokos is specific---"God-bearer." The term "Mother" on the other hand is far broader, possibly meaning one who has authority over a subordinate child. The Gregorian canon restricts itself to the term "Genetrix Dei," using a more technical term than the more popular "Mater."

As for the MP (abbreviation for Meter) on Greek icons, I would need some dates before accepting that as evidence. And Icons, while of historical interest, do not carry the weight of Conciliar statements.

Anonymous said...

I commend Poetreader (with whom I have jousted so many times) for a couple of fine posts in which he accurately explains the EO and patristic concept of Theosis. Good work, Ed!

For those who struggle with this doctrine, I recommend an article by Robert V. Rakestaw, "Becoming Like God, An Evangelical [!] Doctrine of Theosis." Google in Rakestraw, Theosis.

poetreader said...

Diane said,
'regain the Catholic faith and practise of the Church which wrote and collected the books of the New Testament' say your continuing churches belong to this Church....did this Church not have a pope?? Yes, it did!

I'm sorry, Ma'am, but you can't get away with so simplistic a statement as that. It's not good argumentation to begin by assuming that the central question has been answered. This is the very question on which we differ: Did this church have a pope?

Well, there was a bishop in Rome, and he was, at the very least, one of the most prominent leaders of the Church. That much is certain. Was he a pope in the modern sense of the word? I am quite comfortable in asserting that he was not, and that the powers that have come to be assumed by that office are a much later development.

To give a brief and simplistic answer to your brief and simplistic statement: Did that church have a pope? No, it did not.


poetreader said...

Fr. Wells,
It is true that, if one says "Mother", "Meter", or "Mater" on isolation from "bearer", Theotokos", or "Genetrix", one could find oneself approaching some errant views of Mary's status, but it is also true that using the more clinical theological terms without the parental imagery could tend to remove the dimesnion of human emotion from the Incarnation, which would be error also. The use of the tewo terms interchangeably seems to me to give a depth and breadth to discussion of the Incarnation of Our Lord that would otherwise be lost. Yes, the terms are different in emphasis, but they are not distinct in significance, and neither is dispensible.

To respond to a comment not yet published, Thank you for your kind words about my responses to Fr. Daniel. Theosis is indeed a somewhat difficult but essential concept. Thank you also for the link to Rakestraw's article. I've printed it out and will be studying it.


Anonymous said...

History shows we had a pope...not just a bishop of Rome...the title was there and was used. More importantly, you say the papal position then was different than that of the modern so?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Fr. Wells:

I had not thought about the idea that mother can imply a subordinate, and that is because I have spent years arguing against the silly charge that "mother" implies that Mary is the source of the Divine Nature (a charge so ridiculous that it simply insults everyone's intelligence).

Nonetheless, we do know that Jesus fulfilled the whole Law, and was, as St. Luke tells us, subject to Joseph and Mary during his childhood. As an adult he took the responsibilities of a son to provide for his mother in her old age by assigning her care to St. John. I do not see a danger, however, of western Christians who say "mother of God" meaning that the Divine Nature owes its origin to a mother, or that Christ the Lord is somehow subordinate. We have too much theological definition, if only in the Creeds, for that to become a threat.


The issue is not the use of the word "pope," but rather the usage. Furthermore, it was an informal nickname derived from a title. The Patriarchates had, as the word shows, Patriarchs (Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria). The Romans had an informal and affectionate way of saying Patriarch, namely papa, or, in English, pope. It is safe to say, therefore, that in ancient times the Church had five "popes." The other "popes" gave their verdict on Rome's claims in 1054.

Anonymous said...

Mary was God-bearer from the moment of the Fiat mihi until she brought forth her firstborn Son and laid Him in a manger. (The term firstborn does NOT constitute evidence against her perpetual virginity, so let's not go down that rabbit-trail.)
Is she "mother of God" in any continuing role beyond "Woman, behold thy Son?"
My concern is that this title, quite necessary to refute the Nestorian heresy, might be distorted to serve as grounds for the unacceptable notion of Co-redemptrix.
To ask the question another way:
Mary was the mother of God. The Church is our mother. Are we using the word "mother" in the same sense in both statements?

William Tighe said...


Careful. In 1054 (or thereabouts) Alexandria and Jerusalem said nothing; and Antioch replied effectively "a plague on both your houses," but reserved most of his ire for Constantinople for provoking a needless conflict; and he concluded that Antioch remained and would remain in communion with both Rome and Constantinople.

To trace how and when the schism between Rome and Constantinople transmitted itself to, and was accepted by, the other Eastern patriarchates, is a true labrynth, and the answer would seem to be "between 1200 and 1300," with the proviso that the four Eastern patriarchates did nor formally declare Rome out of their communion until 1484.

John A. Hollister said...

Father Wells responded very accurately to Diane's comment, "History shows we had a pope...not just a bishop of Rome...the title was there and was used."

I would only add that not only were all five of the ancient Patriarchs accorded the title "Pope", but some of them, at least, still are.

Thus the head of the Coptic Church is always referred to as "His Holiness Shenouda, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria". So, extrapolating from Diane's argument, Pope Shenouda must be (doubtless to his own great surprise) infallible, able to convert pious opinions into binding dogma on his own say-so, and entitled to enter any diocese in the world and supercede its native Bishop.

John A. Hollister+

Anonymous said...

Fr. Hart,
You didn't answer my question....I know the issue is not the title. Whatever you want to call is his present role a departure from his role in antiquity? And when did this departure take place?

Anonymous said...

John Hollister:
The charism of infallibility as defined by the Catholic Church is not tied to popes (your definition ) or to places (patriarchates) but to the successor of Peter.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Diane asked:

how is his present role a departure from his role in antiquity?

More of an evolution than a departure. The role of the Patriarch of Rome as it is today has almost no foundation in the ancient Church. First among equals was deformed into universal primacy, and on and on the innovations went. The idea of Papal Infallibility (or of "Peter's successor" if you prefer) became dogma only as late as 1870. How can there be a dogma retroactive?

It has evolved to the point where they even deny that the Church can fully be the Church without some subordination to this one particular bishop. Nothing like this was known to the Apostles and the Fathers of the Church.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

My concern is that this title, quite necessary to refute the Nestorian heresy, might be distorted to serve as grounds for the unacceptable notion of Co-redemptrix.

In a sense almost any language about God contains dangers, including the danger of taking spiritual things literally in the limited sense of the creation that we see, hear and understand. Nonetheless, about the very earthy and natural meaning of the word "mother" we must look at the direct words of Elizabeth in Luke 1:43: "And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?"

Anonymous said...

Canon Hollister wrote,

"Father Wells responded very accurately to Diane's comment,...."

I think you confused me with Fr Hart. That is quite a compliment, no kidding.


Anonymous said...

Fr. Hart,
The promulgation of infallibility was just stating what had been held in the Church since the need to make something retroactive that already existed. Same with the promulgation of other dogmas like the Immaculate Conception.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Really Diane? Prove it. And, remember that whatever you have read, I probably have read as well.

Anonymous said...

The doctrine states that the Holy Spirit guides the pope and that when officially teaching to the whole church on issues of morals/faith, he will not err. Infallibility is really a very narrowly defined dogma.
I guess you have to show me where the Pope erred, since I can 'prove' that infallibility has always existed by the fact that the pope has not erred when officially teaching to the whole church on matters of faith and morals.

Anonymous said...

With respect to the term "Theotokos", wasn't it Jaroslav Jan Pelikan who favored the translation "the one who gave birth to the one who was god"?

Fr. Robert Hart said...


We need not show where popes have erred to ask for evidence that this office has a charism of infallibility. And what would be the point? I could say, for example, that Pope Honorius was condemned for heresy at the Fifth Ecumenical Council. But, there is a stock RC answer to that fact, one which does not satisfy me, and which they did not need to create until 1870. I could speak of Pope Urban promising eternal life to those who would plunder and kill as crusaders, but there is a stock answer to that rather peculiar example of the error of a righteousness by good works(?) doctrine.

In point of fact, I really fear that if I shake your faith in the Roman Magisterium I would possibly shake your faith in Christ. The system of faith that requires the Infallibility of the Pope is fragile, like any other fundamentalist system. It is like the faith of a Baptist who thinks that unless he can believe in a literal 6/24 creation, and a historical Adam and Eve in a real geographical garden, he cannot believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God who rose from the dead. Such systems are there for those who are "weak in faith," and I fear the harm I may do if I knock down the first domino.

Besides, I believe that if you follow the teaching of Benedict XVI you will be saved. Despite my disagreement with his classic RC particulars, he will guide you right.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

With respect to the term "Theotokos", wasn't it Jaroslav Jan Pelikan who favored the translation "the one who gave birth to the one who was god"?

Ok, but, do you really want to say, "Holy Mary, the one who gave birth to the one who was God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death?" I find it a bit cumbersome myself.

Anonymous said...

The first time in my life I heard that Catholics believe that Mary is the Mother of God, I had the knowledge of a 13 year old brought up in a Protestant Sunday School.
Since I had memorized the catechism statement "There is only one God," I naturally assumed that Mary was mother of the entire Trinity. I learned better in a course in "Early Christian Thought" as an under-graduate in a Protestant college, where I was taught that the formula is both correct and neccesary. But like it or not, this is how the expression "mother of God" comes across, and it does not help much to invoke the excuse that "almost any language about God contains dangers." That's exactly why we have the science of theology, Fr Hart, to minimize those dangers by being as precise as we possibly can be. That's why theologians need to be skilled in the sacred languages and why good theological textbooks spend much ink on Hebrew, Greek, and Latin word studies.

I suspect that naive Protestants are not the only one who have a muddy and murky notion about what "Mother of God" really means. The generic term "mother" has a wide range of meanings, only one of which is an accurate translation of the term Theotokos. Much popular RC devotion (I am thinking of the prayer Memorare) appears to view the Blessed Virgin as still exercising a maternal authority over God Incarnate. So I would regard Pelikan's explication of the term Theotokos as both accurate and necessary, even if too awkward for ordinary devotional use. (This brings to mind Santayana's aphorism about not really believing there is a God, but being very sure that Mary is His mother.) So I would sum up the problem by asking: since Mary WAS the mother of God in giving birth to God Incarnate, is it really correct to say she IS the mother of God for all eternity? How does she exercise a maternal role for Him now?

btw, I am not the "anonymous" who introduced the quote from Pelikan, but I wish that I were.
devotional use

Fr. Robert Hart said...

...I naturally assumed that Mary was mother of the entire Trinity.

I suggest we keep it quiet, or some Cardinal in South America might get wind of this and add it to "co-mediatrix," proposing that it be made part of the Church's dogma.

On a serious note, I must admit that this is a brand new idea to me. That some people, especially among RCs, expect Mary to exert pressure on the Uncreated and Eternal Son of God (perhaps by threatening to withhold his allowance) is something that I actually have encountered however. But, I never thought of this as an inherent problem with terminology as much as simply another symptom of their delight in ignorance, and the value they place on having a deficit of thought and a vacuum of knowledge, as a sort of religious duty.

Frankly, I don't know how Papa Ratzinger finds the patience to put up with so many of them.

Anonymous said...

If Bishop Ratzinger were really typical of what RC's believe and practice, I could seriously entertain the thought of submitting to him. But alas....

Anonymous said...

Fr. Hart,
1. Regarding Honorius: to condense it down, he did not teach do so would have been to teach it as official doctrine to the whole Church...this he did not do. His letter was only to the East and spoke of 'one energy'....a murky statement anyway you look at it. It was the Emperor Heraklios that proclaimed monothelitism as official doctrine, not the Pope. That Honorious chose not to clarify the issue of monothelitism does not constitute a failure of infallibility. **Remember to apply the charism of infallibility as it is actually defined, not by what you think it means.
2. Regarding Urban: clearly he was not make a statement as official teaching to the whole Church.
3. Regarding "the error of a righteousness by good works(?) doctrine": Righteousness by good works is not an error. Salvation is a process...I'm sure you know that. How we live and what we do are part of the salvation equation.
4. Regarding your statement about my "system of faith": My system of faith is in most ways close to yours (as compared to a Pentacostal's, for instance), so I wouldn't call it 'fragile' if I were you.
5. Infallibility is needed if there is to be a final arbitur (and there must be)...there is plenty of evidence for this need.. the endless schism, individual interpretation, twisting of doctrines/teachings, etc. that has/is going on in Christendom. God knew what He was doing when he gave Peter not only 'primacy' (which I expect that you accept) but the role of final arbitur.
6. 'First among equals' is an orthodox creation...nothing in Scripture supports it. You know the verses that support the primacy of Peter..I think our only disagreement is to what extent that primacy exists.
7. When you look at all of the final decisions made by the pope in the 1st millenium, you see how the role of 'final arbitur' is supported in history. Popes were constantly intervening in affairs of west and east to save the Church from one heresy or another...this shows the universal jurisdiction.
The externals of the papacy may have developed (like an acorn develops into an oak tree), but the role of final arbitur, not teaching heresy to the whole of the church regarding faith/morals, and applying universal jurisdiction when needed are the same now as then.
8. I accept the soundness of B16, but for different reasons than you do. You say he will lead me in the right direction...this is based on your own opinions and your own authority. I accept that he will lead me in the right direction based on the fact that he heads the Church ('you are Peter and upon this rock...'etc) that Jesus said will be guided by the Holy Spirit. It's not my opinion or my authority (I have none) that leads me to the same conclusion that you have come to...that B16 will guide me right. I don't have to make judgement calls about each and every pope.
9.That you say B16 will guide us correctly while being in error on 'particulars' is puzzling....nothing in Scripture supports that we or our Church leaders can be right about some things and than be in error on 'particulars'. Jesus gave us specifics and none are negotiable or open to interpretation. If B16 is in error about any of it, he can't 'lead us right'. To be in error on any of it is to be opposite Christ, which is to follow Satan.

Fr. Robert Hart said...


I don't want to do this; and, I do this only to defend our people from the idea that we have any obligation to swim the murky waters of the Tiber.

Answers to your points:

Point 1: The issue is that the Church in Ecumenical Council did condemn him for heresy. This means two things: a) They did not believe in his infallibility, OR infallibility is a useless concept (having been used "properly" only twice, and then in modern times, and then for doctrines that had never been Church dogma); and b) since the real instrument of Infallibility is the voice of the Church in Ecumencial Council ("We have the mind of Christ", said St.Paul, not, "Peter has the mind of Christ."), Pope Honorius really was in the wrong doctrinally, even though it was a matter more of neglect and letting the heresy slip by with his endorsement (but, what was that about defending the truth?- well, we will get to that).

2. You said, "Regarding Urban: clearly he was not make a statement as official teaching to the whole Church." Once again, how do we know when the pope is speaking infallibly? Apparently only when he is not clearly wrong, as this example demonstrates. Frankly, to be told by a pope that you will be rewarded with eternal bliss for killing infidels sounds like something to be taken as doctrine, as authoritative (perhaps he should be called Osama Urban).

3.You don't know Catholic doctrine. You cannot save yourself by good works. Rather, they are the fruit of faith, a necessary part of repentance in many cases, but not something that buys salvation (which your own church teaches too).

4. Your system of faith is indeed very close to mine. But, I do not have to defend as infallible a whole set of precedents, the failure of any one of which would destroy the whole.

5. "Infallibility is needed if there is to be a final arbitur..." Yes, but that arbiter is the Universal Episcopate, not the pope. Therefore, the Church defended the truth in Ecumenical Council, never by appealing to Rome for a definitive answer. "God knew what He was doing when he gave Peter not only 'primacy' (which I expect that you accept) but the role of final arbitur." God never gave Peter, by himself as an individual, any such thing.

6. "'First among equals' is an orthodox creation...nothing in Scripture supports it." This title was used by Pope John Paul II in the intro of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Popes have always used it (but, you are right that nothing in scripture supports it). "You know the verses that support the primacy of Peter.." I know the verses that are so used. The interpretation is forced and awkward.

7. "When you look at all of the final decisions made by the pope in the 1st millenium, you see how the role of 'final arbitur' is supported in history. Popes were constantly intervening in affairs of west and east to save the Church from one heresy or another...this shows the universal jurisdiction."

This is simply not true at all. No Ecumenical Council was called by any pope at any time; neither did any pope attend one, and only once did a pope send a written message to such a Council. His vote was the last vote of all the bishops usually because they took longer in Rome. This constant intervention of which you speak is simply a myth. The method was conciliar.

8. This point requires the standard RC interpretation, an interpretation not shared universally. The fact is obvious; if this were the universal teaching of the Church it would be the universal teaching of the Church; but, clearly it is not the universal teaching of the Church, which means that it is not the universal teaching of the Church (otherwise it would be the universal teaching of the Church). Just try to get an "amen" to your view from the Patriarchs of the east.
9. "nothing in Scripture supports that we or our Church leaders can be right about some things and than be in error on 'particulars'." No, but common sense does. It is quite obvious that you can be right about many things, even the most important things, but wrong about others.

Anonymous said...

("Infallibility is needed if there is to be a final arbitur..." Yes, but that arbiter is the Universal Episcopate, not the pope.)
I guess we can’t believe the bible because Matthew, Mark, Luke and John must not have been Infallible since they where not part of an Ecumenical Council at time of writing.

Yes Mary is a Co-redemptrix, and so are you in so much that you may help some soul to the light of Christ.

Fr. Robert Hart said...


Your first paragraph does not merit any reply, for it does not deserve to be taken seriously.

However, I will answer the second paragraph:

Yes Mary is a Co-redemptrix, and so are you in so much that you may help some soul to the light of Christ.

Not so. The title, as far as it has any theological meaning, speaks of taking on oneself the sins of others to save them. We are able to work with God as his instruments, but we are not able to redeem anyone.

"None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him." Psalm 49:7

Fr. Robert Hart said...

It seems that Diane insists on continuing her argument. But, this is our blog, and so her latest comment is going to be intertwined with my answers. It will be posted here in its entirety, but in this format so as not to burden the readers.

Fr. Hart,

I said that good works were PART of the salvific equation. Also, my Church does not teach that 'good works can buy salvation'....this statement makes you sound like a card-carrying Baptist!

Baptists with cards?

I said that your church (the RCC) does not teach that good works can buy salvation. A Baptist would probably say the opposite. Gee, can’t we agree to agree-on some points- agreeably?

The following books are good reads to show that universal jurisdiction of the pope reaches back to antiquity, example after example of the pope being the final arbiter in theological disputes and the Eastern Churches asking for papal intervention:

-Eastern Churches and the Papacy by Herbert Scott
-The Church in Crisis by (English priest) Philip Hughes
-The Early Papacy by Adrian Fortescue

If the following examples of pure hogwash (which I will mark with “HG”) come from these books, then they can't be worth reading. Some of the “facts” below are absolutely untrue.

The reason why Rome was last to 'sign' was not an issue of logistics, it was because the pope needed to ratify council decrees. Whether the pope attended councils matters not...legates attend for him, as you know. The pope(s) didn't even attend the Council of Trent!

All the bishops had to agree, especially the patriarchs. The pope could not, all by himself, make a council Ecumenical.

Papal universal jurisdiction is of divine origin and not something that developed due to historical reasons. I know Anglicans accept only a 'constitutional primacy' of the Bishop of Rome but history shows otherwise...this from Steven O'Reilly:

Canon 28, Council of Chalcedon: “Following in every way the decrees of the holy fathers and recognising the canon which has recently been read out--the canon of the 150 most devout bishops who assembled in the time of the great Theodosius of pious memory, then emperor, in imperial Constantinople, new Rome -- we issue the same decree and resolution concerning the prerogatives of the most holy church of the same Constantinople, new Rome. The fathers rightly accorded prerogatives to the see of older Rome, since that is an imperial city; and moved by the same purpose the 150 most devout bishops apportioned equal prerogatives to the most holy see of new Rome, reasonably judging that the city which is honoured by the imperial power and senate and enjoying privileges equalling older imperial Rome, should also be elevated to her level in ecclesiastical affairs and take second place after her.”

Divine origin? The holy fathers at Chalcedon seemed to think only in terms of the politics of their time, the two seats of the Empire.

HG: There are explicit references to the pope being considered such. St. Ignatius (ca. 110), bishop of Antioch, speaks of the Roman Church as having "presidency" (Letter to the Romans) while Tertullian (220), in his heretical phase, mocks the pope as "bishop of bishops" (On Modesty). The bishop of Rome was addressed by the fathers at the Council of Arles (314) as their "most holy lord"; at Sardica (342)-attended by bishops of West and East, including Athanasius-the pope was addressed as the "head"; and at Milevis (416) as "chief."

The patriarchates were established early on, and then apparently with those bishops as Archbishops or Primates. Each of the examples above is limited to the western churches, and the bishop of Rome was clearly the Patriarch of the West. Nothing in these examples proves universal primacy.

HG: At Ephesus (431) no objection was made when the papal legates spoke of the pope as the "holy head," and by way of being Peter's successor as "head of the whole faith" and "head of the Apostles." Nor at Chalcedon were objections raised to the pope being called "the head of all the churches" and "archbishop of all the churches" by the papal legates. The emperor Constantinople III (680) refers to the pope as "sacred head." Other examples are rife.

Peter’s leadership of the apostles in early times is obvious simply from the Book of Acts. But, none of this translates into universal primacy of Rome, neither universal acceptance of such a role. The Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon simply don’t have these statements in the records. The closest thing to this in Chalcedon is what I already quoted above, with portions in bold type. The terms “head of all the churches” and “archbishop of all the churches” must have been invented by one of the authors whose books you suggest, because these phrases do not appear in the records of the Council. Since we have no evidence of such statements it seems rather unimportant that we also have no objections. Why object to what was never said?

Anti-Catholic apologists pass over in silence the evidence from the councils that supports the Roman primacy. Nicaea explicitly adopted for the universal Church the ancient Roman custom for dating Easter and adhered to the Roman practice regarding the baptisms of heretics. Pope Dionysius essentially defined the Nicene Christological doctrine the previous century when he intervened in a doctrinal dispute in Alexandria.

Anti-Catholic apologists also assert the popes had no part in convoking or approving the councils. They claim Pope Sylvester did not convoke the council of Nicaea. While many early writings speak of Constantine's role alone in convoking Nicaea, it does not follow this precludes papal involvement. The fathers of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, Constantinople III (680), expressly noted that Constantine and Pope Sylvester assembled the Council of Nicaea. Anti Catholics imply this statement was an attempt by Constantinople III to cover up the role of emperors in earlier councils: "Later centuries would find the idea of an ecumenical council being called by anyone but the bishop of Rome, the pope, unthinkable. . . . Hence long after Nicaea, in A.D. 680, the story began to circulate that in fact the bishop of Rome called the Council" (Christian Research Journal, Spring 1997, 34).

So what? The fact is this: None of the seven Ecumenical Councils was called by the pope. It is not important in itself; it is simply a sad fact that many RC writers today insist that the pope called them all, when in fact he called none of them.

By the way, “Anti-Catholic apologists” don’t write for this blog. The problem is, when we defend Anglicans from polemicists who try to overturn their faith and harm their consciences, the same polemicists say we’re “anti-Catholic.” Defending our position makes us "anti-Catholic" only by your terms.

The facts oppose this anti-Catholic position. It is clear from the proceedings of the Council of Nicaea that the Council fathers acknowledged the Council was called by the reigning emperor. They did not think the idea of an ecumenical council being called by anyone but a pope to be "unthinkable." The truth is, there was no motive for Constantinople III to claim what it did about the pope's role at Nicaea other than the Council in 680 believed it to be true.

The records have never even indicated that the Councils were called by any Bishop of Rome. It only matters to those who want to rewrite history so as to make it conform to modern rules of the Magisterium.

Not all the early ecumenical councils were called by the pope. But there is no need for Catholics to deny or minimize the actual role played by the emperors in convoking councils. The maintenance of civil order certainly gave emperors a natural interest in seeing religious disputes resolved. At such times, the interests of civil and religious authorities coincided. Even if the impetus for the first councils came initially, primarily, or even exclusively from the emperor-as it certainly did on many occasions-the fact doesn't undermine the Roman primacy. The essential point is that the resolution of the crisis from a dogmatic or ecclesiastical standpoint could not contradict the declarations of the Roman see, a fact recognized by both emperors and councils. As Socrates Scholasticus in his history of the fourth-century Church attested: "An ecclesiastical canon commands that the churches shall not make any ordinances against the opinion of the bishop of Rome" (The Ecclesiastical History II, 8).

Really? What Canon? The fifth through the seventh Councils clearly do not give the same regard to the pope that Ephesus and Chalcedon did; Pope Honorius the heretic seems to have soured the reputation of the Roman Church. The evidence is clear: No longer is Rome mentioned in the same way (and even so, it was never mentioned in terms that agree with post Tridentine RCism). The fathers seemed quite willing to proceed without Rome’s approval, which is what they did.

HGThe acts of the ecumenical councils demonstrate it was unlawful to attempt anything in opposition to the apostolic see. The papal legates at the Council of Chalcedon objected to the seating of Dioscorus, who had a prominent role in the "Robber Synod," on the grounds that " he dared to hold a synod without the authority of the Apostolic See, a thing which had never taken place nor can take place." The council removed Dioscorus from his place without questioning the legitimacy of the charge. Furthermore, no objection was made when the legates placed papal decrees on par with conciliar decrees.

The offense was holding a synod within a diocese without the permission of the Bishop. The same rule applied equally everywhere. The last sentence is HG (for hogwash) because it makes no sense at all. The pope could not decree anything for the whole church, only for the area in which he was archbishop (or patriarch). Again, why object to what was never said? A decree of the Roman Bishop was not authoritative in, for example, Constantinople.

A similar understanding of papal authority is reflected in the proceedings of the earlier ecumenical Council of Ephesus (431) where the council fathers declared they were "compelled" by the canons and decision of Pope Celestine to depose the heretic Nestorius. Local councils of the fourth and fifth centuries such as Arles, Sardica, Carthage, and Milevis sought papal confirmation of their acts. Similar examples are found among the surviving writings of the ecumenical councils, such as Chalcedon and Constantinople III. While the ravages of time and history have deprived us of the necessary evidence to prove beyond a doubt that the Council of Nicaea sought and obtained papal confirmation, there are enough references in the writings of subsequent popes and councils to accept this as highly probable.

The last part of this is not worth answering; the first part seems to indicate a misunderstanding. Of course the arguments of Pope Celestine were compelling-very compelling. That is the arguments (we call this apologetics), not some authority to command agreement.

Given the importance of tradition in the early Church and its abhorrence of doctrinal innovation, it strains credulity to assert the Roman primacy was a later innovation rather than a reflection of a more ancient understanding of the true structure of the Church. The fact that the early ecumenical councils-all held in the East-neither questioned nor objected to these papal claims and actions, but rather supported them in word and deed, is evidence of the universal acceptance of the Roman primacy by the early Church.

So, the unanimous rejection of Rome’s claims by the Roman Patriarch in 1054 doesn’t count? Was this no longer “the early Church” then?

When the evidence is examined, we see in every age of the Church the truth of Ireneaus's words about the Roman Church: "For with this Church, because of its superior origin, all churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world" (Against Heresies 3:3:2). These words are founded on Christ's own words to Peter: that he is the "rock" upon which the Church is built; what he binds or looses is bound or loosed in heaven; that to him were given the keys of the kingdom (Matt. 16:18-19); and that he must "feed" and "tend" the Lord's entire flock (John 21:15-17).

Before Honorius Rome had never lost its reputation for being doctrinally pure. Ireneaus (writing in the west, what is now France) was impressed by a double apostolic foundation, and the defense of the Faith that had been characteristic of the Roman See up to that time, and for a long time afterwards. Read through the lens of modern times, the words of the Bishop of Lyons take on a meaning he could never have intended or imagined.

Your last statement is flat-out wrong and shows the loosy-goosy nature of your theology:

I know that you may view some people as correct on some theological issues and incorrect on others. What I'm saying is that this view is not supported in tradition or in Scripture as acceptable.

No, it is not acceptable. And, that is why I am not a RC. Added to the fact that “the Church of Rome also hath erred” is the burden of infallibility, and the need to defend even the worst parts of its teaching over the centuries, as if the Tradition were equal to mere precedents.

B16 can't possibly 'guide me right' unless he has it ALL right...because on the issues where he is wrong (you say), he will be leading me off Christ's path, which is to be lead to Satan.

So, unless the pope is infallible you will be dammed? What a burden. I cannot fathom the weight of it.

Jesus left us a unified Catholic Church to guide us...a church that is 100% correct in all matters of doctrine and moral teaching because it is guided by the Holy Spirit. To be outside of this church is to cease to be Catholic.

To Anglicans this is water off a duck’s back, because everything you say about the Catholic Church we apply to ourselves; “I believe in the Holy Catholic Church,” “I believe One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.” Do you think we are talking only about someone else, or about ourselves?

With this in mind, anyone who views the Catholic Church as divided into 3 factions (Roman, Anglican and Orthodox) must be wrong, because Jesus' Catholic Church can not have error...the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.

St. Paul addressed schism within the Church, and corrected false teaching within the Church as an apostle. The means of knowing true doctrine are present in the Tradition (not mere precedent), Scripture, and can be understood by those whose minds are sane, that is, who have Right Reason.

If you feel that my Church and the Orthodox Church teach 'some error', than have the guts to say that they are not Catholic. If you feel that your Anglican Catholic Church is the only Church that teaches no error, than you must go for it and call it the Catholic Church and nothing else.

What I don’t have the “guts” -or desire- to do is tell a lie. The churches of the East and of Rome have erred at times, but never has the Universal Church erred, and never has the Church lost the true Faith. I do not accept the premise of your remark: That is, “and nothing else.” The whole One True Church mentality is error:
I Corinthians 12:
14: For the body is not one member, but many.
15: If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
16: And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
17: If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
18: But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
19: And if they were all one member, where were the body?
20: But now are they many members, yet but one body.
21: And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.
22: Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:”

My Church claims to be the sole Church with the fullness of the claims to be the sole protector of the total deposit of faith....the audacity to make such claims speaks to the truth of the Catholic Church (my definition).

In other words, "we’re right because we’re infallible." That is called a tautology in philosophy.

II Cor. 11:

1: Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me.
2: For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
3: But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

This council, that council, who said what in 342, or 585-what a distracting load of...I won't say it to a lady.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...


The weakest part of your argument is where you appeal to the statements of Papal legates at Ecumenical Councils of the first millenuium because they were not refuted or rejected. There are two problems with this.

Firstly, the fact that you have to appeal to these is precisely because there are no doctrinal or canonical statements ratified by the Councils as a whole that come close to explicitly supporting your position. Thus, you are forced to resort to statements made by individuals at a Council which were not subject to a vote or even debate. They were mere obiter dicta which did not engage the essential issues. Why, if the Pope always had a universal jurisdiction over all other dioceses with their bishops, clergy and laity that was sui generis and manifest to all, was this never mentioned, even when directly related to matters that were being legislated in the Conciliar canon law, such as the rights of primatial bishops and the "order" of the patriarchates? The fact that such claims were made at Ecumenical Councils but were not commented on at all AND did not ever come to be incorporated into authorised conciliar statements does not support your theory, it supplies an enormous obstacle to it.

Secondly, given the above facts, the silence of the Eastern bishops about these papal claims in particular not only does not prove their tacit acquiescence, it has a much more natural explanation which is rather obvious. Politeness. Incredibly obsequious (to our ears) addresses to high officials were the norm then anyway, with even bishops of Rome using this kind of language at times in addressing other bishops, so it was unlikely the other bishops would make a point of starting an argument over a title just because they thought it was exaggerated. Especially since they did not object to some sort of Roman primacy anyway.

If the theory that universal episcopal jurisdiction for the Roman Bishop (and one which implies complete freedom to rule and make binding decrees and no possibility of appeal against a Roman decision) was always the manifest and clear teaching of the whole Church and thus satisfies the Vincentian Canon is true then counterfactuals must be excluded. That is, one should not be able to find opinions or actions inconsistent with it expressed or performed by a significant number of significant Fathers, for example. But one finds exactly this in Ss Irenaeus, Cyprian, Basil, Augustine, et al. Many Fathers have openly disputed, rejected or ignored purportedly binding Roman decisions (including excommunications) and attempts to interfere with or over-rule local decisions. The very fact that this is barely imaginable as an option for a modern bishop in the RCC is sufficient proof that the monarchical position of the present Pope is materially different to the position of the ancient bishop of Rome.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...


As to the rest of your arguments based on the necessary perfect unicity of the Catholic Church, I have already answered these objections in full. Go to the "Fr Kirby's Apologetics" page under Resources at the right of our weblog. In particular, see the C4, C6 and C8 links. Actually, strike C4, the linked page has been wrecked by its host site. Go instead to the Jan 2006 archives of this blog for the article (in 3 parts) "Catholic Ecumenism and the Elephant in the Room".

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Ok, c4 link changed back to our blog. Unfortunately people will have to read from the bottom! Well, sort of.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Fr Wells,

It is clear from the Scriptures that Mary did not cease to be called Jesus' mother even after the Ascension. See Acts 1.14. The E and W Churches have concurred in this title "Mother of God" as being effectively theologically equivalent to Theotokos for well over a millenium, so it is binding teaching due to Scripture an Tradition.

And Reason shows us why it is incontrovertible. Motherhood is not essentially about having unending authority to command even for us, let alone Jesus! Motherhood is essentially a relation deriving from a biological and historical fact. Even God cannot change that which has happened into that which literally has never happened, and this has nothing to do with limits to his power either. So, once a mother, always a mother.