Monday, March 15, 2021

Is there an Anglican future for Anglicans?

The past couple of posts have focused on some aspects of being Anglican in the world today which are institutional: a House of Bishops' statement, a counter statement, an Archieposcopal response to the counter statement, a critique by an Archbishop and a condemnation of that critique by another Archbishop.

Here I want to focus our attention on being Anglican and the future of being Anglican in respect of what Anglicans are doing on the ground, with or without episcopal or archiepiscopal guidance and direction.

There may or may not be any special insight attached to the ontology of episcopacy but a function of episcopacy is to experience Anglican life as lived by Anglicans across the many ministry units of a diocese (with some wider experiences from time to time via travel to other dioceses).

What I see as I travel around is that there is a range to being Anglican. For instance, liturgically speaking:

There are sticking pretty much wholly to our NZPB services Anglicans.

There are mixed services Anglicans (one service sticks close to NZPB, the other does not).

There are strongly influenced by NZPB services Anglicans.

There are exploring new ways of worshipping God Anglicans.

Or, put another way, and noting a couple of recent posts by Bosco Peters (here and here), there are Anglicans who value the principle of "common prayer" and engage liturgically accordingly, and there are Anglicans who do not value the principle of common prayer, for example, because they value something else more highly, such as local adapation to a particular context leading to a liturgy which is fit for that local purpose but not especially coherent with "common prayer" across the wider church.

It's all Anglican because Anglicans are doing these things.

But in the messiness of much diversity, there lies the question, what will continue and what will discontinue?

The English Reformation gave rise to the 1549 and 1552 prayer books, then to Mary's reactive reign, then to Elizabeth's progressive-towards-reformed-but-not-extremist Anglicanism, all which developments settled, post Elizabeth with the 1611 King James Bible and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and long they reigned over us, into the 20th century.

We may never, of course, settle again on one version of the Bible and one prayer book. But it is a fair question, I suggest, to ask what currently diversified Anglicanism is going to become? Assuming we are evolving, are we merely improving the species or going to generate a new species?

That is, should any younger readers here be alive in 2100, what will the Anglican liturgy which buries you have become? What will the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia have evolved to?

Here I resist the temptation to predict. I observe only this, I don't think we are going to see a movement which wants to take us back to a "clasic Anglicanism" whether that is say 1950s Anglicanism (all the great hymns, 1662 BCP and some use of 1928 PB) or 1989 Anglicanism (i.e. full switch over to the NZPB published in 1989).

We are going to become something and it may be something which bears a strong or a weak resemblance to our experience of Anglicanism in 2021.

That is, according to our understanding of "Anglican" today (acknowledging all disputes and arguments), we may not think the future of Anglicanism in these islands is actually "Anglican".

Though it might be. The Holy Spirit is involved in the evolution.

Yes, yes, I know that statistically speaking there may be no ACANZP in existence in 2100. I am hopeful, contra stats!


Jonathan said...

What interests me is what is distinctively Christian about being Anglican, more than what is a distinctively Anglican expression of being Christian. That may also interest those who are not at all Christian, whom we meet each day, from whom the church not only of 2100 but 2040 will be drawn. I hope that the Lowlands and the Highlands of the Anglican world will inspire each other beyond 2100.

Anonymous said...

(a) Is it the premise of the question that there are people somewhere who wake up every morning, rub their eyes, and think, "How shall I be an Anglican today?" If so, I am perplexed. That does not sound like an Anglican thing to do.

(b) A closely related but different question intercepts my thoughts on the one in the OP: how do souls that have been nurtured in undeniably Anglican ways make sense of this time's secularity? Of all Protestants, Anglicans have been seen as the ones most invested in and defined by Christendom.

(c) Amen, Jonathan.


Peter Carrell said...

If there are people waking up each day wanting to know how they can be more Anglican, please send them to our churches!

A critical matter about "Anglican" is that when (say) a vicar makes a choice about an aspect of a liturgy, or (say) a vestry member questions why the bishop has to come to conduct a confirmation (why can't the vicar do it?), or (say) a parish treasurer questions why the "quota" needs to be paid to the Diocese and, so we hear, they pay a quota to fund that "dreadful" body, General Synod, or, (say) a parish nominator asks why they cannot just appoint the youth worker to be the new vicar, or, (say) a worshipper in the pew says why do we have to have prayers from a book and why couldn't we be "free" like the X-Christians down the road, there are answers to those questions which are Anglican or Anglican-ish or not Anglican, and some sense that (say) bishop, vicar, vestry members, treasurer and parish nominator are some degree of common agreement on what the correct answers are is, well, worth thinking about, whether or not it is first thing in the morning or not.

Now Bowman (in the USA) may not be aware but Jonathan (here in NZ, as I recall) will be very aware, that such questions get asked in our parishes and the Anglicanness of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia is somewhat prone to re-shaping ... some of which will, I think, improve us greatly as an Anglican church, and some of which will, I fear, deconstruct us as an Anglican church.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Peter, that brings the matter down to earth, at least for me. Such questions BTW are not unheard here up yonder...


Father Ron said...

Thanks, Bishop Peter, for raising the questions you have outlined here.

As a 'dyed-in-the-wool' Anglican - from my baptismal beginnings in the Church of England; through my time as a lay Franciscan (SSF) and my experience of 40 years as a priest in ACANZP; my delight and joy is to be able to join with other people in the Celebration of the Holy Communion/Eucharist/Mass that has been the root and guiding light of my Faith Journey for 91 years. Baptism into Christ and the Celebration of the Eucharist as Jesus commanded are foundational markers for membership of the 'One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church' that are still integral to the practice of the Christian Faith as an Anglican. We still have other cultural attachments to things like the 39 Artifacts, but like other domestic relics from the 16th century, they no longer define the modern-day beliefs of Anglicanism, which still subscribe to the Catholic Creeds- in common with the Churches of the Catholic Tradition.

Anglicanism, since the Roman reforms of Vatican II, is seen by those amongst us who happen to be sacramentalists in the Anglican Tradition (which has evolved, believe it or not, from the BCP through to the use of a Common Lectionary with the Roman Catholics), who have quietly gone along with the new understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit in the Church; which has allowed for a progressive understanding of both Liturgy and pastoral praxis.

I believe we Anglicans who are not averse to the Spirit of Renewal which flowed through the Universal Church of the West after Vatican II, have become more aware of issues of human justice and pastoral care of ALL people - which have been seen to flow from an openness to new understandings of the dynamic interface between the Church and the Modern World, that has led to a closer convergence that has drawn a more eirenic relationship between the Churches that value the evolution of scientific understandings of human biological and social connections that enhance - rather that deplete - our common life as fellow human beings; created by a loving God in a world of created diversity.

Theology is no longer circumscribed by the study of the Scriptures alone; but is enhanced by the exercise of God-given Reason and the ongoing forging of a Tradition that values both the experience of the past and the present - with an eye open to the possibilities of the future relationship between our God our Creator and ALL humanity.

I believe that Anglicanism - along with a certain version of Roman Catholic pragmatism led by Pope Francis (insomuch as he is allowed by Vaticanal recidivists) - is more welcoming of a degree of convergence with the other strands of Abrahamic Faith communities than was formerly considered either spiritually or theologically practicable. Pope John XXII's calling of an inter-religious conference in Assisi; and Pope Francis' recent visit to Iraq are both examples of a similar Anglican outreach (in s country) to that of the Roman and Anglican Bishops to the Muslim Community in Christchurch after the catastrophe of the Mosque Shootings here just one year ago.

What is un-Anglican, is the recent schismatic movement away from the ACC in movements like the GAFCON/FOCA/ACNA axis; which seeks to claim the identity of 'Anglican', while yet resiling from Anglicanism's theological, structural and social identification with the ongoing renewal of the elements which celebrate our foundation - on the ethic of an equal emphasis on the 3 tenets of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason; each of which is necessary for the Church to function as an outreach of the Holy Spirit in the modern world.

As an Anglican, I feel have more in common with my Roman Catholics sisters and brothers than I do with the 'Anglicanism' of the GAFCON coglomerate.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Ron,
Am I allowed to say that you sound awfully like I imagine a Fr Ron Smith of 1552 would have sounded the day after the 1552 prayer book was introduced into his local parish!

I further note that much as you feel close to our Roman brothers and sisters (and I do too, in various ways), there is news today that even under Pope Francis, the RC view of SSB is somewhat along GAFCON lines!

We Christians are a confusing lot!

Father Ron said...

Yes, Peter, Rome does seem to vaccilate on the issue of You-Know-What. I have the feeling that this latest swerve is more at the initiative of the Curia than their appointed Leader. Yes, I suppose, theologically, I might be considered 'An Old Dog who has been around long enough to have learnt a few tricks. Agape!

Father Ron said...

apropos your last comment, Bishop Peter: Here, in today's news, we have evidence of a theological convergence of the U.K. Evangelical Alliance Group with the agenda of the Roman Curia - on the issue of 'Conversion Therapy':

'Evangelical Christians urge Boris Johnson not to ban conversion therapy'.

This shows that Evangelical Alliance Anglicans in the U.K. - in their alignment with the GAFCON Movement - have more in common with the Vatican than most Anglicans in the Western World. (a 'Typical Anglican' may be hard to spot!)

Anonymous said...

Francis is a centrist adapting the once dominant and domineering RCC to societies less Catholic and more pluralistic than those of two generations ago. Endorsing civil unions releases Catholics from the onus of advocating for an unjust and destructive marginalization. Not endorsing SSB gives them the freedom to sort out the meaning of civil unions for themselves as public understanding evolves. Personally, I do not see vacillation; I see a gradual first-things-first approach to complex change.


Father Ron said...

Further, Bishop Peter, to our conversation as to whether there may be an Anglican convergence on certain issues - connected with the recent Vatican Statement on the 'Sin of Homosexuality'; here is the laetest news from TEC:

'The Episcopal Diocese of Olympia
Bishop Rickel has issued the following statement in response to the Vatican's statement on same-sex marriage:

"To all our LBGTQIA+ fellow sojourners with Christ, we do not see you, or your relationships, as sin. We see you and experience you as true blessings, reflections of our living God. Thank you for the inspiration and the many ways you show us how to love. Thank you for the gifts you bring to our collective Body of Christ. Thank you for how you have blessed me and you bless this Church." '

Also, there has been a recent statement made by the R.C. Bishop of Antwerp in Belgium, distancing himself from the Vatican's statement (see - kiwianglo -)

Anonymous said...

Postscript-- Reporters and pundits portray Francis as a pontiff leaning toward progressive reforms but checked by influential or powerful reactionaries. It's a good story. Catholics who resist him like it a lot.

The facts and his own statements better fit a more boring story that, from his own experience, Francis believes that Rome needs to devolve some decisions to the provinces, so that Catholics can better adapt to the societies in which they find themselves. In principle, the adaptations can be as "progressive" or "conservative" as local conditions warrant, but in any given province, the bishops' task for now is to be Catholic where they are, not to represent him.

Kindly note that this is not so much a devolution of central authority, as a more sophisticated and dialogical use of it. Because Vatican II left many Catholics uncertain of their identity, the sainted John Paul II and Benedict XVI reserved more decisions to Rome. With Catholic identity again clear, and facing an imperative of evangelizing very dissimilar societies, Francis empowers his field commanders to make decisions about local strategy and tactics.


Father Ron said...

I just made a lengthy response to B.W. which seems ot have been excised - is this an error on my part, please ?

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Ron
I am so sorry but I cannot find your lost comment.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Father Ron, for the favour of your reply, lost though it may be. Francis would be an interesting religious leader even if he were not pope.


Father Ron said...

Dear Bowman, I'll try again:

I Think you have something when you suggest Pope Francis is practised in Roman Diplomacy, which might require more cunning and patience than that of your normal secular model of C.E.O. He is aware of the reactionaries in the Curia (and in other places of conservative power) and their resistance to change in the R.C. Church - as witness the loaded criticism of him in places like North America's Bishops' Conference who were partly responsible for Trump's cynical political-religious grandstanding.

That he is aware of the current injustice towards the LGBT+ people was signalled by his early reference to their plight by responding to a question by journalists, to the tune of: "What do you think about homosexuals in the Church?" His response: "Who am I to judge - if they love God...?". I believe Pope Francis is affording more freedom to the individual conscience on these matters than the R.C. Church currently officially allows.

Heving said that, Bishops like those who have opposed the findings of Vatican II, which opened up the possibility of a more liberal understanding of the real world in which we live than was tenable under the pre-Vatican II regime; are still making their objections known in and to the Curia - which causes Pope Francis to sign a document - like the recent Statement about the 'Sin of Hmosexuality' - simply because that is where the Catholic Church stands at this point in time. However, there has been speedy reaction from Bishops and others in the Church (like the published comment of the Bishop of Antwerp) distancing themselves from this critique of homosexuality- on the grounds of pastoral and theological expediency, in the belief that such an attitude has caused great harm in the past to young people in the Church and outside of it. It may be as you say, Bowman: Time alone will tell what might happen.

Ideally, the Lambeth Quadrilateral would have kept the various Anglican Provinces around the table - open to rational discussion on matters of Gender & Sexuality. However, opposition in the conservative Global South - egged on by the Sydney Bishops - to form their own Church community (GAFCON/FOCA/ACNA) has prevented this. This has, sadly, outrun the flexibility of Lambeth and Canterbury in its task of shepherding the Independent ACC Provinces into a more eirenic understanding of what might be required in order to remain in Communion - despite obvious difference of opinion on Gender and Sexuality.

Rome has ways of dealing with dissidence. Anglicans do not - especially as each province has its own legal standing, with its own canons, rules and regulations, which do not act, necessarily, as a means of 'abiding in the bonds of Peace and Love with one another' (or even in Eucharistic Communion).

What is fundamentally at issue here is: LAW or GRACE. (the casualty? TRUTH)

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Father Ron.

There is a coherent point of view from which homosexuality in the Body looks thus.

(a) Trust in the Father's creative order is the dogmatic basis of sexual ethics for Jews and so for Christians and maybe Muslims too. However sexual reproduction came about, the Father willed it, it is good, and it falls within his providence-- creating, sustaining, and governing. (Hence, for example, abortion is a sin.) Not believing that is not believing in a Creator God as these religions understand him. Existentially, every believer begins to believe by recognising that his own corporeal life came from God.

(b) The Bible says little about homosexual acts, and that little is mostly said in social critique that identifies it as one symptom that a society's ideology is shaped by idols rather than by the Creator God. Importantly, if the biblical writers are indeed criticising sexual appetites stimulated by an idolatrous ideology, then they are consciously opposing something cultivated against nature rather than anything innate in anyone.

(c) Like many things that do clearly exist, persons who feel a strong, exclusive, sexual attraction to the same sex are not seen anywhere in the scriptures. Given that there are such people, they and we must draw on the whole of the scriptures, not just the Six Texts, to learn their proper path in Christ.

Anonymous said...

(d) In the Christendom that began in Europe with Constantine, magistrates used civil prohibitions on sexual sins of all kinds to exorcise the ideology of the idols. (Prostitutes, for example, were not permitted to pay taxes on their earnings, which would have legitimated human trafficking.) Insofar as this marginalisation prevented the widespread cultivation of vice against nature, these were reasonable safeguards for those vulnerable to temptation. But doubtless they could also be occasions of cruel social stigma, not least for any with that strong, exclusive SSA.

(e) Christians who believe that Christendom was integral to the true life of the Body defend its vestiges and even propose its revival in secular states. These Christians tend to see little difference between public morals and churchly ones because their great concern is for stable social order. When civil SSM is proposed, they object to the state trying to define marriage for itself, even at the cost of serious hardship to couples with SSA.

(f) Other Christians for whom that Christendom was just a time in history, or even a tragic distortion of the Body and the gospel, tend to believe in something approaching a separation of sex and state (cf R2K = Radical Two Kingdoms theology). Just so, they expect some gap between the best, common sense public morality that conserves order (eg Just War Theory) and the revealed morality of the Body which serves the higher ends of sanctification and vocation (eg Jesus's obvious pacifism). The true Body is a city on a hill with folkways unknown and misunderstood in the valleys.

(g) Thus, when civil SSM is proposed, these Christians [(f) as in Francis] see no reason to oppose it. They may think it urgent to remove an injustice against couples with SSA. If churchmen, they may also think it prudent to disentangle the Body's revealed sexual morality from the customary cruelties of civil magistrates. But because nothing has been revealed about civil union or SSM, it has no religious meaning, and so they foresee no path from that to a magical, mystical SSB. (Indeed, Protestants (cf 39A XXV) do not see even MWM weddings as more than induction into "a state or condition of life" that, like seed-sowing, rent collection, etc, has been used as a metaphor of the Kingdom in scripture.)

(h) However, these Christians (f) do believe that there is a revealed ethic for marriage, and that this, rather than an ancient family ritual (eg at Cana in Galilee), was the concern of Jesus, the apostles, and the fathers long before church weddings began in 912. Can their brothers and sisters in civil unions progress in sanctification and vocation by leaning into that ethic? Does the power of the keys have a role in helping them to do that? Is any single answer to those questions adequate to the bewildering diversity of the sexual minorities under the banner of LGBTQIA? Considering how much common knowledge about sexuality has changed in the past century, how certain can we be of the knowledge we think we have now? Indeed, what knowledge about sex do we-- the whole Body acting together-- actually have?

Anonymous said...

(i) Our starting point was (a)-- if there is no Creator and no providence, then why care about any of it?-- and that is the inevitable ending point as well. For the more complex the matter, the further upstream we must swim to hold it all in some integrated perspective. Indeed those on both sides who will not swim up there seem to be sinking into silliness (eg that blast from Nigeria).

Christians (f) will for some time to come be affirming most of what the Body has always taught about MWM-- because the alternative is unbelief-- while simultaneously watching and waiting for ways to make sense of civil unions as a new part of the created order. This, more or less, is what Francis and his curia are doing. That is, there is no inconsistency in affirming-- God made MWM (curia); civil unions are just (Francis); we do not yet know what they mean in Christ (curia).

Anglicans close to That Topic can have a hard time seeing the underlying consistency. Thus far, they have leaped over the hard central question-- (e) or (f)?-- to take up an easier but trivial and rather tribal question about ritual. Where that has happened, a full-throated case for civil unions has not been offered and officially accepted, and honest doubt that SSB is mystical and magical in itself has been derided as homophobia.

The honest mistake all made was in not spotting the return of dogma to the centre of Christian conversation that gets anywhere. Liberals (theological ones) were taught to disparage it with a false history of its origin. Evangelicals were taught to circumvent dogma, as a mere denominational distinctive, with biblicism. Liberals (social ones) believe so fervently in a secular metaphysic of rights that they lost sight of the biblical metaphysic of God. So too did conservatives (also social) who could not imagine that defending past stability was in this case preempting perennial petrine authority. But either all stories are episodes in the story of God, or there are no stories at all.


Father Ron said...

Dear Bowman, with reference to your thoughts about the intentions of Pope Francis to go gently into the situation of recognising the right of Christian Same-sex couples (having just signed a Decree from the Vatican, declaring that S/S relationships are 'sinful'), here is the latest editorial from N.C.R. (National Catholic Reporter).

This may not be the way the situation is seen by some Catholics in the U.S.A:

I still do feel that +++Francis is being pressured by the Curia, and doesn't deserve the criticism being offered in this Editorial.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Bowman,
Thank you for clarity in analysis!
One thought (which I think distills from your analysis):

God's providence (if I understand correctly) does work within the world as it is and not as it ideally might be. For instance, God's providence worked through marriages which were not one man one woman (and through marriages which included concubines as well as wives): Abraham, Isaac, Jacob.

God's providence works through, indeed provides scriptural guidance as the Christian communities of the first century encountered questions about divorce and remarriage (hence differences between Matthew, Luke, Mark and 1 Corinthians, and, we might also say, John 4).

On an entirely different matter, we see God's providence at work as Churchill and later Roosevelt took their countries into military responses to common enemies and we see that providence at work in John Stott who was a conscientious objector in WW2.

Can we talk about God working providentially in a world of change in respect of homosexuality? A world in which we recognise that homosexual (not heterosexual) is how some of God's creatures experience life, and that possibilities for homosexually uniting for social/domestic life are recognised in legal provisions re civil unions, civil marriages, AND in that same world, families and congregations demonstrating willingness to both welcome and make hospitable space for their biological and spiritual relatives who are homosexual ...

In other words, whether we come to such a question starting as Lutheran, Catholic, Anglican, conservative, liberal, moderate, etc, etc, may we also ask, Confronted with our questions re SSB/SSM, what would Jesus say?

Would he be with ++Nigeria? ++Foley? Francis (of informal but clever responses to journalists on planes)? Francis (of formal documents such as recently issued)? An East Coast Episcopalian (noting observations on this site by BW)? (If I may) ACANZP's distinctive proposal?

Without here attempting to say what Jesus would say, can we agree that when posed with sharp questions posed by Sadducees or by Pharisees, Jesus came up with answers which surprised everyone? [!!!]

Anonymous said...

Father Ron, I empathize with the NCR's perspective, but you are correct. Full stop.

The subtle problem for gay members of thoughtful churches like the RCC is that their magisteria are waiting for pastoral experience, scientific insight, theological clarity, ecclesial consensus, etc before speaking finally for the ages. This is why we are reading about an approved memo from the curia rather than a papal encyclical or constitution.

Fine and good, but the institutional infighting and inertia in bodies with a habit of caution makes it hard for them to actually get much of that evidence. And while they wait for it to accumulate, souls despair and death approaches them.

What is to be done? German Catholics have found the answer: provisional local guidance until Rome is ready to propose something universal and timeless. My guess is that their bishops are reading the words of Jesus (St Matthew xvi 19, St John xx 22-23) much as we often do here. If the Holy See disallows SSB, then there may not be as much of it, but they will continue to experiment toward a proper support for Catholics in civil unions. Again, the eventual ritual, if any, probably matters less than the discipline.

"God's providence (if I understand correctly) does work within the world as it is and not as it ideally might be."

In my 8:35-7, I distinguish between God's providence in the orders of creation, and his indicated or implied will for chosen human action. In Genesis xxxviii, God's providence twice made Tamar a widow (vv 7, 10), and his indicated will (Deuteronomy xxv 5-10) implied that she might choose to disguise herself as a prostitute and seduce Judah, her father-in-law (vv 24-26). The Lord was a descendant of this union (St Matthew i 3).

Similarly, God's providence permitted Germany to invade Poland, etc and Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stott-- by vocation in all three cases-- chose their responses to the emergency.

"Without here attempting to say what Jesus would say, can we agree that when posed with sharp questions by Sadducees or by Pharisees, Jesus came up with answers which surprised everyone?"

Yes, Peter. And he left, not a code of law, but a more situational ministry of *binding and loosing* (St Matthew xvi 19, cf St John xx 22-23).


Father Ron said...

"God's providence (if I understand correctly) does work within the world as it is and not as it ideally might be."

And thank God for that. If God waited for the Church to bring justice into the world (compassion and understanding for the poor and marginalised) God might have to wait for ever. However, Jesus changed all that; Note his compassion and understanding of thosd 'outside the Camp' in his own day.

This world will never become perfect BUT, God has redeemed it, in Christ!

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Anonymous
I initially published your comment posted here this afternoon.
Then thought better of it and deleted it.
I dispute strongly what you say, not least because the most egregious charge you bring against me is simply false due to your misunderstanding something I said.
(I may be a fool - I don't mind you saying that - you are surely not alone in thinking that, but that is a different matter from what I dispute.)
It is quite inappropriate for me to be discussing matters before the Royal Commission on this personal blog.
With kind regards,

Father Ron said...

Bishop Peter and Bowman; this article was published in today's CATHNZ News:

Is Pope Francis really having 'Second Thoughts' about his association with the recent Vatican Statement calling homosexuality 'sinful'?

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Father Ron, for an interesting link.

Francis's reflections on St Alphonsus Liguori obliquely show how change on That Topic etc could happen in the RCC as imaginative, empathetic confessors re-present traditional teaching from the bottom up.

But those reflections are not Second Thoughts. When front man Francis sings adventurous melodies on That Topic, he knows and indeed expects that the curia will play the bass and beat the drums. The song is in the tension between the surprising and the familiar.

The curia manage so that the pope can lead. Put another way, the curia maintain the continuity of the magisterium so that the pope can speak, write, and act as a universal pastor. Although there is occasionally a bit of friction between the two levels, this gap is not a bug but a feature of the modern papacy.

In each of the past four pontificates, we have seen some difference between what the curia were saying in *responsa* for bishops and canonists and what popes were saying to world media. A memorable example of this was the curial caution about the world's other religions while John Paul II was organizing a televised meeting with their leaders at Assisi.

More often and off camera, popes can and do venture ideas that Catholics respect but that the curia do not regard as integral to the magisterium. Benedict XVI wrote an ambitious series of books on the Jesus of the gospels, but his old Congregation for the Defense of the Faith does not require Catholic scholars to agree with him. If not for the steady, consolidating work of the curia, confused Catholics could think that anything a pope says is (or purports to be) a fresh definition of dogma. Like Archbishop Cranmer's 10A and 42A.

In this case, the curia answered a narrow question about SSB (eg in Germany) by denying explicitly that (a) civil unions are the same as MWM, and tacitly that (b) SSB is a new eighth sacrament. Because the curia cannot make new doctrine, these were the only possible answers. Given that outcome, its rationale was nearly as inevitable. Francis's approval was not personal but pro forma.

So if we were German bishops, we would disallow SSB (following the curial instructions), but encourage priests to continue to support gay Catholics in other ways (following Francis).

Postscript-- The pope-curia relationship is loosely modeled on that between the emperor and jurists of the Roman Empire. Theoretically, the will of the emperor was the sole source of new law in the empire. In practice, the sheer mass of Roman legislation and precedent through the thousand years that followed the Twelve Tables was too great for any single person to master, integrate, and represent. So the emperor's supreme authority hovered over the lesser authorities of the judges and scholars who actually codified the legal system. Occasionally, as under Justinian and Basil, an emperor sponsored reform of branches of the law. In the West, when such lawyer-popes as Innocent III saw that the doctrinal magisterium was administratively similar to the law of the Romans, they began to cultivate a similar relationship with the curia. This is the substance of *papal infallibility*.

Arguably, the doctrinal malaise of Anglicans is not that there is no infallible pope to decide what they should believe, but that there is nothing and nobody to tend theology as a whole. Archbishops of Canterbury and primates' meetings have made straightforwardly papal interventions when that was needed. But they sing with no curia playing a theological bass and drums to which say New Yorkers and Nigerians can both dance. Again, the song is in the tension between the surprising and the familiar, and neither alone is enough.


Jonathan said...

Speaking of adventurous melodies on That Topic, I received an alert to an upcoming seminar from Otago University based on one congregation's endeavours to sing in two part harmony (or perhaps blues style creative disharmony)... By way of warning, that congregation is not Anglican, neither is it in New Zealand, but it is endeavouring at a congregational level to do something somewhat similar to what ACANZP is attempting at a provincial level.It is hosted by Rev. Dr. Lynne Baab (Faith Thinking on Zoom), Wed 14 April, 7-8.15pm. If the link doesn't work for you, go to Otago University Theology Department and search under events.