Sunday, June 19, 2022

Obviously, it is time to post on ... demons

So, the gospel reading for Ordinary 12 was Luke 8:26-39, The Deliverance of Legion.

A familiar story, notable in our memories for the man living in a local cemetery, the legion of demons, the swineherd, and the destruction of the pigs (2000 according to Mark 5:13), neverthless raises some questions, one of which for me I do not recall previously seeing!

That question (before the other ones) is, 

Why does Luke describe the man as being possessed both by a singular demon and by plural demons?

He introduces the man as having "demons" (27) but then reports that Jesus had "commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man" (29) and talks about the man being "driven by the demon into the desert" (29) before the remainder of the story focusing on the man (or the demon(s) within him) as being named "Legion" and described in plurality (30, 31, 32, 33). 

A possible answer is that Luke is wrestling with Mark's version of this incident. Mark 5:2 introduces the man as "a man with an unclean spirit" and describes Jesus as commanding "you unclean spirit" to come out of him (8) before the dialogue in which Jesus asks the man his name, with the reply "My name is Legion: for we are many" (9) and the remainder of demonic references being about plural demons.

Luke (on this hypothesis) both wishes to correct Mark a little (so his verse 27 describes the man as having demons plural, rather than having an unclean spirit, in keeping with how the story unfolds later on), yet also be faithful to Mark, and especially to Mark's report of what Jesus says and does (Luke 8:29 becomes a report on Mark 5:7, referencing "unclean spirit" as Mark does. 

A further correction, or, at least, restraint on repeating a detail of Mark, is that when Mark says the man (or his demon(s)) is called "Legion" which could imply as many demons as there were soldiers in a Roman legion, about 5000) but describes the number of pigs killed as "2000" (which, if there was one demon per pig, is well short of 5000), Luke adroitly repeats that the man is called "Legion" but omits the number of pigs that are killed.

Other questions?

In a Western world somewhat wary of talk of demons/unclean spirits (unless they appear in a horror movie), how do we understand this story today? Is it, for instance, speaking to a phenomenon in our world that we are not willing to engage with? Or, (somewhat comfortingly for 21st century people more used to talking about psychiatry and mental health), was Jesus - unique Son of God - especially provocative of the demonic world, so that they (the demons) showed their faces (so to speak) when Jesus came along, but now that he is ascended, they work in a more hidden way, ergo we don't need to worry about them or talk about them?

Acknowledging that the questions in the paragraph above deserve a very long discussion, and that there are other questions related to these ones, neverthless I want to observe that, whatever else this story might mean, it is part of Luke setting out the case that no power was able to defeat Jesus: not illness, not death, not shortage of food, not storms and, here, not demonic "anti-God" spiritual forces.

Yet, in our world today, we see forces at work against God, the church and, more generally, the flourishing of humanity (e.g. Russian aggression in Ukraine), which Jesus does not seem to be defeating?

What might we say about the seeming victory of evil in our world today?

One thought I had is that we should read about our world (and the presence of the ascended Jesus within it) with the whole of Luke-Acts in mind.

Acts, after all, tells us much about what the mission of Jesus looks like when he is no longer on earth as a flesh-and-blood human being. What do we find there? Certainly, demons are delivered (e.g. Acts 16:16-18). But the world is a brutal world. In that particular deliverance story, the apostles concerned are hounded into jail as a consequence (though later rescued). Some key figures in the mission are executed (Stephen, James). Paul ends the story in a sanguine position, as a well-treated prisoner in Rome, but we know from later histories that he will die as a martyr.

To a degree, evil wins, at least in a limited way, in the history of Christianity in our world.

But, Acts might steer us in another direction, re evil in our world. Acts is also the story of the followers of Jesus doing something rather than nothing about the state of the world. There is a better news story to share with the world, in word and in deed, than the current news story of the Roman Empire. The apostles and other disciples get out and about telling the gospel and doing the gospel through healings and deliverances.

In our world today, we may feel powerless, but there is always something gospelling we can do and say.


Luke's narrative has a very, very neat ending (which, again, I do not recall previously noting, but some commentaries have helped me out).

In Luke 8:39, Jesus commands the man to return to his home and "declare how much God has done for you."

But what he actually does is to proclaim "throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him."

A lovely identification between God and Jesus. Cracking Lukan theology!


  1. I have known many friends. Who grew up. In places where the societal foundation did not have christian roots and evil spirits/demons are taken. As a given. One friend was dedicated as a child to a demon in a temple in Singapore and she. Went through. Spiritual deliverance. When her family became Christians in her late teens... Sri Lankan Christians I. Know talk about delivering people from evil spirits like we would talk about being on the morning tea roster! My only. First hand experience with such things was when I was leading at a youth camp in Wellington in my younger. Years and one of. The young people attending said she had been approached by this spirit who she invited in but now she wasn’t so sure and what should she do. Totally. Out of my depth I took the easy. Option...... passed it. On to the. Older youth leader. 😆... More recently neighbours who made. the. odd visit. to someone in Dunedin. to consult dead relatives 🙀... and a fumbling attempt. by moi. to introduce into the sharing of. their day away the the idea that. some spiritual forces are good and some are evil.

    Excuse the grammar - dodgy. keyboard...

  2. What a gift, Peter! Thank you for this OP.

    A licensed lay preacher in Cockaigne explains that the pork is in the numbers, considered from the demons' point of view.

    If it takes 5000 demons to possess 2000 pigs, then each pig is beset by two and a half demons. So each demon is tormenting a pig along with another demon. This reveals to the wise, or at least to him, that when anyone is beset by unsoundness, it is never just one thing that attacks him. St Luke the Physician, the preacher seems to say, knew about psychiatric co-morbidities.

    But what can a half demon do to a pig? Nothing. What the numbers reveal is that one in three demons attack pairs of pigs. These demons disorder pigs by disordering their relationships.

    So each particular pig was driven to its fate in a multifactorial way. Two vulnerabilities were exploited to render the pig helpless. And the one relationship that might have fortified it against the attack was itself disrupted to the point of uselessness. So, he says, there was a herd of 2000 pigs, but each one of them died alone.

    In light of that, the amateur exegete concludes with the observation that the story begins in a village of the dead but ends in a village of the quick. They are, in a way, the same village: the deceased are the ancestors of the living, and each man, woman, or child who dwells in the houses will someday inhabit the tombs.

    So Legion, he thinks, wandered among the dead because he had some anxiety about all of the living. What dreadful reality among them occasioned this? The evangelist does not say.

    The Lord recognized a kindred soul on a mission like his own and had mercy on him. Jesus asked only for the man's testimony to his power, but Legion wanted to free his village from its own demons, so he more pragmatically bid them worship the living One who could heal them all.


  3. Poor Legion.

    I suppose he represents all of us, our capacity for dis-integration and tortured inner conflict.

    He sleeps in tombs and is filled with the voices and agitations of others.

    He pleads to go out into the animal herd. It's a good image for where he belongs. Then shows us how this condition is cured.

  4. Dear Bishop Peter; while cognisanf of the need to recognize the activity of what the Bible speaks of as 'evil spirits', I have found - in old age - great comfort from 'the prayer our Lord has taught us'. Whenever I say the words 'and deliver us from evil', I make the sign of the Cross of Christ - by which we have been and will be 'delivered'.

  5. Dear Bishop PETER, WATCHFULNESS may well be the best Christian response to the problems of evil in our world. Here is a present-day parable that ought to be recognized as a 'demonic force' operating via the internet:

    Early last week I had an email purporting to be from Spark,asking how my new land-line phone connection was working. I replied, by email, that we sometimes had difficulty getting a dial-tone, necessitating a re-booting of our modem.

    Subsequently, on Friday morning, I had a phone call (Warning notice to the unsuspecting) purporting to come from Spark, which turned out to be a scam. Without going into the gory details, suffice to say that - after a lengthy time of phone-led interaction on my computer, at last suspecting something was amiss, I disconnected from phone and computer before ckecking my bank statement. I was shocked to find our current account
    had been significantly depleted. I tried phoning Kiwibank (impossible, nowadays, to get an immediate response) but to no avail. By this time, Diana reminded me, we were due at SMAA for me to preside at the 12.35pm Mass. (PAUSE: What should I do?)

    I, there and then, decided to preside at Mass - before visiting a local bank agency to report our significant monetary loss - believing this to be my first (admittedly, by then desperate) priority. Diana and I both felt that this was the right thing to do in the circumstances!

    When we got to the bank agency, after phoning the bank's security department, the friendly clerk was able to inform us that the amount - being substantial - had not yet been dispatched to the Hong Kong recipient, and fhat, by reporting the recorded 'withdrawal' within 12 hours, it would be restored to our account! DEO gratias!

    The moral of this story? Learn to recognize a wolf in sheep's clothing; for the devil, prowling in the wilderness, is seeking whom he may devour! This was not only money, but also one's name and IT identity. The problem lay in my openness to this attack, via the Internet. "LORD, DELIVER US FROM EVERY EVIL, past, present, and to come". Christ Is Risen! Alleluia!

  6. Father Ron, I'm glad that you got your money back!


  7. Thanks, Bowman! God is GOOD!

    A wee bit of papal wisdom for today:

    "WEDNESDAY, JUNE 22, 2022

    “The One and Triune God, dear brothers and sisters, must be manifested in this way – with deeds rather than words. God, who is the author of life, is transmitted not so much through books as through witness of life.”
    Pope Francis.

  8. I had a recent comment from a worker overseas that there is a need for prayer backing for dealing with the demonic in new believers. In that culture many people turn to the occult in an effort to control the people and environment around them, which can lead to the introduction of evil spirits in their lives. Deliverance is in the same way that the disciples of Jesus used: the effective fervent prayer of the righteous in the name of Jesus. (‘Even the demons are subject to us in your name!’) Of course it requires discernment and wisdom but demons are real even here though mostly unseen. That teaching is not PC these days!

  9. While agreeing, broadly, with your comment here, Moya, may I just offer a word of caution on the subject of 'deliverance'. As a beneficiary (and a survivor) of the 1960s Charismatic Movement here in the 1960s, many of us at St. Paul's, Symonds Street, Auckland (at the centre of the movement in those days) quickly became aware of the misguided efforts of a few over-zealous lay 'exorcists' who felt they had been given this gift after having hands laid upon them - not always by the ordained members of the community.

    A great deal of havoc was caused in some instances, which led many of us to steer clear of those who claimed (without corroboration from the official leadership of the Church) 'power over demons'. It behoves us all to take heed of an occasion in the N.T., where some of the more-enthusiastic disciples who tried to practise this particular ministry came away badly battered from their experience

    From my own experience, the quiet, undramatic, recital of the Lord's Prayer "Deliver us from evil" is perhaps the very furthest that amateur would-be exorcists ought to go in this so very specialised aspect of ministry in the Church. The Roman Catholic Church does have a Ministry of Exorcism in every diocese - a person authorised to carry out this ministry.

    An important rule for all of us might be: "Do not go where angels fear to tread!" I believe that participation in the sacramental life of the Church can be a powerful weapon against 'The enemy'. The Eucharist is also a great place to receive the healing of Christ himself.

  10. Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said. "One can't believe impossible things."

    "I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast...”

    -- Lewis Carroll, Through The Looking Glass


    If + Peter is not on to something here, then why are the dark powers messing with Jean's keyboard and Father Ron's money? Clearly they fear the scrutiny of ADU.

    (1) We can take this or leave it, but the biblical documents are in some sense true if and only if the material world is everywhere interpenetrated by a spiritual order of reality that is occasionally visibly accessible. Whether they serve or defy God, spirits that are real yet invisible are not in that way different the rest of the religion-- heaven, real presence, sacraments, prayers, etc. If we are not squeamish about the eucharist-- "therefore with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven"-- then why be squirrelly about demons?

    (2) As a corollary, assemblies are fully in the Body if and alas only if the members thereof are good at thinking, talking, and acting with awareness of the way the spiritual interpenetrates the material. Western assemblies today are often less Jerusalem than say Nineveh-- God sends them prophets to whom they do listen, so he does have a kind of relationship with them, but they are not competent to do what the kingdom ultimately requires of disciples. Why not? Because they have more or less consciously decided to have no culture among themselves that is not that of non-believers.

    (3) Demons-Idolatry-Addictions. In traditional usage, these three notions are interdependent. Because YHWH is the Creator, turning from idolatry to exclusive worship of him frees one from both the demons of the idols and also from the habituated behavior that serves them (aka "bondage to the power of sin").

    (4) "That teaching is not PC these days!" To end and prevent wars of religion, moderns built the minimal public order we know. It seeks easy consensus about causality in the material world that whole publics can recognise, and so leaves most of life in a realm of private choice in which religion is free to be as incomprehensible to non-believers as believers need for it to be. That deal seems to be a clear win for mystics, snakehandlers, sacramentalists, animal sacrificers, kabbalists, biblical scholars, etc all of whom are free to be as esoteric as they wish. Whether Sydney or San Francisco, postmoderns hate that deal-- but why?-- so in places it is coming apart.

    (5) "Poor Legion. I suppose he represents..." Is it a dodge to treat references to demons as metaphors for vices? Tricky. Already in the C4, Evagrius Ponticus is doing this in a sophisticated and therapeutically useful way that flows organically from Demons-Idolatry-Addictions above. But moderns-- high or late-- have often feared that speaking of spirits as real was transgressing public order by misspeaking about the material world. Does it? Study fMRI of a brain on pornography and you may find that scruple badly outdated. But even if it is not, religion has all the expressive liberty of a private discourse. Let's use it.

    (6) In salty, luminous churches, even those in societies like ours, Creator-Worship-Gifts --> Demons-Idolatry-Addictions. Their distinguishing feature is their fluency in a rich God-language that says without anxiety more than materialists can imagine. What they say about God in that language sustains their ethos without much further resort to hypothetical ethics. They discover what works, not by voting, but by testing. Most normal ministry does confident catechesis, heals addictions (Greek: therapeia), and discerns gifts and vocations.


  11. The church fathers, and subsequent medieval tradition, developed a practice of reading and interpreting scripture along four different levels (a practice that originated in Judaism) – sometimes called *the four senses of scripture*. These are usually listed as (1) literal/historical, (2) allegorical, (3) moral, and (4) the anagogical or unitive.

    The Catholic Church still regards a comprehensive understanding as including all four levels or senses (it condenses these to two - the 'literal' and the 'spiritual', the spiritual includes the other three).

    No level is greater or better than another. It's not that one trumps the others, but one alone without the other is rather thin (either way).

    I was thinking of these different levels or senses in relation to the Legion story and the responses here, and our tendency to get caught on the surface of things. Literal demons are, of course, a most compelling, urgent surface!

    At the literal/historical level we have ‘actual encounter’ with an ‘actual person’ in the life and ministry of an ‘actual person called Jesus.’ We have all the details about one spirit or many, tombs, pigs, a herd drowning themselves in a lake, a man going free proclaiming the saving power of Christ etc. We also have the context of similar stories in other gospels, the practice of deliverance and faith healing in Jewish popular culture, the phenomenon and symbolism of pigs as agricultural animals etc. etc. Whether or not people are actually possessed by other spiritual entities, or suffer dissociative post-traumatic or psychotic disorders is also, arguably, another question or set of questions at the literal/historical level.

    What is the story saying in terms of the mission of Christ? In terms of the journey of the human soul or family? Who is Legion, and Christ...and the pigs and the lake and the tombs...for me, in terms of my personal spiritual journey? How does this story correspond with other symbols and themes in the old and new testaments? These might be questions at an allegorical level.

    The moral level is how reading and interpreting this passage changes our actual behaviour today (Father Ron suggests a few things here).

    The anagogical or unitive can be approached as: where, in this passage, do I rest in God, not intellectually, but in a spontaneous, felt way?

  12. Just to clarify: I personally don’t see demons are belonging to the spiritual realm proper, but as part of the mental realm. This doesn’t mean there aren’t disembodied minds that possess embodied minds!

    The mystics of our tradition, who were very familiar with demons, testify that the deeper, truer spiritual realm (the reign of God) is characterized by the formlessness and nothingness of God (God’s great kenotic emptying of Himself/Herself in trinitarian relationship and into the whole of creation), by a peace that passes all understanding, and a deep safety of being loved and secure. Or, as the Indian transition says, Being: Consciousness: Bliss.

    The demonic clearly gets in the way of the true spiritual, so perhaps we should be more cautious in speaking of demons as spirits, despite this practice in our tradition and culture. To me, it seems to divert away from what is more truly spiritual and engage people (in and outside the church) in thinking out “spiritual’ and “spirit’ in terms of flashing lights and voices from the other wide. To me that’s the disordered, frothy, chaotic mental realm that gets in the way of the true spiritual.

    But what do I know!

  13. Thanks Jean,Father Ron, Bowman and Mark for helpful comments, albeit from all different sides of the topic. It enlarges my understanding. Bless you Bishop for introducing it.

  14. "One friend was dedicated as a child to a demon in a temple in Singapore. She went through spiritual deliverance when her family became Christian in her late teens."

    Following signposts in the scriptures, the fathers evaluated the objects of pagan idolatry in three ways. Some rituals (eg temple prostitution) obviously degraded their participants; their objects were considered as demons and evil ones at that. Other sacrifices (eg to Artemis), although less patently damaging to souls, were nevertheless rendered to demons not worthy of the divine honour that was due to the Creator alone. And a few (eg Asklepios, god of healing) were seen as precursors of Christ that had been inspired by YHWH but were superseded by the incarnation of the Son.

    The works of Homer posed an interesting problem for pagans and Christians. Moderns have inferred that Greek religion was a monotheism overlaid by the mythology of the Twelve and the legends of later heroes. Already very old in Jesus's day, epics of Homer like the Iliad present all of these layers. The stories are told from the point of view of an omniscient narrator who frequently attributes beats of the plot to the will of Zeus or simply of "the god". Themselves subject to that sovereign will, the gods of Olympus play with the fates of the mortals who fight and die under the walls of Troy. In passing, every major story cycle of the Hellenistic world is mentioned.

    So an obvious way to defend paganism from the threat posed to it by the biblical narrative was to counter that the Homeric epics were the divinely inspired scriptures of the old religion. In his attempted restoration of paganism in the C4, this is what the emperor Julian claimed.

    But literati of the new religion had already co-opted Homer for Christ. As the Creator, YHWH's character is to have compassion for all that he has made, including those living in societies with pagan religions. In the OT, YHWH has chosen Abraham's family for a particular purpose, but he has dealings with all of the nations everywhere. He sent Jonah, for example, not to do anything for Israel, but simply out of compassion for Nineveh. And in the NT, Jesus recognises implicit faith in pagans and St Paul claims an altar to the unknown god for the Lord.

    So it was easy for Christian men of letters to assert that the Holy Spirit had mercifully inspired the Homeric epics so that pagans might have some moral instruction that could later be fully understood in the fuller light of Christ. To be fully initiated into Hellenistic civilisation, you had to be baptised. The Bible swallowed Homer whole.

    Julian tried to counter this argument with an edict forbidding Christians to teach the epics, but this missed the grand flaw in his strategy to restore paganism: polytheism could not motivate the *outgroup altruism* in YHWH's character that motivated the spread of his religion. Sublime though they are, the Homeric epics could not swallow the Bible because their god does not have the universal benevolence to call Abraham, inspire Moses, or be born as Jesus.

    Julian struggled with this difference without quite seeing it. Writing to the pagan priests of Alexandria, the emperor noted that Christians providing for the poor had thereby converted many to their religion and suggested that idolators do likewise. But he admitted that he could not see why anyone would want to do that. QED.


  15. Those prolific Roman Catholics are writing so many books these days that Father Ron quotes poor Pope Francis begging them to please just stop. But amid that avalanche of insight, I myself am still waiting for one inexpensive, adequate, slender book on the fourfold exegesis of scripture (see Mark's 8:04). We need something good for those who will never read Henri de Lubac's four-volume set on Medieval Exegesis.

    Meanwhile, two on *theological exegesis* by and for Anglicans.

    Hans Boersma. (2017) Scripture as Real Presence: Sacramental Exegesis in the Early Church. Boersma summarises many readings that find Christ in the OT, grouping them according to various affinities. For the reader, the result is not a How To guide-- insert text, turn crank, extract meaning-- but an imagination better able to hear a text's resonances in the past, the church, the soul, and the end.

    Ephraim Radner & David Ney. (2022) All Thy Lights Combine: Figural Reading in the Anglican Tradition. Where Boersma surveys the fathers, this chrestomathy introduces and presents excerpts from William Tyndale and Thomas Cranmer to C. S. Lewis and Lionel S. Thornton. The 1662 daily office and lectionary are appended.


  16. If you are a Rachel or a Leah, a patriarchal and great soul, steal whatever idols of your father you can find. Not, however, that you may keep them, but that you may destroy them.

    And if you are a wise Israelite, remove them to the Land of the Promise. Let the persecutor grieve over the loss of them, and learn through being outwitted that it was vain for him to tyrannize over and keep in bondage those better than himself.

    If you do this, and come out of Egypt that way, I know well that--

    You will be guided by the pillar of fire by night and the pillar of cloud by day;

    The wilderness will be tamed for you and the Sea divided;

    Pharaoh will be drowned;

    Bread will be rained down:

    The rock will become a fountain;

    Amalek will be conquered, not with arms alone, but by the prayers of the righteous and the invincible sign of the Cross;

    The River will be cut off;

    The sun will stand still; and the moon be restrained;

    Walls will be overthrown, even without engines;

    Swarms of hornets will go before you to make a way for Israel, and to hold the Gentiles in check.

    And all the other events which are told in the history after these and with these (not to make a long story) will be given to you by God.

    Such is the feast that you are keeping today. In this manner, celebrate both the Birthday and the Burial of Him Who was born for you and suffered for you.

    Such is the Mystery of the Passover.

    Such are the mysteries sketched by the Law and fulfilled by Christ, the Abolisher of the letter, the Perfecter of the Spirit, who by His Passion taught us how to suffer, and by His glorification grants us to be glorified with Him.

    -- St Gregory of Nazianzus (AD 384) The Second Oration on Easter, XXI.

    Lightly edited.


  17. Thanks for those titles, Bowman.

    In terms of books/sources on the four senses of scripture, for those who are interested...

    De Lubac and an old book by Raymond Brown (The Sensus Plenior of Sacred Scripture, 1955) are seminal Catholic sources.

    There is a more recent book by Steven Smith – The Face of the Lord: Contemplating the Divine Son through the Four Senses of Scripture – which I haven’t tracked down but which sounds intriguing.

    You can find the four or two sense theory in The Catechism of the Catholic Church here

    And a very brief, readable, historical summary by Pauline Viviano here

    Viviano writes:

    "The fourfold senses of Scripture— the literal, allegorical,
    moral (tropological), and anagogic senses — were first
    proposed by John Cassian (ca. 360-435). By way of example,
    Cassian wrote, “The one Jerusalem can be understood in
    four different ways, in the historical sense as the city of the
    Jews, in allegory as the Church of Christ, in anagoge as the
    heavenly city of God ‘which is the mother of us all’ (Gal
    4:26), in the tropological sense as the human soul.”11 St.
    Augustine set forth a similar fourfold division in De Genesi
    ad litteram: “In all the sacred books, we should consider
    eternal truths that are taught, the facts that are narrated,
    the future events that are predicted, and the precepts or
    counsels that are given” (1.1).12

    In Catholic circles in the early part of the twentieth
    century, biblical scholars began to discuss the fuller sense
    (sensus plenior) of Scripture. 'The fuller sense is defined
    as a deeper meaning of the text, intended by God but
    not clearly expressed by the human author.' "

    My own major exposure has been experientially through attending Mass, and through reading about and practicing Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina (it is implicit and sometimes explicit throughout the works of Thomas Keating and Basil Pennington etc), which follows the long monastic tradition in reading anagogical as contemplative.

  18. ...meanwhile, in terms of ecclesiology, the Anglican Communion is struggling to get all its bishops to attend Lambeth, while Pope Francis, much to the horror of authoritarian Catholics, is attempting to get his church to focus on the meaning and development of ‘synodality'...

    Perhaps Justin and Francis should be guest speaker at each other’s main event?

  19. Ah, BUT, Mark:

    Pope Francis has a unique way of dealing with the prospect of who might have authority For instance) to choose his successor - he can choose whom he wants to form the College of voting Cardinals, at least one of the most recent of whom (in the U.S.) is very much on his wavelength of Vatican II renewal. Justin does not have that privilege.

    I believe the Anglican Bishops who have refused Justin's invitation to the Lambeth Conference should now be recognised as resiling from membership of the ACC - and simply let go.

  20. Yes indeed, Father Ron.

    At first glance, it looks like our next Pope will be in the Francis mould - of the 'peripheries', or Global South, 'a church that is poor and for the poor', affirming pastoral theology as almost the final way of interpreting church teaching.

    Nearly two-thirds of the voting cardinals are Francis appointments.

    Before he died, Hans Kung compared Francis with John XXIII, the Pope who called Vatican II, and went on to say

    "....but he lacks one of his weaknesses. John XXIII made reforms in passing and without an agenda. He made serious administrative mistakes."

    This is an extremely optimistic assessment coming from one of the most ardent reform voices in the Catholic world in the last 60 years. I'm bouyed.

    Interesting to compare these centre/periphery dynamics with what is happening in the Anglican Communion.

  21. Yes, Mark. Who knows, we may hear of a plea for Hans Kung's sanctification as 'Doctor of The Church' by the next Pope after Francis! (He was treated quite badly by Papa Benedictus).

    In the meantime, a Great Prophet has arisen in Sydney (Mr David Ould) who predicts that the Brisbane Diocese will give the green light for S/S Marriage Blessings - after the G.S. gave its imprimatur. What Mr Ould did not predict was: When will Sydney openly join the Church of the GAFCON Provinces - situated, mostly, in Africa? AND; Could this happen in time for the Lambeth Conference to reject the policies of homophobia and misogyny in the Communion?

  22. So Sad! I looked in on today's Message from Archbishop Ben Kwashi on what has now been named 'GAFCON SUNDAY', for the brief message that has been promoted throughout the gafcon world. Apart from the assertion that GAFCON is the place to go for the message of the Gospel, my main 'takeaway' was the plea for money. Not the first thing on my mind on a Sunday morning! Asadadvertisement for the promotion of the Good News!


  23. Oh Ron, I would love that: Saint Hans, Doctor of the Church - feast day to coincide with the world day of prayer.

  24. Yes, Mark. It certainly shouldn't coincide with 'Gafcon Sunday'!

  25. What to do with Lambeth non-attenders?

    This takes us into the problems of Anglican ecclesiology, I guess.

    What do you do with dioceses who no longer agree to maintain respectful relationship with the Archbishop of Canterbury's 'primacy of honour' (to use a term Orthodox sometimes use for Rome and New Rome/Constantinople), and are selective in whom they associate with in the Anglican Communion?

    While allowing for faithful dissent, are they foregoing their commitment to being part of one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church?

    Ate there any consequences for this within Anglican ecclesiology - or was that the whole point of Rowan Williams' covenant idea?

    What is Patriarch Kirill was the leader of the Anglican Church of Russia? What could be done?

  26. You could say that Anglican ecclesiology developed to solve the problems of the church in one particular nation and culture, and doesn't have the mechanisms to deal with international, intercultural relations and disputes.

    Happy to hear more from those in the know on this one.

  27. Hello Mark
    There are (I believe, I cannot give you chapter and verse) mechanisms to (a) not invite provinces/their reps to various meetings of the Communion; and, more drastically, (b) ex-Communion-ate the same.

    My question is whether we are at such a point, what would be achieved by (a) or (b), and wouldn’t it be better for a province at odds with the Communion as a whole to make a decision to withdraw than for the Communion to delimit or disbar?

    Further, more complicatedly, a Diocese such as Sydney belongs to the Communion via its parent provincial body, so there is no Communion mechanism for disbarring an individual Diocese (save that for, e.g. The Lambeth Conference, the ABC could choose not to invite the Sydney bishops. In reality they have been invited and are choosing not to go.)

    If +++Kirill were an Anglican bishop or archbishop he could be not invited to the Lambeth Conference and not invited to the Primates’ Meeting.

  28. I am far from convinced, Fr Ron, that the LC will take the drastic action(s) you envisage … I don’t think it is going to be that kind of conference!

  29. "What to do with Lambeth non-attenders?"

    Maybe send them postcards from scenic Kent.

    If they are merely trolls, then we should not feed them. If their public protests mask some local reality, then we should not publicly judge their handling of that.

    There is nothing at stake in mere absence.

    The ABC, by definition, should make case-wise decisions about absences. Anglicans, by definition, should respect those decisions.


  30. The polity of the Anglican Communion, has been and is, a reasonable update of the order already in place by the end of the C4. Like the older Orthodox one, it does accommodate nations, and does not normally tolerate an administrative centre. Since Jesus is Lord, that has worked.


  31. Spoken like a true Victorian patrician, BW.
    Yes, the Archbishop of Canterbury is the headmaster of an English public school (Rugby, perhaps, Dr Arnold redivivus) and some of the boys from the colonies are challenging his natural authority and playing hookey from Compulsory Games.
    What is the Headmaster to do? He and his assistant housemaster did send them a stern letter but it hasn't worked. Never mind, Dr Arnold will apply his legendary wisdom. After all, he knows they have some "local reality" (like the Bible, I suppose) to deal with.

    Pax et bonum,
    William Greenhalgh

  32. "Il n'y a qu'une tristesse, lui a-t-elle dit, la dernier fois, c'est de N'ETRE PAS DES SAINTS..."

    -- Leon Bloy (1897) La Femme Pauvre

    Yes, William, Hanoverian; but Georgian, not Victorian.

    You seem to like being a Catholic almost as much as Father Ron does. That's a blessing from the Lord.

    Would it not be a still greater blessing to show his love to the world? There is no other salvation.


  33. I like the idea of postcards, but what should we write on the back of them?

    "Look, I've travelled all the way from New Zealand, wearing pressure socks!"

  34. Dear William,
    Your critique of ++Welby is of a piece with some other criticism I read around the traps. But all such criticism seems to overlook the extent of his personal links with (in particular) Africa and its Anglican provinces, the role of non-British Anglican Communion staff, and the role of the Primates in shaping things such as the planning for Lambeth.

    No doubt ++Welby is not perfect, but is he imperfect in the way you and similar critics make out?

  35. Mark, somewhere in the Archives of ADU is Father Ron's streetwise guide to the pubs of Canterbury. If all the postcards show pubs, then signatures on their backs will testify to the energy of the Conference conversations.


  36. Peter, I do know that the majority of Anglicans today live in Africa and their bishops are pretty highly educated - more have higher degrees, for example, than British and North American Anglican bishops. I also know that the combined number of practising Anglicans in the Global North (which culturally includes Australia and New Zealand) may be less than you would find in Uganda alone, or possibly Rwanda. A diocese in Michigan, for example, has fewer than a thousand on Sunday. Anglican dioceses in Scotland and Wales have very small numbers as well. Do you think having the historic resources to pay for a bishop makes an English or American diocese more important than a poor Anglican churches of Africa or Latin America? All of this reminds me of the infamous rotten boroughs of the nineteenth century!
    If Anglicanism were to develop a truly global polity, its leadership might reflect the reality of who is actually an Anglican in today's world, instead of sounding like a paternalist imperialist from the 19th century.
    It took the Catholic Church until 1978 to break from centuries of cultural captivity to Italy and we will not look back.
    I appreciate the Archbishop of Canterbury is not a patriarch or a pope, but if you want a sense of global identity, you will have to give up ecclesiastical colonialism.

    Pax et bonum

    William Greenhalgh

  37. Hi William
    I think your latest comment is on fairer ground for discussion: what is the best future for the Communion, in the light of its past (including the anchoring of its history into the office of the ABC) and its present (attending to the demography of today in which not only is any colonization a “bad thing” but also there might be a critical evaluation of what deomcracy means: one Anglican one vote? One diocese one vote? One province one vote?)

    My plaintive plea would then be: just as the North can be fairly criticised for making more of itself than its numbers deserve, might the South understand the cultural changes the North is experiencing?

    (With the slight kicker, that, of course, buried in Anglican news, but from time to time discernible, African Anglican LGBTQi++ Christians plea for a better deal for themselves, something more akin to what their North Anglican sisters and brothers experience!)

    Incidentally, I would feel much better about where Anglican Communion thinking was at on LGBTQi++ matters if we were (as a whole Communion) discussing things in the current Franciscan mode of the RCC than in the Lambeth 1998 1.10 mode!!

  38. William said:

    "If Anglicanism were to develop a truly global polity, its leadership might reflect the reality of who is actually an Anglican in today's world, instead of sounding like a paternalist imperialist from the 19th century."

    au contraire, mon ami! I think even you might agree, William, that Anglicanism is - even at this moment - much less led by the nose by 'Head Office' than your own Rome-centred Vatican sodality.

    The failure of our once-toted 'Anglican Covenant' movement is clear evidence of this - since which, I think, the whole Anglican Communion has regained its sense of a diocese centred around its bishop - a concept of the Early Church; for which your dear Pope Francis is being roundly criticised for his strong advocacy.

    Our African brethren (plus our ultra coservative Sydney Diocese) has already secured its freedom from any thought of loyalty to Lambeth. The only problem with this is that it has led to further disintegration of the Anglican felicity of Faith - based on Scripture, Tradition and Reason. ('Sola Scriptura' can close one's eyes to today's realities).

    It would seem that the secure tenancy of some of the prelates living in the Vatican is actually being threatened by Pope Francis' encouragement for local synodical governance - perhaps leaving then in fear of the disintegration of their own power at 'The Base'?

    Perhaps the whole Christian Church - the Body of Christ - needs to understand that the Gospel is for ALL people - a message of God's provenance of salvation in Christ, that is not confined to one earthly leadership model, but activated, by the Holy Spirit, through the local Church - its Bishops/Elders, and the Faithful pastored and taught by them. The catholic creeds and the historic sacraments of the Church cannot be tethered to one nation or people, needing to be lived out in the context of the wider world for which Christ died.

  39. I'm going to be ridiculously idealistic...

    If the Catholic Church could fully embrace synodality (unleasing the considerable force of its laity, and unsnarling the knot of clericalism which chokes off transparent justice for sexual abuse survivors etc.), and if this impulse was truly allowed to reform its curia, wider church structures, and culture....

    If worldwide Anglican churches could fully opt to be part of an international communion (and not be centred around the Church of England); for all bishops to be equals during times of peace *and* accept the need for a central bishop or body to wisely adjudicate during times of dispute, and if this impulse was truly allowed to reform its structures and culture...

    then the two would be within touching distance.

  40. Forgive this pedant for pointing out that "nihil obstat" is an indicative statement, not a subjunctive; it expresses a fact, not a wish. Multa obstant - many things do "stand in the way".
    I don't doubt that European Catholicism will go through more ructions. But the heart of Catholicism is in the south - something Anglicans understand as well.
    As for Anglicanism, when it doesn't agree on its ministry or its understanding of marriage, it's hard to think of it coming together globally. Much more likely that its small branches in the north - Scotland, Wales, Canada - will be gone by 2035, as an English demographer recently forecast,
    I don't say this as a Catholic triumphalist - a crucial issue for Catholics is vocations.

    Pax et bonum,
    William Greenhalgh

  41. "Catholics must gladly acknowledge and esteem the truly Christian endowments from our common heritage which are to be found among our separated brethren. It is right and salutary to recognize the riches of Christ and virtuous works in the lives of others who are bearing witness to Christ..."

    "Catholics, in their ecumenical work, must assuredly be concerned for their separated brethren, praying for them, keeping them informed about the Church, making the first approaches toward them. But their primary duty is to make a careful and honest appraisal of whatever needs to be done or renewed in the Catholic household itself."



    I wonder what endowments and riches you acknowledge in the Anglican Church? What can we Catholics learn from our Anglican brothers and sisters? This aspect is often missing from your posts.

    What do you see is needed in terms of urgent renewal or reform in the Catholic household so as to assist in the movement towards unity with all churches?


  42. May I suggest a couple or three (there are so many).

    The settled synodality of Anglican decision-making, involving laity, clergy, and bishops. This actually enables controversial issues to be openly acknowledged and debated, rather than repressed (thereby becoming even more explosive).

    The opening of the Anglican Church to the full ministry gifts of women. Like synodality, this issue is so settled and taken-for-granted (at least in the churches and people I have contact with) that is almost impossible to think of Anglican church life without the significant presence and gifts of women. Nothing has been lost, and so many riches gained.

    I do get that even Pope Francis has said the issue of women’s ordination is not up for debate, but it is keenly felt by Catholic laity worldwide and this hunger will only grow. I imagine this will be one of the issues emerging through the synodal-consultative feedback process. (I’m not going to even mention the extremely healthy tradition of allowing Anglican ministers to be married: +Peter and Father Ron, imagine clerical life without the support of your partners!).

    All of the above could revivify Catholic vocations and ordained life – which is sadly moribund in many places – without shifting a letter of the Gospel.

    I also appreciate the way in which our local Anglican Church in NZ has made significant movement towards being more transparent and responsive to sexual abuse committed and allegedly committed by its clergy. Sadly, the Catholic Church is still managing and policing this process in-house – after all these years.

    On the other side: apart from opting to become an international communion (not inviting Bishop Kirill of Moscow to Lambeth isn't enough), there is also much to learn of course.


  43. Mark, I have often referred to the Ordinariate. Much of the Anglican rite can easily be adapted to fully Catholic worship.
    Eastern rites have long been used in uniate churches.
    Catholics have also used and supplemented the Alpha course,
    Former Anglicans like Gavin Ashenden and Michael Nazir-Ali are also strengthening the Church in England with their theological heft.

    But you must remember that Catholicism means "wholeness" and it isn't a cafeteria religion as Anglicanism looks to us.You can't pick and choose the parts you like. A lot of American politicians like Biden and Pelosi loudly claim to be Catholics while attacking the Church's teaching on the sanctity of life. This is absurd. Many evangelicals have a better grasp of logic than these "ethnic Catholics" who once believed in the sanctity of life when they were in their fifties and sixties but abandoned this when the Democratic Party went hard left-liberal. What shall it profit a man or woman ...

    Pax et bonum
    William Greenhalgh

  44. Hi William,

    I very much resonate with "wholeness" in terms of being Catholic. I'm really grateful, and somewhat surprised, that was was fed to me through the sacraments, early parish life, and Catholic schools has stood the test of time, and even survived my critical adulthood. But that upbringing (and my family) also allowed me space to faithfully dissent, or as Newman would say, to follow the primacy of conscience (all the way into full Anglican parish life, at times!).

    I feel one large gap within Protestant churches which is around contemplative spirituality - the 'long' mystical tradition. I lean heavily on Catholic sources for that. But that's hardly a reason against church unity.

    Practically, I don't see how a truly international church can be supported by current Anglican ecclesiology. But that's not to say that an authentic international structure couldn't emerge out of the Anglican tradition- Rowan Williams' communion covenant is a good example. It would need some big shifts to gain assent, but many Anglicans are sympathetic to this

    Honestly, I don't see much cafeteria Christianity in the Anglicans I know. They are pretty comprehensive, committed, and as varied as Catholic laity. Their clergy are often more psychologically whole and better supported than current Catholic priests, sadly.

    Conversion to the Ordinariate is hardly our church's generous, Vatican II vision for ecumenism.

  45. "Former Anglicans like Gavin Ashenden and Michael Nazir-Ali are also strengthening the Church in England with their theological heft." Just william

    Not so, William! However, many conversion-seeking Catholics like yourself are prone to think of the Ordinariate as Church of England Lite. Think again. What was the main reason those who left their Anglican roots in the C. of E. for the Ordinariate? For nothing less/more than the Ordination of Women and the abandoment of mysogyny and homophobia in the Institution. They may be teaching your own Church something - maybe about the beauty of Cranmerian English and a more simple but beautiful liturgical useage - but they certainly do not "strengthen the Church of England with their theological heft"! I fact, it may be that their paucity of theological enquiry on matter of gender and sexuality drove them to what they saw as a 'place of safety' from the 'semper reformanda' of modern Aglicanism!
    However, the Catholic Church under Pope Francis and his newly appointed cardinals, may prove different from their expectations on the issues that disturbed them. Where will they move to then? Maybe the Gafcon Provinces of the Global South?