Sunday, November 06, 2011

Communio in sacris and the Contrapositive

Consider the following problem.

You are trying to be a good Christian, obeying your conscience, the Catholic Faith and your bishop as the centre of the local Church. Suppose further that your bishop holds to a doctrine which, though in the majority viewpoint in the diocese and certainly in your parish, is nonetheless contrary to the Catholic Faith. Yet further, suppose that your bishop now tells you that because you belong to a parish which accepts the controversial teaching, you have no grounds to object to it. What do you do?

Well, look at the statement logically.

If you belong to a parish and that parish accepts the heterodox then you have no grounds to object to that doctrine.
This has form:

If A & B then C.

This is logically equivalent to the contrapositive:

If not C then either not A or not B.

so our original statement becomes in contrapositive:

If you have grounds to object then either your parish does not accept the heterodox or you do not belong to the parish.
Well, your parish does accept the non-Catholic doctrine, so for the bishop's statement to be true, you cannot be a member of the parish and have grounds to object. But since the doctrine is clearly contrary to the Catholic Faith, grounds to object exist regardless of your or the bishop's views.

Thus for the bishop's statement to be true you must either accept that which is not taught by the Church or you cannot be a member of the parish. What options do you have?

  1. You are obedient to your bishop according to the teaching of St Ignatius, so you accept that the statement must be true. You are obedient to the Catholic Faith so therefore you cannot be a member of the parish.

  2. You are disobedient to the bishop, then you can reject his statement as false. Disagreement with one's bishop is often not a problem provided that one is aware and respectful of the authority invested in him by virtue of the Catholic Church and acts with due humility, but wilful disobedience to your bishop on matters of faith disunites you from the Church through the contradiction of St Ignatius' criterion for Church membership, therefore you cannot be a faithful member of the parish.

  3. You accept the non-Catholic doctrine, but this is an effective denial of what you believe and to do so changes the faith which you have received which puts you outside what the Church has always believed. This endangers one's relationship with God - membership of a parish is irrelevant if one is not in harmony with the Divine!
In all three cases, you are sacrificing either your spiritual health or your membership of your parish and thus your spiritual health. Either way, your growth as a Christian is going to be profoundly affected by prolonged to exposure to doubt, a conscience deliberately uninformed (nay misinformed) by trying to sweep the matter under the carpet, and/or the loss of a worshipping community. We all have doubts and these doubts teach us to be faithful, but a prolonged doubt can quickly become wilful and turn into radical skepticism.

In accepting that which is contrary to the Faith, a bishop has endangered the spiritual health of his entire diocese irrespective of whether they agree with him or not. This includes the priests in his diocese who, while still remaining orthodox, nonetheless despite the validity of their sacraments are still in some danger because of the nature of their relations with the bishop.

For a recovery of one's health, there is only one course of action open to you - you have to find an orthodox bishop in order to guarantee one's membership of the Church.We have now seen that a bishop who equates membership of the church with a particular doctrine practically excommunicates all those who refuse that doctrine.

This is why the office of a bishop is very onerous and it behoves us to be loyal and support him in order that he may continue to guide us into a lively faith. A bishop is not a diocesan CEO: his investment into the diocese is vastly greater than just monetary. The fate of his soul depends on how he leads his flock.

So where am I going with this?

Well, I read more and more about the latest Diocesan results about the Women Bishops measure. The vast majority of Dioceses seem to have voted in favour, but they have also voted against any measure to protect those who in conscience cannot accept the ministry of a female bishop. They believe that a Code of Practice will do.

It should be now quite clear to dissenting bishops, priests and laity that there will soon be a pronouncement:

If you are in the Church of England then you have no grounds to object to women in the episcopate.

It is there in the Canons:

A 4 Of the Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining,
and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons

The Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining, and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, annexed to The Book of Common Prayer and commonly known as the Ordinal, is not repugnant to the Word of God; and those who are so made, ordained, or consecrated bishops, priests, or deacons, according to the said Ordinal, are lawfully made, ordained, or consecrated, and ought to be accounted, both by themselves and others, to be truly bishops, priests, or deacons.

(emphases mine)

Thus, at the level of Canon, in being a member of the Church of England, one has no canonical nor legal grounds to object to a female Priest and soon it will be the same for bishops when the resolutions for dissenters will be removed. This will lead to great problems.

A 8 Of schisms
Forasmuch as the Church of Christ has for a long time past been distressed by separations and schisms among Christian men, so that the unity for which our Lord prayed is impaired and the witness to his gospel is grievously hindered, it is the duty of clergy and people to do their utmost not only to avoid occasions of strife but also to seek in penitence and brotherly charity to heal such divisions.

What can be done if there can only be a schism if one genuinely dissents as we have demonstrated above? There can be only a Canonical paradox if one looks logically. If there must not be a schism then everyone must unanimously accept women in the Episcopate - a two-thirds majority cannot cut it!

This can only mean that (if they are not suffering already) Anglo-Catholics will simply not be able to exist in the CofE without severe spiritual damage which will come from a gradual erosion. It would be much better for an amicable departure to be arranged so that both sides can follow their own chosen paths to whatever ends there may be without interference and restraint from dissension.

This is a tall order for the poor priests whose living depends upon the CofE's Established nature. For them to make any move away from the Established Church will take much courage and a leap into physical uncertainty. However there is spiritual assurance outside the CofE that remains Anglican. They will find a very warm welcome in the Continuum, they can be very certain of that. They certainly have our prayers and humble petitions for their health and well-being and for their spiritual fulfilment.

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