Saturday, December 31, 2011

Re-ordering unity

Good grief! My 400th post!

I am grateful to Jakian Thomist for providing me with information as to how Anglicans can accept re-ordination in order to enter the Roman Catholic Church. I do take his point that
"there is a sense of 'talking-past' one another on this topic, RC's 'reducing' its significance while Anglican contributors feeling as if 'THE' point has been completely missed."
Well, perhaps we need to find some way of finding the actual issue here an insuring that we get it right.

There are essentially two issues which appear to be in conflict:

1) Reunion of Anglicans into Communion with the Holy See;
2) The Invalidity of Anglican Orders via Apostolicae Curae.

From Apostolicae Curae, we see that, at the very least, Rome believes that Anglican orders are not the same as Roman orders and that an Anglican priest is not the same as a Roman Catholic priest. Are the two notions really different?
Well, here, I think, is where the idea of Absolute Ordination and Relative Ordination come in - it is a question of doubt and thence a question of trust. If one accepts that Anglican priesthood can only be truly completed by ordination as a Roman Catholic priest, then one can in good conscience submit to the process of re-ordination as a priest in order to have one's orders completed.

The problem with this attitude is that it then describes Anglicanism as being incomplete in a manner in which most Anglicans cannot accept. In a very good sense our incompleteness is true, since all "Churches" are incomplete without the others and mutual excommunication is a scandal. Anglicanism does very much need to be in Communion with Rome for the health of both Anglicanism and Rome. However, the view is that Anglicanism is incomplete in the Catholic Sense. We are then left with the question just how is Anglicanism incomplete?

Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy all stem from the Undivided Church of the seven Oecumenical councils and all claim to be following the same Apostolic Succession and the same idea of Sacrament which has been drawn from following Christ Himself. Many scholars will try to deny that, but the history of the earliest Anglicanism as independent from Rome is well attested to. Since the various Schisms have torn us apart, we now have been saddled with doubt to the intentions of the other bodies with which we formerly enjoyed full communion.

As far as I understand, the Eastern Orthodox position (and I'm honestly not quite sure that I do since there seems to be more than one Eastern Orthodox Church!) with the return to Communion will also come the return of the recognition of Anglican sacraments as Orthodox.

With Rome, the Reformation has cast a sufficient doubt on the underlying integrity of the Anglican system that there is insufficient confidence in what we do is truly what we say we do. Given the turbulence of the 16th and 17th Centuries, that's not a completely unfair position to take, provided that it were seen clearly that Apostolic Succession and the ministering of the Sacraments really has changed from the Undivided Church. As Saepius Officio shows, there is at the very least no clear evidence that Anglicanism has fallen away from the Catholic Principles of the Undivided Church.

The underlying issue is then not really of the issue of orders, though this is how it manifests itself, but rather an issue of trust.

Admittedly, churches that profess Anglicanism have done themselves no favours. If a church departs from the teaching of the Undivided Church, how on Earth can it be trusted to be following the Catholicism what is at the very heart of the existence of that Undivided Church? Corporately, the CofE and ECUSA have managed to rid themselves of Catholicism in order to appeal to a Zeitgeist. This cannot be said absolutely as many individual parishes and organisations within these bodies are striving to be Catholic. How successful they are is doubtful, but their struggles to uphold their Catholicism need support from all Catholics.

What has been more successful at completing the Oxford Movement has been the profession of the Continuing Churches, especially in the fact that they keep to the same integrity of Anglicanism prior to any change to the Catholic Faith. This has been hard, especially since Catholicism is not a popular movement in Western Society. Continuing Anglicanism has been accused of "divide, degenerate, debate, divide, degenerate, debate (ad nauseam)". This seems to be rather an out-of-date view of the way that the Continuum is travelling given the substantial commitment to unity shown by the ACC, the APCK, the APA and UECNA. There will always be some floating bodies but the the commonality, indeed Catholicity of Anglicanism makes any boundaries more fluid - just like the Orthodox jurisdictions which are just as prone to "divide, degenerate, debate, divide, degenerate, debate (ad nauseam)" and just as able to reunite and reconfigure.

All of the Anglican bodies are still recognisably Anglican because they have kept a commitment to the Undivided Church and though it be indefinable, save in a Wittgensteinian sense, there is an Anglican Integrity - a trustworthiness that we follow Our Lord Jesus Christ in the same manner as his disciples in our different time, position, culture and milieu. Those who abandon the principles of the Undivided Church abandon that trustworthiness and thus separate themselves from that integrity.

Humility is about recognising the truth about oneself and one's condition and, given that the Continuing Churches look to regulate themselves in the light of what the Church has always been, there is humility. To be united in Christ is a goal well worth struggling for, but one must be careful in the way that one accepts that unity. If one finds an impediment in conscience because of a development subsequent to the schisms, then the offered unity cannot honestly be acceptable - to deny it is not humility because it is not true belief, particularly if it comes from the conscience. One cannot enter into unity with one's fingers crossed. Such an action is insincere and an insult to both sides.

Surely the parties to be united must look to themselves with regard to these impediments and trust the other that if the impediment exists then it needs to be examined very carefully from both sides. If there is no way around them, then the question must be about the quality of unity. Is this a suzerain-vassal covenant, or a recognition of mutual integrity?

So, what the issue boils down to is not of having the humility to submit to re-ordination for the sake of unity, but rather the trust that, when only God can be convinced of Absolutes, the other party has truly been seeking the same Catholicism that existed before Schisms occurred. If re-ordination were necessary then it needs to be at the very least sub conditione not sine conditione because the latter has the monopoly on the Absolute and this cannot be demonstrated as a fact because it is an Absolute. There is only one Catholicism: this is indeed an Absolute because there is is One Lord Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

We have to appreciate that there is much that we can trust. If we follow the Covenant, then we do forge a good relationship with God and we can be as sure of that as the strength of our faith. If we have faith in our Church Leaders to uphold the principles of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, then we can be sure of the validity of the sacraments that they minister to us, and with that validity the Truth of God Himself whose Incarnation we celebrate at this wonderful time of year!

I hate to end on matters of contention. My prayer is for a corporate unity that comes from both sides - a recognition of the fidelity to the Catholic Faith and a statement in the truth of the orders of orthodox Anglicans.

May I wish you all a most happy, joyful, peaceful, fulfilling and fun 2012! God bless you all.

1 comment:

JamesIII said...

I am reminded of family holiday gatherings in which one member makes an innocent comment that, either by syntax or another's connotation of a word, an argument breaks out.

Opinions on the validity of orders (or invalidity) vary greatly within the Holy See and always have. It's not just Anglican orders. There are the PNCC, OCC, and many others.

The overriding consideration is the salvation of souls and the underlying intent is to make absolutely sure that orders are valid and sacraments validly administered.

The sticky wicket is Leo's Bull. It more-or-less prevents the diplomatic solution of Rome simply proclaiming that reordination is a matter of "assurance". The millstone tied around Rome's neck is the issue of infallibility. How do you negate an earlier proclamation without toppling what might then be seen as a "house of cards"?