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What is an Anglican?

2010 March 10
by Gordon Reid

The media are full at the moment of reports that this or that group of Anglican have asked to be received into the Roman Church under the terms of the Pope’s recent offer. But so far, not one of them is a group in communion with the See of Canterbury.

I would have thought that intellectual honesty would compel such groups to abjure the name of Anglican. After all, it means simply “English” and strictly should be applied only to the Church of England. But with the development of the Anglican Communion it came to be applied to all those provinces which were in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury, including my own home Church, the Scottish Episcopal Church, and the Church in which I now minister, the American Episcopal Church.

As far as I can see, it is schismatic groups, who have already broken away from the Anglican Church, who are showing interest in the Roman offer. And on the whole it is their bishops and priests (who are, of course, laymen in the eyes of the Roman Church) who are excited about this, though I notice that even they are hastily assuring their lay members that nothing has yet been decided and that they are merely exploring the Pope’s offer.

The truth is that there are very few laymen in these breakaway Churches who are interested in becoming Roman Catholics. If they had been, they would have done it the more normal way by joining their local Catholic parish.

And as for taking the treasures of the Anglican tradition with them, the reaction among my Anglo-Papalist friends is just to laugh. In England, most of the Anglican priests who might go over to Rome under the new dispensation will do so because they are married, and this will let them be Catholic priests while being married. Up till now, most of them have run Church of England parishes as though they were Roman Catholic parishes, and never a word of the Prayer Book or anything else that was Anglican was ever heard in their churches. They are not going to be happy bunnies if they are now told they must use a Prayer Book rite for Mass!

In America, Anglo-Catholics do use the Prayer Book more, and they might be happy with a sort of Uniate status. However, I doubt of they will be very happy to preach against contraception and remarriage after divorce, since many of them already show the signs of disobeying these RC rules (few or no children and second or third wives – and that’s only the Bishops!)

There are many anomalies involved in being an Anglo-Catholic in the Episcopal Church. But it has always been so. And if there was ever a time when the Church needed a return to the Anglo-Catholic emphasis on the beauty of holiness and the urgency of preaching the Gospel to the poor and oppressed, it is now. An Anglican is a Christian who gets on with that in communion with Canterbury.

68 Responses leave one →
  1. March 10, 2010

    You know my line; here we agree: an Anglican is somebody whose bishop is invited to the Lambeth Conference.

    Forward in Faith/Australia, which I assume is the few Anglo-Catholics in the Anglican Church in that land, voted yes to the Holy Father’s offer.

  2. Sean W. Reed permalink
    March 10, 2010

    Our parish has been an Anglo-Catholic parish (St. Barnabas, Omaha, NE) for the 150 years of its existence. We have been blessed with a number of priests who have been curates at St. Clements. That being said, we left TEC after 148 years, and are excited about becoming part of the Ordinariate. I think you may paint with too broad a brush in your comments.

    I suppose you might say we ceased being Anglican when we left TEC, and quite honestly, I don’t care about what label you may choose to apply. On the other hand, we did not suddenly change a thing we were doing the day we left TEC.

    We have been a Catholic Parish our whole existence, and nothing changed in the day to day affairs of our parish from the day before we left TEC, until today, other than no longer being judged by the company we were keeping.

    We stayed as long as we felt we could. We reached the point that continued association with TEC was impacting our mission and work with the unchurched. That was a reality check for us.

    We certainly don’t disparage those who remain in TEC, but are always amused, and somewhat saddened, by the disparaging comments those in TEC seem to direct towards those of us who dare to presume to leave that (once) august body.

    Sean W. Reed

    • March 10, 2010

      I know what you are saying, Sean, but if your parish enters the Ordinariate, you will have become Roman Catholics and therefore part of the church that bans contraception and remarriage after divorce, that condemns homosexuals, that is associated in outsiders’ minds (and this surely affects your future mission) with the child-molesting scandals of its clergy. Your new Church will also have to submit to the authority of the Pope, which, in its modern form, is so centralized and dictatorial as to be a parody of the Early Church’s idea of a Petrine primacy. I’m afraid you will still be judged by the company you are keeping.

      I am amused that you think Episcopalians use strong language about those who have left the Church to form independent Churches. Have you ever listened to what such independent Christians say about the Episcopal Church? It should be unprintable, but sadly isn’t.

      • Sean W. Reed permalink
        March 10, 2010

        I don’t see where the sexual abuse scandals are connected to the soon to be established Ordinariates, any more than the sexual abuse scandals in Canada involving the Anglican Church there are connected to The Episcopal Church in the US. Nor do I see where Bishop Bennison’s and his brother’s problems are related to your parish. Please refrain from such red herring tactics.

        As to the theology, our parish supports the position of the ACA/TAC regarding the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church as contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church as in indicated by our official statement on the CCC:

        “We accept that the most complete and authentic expression and application of the Catholic faith in this moment of time is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its Compendium, which we have signed, together with this letter as attesting to the faith we aspire to teach and hold.”

        The CCC will be the standard for teaching the faith in the Ordinariates. I have yet to find any part of the CCC which condemns homosexuals, nor were we ever aware when still part of TEC that we needed to support contraception or remarriage after divorce. Lambeth of 1930 was pretty clear about contraception.

        We will be quite pleased to be judged by the Company we will be keeping.

        One of my favorite prayers is that of St. Thomas Aquinas to the BVM, it closes in words I personally pray in earnest:

        “I pray also that, at the end of my life, you, Mother with compare, Gate of Heaven, and Advocate of sinners, will not allow me, your unworthy servant to stray from the holy Catholic faith,

        But that you will protect me with your great piety and mercy, defend me from evil spirits, and obtain for me, through the Blessed and Glorious Passion of your Son, and through your own intercession received in hope, the forgiveness of all my sins.

        When I die in your love and His love, may you direct me into the way of salvation and blessedness. Amen.”


        Sean W. Reed

      • John permalink
        March 13, 2010

        Do I detect a degree of anti Catholic bitterness in your reply to Sean W Reed? Contraception has undermined the sanctity of marriage. It has spawned infidelity and led to mushrooming divorce rates and rampant disease. A high proportion of American teenagers have sexually transmitted diseases. It has led to an explosion in abortion rates. Women are now treated as objects to be discarded at will. Do you consider this as progress? Pope Paul V1 has been vindicated.
        You refer to divorce. Divorce is a curse which has undermined marriage and the family. Marriages are more often than not now seen as temporary arrangements.
        You refer to Catholic scandals. The fact that some Catholic priests have disgraced themselves does not invalidate the teachings of the Catholic Church. Anglicanism has not been free of scandals either.
        Anglicanism’s biggest problem is that it seems to have no fixed position on anything. There is doctrinal chaos- Make it up as you go along. Each and every member appears to be his/her own Pope. How can support for divorce be in keeping with the law of God? What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
        The Anglican Church has moved further and further away from basic Christian principles.
        There is a fixed body of Christian truth. The Catholic Church upholds this. It cannot be discarded to suit the prevailing trends in society.
        The Anglican Church has thrown in the towel.

  3. March 10, 2010

    Sean, again an Anglican is recognised as such by the Church of England. The trouble is Anglicanism including Episcopalianism were wrong from the beginning as far as Catholics are concerned.

    Father, ‘condemns homosexuals’? You know better. If your posts and comments are what you really think of the Roman Catholic Church then it seems your being the rector of an Anglo-Papalist parish is an act. Or is S. Clement’s no longer Anglo-Papalist? And what makes a place that anyway? Making Trent the parish standard of doctrine is wonderful but on whose authority? Which leads back to Sean’s comment (‘we have been a Catholic parish…’). Ritualist congregationalism is not Catholicism; Rome, Orthodoxy and yes, Episcopalianism as handed down by General Convention (your Episcopalian bishop or his or her locum tenens) make more ecclesiological sense even when the theology is wrong.

    • Sean W. Reed permalink
      March 10, 2010

      I don’t know if that defines Anglicanism or not. That is your definition, but I have never personally worried about trying to either define or justify myself or our parish in “proving” that we are or are not Anglican.

      In the creed, we don’t confess the One, Holy, Anglican Church.


  4. March 10, 2010

    TYF, you’re not suggesting that what makes a church catholic is the clearness of its ecclesiological authority? It that’s the case, Orthodoxy is the least catholic of us all.

  5. March 10, 2010

    I certainly do not condemn homosexuality, nor does the American Episcopal Church. This is the Church to which St Clement’s belongs. But the Anglican way has always been to treat such matters as of secondary or tertiary importance, and to allow a wide divergence of opinion on them within the Church. The Oxford Movement owed a lot to homosexual leaders and members, and so does St Clement’s.

    St Clement’s describes itself as Anglo-Catholic, not Anglo-Papalist, though a few of its members might describe themselves as such. We pray for the Pope as patriarch of the Western Church, but do not hold Roman Catholic doctrine on his infallibility. If we did, we would have to become Roman Catholics tomorrow, because he definitely says Anglican priests are not validly ordained. I don’t believe him – so I am an Anglican. As for the Council of Trent, we would be burned at the stake if its decrees were enforced – or if not, God would burn us later on!

    The Orthodox Churches (and I use the name as shorthand, just as I often say “Catholic” for RC’s) also believe the Pope is in error. Some of them (High Church Orthodox?) even deny the validity of RC orders.

    This whole obsession with validity, as well as the urge to condemn other kinds of Christians is very far removed from my view of Christianity. The tolerance of the Anglican Church is, I believe, a sign of real holiness. Give me that kind of holiness rather than the “holier than thou” attitude of so many.

    • March 10, 2010

      Of course I learnt early on (25 years ago… tempus fugit) of the many homosexuals in Anglo-Catholicism. I think you misunderstood me: I wasn’t saying you condemn homosexuality; I was saying I thought you knew better than to say Rome condemns homosexuals. (Which would be news indeed to a friend of both of us.)

      Regarding your colleague in Drexel Hill on ecclesiology, Western sensibilities say Orthodoxy shouldn’t work; it’s even less centralised a communion than Anglicanism. Yet it does. And it’s not Protestant. No big movements to ordain women or change teaching on homosexuality there.

      The centuries-old difference with the Orthodox on the scope of the Pope (divinely instituted with universal jurisdiction or man-made rank for the good order of the church?) is not at all like the Western liberals who hate him because he’s Catholic: he can’t change many things including teachings on their pet issues.

      Anyway historically you’re right that most American high churchmen have never wanted to be Roman Catholics which is why they didn’t go there right after 1976. (They’re of the Grafton school of churchmanship.) And why Fort Worth, Quincy and San Joaquin are in ACNA now. I don’t know if the exodus is over yet but many have left the ACA for other Continuing denominations for that reason.

      My guess is the American ordinariate will be both small and very clerical: not a lot of laity to begin with. But it’s a good start.

      Of course potentially the biggest ordinariate will be the British one: where most Anglo-Papalists live. The Holy Father has called their bluff and, unlike the happy-clappy John Paul the Overrated, seems to have their back.

      The people saying yes to the Pope’s offer know what they’re signing onto: the magisterium with no exceptions.

      Is SC’s isn’t Anglo-Papalist then why the Roman Missal (in translation) and Breviary and not the US 1928 or 1979 BCP?

      • March 10, 2010

        Make that:

        If SC’s isn’t Anglo-Papalist then why the Roman Missal (in translation) and Breviary and not the US 1928 or 1979 BCP?

  6. dcs permalink
    March 10, 2010

    As far as I can see, it is schismatic groups, who have already broken away from the Anglican Church

    How can one describe a group that has broken away from a schismatic ecclesial community (i.e., the Anglican Communion) as “schismatic”?

  7. March 10, 2010

    St Clement’s has chosen to use the English Missal because it fits the style of worship we prefer. The translations are entirely from the Book of Common Prayer or the Authorised Version of the Bible (King James over here). The few bits that are not are rendered in the same 17th century language. As you know, we sing the Propers in the Latin for which the musical settings were written.

    We have chosen this liturgy, but are in communion with others who use the 19928 Prayer Book or the modern language one.

    The Liturgy is an inspiration for Christians to fulfill Christ’s commands and live the Gospel. It can take many forms, and has done in the course of the Church’s history. But when the Mass ends, the Christian’s work begins. The poor, the outcast, the lonely, the disturbed, the hungry – they should be our chief Opus Dei. It’s on our attitude to them we shall be judged, not on which liturgy we used or the validity of our orders.

    • March 10, 2010

      AFAIK for much of SC’s history – under Fr Joiner for example – the books were used to make a theological statement (going over the Episcopalian authorities’ heads to appeal to ‘the larger church’, hoping for corporate reunion, the Dutch touch taking care of the problem of invalid orders), not just for show. His legacy – the eccentricity and panache as well as the orthodoxy – is a big part of the ‘patrimony’ – not the same as Anglicanism itself, it turns out – that will, Deo volente, find a new and lasting home in the ordinariates. (My idea about a year ago of more RC national parishes – English Missal parishes as RC national parishes – but with more clout.)

  8. Maxim permalink
    March 10, 2010

    The Episcopalians, being in active disobedience to the larger Anglican community, probably should in all honesty cease to call themselves Anglican.

    • March 10, 2010

      But Anglicanism is not defined by content really but by whose bishops are invited to the Lambeth Conference. All of them just happen to require, on paper, belief in the content of the creeds, two main sacraments and the historic episcopate. Episcopalianism is still in the club and will be for the foreseeable future.

      • Maxim permalink
        March 10, 2010

        Which would make it a club, not a Church.

      • March 11, 2010

        Well, in the same wise Catholicism is defined by fealty to Rome, and only secondarily by the doctrines which Rome teaches. At least, that is Rome’s version of it: you do not become (in their eyes) Catholic simply by agreeing with them. In the same wise, saying that requirement “on paper” in certain beliefs is misleading. Anglicanism is really defined, before Lambeth, in the sacramental procession of the various churches out of the Church of England.

        I belong to a central parish (with taint of guitars, unfortunately– but we got that from the Catholics), and the closest A-C parishes are an hour each way; it’s one thing to drive by a couple of Episcopal parishes on my way to church, but to drive past twenty is a bit ridiculous. So the ordinariate is even less likely to carry me with it, and as our blogger says, there are enough RC parishes (and for that matter Catholic of other flavors, not to mention Orthodox and pretty much any other religious tribe I could ever want– I think the only ones I’d have to drive any significant distance to reach would be the Swedenborgians or Christian Scientists) around that if I felt any call to that, I’d have been gone years back.

        I have always felt a strong paradox between the insistence on infallibility on the one hand and the insistence that Roman arguments really are persuasive on the other. Objectively, the history of persistent theological dispute is strong evidence that argument doesn’t get one as far as any systematic theology would like to take one. Since we are bouncing around contraception, I personally have a hard time with the notion that Thomist ontology is what functions in moral reasoning, while the contravening ontology of modern science is what functions elsewhere. It’s particularly ironic that one could just as well invoke Genesis 2 in parallel with a scientific rejection of the flat statements in Casti Connubi. The need to invoke infallibility to override the identification of error here is beyond unpersuasive; it’s self-refuting.

      • Maxim permalink
        March 12, 2010

        I was referring to the opinion that what defines an Anglican is being invited to Lambeth; that’s the essence of Clubism. A club is a gathering of those that are invited; it may have some ostensible purpose, but is free to collectively say “Henry isn’t much of an Ornithologist, but he’s a really great guy; let’s include him as a member”. Of course, membership in the Church involves being attached to an authoritative body, and to be detached from that authority constitutes being in schism, but membership in the Church also should mean acceptance of the teachings of the Church, and for a priest to consciously admit someone to membership who does not subscribe to these teachings is to commit a sin against the Church. Here the status of Anglicanism as a club is clearly revealed; there may be paper requirements, but not subscribing to the creeds doesn’t seem to bar anyone from admission.

      • March 12, 2010

        But in that sense invitations to Lambeth are almost exactly like invitations to sit in the College of Cardinals– indeed, the later is more club-like in that the seats therein are created at the pleasure of the pope, whereas Cantuar does not create the bishoprics from which the Lambeth invitations are drawn. In ordinary times there would be no real question about who would be receiving those invitations, because the sacramental development of the Church of England and her daughters would determine who was a bishop and therefore who would be invited.

        I do not follow the logic of your other argument at all. If I were a member of the B&O Historical Society, for example, there would be a pretty strong implication that I had a positive interest in that railroad’s history; were I a member of PETA, I think the expectation would be extremely high that I conform that that club’s principles. Perhaps I should agree that being a cleric who fails to subscribe to his church’s teachings is a kind of sinning, but the last I checked, sinfulness had nothing to do with one’s membership in the church, and never mind my church’s low standards! It seems to me that the arguments all cut the other way, and that being Anglican is quite un-club-like, and that indeed the reasons for this assessment are found in characteristics which it shares with the Roman church (and not with, for instance, Baptist-polity churches, not that I’m interested in the discussing the latter in this context).

      • Maxim permalink
        March 12, 2010

        There are many organizations which take themselves and their purposes very seriously; I suppose you could define Planned Parenthood as the Church of Fornication. My definition of a club is a group that is primarily social in nature. My observation is that Anglicanism is primarily social in nature; it doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you’re able to get along with everyone else. I know Episcopalians who would fit in very comfortably with a Unitarian assembly, who essentially sit around believing in nothing. I have no intention of defending the Papacy; it has long been apparent to me that, historically, the only doctrinal issues that have really been taken seriously are those that promote the power of the Papacy, but it’s the same at a Greek church where they think you’re Orthodox if you’re Greek. They are essentially functioning as an ethnic club, and haven’t an inkling of the concept of the Church Universal. My point is that the Church should be more than that.

        I don’t have any idea what you mean by “sacramental development” as a criteria for determining who is a Bishop.

        I was not arguing that the Priest who falsely admits someone to membership in the Church is not a member of the Church, or even that the person so admitted is not; I simply said he has sinned in so doing. He has treated the Catholic Church as a club to which he can admit anyone he chooses at his own whim, and in so doing, denied the high purpose for which the Church exists. They are erring members, who need to be brought to repentance.

      • March 18, 2010

        By “sacramental development” I mean that the communion exists in the organic development of bishops consecrating other bishops (and setting up new dioceses and missionary dioceses). In that sense Canterbury recognizes who is an Anglican bishop because, historically considered, the C of E has consecrated them all, by proxy.

        One of the senses in which the Anglicans have historically been NOT Protestant is in the identification of church membership with baptism (and confirmation, but the latter is simply a fulfillment of the former). This is a principle upon which we stand in agreement with the Roman church and against all the Baptist/Anabaptist churches. And after all (as Lewis puts in the mouth of Screwtape) we and every other church who baptizes infants holds that persons can be very incorporate in the Church who have no idea one way or the other about what She teaches. It is a temptation to make too much of heresy, to avoid having to deal with error by writing it out of our history of salvation. And it’s especially so the the powerless or the not powerful enough, to seek some authority when we cannot make our own voices prevail. Part of me thinks that any cleric who switches churches should be laicized forever, that they may be freed of the temptation of wrapping themselves in authority which they failed to obtained in their old church.

  9. March 10, 2010

    TYF, I follow what you’re saying but not why you’re saying it, vis a vis catholicity. I don’t suggest that Orthodoxy is not catholic, but merely that one would have to view it that way if the determining factor in catholicity was clear structure and institutional authority. What exactly are you faulting Anglicans for not having?

    • March 10, 2010

      Anglicans are Protestants because they believe in a fallible church, unlike Rome and Orthodoxy which each claim to be the infallible church. In Anglicanism radical change (like the ordination of women, same-sex ‘marriage’ and possibly one day even leaving Christianity by turning unitarian) is only a conference or synod/convention vote away. Of course theological content matters but ‘clear institutional authority’ (a Catholic might not put it that way, saying the church is a living body with a divine teaching authority… part of what Keble was trying to claim for Anglicanism in 1833) is part of what makes a church a church, that is, a Catholic church not a Protestant denomination.

      • william permalink
        March 10, 2010

        Just as a philosophical aside that comes to mind reading this conversation, I personally fail to see the functional difference between the Anglican and Roman Catholic policy of church governance except as regards the interpretation each body accords to their deliberative process. Believing that the Roman Catholic Church will not change in certain ways and is infallible does not actually make it historically infallible. Consider the quite difficult case of transubstantiation–the Council of Trent claims this, in reality, relatively novel conceptualization of the Lord’s Supper was the ancien régime of the early Church–just like Tibetan Buddhists who claim unburied terma texts justify new ideas by locating them in the past–whereas historical documentation does not suggest belief in this idea until the 13th century. It took blessed Newman to develop another novelty–namely development of doctrine, to explain this and other honest mistakes or innovations from the purportedly infallible church. Ideas about slavery, celibacy, and natural family planning also demonstrably have changed historically (for celibacy see some of the letters between Rufinus and St. Jerome analyzed mostly for their Origenistic contents in several fine articles by Dr. Elizabeth Clark). Some of these changes, for whatever reason, are considered important, and others are held to be subsidiary or unessential matters. If you hold to the strict view of infallibility, that only two ex-cathedra pronouncements have ever been infallible (though one can definitely find discussion about whether a host of other matters are infallibly defined or not), then the regular magesterium of the Roman Catholic Church is doing the exact same thing as the Anglican Church–a group of bishops meet, and seek the Spirit–the still small voice, the burning in the bosom. Practically everything they decide or pronounce can be changed or corrected later (such as the examples above). There are liberal and conservative Roman Catholic and Anglican bishops. The percentage of each that happens, through the exigencies of history, to get into the deliberative council will decide the direction of their respective churches. Without simply believing this will not happen, theoretically it is possible either organization can go in any direction with a wide enough consensus among the episcopacy. There was some discussion in the last Papal election whether a more liberal Pope being elected might open up the question of women’s ordination once again. Theoretically, this could always happen, since people have free agency and can change their minds. This leads to the same evasion which one gets from Mormon apologists when trying to define LDS doctrine–prophets are only prophets when speaking as such–compare, you can say the Church is speaking infallibly when you want to defend a doctrine, and decide it is an unessential matter, fallible, or development of doctrine when you want to discard an old idea–i.e. celibacy earning a higher place in Heaven, natural family planning being impermissible, and slavery being allowed. One might also note that many sedevacantists believe that the Roman Catholic Church demonstrated that it had lost its teaching authority through the liturgical changes imposed by Vatican II, which some even believe nullified holy orders, in the same way that some Anglicans believe ideas like the ordination of women and gay marriage demonstrate the Episcopal Church has lost the Spirit. Neither the Roman Catholic nor the Anglican bishops are claiming that they do anything accept seek the ‘still small voice’ just like the current Mormon presidency and quorum of twelve apostles, every mainline Protestant church council, the Bahai Universal House of Justice, and many, many other religious groups. Claiming that the ‘burning in the bosom’ experienced by Methodists, Anglicans, Catholics, Orthodox, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, Presbyterians, Cao Daists, or Baptists is infallible or not is really an interpretive distinction without any difference. The only way we could theoretically adjudicate these disputes is with a religious authority who either considered himself/herself God to be incarnate, like Bahaullah, Jesus, Sri Sai Baba etc. or claimed direct, daytime, material, audio-visual experiences of God such as Joseph Smith, Moses, or Muhammad–that of course, or accept the principle of sola scriptura and try with difficulty to interpret the Bible as systematic theology, which has still historically led to multiple interpretations. Neither Anglicans nor Catholics, liberal or conservative, are claiming these sorts of revelations, so neither has any better evidence the Spirit is speaking to them than to anyone else in particular. Anglicans just do not claim so much authority to speak about the decisions they determine by the exact same methods.

  10. dcs permalink
    March 10, 2010


    You don’t see the distinction between a teaching not explicitly taught, becoming explicitly taught over the centuries (Roman Catholic) on the one hand, and a teaching actually changing (Anglican) on the other?

    • william permalink
      March 10, 2010

      The problem is defining ‘becoming explicitly taught’, which was (I presume you mean implicitly) taught before, versus ‘actually changing’. Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, and Rabbininc Jews all claim their teachings which seem novel are implicit in the Bible but were simply not taught before, which they are bringing out into the daylight at last–teachings that clarify and expand upon existing principles, do not ‘actually change’ but rather improve and codify preexisting tradition. Again, I see a semantic though not theoretical difference. Those who argue for changes to notions of celibacy, slavery, ideas about homosexuality, women’s ordination etc. view those things as implicit in the tradition as opposed to explicitly and consciously going against God’s designs. Give specific historical and textual examples if you find my paradigm unconvincing–I would be happy to reconsider my position. You could say the various love commands and passages like ‘neither man nor woman…’ implicitly support all forms of love, or that Jesus’ high treatment of women prefigures women’s ordination, just as Paul’s statement ‘neither slave nor free…’ prefigures abolition. How would you decide if something was a part of the tradition if it was not explicitly taught anyway, since then, presumably there is no record of it having ever been believed before? It seems like you have to go back to the ‘ancient regime”/terma text argument to support that view, which is a matter of faith, not proof, which both liberals and conservatives might claim, and, indeed, since both Roman Catholics and Mormons have claimed this argument, it really does not help us much anyway. In any case, I provided well-documented cases of teachings like about celibacy, slavery, the Mass and ordination rites, natural family planning, ‘actually changing’, through the same bishops ‘seeking the spirit’ method which seems ostensibly no different than women’s ordination, birth control, divorce, or homosexuality. I have now provided examples from several eastern and western religions, and many historical periods, both liberal and conservative–do you really struggle to see the methodological problem here?

      • dcs permalink
        March 11, 2010

        Give specific historical and textual examples if you find my paradigm unconvincing–I would be happy to reconsider my position.

        Well, for example, you brought up the issue of transsubstantiation – can you find a time at which the Church taught against transsubstantiation?

        Do you see the distinction between this and the Anglican flip-flop on contraception prior to 1930 and afterward?

  11. william permalink
    March 11, 2010

    You misunderstood my point, reread the last bit

    In any case, I provided well-documented cases of teachings like about celibacy, slavery, the Mass and ordination rites, natural family planning, ‘actually changing’, through the same bishops ’seeking the spirit’ method which seems ostensibly no different than women’s ordination, birth control, divorce, or homosexuality. I have now provided examples from several eastern and western religions, and many historical periods, both liberal and conservative–do you really struggle to see the methodological problem here?

    Transubstantiation is not one of my examples of ‘actual change’–the point with that was that no early Church father would have defined the Eucharist in exactly that way, though they certainly had some idea of the ‘true presence’. Anglicans have made similar incremental developments in the liturgy–the whole book of common prayer is a revision of materials form the Sarum Missal right? What is the difference really? My point with transubstantiation was that Trent was mistaken about early Church history, claiming that this was the ancient faith of the Church, which is only true in a very loose way, and that the way of explaining things like the Papal and Marian doctrines has changed–from ancient regime/terma text to development of doctrine. Now that I think of this more, the Papal and Marian doctrines are better examples, since the RC understanding of the Pope is certainly not found universally in the Early Church, but is a later understanding–same goes for Mary. So, being wrong on the historical details and changing the thinking to accommodate original thinking–how exactly is this different from what almost every other religious group on the planet does? Infallibility is just a claim, but historically the RC church makes changes like every other religious organization that has a deliberative council which leads it–the members seek the spirit, and act accordingly when introducing new ideas or innovations. Calling it a magesterium does not make the mechanism any different or the kinds of developments and changes qualitatively any different.

    Observations about birth control do not help either–the RC church changed ideas about NFP which was previously a sin, and decided that sex in marriage was not a sin, which was beforehand–the Anglicans made greater changes, but it is quantitative, not qualitative.

    Conclusion–your comparison is false because you are ignoring the parallel alterations in both traditions, and choosing one which is defensible as ‘implicit previous’ tradition for the RC but comparing with this as an ‘actual change’ by Anglicans. I could choose an ‘actual change’ by the RC and compare it with an ‘explicating of implicit ideas’ from the Anglican Church and the dichotomy would be just as false. Both churches, and most other religious bodies, operate the same way. The history of RC theology does not actually back up claiming that it is divinely inspired anymore than other traditions, it just claims greater authority.

    • dcs permalink
      March 11, 2010

      But you can’t show that Trent was mistaken; there is nothing in the teaching of the early Church that contradicts the teaching of transsubstantiation.

      The Catholic teaching on the Pope is found in the early Church – I suggest you read Fr. Fortescue’s The Early Papacy and The Orthodox Eastern Church for the many citations he provides from the Greek Fathers.

      You are also quite wrong about the Church’s teaching on Our Lady, and wrong that the Church ever taught that periodic continence is a sin. Yes, there are quotes from the Fathers that one can use to show that perhaps that individual Church Father teaches against periodic continence, but hardly the moral unanimity on the subject one would need to show that it was actually the teaching of the Church. The Church also never taught that sex in marriage is a sin, and to claim that it did is simply a lie.

      I do not see anything in your posts that is well-documented, and nothing at all about the Mass and ordination rites, so perhaps you should back off that claim?

      • william permalink
        March 11, 2010

        Fortesque is almost a century old–academic convention is that you generally can’t rely on secondary sources more than about 25 years old when doing research, but this work doesn’t help much anyway

        Stephen Shoemaker’s work, Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary’s Dormition and Assumption (Oxford, 2006)

      • william permalink
        March 11, 2010

        Here’s a quote about the papacy from something far more recent than Fortesque,

        Nicaea I, which took place during Sylvester’s episcopate, is of interest…because of canon 6. It invoked ancient customs in assigning Egypt, Libya, and the Pentapolis to the bishop of Alexandria, affirming the customary jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome, and asserting the traditional authority of the bishop of Antioch and of the provincial metropolitans. The canon does not fix the boundaries of Roman regional power. But the expansion of the canon in Rufinus (345?–410) seems to limit Rome’s authority to the suburbicarian sees. This may reflect the actual jurisdictional situation at the end of the fourth century…Nicaea presupposes a regional leadership of Rome, but indicates nothing more. Thus one concludes that down through the Council of Nicaea, a Roman universal primacy of jurisdiction exists neither as a theoretical construction nor as de facto practice awaiting theoretical interpretation.

        (Paul Empie and Austin Murphy, Ed., Papal Primacy and the Universal Church (Augsburg: Minneapolis, 1974), Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue V, pp. 72, 77)

        Rome itself never either exercised or claimed to exercise ‘patriarchal’ rights over the entire West. Such ‘patriarchal’ jurisdiction of Rome existed de facto over the so-called suburbicarian dioceses, which covered a relatively large territory – ten provinces – which were within the civil jurisdiction of the prefect of Rome. The power of the pope upon this territory was, in every way, comparable to the jurisdiction of the Eastern patriarchs.
        (John Meyendorff, Imperial Unity and Christian Division (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s, 1989), p. 328)

        Fortesque goes back to development of doctrine anyway

        “Has the papacy grown? In a sense it has, just as every Dogma of the Church may be said to have grown. We come here to that question of the development of doctrine, of which much might be said.” (p. 35)

        “But we do not admit that this development means any real addition to the faith; it is only a more explicit assertion of the old faith, necessary in view of false interpretations.” (p. 35)

        Right… his interpretation, some people see this as an ‘actual change’–why would there be an ‘Old Catholic Church’ otherwise?

        Regarding transubstantiation–you do realize that Lutherans, Calvinists, and Anglicans with different models of the Eucharist cite the same passages and Church Fathers? So how is that different exactly? Why prefer one over the other?

        here is a video of someone giving sources defending this basic point in an academic debate. I would look up each if I had time and post them if I had time but I have exams.

        For the Mass-just go look at the SSPX or Society Pius V discussions of the words of institution and ordination rites.

      • william permalink
        March 11, 2010

        Sex and pleasure in western culture By Gail Hawkes, 2004, see her section on sex in the early church–experiencing pleasure in sex was frowned upon as lust, and some thought that God did not intend for sex to ever be pleasurable, or involve desire–desire and lust were sinful, therefore sex in marriage, as we would understand that idea today, would be sinful, since it would involve arousal and mutual pleasure–we could debate how sinful, but that it was problematic is that marital relations, as we understood them, were seen as very problematic by many church fathers. Accusations of lying are not appropriate for discussion, and I have not called you names–it would be polite to indicate a ‘definite fault in research’, or ‘faulty conclusion’ –lying implies agency and ill intent, which I do not believe I have, nor can you read my mind to conclude I possess. Please keep this civil in keeping with the manner of Christ Our Lord, in whom, and by whom, and through whom are all things and all knowledge. I have exams now, so I will probably not update any further replies for a week or so.

      • william permalink
        March 11, 2010

        and wrong that the Church ever taught that periodic continence is a sin. Yes, there are quotes from the Fathers that one can use to show that perhaps that individual Church Father teaches against periodic continence, but hardly the moral unanimity on the subject one would need to show that it was actually the teaching of the Church.

        why would this have been clarified in the 20th century if it was never seen as problematic? I don’t have time to look up sources, but I will later if you really feel this is a misrepresentation, but I am hardly the only person who sees this–there was another poster from an earlier thread that brought this up as well. Unanimity to create teaching, do you mean 100%, 99%, 87%, 51%, 32% (but the really good, respectable 32%), or what about lone Athanasius, who stood contra mundum? I don’t think you can make a case that percentages always matter in matters of truth, and those few sources may be determinative–additionally, since none of this is infallible anyway, we can both come up with different sources to assert whether it was church teaching or not–just as theologians today disagree about what in what exactly ‘church teaching’ really consists. I guess we would have to decide what counted as church teaching first and move the discussion forward from that point.

        I am not really trying to particularly accuse the RC Church–which is why I referred to other religions earlier–if you examine the institutional history of all the world religions, without exception, you will find aspects of their official presentation that do not match up with the more messy facts of human history. Religious discourse naturally leads to wanting to iron out discord to create a faith narrative and hagiography. My point is simply that every institution operates essentially the same way, with the same discourses, and that you can defend being an Anglican just as much as being RC, Mormon, Bahai, Methodist, Cao Dai, Muslim, Hindu, Shinto, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist etc. Anglicans generally do not reactively defend the faith narratives of their institution–Fr. Reid has referred frankly to the persecution suffered by various religious minorities by the Church of England, which I hope we would all condemn. I am happy to admit the Anglican Church has made many historical errors of interpretation and policy, just like every other Christian institution, but I am very happy also not to have to defend those mistakes but look at them objectively as showing the human dimension of the Church. Not having to defend lots of particular historical claims makes it possible to focus on the atoning grace of the Lord Jesus, and the mission he calls us too in this world, instead of focusing on mistakes made by previous arch bishops of Canterbury because I believe they are God’s inspired mouthpiece upon this Earth (which, given the historical record, I hope none of us do). I find it a little amazing that others find it so inscrutable why Fr. Reid is still an Anglican, and that there could be perfectly justifiable reasons for being so, and that reading a Scott Hahn book will not change his mind suddenly. God has not decided to consistently communicate face to face with the human family, and so we are mostly guessing His will, and that ambiguity creates the situation where men and women of great intellect, and good will, follow an enormous diversity of religions. Simply claiming that one is perfect does not nullify the arguments, intellect, or good will of others those who follow other faiths. We will always be, as St. Paul suggests, as seeing through a glass darkly, before we see face to face in the presence of our Blessed Lord at the end of all things.

      • william permalink
        March 11, 2010

        Pope Pius XI, Casti Connubii (#’s 53-56), Dec. 31, 1930: “And now, Venerable Brethren, we shall explain in detail the evils opposed to each of the benefits of matrimony. First consideration is due to the offspring, which many have the boldness to call the disagreeable burden of matrimony and which they say is to be carefully avoided by married people not through virtuous continence (which Christian law permits in matrimony when both parties consent) but by frustrating the marriage act. Some justify this criminal abuse on the ground that they are weary of children and wish to gratify their desires without their consequent burden. Others say that they cannot on the one hand remain continent nor on the other can they have children because of the difficulties whether on the part of the mother or on the part of the family circumstances.
        “But no reason, however grave, may be put forward by which anything intrinsically against nature may become conformable to nature and morally good. Since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural powers and purpose sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious.
        “Small wonder, therefore, if Holy Writ bears witness that the Divine Majesty regards with greatest detestation this horrible crime and at times has punished it with death. As St. Augustine notes, ‘Intercourse even with one’s legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of offspring is prevented.’ Onan, the son of Judah, did this and the Lord killed him for it (Gen. 38:8-10).
        “Since, therefore, openly departing from the uninterrupted Christian tradition some recently have judged it possible solemnly to declare another doctrine regarding this question, the Catholic Church, to whom God has entrusted the defense of the integrity and purity of morals, standing erect in the midst of the moral ruin which surrounds her, in order that she may preserve the chastity of the nuptial union from being defiled by this foul stain, raises her voice in token of her divine ambassadorship and through Our mouth proclaims anew: any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offence against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin.”(2)

        Pope Pius XI, Casti Connubii (# 17), Dec. 31, 1930: “The primary end of marriage is the procreation and the education of children.”(3)

        Pope Pius XI, Casti Connubii (# 54), Dec. 31, 1930:
        “Since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural powers and purpose sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious.”(4)

        Pope Pius XI, Casti Connubii (# 59), Dec. 31, 1930: “For in matrimony as well as in the use of the matrimonial right there are also secondary ends, such as mutual aid, the cultivating of mutual love, and the quieting of concupiscence which husband and wife are not forbidden to consider SO LONG AS THEY ARE SUBORDINATED TO THE PRIMARY END and so long as the intrinsic nature of the act is preserved.”(5)

        Pope Pius XI, Casti Connubii (# 54), Dec. 31, 1930:
        “But no reason, however grave, may be put forward by which anything intrinsically against nature may become conformable to nature and morally good. Since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural powers and purpose sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious.”(11)

        Pope Pius XI, Casti Connubii (# 59), Dec. 31, 1930: “Nor are those considered as acting against nature who in the married state use their right in the proper manner although on account of natural reasons either of time or of certain defects, new life cannot be brought forth. For in matrimony as well as in the use of the matrimonial right there are also secondary ends, such as mutual aid, the cultivating of mutual love, and the quieting of concupiscence which husband and wife are not forbidden to consider SO LONG AS THEY ARE SUBORDINATED TO THE PRIMARY END and so long as the intrinsic nature of the act is preserved.”(12)

        People debate what exactly Pius was getting at, and what conditions made it okay, and whether this is the same as modern practices, but consider

        “Is it not you who used to counsel us to observe as much as possible the time when a woman, after her purification, is most likely to conceive, and to abstain from cohabitation at that time…?”[

        Saint, Bishop of Hippo Augustine; Philip Schaff (Editor) (1887). A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Volume IV. Grand Rapids, MI: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. pp. On the Morals of the Manichæans, Chapter 18.

        So at the very least Augustine thought it was wrong and clearly believed his ideas reflected church teaching. Relative silence otherwise could indicate that everyone agreed with him as much as that they did not. Later conceptions only allowed Confessors approve the practice if the couple were already doing it, thought not teach it it seems, which is different than today, and then later it was allowed that it could be taught to avoid using artifical birth control. So no, I think my interpretation is just as defensible as another; I assume others can more such documentation. Admitting, as you do, that any Church Fathers taught this admits that there was an opinion that went out of fashion, and we can disagree about how influential or correct that position was. It might be the case that no one followed it, but it was true anyway, –St. Augustine says that what is right, is right, even if no one is doing it, and what is wrong, is wrong, even if everyone is doing it. So we could charitably disagree about it, and I will still not withdraw the assertion that my understanding is entirely defensible within the paradigm I am adopting.

        Was it obeyed? Then it was considered a teaching by some people. But, probably there was a diversity of obedience to this notion, just like with many other teachings. You have in any case set up a situation where we can never know any teaching of the Church. The Church Fathers had a variety of opinions about all kinds of things, and the most widespread one is not always the one which was later adopted (i.e. Athanasius). If we adopt that position, then you concede my point that the magesterium really determines nothing, and that historical Anglicans and RCs, and Orthodox, and Protestants basically rely upon the Church Fathers in the same way, reading some bits, ignoring others, and ”seeking the spirit”. There is still no reason to suppose the RC church has correctly interpreted that body of material any better than the eastern Orthodox, oriental Orthodox, or Anglican bodies. John Owen and other orthodox calvinists extensively quoted Church fathers like Augustine to refute the continuity argument in counter-reformational disputes. Obviously there is more than one defensible position here, otherwise how could all these groups teach church history if they some were so clearly wrong? Admittedly, I might massage my claims a bit in a more academic presentation, and say that from certain perspectives and within certain paradigms the RC claim to continuity can be defended as being incorrect, but that is all anyone can really claim about anything, and I think that would be implied.

        Yalom, Marilyn (2001). A History of the Wife (First ed.). New York: HarperCollins. pp. 297–8, 307. ISBN 0-06-019338-7.

  12. March 11, 2010

    I congratulate you on your thoroughness in explaining what I have only touched on. Your energy levels are much higher than mine!
    I can tell your studies are doing you the world of good.
    Come and see us sometime.

  13. Maxim permalink
    March 11, 2010

    The Church has never taught Transsubstantiation; that was a development born of the impious arrogance of medieval scholars, similar to the fetish of counting angels on the heads of pins, and other such evil missapplications of the intellectual power. It comes of the idea that we need to put the imprint of our grubby, ignorant hands all over every matter of doctrine, whether we can or need to know anything further about it or not. What do we need to know of the Eucharist, save that it is the very Body and Blood of our Lord given to us for our spiritual sustenance in the same way food and drink are given to empower our corporeal being, and that it unites us to Him and unites us to one another as members of the same body.

    As for contraception, I don’t think you could have found even a Protestant body prior to 1920 that didn’t teach that it was evil; the acceptance of contraception is not according to the logic of anyone’s doctrine, it is what comes of being dissolved into the ethos of modernity, which lives for pleasure, and subverts every good to that end.

    • Sean W. Reed permalink
      March 13, 2010

      Maxin wrote:

      “…The Church has never taught Transsubstantiation; that was a development born of the impious arrogance of medieval scholars, similar to the fetish of counting angels on the heads of pins, and other such evil missapplications of the intellectual power. It comes of the idea that we need to put the imprint of our grubby, ignorant hands all over every matter of doctrine, whether we can or need to know anything further about it or not….”

      You have an interesting opinion, but you apparently do not understand what the Council of Trent actually said and taught. I don’t for a minute question your right to deny what the Council of Trent teaches, but please at least have the courtesy to accurately reflect its teaching, before you blast it.

      Specifically Trent taught:

      “…According to the admonition so frequently repeated by the holy Fathers, the faithful are to be admonished against curious searching into the manner in which this change is effected. It defies the powers of conception; nor can we find any example of it in natural transmutations, or even in the very work of creation. That such a change takes place must be recognized by faith; how it takes place we must not curiously inquire….”

      The Catechism of the Council of Trent teaches:


      This conversion, then, is so effected that the whole substance of the bread is changed by the power of God into the whole substance of the body of Christ, and the whole substance of the wine into the whole substance of His blood, and this, without any change in our Lord Himself. He is neither begotten, nor changed, not increased, but remains entire in His substance.

      This sublime mystery St. Ambrose thus declares: You see how efficacious are the words of Christ. If the word of the Lord Jesus is so powerful as to summon into existence that which did not exist, namely the world, how much more powerful is His word to change into something else that which already has existence?*

      Many other ancient and most authoritative Fathers have written to the same effect. We faithfully confess, says St. Augustine, that before consecration it is bread and wine, the product of nature; but after consecration it is the body and blood of Christ, consecrated by the blessing.63 The body, says Damascene, is truly united to the Divinity, that body which was derived from the virgin; not that the body thus derived descends from heaven, but that the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ.64

      This admirable change, as the Council of Trent teaches, the Holy Catholic Church most appropriately expresses by the word transubstantiation.65 Since natural changes are rightly called transformations, because they involve a change of form; so likewise our predecessors in the faith wisely and appropriately introduced the term transubstantiation, in order to signify that in the Sacrament of the Eucharist the whole substance of one thing passes into the whole substance of another.

      According to the admonition so frequently repeated by the holy Fathers, the faithful are to be admonished against curious searching into the manner in which this change is effected. It defies the powers of conception; nor can we find any example of it in natural transmutations, or even in the very work of creation. That such a change takes place must be recognized by faith; how it takes place we must not curiously inquire.

      No less of caution should be observed by pastors in explaining the mysterious manner in which the body of our Lord is contained whole and entire under the least particle of the bread. Indeed, discussions of this kind should scarcely ever be entered upon. Should Christian charity, however, require a departure from this rule, the pastor should remember first of all to prepare and fortify his hearers by reminding them that no word shall be impossible with God.66 *

      Sean W. Reed

      • Maxim permalink
        March 13, 2010

        So is the word Transubstantiation meaningless? Does not the Roman Catholic Church teach Transubstantiation as Dogma? Why is it at all necessary to go beyond the teachings of the Holy Fathers? In spiritual things, it is often wise to preserve an attitude of absolute agnosticism, following the example of the Holy Apostle Paul, “Whether in the body, I know not, or whether out of the body, I know not; God knows”. It’s good that the teachers of the Roman Church admonish their faithful not to probe into mysteries beyond understanding, but they themselves refuse to follow their own wisdom. It’s silly to think that it’s necessary to make a Dogma out of every aspect of the Faith.

  14. william permalink
    March 11, 2010

    I just want to clarify with regard to Marian dogmas that they can be shown to come about in various ways within the first 3-5 centuries of Christianity, but that there was a wide variety of interpretation and understanding of these notions, and none can be definitely supported with just the Bible alone (but that is like many other ideas in both Christianity and Judaism). Thomas Aquinas differed with later rulings about Marian dogmas, and I am sure you could find other instances of variation, like one would expect in the RC, and every other historical religious institution with human members. Whatever might have been oral tradition is difficult to guess at or codify, and the content of ‘holy tradition’ is mostly ambiguous anyway. I certainly accept them as faith promoting and wholesome doctrine, but not something I would risk my soul upon, or use to judge the inherent truth of the Gospel. The Trinity was defined at Nicaea very early. Why would other matters of such importance not be defined until over a thousand years later, such as Papal infallibility, if they were so clearly believed? I think the obvious historical answer is that these ideas were not alive issues in the early Church, and were only later developed and promoted. If it was not discussed, or considered important, and thus not codified in early councils, such as with the Trinity, the means of Salvation, the person of Christ, the canon of the Bible, why should we assume it holds the same place as these other doctrines as ancient and unvarying doctrines of the early Church? Surely if the truth of the Gospel stood upon the infallibility of the Pope, and the Marian dogmas, it would have been explicitly dogmatized quite early to confront Marcionites, Ebionites, Donatists etc. who held different conceptions. I think the silence speaks pretty eloquently to the fact no one in the early church held those ideas consistently, coherently, explicitly, and universally in the way defined by much, much later church councils, and so did not unify to argue for and dogmatize them in ostensibly binding church councils. Dr. Kenneth Kitchen of Liverpool is of course right when he says, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”, but I hardly think you can build a theological system on an argument from silence and expect anyone to convert on that basis. We can only really continue this discussion by precisely defining ‘moral unanimity’ in a methodical and ecclesiastically approved fashion, citing authoritative authors from the New Testament to the 20th century, from all parts of Christendom, and proving that consensus has always been determined in the exact same fashion over time, and somehow resolve the difficulty of minority viewpoints triumphing provided by Augustine and Athanasius. I supremely doubt this is doable, but you cannot move beyond the ambiguity of early Church sources, and claim infallible continuity with them, over and against similar claims from other Christian groups, who are using the same vague methodology, if this supposed ‘moral unanimity’ does not demonstrably exist across time and space in a really convincing fashion–and I mean not supposed or observed consensus, or implied ideas, but writers from the Apostolic to the 20the century explicitly using the same term ‘moral unaminity, teaching authority, etc., and defining it in the same way, just as you can find for the Trinity. I rather think that ‘tradition’ has been understood to encompass different elements over the centuries, which is why there are disputes among Catholics and Protestants since the 16th century over what the real faith of the ancient Church really consisted of–different Church Fathers, in different areas, at different times, had different conceptions, and claiming one group of teachings is objectively determinative over another is highly subjective and prone to dispute, which is why most Christian groups–RC, eastern and oriental Orthodox, Anglican, Magesterial Protestant, and Restorationist (Mormons and related groups), look to this same material and come to different conclusions (regarding the last point, there are entire books you can read of LDS apologists like Barry R. Bickmore and Hugh Nibley finding patristic statements about God having a physical body, Christ being separate from the Father, the Godhead being non-trinitarian, works having a place in salvation, preexistence of souls, Heaven having multiple tiers, spirit prison, baptism for the dead, theosis etc.– why is that any different than the methodology anyone else is employing? If we observe St. Augustine’s observation about truth, any of these positions could be true, or false, and none also meets the standard of the Vincentian Canon ‘believed everywhere, at all times, by all’, which itself would have to be defended–i.e. has everyone, at all times, everywhere accepted the Vincentian Canon? In any case, certainly transubstantiation does not meet that criteria, or Papal infallibility, or NFP, so why are these so obviously true? I think a greater degree of epistemic uncertainty is really in order given these considerations).

  15. dcs permalink
    March 11, 2010


    Fortesque is almost a century old–academic convention is that you generally can’t rely on secondary sources more than about 25 years old when doing research

    Quotes from the Fathers are not secondary sources, they are primary sources, as you yourself must hold if you are quoting St. Augustine from Schaff.

    Accusations of lying are not appropriate for discussion, and I have not called you names–it would be polite to indicate a ‘definite fault in research’, or ‘faulty conclusion’ –lying implies agency and ill intent, which I do not believe I have, nor can you read my mind to conclude I possess.

    I did not accuse you of lying, I said that what you wrote was a lie. A lie does not become something else when someone repeats it without intending to lie.

    Unanimity to create teaching, do you mean 100%, 99%, 87%, 51%, 32% (but the really good, respectable 32%), or what about lone Athanasius, who stood contra mundum?

    Moral unanimity is a sign of infallibility, but not a certain one. So if one wishes to prove that XXX was not a teaching of the early Church, then at the very least it is incumbent upon one to show that the morally unanimous agreement of the Fathers is against it.

    For the Mass-just go look at the SSPX or Society Pius V discussions of the words of institution and ordination rites.

    Oh, I thought you meant that the teaching on the Mass and ordination had changed. It goes without saying that the rites have changed. But that doesn’t show that the teaching has been changed (which I thought was the subject of this thread).

    I find it a little amazing that others find it so inscrutable why Fr. Reid is still an Anglican

    I don’t know why one would find it inscrutable; there are lots of reasons why Fr. Reid is still an Anglican. What is inscrutable perhaps is why Almighty God would permit it.

    why would this have been clarified in the 20th century if it was never seen as problematic?

    Actually it was clarified in curial responses before that (at least dating back to the middle of the XIXth century), but before the XXth century it was not seen as problematic – the Anglican Lambeth Conference of 1930 was the impetus for Casti Connubii.

    • william permalink
      March 11, 2010

      Fortescue is almost a century old–academic convention is that you generally can’t rely on secondary sources more than about 25 years old when doing research

      I stand by this because you misunderstood my criticism. I meant that he was a secondary source interpreting primary sources–I would quote, as I did, more recent works of academics interpreting primary sources–Schaff is a translation–you are mixing categories in that criticism.

      Lies are created by someone issuing them, as are misstatements. To utter a lie means that the person who utter the lie is lying and a liar. I appreciate maybe this is not what you intended, but I think you can understand why I object to that language. “That is an inaccurate statement” “That statement does not accord with sources” “That statement is wrong” even, all of these do not imply malicious agency.

      The distinction between ‘teaching’ and other elements of practice like the forms of the liturgy is quite vague since the liturgy teaches theological concepts. It is a ritual embodiment and expression of theological ideas. Some claim the changes made now express different teachings–read discussions on ‘for many, for all’ and the complaints about the seder-derived language–You are making a distinction between form and function similar to the apologetical Bahai argument that all previous dispensations taught the same message with a different form–an argument that I do not find convincing. Changing ritual expressed changed beliefs. I personally find all these discussions straining after minutiae, and find the NO not that beautiful, but perfectly valid, and occasionally I go to one when I cannot find an Episcopal Church for a holy day. However, some interpret this as an ‘actual change’, which suggests the ambiguity you have still not resolved to my satisfaction between an ‘actual change’ and a ‘development of implicit principles’.

      Moral unanimity is a sign of infallibility, but not a certain one. So if one wishes to prove that XXX was not a teaching of the early Church, then at the very least it is incumbent upon one to show that the morally unanimous agreement of the Fathers is against it.

      How does this help exactly? Lets apply this to the LDS doctrines–some Church Fathers like Origen believed in preexistence of spirits, and some did not; Origen had a substantial influence on many early church fathers–there was a substantial but not unified condemnation of his teachings in some councils. Unanimous I take to mean everyone. You are not going to find 100% agreement about anything. Some Church Fathers will agree with most positions, and some will not. Your diagnostic solves none of the problems. You have now also admitted, if I understand (“Moral unanimity is a sign of infallibility, but not a certain one.”–I take that to mean “Moral unanimity (which you have never shown to exist yet) does not prove infallibility, that you cannot determine infallibility from Patristic sources even if they were united, which they are demonstrably not. So is not infallibility then just an abstraction without any evidence? Or do I misunderstand? What does prove infallibility then if not the non-existent moral unanimity? Define this for me and then address Athanasius, Vincent, and Augustine if you think this is an unfair deduction.

      What is inscrutable perhaps is why Almighty God would permit it.


      Actually it was clarified in curial responses before that (at least dating back to the middle of the XIXth century)

      19th century? Okay, what about the previous 1,800 years? What about Augustine? What about the selections I gave from early Church Fathers saying sexual desire was improper, that sex was only proper if it had no desire–surely you are not suggesting that this is believed today? I really don’t see how this helps still. You still need to define infallibility, how it comes about–by unanimity or whatever, and prove that, which I really believe is impossible, which is why there are like 5 large branches of Christianity with various belief systems that quote this same material.

  16. william permalink
    March 11, 2010

    I just want to make two last comment before I really leave this for awhile to pick up some other comments since currently I am driving the whole discussion.

    –using old secondary sources is problematic because footnoting practices and the methodology underlying humanities research really only became standardized in English speaking countries about the time of WWII–for example, compare older work like James Frazer’s Golden Bough to more recent work in anthropology, religious studies, classics, and comparative literature; sometimes this is circumvented when we are discussing philosophers or translations that may continue to be influential or relevant, but often the field has moved on and older sources reflect older views on a subject. I would be extremely interested if you know of an example of a modern RC academic of an equal reputation with Bishop Wright, Alister McGrath, Bruce Metzger etc. who would defend that viewpoint on the Papacy–authors that come to mind like Kung and Brown I doubt, though I am free to be corrected, would so do. What, in any event, do you make of current Orthodox academics and Protestants who also study Church history who do not accept these claims? Jaroslav Pelikan, one of my Father’s good friends from Yale, was a world authority on Christian history and converted to Orthodoxy. Others have come to different conclusions. Clearly there is ambiguity on these subjects. I am really hesitant about a source like Fortescue for this discussion because, having known many RC academics, I am doubtful all of them today would claim this kind of faith-narrative based view of Church history, and I would really be more comfortable with a later work which expressed these same ideas. I mainly work on the OT and ancient near east, so I may be wrong about work on later periods I am not familiar with, but that is my suspicion.

    –Most of these details are really leading off the central debate–which is how we can know God’s will, and how we know the RC, or any other church can claim to know this. Those who claim it is obvious, and that this is evident in a particular institution, have a very high case to prove, and I have yet to see a convincing case for this assertion from any religious institution. I would be happy to be proven wrong, so I could not labor so much under the doubts of ambiguity, but I think history and scholarship pretty much make this self evident that no one position is so unambiguously clear. So, please, someone, explain to me what infallibility is, how we decide what is Church teaching, and why every other group than there’s is wrong!

  17. March 11, 2010

    Dear William,
    Where do you get your energy from?

    You are absolutely right about the fact that RCs, like everybody else, have to rely on private judgement when they affirm their faith, even if that private judgement is to accept papal teaching on everything.

    But my own position, as a (fairly!) happy Anglican, is that without doubt and ambiguity, there would be no need for faith. And beyond all that, I agree with St Paul that faith comes a very far second to charity.

    All good wishes.

    • Sean W. Reed permalink
      March 12, 2010

      Faith is the substance for things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

      I don’t follow how doubt can ever be a good thing, or desirable for that mater. One either believes the teaching of the church he belongs to or he doesn’t

      For some of us the CCC has this to say:

      “…”Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same;…”

      I do accept that if the church you have chosen to recognize is fallible, then I guess doubt is your only way out.

      For others of us, The Church is not fallible, as it is The Church, founded by our Blessed Lord, and against which He promised the Gates of Hell will not prevail.

      I think this gets to a real dividing point between some of us: whether we give our belief to what we think, or have reasoned; or whether we give it to what The Church teaches.

      I do have trouble grasping how a catholic mind can select one particular expression of the faith as being superior, and yet not believe completely and totally in what it and its leadership teaches.

      Sean Reed

      • william permalink
        March 13, 2010

        Faith is the substance for things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

        So faith is the instantiation of the things that we hope for? We hope for Heaven and forgiveness of sins–so face is of the same ‘matter’ as Heaven and forgiveness? Substance a word we use to mean the Trinity has the same substance (ousia), or that the essence or ‘substance of the matter’ is X. I do not understand how this applies to faith–faith is the essence of Heaven and forgiveness?

        Faith is evidence of things not seen. This could apply to any religion and anything made up. My faith in UFOs is faith in something I can not see either (well… at least according to most people right?). Or Xenu, or Poseidon, or the Hefalumps and Woozles. You definition of faith here does not give a diagnostic for distinguishing whose faith is correct, unless you asserting that non contradiction does not hold, in which case faith can be the evidence of multiple non-agreeing things, which, as we learn from Al-Ghazli’s Incoherence of the Philosopher’s, potentially produces some quite messy side effects…

        I don’t follow how doubt can ever be a good thing, or desirable for that mater. One either believes the teaching of the church he belongs to or he doesn’t

        Then why does God reward Job for doubting and questioning Him but punish his friends?

        For some of us the CCC has this to say:

        “…”Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same;…”

        I do accept that if the church you have chosen to recognize is fallible, then I guess doubt is your only way out.

        But why do you believe the church is not fallible, because it says so? “The Church is fallible–>why?–>It says so–>why should I believe that?–>the Church is infallible–>how do you know that–>the Church says it–>why should I believe that–>because it’s infallible–>how do you know?–>the Church says it… …. ….”

        For others of us, The Church is not fallible, as it is The Church, founded by our Blessed Lord, and against which He promised the Gates of Hell will not prevail.

        How do you know that Church is the RC and not the Mormon, Calivinist, or Orthodox Church?

        I think this gets to a real dividing point between some of us: whether we give our belief to what we think, or have reasoned; or whether we give it to what The Church teaches.

        So does this mean you just have to assent without any evidence or in the face of evidence? How is this different from a Mormon who bears his testimony “I know the Church is true, I know Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God, I know the Book of Mormon is true, I know Thomas Monson is a Prophet of God, some of us choose to believe what the Church teaches–and be obedient as obedience, according to Elder McConkie in Mormon Doctrine, is one of the first laws of Heaven. Those who give their wills to the Church will be blessed with God’s promises. We are divided between those who give their belief and believe as God’s prophet Thomas Monson tells them to believe, and those who will not believe God’s servants in these latter days.”

        Why should I give my assent to your church and not theirs. At least a lot of my Mormon friends I have had claim various angelic witnesses for their assurances in these facts.

        Some religions also claim they can prove their teachings logically–Buddha said that you shouldn’t believe in something until you had proven it to yourself by testing, even a teaching coming from his own mouth. I some how do not think we want to say that Christianity requires your belief, while Buddhism will prove itself to you.

        I do have trouble grasping how a catholic mind can select one particular expression of the faith as being superior, and yet not believe completely and totally in what it and its leadership teaches.

        That depends if you see the RC form of church tradition is superior, which no one has yet given me an argument for that has stood up to cross-examination. You seem to believe ‘what it and its leadership teaches’ is just the CCC, whereas some Catholics vigorously dispute its teachings on Muslims worshiping the same God, because of previous Papal statements and Church tradition. What ‘it’ teaches is not self evident and would have to be defended. We have above discussed at length without resolution already how the Church Fathers might be involved in this without coming to any conclusion as far as I can detect.

        I certainly wish you no ill-will and am very respectful of all clergy, as they have given their lives to the service of Our Lord, which is the most worthy of pursuits, so-please do not understand this as aggressive or malicious. The NT says we need to be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us, and I personally would not go beyond the NT claims as defended by Bishop Wright, the Biblical canon, the Trinity, and one or two ordinances (the Lord’s Supper and Baptism) as demonstrable ‘teachings of the Church’. If you honestly disagree, and think all Episcopalians should now become RC. Why should I become RC, and not an orthodox Presbyterian, a Lutheran, Orthodox, Mormon, Bahai, Muslim, Buddhist, or Seventh-day Adventist?

      • william permalink
        March 13, 2010

        Faith is the substance for things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

        These also do not make sense together as far as I can see if they are supposed to be parallel–you have faith as being both evidence and substance–the substance or being of something is not usually understood as its evidence, as I understand this word. The substance or material existence of the things hoped for is not the evidence of their existence. Their actions, and the effects of those actions, are the evidence of their substance, contents, existence, because by them we infer their existence. The actions of God are what we hope for, and are the contents/substance–though I would prefer to say subject or, more grammatically, object of faith/future aspiration/belief. The existence or substance of God is not itself evidence of God, the syllogisms and dialogical reasoning by which we deduce His existence is the evidence of God, as are His actions–which confirm claims, not His substance or ousia. You are identifying faith here with the objects of faith–the actions of God do not compose or make up faith, they are its subjects or objects. Faith is the expectation, belief in, the substance/contents/objects of our hope–the actions of God to save us. Faith is not evidence of things unseen–faith is the hope for evidence of what is unseen/unmanifest–the actions of God at the end of time. Substance of the things hoped for refers to actions which are physical events which affect atoms and can be inferred materially by their effects. Things unseen are I suppose then the physical, atom-effecting actions God will take at the end of time to save us from sin and wickedness. Okay, these are parallel–faith consists of the actions of God at the end of time, which are material, and thus accord with your use of substance which suggests physicality. However a thing is still not a substance and an evidence simultaneously. Faith cannot be both the substance of its aspiration and the aspiration for that substance itself. Faith is not a generally considered a material thing, but the aspiration toward a material thing, though your definition might well lead us to conclude that faith is material because it ‘is’ the substance of material actions, the material actions we cannot currently see which God will undertake someday. We still have the problem of saying faith is a substance of the hoped for things i.e. the hoped for things themselves, but the actions are not evidence for the actions themselves, but instead are evidence or confirmation of the promise that the action will be done. Evidence only exists in communication with a claim–that God will save us etc. The claim is that God will save us, and you suggest that faith is evidence of that claim, which it is not, but rather the actions of God which are now unseen are the evidence of His claim that he will save us. So faith is then the actions of God AND the hope for those actions to confirm His claims, which is contradictory. Hope for a claim to be fulfilled is immaterial unless you say the hope effects brain chemistry, which is then material. Hope is generally immaterial but the actions are material under most considerations–and we are really talking about the material effects of those actions, not the actions themselves, but how they effect us–changing us from dead to alive, transporting us to heaven, leading us out of Egypt, turning the sky dark and the waters red with blood. We can argue that you have a contradiction between either of these aspects being material or immaterial, but I will grant that the contradiction can be resolved within some paradigms. Anyway, without the claim, the actions are not evidence, they are simply actions. The promise is incorporeal or immaterial unless we say it is brain chemistry and physical writing or speech which affects brain chemistry and actions. Substance is still problematic–the action of an object is a property of an object not its physical composition, substance. The physical actions of a material object change, and so its substance cannot be defined consistently by its actions or other changeable subsidiary properties. I am still a man when I am talking and not, so running does not define my substance of atoms, though it is evidence of me being human since humans and not other animals can speak with sophisticated language. Similarly, God does not evidence Himself to us in the Bible by simply existing, but by acting to confirm a claim–freeing the Israelites from Egypt, appearing in a theophany to Moses at Sinai, coming into the world as Jesus and rising from the dead. These are evidence because He claims to do something and then actually does it. Jesus rising from the Dead is evidence of His divinity because He claimed He would do it. Without that claim He would rise, it is simply an action–which could only be evidence in the context of some claim–that nature does not operate in this fashion, that humans stay dead… There must be a hypothesis for there to be evidence, and the hypothesis can not be the evidence itself–Faith is the belief that the hypothesis will be fulfilled, not the fulfillment of that hypothesis. My simply existing is not evidence that I am not just a particularly clever and dexterous platypus pounding on a keyboard with a (now quite sore) bill. The inferences you make about knowing other human beings leads one to suspect that I am an inquiring 24 year old human and not a capricious marsupial. Things themselves do not evidence themselves–their actions or signs of proof evidence their beings or substance, at least as far as I can deduce. So these two phrases do not go together to define faith as I see it. Faith can be the substance of the things hoped for–which are material or immaterial actions or their material effects, we can debate their materiality, though using ‘substance’ definitely suggests materiality’, or it can be the evidence of the promised unseen actions–which is them actually happening. Faith is then the actions and not the hope for or aspiration towards those actions. Faith is then probably material as well–which your use of substance strongly indicates. I do not think Faith is evidence of anything, but I suppose you could say faith is the evidence of the promises that actions will take place–which makes it not the promise of those actions, but the actions themselves. The substance of things hoped for can really only be the actions of God, but the evidence of the those things is not faith, but their physical effects or confirmation, or the fulfillment of prophecy or expectation, not the actions themselves. The substance of a science experiment is not its evidence–its evidence consists of results. The substance might be argued to be both the results, the hypothesis etc. but then substance means more than evidence, and this is inexact. God acting is not evidence of His actions themselves, but those actions are evidence or confirmation of His promises, which are not the things hoped for themselves, but indications of the fulfillment of the things hoped for–His actions. Faith cannot confirm, but only the objects of Faith, and so Faith is not evidence, but hope for evidence, but only hope for, those actions we cannot currently see, which are the evidence of the objects of promises, which are the things seen, since God has made the promises, while the things unseen are the things He has not done, which things we hope will be evidence for those promises. The object of faith or hope is the action, not the actions themselves–which are the confirmation of that faith, which is the convicted expectation they will happen, not the things themselves, which are evidence of that thing. Part two confirms or rephrases the first, but there are more problems with the first. We have to get rid of the first part too because it makes faith the subject of hope, not belief in the confirmation of that hope, and it probably also makes faith a material.

        So let us go back to the first. Faith is the substance of hope–what hope? What if my hopes are sex, drugs, rock and roll, to die young, and leave a pretty corpse. These aspirations actually make more sense with this definition than the conventional understanding of Christian hope since there is an empirically definable substance of having sex, consuming drugs, listening to or playing rock and roll, being a dead body, and leaving behind a pretty corpse (well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I think you understand my meaning). Substance means “that of which a thing consists; physical matter or material: form and substance” and everything I have just listed is arguably more material than the standard notions of Christian eschatological aspiration (i.e. living in another, alternatively-material or incorporeal universe as resurrected beings in the presence of a non-corporeal Godhead, ostensibly in a fashion not perceivable by our current physical, auditory, visual, or aural, organs or tactile appendages). I would argue we actually mean faith to indicate the belief God will confirm His promise to undertake those actions which will result in our rising from the Dead, exiting this earth etc., which are more material, but we could about this depending on what exactly you see the objects of hope as being. This is an insufficient definition anyway because faith is an abstract idea, and so is composed of nothing material. I suppose you could say faith is a function of brain chemistry and neurons like other emotions, and so is caused by something physical, but that is really splitting hairs, and still means your second definition does not hold water–we can theoretically ‘see’ after a fashion, with the proper technology, anything physical, since everything in this universe is composed of atoms and smaller atomic particles. Your definition of faith as a substance or the substance of the physical effects of actions–i.e. resuscitated bodies etc.–would mean that, spiritual things are also material. If faith is a substance–the substance of those actions, then faith, a spiritual quality, is a substance, is matter, is physical. I would point out this really does not help you trying to convince me to become RC because that admission would actually accord better with Mormon metaphysics as described by Joseph Smith in the King Follett Discourse whereby everything spiritual is a type of matter, and intelligences are uncreated alongside God the Father at the beginning of this particular universe. If you say faith is the hope of those things, then it is not the substance of those things, but if you say it is those things, than it is material, and then spiritual things are material. I think that observation means you have to go back to faith being a non-material thing–and then you should really define more precisely what you mean by substance here. We can speak of objects of faith, subjects of faith, reasons for faith, so why say substance of faith? I suppose you can say faith is composed of subjects, and objects, and reasons for hope, but that definition cannot distinguish between faith as the operation of aspiring toward Christian hope, or any other kind of hope. I still honestly think of a material object when someone says substance, and I imagine a lot of other people do as well. If we mean substance as in ‘essence or composition of the matter’, which strikes me as archaic, then that suggests to me the primary points, or most weighty points of a subject, which leaves out the possibility of tangential or subsidiary qualities or considerations being configured into the reasons, objects, and subjects of hope, which is what I think we should really say faith is, not a substance. ‘Is’ implies, at least to me, some equality of identity. 2 is 2. 2 is a number. Faith is the :::substance of hope::: –> now replace that like a mathematical formula–> Faith is ‘the various subjects and objects of, and reasons for Christian eschatological aspiration’. I think faith is not the subjects themselves, but the hope of, belief in, or aspiration toward those things, but your definition does not get us there, as far as I can deduce. Surely there is a better word to describe this, since that is the most obvious and common usage of ‘substance’. Even if we relate it to immaterial ideas like the substance of God, this still makes no sense because God could be our hope, or aspiration (though really it is to see God or be with God–God is the subject who will enact the actions after which we aspire), but that would not be faith–we could hope for God to appear, or save us, but then faith is not believing in the unseen, since we can observe, or could ostensibly, God appearing in glory, saving us physically from Death etc.–faith is belief in the instantiation of hope, of the verbs/actions which God will do, or rather even more their physical effects. Some verbs connote things that are more material than others, and we could argue over whether looking is material or not–since the act of looking changes brain chemistry, but, on the other hand, you cannot ‘see’ the perception of someone else externally, but infer where they are looking and what their reaction is. I could definitely make a case much action is abstract and non material–like thinking, or loving, or despairing, which if we accept, contradicts the second part of the couplet you have here, since in this context evidence is material. If we use evidence to mean dialogical reasoning, then since faith is reasoning, and you have refuted yourself, since you are saying we should have faith, and not rely on our reason, but that of the Church, which is the faith of the things unseen. If you say unseen things are also material, than you go back to the problem of identifying both evidence as belief in that evidence as being ‘faith’. If you accept that all actions are manifest and physical–then we go back to spiritual things being physical properties, and I think, following that reasoning, I would humbly submit that this would lead me to consider the LDS Church more carefully, and not the RC. Joseph Smith made similar mysterious exegetical moves such as identifying ‘eternal’ as a name of God and thus a modifier–’endless death’ becomes the ‘death caused by God’, and so ‘life eternal’ which is then the ‘life of God’. Calvin said that faith is a work–the exact way this works out right now eludes me, but I think eventually I might be able to contrive the mental gymnastics to make faith into a physical thing–the contents or physical composition of the effects of actions (or the atoms which are involved in the actions being performed by a body, whatever). If you think it is a matter of faith, faith being a substance, then the faith you have defined has not led us to RC beliefs, or at least not demonstrably or controversially so. If faith is a work, or the effects of a work, then that is a bizarre definition physical definition of faith which makes better sense in a theology that makes everything we conventionally consider immaterial to be material. Your second half can be reconciled if we say the evidence is the dialogical reasoning which gets us to accept the things unseen happening, but that is what I am doing, and you are seeming to say I should not, but trust the RC church, so you refute your own criticism.

  18. March 12, 2010

    Anglicans who are considering “corporate reunion” shouldn’t worry too much about having to preach publicly about the usual Moral Issues; having been a Roman Catholic since 1984 and having been at Sunday Mass in a large number of different churches, the mainstream bishops & priests of the Novus Ordo [new and modern R.C. church] don’t preach and teach these things. I can only recall two sermons about marriage, strange as the great majority of the congregation are usually married. To hear the hard sayings you need to go out in the wilderness of the Tridentine Resistance. Alan Robinson

  19. Sean W. Reed permalink
    March 13, 2010

    William wrote:

    “…You definition of faith here does not give a diagnostic for distinguishing whose faith is correct, unless you asserting that non contradiction does not hold, in which case faith can be the evidence of multiple non-agreeing things, which, as we learn from Al-Ghazli’s Incoherence of the Philosopher’s, potentially produces some quite messy side effects…”

    I am not sure what you are talking about – “my definition.” I take it you must be unfamiliar with the letter to the Hebrews. (Hint – you find that in the 11th Chapter)

    Given your apparent ignorance not only of the Church’s teaching but also scripture, I can’t see where further dignifying your ramblings would amount to much more than casting pearls before swine.

    You also wrote:

    “…That depends if you see the RC form of church tradition is superior, which no one has yet given me an argument for that has stood up to cross-examination…”

    Your arrogance is amazing, as if the determining factor for the object truth of the Catholic Faith, is whether it stands up to your “cross-examination.”

    You speak like a true protestant.

    Sean W. Reed

  20. william permalink
    March 13, 2010

    Thank you for pointing that out I was unaware of its source as I am not a NT expert and certainly do not have large chunks memorized–it still doesn’t make any sense to me–I looked up the Greek and Wesley’s commentary, and substance is hypostasis here–which can mean a primary or subsidiary deific substance, but has to mean evidence or reason for confidence here, I don’t understand why faith as we understand most of the time in English it is a grounds for confidence, or evidence, of the things hoped for at all. How do you understand faith/belief/expectation to confirm something we haven’t seen? I would appreciate if someone would like to clarify this. If I was talking to an atheist friend, how would I answer this objection?

    I do not think I am being arrogant, I am asking honest questions any inquiring mind would ask–I accept I am not an expert on every aspect of this tradition, and would appreciate it if someone would like to show me where I have misunderstood some argument before. I have done 8 years so far of college level world religions and ancient language classes, so I am not just shooting in the dark here either. I have certainly changed my beliefs in the past and would absolutely be willing to do so in the future if there was sufficient cause.

  21. william permalink
    March 13, 2010

    Your arrogance is amazing, as if the determining factor for the object truth of the Catholic Faith, is whether it stands up to your “cross-examination.”

    I am not claiming, for the record, this is not theoretically possible–I just have watched a lot of EWTN, listened to a lot of Catholic Answers Live, and also read a lot of popular rebuttals by Protestants, and I am not left with a firm conviction which is right. I would assuredly like for their to be a clear right answer. If there is a book that gives a good case for this, could you copy a paragraph or two that summarizes this point and post it. Why are you convinced? I think the object of Christian conversation is always to edify, as St. Jerome would say, and I am certainly getting a lot out of hearing differing opinions, but it hasn’t yet solved my doubt. I could only have that solved by the questions, which are almost all unoriginal, being convincingly answered. I have no idea where the answers to these questions are. If you know, it would be Christian charity, and I would be much obliged, if you could suggest something.

    Peace in Christ

    • Sean W. Reed permalink
      March 13, 2010

      Something you might find quite helpful is to get a copy of the Anglican Breviary . If you are close to St. Clement’s, Paul Goings might be able to let you peruse a copy.

      This is basically a copy of the 1911 Roman Breviary, before the number of lessons at Matins was reduced.

      While I would certainly encourage you, or anyone, to take up the discipline of praying the full form of the Divine Office, that is not why I mention it to you.

      I suggest it, for you to over the next few months, to spend some time reading the Matins Lessons, homilies from the Church Fathers. Read what the Church was teaching at the beginning. The lessons only would only take less than 10 minutes a day, and I think you would find it quite helpful.

      Pope John XXIII lamented when issuing the revision to the Breviary, in 1955, that he feared that the reduction of the Matins Lessons would cause many to not be aware of the vast treasures of teaching and wisdom of the Fathers, and encourage people to use other sources, so as to not loose this great benefit.

      There are also free online sources available.

      I can honestly say that the Breviary (I now use the 1962 Roman Breviary, but supplement Matins from the older edition) is the most significant book I have ever bought, and has become an indispensable part of my spiritual journey, since I first got a copy 6 years ago this coming Maundy Thursday.

      Sean W. Reed

      • william permalink
        March 14, 2010

        I’ve used the breviary and I agree it is very beautiful and has some nice prayers and thoughts, and that it is a great prayer regimen, but I politely dispute that it answers the questions I am simply repeating from other sources. I agree that it teaches what the RC church teaches, but I do not think it proves those things as being true. If there is a section of this book that I missed while using it which explains:

        -What the evidence for infallibility is?
        -Which of the myriad and contradictory ideas taught by the Church Fathers is really doctrine?
        -Why every other religion that makes similar absolute truth claims–the LDS and Orthodox communions, are wrong when they claim the same sources support their beliefs?

        please post it, I would be edified and appreciative.

        I don’t claim to know everything, but I have studied 10 ancient languages, read whole books of the Bible in Greek and Hebrew, taken coursework on Early Christian history, Rabbinic, and Christian interpretation, and graduated with highest honors with a religious studies degree from an ivy league school, and am doing a PhD at Uchicago, so I think my questions do not proceed from complete ignorance. There is no shame in not having all the answers, I certainly do not, but I think we honor God by honoring truth if we admit when we are (at least still) uncertain. Peace to everyone in Lent.

  22. william permalink
    March 13, 2010

    I looked up some commentaries on Hebrews–it is more accurately/clearly (at least to me) ‘faith is the assurance of the things hoped for, the conviction in the things unseen’–I completely accept that understanding, though I wonder if it is the only one. That seems to be a subjective idea though, and not particularly helpful still in deciding the question of which Church to join, since that faith can be an assurance and conviction in anything theoretically. How would I convince one of my atheist friends with this model?

  23. Stephen permalink
    March 13, 2010

    I attended Catholic High School in the mid 1970′s. This was the Post Vatican II pre-John Paul II era. It was a terrible period in that it abounded with liturgical oddities such as Mass being said for 30 some students gathered around a coffee table in a crowded Rectory parlor, while a perfectly good Church sat empty across the street. But for my part, I will always remember that period fondly, because the priests , nuns and lay teachers were so willing to let us ask questions about our faith. They didn’t seem to be threatened by whatever challenge our adolescent minds could throw at them. Since then, I see that I was naive to believe that our Roman Catholic faith could accomodate legitimate questions or honest doubts when it comes to official Church teachings. Even a cursory reading of recent Vatican statements, (or even a look at one or two of the posts on this blog) would seem to indicate they are having none of it! Personally, I don’t believe God gave us an intellect and Free will just so we could “arrive” at a final truth, and stop questioning. Our minds are gifts from God and meant to serve us throughout our lifetimes. As an outsider, it seems to me being an Anglo-Catholic means one holds to certain essential Catholic truths while not only remaining free to ask questions, but remaining free to disagree with fellow Church members when it comes to which Catholic truths are essential.

    • Tom permalink
      March 14, 2010

      Stephen, you are blessed to have that experience in your life. Most Catholics do not even know what a nun is let alone be taught by one. Even though I am younger, I had the pleasure of the IHM sisters teaching me and forming me as I prepared to grow in my faith given to me by God and nurtured by my parents. The sisters are an important witness in the Church and were not fully appreciated for the sacrifices they gave to us and the Church. God has blessed many with a strong intellect as shown over the ages from popes to fathers of the church and to William and yourself. It is a gift to be able to know other languages, understand theology, and think outside the norm. It is when we use our knowledge to undermine the Church, we commit the sin of pride. Simple acceptance of the teachings of the Church and love of Christ are what we should strive for in our lives. Use that knowledge to help the Church and not to go against her.

  24. Tom permalink
    March 14, 2010

    If anyone or church attaches Catholic to themselves, they must acknowledge the authority of the Holy See in the person of the Supreme Pontiff. He alone is responsible for the spread of faith and moral, guided by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the instrument of the Father to guide the Church that His Son founded over 2000 years ago to sanctify the people of God. Trust in the Holy Father is expected of all people who want a sacramental church. We cannot contradict the teachings of Rome no matter how educated we are or how holy we portray ourselves. We do not have that heavenly inspiration the he alone possesses as the visible head of the Church. Anglo-Catholics need to go to full communion with the Roman Catholic Church and continue to enjoy in sacramental life of the church. I understand that some are not welcome to full communion such as women priests and homosexuals, and that is correct because they are not acceptable. Women priests is not what Christ wanted, if He did He would have ordained His Holy Mother. Homosexuals are not evil as such, their sex life is not considered holy and homosexual men cannot be validly ordained. All believing members must accept these teachings of the Church and realize that they are not man’s desire but of God. The will of the Father must be obeyed and we must live our lives s such. Peace to all men and women of faith. Pry that the will of God will rule your lives and be open to the Holy Spirit as we approach the Holiest Week when we celebrate His passion and death.

    • william permalink
      March 14, 2010

      I’m sorry, but this just sounds, with some changed words, exactly like one of my Mormon friends ‘bearing testimony’ to me, except they generally claim God told them these things were correct–they would make the same statements about the use of the intellect, except they would say your testimony directly from God should guide you, and that God will give you a testimony of each principle of Joseph Smith’s teachings (i.e. testimony in LDS theology means God tells you, or gives you an undeniable personal witness, like the Apostle Paul, or Elijah, of the truth of certain doctrinal principles). I think I am helping you here, because you would not be able to convert a Mormon, who also believes fervently they have the true church, with those arguments. You would have to convince them with evidence to doubt their testimony and consider objective and not subjective judgments. I don’t really want to argue this, I’ve laid out my case above with several threads left in the air unanswered still. I advise you to read some of Joseph Smith’s writings, the BoM and four other standard works, and confirm for yourself that they are making the same truth claims, with very similar language as you are, and then ask yourself why you believe as you do. Our God is a God of truth, and we are encouraged to ‘search the scriptures’ by the Apostle Paul, ‘be ready to give an answer–with reverence and charity’, and one of the Biblical requirements for an elder is to be able to ‘refute those who contradict’. I wish you the best in preparing for Holy Week and advise you to ponder these very important matters in your heart deeply as Ps. 1 says–blessed is the man… who searches God’s teachings day and night’.

  25. Sean W. Reed permalink
    March 15, 2010

    William -

    It really boils down to the issue of Authority in the Church, one either believes the Pope as the Successor of Peter, is the Vicar of Christ, the shepherd of ALL Christians and with universal jurisdiction or he doesn’t. One either believes in the Infallibility of the Church or he doesn’t.

    For those of us who do, we believe what the Church teaches. For those of you waiting to have something proven to you – it comes by faith – not debate and “proof.”

    You might find of interest though.

    The Catholic Faith is Objective Truth, and when embraced as such, it is part of the Church which our Blessed Lord has promised that the Gates of Hell will not prevail against.

    Sean W. Reed

    • March 18, 2010

      Sean, there are a number of faults in what you say, and the fact that most of them are already addressed somewhere above in these exchanges is a symptom of one of those faults.

      Let’s start with the most egregious: I don’t think it does boil down to this issue of authority, and I don’t accept your authority to state that. What it does boil down to, objectively, is that Christians as a whole have not been able to resolve their differences over a long list of issues. Infallibility is one solution to this, but it’s only acceptable under certain preconditions, one of which is one’s relationship to whichever body is claiming to be the infallible church. (Catholic polemicists, to take a conspicuously relevant example, keep forgetting they they aren’t the only infallible church out there.)

      Second, it isn’t true that the Roman church abjures “debate and proof”. Roman theology is full of argument; what is refused is subjecting this to objective rebuttal. To my mind this is already sufficient reason to discount the claims being made, because the effective claim that argument only works within the church amounts to abandonment of its claim to legitimacy outside the church. You can’t persuade me with argument if you try to pretend that I don’t have the authority to put the argument to the test; arguments which cannot be so tested are more commonly described as rationalizations and are, in the normal, objective scheme of things, assumed to be wrong until replaced with real arguments capable of objective evaluation.

      Third, one can see in this guide to which you point that its author cheats. For instance, in the section pushing Petrine primacy he quotes from several Protestant authors in refuting a supposedly Protestant interpretation of a particular passage. But one has to assume that, given the Protestantism of these authors, the argument he is trying to construct about that passage doesn’t move them. Therefore he is, to some degree, misrepresenting them, because he fails to present the arguments that they would make (and one suspects in all likelihood have made) against his thesis.

      As William says, you can construct Roman theology in the same revelatory take-it-or-leave-it mold that the Mormons use. The penalty for doing this, though, is that Roman argument ceases to have value, because it is claimed to only work within its own church.

      • william permalink
        March 18, 2010

        @C Wingate

        Thank you sir–it makes me happy to see I am not the only one drawing these conclusions. William Albright was a founder in the field I specialize in, so I actually know some of his biographical information–and the quote in this book does not prove anything. Albright was a Methodist his entire life as far as I know; also, Hugh Nibley, a Mormon classicist and comparative literature scholar who worked at BYU, claims Albright carried around a well-thumbed Book of Mormon, and admitted that the Book of Mormon had Egyptian names in it like Pahoran which Joseph Smith could not have known from his environment in 1820s New York. Does that mean Albright thought Mormonism was true. This sort of argument cuts both ways and clearly resolves nothing.

        That little book of apologetics also says that something to the effect that Protestants think every religion is good as another–that would send my Calvinist associates from 10th Presbyterian I knew from college into an apoplectic fit to hear that since they think Roman Catholicism is a damning creed, and that anyone who believes the CCC faithfully is going straight to Hell. Really, I think Catholics do not read enough of the magisterial Protestant sources. I am embarrassed to say it, but it was not until about the middle of college I realized that Protestants must have a good argument for their position, since their is such a strong intellectual tradition among Calvinists particularly–I think if Orthodox and Roman Catholics actually read the Westminster Confession of Faith and similar documents, they would realize their conceptions of what sola scriptura and perspicuity of scripture means are actually inaccurate straw men: example, the WCF does not say all parts of scripture are equally clear and can be understood by everyone. It says those parts which are essential to salvation can be understood by the average person, but in now way asserts that everyone can just make up their own mind about what the Bible means, or that everyone is equally capable of interpreting scripture, which is how many Catholic apologists I have read seem to present the issue. Sola scripture is also really only a blue print for anarchy if you are comparing denominations. I think you could make a good argument that the Orthodox Presbyteries and conservative Lutheran groups like the Wisconsin synod are actually more uniform in every doctrinal respect than Roman Catholics taken as a group–and that is with the idea of sola scriptura as a defining rule of faith. We have a very strong and vital Reformed tradition in the Anglican Church–Owen, Whitfield, and many other Congregationalists and Puritans, who wrote hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pages of extraordinarily erudite systematic theology, quoting extensively from the Bible and the Church Fathers, defending their views as exclusively true and opposing those of the Roman Catholic Church as objectively false. They cannot be written off as easily as a lot of people who would like to think, and this is also a very complicated exegetical tradition one would have to actually study to understand–which I continually realize I have misunderstood previously, even in basic respects. Everyone has their own argument, but I increasingly appreciate the Reformed part of the Anglican tradition that insists it will prove its position to you comprehensively and ad naseum, rather than requiring you to accept some abstract principle that goes blatantly against historical evidence, or at least is demonstrably inconclusive.

      • March 18, 2010

        The use of Protestants as a class is particularly dishonest, since one of the arguments is, after all, that without an infallible authority, one can believe anything. Of course the Reformation did open up the churches to a great deal of disagreement; but one can more obviously and objectively point to this as testimony to the insufficiency of human theology. Theological dispute may (and I think is) something that we have to live with, rather than something that must be avoided. And as you say, William, there are Protestant groups (and we can keep going– why not throw the JWs into that category?) who solve the problem of dispute by simply defining everyone dissenting out of the solution. I cannot see how this can be a convincing mode of argument to people who are not members of these various groups.

  26. william permalink
    March 18, 2010

    correction: the Albright quote to the same effect about Matthew 16:18 may be from a Scott Hahn lecture or article, I forget, but it is still the same tactic Wingate identifies which is not conclusive or convincing.

    I would also like to reassert the reason I brought up the Mormon example–a couple of Roman Catholics here claim they ‘know’ their Church is true by faith–a faith that authority is necessary. But that is just an intellectual leap to give up your analytical capacity. Also, how can that in anyway, shape, or form compete with the subjective claim of Mormons that angels appear to them, or they receive a similar undeniable spiritual witness of the truth of their scriptures and the prophethood of Joseph Smith? Even the Pope does not claim God actually talks to him–only that the bishops and him ‘seek the spirit’–please, someone correct me if I am wrong about that, I seem to recollect some vision or something around Pius the XIIth and one of the Marian dogmas, but I think, on the whole, we can agree that verbal manifestation or spiritual witness is not the ‘ordinary means’ of magisterial revelation. Mormons believe Joseph Smith actually spoke face to face with God in a grove outside his home in Palmyra New York, and that God spoke audibly with and frequently appeared visually to Smith thereafter throughout his life. I recommend Richard Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling, B.H. Robert’s Documentary History of the Church (read the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith on the LDS gospel library website, which is a topically-arranged abridgment of this material if you doubt what I am saying). The early Witnesses of the Book of Mormon never denied they had actually seen and/or handled the Golden Plates and the Sword of Laban. Many early converts reported missionary experiences at the Kirtland Temple. You can throw this up against Fatima, Quaker inner light experiences, the visual revelations purportedly received by Mother Anne of the Shakers, the Hindu milk miracles of 2002, and the amazing powers claimed by many Buddhists today such as retrocognition of past lives, the ability to duplicate one’s body, the ability to read minds, and the ability to walk on water and upside down. Clearly, everyone claims miracles, and miracles prove nothing unless God is mysteriously bent on inspiring different groups to compete with one another. Objective argument is the only way we can decide between these positions–except if the miracle is one you yourself experience, which is not the case as far as I have heard with our Catholic posters–but is with several Mormons I know, who believe God actually spoke to them and confirmed their beliefs, and does so continuously in their lives through answers to prayers etc. From an outside perspective, I think they pretty much have you beat hands down with the subjective authority claims, since their’s are so much more dramatic–Mormons also adhere much more faithfully to their religion with about 50-30% active participation versus 10%-15% for Catholics depending on country (I believe that is an average for America, but correct me if I am too far off). Mormons also have lower divorce rates and more consistently conservative political views than Catholics–so, ‘by their fruits, you will know them’, objectively they seem to come out ahead too. You really cannot criticize the Book of Mormon, or their teachings, or offer a subjective experience more convincing than a personal testimony–the only way you can argue with or debate their position, which seems from the standpoint of subjective claims much stronger than yours, is too accept objective evidence and proceed from that position that truth claims are up for debate and need to be demonstrated before can be accepted. I think this is particularly urgent to think about for RC posters since, last I read, most Mormon converts in America come from RC backgrounds, and I think I have suggests pretty convincingly why that is the case

  27. william permalink
    March 19, 2010


    Now that I think about it more, I think you are right about the excommunication issue–the RC church just tolerates more latitude than a lot of other groups, which creates more doctrinal diversity. Anglicans tolerate even more–so that uniformity in some groups is probably artificial to a certain, or maybe even a great, extent. I retract that point at least a little–it is probably drawn from some of the Reform apologetics I have been reading to balance out my previously quite slanted view of church history and Biblical interpretation. Still, I think you could meaningfully contrast the absolute authority with little bite–Rome, versus absolute authority with major bite that produces the theoretically desired result much more effectively–Orthodox Presbyterians, Mormons, JWs etc.–it may be artificial–but they are still a lot more ‘at one’ in many respects than the RC church, though of course the differences between Mormon denominations (break off groups since even during the life time of JS–bickertonites, strangites, RDLS, FCOJCLDS etc.) and RC denominations (sedevacantist groups and weird Marian sects) is probably comparable.

    I think you made a reference before to Thomistic ontology and Genesis 2 in an interaction with maxim? I have very little philosophical background, and not much idea what you are referring to, but it sounds persuasive and relevant. I would be edified if you cared to/wanted to take the time to develop that for the board a little for those like myself who might not have encountered this before.

  28. March 19, 2010

    Well, the church had to develop some tolerance back in the days when it was intertwined with societal and political structures. If you think like Eugene Peterson (or perhaps various of the reformers, when it comes to that) you can view this as a kind of corruption. It is a lot easier to be pure, in any case, as a separatist sect.

    My references to Thomism and Genesis 2 shouldn’t be construed as display of any kind of formal expertise. However, when reading our favorite 20th century papal pronouncements relating to contraception, there are repeated statements about what sexuality is for which are, in a more modern outlook, hard to justify making at all. If we are going to be all biological about it, sex is on one level intended for procreation; yet humans are unusual among animals in having sexuality freed from fertility, suggesting that (inasmuch as biologists even accept the legitimacy of teleological assertions) sexuality is for other things too. And lo and behold, when we get to Genesis 2 and that rib, we do find other purposes asserted; indeed, the passage doesn’t mention the possibility of progeny at all. And later references to the same passage continue in the same vein. If sex is for procreation, then is it lawful to have sex when one believes one is not fertile? Can infertile people justify having sex? And so forth. I don’t want to co-opt this discussion by wrestling with all these, and no doubt one can find Roman apologists to step up to them because, after all, someone has surely presented them with the question. But in the end the biologists will tell you that, in some sense, it is wrong even to talk about purpose, and then we are forced to go back to scripture as our sole authority on purpose, and then….

  29. March 21, 2010

    When I practiced my Christianity as a Roman Catholic, my Parish Priest was – rightly, in my opinion – concerned that Anglicans who became RC’s on a single issue were not necessarily prepared for all they would be asked to embraced. I’m with the Archbishop of York, who says that Anglicans who want to become RC’s should go through the normal catechisation process – it’s more charitable towards all individuals and institutions involved.

  30. Benjamin Van Wye permalink
    June 23, 2010

    An “Anglican Use Mass” as celebrated in 2004 at Our Lady of the Atonement, San Antonio Texas may be seen and heard at A curious mix to say the least!

  31. Benjamin Van Wye permalink
    June 23, 2010

    An “Anglican Use Mass” may be seen and heard at A curious mix, to say the least!

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