Thursday, September 11, 2014

Is The RCC becoming Anglican lite?

Yesterday in the Greek class at Theology House we worked through this Sunday's gospel reading and thus by no piece of random luck chanced upon verse 5,

"One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind."

That is a lovely reminder that God loves Protestants and Catholics equally!

But later in the day, surveying Twitter, from which I detect rising anxiety that Scotland will sever ties with England, apparently not having really, really enjoyed several hundred years of marriage, I chanced upon Damian Thompson musing on ...

... the state of the marriage between 'left' and 'right' in the Roman Catholic church as exposed by the question of another kind of marriage.

For those who do not know Damian Thompson, he is a conservative Roman with deep ties into the English hierarchy and the inner sanctum of the Vatican. He is always worth reading, if slightly uncomfortable at times, for few Christian leaders avoid being targets of his lacerating barbs.

In this post even the Pontiff is subject to this vituperation:

"Pope Francis has done his own smudging with the theological photoshop."


From an Anglican perspective, it is fascinating to watch this emerging differences of viewpoint within a hierarchy now empowered to voice questions about the application of doctrine (though not encouraged to voice questions about doctrine itself).

Suddenly sharp Anglican differences over homosexuality do not seem quite so wayward. When the benchmark was Benedictine doctrinal purity to the 16th degree, we looked like a theological rabble. If not living in a parallel universe, marked by chaos compared to the strict order of the Vatican, then we were travelling in such a way as to eventually put light years between our two communions.

The quaint notion that our church was some kind of Roman-lite church and thus ever in proximity to re-union with Rome via ARCIC has taken a severe hammering through the years between Gene Robinson's consecration and the end of the Benedictine papacy. But now the tables have been turned by Francis.

The emerging debate openly described by Damian Thompson acknowledges what Anglicans have publicly wrestled with for years: we are in the midst of a striking transformation in Western society in respect of the contours and boundaries of human relationships and the least we can do as a church is work on an appropriate God-honouring response which respects human dignity.

For Rome to engage with a degree of openness of voice and width in the range of questions being spoken indicates that, if anything, the question today is not whether Anglicans are Roman-lite but whether Rome is becoming Anglican-lite.

To be sure, it is only 'lite.' Thompson is clear (as we might expect of a conservative) that the inner sanctum of doctrine itself is not about to be broached let alone breached. We are formally no closer to re-union but perhaps empathetically we can engage in dialogue about the great question of how we live Christianly in the reality of a changing world.

I will NOT publish comments which engage with the general debate about homosexuality (as often featured here previously - I see no need to re-cycle that debate). I will publish comments which engage with the specific question of the present and future of the Roman Catholic church as it engages with current issues (including marriage and divorce), as sparked by Thompson's post, and especially as referenced to the present and future of the Anglican Communion.

POSTSCRIPT: Yes, yes, I understand that the truly conservative Anglican has known for years that Rome cannot be trusted and thus one has always looked further east, beyond the Tiber to the Bosphorus for rock-solid faithfulness to apostolic doctrine :)


The Way of Dodo said...

"And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it."

Pope Francis is shifting the emphasis to evangelical outreach and greater reliance on the Holy Spirit, with his image of the Church as a "field hospital". Its an interesting and important shift in style but not one of substance.

Unfortunately, Francis does have a tendency to think aloud and is not precise in his comments. This has raised the expectations of the modernists in the Church and alarmed the traditionalists. Fortunately, the settled dogma and doctrines of the Catholic Church on faith and morals, being infallible, cannot change. This is Catholicism great strength in a changing world.

Reunion with Anglicanism is an impossibility. This became clear after the decision of the Church of England to ordain women.

Yes, in case its not apparent, I am a Roman Catholic.

Peter D.

Kurt said...

Unless Rome changes its attitudes substantially, reunion with them is truly undesirable. Unlike our cousins across the pond in the CofE, TEC has never had an appreciable Anglo-Papalist wing with the High Church party. I, for one, have no desire to go anywhere near them. To me, Rome is not so much “catholic” as she is authoritarian.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Peter D // Kurt

I am interested, Peter, in what draws you to such a site as ADU?!

Kurt, I wouldn't say that reunion is 'truly undesirable.' The point of Anglican reunion with Rome is not whether we might make the Anglo-Papalists among us happy but whether the universal church of Christ might be one organic organisation, reflecting on earth the will of the Father in heaven. That, in my gospel inspired view, is highly desirable!

Father Ron Smith said...

" the least we can do as a church is work on an appropriate God-honouring response which respects human dignity." - P.C. -

Precisely, Peter. Couldn't agree more!

And as for Damian's maunderings; they can often be read as a 'tongue-in-cheek- over-reaction to what is happening in the Roman Catholic Church. He is not unknown for barbed rhetoric against both Roman and Anglican goings on - the English equivalent of the U.S. 'Curmudgeon'.

Regarding the R.C. Dodo's remark here; it would seem that he, too, is a type of Damian/Curmudgeon - with little respect for the Holy Spirit's working through the eirenic government of Good Pope Francis. Like Good Pope John, H.H. Francis is internt on bringing his Church into the 21st century - in line with the Good News of Jesus in the gospel.

(Shall be worshipping in San Francisco's Grace Cathedral this Sunday; admiring the Ghiberti Doors in the style of the Baptistry of the R.C. Cathedral in Firenze - and which were used as the model for restoration of the originals after the Florence earthquakes - a good amalgam of Roman Catholic and Episcopal architecture)

Father Ron Smith said...

"Reunion with Anglicanism is an impossibility. This became clear after the decision of the Church of England to ordain women." - R.C.Dodo -

This pronouncement sounds a little like the wartime radio epithet: 'Funf has spoken!'. Does Dodo, now extinct, not realise that, according to Scripture, God has said: "My ways are not your ways, nor my thoughts, your thoughts". It must therefore be entirely possible that a modern Pope (sans Dodoism) may be enunciating a new understanding of humanity - as being equally shared by both male and female of the species.

Peter Carrell said...

There is only one word to describe you, Ron, and your own ecumenical maunderings and meanderings ...



Peter Carrell said...

Hmm, Ron, there is nothing extinct about Roman commitment to already enunciated doctrine.

While I do not want to second guess how the Spirit might move in the 'development' of Roman doctrine over, say, the next two hundred years, there is a certain glaciality about such development which makes me not race to the TAB to put a bet on change in my lifetime :)

The Way of Dodo said...


Dropped in quite by chance when I noticed a familiar blogging posting here. A Calvinist who I have a great deal of respect for.

I enjoy the uncertainty of Anglican sites, to be honest, and their theological questionings and confusions. I find most Catholic blogs are either too liberal or too traditionalist. Whilst I don't agree with the 'via media' I understand it, its always good to listen to another point of view.


Come on now, you jest, in your dreams.

The Catholic Church does not shift with the times.

Incidentally, I have a growing appreciation and respect for what Pope Francis is attempting. However, he is human, makes mistakes and has flaws - same with Saint Pope John Paul II and with Benedict.

And, btw, the Church does not need to be brought into the 21 century. The 21 century needs to return to the Church. The Church is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. That its great strength.

Jean said...

I think difficulties arise when any other cause or issue is placed above our belief and following Jesus. And yes I would call denominational differences both an issue and a cause to some.

It is good when protestants hold to their teachings with all integrity. It is good when Catholics hold to their teachings with all integrity. As per Peter's scripture reference in the post.

It is not so good when we focus on what divides instead of what unites, simply because the most fundamental thing which unites us is Jesus Christ himself.

If I can not call a friendly Catholic, Baptist, or Pentecostal my brother and sister in Christ, what hope have I as a Christian of ever following the harder teaching of loving my enemies?

Can unity between Catholic's and Anglican's and any other Christ follower be impossible? Well it already exists at the grass roots level and lets not forget, nothing is impossible with God!

Anonymous said...

Peter, I was ineluctably drawn in by this; the article being somewhat different from the apocolyptic Cassandra-esque predictions from some commenters on the Catholic Herald site. Nevertheless, I think Peter D is correct. I would add that many expect the Pope to favour Mueller over Kasper. There is simply no choice; not even for a Pope.


The Way of Dodo said...


Tsk ... I have great respect for the Holy Spirit, especially in guiding the Church and revealing and protecting core Truths. Truths, once grasped and stated, are things that cannot be changed - ever.

Certain matters are settled and orthodox Catholics believe the Church is indefectible here. This includes women being precluded from the priesthood and also a well worked, cohesive set of teachings on human sexuality - all based on Scripture, Tradition and Natural Law. No room for change, you see.

And to be clear, no Pope is perfect. There have been heretical Popes and Popes who have been serious sinners. You'll know the history. The Holy Spirit guarantees a Pope will not proclaim a heretical dogma, not that he will be a saint or even a decent person.

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Dodo, you've just made the same mistake as most Roman-style catholics, when you presume to replace the words 'Jesus Christ' with the word 'church', in the well-known quotation - 'Jesus Christ - the same, today, yesterday and for ever'.

This is just one of the odd blind-spots of many R.C.s - mistaking the elemental provenance of Jesus Christ as exclusive to your own branch of the Church Catholic & Apostolic.

You also seem to forget that Jesus was representatively fully human - not just acting for the male of the species. it is well-known to most of us that Mary Magdalene was the first Apostle - sent by the risen Jesus, to tell the male disciples of his resurrection - and they didn't believe her. Why? Because she was a mere woman. Nothing changes.

Christ, The Word, alone is infallible. No human being should claim this title. There certainly is no biblical authority for Papal infallibility. Not even our Orthodox friends recognise such a title for any human being.

Peter Carrell said...

Golly Ron, we are, for once, standing on the same confessional rock, in full agreement with each other!

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Happy Jack
Message received!

Kurt said...

Well said, Father Ron!

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you, Peter, Reminds me of the liturgical catch-phrase: "How good and wonderful thing it is, brethren, to dwell together in unity" - not uniformity.

Father Ron Smith said...

Just a wee note for the remotely interested. Today's Choral Eucharist at Grace Cathedral was a deeply affecting sacramental, musical and spiritual experience, worthy of any great cathedral anywhere in the world.

Bishop Marc Andrus was a most musically-gifted and capable Presider. The Gospel was beautifully enunciated by a diminutive Afro-American woman deacon, and a great Holy Cross day sermon was preached by the retiring Dean, former Oxford University theologian Dr. Jane Shaw, whose last appearance it was before taking up a post at Stanford University. She will be sorely missed by the Cathedral staff and congregation, where she has accomplished much in her 3 years as Dean.

It was great to meet up with both the Bishop and the Dean at her farewell Brunch in the quad after the Mass. i understand our very own Jenny Te Paa was also somewhere in the congregation but didn't get to meet her.

Today's feast of the Liturgy and music inspired us both with the energy and spirituality of the American Episcopal Church. Real soul food.