"Blessed are the pure (καθαρός) in heart: for they shall see God."
"When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, 'It is finished' (τελέω): and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost."
In the ongoing debate about whether or not Continuing Anglicans ought to regard the issuance of Anglicanorum Coetibus as some great opportunity, it seems to have occurred to none of the TAC/ACA leaders who favor taking the route to Rome, that theological objections could be raised. Most of their arguments have been along the lines of misusing words from John 17:21 ("that they all may be one"), as if a small group of people leaving one denomination for another has eschatological and Messianic significance, and constitutes a moral imperative to get with their program.
The pressure thus put on their people is based on the absurd notion that joining the Roman Catholic Church will somehow correct all of the outward and political (in the proper sense of the word, about "polity") disunity that has divided the Church since 1054 AD. Leaving aside unrealistic appeals to mere sentimentality, and looking at objective facts, the consequences of becoming Roman Catholic can be detrimental, especially if it is for dubious reasons that fall short of genuine conviction and persuasion that compel each individual conscience to believe all of the Papal claims, including the full weight of Roman Catholic doctrine. If that doctrine is flawed, especially in matters to do with the Gospel (the question we shall examine), then submission to Rome is a price no Continuing Anglican ought to pay and that no honest person can afford; that is, unless and until the theological issues have been resolved.
If, indeed, one considers the consensus of the Church Catholic to be infallible, it is only right to remind such a person that the present separation between the Communion of Rome and the Eastern Orthodox Church begs the question of consensus, and makes the pressure to get with the program for unity's sake all the more spurious. But, instead of theological discussion, those who push for hasty acceptance of Rome's "offer" distract us with matters of polity.
If the interpretation (indeed the "spin") that they render to Anglicanorum Coetibus were accurate, such as their wild claims about what the document actually says and means concerning the future of married clergy under whatever ordinariates may become established, we would still protest on theological grounds that the Faith itself is more pure and true as recovered in our Anglican heritage than in what Rome teaches and practices. That their interpretation of Anglicanorum Coetibus is, beyond doubt, entirely wrong,1 whether from ignorance or dishonesty, remains the case. However, it is of secondary importance. More to the point, conversion to Roman Catholicism requires one to embrace theological errors that touch on the Gospel.
What would unity require?
Richard Hooker held out hope for unity, someday, with the See of Rome. Unlike the Continental European churches of the Reformation, the English did not write off Rome as hopelessly Antichrist, or beyond reform. So wrote Hooker:
We hope therefore that to reform ourselves, if at any time we have done amiss, is not to sever ourselves from the Church we were of before. In the Church we were, and we are so still. Other difference between our estate before and now we know none but only such as we see in Juda; which having sometime been idolatrous became afterwards more soundly religious by renouncing idolatry and superstition. If Ephraim “be joined unto idols,” the counsel of the Prophet is, “Let him alone.” “If Israel play the harlot, let not Juda sin.” “If it seem evil unto you,” saith Josua, “to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods whom your fathers served beyond the flood, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land ye dwell: but I and mine house will serve the Lord.” The indisposition therefore of the Church of Rome to reform herself must be no stay unto us from performing our duty to God; even as desire of retaining conformity with them could be no excuse if we did not perform that duty.
Notwithstanding so far as lawfully we may, we have held and do hold fellowship with them. For even as the Apostle doth say of Israel that they are in one respect enemies but in another beloved of God; in like sort with Rome we dare not communicate concerning sundry her gross and grievous abominations, yet touching those main parts of Christian truth wherein they constantly still persist, we gladly acknowledge them to be of the family of Jesus Christ; and our hearty prayer unto God Almighty is, that being conjoined so far forth with them, they may at the length (if it be his will) so yield to frame and reform themselves, that no distraction remain in any thing, but that we “all may with one heart and one mouth glorify God the Father of our Lord and Saviour,” whose Church we are.2
We may ask whether or not the situation has changed from the time of Richard Hooker to such a degree that theological issues no longer divide us from Rome. The answer is complicated, but not unclear.
The first and obvious difference has to do with the papacy itself. Although Roman Catholic apologists are unwavering, and no doubt sincere, in their assertion of contrived and manipulated selection of evidence that is essential to their doctrine, we cannot accept the doctrine Rome has developed about their local episcopate. That Rome had, among the Patriarchates, a primacy of honor recognized in the Second, Third and Fourth Ecumenical Councils, is without doubt. The evidence shows, however, when all is weighed together, that this honor was based on two things: The reputation that the Church of Rome had in ancient times for doctrinal clarity and purity, and the association of the capital city with an empire that had become identified (some might argue too closely) with the Church itself. That Constantinople ranked as a second "Equal" in honor is only further evidence of the imperial significance.
That the Tome of Leo was followed by the bishops at Chalcedon saying, "Peter has spoken through Leo," takes its modern significance from a retroactive perspective. Modern readers, after centuries of hearing about "the See of Peter"-- a phrase that applies equally to Antioch-- cannot appreciate the satisfaction expressed by learned men that apostolic doctrine had been well presented. So, to take their approbation of the Tome as a Church doctrine that informs our interpretation of Matthew 16: 18 ("And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it"), is historical nonsense. The Book of Acts informs our interpretation. That Peter was the man whose preaching and leadership unlocked the ministry of the Church and proved instrumental in establishing it in its earliest period, proves to be a historical fact, recorded in that book written by St. Luke. We see no honest way to read back into Matthew 16 the current claims of the papacy. Nothing is said there about Peter himself beyond the events that would unfold in the early portion of the Book of Acts, and certainly nothing about his alleged successors in the See of Rome. In the earliest days the Lord used St. Peter; later, He used St. Paul above any others, as it pleased Him.
The Patriarchates proved useful in the organization of the ancient Church, but unlike Apostolic Succession itself, the system does not appear to be necessary as a permanent structure, and does not appear to have been handed down by revelation as a practice recorded in Scripture. Apostolic Succession was practiced while the New Testament was being written, as the Pastoral Epistles most clearly demonstrate (i.e., to Timothy and Titus), and has the color of authority to it as a practice revealed by God. But, Patriarchates as a system, and the Roman claim to Universal Primacy specifically, do not have any authority to which we can attach the revelation of God in Scripture. Nonetheless, even if we grant some permanence to the Patriarchates, the Great Schism of 1054 AD demonstrates that the claims of Rome persist only by the insistence of Rome itself, not by Scripture, and, for those who value it, not by universal consensus either.
But, as much as Rome has reformed herself in some very important matters, including its strides forward with Lutherans on the question of Justification, her bondage to precedent has caused a major error to persist to this day. Furthermore, added to the claims of Universal Primacy as an executive role, rejected by the Universal Church in 1054 (a fact beyond the reach of reasonable dispute), Rome's modern twist on Church Infallibility that led to the identification of that idea solely with the Bishop and Patriarch of Rome himself in 1870, has made true and necessary reform impossible. It will be impossible until Rome is able to confess the truth that she has erred in the past, and is able by that confession of obvious fact, to renounce one heresy in particular. And, until Rome can bring itself to reform its doctrine to the level we must insist on for the sake of the Gospel, we cannot in good conscience throw away our Anglican heritage to come under her rule.
Their own doctrine of Infallibility stands in the way. It was contrived honestly, to bind popes to a body of doctrine that cannot be altered by any man's whims (indeed, contrived because they did not believe any pope to be infallible by his office and some alleged charism, but rather it was intended to hold each pope to what was handed down to him). But, instead of binding the papacy to teach pure doctrine, it has prevented necessary reform by its very nature.
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church that was established under the Papal Imprimatur of John-Paul II, we see that bondage to precedent has created self-contradiction on one and the same page that teaches, properly, that only through Christ do we have atonement and the forgiveness of sins, and yet nonetheless reiterates the doctrine of the Treasury. That is, it reiterates a medieval heresy that turns everyone's attention from Christ and His Gospel to a man made religious system of salvation.
In that system, salvation from sin and death fades into insignificance, overshadowed by seeking time off from Purgatory, and doing so by applying a form of credit called "merits" that one receives from saints who supposedly earned them. These merits can be applied by the Church to the account of sinners so that they may be relieved of "temporal punishment" for their sins, released early from a punitive Purgatory, and allowed into the presence of God for the ultimate joy of the Beatific Vision.
"What's wrong with the idea of someone using his credit on someone else's behalf?" we are asked. It sounds so reasonable, especially when tortured logic elevates this abominable theory to the level of revelation from God, to the level of dogma. The answer is, everything is wrong with it.
First of all, if there is any truth to the idea of a Purgatorio, it is the idea of being made "pure in heart" so that we may see God. The Beatitude, in the Beatific Vision, is "Blessed are the pure (καθαρός) in heart: for they shall see God." (Matthew 5:8) But, if the issue goes from purification to punishment, evening the scales of justice, then the end result is bypassed also, and fades into insignificance. Instead of purity of heart, we have the pound of flesh.
Secondly, the scriptures set forth something very different, salvation from sin and death that only Christ could purchase for us, because no one else has the funds with which to pay for our sins, namely, true sinlessness of His own, true purity in himself. If the Epistle to the Hebrews does not clarify this for you, then you have no hope.
Now where remission of these [i.e. sins] is, there is no more offering for sin. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. (Heb. 10:18-22)
The Gospel teaches us to look into eternity and to face mortality without fear, unless we persist willfully in sin.
But, if we believe that the saints have merits, instead of believing that saints are those who have received mercy and grace, and if we believe they may spend these merits on our behalf, then what do we make of the words of Jesus, words he spoke just before dying? "When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, 'It is finished' (τελέω): and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost." (John 19:30)
That one word τελέω [pronounced teleō], translated into three English words ("it is finished"), was stamped on every receipt for every account once it was fully paid. and not at all before. It cannot be translated, "it is mostly paid." It must be translated, "It is paid in full."
The Gospel of merits and the Treasury cannot stand with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Popes are bound by this medieval doctrine, created by the tortured logic of human imagination or demonic influence, if not both (And, just to correct the record, long before the English Reformers rejected it, it was regarded as error by the Eastern Orthodox Church, and so it has never had the consensus of which some have boasted). Punitive Purgatorio, saintly merits as credits, time off from an imagined sentence of temporal punishments that makes a mockery of forgiveness and of Christ's cross, combine into a false gospel
Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1: 7-9)
To be bound by precedent is not the same as fidelity to the truth that God has revealed. But, for those who cannot fathom that the See of Rome could have erred, remember Paul's words include even the Apostles themselves. For, in the words, "but though we," it is the Apostles of whom he wrote. In short, no one has any authority to preach another gospel.
Until Rome can say that Christ, and Christ alone, paid the debt in full, we must remain where we are.
1. Everything to do with the subject of married clergy in the new constitution and norms, begins with these conditions:
"VI. § 1. Those who ministered as Anglican deacons, priests, or bishops, and who fulfil the requisites established by canon law and are not impeded by irregularities or other impediments may be accepted by the Ordinary as candidates for Holy Orders in the Catholic Church. In the case of married ministers, the norms established in the Encyclical Letter of Pope Paul VI Sacerdotalis coelibatus, n. 42 and in the Statement In June are to be observed. Unmarried ministers must submit to the norm of clerical celibacy of CIC can. 277, §1."
Too much has been made by the followers of John Hepworth over words they see in § 2, "a case by case basis." In this, Hepworth and his spokesmen rely on common ignorance, inasmuch as the existing Pastoral Provisions are, also, on a case by case basis and have been so all along. Nothing is new in this, and the conditions are not thereby altered or removed. Only converts, "Those who ministered as Anglican deacons, priests, or bishops, and who fulfil the requisites established by canon law and are not impeded by irregularities or other impediments may be accepted by the Ordinary as candidates."
Where facts cannot prevail, rumors have been introduced, Recently, I received correspondence from one of Hepworth's duped followers in which it was insisted that a man who was a layman in an "Anglican Use" parish of the Roman Catholic Church, and who was married, has been ordained as a Roman Catholic priest. I asked for the name and contact information of the priest in question, and for news reports about this historical event. I was told there were no news reports. I responded that it seems more than incredible that the first ordination of a married man in over eight hundred years, in the Roman Catholic Church (not in what is called loosely a "Uniate" or an "Eastern Rite" church), was not considered newsworthy by any paper, magazine, TV, radio or internet news outlet, even though such an event would constitute history. I suggested that someone was telling a lie, and that my correspondent had bought it. I have yet to hear back from him with any of the details--no surprise.
2. Richard Hooker: The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Book III, I, 10