Tuesday, September 19, 2006

some principles

Continuing a theme I began in a previous post about my concerns for the unity of "the Network" -- what with parishes leaving it because they just can't stand the administrative connections to ECUSA that being in a Network diocese entails.  I am posting my thoughts on some Anglican Catholic principles.  I would really like to know what you all think.  I know that Roman Catholics among you (for example) will deny number 3 below -- that Anglicanism is essentially a catholic form of Chrstianity, but Anglicanism has always understood itself thus, and I am assuming that it is so.  When I stop assuming that, I will leave Anglicanism.  But for the rest of you, what do you think?  Is this correct?  Are we right to be frustrated with parishes so eager to be disscociated from ECUSA that they leave (and thereby weaken) Network dioceses?  Here are my thoughts:

(1)  That we are to till the Ground on which we are set:  We are obliged as Christians to thank and praise God through the agency of the One and Only Son of God in our lives, in answer to the One and Only Father’s call to us, preeminently by seeding the particular furrows before which He has set us.  Our attitude should be one of praise (doxa) and thanksgiving (eucharistia), even (especially) in the midst of contexts we adjudge to cause us to suffer.

(2)  With what seed we are to seed the furrows to which providence has brought us:  We are obliged as catholic Christians to maintain – that is, we are obliged ourselves to live and to proclaim to others -- the one faith, the one doctrine and the one service / devotion / sacrifice of the One Body of Christ, the One Church.  We are obliged to affirm what the whole Church has taught, to submit ourselves to the discursive content of the faith of the One and Only Body of Christ; and we must take care that the acting-out of our praise (doxa) and thanksgiving (eucharistia) is after the pattern of the praise and thanksgiving of the One and Only Body of Christ.  This issue is multi-faceted, but involves historical considerations, as well as considerations of particular intentions.
(3)  We are obliged as Anglican catholic Christians to accomplish (1) and (2) by means of the doctrine and devotion of Anglicanism, in sacramental communion with Anglicans the world over.  This is our chief obligation as Anglicans, and is how our catholicity is maintained, i.e. we maintain our communion with the One Body of Christ through our  sacramental union and communion with all Anglicans.

(4)  The Apostolical authority through whom a parish's sacramental communion with Anglicans the world over (cf. 3, above) is mediated and maintained is that of the Bishop of its diocese (for bishops are the heirs of the graces of apostilicty bestowed by our Lord, including that of apostolical unity for which the Lord himself prayed.  The apostolical prerogatives of Priests - including the grace of unity - are not theirs per se, but are derived only from the agency, and through the consent of, their Ordinary).  This derivative apostilicty of priests from their bishops is how ecclesiological integrity and coherence are maintained in the Catholic Church, and are hallmarks of it.

(5)  It is permissible (and incumbent upon) a priest and parish to disregard and violate 4 (above) in and only in the case that the bishop, under whose authority that priest ministers the Gospel, has himself violated 3, thereby removing his see, and the clergy and parishes under his oversight, from the unity of doctrine and devotion shared by Anglicans the world over.


The young fogey said...

Thought of all this recently with the latest rumour that +Pennsylvania make take action against Good Shepherd, Rosemont. (I haven't seen any confirmation of this so it may not be true.)

You have a point that, while well-intended and understandable, according to Catholic theology things like FiF/UK's Resolution C based on'theology of taint' don't work - they're Donatist. Open and notorious evil living (+New Hampshire for example, or those prelates who are divorced and remarried) and even heresy don't invalidate orders (the Orthodox AFAIK would agree as long as the bishop remains in their communion). So if you accept Anglican orders, either in themselves or thanks to the Dutch touch, there aren't many good reasons to break with your ordinary.

It all hangs on whether ECUSA as a whole can still claim to be part of the Church Catholic or is simply another liberal Protestant denomination (it certainly acts like one).

That said it seems right to me that the Russian Orthodox Church for example stopped ecumenical relations with ECUSA after the Gene Robinson incident (in which ECUSA made a statement that evil is good) and the Pope through then-Cardinal Ratzinger took the unprecedented step of contacting the American Anglican Council directly to show support without going through ECUSA first (the usual ecumenical etiquette AFAIK).

Then there's what may happen if ECUSA is thrown out of the Anglican Communion and those dioceses and parishes that want to stay in it go under overseas bishops, joining the new ecclesiastical arrangements like AMiA for example. I can see parishes losing their buildings in court over that but dioceses have a chance of keeping all their properties. (Because dioceses are independent of each other.)

The trouble with the Network is it really isn't Catholic but simply re-creates the Elizabethan settlement without Broad Churchmanship: Catholics and a couple of different kinds of Protestants yoked together. Without state coercion I don't see this coalition working in the long run.

Thanks to the semi-congregational polity of ECUSA, an irony that made Anglo-Catholicism possible there, I can see some Catholic parishes continuing in some modus indefinitely under harmless liberal bishops (as opposed to revisionists) who leave them alone... at least until the effects of Canon III are felt and there are no more sound male ordinands...

Anonymous said...

For the record, Forward in Faith UK
explicitly repudiates a 'theology of taint' and does not hold that anyone's orders are invalid by reason of evil living or heresy.

The young fogey said...

Thanks - I didn't mean to imply that FiF are Donatist. I know they're not! But IIRC Resolution C can be construed that way.

J-Tron said...

This comes back yet again to what is the crux of my frustration with the Network. It is also essentially why I cannot understand how any Catholic Christians can abide within it (although I admit that it is a slightly more catholic option than say joining one of the many outright schismatic "Anglican" sects that now dot the American landscape). The problem I have is with number five. It creates a subjectivism towards the state of the Church that can only be described as protestant. One chooses whether or not to submit to the authority of the bishop based on a personal assessment of the bishop's adherance to orthodoxy. How is this any different from any other individualistic decision to leave the Church, even if maintaining some semblance of catholic accoutrements in the process? I'm not saying that appeals cannot and should not be made to settle disputes. One should not have to tolerate tyranny. But still, I am perplexed.

father wb said...

JT -

But surely you would agree that if an ECUSA bishop decided on something we can all agree is schismatic and heretical -- if, for example, a bishop decided that all baptisms in his jurisdiction would be only "in the name of Jesus" (rather than using the Trinitarian formula), or if he decided that he would start ordaining animals and vegetables to the diaconate and priesthood, in such a situation priests under his oversight would be justified in looking for another bishop to oversee them. The determination of whether a bishop is no longer orthodox isn't made by those under him; its made by the wider Church (in our case, the Anglican Communion). Clergy and laity under a bishop have only to determine whether they will remain with him in apostasy, or maintain their fidelity to the teaching of the Anglican Communion, and thereby to the one faith of the one Body (and in doing so, appeal to other bishops for help).

father wb said...

YF --

"It all hangs on whether ECUSA as a whole can still claim to be part of the Church Catholic or is simply another liberal Protestant denomination (it certainly acts like one)."

I agree. That's really the crux of the whole thing, at least for Anglo-Catholics. As you probably know, my disgust is not moralistic. Its ecclesiological. Frankly, my reason doesn't tell me clearly WHY gay's shouldn't be allowed to marry. But the Church does tell me clearly THAT they shan't.

But I am assuming (and betting) that, in this, ECUSA has departed not only from the clear and consistent teaching of the Cahtolic Church, but of that part of her called "Anglican." And that the rest of Anglicanism will (catholically) correct this aberration. I think we are in the midst of that catholic correction and clarification, but its painstaking and painful. But the "orthodox" alliance should give it a chance. If it doesn't work, THEN they (we) should look elsewhere. But first, SEE IT THROUGH (I say).

J-Tron said...

WB, I understand the position you take. I understand that you believe that approval of gay and lesbian unions is enough of an offense that if a bishop commits it his priests should seek relief. But that doesn't answer my question. How is such a determination any different than the determination made by any reformer to break with the Church and form a new institution called "church"? How does this issue differentiate from those pursued in good faith by Luther or Calvin?

MM said...

Yeah, you are pretty good, Fr.

father wb said...

JT --

Its not the condoning of same sex practices per se that I think are grounds for looking for alternative oversight. Its the refusal of ECUSA bishops to except the censure of the Church at large. Its the insistence on autonomy that I think is schismatic. That its over the gay issue is an accident of history.

And I think Luther and Calvin DID leave the catholic fold.