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Monday, February 12, 2007

Parasitic Catholicism? Anglo-Catholics and Private Judgment

Fr. Al Kimel has written an article where he states at one point that the Anglo-Catholic is merely submitting him or herself to "private" judgment. Here is what Fr. Kimel says:
Yet as difficult as it may be for this good priest to hear, I must continue to maintain that the catholic Anglican is in an untenable and incoherent position. He confesses the faith of the Church catholic, yet the church in which he serves makes no such confession—nor can it. Though the Anglo-Catholic may declare his agreement with many catholic essentials, yet he does so from within an ecclesial body that has always allowed disagreement on these essentials. The real presence, eucharistic sacrifice, prayer for the dead, invocation of the saints, devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the necessity of the historic episcopate—each of these doctrines, all of which are considered essential by both Catholicism and Orthodoxy, are judged optional, if not rejected outright, by historic Anglicanism. So it has been from the very beginning of the English reform (see William Tighe’s discussion of the 39 Article). More recently, the bulk of Anglicanism has rejected the catholic doctrine of the male priesthood. Catholic Anglicans sincerely seek to submit themselves to catholic authority, yet their church does not and cannot command their catholic obedience. As a result, they are forced to create their own versions of the catholic faith, each version varying from individual to individual. And this is true not only for individual Anglo-Catholics but also for the small Anglo-Catholic denominations within the Continuing Anglican movement. The Anglo-Catholic, whether individually or corporately, lives by private judgment.
Is he right?

9 Comments:

Blogger Pseudo-Iamblichus said...

Alright, I am a Roman Catholic, and I am a convinced one, but there is private judgment and there is private judgment, isn't there? If we brought St. John Bosco back from the dead and took him to a church in any suburb that bares his name today, how would he react to what goes on inside there? Would he even recognize it as Catholic? Would he buy the excuse that: "it's alright, Father, the Pope says it's okay"?

Roman Catholic traditionalists within our Church also are accused of using private judgment since they refuse to participate in the liturgy that the Pope uses. Yet somehow they are still legitimate. Even some conservatives object to some now normal practices within the Church and give the excuse for why they deviate from the norm as "we don't do that here." (Altar girls, communion in the hand, etc.) Yet they also are okay.

Alright, this is not the same as what is occuring in the Anglican Communion. But do you really think we are immune from queer clergy and feminist theologians? Maybe we keep them under better control, but we are not throwing them out entirely, are we? Anyone who has ever spent five seconds in any regular "Catholic" institution here in the States knows this.

Fr. Kimel and the people like him (mostly converts, oddly enough) like to portray Catholicism as far more monolithic than it is or than it's supposed to be. We are using private judgment all the time because we think and discern about what is going on in our own church. Are things looking up? There are signs that they are. Are we out of the woods? No. Should we be thumbing our nose at the rest of the world saying that we are a monolithic pillar of truth in a world battered by subjectivism? That seems a little disingenous, at least to me.

4:25 am  
Anonymous Kevin Davis said...

He confesses the faith of the Church catholic, yet the church in which he serves makes no such confession—nor can it.

This seems pretty convincing to me. Newman called it a "paper church."

As for pseudo-iamblichus' comment,

Should we be thumbing our nose at the rest of the world saying that we are a monolithic pillar of truth in a world battered by subjectivism?

Well, maybe not thumbing our nose, but to be a Catholic is to believe that there is a firm foundation and pillar of truth in the Church's infallible teachings. Us Catholics have the joy of knowing that queer theorists and feminists will never succeed in altering the teachings of the Catholic Church. We know they can succeed in altering the teachings of the mainline Protestant churches, as witnessed by many successes. Why do Catholic converts tend to sing the praises of ecclesial authority from the rooftops, despite the obvious weaknesses in the Catholic Church? Because we've seen the other side. We know where Protestant theology leads, and now we've breathed the fresh Roman air.

4:23 am  
Blogger J. Gordon Anderson said...

I thought he was being rather rude using "parasitic" to describe anglo-catholicism, but he didn't seem to think so.

AK wrote eslewhere in his article:

"The real presence, eucharistic sacrifice, prayer for the dead, invocation of the saints, devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the necessity of the historic episcopate—each of these doctrines, all of which are considered essential by both Catholicism and Orthodoxy, are judged optional, if not rejected outright, by historic Anglicanism."

This greatly oversimplifies things. Just because one does not think about the those doctrines the same way as Rome does doesn't mean that they are optional or being downplayed.... especially the one about the episcopate. The Anglican Church always insisted on the necessity of the historic episcopate. And who's to say that Rome and EO (as if they could all be lumped together into one body) think about all of these issues in the same way. EO doesn't accept the Marian Dogmas of Rome as "De Fide". Why is that not a problem? And further, Rome itself is not as monolithic or rigid doctrinally as people think it is.

I don't think that private judgment is the issue. The problem is not listening to authority. Anglicans have problems these days because they reject the authority of scripture and tradition, and they try to explain away the plain words of scripture and witness of tradition with regard to sexuality, ordination, divorce and remarriage, and other issues. Just as people some people within the Roman communion try to reject the authority that is over them at various times and in various ways.

9:55 pm  
Anonymous Kevin Davis said...

J. Gordon,

I don't think that private judgment is the issue. The problem is not listening to authority. Anglicans have problems these days because they reject the authority of scripture and tradition, and they try to explain away the plain words of scripture and witness of tradition with regard to sexuality, ordination, divorce and remarriage, and other issues.

Okay, I'm beginning to seriously doubt whether committed Anglo-Catholics even understand the Roman (i.e., Kimel's) position. You say the problem is not private judgment but, rather, not listening to authority. Precisely! This is what we mean. The problem is that the Anglican churches can never be that authority; therefore, women's ordination, gay unions, sex before marriage (remember that quaint idea of premarital chastity), pantheistic Christologies, abortion, etc. find their home.

Just as people some people within the Roman communion try to reject the authority that is over them at various times and in various ways.

Yes, we call them heretics, if that is rightly the case (perhaps only misguided or legitimately discerning a doctrine of the faith). Rome can do this; Canterbury cannot.

12:11 am  
Blogger J. Gordon Anderson said...

"The problem is that the Anglican churches can never be that authority; therefore, women's ordination, gay unions, sex before marriage (remember that quaint idea of premarital chastity), pantheistic Christologies, abortion, etc. find their home."

All of those things you mention can be addressed from the scriptures, tradition, and reason. The problem in modern day churches is that they poo-poo the scriptures altogether, just as revisionist catholics do with the pope. And people who espouse the things you mention can be called heretics based on comparing what they say with scripture, tradition, and reason.

1:50 am  
Anonymous Kevin Davis said...

And people who espouse the things you mention can be called heretics based on comparing what they say with scripture, tradition, and reason.

This gets us nowhere because the revisionist will rightly question your normative foundations. Why scripture, why tradition (and what tradition/s), and what reason (and whose)? The Catholic recognizes his frailty and inability to discern so much, so he subjects his private judgment to the Church. Exactly how he came to believe in this Church is necessarily subjective, as is our coming to faith in Christ, but he now has a norm outside himself for discerning the content of divine revelation -- a norm that is not theoretical but a living, breathing Church. Were the Reformers right in rejecting a postmortem purgation? They looked to scripture (well, minus Maccabees, which makes my point) and tradition, used their reason (framed by their doctrine of extrinsic justification), and said, "No!," to purgatory. Are the moderate evangelicals, like N.T. Wright and the late Stanley Grentz, correct in supporting women's ordination? They know their scripture and theology, and they can countenance a pretty good case for women's ordination. Of course, you can show them where they are wrong; they will kindly reply that you are wrong; and the Catholic will simply sit back and watch in amusement.

6:42 am  
Blogger J. Gordon Anderson said...

NT Wright and Stanley Grentz are wrong about the ordination of women, and support against the clear teachings of scripture and practice of tradition. That's my whole point. We have authority just as Rome does. The problem is weighing and interpreting that authority. And that is a problem within the Roman system too. It is a hermeneutical problem.

Francis Sulliven, SJ (longtime professor at the Gregorian University... i.e. not some fringe wacko) wrote a book called "Creative Fidelity" which deals with this very issue from a Roman Catholic perspective, and which you should read. And he tells the reader how the various statements from the magesterium should be interpreted, and how their level of authority should be determined. The most shocking part is his appendix where he talks about the ordination of women, and says that (I am paraphrasing, but have a complete quote from this passage on my blog) doctrines are set in stone until history and experience obliges us to look at them in a new light and then reformulate them if need be. He was very unclear on the whole issue of WO, and left an open door for it.

If the Magesterium of the Roman Church allowed the ordination of women, it would simply be a development of doctrine and you all would just have to accept it. Same thing if they changed their mind on birth control, or other things that are now sinful or wrong. The problem with the Roman system is that it is too good, and too authoritartian. Indeed, one wonders how there can be any heresy in that system. If they really wanted to ordain women, they could, because the bishop of Rome is the sole interpreter of tradition and has more authority than even a church council. And earlier statements or decrees to the contrary (such as saying that the church has no authority to ordain women, as JPII said) would simply fall under the category of truthes that need to be "reevaluated" in light of new discoveries, knowledge, and circumstances.

I'm not saying we Anglicans, or other Christians, have some heresy-proof system, or any easier time in weighing and interpreting the teachings of our magesterium. I am just saying that the Roman system is not foolproof by any strech of the imagination.

3:31 pm  
Blogger andrew said...

Sometimes I wonder whether the RC critique of Anglican foundations (which are, as Father Anderson points out, Scripture, Tradition, and reason- in that order, I think) presupposes an umwarranted degree of hermeneutical and philsophical skepticism.

On which grounds, as it turns out, they are hoist with their own petard.

Who says which reading of Vatican 2, or of any Papal Bull, is correct? If the Pope issues an explanation, whose interpretation of that is correct? and so on, ad infinitum, if we cannot at some point rely upon our ability to read/listen and understand what is authoritatively declared.

But if RCs can truly understand the Pope (or can they, if they mistrust their own personal judgment so much?), even in the face on internecine conflicts, why cannot Anglicans understand Scripture and discern and understand the authentic Tradition?

9:25 pm  
Anonymous Kevin Davis said...

We have authority just as Rome does. The problem is weighing and interpreting that authority.

I agree in regard to the problem of weighing and interpreting the Church's authority and her tradition. The Roman Catholic, however, can say that his Church is that authority. Your church cannot. That's the whole point. It may be fun to speculate how much the Holy See can spin things and adopt inauthentic changes, but the Catholic believes that precisely this is impossible because, once again, he believes in a Church -- a real, living, breathing Church and not a notion or theory apart from this Church. Francis Sullivan, by the way, has been duly criticized for his interpretation of the Church's magisterium (though, by and large, he takes a conservative position). This is nothing new to Catholics (as witnessed in the intense debates between ultramontanists and moderates in the 19th century) as the Church discerns her authority and tradition, but the Catholic believes in this Church and that her decisions (and further interpretations and developments) are protected by the Holy Spirit. Once again, this is the critical difference between my position (the Roman Catholic position) and yours. The Anglo-Catholic can only exhort his church to follow a more "catholic" position (and in the case of the Episcopal Church, failing miserably, thus necessitating further schism as Anglo-Catholics create their own communions); the Catholic, however, can have the trust and confidence that his Church is indeed the Catholic Church of Jesus Christ. We don't wonder why every mainline Protestant church in the Western world has capitulated to women's ordination (and pro-choice, among other issues) and why the Catholic Church of Rome has not.

6:32 am  

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