Thursday, September 30, 2010

A few more thoughts

"A bishop who cannot teach what the College has defined (and what is the universal teaching of the East and the West) has only one option, and that is to stand aside until he can teach in accord with the Church." From Archbishop Hepworth's Open Letter.

"Because it is new Rome, the bishop of Constantinople is to enjoy the privileges of honor after the bishop of Rome." First Council of Constantinople (381 AD), Canon 3.

It would seem that Abp. Hepworth has a peculiar notion of Universal Consensus. If he is going to berate and bully the three ACA bishops who, true to their consciences, cannot plunge into the Tiber under the terms of Anglicanorum Coetibus, he could at least abstain from fantasy. What he calls the universal teaching of East and West, in the context of his letter, does not exist. The bishops of the Orthodox Church could no more agree to the terms of the new Roman Constitution than could any knowledgeable Anglican. Of course, not the parts about Holy Orders and Absolute or Conditional Ordination which do not apply to them as individuals, but the underlying idea that the Papal Communion (i.e., the Roman Catholic denomination together with the "Uniate" churches under the Pope) is The Catholic Church, or that the Pope has Universal Primacy other than the purely honorary recognition given to Rome during the Post Constantine era of the Roman Empire (yes, Virginia, the empire was the issue), as expressed in the Councils of Constantinople [I], Ephesus and Chalcedon (but not in the Ecumenical Councils that followed, nor in Nicea I).

Neither could the Eastern bishops agree to some of the other doctrines in The Catechism of the Catholic Church that was released under the Papal imprimatur of John-Paul II, such as, for example, the Treasury. If Hepworth is going to imply that anyone is guilty of heresy for not agreeing with some College of Bishops that teaches "the universal teaching of the East and the West," he must stand accused himself. For, all he has done is choose the West over the East.

His reference to some universal teaching of East and West, however, cannot include distinctive doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, inasmuch as Anglicans, and only Anglicans, teach
"the universal teaching of the East and the West." That is because we know the boundary lines of what truly constitutes "universal" without having to insist on any later additions and partisan innovations. Helping both Rome and the Orthodox rediscover that universal teaching is our own gift to the wider Catholic Church, a gift that Hepworth's agenda would forever destroy (Are you reacting inside? If so, why do you hang your head in shame? Who told you, dear Continuing Anglican, that your place in the Church Catholic is inferior? What? Did you not believe that being an Anglican was worthwhile?).

In his Open Letter, Hepworth went on also to say: "The Traditional Anglican Communion is not a Protestant ecclesial body. In a television interview in Canada several years ago, I said that the most difficult thing that each of us would face in the pathway to unity would be shedding ourselves of the question 'What do I think?' and instead asking, 'What does the Church teach?'”

This, though worded ever so smoothly, is actually an out and out attack on Anglicanism itself, charging it with being a sectarian movement outside of the Church altogether. He has reworded the sentiments of Newman the convert, rehashing the old silliness about some thing called "private judgment." In fact, anyone who has no "private judgment" cannot be a Roman Catholic anymore than an Anglican, or for that matter any kind of believer, because he cannot have a functioning mind. That is because, without skepticism we can have no genuine faith, but only a robotic anti-intellectualism that faces no honest question, and that faces no question honestly.

Furthermore, discerning what the Church Catholic teaches requires that we discern what it taught from the beginning, and a willingness to discard innovations that contradict or obscure the genuine Apostolic witness of the ancient Church. This brings us to Hepworth's line, "The Traditional Anglican Communion is not a Protestant ecclesial body."

One anti-intellectual, anti-educational bit of prejudicial idiocy that I have addressed here several times (especially here and here), is a modern brand of "Anglo-Catholic" (as opposed to real Anglo-Catholic) knee-jerk reaction against the word "Protestant." Like most of his bullying pontificating, Hepworth's offensive and bigoted use of the word "Protestant" merely shows that he has no idea of what constitutes the ABCs of Anglicanism. No wonder he can dismiss it all, and try to find his way back to where he came from (but only on some terms that he finds agreeable to the life he has chosen).

For educated Anglicans, however, the kind of Protestantism we embrace is the truly Catholic kind, "more Catholic than the Pope." It is to return to the teaching that truly is Universal because it is ancient and Biblical, the true witness of the Apostolic and Patristic eras. And, it is truly Catholic, for it is genuinely According to the Whole revelation from Heaven.

For now, as long as Abp. Hepworth remains in a church that is western and non-papal, he is a Protestant himself. He may not like it, and if he does not like it, he needs to act on his convictions. But, his stated ignorance about Anglicanism, which ignorance has become offensive due to his repeated public misstatements, should cease to be an influence on people who got into this whole thing because they embraced The Affirmation of St. Louis. They do not need some ex-Roman Catholic priest beating up on the Anglicanism they Continue, and insisting that they all convert to the denomination he himself left decades ago--apparently to get married as a priest without laitization.* If he has buyer's remorse, let him go back where he came from, and accept his laiticized status gracefully, instead of beating up on people who have resolved to be Continuing Anglicans due to honest conviction.

Historical context
The quotation of Canon 3 from Constantinople I (above) is often taken out of its historical context. It sheds light on the whole idea of Rome being first in honor, which grew into the idea of Universal Primacy that was rejected by the Church in 1054, and clung to only by Rome.

The notion of "The See of Peter" is historically dubious inasmuch as his arrival there appears to have been a visit to a fully functioning Church, an established Church to which St. Paul had sent an authoritative Epistle (you will find it in the Bible), and to have constituted a brief visit before his martyrdom around the same time as Paul's martyrdom in the same city. Neither of these two Apostles founded the Church in Rome, and, obviously, somebody had been pastoring the Roman Christians before either Apostle showed up. There was no See of Peter in Rome, neither was there a "double Apostolic foundation" inasmuch as both men visited an established Church.

Canon 3 of Constantinople I, therefore, should be read in its historical context, and should also shed light on the whole idea of Rome's position as first in honor. What honor? The honor of the Church for spiritual reasons? If so, why was the new city of Constantinople, built by an Emperor and named after him, given a position of honor as "the new Rome" rather than for a spiritual reason? Only in the political context of the Empire was it the new Rome. The whole context and the wording of Canon 3 indicates a historical association in a political structure that no longer exists, not some eternal order established by God for His Church to be carried on until Christ comes. We have good reason to question the entire idea of Rome remaining first in honor as if the notion was a doctrine that had been revealed from Heaven, or as if it was any sort of doctrine at all. It seems quite clear that such an idea had nothing to do with the meaning of the bishops who met in Ecumenical Council.

* Earlier, in my haste, I had said "without going on unemployment." This was too harsh in how it came across. We should have no moral objection to a RC priest looking good and hard at Continuing Anglicanism because he is faced with the dilemma of choosing between marriage and a life of celibacy that he no longer believes he is obligated to. If the Anglican solution fits his conscience, in terms of what he has come to see about life, about himself and about God's commandments as opposed to man made traditions, then he ought to practice his ministry in a manner of life that can be lived righteously before God without undue temptations. This ought to include the conviction that Anglicanism is a valid way to be Catholic.

The problem in Abp. Hepworth's case is that this conviction appears to have been lacking all along. His public statements about Anglicanism demonstrate that he has no true understanding of it, which in turn means that he could not have had the necessary conviction from the start. His words are not those of a man who once learned (about Anglicanism) and forgot, but of a man who did not learn.


Canon Tallis said...

Father Hart,

This was an absolutely excellent post and one that to me at least represents the Anglican understanding of the issues. It is my devout hope that it will be read and heeded by everyone in the Continuum.

I was particularly pleased at the distinction you made between real Anglo-Catholics and those (to use my own words) who really believe that only Rome and things Roman are such. The fact that the latter are so insistent upon their way or the highway is one of the major issues which yet divides the Continuum. We yet have too many who derive both their theology not from a deep knowledge of Holy Scripture and the writings of the fathers but from a flawed understanding of how the See of Rome has attempted to destroy real Catholicity by creating a false history of the Roman See itself.

I was particularly pleased that you pointed out that Paul found in Rome a church already fully functioning (which means that it received the episcopate from someone other than himself or Peter). Rome was certainly an important see in the earliest Church but that because it was at the center of the empire and its system of communication. Unfortunately, when Constantinople was raised to a position of honor directly behind it, it found it necessary to attempt to make its position something more than a position of honor. But we should remember that even Gregory the Great had to wait for approval of his election by the emperor in Constantinople before he could be consecrated.

I want to thank both you and the ever erudite Canon Hollister for your excellent response to Hepworth.

Brendan said...

Dear Fr Hart,
I enjoy reading your blogs and how you cut through to the heart of an issue (no pun intended).
Could you please explain (or refer to previous blogs if you have already done so) how the continuing Anglicans "teach the universal teachings of East and West without having to insist on any later additions and partisan inovations"


Fr. Robert Hart said...


I will try to think of something specific; but, in the meantime, I have covered the questions generally in various essays on the page with all the links.

John A. Hollister said...

Brendan asked for more information on "how the continuing Anglicans 'teach the universal teachings of East and West without having to insist on any later additions and partisan inovations'".

He could start with the Affirmation of St. Louis, which may be accessed through one of the very first links on this blog's home page. There he will see the Continuum's commitment to the teachings and canons of the Seven OEcumenical Councils. Where the Eastern Orthodox Churches recognize those seven Councils and no more as truly OEcumenical, and where the Roman Communion recognizes those seven along with many later ones (that happen to have occurred primarily in the West...), then by definition, those seven summarize the "universal" teaching of the Church, that is, what is agreed upon by both East and West.

Nor will he find anywhere any distinctively Anglican doctrines that were adopted after the Seventh Council except for one. That is Anglicanism's traditional recognition of both Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism as legitimate portions of the Catholic Church, something that neither of those two groups itself does. As Fr. Hart neatly summarizes it, they are "the two One True Churches".

John A. Hollister+

Anonymous said...

Fr Hart said....he himself left decades ago--apparently to get married as a priest without going on unemployment.

Shame on you Mr Hart, one day the truth will come out, and you will eat that hat you covet so much! I hope you will have the goodness to take it on the chin.

Yes Anonymous!

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Thank you for the comic relief.

The Shrinking Cleric said...

Father, I must agree somewhat with Yes Anonymous about your comment regarding the reason why Archbishop Hepworth left the Roman Catholic Church. I fear that your typing speed may have outrun your charity a bit.

I would like to point out that people have left the Roman Catholic Church and it's priesthood for many reasons. I will grant, however, that for many of them the issue was marriage, but that is not universally true.

I think that your comment may have made obscure your critically important point that Archbishop Hepworth never seems to have integrated a truly Anglican ethos and instead has continued to see Church and all things related from a decidedly Roman background. This has even led him to the stunningly deficient view of episcopal authority that he evidences in his letter.

As I read the letter, all I could think of was Saint Athanasius. I'm sure he, too, could have received a letter from his Archbishop castigating him for not going along with the Arians.

Archbishop Hepworth's letter is very sad in that it appears to reveal a man who derives little comfort or strength from the Anglican theology and custom that he has served for many decades. It is most unfortunate that he seems so willing to force his sense of ecclesial inferiority on others, wielding heavy-handed tactics on brother bishops who seek to maintain their Anglican heritage.

Father Bob Jones

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Thank you Father. I will add a line to clarify something I neglected earlier, as a footnote.

Anonymous said...

Please forgive one more is the quote I thought applied to the coercion being applied to those Anglo-catholics who do not want to go to Rome:

"Religion is political, the Church is relational; religion is bondage, the Church lives in liberty, religion directs men to itself, the Church directs men to Christ; religion is full of self appointed policemen, the Church is God appointed ambassadors and an Embassy of Prayer"

Fr. John said...

John Hepworth doesn't sound like any Anglican cleric I have ever known. He comes across as remorseful for wearing the moniker of "Anglican" and seems eager to be shed of it.

If the Roman Church is so superior to our continuum, why wait to embrace it? It should be obvious to even the most casual observer, shouldn't it? And yet what Hepworth calls leadership is nothing more than teaching the Anglican laity (and clerics too!)that everything they know is wrong.

If there had been any men who had the gift of discernment on the board that examined this ecclesiastical gadfly for fitness to perform the duties of a priest, he would not be "serving" (if that is what you want to call trying to wreck the continuum)today.

Why do we continually elevate men to the episcopacy who are clearly conflicted and emotionally unstable? they would make perfectly fine acolytes, that is all the charity they need from Holy Mother Church. Adulterers, fathers of bastard children, those who have been raped homosexually, those who have broken canonical vows for personal expediency can be forgiven and healed. However, they do not need to be priests, let alone bishops.

Is there no shame?

William Wheatley said...

The three bishops in question pledged their assent to the teachings of The Catechism of The Catholic Church, to regard those teachings as the teachings of ACA, and to teach those teaching. Further, they voted to petition Rome to set up a US Ordinariate. While I suppose they are entitled to change their minds on the teachings of the ACA, under those circumstances they are morally obligated to step aside. If they have not changed their minds on the teachings, they are morally obligated to enter communion with Rome on whatever conditions Rome sets forth.

Fr. Steve said...

How does being raped homosexually negate one from being eligible for leadership in the church?

Brendan said...

As a former Roman Catholic (confirmed in adulthood) I personally have no desire to return to Rome. What I garnish from Archbishop Hepworth's behaviour is nothing more than schoolboy bullying to try to get his own way.
Does the Archbishop seriously think that the Vatican will provide him with some "plum' position under the new ordinariate?
I believe that Archbishop Hepworth would not be accepted back as a Roman Priest if he went back alone... and I very much doubt it would be the case even if he does take a reasonable number of TAC laity (oops congregation) with him, regardless of the 'verbal' guarentees he may have been given.
The Bishops who are now having 'second thoughts'about going Romeward are perhaps being wisely guided by the Holy Spirit, using the gift of discernment.

John A. Hollister said...

The first question should be: "If the Roman Church is so superior to Anglicanism, why did he ever leave the former for the latter?"

The second question should be the one Fr. John posed: "If he has truly become convinced that the Roman Church is so superior to our Continuum, why does he now dither around, arguing about administrative details and who will or will not end up going to Rome, rather than himself rushing to embrace it once again?"

John A. Hollister+

AFS1970 said...

I do not know ++Hepworth personally but from what I have read I have to wonder why he left Rome in the first place? It does not matter if it was over marriage or not, what matters is that for some reason he decided he needed to leave. Now he has decided he need to return. I wonder what has changed in Rome that has suddenly made them more acceptable?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

William Wheatley:

Perhaps you can back up your idea with a quotation from ACA Canon Law. It seems more likely that Hepworth is the violator of canon Law. In fact, any blind commitment to unreformed RCism, as an Anglican bishop, is a clear violation of every oath and canon. So, your point makes no sense.

Fr. Steve:

It doesn't. It does, however, relate to the word "healing" as Fr. John used it.

David said...

I am Eastern Orthodox, I know and love many Coptic Orthodox Christians. It is my experience that most of us knowledgeable about the Continuing Anglicans find we have more in common in matters of faith than we do with Rome, sure some of the hierarchs make prostrations toward Rome but that is to their folly, and more political than anything. This Hepworth person (who clearly isn't fit to be a Bishop in the East or West) needs to be put in his place by the Pope.

(Cowering) Please don't hit me Fr. Hart! ;>)

Fr. Robert Hart said...

What for?

Anonymous said...

"I said that the most difficult thing that each of us would face in the pathway to unity would be shedding ourselves of the question 'What do I think?' and instead asking, 'What does the Church teach?'”

Is Archbishop Hepworth now telling us that all these years the ACA has been teaching her own personal opinions rather than the Universal beliefs of the Church? This is an insult to all those who have worked so hard to Continue the faith once delivered without strange Roman doctrines: The Treasury, Merits, Works of Supererogation, Infallibility, and Papal supremacy to name a few. You know, many of the things that were part of causing the Reformation in the first place! This doesn't include new Marian Dogma and strange popular devotions "Pray the Rosary- OR ELSE" visions and don't even get me started on Mediatrix (Yes, I know it isn't official Roman dogma... yet.) Then there is the appalling contemporary preaching and liturgy in North America. I stopped attending Roman parishes while traveling years ago.

So, if I just add all of these Roman beliefs- THEN I will be a "real" Catholic? No, then I can be a ROMAN Catholic. If Hepworth and whoever else believes these Roman teachings are indeed necessary to salvation, as the Church of Rome teaches, then they need to take off their party hats and stop purporting to confect the Eucharist, to Confirm, to absolve, or to Ordain Deacons and Priests immediately as this would be gross sacrilege. Stop playing Church and teaching "what I think", and stop collecting a paycheque off of those you have duped into believing you were indeed real clergy. Enough of your bait and switch. "Hey, you all thought we were Catholic... well, now that I got you in the store have I got a deal for you!" The logical, honest, and the right and moral thing to do is to take off the vestments, and en mass, lay and clergy, go to the nearest Roman parish and begin the RCIA process as lay people.

But lastly- PLEASE stop calling yourselves Anglican. You no longer are, if you ever were. Please adopt the term Roman and go on your way. You muddy the meaning of Anglican and sow seeds of confusion. You cause all those you continue to minister to to partake of your duplicitous sacrilege. Be humble enough to take off the costumes, shed yourself of your titles, and lead by example for once. Recite Morning and Evening Prayer until you are received by the hands of a Roman Prelate into "the church". It's Matins and Vespers for you until you can get a valid Rome ordained priest to celebrate a valid Roman Catholic sacrament according to whatever rite Rome approves. To continue as you are, when you believe Rome to be right, is to teach what "I (no longer) believe" rather than what the Church of Rome teaches.

Good luck to you as well as you will NEVER get the Anglican cannon of the Mass (the lovely words: a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction) , nor any of your beloved prayer books or missals. You'll get the Anglican Use book which has a lot of 1979 source material, and you WILL like it.

Well thank goodness my parish got out of the ACA a few years ago. We saw this travesty of dishonesty coming.


a solo Tiber swimmer said...

There is a tremendous amount of ad hominem invective in both this post and many of the replies, but let me address the "historical context" Fr. Hart references. The Roman claim to primacy is anchored in far more than the canons of the First Council of Constantinople. From St. Ignatius of Antioch's reference to Rome as "the church which presides in love" to St. Irenaeus of Lyons' testimony that apostolic tradition may be inferred “by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul... For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre-eminent authority...” to the practical actions of successive Bishops of Rome in intervening in disputes in other dioceses exercised by Pope St. Clement in his Epistle to the Corinthians, by Pope St. Victor over the dating of Easter, by Pope St. Stephen over the validity of baptisms performed by heretics, there is ample evidence of Roman primacy being exercised well before Constantinople I. This authority was not due to Rome's role in the Empire (as it dates to a time when the Empire was still persecuting the Church) but because of its Petrine and Pauline foundation and its uninterrupted apostolic succession of orthodox bishops. Yes, I know that educated Anglo-Catholics have come across these texts before, but they must be wrestled with honestly (say at least as honestly as the Orthodox theologian Nicholas Afanasiev does in his essay "The Church Which Presides in Love"). To assert that Roman primacy is simply a matter of imperial politics is simply to misunderstand church history at its root.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I have wrestled with them honestly, which is why I am not impressed with Solo Tiber Swimmer's typical selection of quotations, as is often the case, wrenched from their historical context. There was no "primacy" in the ante-Nicene period, but rather a deep respect for the track record of the teachers in the Church of Rome. They had a good reputation for teaching sound doctrine. Rome did not, however, exercise authority over churches. They did lend their aid on an appeal basis, helping to resolve questions and disputes about doctrines. That is they rendered doctrinal resolutions when their advice was sought out.

Nothing from that era states or implies any teaching that Rome could step in and intervene in church affairs beyond the normal functions of the patriarchate system, and beyond the boundaries of the geographically limited jurisdiction. Indeed, see Canon 2 of the Council

Canon 3 of Constantinople I, however, deals with a different matter, and at a later period. By giving specific mention to the two imperial cities, while making no mention of Peter or Paul, it demonstrates a shift in thinking that fit a new time. St. Irenaeus credited Peter and Paul with organizing and founding the teaching of the Church in Rome. The Bible records, however, that the church itself existed in Rome before either man arrived there. In other words, they established a good school, in an existing church, that remained true to its founding for several generations.

For today, none of this is relevant anymore. Because Rome erred in its teaching, as the centuries unfolded, it no longer has the track record for sound doctrine that it held in very early centuries. However sound and authoritative it once was (due to having had good teachers), Rom e hath also erred. We cannot look to it the way the ancients did.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

By the way, concerning the Orthodox theologian Nicholas Afanasiev, his ideas are obviously not much when weighed in the overall scale of Eastern Orthodoxy, and the standard E.O. assessment that the see of Rome has departed from the Church, and is schismatic. Exceptions do not prove the exceptional case.

John A. Hollister said...

Solo Tiber Swimmer wrote about "the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul...."

How inconvenient for him that Paul's own Epistle to the Romans reveals that Paul did neither founded nor organized the church in Rome, which was already a functioning concern when he wrote to it as a place which he hoped one day to visit. Nor is there any evidence that St. Peter either founded or organized that same church; in fact, all indications are completely to the contrary.

So an argument that is itself founded and organized upon a misapprehension of historical fact is worth precisely what?
John A. Hollister+
The veriword is "balsera", and a very good word for it, too.