Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Definite Maybe

by Rev. Canon John Hollister

This morning, I took a gander at an article on “The Orlando Anglican” entitled Someone Understands Us by a Fr. Michael Gollop, apparently a Roman Catholic (RC) or R.C.-leaning priest in Wales. It comments on a post by a “Pastor in Valle” on another blog in which P.i.V. reaffirmed the truth of what so many have been denying, namely, that those who go to Rome will have to accept and internalize the entire Roman doctrinal basket; they will not be able to tool down some theological supermarket aisle, putting into their shopping carts only the items that have eye appeal and leaving the rest unremarked on the shelf.

The specific issue that P.i.V. highlighted, and that Fr. Gollop underlined, was that all Anglican clergy going to Rome will have to accept reordination in absolute form. Fr. Gollop’s article is an apology for this Roman practice, claiming that “it really isn’t all that bad” (my words, his summary):

“For many clergy — … throughout the Anglican world — the sticking point where it comes to the Ordinariates is precisely this question of (re)ordination. It’s not a concern I share myself, having enough anxiety about the doctrinal history of Anglicanism (not exactly diminished by recent decisions) to be too bullish about the sufficiency of our orders by themselves.”

Think about the implications of that. According to Fr. Gollop, the personal views of the celebrant, if heretical (as in Rome’s eyes Anglican beliefs are), invalidate the Sacraments celebrated by that heretic. So not only were Augustine and all those other guys wrong but so is Article XXVI of the Articles of Religion. Entitled “Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacraments”, that Article is all that permits most of us to presumptuously climb to the footpace each Sunday and holy day.

That is, in Fr. Gollop’s Rome the Sacraments are not objective so that they are valid just so long as their celebrants “intend to do what the Church has always done” in those Sacraments. That is what Anglicanism historically has taught. Instead, in Gollopian Rome, they are subjective, that is, their efficacy depends on the internal mental disposition of the celebrant and that is what justifies such celebrants’ reordinations. It is on this basis that Fr. Gollop defends Rome’s policy of reordaining absolutely (as opposed to conditionally) such former Anglican clergy as it deigns to deem acceptable:

“From the perspective of both sides, some further act of sacramental validation is necessary to remove all vestiges of doubt. It’s the price that has to be paid for sacramental certainty (not to mention reunion with Peter) and I don't think we should complain about it.”

Quite apart from my doubt about “reunion with Peter”, who, after all, was most assuredly not the founder of the Church in Rome -- that was up and running before ever Paul wrote his letter to it, or he would have had no one to whom to address that letter -- it seems to me this subjective concept of the Sacraments hardly offers much reassurance to those who contemplate going to Rome. What happens, in Fr. Gollop’s view, if one is sitting in church one Sunday morning and the celebrant’s mind wanders? Or if that celebrant happens to be precisely what we were warned against by Pastor in Valle, that is, one of the very large number of “supermarket Catholics” who rejects what the Pope teaches, thinks do-it-yourself theology and liturgy are “in the Spirit of Vatican II”, and tunes his own moral compass in precisely the subjective, individualistic fashion, ignoring the centralized Roman magisterium, that is decried in another of this morning’s “Orlando Anglican” offerings, Fr. John Fleming’s Newman, Clifford Longley, Conscience and Contraception?

Anyone who has attended a Roman Mass in the U.S. in recent years will recognize my hypothetical scenario as not only possible but, indeed, probable. But in such a case we would have to deal with what Fr. Gollop would presumably call “the doctrinal history of Romanism” (yeah, I know he wouldn’t say “Romanism” but would instead would use that exclusivist “C” word that Rome claims to have trademarked, but I can’t bring myself to use such a fraudulent term). That is a “doctrinal history” which openly tolerates the sort of widespread abuses I have described. This, according to Fr. Gollop’s subjectivist principle, means that no one sitting in those Roman pews would have any “sacramental certainty” about, for example, the Transubstantiation to which they are all, by Roman dogma, theoretically committed.

But then, under the circumstances I have proposed, what “further act of sacramental validation” would be available to those congregants “to remove all vestiges of doubt [as] the price that has to be paid for sacramental certainty (not to mention reunion with Peter)”? After all, a suitable condiment for anserini of one sex must also be a good spice for those of the other.



Anonymous said...

The phenomena you're describing seem to be just as bad under the current "conservative Pope" than they were under his supposedly equally conservative predecessor.

Oh that people would read Jeremy Taylor's "Letter to a Catholic Lady" today.


J. Gordon Anderson said...

Great post.

John Jay Hughes pretty much demolished the whole "personal intention" idea behind the Roman condemnation of Anglican orders (see his books "Absolutely Null and Utterly Void" and "Stewards of the Lord").

I wonder what the ethical implications are for Anglican clergy who are planning on swimming the Tiber under AC, because these men essentially agree with what Rome teaches about our orders, etc. (that they are invalid - we are not Catholic priests), yet these men still continue to minister and offer sacraments to the laity as though they were priests! Shouldn't they, in good conscience, cease to offer the Mass and perform other sacramental duties until they are at such time reordained? (This is a serious question BTW - I am not trying to be snarky.)

George said...

Said exactly what I was thinking but better. I had asked Fr.Hart about this on different post a few months and he explained it (I like depth you gave the topic).

If his subjective idea were true than it would be very easily possible to have broken succession long ago.

Anonymous said...

It is INDEED as serious question, Father, and no snarkiness is involved. My observation in several exchanges recently has been that these brothers simply do not understand the difference between "absolute" and "conditional" ordinations. One young man in the Anglo-papalist camp is seriously expecting to be ordained as a deacon in a TAC diocese and with the understand he will be re-done later after he swims. To me this is intellectual dishonesty of a serious degree. If he truly accepts the Roman position on Anglicans orders, then his TAC ordination is, well, a peculiar thing to do. If he really believes his TAC ordination is valid, then how can he submit, bona fide, to a Roman ordination?

I only hope these people will be happy with the decisions they are making.


Canon Tallis said...

As absolutely always, the Rev'd Canon's analysis is "spot on." It should be clear to everyone that the clergy of the ACA continue to perform their priestly functions because the moment they cease to do so, their congregations will either bounce them or will themselves pick up and depart for a safer harbor. They know that their congregations, for the most part, are still believing Anglicans, whether they are or not.

Considering the wandering intention of the celebrant, some thirty years ago, a lay Roman friend of mine with a doctorate in theology thought that the rector of his parish was hearing imparied because he always had an earpiece in his ear when celebrating the main Sunday mass - that is, until he discovered that the man was listening to the Irish football games. What sort of intention would one believe that he had?

What bothers me more and more is the amount of time this is taking. It is being dragged on and on because there is simply no easy, right thing to do. I believe the clergy should go by next Sunday or make a huge apology to their people and to the rest of us.


Anonymous said...

At the moment, the Pro-papalist coterie is making a big to-do over the perhaps imminent canonization of John Henry Newman.

They do not observe the significnt difference between Newman and themselves.

Newman, a man of genuine principles, no dilletante, poseur, or quack, was willing to go to Rome and be a Roman.
He did not spend years trying to negotiate for some little Anglican ghetto within the Roman Church. He did not lolly-gag for years and years in the mud of the Tiber banks, looking wistfully across the fetid water.

Canon Tallis is quite right. If they are serious, they should make their submissions and renounce their Anglican errors by next Sunday.

Perhaps the current crop of romantics know in their hearts that they are not swimming the Tiber but plunging headlong into the Cloaca Maxima. As RC friends of mine used to say, "Go to Rome and lose your faith."

AFS1970 said...

Two things stick out in this issue for me. The first and most important is the question of where the sacraments stem from? Do they ultimately come from God or man? Obviously I believe that they come from God, but it almost sounds like the RC position puts them as clearly coming from man. As if the individual celebrant matters more than God who we are there to worship.

Now somewhat related to this is my second point, which I will freely admit is somewhat snarky. Since we know that the RC church has just as many shoppers in those market isles as we do, and we have seen some high profile cases of upper level RC leadership not living up to their own standards how can one be sure of the validity of these new ordinations? If anything there is a greater risk of them being faulty then there was with the first ones, in that those were viewed under a very different theological concept.

John A. Hollister said...

AFS1970 wrote: "Since we know that the RC church has just as many shoppers in those market isles as we do, ... how can one be sure of the validity of these new ordinations?"

Good point. Now try this one on for size: The "doctrinal history" of the Roman Church certainly includes Leo XIII and his Apostolic Constitution "Apostolicae Curae", a document of precisely the same level of authority and obligation as the recent "Anglicanorum Coetibus".

In that earlier document, Leo defined -- that's doctrine, if anything is -- the essential matter of the Sacrament of Order. (He said it was the "tradition of the instruments".) However, in the 1960s, Paul VI, in another document of equal authority, defined the essential matter of that Sacrament as being something quite different. (HE said it was the laying on of hands.)

So one of two things must be true: Leo was correct about the "true" doctrinal history, so every Roman ordination and consecration that has taken place in the past 40-some years, that is, according to Paul VI's Ordinal, has been invalid. Or Paul was correct about the "true" doctrinal history, so every Roman ordination that has taken place since 1896 has been invalid.

Take your pick. Either conclusion rests on (a) unimpeachably authentic Roman Papal teachings and (b) Fr. Gollop's theory that an institution's "doctrinal history" determines the validity of its Sacraments.

So just how helpful is Fr. Gollop's theory as an explanation of why converts to Rome should happily submit to being reordained (assuming, that is, that they make it by the "personnel committees" and liberal bureaucrats)?

To me, it sounds like a choice between "I've got to do this so I can join 45 years of invalidity" versus "I've got to do this so I can join 114 years of invalidity". Great choice, Fr. Gollop. I think I'll just sit tight where I am, having already joined 1,977 years of validity.

John A. Hollister+

The Shrinking Cleric said...

Please indulge me on a couple of points. The first is this: Leo did not "define" the essential matter of ordination as the translation of the instruments with the command to offer sacrifice for the living and the dead. He merely restated what was, at that time, considered to be the essential matter.

What he did define was that Anglican orders were now and for all time absolutely null and utterly void. It was that phrase that has caused all the problems. (Although when I was in RC seminary in the 1980s, we weren't even taught about Apostolicae Curiae or its arguments. We were just taught that "Anglicans weren't real priests.")

What the Pauline Pontifical did was restore the historic understanding of the matter for ordination as being the laying on of hands. Either way, though, both elements (imposition of hands and transmission of the instruments) were present in all Roman ordinations at the time of Leo and have remained so since.

To me, the biggest problem with all this is that Leo XIII, in many ways a very forward thinking and progressive pope, clearly yielded to those elements of the English church who forced a decision based on absolutely shoddy history and poor theology. As Hughes points out, they did this because Rome thought that by declaring Anglican Orders invalid that it would bring about a large number of converts, especially from the growing Oxford Movement. We can see how well that hope and change worked out.

I really don't understand how any Anglican cleric could submit to absolute reordination. Either you are a priest or you are not. And, if you are, you should have the courage to stand up and say "No" to anyone who would attempt to deny the special charism of the Holy Spirit given with Orders.

This whole thing smacks of a silliness and an arrogance on the part of Rome that is simply tragic. If you stop and think about it, with the new AC, Rome had the opportunity to take an ecumenical step of historic proportions, bringing about a healing of a serious division in the Body of Christ. Instead, alas, the canonists won again and all that is offered to Anglicans is the bitter gall of conversion and the denial of the truth of the Anglican patrimony. You would think that Rome would have learned the first time, although that would presuppose that they were willing to learn rather than just teach.

But what do I know?

John A. Hollister said...

Fr. Jones is correct that both the delivery of the instruments and the laying on of hands has occurred in every Roman ordination during these many centuries past.

My point was simply that Fr. Gollop must be pretty representative of current thinking among the Romanist wing of the TAC, else he wouldn't be given ink in "The Orlando Anglican", the official/unofficial/sometimes e-gazette of that same wing.

So Fr. Gollop's excuse for why no one should shudder at the prospect of absolute reordination must, likewise, be consonant with current thinking in that quarter. In other words, I'm taking Fr. G. as what Orlando is putting out as part of its campaign to persuade as many TAC clergy as possible to submit to such reordinations.

And what I was trying to demonstrate is that, even taking Fr. Gollop's explanation on his own terms, he fails to make his case. Instead, the stark fact facing any clergyman who considers "taking advantage of" (or perhaps better, "being taken advantage by") Anglicanorum Coetibus is that he will be defaming his own existing Orders and the ministry he previously conducted through them. And that last is the point Fr. Jones stated so eloquently.

That is not something that would necessarily have followed had Rome been charitable enough to have offered conditional ordinations or, much better yet, to have examined each ordination on a case-by-case basis so as to reject only post-Women's "ordination" Lambeth Orders.

John A. Hollister+