Relativism, Modernism & Liberalism Combined in an Unholy Trinity

Abraham Offers Tithes to Priest-King Melchizedek of Salem—Peter Paul Rubens.
Thanks to Luke O'Sullivan for providing the inspiration for the title of this post.

I have been fascinated by the events in the Anglican church over the last few days. I have also come to recognise how ignorant I am regarding Anglicanism (is that the right terminology even?) which seems impossibly complex and bureaucratic, which is saying something coming from a Catholic!

I was taken to task by someone I know on Twitter last week for referring to Anglican 'bishops'. This was considered patronising and I was admonished to accept the validity of Anglican religious orders out of respect for them.

This struck me as somewhat disingenuous. I am a Latin Rite Catholic and the Papal Bull Apostolicae Curae issued in 1896 by Pope Leo XIII declared all Anglican ordinations to be "absolutely null and utterly void".

The issue, as best I understand it, is regards the intention with which orders are given and received in the CofE. I'm sure most Anglican bishops would say they intend to create "Catholic Priests" when they ordain but the problem, as we have clearly observed over the last few days, is what Anglicans mean by both "Catholic" and "Priests".

Father Ray explains it like this:
"We Catholics understand "Catholic" to mean those in communion with, and recognised as being so by the Bishop of Rome, the geographical adjective such as Roman, Greek or Ukrainian designating which Rite these particular Catholics use. Personally, I prefer (Latin or) Roman Rite Catholic, to Roman Catholic. Anglicans seem to use "Catholic" in the sense of "universal". The ordination of female presbyters made it difficult for them to use the term to mean what Anglo-Catholics had understood by it: an Anglican who in some sense is faithful to "Catholic" tradition, in the same sense that we might understand the Orthodox or other ancient Churches to be "Catholic". The ordination of women, in fact did so much to damage to the notion that Anglicanism has anything in common with the ancient Churches that although Anglicans might use "catholic" in the Creed it as void of meaning as it is in the mouth of any other member of a Protestant sect. The presence of female "priests" rather undermines the argument the CofE is "both Catholic and Reformed"...
...Anglicanism is built on the repudiation of priesthood and sacrifice. With the severe weakening of the Anglo-Catholic faction in Anglicanism, few in today's CofE will speak of "priests", male or female, in terms of offering Christ for the "quick and dead". The most sacral argument might suggest that a CofE "priest" is a preacher, or teacher, a pastoral worker or even a head of a local Church. Catholics will have no real problem with these functions. Women have done these things in the Church down the ages, just think of medieval abbesses."
Thus I cannot accept the validity of Anglican orders, though I do not doubt the sincerity or faith of my Anglican friends. To be an Anglican is a valid choice, and it is a choice to be separated from the Apostolic Tradition held in perpetuity by the Catholic Church. It is Protestant. It's not us separating you from us, it is you separating you from us, and us respecting your decision. This is now ever more evident in the Anglican Church's continued momentum away from the Apostolic faith and towards a modernist interpretation.

Father Robert Mortimer-Anderson was Parish Priest at St. Peter's Eastwood for seven years or so. He was a convert from Anglicanism, and we had many conversations about his journey, which I found very moving. He always insisted that his move to the Catholic Church was not about women priests, but about authority. how decision were made and where the authority to make those decisions comes from.

In the Church of England, this comes from a synod. This historically refers to a council of a church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. In modern usage, the word often refers to the governing body of a particular church, whether its members are meeting or not. It is also sometimes used to refer to a church that is governed by a synod.

The word synod comes from the Greek σύνοδος (synodos) meaning "assembly" or "meeting", and it is synonymous with the Latin word concilium — "council". Originally synods were meetings of bishops, and the word is still used in that sense in Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.

Sometimes the phrase general synod or general council refers to an ecumenical council. The word synod also refers to the standing council of high-ranking bishops governing some of the autocephalous Eastern Orthodox churches. Similarly, the day-to-day governance of patriarchal and major archiepiscopal Eastern Catholic Churches are entrusted to a permanent synod.

In the Anglican Communion, synods are elected by clergy and laity. In most Anglican churches, there is a geographical hierarchy of synods, with General Synod at the top; bishops, clergy and laity meet as "houses" within the synod.

Diocesan synods are convened by a bishop in his or her diocese, and consist of elected clergy and lay members.

Deanery synods are convened by the Rural Dean (or Area Dean) and consist of all clergy licensed to a benefice within the deanery, plus elected lay members.

For the measure on women in the Anglican episcopate to pass it required a 67% majority in all of three houses of the synod: bishops, clergy and laity.

It got 94% in the House of Bishops (Yes 44; No 3; Absentions 2), 77% in the House of Clergy (Yes 148; No 45) , 64% in the House of Laity (Yes 132; No 74). So it lost by a whisker, really. Six votes — or fewer than that and a few abstentions.

What is clear is that, despite the newspaper headlines, “Church of England says “No” to women bishops” or similar, this is not what has happened. The Church of England has NOT rejected having women in the episcopate; rather it has affirmed, many times over, that it will have women in the episcopate. What has been rejected — by a very slim margin — is this particular legislation.

It is true to say that there is, as a result of this vote, going to be a significant delay before women bishops become a reality in the CofE. But it is equally true and evident to say that this is not the end. This issue is not going to go away. There will be women bishops in the CofE.

I have to say that I think there should be. They made that decision when they voted for women priests. You can't have one without the other.

Now, the title of this post is really concerned with my observations regarding the actions of the synod this week and Rowan William's speech. I have to say that I was shocked with Rowan's comments, weren't you? I couldn't believe what I was hearing to be honest. Here's some hi-lights:
"We have some explaining to do. We have, as the result of yesterday, undoubtedly lost a measure of credibility in our society, and I make that as an observation as objectively as I can; because it’s perfectly true, as was said yesterday, that the ultimate credibility of the Church does not depend on the good will of the wider public. We would not be Christians and believers in divine revelation if we held that; but the fact is as it is."
I have to wonder what this means. The credibility of the Church relies on the temporal context in which it finds itself? It's as if, as Rowan says it, he recognises how incongruous his statement is. This shocked me because I imagine that the church exists to demonstrate a life lived in the truth of Christ. Yet here Rowan is saying that society has a far more advanced understanding of what constitutes a legitimate 'church' and that this is the vision which should be adhered to. It is a tacit admission that the CofE has no spiritual guidance, mandate, or inspiration.
"We also have a lot of explaining to do within the Church because I think a great many people will be wondering why it is that Diocesan Synods can express a view in one direction and the General Syod in another. That means that Synod itself is under scrutiny and under question; and I shouldn’t be at all surprised if many members of Synod and groups within Synod were not feeling today confused and uncertain about how Synod itself works – and whether there are issues we have to attend to there."
This strikes me as the prevailing attitude and one that speaks of a sore looser. Where were these concerns before the ballot? Wasn't that the appropriate time to address the effectiveness or otherwise of the process? Before, all I heard and saw, on tv and radio, were members of the CofE, so confident that the measure would be passed, invoking the Holy Spirit, saying they had prayed the 'right' conclusion would be reached, and that the CofE had to trust God. Where's all that gone?
"We rightly insist in the Church of England on a high level of consent for certain kinds of change and the failure to secure a two-thirds majority in the House of Laity doesn’t mean that those high levels of consent are necessarily wrong. They do mean that there is a great deal of further work to be done, as I have said. But that sense of a Synod which, for admirable, praiseworthy reasons gives a very strong voice to the minority – that sense of Synod needs some explaining and some exploring if it is not simply to be seen as a holding to hostage of Synod by certain groups. That is part of the explaining we have to do, and we are all, I guess, feeling those uncomfortable questions."
Well, either that Rowan, or the change is wrong. This is spiritually empty. It is devoid of any pretence of divine involvement. This is a democratic process.
"Bishops of course will meanwhile be taking soundings and pursuing conversations in their own dioceses, and that does bear a little bit on a question later today about the pattern of Synodical meetings next year."
It's interesting how the confidence of the pro-women bishops lobby now seems horribly out of touch with the groundswell of opinion from the laity. How did they get it so wrong?
"The best way of keeping up pressure for a solution may not be to meet in February; but that is of course for further discussion and is in no sense meant to minimise the sense of urgency that we all face. Within that timeframe is when initial conversations have to begin."
"pressure for a solution" means a solution equals the result that the faction who lost this time are determined to bring about. We're not talking about whether there can be women bishops in the CofE, we are talking about when they can force it to happen. It makes even the democratic dimension of the decision making process seem empty.
" would be tempting to conclude that it is too difficult, that perhaps the issue should be parked for a while. I don’t believe that is possible because of what I said earlier about the sense of our credibility in the wider society. Every day in which we fail to resolve this to our satisfaction, and the Church of England’s satisfaction, is a day when our credibility in the public eye is likely to diminish, and we have to take that seriously: however uncomfortable that message may be."
What does this say about the wider Church which does not accept the validity of even the possibility of women being priests? Does it not suggest that we are lacking in credibility? What does it say about the argument of those within the CofE that do not accept the validity of women bishops? That there is no pace for them in the CofE.
"There is a matter of mission here and we can’t afford to hang about. We can’t, as I said yesterday in my remarks, indefinitely go on living simply theologically with the anomaly of women priests who cannot be considered for bishops."
It is all very strange isn't it?
"...the Church of England did not vote for its dissolution yesterday."
Maybe not, but disestablishment is certainly being mooted!
"The Church of England in a very important sense cannot vote for its dissolution, because the Church does not exist by the decision of Synod, by the will or personality of bishops or archbishops, by the decision of any pressure group, but by the call of Almighty God through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit."
Hmmmm...Who are you trying to convince Rowan? This whole process, to me, merely serves to further secularise the Church of England which, as a result, appears to be desperately confused about what it is and what its mission and purpose actually are. Relevance? Should the Church of Christ, who this Sunday in the Gospel confirms Himself as the One who testifies to the truth (Jn 5:33; 8:40, 45, 46). The Jews have rejected this truth (Jn 8:44), while the disciples receive it from Jesus (14:6; 17:17, 19).

As Catholics, we hold to the truth of Jesus Christ.

Can we say that the Anglican Church is truly Protestant? Some would say that the Church of England never departed from the catholic Church, but rather from the errors of Rome. It was Whitgift who observed that the Church of England was 'reformed' not 'transformed' because 'we retain whatsoever we find to be good, refuse or reform that which is evil'. Some argue that over succeeding centuries, Anglicanism has offered catholicism without Roman centralisation and authoritarianism. In reality I think it has attempted to do this, but not because of some reformist integrity, rather because that reformist agenda utterly failed in England, and the people rejected Puritanism and Protestantism. The Church of England came about as a half way house, a return to the Catholicism rejected by Henry VIII, Thomas Cranmer and Thomas Cromwell for rather more subjective than noble reasons, and subsequently foisted on a public who didn't care for it. Without Rome, without the successor of Peter, without the authority of the Rock, without the Roman Curia, this attempt at catholicism is drifting slowly further and further away from the fides quae and becoming ever less recognisable as Apostolic.

The Full text of the Archbishop's presidential address to General Synod is available here.

Meanwhile, if you want to know why the Church teaches what it teaches about women and holy orders, or if you have questions, please indulge me by reading this brilliant post by Megan Hodder.

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