Thursday, January 04, 2007

Why Not Rome? James Fitzpatrick from Catholic Exchange

This morning I received the article mentioned above in my e-mail. There are some serious questions to be answered within this article. That I am posting it is NOT a hint that I am in the Tiber swimming. It's simply an interesting question when we read about so many in America making these moves. I would suggest that there are many who are Anglicans and remain such not because it is a via media between Rome and Protestantism but because there seems to be freedom in the midst of parameters. At least that would be so for many 'traditional' Anglicans. I would guess that the fear of dogmatic restrictions as opposed to embracing the rites and dogmas that one likes is likely the reason for some. For others, it is for reasons of dogma. Such as, the Immaculate conception of Mary not being more than an opinion but made dogma. I believe the bottom line would possibly be the nature of dogmatic development and what parameters the Catholic Church are required to operate in without being classed as modern day prophets as some within the Episcopal Church are claiming. There is a lot more to be said but I'm interested in what the different readers here may think.

What is interesting is a e-mail response from a reader who is a Catholic convert from the Church of England. I have copied his response below the portion of the article I have placed here. Leave your comments! You can read it all here.
In the years since the consecration of Gene Robinson, about three dozen American Episcopal churches have voted to secede and affiliate with provinces overseas. But things seem to be coming to a head in recent weeks. On Sunday, December 17th, the story was all over the newspapers. As the New York Times' reporter phrased it, "the family is breaking up." On December 17, nine Episcopal churches in Virginia announced an overwhelming vote by their parishioners to cut their ties with the Episcopal Church. The Falls Church and Truro Church in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington voted to join the conservative Convocation of Anglicans in North America organization, which is linked to the Episcopal Church of Nigeria. Other churches are considering joining Anglican dioceses in Asia and Latin America. As the Reverend John Yates, rector of the Falls Church, puts it, "The Episcopal ship is in trouble. So we're climbing over the rails down to various little lifeboats. There's a lifeboat from Bolivia, one from Rwanda, another from Nigeria."

Rwanda? Bolivia? Nigeria? Why not Rome? There have been some notable Episcopalian conversions to Catholicism, of course, but not a great wave. What is holding the Episcopalians back?

Some will argue that recent events in the Catholic Church make that step unattractive for them, everything from the sex scandals to the tampering with the liturgy. No doubt there is something to that proposition. If I were an Episcopalian serious about my beliefs, and I thought of the Catholic Church as the church of Sr. Joan Chittister and Fr. Robert Drinan, I wouldn't be lining up for conversion classes. But there must be something else going on. Intelligent and informed Episcopalians know that Drinan and Chittister do not represent Catholicism. They know the percentage of Catholic priests caught up in the sex scandals is no greater than that of Protestant clergy involved in the same sort of shameful behavior. We have to look elsewhere.

Some will contend that it is certain Catholic teachings that hold the Episcopalians back, specifically the Church's teachings on divorce and birth control; that Episcopalians who are genuinely convinced that these practices are not immoral cannot reconcile themselves to joining a Church that forbids them — and which therefore is demonstrably in error, in their eyes. Fair enough. But here's the rub: Episcopalians who take this position are saying that their forebears in the Episcopal Church who first challenged their Church's traditional teachings on birth control and divorce — which took place not that long ago — were correct to do so, but that people like Bishop Robinson are not entitled to challenge the current teaching on homosexuality.

How does the logic go? That we should extend the line on acceptable morality to include behaviors and beliefs of mine that clash with traditional Christian beliefs, but not so far as to include those of my less righteous fellow congregants? That sounds like worshipping the spirit of the age to me — just a different spirit of the age. Are we to believe that that is what Jesus wanted for us? I can't help but think that large numbers of Episcopalians have thought this thought.

Which leads me to believe that there is something else that holds the Episcopalians back, something they would be reluctant to admit to in public, not due to any dishonesty on their part as much as to their characteristic good manners. I submit that becoming a Catholic would seem to them too much a betrayal of their people and their family heritage.

We know the stock images of the Episcopalians: tweedy WASPs, the "blue-stocking" crowd, the upper crust, the guardians of the Social Register, the people who can be found at the opening of the Metropolitan opera and at polo matches in the Hamptons. It is a caricature, of course. Not all Episcopalians are like that. But many are, especially those in positions of influence. Central to their understanding of the Episcopal Church is their belief that educated, refined, high-minded, socially conscious people like themselves do not need Rome to preserve a virtuous social order.

Let me be blunt: their belief is that they do not need the Church of the lower-class Irish, Italians and Slavic immigrants to instruct them on righteousness; that their collective religious endeavors will lead to a preservation of what Jesus wants for the modern world. Turning to Rome would mean abandoning the church that was central to the lives of the men and women of their stock who built not just the businesses, grand homes and country clubs of upper class America, but also the museums, universities, libraries and hospitals that represent the best of the American experience.

It is not unfair to say that Episcopalians have traditionally thought of themselves as the moral guardians that would lift the huddled masses to a higher understanding of how one behaved in a well-ordered society, one more enlightened than the priest-ridden world the immigrants left behind. They were convinced that proper people of their class did not need the church of Bishop Sheen and Mother Cabrini to preserve and extend for future generations the correct understanding of what it means to be a good Christian. The serious deliberations of well-intentioned folks of good breeding were enough for that.

It will not be easy for them to say, "I guess we were wrong." Better to turn for leadership to an Anglican bishop in Rwanda or Bolivia, who they believe has correctly preserved the dispensation given to him by the Episcopal Church of old, than to Rome. Even if there is no guarantee that doing so will preserve those teachings for any length of time.

The writer of the email follows:

As a convert to Catholicism from the Church of England, I can easily see the parallels between the mother of Anglicanism and the American Episcopalians. Both have become essentially middle-class, old money organizations; both share the engrained English belief that decency is at least equal to holiness, if not preferable to it; "decency" being defined by the polite society of the well-meaning and well-informed - which in our day, means adherence to all the mantras of political correctness.

However, I think Mr Fizpatrick omits two major obstacles to more widespread conversions. Although the remnants of "Anglo-Catholicism" are still there, conservative High Anglican clergy are a dwindling band; and for many congregations that view themselves as High Church, it is the trappings of Anglo-Catholicism - the vestments, the neo-Gothic architecture, the well-polished liturgy - that define their religious life. Preserve these, and after some harrumphing, many will go along with fundamental doctrinal and moral shifts. Indeed, a similar method was employed when the C of E was originally foisted on Catholic England! And to be fair, when the Church first converted the ancient pagan world.

No - it is conservative Evangelicals who both offer the greatest resistance to the liberal Protestant agenda, yet find the thought of converting to Rome problematic. Why? Some - relatively few - undoubtedly still see Rome as the whore of Babylon: the enemy of true, personal faith, substituting for it a legalistic religion of observances and submission to human authority. In pursuit of truth, they go on arguing and splintering into ever smaller factions: the classic experience of sincere Protestantism.

To a great many more, however, the Catholic Church is simply outside their experience. They have no great animus against the Church; many will have admired the late Pope John Paul as a man of obvious vision, faith and holiness; but the Catholic church , certainly in England and Wales, has been very diffident about reaching out to them, partly out of an historic fear of rocking the boat, but largely because the same is true of Catholics - they have little knowledge of what happens outside, despite the obvious debt much current Catholic liturgical practice and thought owe to the Reformed traditions. As an organist, a lady recently approached me after mass to tell me that she loved the "old hymns" like the one I had just played - Charles Wesley's "Love divine, all loves excelling", and that she had heard that Protestants had started singing that sort of devotional hymn too! I hadn't the heart to tell her they had been singing it ever since one of them wrote it. This is of course anecdotal, but illustrative of the sort of religious isolationism common in England, and I suspect in the US too. It is not something our fellow Christians in say, Pakistan, suffer from - they will have a very full awareness of the doctrine and practice of Islam. The Catholic church itself has to reach out, both clergy and laity, if it is to reclaim what is its own.

The second point follows from this: if we are looking to convert whole bodies rather than individuals, there is no harm in adopting or adapting practices compatible with Catholic truth. The wording of the Book of Common Prayer and its modern derivatives requires very little alteration to render them unambiguously Catholic. I hope the Pope's advisers are looking at this.

Submitted by Andrew Bowyer


Anonymous William Tighe said...

This is an interesting post. Its thesis concerning Conservative Evangelicals ("Conservative" in the looser American sense, rather than in the specifically English Anglican sense -- i.e., with a great dollop of individualistic, historically eccentric and often self-serving Scriptural exegesis) is supported by the remarkable incoherence of so many of the "conservative" supporters of WO on the following thread:


Then too, to put it with indecorous bluntness, I was recently informed by a former "insider" that a considerable proportion of the active membership of both Truro and The Falls Church churches (those two big ECUSA parishes in the Diocese of Virginia that recently voted to "disaffiliate" from ECUSA, neither of which are in any sense Anglo-Catholic, but rather "Evangelical" and both of which have had women clergypersons on their staffs) are former Roman Catholics, many of them living in situations of (from the RC perspective) "marital irregularity." There would thus seem to be many "paratheological factors" which might hold such folk back from formulating a coherent ecclesiology, and acting accordingly.

1:19 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I did follow that post a bit after seeing it linked on AllTooCommon. It was interesting to see the hermeneutical shifts and ideologies from the perspectives offered. 'Personal Reason' subjected to the objective self is becoming the new authority in town. There is a lot of work that needs to be done to reverse this trend that is seen not only in Protestants or Anglicans, but in Roman Catholics too. This is especially true of the later on this side of the pond!

2:03 pm  
Blogger Pontificator said...

Private judgment, private judgment, private judgment--everyone can find one Roman doctrine (doctrinal or ethical) with which they disagree and which therefore justifies, in their own mind, continued separation from Mother Church. I suspect that matters sexual (divorce/remarriage, contraception) constitute a large percentage of such reasons.

2:44 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From an old-fashioned Anglo-Catholic perspective the current Roman positions on divorce/remarriage and contraception look rather liberal ....

4:15 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is already a Catholicized BCP, it is called the Book of Divine Worship.


Bryan McKenzie @ THEOdyssey

6:34 pm  
Anonymous Phil said...

I disagree with the “vestigial social prestige” explanation. For my part, I have as much as decided to go, though I sense the time, while short, has not quite arrived. As such, I might not fit the category of those who would cast about for any Anglican entity as a way of staying. On the other hand, I’m a cradle Episcopalian who, in the not-too-distant past, could not have fathomed leaving.

I think Episcopalians are creatures of tradition and habit. We don’t like to rock the boat. More substantially, we take pride in and love our liturgy, and we really have no desire to leave its beauty, its solemnity or its ability to sublimely communicate our beliefs (in that sense, it is most properly compared to the Orthodox experience).

This is a big deal, more so than we might want to credit. How you pray, what you sing and what you do every Sunday is “church” at the practical level. It’s the experience; it’s what you understand and what identifies you. To leave that for the schmaltz of modern RC worship or an Orthodox liturgy in which you may not even be able to participate (the entire thing being chanted by the choir in some parishes) is tough – really tough.

Second, many Anglicans really believe they are reformed Catholics and have struck the right balance between the excesses of Roman dogmatizing and the more exotic speculative Protestant theories. Anglicanism, in this view, is how the Church ought to look and work. And, though the whole thing is coming apart like a sandcastle at high tide right now, the possibility for the Anglican dream to be realized still hovers in the distance, as though, if we just had the right people, it could still be made to happen. That’s hard to let go of, kind of like taking your eyes off the million-dollar lottery ticket when every digit announced matched up to the last one.

It isn’t a simple matter to admit it’s all over and leave the church of your birth, and, for most of us, it has little to do with offending Granddaddy or not being invited to the Hamptons this summer. To think otherwise is something of a Roman Catholic conceit.

10:25 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thank you for your comments as they speak of a real pain and honest feelings about a deep love for the Church. It is all quite sad to see it unfolding and the divisions are going deeper and deeper as time moves on. I am not sure what is going to stop it other than real true repentance and broken hears acknowledging wrongs and passivity over the years.

Your comments on worship ring true for many here in the Church of England that has a deeper rooted history that TEC. With our buildings, Anlgo-Catholic liturgy, evensong and the many beautiful things about the faith expressed in English Anglicanism there is a lot to walk away from if one is to leave. Many people that I know in the C of E understand themselves to be Catholic. My daughter who is eleven came home from her Roman Catholic school one day and was surprised to find out that she was not in the same denomination of where she went to school. She was really shocked and we had to explain it to her. So, I know what you mean when you say that many see themselves as Catholic in the Church of England.

12:08 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My experience with the Catholic church is that they are big C Catholic and little c chistian in the sense that their being Catholic is more important to them than their being Christian, as is readily illustrated by their refusing to share Holy Eucharist with non-Catholic Christians. My reading of the NT is that Jesus routinely ate with many persons that the Catholic Church would refuse to eat with. I, in turn, am offended by every Catholic service that refuses me the Body and Blood of Christ yet asks me to sit in the pew pray that we may "..all be one." Tell me exactly how that prayer should be worded. Personally, I love the Christian faith, be it the Catholic Church, the C of E, the Episcopalians, the Baptists, Methodists, et al. We Christians are two billion strong in number and capable of enormous good works working together.

1:46 am  
Anonymous Phil said...

Jeff, it is quite sad. I appreciate your comments.

I should like to add that my comments were really descriptive, and, even to the extent I have some of the hangups I described, I don't necessarily defend them. As Fr. Kimel has said, for example, if you become convinced that Rome is the Church, then you must enter that communion without regard to personal opinions of its liturgical practices.

I pray that our difficulties may be resolved in a way that is both peaceful and faithful, if such a way exists.

2:09 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Anonymous:
To receive Communion in the Catholic Church is to be IN communion with it! 'That we may all be one' means that we may all have the same beliefs! That doesn't happen when Catholic Communion is opened up to anyone.
You compare it to 'dining'...that shows me right there that you think differently than us Catholics...the Mass is a sacrifice first...not some communal meal.

2:36 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Anonymous,
You make my point exactly. Catholics are big C Catholics and little c christians. What does it say about the theology of Catholic Communion, if it is a private Catholic affair? I understand the restrictions Catholic place on participation; I am raising the question of whether Jesus would agree that His sacrifice is not for all Christians. Regarding "all may be one", I would like us to be One In Christ Jesus. I can accept that reasonable people may disagree on the wording of every belief.

3:13 am  
Anonymous jack porter said...

I am reading Bouyer's "Spirit of Protestantism" and as one exploring a return to my Catholic roots, find it very challenging. If I have got this right, Bouyer contends that nominalist theology/philsophy leads Protestant Christians to view every human form of linking man to God as idolatry because they only have two categories God and humans. When I try to tell my evangelical compatriots that Catholics come to Jesus through the Sacraments they think this is not genuine because it is not the experience of a soul directly in communion with God. They think it can only happen by being born again in a personal flash in the moment experience. If it is anything else than it is not real. I find myself hungering deep in my spirit for something "real". Bouyer's critique of Protestantism as nominalism is really hitting home to me. I would highly recommend this book to any seekers. I think it is a must read.

8:50 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks for the comment and you are exactly right about the nominalism in Protestantism and it especially shows its head to the world in much of Reformed theology that is only able to look at one category at a time and deny any sort of multi-perspectivalism. I offer a bit of a critique of this nominalistic view on the sacraments in my chapter on Eucharistic sacrifice that I am writing for my PhD. As someone who is Catholic in my understanding of the nature of sacraments and their role in salvation, I find nominalism a very hard pill to swallow and one that I am happy that my gag reflexes caught before it settled too long in my stomach. (Not a nice metaphor but it does its job.)

I have not read Bouyer's book but I will take a look at it. I know that some reject his arguments because he was a convert but that is just silly. Thanks for the post!

9:58 am  
Blogger Daniel F. said...

As one with profoundly Catholic sympathies (I actually do believe the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary), I constantly confront Catholics who want me to accept Papal Infallibility and the Marian doctrines as equal in importance to the Articles of the Creed and "necessary for salvation". I can't go there, expecially since these dogmas at least in my mind are not of the "first order". This of course may indicate, as has been suggested in the comments, that I am burdened with a radical subjectivity that prevents me from seeing the innate truth of these doctrines. Belief in Papal infallibility - why not? More acceptable to me than the various Reformation ideas about the church and the exercise of authority in the church. Absolutely necessary for the salvation of my soul? No. That is not the way I understand the clear meaning of Scripture.

So given the preconditions laid down by so many who claim to speak on behalf of Catholicism, where does that leave me? Certainly, profoundly uncomfortable with Protestantism in any of its forms, slightly less uncomfortable with Orthodoxy because of its equally stringent preconditions.

Right now, I'm a "lurker" hoping to find kindred souls. I'd be interested in your comments.

2:04 pm  
Anonymous William Tighe said...

I would recommend to Jack, after he has finished the Bouyer book, a reading of Mascall's *The Recovery of Unity* (1958). The book is, of course, a bit dated, but it is still worth reading.

I would say to Daniel F that I understand his difficulties, but that, as both Catholicism and Orthodoxy each claim (with whatever qualifications) to be THE Church, in a way that no Protestant denomination nor any Anglican body does, the essence of becoming Catholic or Orthodox is accepting, as regards what the Church has defined, that "Thy Word is true" (as true of the doctrines that the Body of Christ had propounded, as of the words of Christ) -- or, as the ending of the "Act of Faith" that I was taught as small boy runs "... I believe these and all the truths which Thy Holy Catholic Church teaches, because Thou hast revealed them, who canst neither decieve, nor be deceived."

2:11 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is an interesting piece, thanks for the link.

"But here's the rub: Episcopalians who take this position are saying that their forebears in the Episcopal Church who first challenged their Church's traditional teachings on birth control and divorce — which took place not that long ago — were correct to do so, but that people like Bishop Robinson are not entitled to challenge the current teaching on homosexuality."

I think that this quote oversimplifies things a bit. The difference between the homosexuality issue and the two issues that he mentions is that the former is completely and explicitly condemned in the scriptures, whereas there is no scriptural prohibition on birth control; and the passages on divorce and remarriage are somewhat contradictory and have been debated for centuries.

So, from a traditional Anglican perspective, with the scriptures (supposedly) being the final rule of faith and life, one cannot put divorce and remarriage and birth control on the same level as homosexual practice. Scripture clearly condemns one (HS practice), does not address the other (BC), and has different "allowances" for D/R.

It is worth mentioning that liberal TEC bishops do admit that the scriptures condemn HS behavior. So they just roundly dismiss the scriptures as a document written by scientifically ignorant people who came from a less enlightened time.

3:08 pm  
Blogger Barnabas said...

As someone who has made the journey into the ancient apostolic and catholic church of Orthodoxy rather than Rome....but who would be fine if the conversation between patriarchs kept moving forward....I just want to throw my two bits in that I think most Episcopalian folks simply don't get it. With a simple branding of "malcontents" we're dismissed and the whole issue swept under the rug in the name of some sort of unity. Having been there, let me attest to the unwitting nominalist (commitment level not philosophic definition - though they may overlap!) notion that allows one to have no real definition of the Church....and therefore assume it is something only the truly committed need worry about. To understand why folks DON'T leave, I think it is fair to suggest review of Terry Mattingly's comments on "What the Converts Want" (see Holy Cross AOC website): we tend to be active, we tend to be contributors, and we tend to want to participate. Nominalists may not fit this description, thus engagement with the issues may require a level of study and change they are unprepared to enter into. Better to sit along to git along, or simply stop going altogether, read the New York Times and say they've done the same thing. Sells the spiritual life short...but many weren't getting fed anyway.

My conversion owes to not just swallowing the "I was wrong" but that Dr. Tighe was right about the tumultous history and other issues within C of E. Thank you very much for dragging me kicking and screaming into dealing with the real ecclesiology and lack of theology. But I also smile to think perhaps the ultimate mark of the protestant that I guess I have been is that in the end I felt compelled to seek reform of the Reformation churches in the only known available option....by fleeing the "modern church" to return to the ancient church. I smile further to think that the poster moment equivalent to Martin Luther's nailing of his theses on the door is to "nail" the conversion story on the internet. Ah, so why is it in seeking our salvation we simultaneously seem to love further imperilling our souls so perversely?

And maybe the modern corollary to the question of "Who do you say that I am?" might be "Whose Church is it anyway?"

6:19 pm  
Anonymous john scholasticus said...

There seems to be a superfluity of 'anonymi'. I'm with the first one. It is indeed offensive when official Roman Catholicism (your not very ultimate destination, Jeff) denies communion to non-RCs. However, there are plenty of RCs (both priests and lay persons)who dislike this just as much as do Anglicans. By contrast, the C of E, in its wisdom and benevolence, extends communion to all baptized Christians. This is one of many reasons why the C of E is the best Christian denomination.

8:42 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I understand your comments about not being able to receive the Eucharist at a RC or an Orthodox Church. Since justification by faith is not about getting in but the declaration that you are in makes one consider whether or not we ought to be working out our difficulties at the altar. Where the difficulty of this comes strikes at the heart of sacramentology and ecclesiology--the very reasons that the Church is so divided presently.

Questions of the sacramental orders of priests and authority immediately brings up the problems we now face. But what needs to be honestly understood is the need for sacramental assurance for people. They need to know that they really ARE receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus. What if a Zwinglian is behind the altar? He wouldn't pray a prayer to 'offer the sacrifice' of Christ in the Mass? The issues only become more complicated as we look at this in more detail. Patience is going to have to go a long way and understanding along with repentance and restoration if we are ever going to have what Jesus prayed for. Honestly, that is going to have be from all Christians involved!

8:56 pm  
Blogger Barnabas said...

john scholasticus:

If C of E is "the best Christian denomination" par none because membership in the church is not required for communion but only baptism somewhere/somehow, then why has attendance - let alone membeship - fallen off a cliff? It does not compute. Inability to generate attendance first of all beyond the level that RC in England can now generate (according to reports the RC now outnumber the Anglicans in the UK - is that right?) let alone convert attendees into members - seems to be a basic problem with this model of communion IMHO. I think the record of the early church (and that of the eastern churches in the 20th century under Marxist persecution) clearly demonstrates that only those sufficiently motivated to complete their catechesis in order to receive communion in the end are likely to be willing as well to accept the sacrifices - potential persecution / martyrdom /etc. that go along with the other benefits. If the commitment involved in communion is low, then if you ask little, you get little. People quit.

Maybe C of E is different, but I guess in RC and Orthodox churches, we're not looking to sign up a lot of quitters. I mean this is the faith of the saints, not the faints. Read that as the saints are those willing to fight and die for their faith.

As a measure of understanding, consider that a similar comparison would be to suggest that the piker playing pick-up weekend football should be accepted as part of Beckham's starting line-up without training, without experience, without even warming up or a try-out. I don't think anybody's going to buy that one either. And that's not offensive....it's just common sense. Ultimately, we're signing up to do more than drink some wine...we're signing on in communion to live the Way, the Truth and the Life....even unto death. If that's offensive, then I guess there's no helping us.

9:25 pm  
Anonymous john scholasticus said...


I stress my qualification 'official R Catholicism'. There are plenty of RC priests, in the UK and in Europe (and, I know, in the US) who gladly offer communion to Anglicans. (I have benfited from them.) Equally, there are at least some RCs who gladly accept communion in Anglican churches (there were even some last Midnight Mass when I was serving in my church). I think that on this matter (as on many others) 'official' R Catholicism will crumble and is already manifestly crumbling. Time will tell which of us is right.

9:37 pm  
Anonymous John Henry said...

there is no scriptural prohibition on birth control

Of course, all Protestants disagreed with that statement until ca. 1930. Which is to say, Protestants have been arguing the evils of contraception based solely on scripture from the Reformation until Lambeth 1930 (Luther, Calvin, Wesley et al.).

Personally, the issue you describe as "oversimplified" was one of the clear watershed moments for me in finally deciding to swim. When I realized the homosexual thing was just the latest in a pretty long line of cavings along the pelvic front by my beloved ECUSA.

1:09 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, John Henry, I am open to be proved wrong. Please give me a scripture reference where birth control is condemned with the same clarity as homosexual practice. I have read through the entire Bible many times and have never seen it.

And if you are going to offer the story of Onan, keep in mind that no serious scripture scholar (including many Roman Cathoic scholars) believes that it serves as a basis for contraception.

4:09 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I must agree that one who believes the liturgy to be important in in-forming Christians, the RC can look a tad problematic. Orthodoxy looks much better and more historically stable in this regard. Doubt we'll see any "reforms" soon.

What is Orthodox discipline with regard to divorce and contraception? I think they acknowledge divorce as a failure that requires some discipline but I don't think they cut people out of communion for life over it. With regard to contraception, mixed messages. Looks like they are claiming that the teaching of the ancient church was against the use of abortifacients (e.g., the pill) and the refusal to have children. Did the ancient church really teach NFP?

4:10 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would be interesting to hear the voices of some CE converts to O who considered RC and how they dealt with some of these issues.

4:25 am  
Anonymous William Tighe said...

"Please give me a Scripture reference where birth control is condemned with the same clarity as homosexual practice."

What's the point of your even asking this? Neither the Catholic Church nor the Orthodox Church -- just like the Apostolic Church -- is a "sola scriptura" denomination that has to prove its teachings by clear and explicit "scripture warrants." One can no more find what you're asking for than one can find "a scripture reference" where "the doctrine of the Trinity" or "infant baptism" (or, for that matter "sola scriptura") is taught with "clarity." What one can find is that these teachings (save for "sola scriptura") have been taught clearly and with authority from time immemorial, and that their contraries have been either unknown to the Apostolic Church, or else the unique possession of odd sectarian heretics.

Certainly, the condemnation of contraceptive practice has been condemned was as much rigidity and catholic universality as had been such other abominations as abortion, homosexual practice and women's ordination.

And as far as John Scolasticus's most recent comment is concerned, I look forward to the day when those Catholics who violate the discipline of the Church and reject its authority will be either excommunicated, or else spontaneously become Anglicans.

1:07 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're right, William Tighe - what was the point of even asking that? And that was my initial point. The person who wrote the column was wondering how Protestants could seemingly pick and choose particular doctrines. The answer? If they (the Prots) believe in "sola scriptura", then that is how they are justified in their minds for doing so. But the writer of the article seems to want Prots to think the same way as Roman Catholics, and that they share basic assumptions about fundamental theology and method, but (big shocker) they don't. So what's the point of even asking about some supposed "contradiction", or about "picking and choosing" what moral/sexual beliefs to follow? That was my point from the beginning.

To a classical, traditional Protestant who appeals to the classic "sola scriptura" they are not being contradictory . Whereas to a Catholic, who appeals to scripture, tradition, Natural Law, etc. they are being contradictory.

3:29 pm  
Anonymous William Tighe said...

Well, okay, Anon, I see the point. But if one is going to be a solascripturalist, one still has to work out a method of exegesis. Say for instance, that because there is no clear scriptural condemnation, then contraception is allowed. Where will one stop? I well remember, when I was a research student in Cambridge over 25 years ago, the bemusement of an Anglo-Catholic friend of mine (now happily "home in Rome" these 20+ years) when, at an Evangelical Bible study group he attended, a couple of female participants vehemently argued in favor of the practice of lesbian "sex" among those who were "called" to it, because while the Bible clearly (in their view) clearly condemned male homosexual sexual activity, it said nothing about lesbianism, and therefore any condemnation of it was mere "opinion." This incident has remained for me ever since "iconic" of the absurdity of sola scriptura, unless it is "muzzled" by some external confessional (e.g., the Westminster Confession) or interpretive (e.g., Dispensationalism) shackles.

4:10 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...I was recently informed by a former "insider" that a considerable proportion of the active membership of both Truro and The Falls Church churches ... are former Roman Catholics, many of them living in situations of (from the RC perspective) 'marital irregularity.' There would thus seem to be many "paratheological factors" which might hold such folk back from formulating a coherent ecclesiology, and acting accordingly."

This made me laugh. How anyone would have access to such demographics in the first place... Contrary to Catholic perceptions, for most Evangelicals Rome doesn't much appear on the radar. Of course, almost all evangelical churches are indeed busting at the seems with former Catholics who could find little life in their own parishes. It's not about ecclesiology or divorce or birth control or gay marriage, or ven doctrines like May, and Evangelicals find Rome problematic because when they encounter Catholics, they typically can seem wildly clueless about Jesus or the Bible but instead have been left bereft of instruction by their parishes.

8:02 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon, just to let you know, Rome does not condone divorce and remarriage... instead, they just give it a different name - annulment. They hand out annulments in some cases like Halloween candy, saying (when it's convenient) that "a marriage never existed"... sort of like they did with Sheila Kennedy. Isn't that wonderful? Just give it a new name, and make sure you do it under Roman authorities (not any other church) and it's okay.

And the best thing about it? There is nothing wrong with that practice. Rome cannot err. It defines and determines Gospel truth. When doctrine develops, and When you are the final arbitor of truth, and the final word on what scripture and tradition really say, and the final word on what "is" authentic doctrinal development, you can redefine anything, or put a spin on anything formerly heretical or questionable and make it right. I admire the Roman Church, because it cannot err or fall into heresy, because it calls all of the shots and determines what heresy is. Rome could ordain women if they wanted to. And if they did, it would be a development of doctrine, and a valid development at that... because they did it. And no one could question it. What a great system!

What a scary system.

11:10 pm  
Anonymous Diane said...

To Anonymous:
John the Baptist gave us our first example of an annulment. He said that Herod's 'marraige' was not recognized by God. The RC Church does the same for certain 'marriages' that are not valid due to the intent, abilities, etc. of those involved. I would say that many current marriages today are not valid, as most people involved do not have the intention of remaining faithful forever...just until things go south.
And as far as contraception, God gave us sex that is both unitive and procreative...to separate out those functions goes against his plan for us...it leads to many immoral acts, such as the abortion, contraception, homosexuality, etc. When people think they can have their sexual fulfillment and not be open to life, perversity prevails and we get this sexualized culture that does not value our God-given roles.

Thank the Lord for the Magisterium of His Church!

3:26 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Diane. I'm another Diane, and I heartily concur with your post.

Daniel F.: When I was coming back to the Church, I struggled a bit with papal infallibility. But I realized that Catholicism was a "package deal"--and I wanted the whole package!

Since then, I have come to appreciate the beauty, fittingness, and necessity of this dogma. PI, IMHO, is for the protection of God's people. It is part and parcel of that whole Authority Thing, which gives us security in what we believe. :)

I know this is a tad simplistic, but it's late, and I'm brain-dead. Will try to elaborate some other time.

7:46 am  
Anonymous c matt said...

Lot's of "Anonymi" around here and not sure if they are the same, but this comment is directed to those with difficulties regarding the restrictive nature of receiving the Eucharist at Catholic masses. First of all, there is strong scriptural support for such a practice (for those that require such) in the letters of St. Paul, as he consistently warns against receiveing the Eucharist unworthily. One requirement to receive worthily for the RCC would seem to at least be united in what you believe you are receiving. If the RCC says "by taking this Eucharist, you profess to be in communion with the RCC and what it teaches" it seems only fair that, if you take them up on the offer that you agree to its terms. This applies not only to non Catholics, but Catholics as well. In a sense, receiving communion in the RCC without agreeing to these terms would be receiving under false pretenses. To RCC's, the Eucharist, being the real Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ is too precious to be received under such conditions (as St. Paul often comments). It is not unlike putting on a wedding ring just before a one night stand and calling it "marriage for a night". You don't (or at least shouldn't) put the ring on unless you truly agree to the commitments of marriage. Because of the priceless nature of what the Eucharist is, communion for Catholics requires a true marriage between us and God through His Church. I certainly don't want to sound disrespectful, but it seems that "open" communion requires a view of the Eucharist that is far less significant. If to you communion is about showing acceptance of others in Christian charity, that is fine. But to serious RCC's it means more than that - it means acceptance of Christ's Church and all she teaches. It would seem a bit unfair for you to be free to have your understanding, but then begrudge the RCC its understanding.

As for Jesus eating with a variety of folks, of course He did. But He celebrated the Eucharist only with His disciples. Likewise, there is nothing to prohibit Catholics and non-Catholics from hoting joint pot luck dinners, running joint soup kitchens, doing bible studies, etc. But like the Last Supper, the special nature of the Eucharist requires a special commitment and union among the participants.

4:24 pm  
Anonymous c matt said...

Evangelicals find Rome problematic because when they encounter Catholics, they typically can seem wildly clueless about Jesus or the Bible but instead have been left bereft of instruction by their parishes.

Now that is certainly a valid criticism of parishes and Catholics one may encounter. To some extent, but far lesser, it is valid of Rome. But most of the fault for sorry catechesis lies with the parishes and lay folk themselves. It is not that Catholic teaching (noun) is wrong, it is that Catholic teaching (verb) has been next to non-existent between approx. 1970 through the early 1990s at the parish level. They are not just wildly clueless about Jesus and the Bible, they are wildly clueless about Catholicism as well.

4:31 pm  
Anonymous c matt said...

"hoting" should be "hosting"

4:34 pm  
Anonymous Cousin Vinnie said...

Why is it so hard for Roman Catholics to understand that conservative Episcopalians actually believe what that church used to teach? If one agrees with the Articles of Religion, he has accepted a Protestant view. It would take a dramatic change on several points of theology to join the Roman Catholic church. It is not simply inertia that prevents the move to Rome.

12:22 am  
Anonymous Ed the Roman said...

For an example of something that has no explicit prohibition in scripture, try arson of a dwelling. Nothing in the NT on arson at all, and the OT references are all specific to fields. Strangely nobody is pressing that point.

5:51 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Posting this for Prof. Tighe:

The problem of the 39 Articles and their authority goes back to the
beginning, almost, of Anglicanism. When they were finally promulgated in 1571 (Elizabeth I having withheld her assent to #29 up to that point,probably so as not to offend the Lutherans), the Canterbury Convocation passed a canon stating that the articles were in agreement with the "Catholic bishops and fathers" of the Early Church and were to be
interpreted accordingly. Whether or not the Articles were originally
intended to serve as the equivalent of Lutheran and Reformed confessional documents, they soon received a minimizing interpretation: those who were obliged to subscribe to them (clergy, and students at Cambridge and Oxford)bound thmselves only not to teach, preach or speak against them, and a very wide liberty of interpretation was alowed to those subscribing to them (as witness the failure of the attempt to give them a strongly Calvinist official gloss in the 1595 Lambeth Articles). From the 1560s to the 1620s it is very clear that the dominant, and quasi-official, interpretation of
them was strongly Reformed and even Calvinist ("Calvinist" being a subset of Reformed, but not the only possible Reformed view). With the rise of the so-called avant-garde conformists" (such as Lancelot Andrewes and his "disciples" such as Buckeridge, Overall and Laud; and their followers), it was clear that a new theological emphasis (akin to, but not identical with, and going rather further than, that of (Richard Hooker) was on the rise in
the Church of England; and the reaction against the decrees of the Synod of Dort (1618) and James I's own seeming move away from the generic Calvinism that he had professed for his whole adult life in his last five years assisted the members of this group to grow in influence. In Charles I they had a master who fully embraced their views, and so from 1625 onwards they came to dominate the hierarchy of the Church of England.

In 1630 Charles I issued a "Royal Declaration" which to this day stands prefixed to the 39 Articles in the English BCP. Insisting that the Articles be interpreted and taught only "according to their literal and grammatical sense" they seem unexceptionable, but their purpose was to "deprivilege" and
hence undermine the tradtional Calvinist and Reformed reading of the Articles. This was certainly the effect of the declaration: a number of "Caroline Divines" soon began to interpret the articles, or some of them, in ways that explicitly repudiated Reformed readings, and to align them, or
some of them, as closely to what they saw as Patristic views as they could.

In 1634 the English Franciscan friar Franciscus de Sancta Clara (Christopher Davenport, brother of the Puritan first minister of the New Haven colony John Davenport) published his *Deus, Natura, Gratia ...* which sought to demonstrate the Articles' conformity with the decrees of the Council of Trent; and although Davenport acknowledged that in some few respects they
seemed to be incompatible, his work exercised a good deal of influence at the time. After 1660 a broad range of latitude in interpreting the Articles remained the norm, and although Newman's Tract 90 caused an uproar at the time of its publication it was not, as I have shown, without precedent. (Indeed, one of the best attempts at such "harmonization" of the articles
and Counter-Reformation Catholicism is *The Council of Trent and Anglican Formularies* by H. Edward Symonds [Oxford, 1932]: if one resolutely ignores the historical context of the Articles' formulation in the 1560s and the
known theological views of those that formulated them, then it seems to me that Symonds' gloss on the Articles is just as plausible and allowable a one as any other.)

The real problem, I submit, is one of which the problem of the authority and interpretation of the Articles is but one manifestation: the fact that there is effectively no "authority" in Anglican churches,save the authority of governmental structures: the authority of synodical structures, on the one hand (whether conceived to be essentially "conciliar" in nature and [however implausibly] "under the continuing guidance of the Holy Spirit") and that of the bishops with their purported apostolic authority" on the other. In fact, the real and essential nature of Anglicanism has always been Erastian: the authority of the Crown-in-Parliament in England, and elsewhere the "mummified Erastianism" of generic Anglican traditionalism and self-satisfaction, elite social consensus and, at times, romantic
Anglophilia and medievalism. These aren't very secure foundations -- as witness equally the rampant and growing "priestessism" and sodomism" of so many "white" Anglican churches, the embrace of "lay celebration" and other
absurdities (in historic Anglican terms) by the Sydney Anglicans and the utter inability of "Continuing Anglican" bodies to come to a coherent consensus on what constitutes "Anglican Orthodoxy" save by (for the most part) by a clear, if tacit, repudiation of all the distinctive views of the English Reformers and a return to a generic, if supposedly non-papal,
Western Catholicism. It would be useful -- honesty being the "best policy" as well as a requisite of godliness -- if these facts were more generally recognized and taken into account by all sides.

9:05 pm  

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