Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Re-posted from Aug.2007

This seems relevant yet again.

Non-Anglican Difficulties Part I

Cardinal Newman 1873

Objections and answers

In May of 2005 I received a phone call from a former APCK bishop named Robert Waggener, who was associated with FiF at the time. He had been reading Fr. Al Kimmel’s Pontifications blog (they had been friends since the days when both of them were in the Episcopal Church), and he was very much in agreement with Fr. Kimmel that Anglicans reserved for themselves a personal right to “Private Judgment” that placed them outside of the Holy Catholic Church of the creeds. He asked me this question: “So, where do you think I should lead my people to get away from the problem of Private Judgment? Rome or Orthodoxy?” I replied: “What makes you think that Roman Catholics and the Orthodox indulge in Private Judgment less than anybody else?” He had no answer to this question. (I am glad that the pope is very sound in his beliefs; but how does that save an American Roman Catholic who is not?)

At the time of his call, the Pontifications blog was endorsing the idea that Episcopalians should flee their “church” (we agree) to either one of the two One True Churches, Rome or Orthodoxy- that is, when you get to the fork in the road, take it. Since that time Fr. Kimmel has become a Roman Catholic priest under the terms of the Pastoral Provisions (as my brother Addison had done several years earlier), and Bishop Waggener has become an Orthodox priest, having taken the name Alban. I have no disagreement with the direction taken by either man, and believe that we may trust that both of them were guided to their respective homes by the Holy Spirit. Of course, neither one can say the same about the other, since only an Anglican can rejoice equally for both men. Each of them believes that the other has missed the mark just enough to have settled for something less than the One True Church in all of its fullness.

We do not agree with that. We believe that both of them remain in the One True Church, the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” of the Nicene/ Constantinopolitan Creed, which is the same as “the Holy Catholic Church” of the Apostle’s Creed, and that they profess “the Catholic Faith” as taught in the Creed of St. Athanasius (i.e., named after him), also called the Quicumque vult. We believe that without the sacraments that depend on the Apostolic Succession of bishops and the teaching of the True Faith, no one can claim to be in the Church as Christ himself founded it, but that with these things in place, no baptized and faithful Christian can be outside of that same Catholic and Apostolic Church. Therefore, we cannot say of ourselves, as traditional Catholic Anglicans, that we are not of the Body; and neither can they say to us that we do not belong to the Body (I Cor. 12: 15-22). Our Apostolic Succession, and our continuation of true Apostolic teaching, makes us a part of the same Church as the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox, and to this Church belongs everyone who has been baptized into Christ, even though many are ignorant of the full truth of what the Church is.

Some among the Anglo-Catholics are not as bold to say this with the same degree of confidence as I. But, like the late Fr. Louis Tarsitano, I am an Anglican by conviction. I believe that it is a good option, and I recommend the Anglican Way as the best of all. That is why I have fought for the Faith against the heresies of the Episcopalians, and entered into this Anglican diaspora. It is why I carry on from here. I respect and love both Rome and Orthodoxy, but not to the point where I must decide between them, and not to the point where I have any perceived need to enter either communion.

Clarifications: Branch Theory

Two questions need to be answered by Traditional Catholic/Evangelical Classic Anglicans. First, we must answer for the “Branch Theory” and then we must answer the charge of “Private Judgment.”

The Branch Theory is error if by it we mean, or even imply, that Christ founded his Church to be divided into different jurisdictions without unity. But, this is not what we mean. The fact is the Church exists among many cultures and languages, and is meant to include people from “every kindred and tongue, people and nation (Rev. 5:9).” Therefore, it is meant to have within it divisions, since all of these cultures will have their differences as people; but these divisions are the Divisions of one army, all on the same side in the same war. However, due to original sin and its very real influence through the world, the flesh and the Devil, history has placed us within a Church that is One, but that has outward and apparent disunity. These facts do not actually divide the Church in the eyes of God, or destroy its spiritual unity. They do affect it politically, and create problems within the real world. A Branch Theory which teaches that a divine plan is the source of the apparent divisions, as organic and necessary to the Church, would be wrong. A Branch Theory, however, that simply acknowledges the reality on the ground of a Church rendered politically divided by history not of our own making, but that acknowledges the presence of the Holy Spirit within Christ’s Body the Church exactly as he has promised, is also a Branch Fact.

A man and wife are made into one flesh. This does not mean that they will get along with each other unless both of them make the effort with true commitment. Even if they obtain a divorce, they remain one flesh as long as they both shall live, since their unity through the fact of marriage is as close to indelible as mortality allows. Our unity is also a fact. Are we so arrogant as to imagine that Christ’s words “that they may be one, even as we are one (John 17: 22)” were His prayer to us. These are words spoken by a Person of the Trinity to a Person of the Trinity- the Son speaking to the Father. With those words, Christ was not in some dependent manner begging us to become one. He declared us to be one in fact, just as through human mouths he declares the couple to be one flesh as man and wife. If the man and wife set up separate houses these become facts on the ground, legal facts that indicate that the reality of original sin has had its effect on them through the world, the flesh and the Devil. It indicates their failure to get along. Neither of them can claim to be the one true spouse to the exclusion of the other.

The apparent and political divisions of the Church existed between the Roman Patriarch and the Orthodox Patriarchs long before the Church of England was jettisoned out (by excommunication) from Rome’s communion in the days of Queen Elizabeth I, for the “heresy” of not starting a civil war and murdering the monarch. Furthermore, in a given locality we may find the jurisdictions of more than one Orthodox bishop, and also of more than one bishop who answers to Rome. In the same place we find Catholic bishops who can be from any number of the Byzantine Catholic churches, usually keeping their distance from the local Roman (as in Latin Rite) bishop in order to avoid strife. In the same city we find Orthodox bishops who are OCA, Greek, Russian or Antiochene. Yet, add to this one Continuing Anglican bishop, and we are told that the man espouses a Branch theory, and so represents disorder. What is wrong with this picture? Can anyone blame us for not taking the objection seriously?

There is a branch fact, if not of divine making, nonetheless operating within God’s providence and economy.

The Myth of Private Judgment

The man we most associate with the charge that Anglicans reserve a right to “Private Judgement” is Cardinal Newman. When John Henry Newman converted to Roman Catholicism, he wrote quite a lot about his past affiliation, comparing the two. It would be wrong to say that he did not make valid criticisms that we can lay to heart, and it would be wrong to deny his brilliance (and the power of his prose). But, it would be wrong to conclude that his apologetics were self-evidently true. He rejected the Vincentian Canon, that we must hold to that which has been believed “always, everywhere and by all" (Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est) for the simple reason that Rome was headed in the direction that finally produced the novelty of "Papal Infallibility” in 1870 (a hitherto unknown doctrine, rejected in the official Catechisms of the Roman Catholic Church only a few years before). His theory of Doctrinal Development boils down to a simple formula. Christ’s promise that the Spirit of Truth would lead the Church into all truth (John 16:13), means that revelation itself may progress as perceived by the Roman Magisterium, and must be accepted as dogma. He would not have worded it that way; but, it is the reasonable definition both of his theory, and of the teaching of Vatican I.

Against this we say that the Church received the fullness of revelation from its earliest times, and all that has developed is the application of this revelation, and the need both for definition and clarification; and that these were the products of the Ecumenical Councils as they were, in fact, guided by the Spirit of Truth.

We do not claim that we have “no need” of that part of the Body that is called the Magisterium in Rome; indeed, we respect the Petrine See, especially in their boldness and sense of pastoral responsibility when they take on the ethical challenges of the modern world with diligence to produce clarity in all issues of morality; no small consideration in practical pastoral theology. They are part of the Body, and this moral teaching authority may be one of their gifts from the Holy Spirit. Nonetheless, in their work they apply the clear teaching of scripture to the matters at hand, a tool available to all of us. Does this really fit Newman’s theory of Doctrinal Development? They could not depend on his theory anyway, since it was never accepted as the official teaching of their communion, which prefers to base its papal claims on what they perceive to be in the Bible and in a consistent Tradition of the Church from earliest times (claims that the Orthodox Patriarchs rejected long before the sixteenth century).

So then, what of Private Judgment? St. Paul taught “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind (Rom. 14:5)” about less than essential issues. And yet, how can we imagine that he did not have a double edged intention in the use of these words? Consider that faith in the word of God must reach a level by which we so truly believe the doctrine of Christ, that we are “fully persuaded” just St. Justin Martyr was. Before his death, the saint was asked by the magistrate, “do you suppose that [if you die for your Christ] you will be granted some recompense of reward?” Saint Justin replied: “I do not suppose it. I know, and am fully persuaded of it.” And so, he yielded his life in service to the Lord. This is the level our faith must reach. If we allow ourselves a right to Private Judgment we can never be the stuff of which martyrs are made. And, frankly, that is the stuff that must be the substance of a Christian. Our own judgment must yield to the teaching authority of the Church so that we hear the Spirit of Truth; not our interpretation of scripture, but "that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all." And thus, by His grace we become so fully persuaded that His truth becomes the very fabric of our thinking.

Can an Anglican do this? Of course he can. We do not rely on private opinions any more than our Eastern Rite Catholic, Roman Catholic and Orthodox friends. And, sadly, many of them do not rely on private opinions any less than the same Episcopalians for whose escape and salvation we earnestly pray. We mortify our Private Judgment with the weapons of Scripture, and the Right Reason of The Church (or Tradition), that is, Scripture and the Universal Consensus of Antiquity- on the whole quite sufficient. Yielding to these as our authority is not "private judgment." It requires that we say credo to what God has revealed, and that we live by it.


Anonymous said...

I like that part: "Anglican by Conviction." The whole lay-over mentality will kill the Anglican witness. We are not a stopping station until people figure out where they REALLY want to be catholic at. If someone wants to be Anglican, BE an Anglican.

I am an Anglo-Catholic by conviction. If anyone feels his Anglicanism is lacking (not quite catholic), he'd better find out quick where he thinks there's "fullness" at and move on, and don't drag down the rest of us into the mire of self-doubt and loathing.

Good post, Fr. Hart.

St. Worm

SDA2 said...

Fr. Mathewes-Green (Western-rite Orthodox) makes an excellent criticism of the 'branch theory" when he notes that it is most certainly a violation of the Vincentian canon.

Both the Catholic and Orthodox communions, even when they were united, have had exclusivist claims that they are the one, true church, and those not in communion with them are in peril. How can Anglicans decry "exclusivism" and recommend a "branch theory," when that ecclesiological model is most certainly not "that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all," and continues to be rejected by all the ancient sees, whose followers account for the overwhelming majority (1.4 billion) of the people for whom "the branch theory" was intended?

Jackie said...

Anglican by Conviction. How appropriate! I was born and raised a Wesleyan and just always felt there was something *more* out there. Bought a book on Christian "denominations" in America. Knew right away I gravitated to either Roman Catholic or Episcopalian (prior to '78). I just couldn't get over a few things in the RC Church. Then the Episcopal church went off the deep end and I found St. Thomas of Canterbury, PCK. I was home! I was confirmed by Bp. Watterson, and my kids were baptized by then Fr. Stenhouse.

Unfortuately, St. Thomas of Canterbury folded, but there was an ACC Church in town--St. Benedict's. I've been there 23 years now through all the ups and downs. I've found a home worth fighting for and I'm a happy little Anglican. :-)

George said...

Great posting Fr. Hart. I really enjoyed this one.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Hart, you may be interested in a recent blog column by William Witt entitled "Newman's Incoherence".

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Hugo Menendez wrote:

How can Anglicans decry "exclusivism" and recommend a "branch theory," when that ecclesiological model is most certainly not "that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all,"...

St. Vincent also had nothing to say about space travel, or even about the discovery of America. The Great Schism of 1054 simply had not happened yet.

...and continues to be rejected by all the ancient sees...

Yes, based on each of them believing itself to be the whole Church, and saying to each other "I have no need of thee."
Inasmuch as the ancient Sees exclude each other and for all practical purposes have done so since 1054, your logic forces you to answer which of the two One True Churches is not even part of the Church. Thank God, we are free from that burden, and we will remain free from it until Mom and Dad kiss and make up. If they never do, we will continue to know that we, like them, are the Church.

And, their status as "ancient Sees" is neither here nor there. The whole Church has the same origin and foundation, and so we are just as ancient as they.

Canon Tallis said...

There was a day when I would have described myself as an "Anglo-Catholic." I am now content to be mere Anglican knowing that by being so I am both as Catholic and as Orthodox as any prelate of the "two One True Churches" could ever hope to be. They might not agree but there are so many things which the Church - or should I write "The Church" - of the first five centuries did and believed that both of them have abandoned while to one extent or another they have both embraced what St Paul labeled plainly "the doctrine of devils" that their smirks of knowing superiority no longer bother me.

The only thing which I have to offer God is my own acceptance and belief in Him as set forth in Holy Scripture as interpreted by the Fathers, the Creeds and the universally accepted (but little known or obeyed) General Councils. Can Rome or the Orthodox of the Patriarchal Sees do more?


Anonymous said...

Canon Tallis,

Brilliant. When Anglicans stop trying to act oh-so-Romish or oh-so-Eastern-Orthodox (our respective brethren's strengths excepting, and there's so much to commend them), and start playing the man within our hard-core Anglican tradition, there will be more to be gained by all. As it is, the programme from some quarters is to just use Anglican liturgy as a pretext to dive into the "really good stuff" in Byzantium or Rome. Bahhh, I love the Prayer Book tradition, and our Missal is more than enough for supplement. Maybe our Anglican witness is just what the doctor ordered to keep the other 2/3rds of the kingdom honest... but first we have to be honest with ourselves and take our own medicine.

St. Worm

Canon Tallis said...

St Worm,

I am more than glad to thank you for your very gracious comment. I look at the present course of the ACA/TAC as the result of dispair. I also see in it a good deal of just plain depression for which good medical advice should be sought.

Rome has in fact been copying the positive things of the English Reform for the last fifty years are so. If we give up and go over to them, who will there be to call them back to the Church of the "earliest bishops and Catholic fathers?" Who will there be to remind them that the Gospel should be heard; that we should "read, mark,learn, and inwardly digest" the totality of Holy Scripture?

We, too, need a "New Liturgical Movement" to remind us, not of the baroque decadence of the Roman faith which so disgusted Luther and others, but of the true treasure of the prayer book tradition if honestly and completely followed and lived. We need to set ourselves the goal of out praying and out glorifying the Father by our knowledge of Holy Scripture, the corpus of the Catholic fathers, East and West, and the General Councils rather than aspiring to be a cheap imitation of something else. But that might take a courage and masculinity which seems to be missing in our times.


John Paul Todd said...

Thank you Robert. I am very pleased that I decided to add this blog to my blogroll. Thank all of you for allowing all the rest of us "branches" to have another window into what the Head of the Church is continuing to do with the Anglican community. Please know that we hold you in the highest regard and thank God often for the heritage of the English church.
p.s.I love your work at Touchstone Magazine.