Sunday, April 27, 2008

Questions for the fish and the fowl.

Of course, I'm neither(!) The members of the Holy See do not regard me as Catholic, and several members of the Anglican Church do not see me as Anglican.

However much I love and respect both aspects of my Christianity, I do have questions that need to be addressed.

To the Roman Catholic: You are of course committed to the unity of the Church in obedience to the Lord's desire for One Church, and I know that you wouldn't wish to place obstacles into that unity. What are you doing to address what are legitimate concerns that Anglicans have what they perceive as Roman Catholic innovations, namely Papal Supremacy and Infallibility, and the enforced subscription to dogma such as Transubstantiation? If you really want Anglicans to be convinced to return to full communion with you, then you will need to listen carefully about their concerns, and answer them fully and kindly with a view to that unity. What are you doing to counter wilful Anglicanophobia from within your Church in order to show the Love of God to your offspring?

To the Anglican: You are also, of course committed to the unity of the Church in obedience to the Lord's desire for One Church. What are you doing to address the legitimate concern that the constant fragmentation of Anglicanism into smaller and smaller units is nothing to do with the Protestant tendency to choose self-rule over submission to authority? How are you working to convince the Pope of the wonderful integrity that your heritage possesses so that he will use his keys to bind the churches together? Further, what are you doing to remove any Anti-Roman sentiments which place an obstacle in the way of a loving reconciliation with one of your parents?

I am looking for more questions to ask. I haven't as yet found either the words or the brainspace for them.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Cardinal Newman on Transubstantiation

The Catholic doctrine is as follows. Our Lord is in loco in heaven, not in the same sense in the Sacrament. He is present in the Sacrament only in substance... and substance does not require or imply the occupation of place. But if place is excluded from the idea of the Sacramental Presence, therefore division or distance from heaven is excluded also, for distance implies a measurable interval, and such there cannot be except between places. Moreover, if the idea of distance is excluded, therefore is the idea of motion. Our Lord, then, neither descends from heaven upon our altars, nor moves when carried in procession. The visible species change their position, but He does not move. He is in the Holy Eucharist after the manner of a spirit. We do not know how; we have no parallel to the how in our experience. We can only say that He is present not according to the natural manner of bodies, but sacramentally. His presence is substantial, spirit-wise, sacramental, an absolute mystery, not against reason, however, but against imagination, and must be received by faith. (Via Media, 1877, II. 220).

Notice that both Newman and Manning, two former Anglicans (or did they ever cease to be Anglicans) speak of a general (i.e. not necessarily Aristotelian) Transubstantiation. Certainly in the sacramental dimension, the bread ceases to be bread and the wine wine regardless of whether we regard their physical properties, their natural criteria to be.

I find these two passages worth a deal of thought.

Cardinal Manning on Transubstantiation

The following is a quote from a letter of Cardinal Manning to Archdeacon Wilberforce on the matter of transubstantiation.

  1. The Council of Trent says that our Lord's humanity, secundum naturalem existendi modum, i.e., in its proper dimensions, etc., is at the right hand of God only.

  2. The Church therefore distinguishes natural presence from supernatural or sacramental presence. Of the modes of this sacramental presence it defines nothing. It is supernatural.

  3. The presence, being supernatural, is not a subject of natural criteria or natural operations.

  4. Within the sphere of natural phenomena and effects there is no change in the consecrated elements. But a change does take place in a sphere into which no natural criteria, such as sense, can penetrate. Of this we are assured by the words of Revelation, "Hoc est, etc." The Church is concerned only to affirm this supernatural fact, as Vasquez says, "ut sint vera Christi verba" Beyond this affirmation the Church affirms nothing.

  5. It has no jurisdiction in science or philosophy. The office of the Church is Divine and unerring within the sphere of the original revelation. But ontology and metaphysics are no part of it. There are many philosophies about matter and substance etc., but none are authoritative. They are many because no one has been defined. . . .

How does this compare with your understanding of the Real Presence of Christ?

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

How shall I sing that Majesty?

My sabbatical ends this Sunday, and I will no doubt be asked to provide magazine articles once more. Here's one that I've prepared for some of my critics. Thanks to Ed Pacht for his thoughts on the matter.

Those of you who see me in Church will notice that I do not sing when the hymns are from the Mission Praise song book. It's quite reasonable that I should be questioned as to why I don't join in with these congregational songs and I do owe an explanation why.

I do take my hymn singing very seriously, after all singing praise to Our God is fully Biblical. Indeed the Bible is riddled with poems and songs and references to singing hymns en masse. So clearly congregational singing is part of our heritage and everyone in the congregation ought to sing as best as they can in order to offer praise to God as one body of Christ.

If I'm saying that everyone must sing congregational hymns, then why am I behaving like the hypocrite by not doing so? If our taste in music is not important and we should sing regardless of whether we "like" the music or not, then surely I am in the wrong by closing my mouth whilst everyone else's is open.

You see, I don't refuse to sing on the grounds of taste, but on the grounds of theology. As I say, I take my hymn singing very seriously, and the first consideration that needs to be made is answering the question "what is this hymn saying to God, to the people around and to me?"

Take this little song

I'm accepted, I’m forgiven,
I am fathered by the true and living God.
I’m accepted, no condemnation,
I am loved by the true and living God.

There’s no guilt or fear as I draw near
To the Saviour and Creator of the world.
There is joy and peace
As I release my worship to You, O Lord.

321 in Mission Praise.

It seems quite simple and harmless, but it's just wrong in its understanding of God. It contains bad theology that is contrary to our Anglican beliefs.

Let's take it apart.

I'm accepted, I'm forgiven: This first line suffers from a significant lack of detail about how we are accepted and forgiven by God. I am only accepted in the eyes of God if I have fully confessed my sins, fully repented and I am fully prepared to follow Christ in my life and in proper regard with the Sacraments. Taken as it is written, that first line could be guilty of the sin of presumption. It says nothing about the sorrow for our sins that we need to have and perhaps it also encourages us not to worry about our guilt.

I am fathered by the true and living God: This line could be sung by so many folk who claim to be Christians but are not, such as the Mormons and the Jehovah's Witnesses.

I'm accepted, no condemnation: Repetition does not make any statement more true.

I am loved by the true and living God: Everyone is loved by God, including those who are not Christian, including those who do not believe in God, and also including those who are on the pathway to Hell because of their lack of repentance.

There’s no guilt or fear as I draw near To the Saviour and Creator of the world:

Who is worthy of approaching God? As C.S. Lewis remarks in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe:

"Is he safe?" "Safe?" said Mr. Beaver... "Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."

If we have no fear of God, then clearly we have not understood, nor wanted to understand, Who He is. The fact that we are permitted to approach is testament to Christ's humanity. To say that we can approach Christ with any less fear is Arian, meaning that we do not appreciate His power as God.

There is joy and peace As I release my worship to You, O Lord: An interesting phrase, but does it actually mean anything? How is my worship of God constrained, and how my I release it? Am I keeping it a prisoner? If I do not praise God willingly then my body praises him regardless. Compare this with St Luke 19:37-40.

Finally, what is the most common word used in this song? The answer is "I" - I'm accepted, I'm forgiven, I'm fathered, I am loved." Rather egotistical this song, isn't it? Can this be a song to praise the same God who said, "if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily , and follow me"? At Mass, we come together to praise God as a body forgetting ourselves ("though we are many, we are one body because we all share in one bread"). The only thing that we must do as individuals is confess our own sins - "I confess that I have sinned" - and confess our faith - "I believe in one God." Isn't it God Whom we are to praise? How does a song which focuses on "me" praise God?

This song is more concerned with soothing our consciences than praising and learning about God.

We really do need to think about what we're singing and saying in Church otherwise we can really make some terrible mistakes.

But this isn't the only thing that Mission Praise does. It changes the words of hymns to make them more "understandable" to people singing. In doing so, it changes their meaning, and changes our ability to find the truth of God within their words. This is true to some extent with all hymn books, but Mission Praise likes to chop and change for convenience such as the last verse of Crown Him with many Crowns (MP 109, AMNS 147) in which two verses have been cut and wedged together. Also the last verse of Christ is made the sure foundation (MP 73, AMNS 332 part 2) has been altered to make it easier to understand but in doing so omits crucial Anglican understanding of the Holy Trinity (consubstantial is not the same as "one in power" co-eternal is not the same as "one in glory").

In short, I do not trust Mission Praise to preserve traditional Anglican teaching, and because it is necessary for every Christian to follow the traditional teaching of the Church and because I don't have time to check the theology of every hymn and song at Mass, I cannot bring myself to sing from this book. It isn't because it's not to my taste, it's because it's not what any thinking Christian believes. I hope this answers the questions of my practices.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Is there a justification of Anglo-Papalism? (II)

The more I look at the position of Anglican Papalism as a movement, the less confused I feel that I am. Again, I know of critics on the Roman side who say that I am in sin, and there are critics on the Anglo-Catholic side who object to the claims of the Holy See.

Having published Fr. Spencer Jones' 28 observations below, I find myself very able to affirm my position of being "neither fish nor foul" in the eyes of almost everyone else.

Anglican Papalists have a mission, and a worthy mission at that. We are not out to "sell out" the fullness of Anglicanism to a foreign power, nor are we demanding capitulation of Roman Doctrine to accommodate Anglican demands. In the eyes of the Holy See, we are already part of the church albeit as a group of individuals rather than an episcopal body. As Anglicans, we already affirm ourselves to be part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Our mission is for the reunion of these two great edifices, both of whom are suffering the excessive demands of the age.

We accept the claims of Rome to be true, but acknowledge (and encourage deeply) that these claims need to be debated, discussed and examined carefully. This takes much time, patience and understanding but, according to Fr. Jones' articles, the solution is out there in the hearts of Christians and in the structures which exist right at this very moment in time. If we are afraid of Infallibility we must ascertain whether this fear is justifiable or whether it is a lack of faith in the promises God made to the Church. If we are afraid of universal jurisdiction then is this a disinclination to be ruled, or is this a genuine concern of the amount of power and authority one man can receive? We have to examine ourselves first before we examine the Church.

Despite the Innocentian decrees, we feel that individual secession is not the way forward - it does not help us solve the problem, and that is the raison d'etre of the Anglican Papalist. There is a problem that needs to be solved - Catholic Disunity. We have the means to solve it, though we need the patience, understanding, time and gumption to see it through, so individual secession is precisely that - an individual decision based on conscience.

We also accept that the claims of Rome and the existence of the Anglican Church are divergent. The position of the Pope as having universal jurisdiction and infallibility will always be a sticking point unless there is debate as to how there may be unity from this. If the Orthodox Churches can be reunited, then so can the Anglican Church, though we need Papal assistance to do so.

We also acknowledge that the Protestant parts of the Anglican Communion have made our position very difficult in their acceptance of divergent doctrine which has resulted in ARCIC being a nominal body at best. The fact that there is a continual polarisation of the Communion is a good thing, if I'm honest. We need clear lines along which to move. There are parts of Anglicanism which are better suited to reunion than others. The trouble is that they are diverse and scattered in the diaspora so as to give the Holy See little idea of the level of conformity. The Continuum needs to shake off the thoroughly undeserved, yet palpable, image of being a bunch of divisive malcontents who only want their own way and promote their clear, Catholic and Apostolic identity. Reunion can only come when the Holy See has a significant body with which to debate.

Certainly in the Church of England and especially in ECUSA, there is the greater problem of being identified with heterodox and heretical teaching being promulgated as "acceptable" - actually not just acceptable, the phrase used is "consonant with Anglican understanding". It makes no difference if an Archbishop, or synod or indeed an entire communion agrees it - heresy is not consonant with Anglican understanding, and the fact that there is much discontent within the Anglican Communion over the recent alterations to the faith demonstrates clearly that there is no consonance - this contrary to the Vincentian Canon.

This has resulted in many good and faithful Anglicans within the C of E and ECUSA as getting tarred with the same brush as the revisionists and relativists by the Continuum and by the Holy See. How can a faithful Anglican remain part of the Communion?

Again for me, two issues dominate. The first is the personal issue - there is nowhere else for me. The second is that, again, leaving the situation does not solve the problem. It might appear to be a hopeless cause, but surely the fact that it looks hopeless is no reason for us not to try to sort out these problems.
It would make a great deal of sense for there to be a clear split between Protestants and Catholics in the Anglican Church. Yes, I'm advocating a form of schism - the anathema of the Papalist ideal - but I think it is necessary for Protestants with their female "priests" and their "new takes" on the Gospel to walk apart for a while, while the Catholics seek to rebuild a damaged Church. In fact I think it would be better to have a form of Benedictine excommunication, remaining part of the community only clearly separated. Only when this has been achieved can we begin a good dialogue with the Protestants and find some common ground.

I maintain that Anglican Papalism is justified in its existence. The ideal is there, however hopeless the cause may be. We may face more knocks than most, but that's the price we get for trying to bridge a gap. However, the veracity and sincerity of our intentions will be judged by God alone. I certainly pray for His blessing on the endeavours of all who strive for the unity and love between Christians.