Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A delicate lesson

I don't say this lightly, but the matter is so public that I don't see how my commenting makes things worse...

Our Anglican brothers and sisters have been going through an agony these last few months, and the ordeal is not over. The latest, for those who may not keep up on these things, is that the worldwide Anglican Communion has given the U.S. Anglican body something of an ultimatum: no more dallying with blessing gay unions or any such ambiguity on marriage, and no more bishops who are in a same-sex relationship. (I haven't seen anything about other clergy, but I think the point is clear enough.) The rest of the Anglican primates (chief bishops from various nations and regions) have assigned a date, a kind of deadline.

I have refrained from commenting on this, since (a) the Catholic Church has its own ordeals and (b) I'm not Anglican or Episcopalian (for those who wonder about the distinction between these terms: basically, "Episcopal" is the U.S. "version" of Anglican, in the main--you do find congregations and associations that specifically call themselves "Anglican" in the U.S., which seems to be a point of emphasis, rather as "traditional" often is among Catholics).

The trajectory of this drama seems clear enough, I think: either those pursuing a "reinterpretation" of Scripture and Tradition will back up, or there will be a schism. In today's Washington Post, several "liberal" bishops say they prefer schism. Even if there should be a "backing up," the question is, will it be permanent or will there be yet more struggles down the road?

Now, the punchline: for all those who want the Catholic Church to "rethink" her ancient teachings and constant tradition, in all those areas where they rub painfully against contemporary expectations and desires . . .

What the Anglican Church is going through -- that's where it would lead. Only it would be ten times worse (Anglican Communion = less than 100 million worldwide; Catholic Church = over 1 billion.)


Rich Leonardi said...

Two quick points:

(1) My sense is that the Anglican communion will continue devolve into a loose confederation to avoid de jure schism (even if it is de facto.)

(2) Catholics should heed the lessons from this mess. Another blogger likened the situation to the Spanish Civil War teaching the West preliminary lessons about the world war that would follow.

Anonymous said...


Isn't the real message here that, every time we "people" let OUR need to be right get in the way, the body of Christ suffers.

Division among the church worldwide, Catholic, Protestant, all followers of Christ, must be the greatest testament to how people can (and do) wreck what is Holy. All the blame can't be laid at any one person's feet. And surely the Holy Spirit of God works in and through all that takes place as the Pilgrim Church moves toward its fulfilment in Christ.

Even when the need for division is clear, even when the need to be true to our faith is plain, musn't we continue to work each moment on how to love and commune, hopefully at some point authentically, with our separated Brothers and Sisters?

Puff the Magic Dragon said...

"...but the matter is so public that I don't see how my commenting makes things worse..."

Don't worry Father, you've only stated the obvious.

Anonymous said...

It might be a good time for a Catholic outreach to the Episcopalians. They could use some compassion about now, with the heartache that must come when formerly-trusted leadership attempts to lead their followers in bizarre and errant directions.

Oddly, when I saw the word "primate" in your post, an image of gorillas came to mind...
maybe I thought the holy primates were acting like baboons.

Ron said...

Father, that was a nice synopsis of the scandal that's rocking the Anglican tradition. Still, I can't help but think that your warning, that the Catholic Church would become a larger version of the Anglican community, is EXACTLY what those who would turn Mother Church into a democracy want. Once the wall shows a crack, it isn't long before a Mack truck will be able to drive thru that crack. Salvation is not on the minds of those people, only self gratification.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Fox,

Isn't this all just a spiraling progression of events that are inevitable for this religious group? What good can be expected to come from an organization whose founder was an adulteror and wife killer! In fact, its murderous founder, King Henry VIII, went on a violent rampage that produced some of the Catholic Church's greatest martyrs and saints. Rome is home for some of these very sincere and misguided people, and for them we truly pray they will be blessed with the courage to cross over the river? Why some may ask? Because on this side is the One True Catholic Apostolic Church, whose Founder was none other than God Himself. For the others who desire to remain steadfast in their arrogant sin, then throwing pearls before swine is an exercise in futility.

"Remember man, thou art dust, and unto dust thou shall return!"

Peace to all.


Anonymous said...

Let's not forget that the Creed we pray during the Holy celebration of the Eucharist does not use the word "catholic" as a synonym for "Roman Catholic".

The approved text reads: "And one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church."

We confess that there is but one Church, that the Church is made and it Holy by God's grace, that it comes to us via the apostles, and that it is universal.

In Vatican II's "Constitution on the Church in the Modern World", we read the following:

"Thus through her individual matters and her whole community, the Church believes she can contribute greatly toward making the family of man and its history more human.

In addition, the Catholic Church gladly holds in high esteem the things which other Christian Churches and ecclesial communities have done or are doing cooperatively by way of achieving the same goal."

Notice even this document makes a distinction between "the Church" and "the Catholic Church".

Before we rush in to comdemn everything non-Catholic, it would do us well to recall that all - ALL - are in some way a part of the catholic (little "c") church, of which the Catholic (big "C") church is, we believe, the truest to its apostolic heritage.

If we Catholics fail to see the opportunity to minister to our brothers and sisters throughout the Church who are experiencing upheival - if we choose instead to condemn, say "I told you so", and rub in their face what has led them to where they are - the we are doing ourselves and our Lord a disservice.

The Holy Father had these words to say at his homily at Vespers on 25 January this year:

"The Council Fathers did not expect listening and dialogue to be helpful for ecumenical progress alone, but they added a perspective which refers to the Catholic Church herself: "From such dialogue" the conciliar text states, "will emerge still more clearly what the situation of the Catholic Church really is" (Unitatis Redintegratio, n. 9).

It is indispensable "that the doctrine be clearly presented in its entirety" for a dialogue that confronts, discusses and overcomes the divergences that still exist among Christians, but of course, "the manner and order in which Catholic belief is expressed should in no way become an obstacle to dialogue with our brethren" (ibid., n. 11). "

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." - John 13:34-35

Anonymous said...

So Anonymous, at what point do you invite our separated brethren, who are deeply misguided and alone right now, and who are being led by blind men/women to come over and join us? I don't know of anyone here "condeming" them. But the fact remains, it is incumbent upon us the laity (because our Catholic leaders will not do so?) to reach out to our brothers and sisters and invite them to "come home." This mission to help them is akin to throwing a life jacket to someone who is caught up in a maelstrom of treacherous waters and near drowning. Indeed, many of our anglican/episcopal brothers and sisters are in Satan's treacherous waters of sin and false truth. But for the sake of upsetting some political correctedness about the spirit of ecumenism, we allow our brothers and sister to drown in the malaise of untruth and heresy.

But on other other hand, if we feel no desire to help lead our blind brothers to safety, then who really needs the life jacket?

"Remember man thou art dust and unto dust thou shall return."


Anonymous said...

"...What good can be expected to come from an organization whose founder was an adulteror and wife killer!"

That's a very different kind of "lifejacket" isn't it? Would you grab onto that kind of "reaching out" to you in a time of crisis in your faith? Would you want to be welcomed into and spiritual or religious community who approached your pain and suffering in such a manner?

I don't think you and I disagree at all, Ohevin. I believe we should all reach out a hand of love, offer a prayer for guidance and peace, and follow the directives of the Holy Father by comporting ourselves in such a way that what we do and how we do it "should in no way become an obstacle to dialogue with our brethren".

I'm sorry - but I can't see saying, "Hey you, Anglican, you who are arrogant in your sin - I guess it doesn't do me any good to talk to you, its more like throwing pearls before swine. But, in the off chance that you decide to leave your false religious practice and come back to us who've had it right all along - let's talk."

For me, at least, that is not only uneffective, its UnChristian.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for your thoughts. Perhaps some clarifications are in order.

I certainly did not mean to imply that a self righteous (triumpalism)approach would ever be part of our invitation to join us. However, there are those in the Anglican/Episcopal leadership who are themselves obstinate in their false teachings and their desire to make sacramental that which is sin. To these folks it is futile to enter into dialogue.

No, my invitation stands for those who are seemingly held captive by the latter false leaders. To these suffering souls it is genuinely charitable to not only enter into dialogue, moreover, to invite them to join the One True Holy Roman Catholic Apostolic Church. Again, the one that the Lord Himself started. In fact, if I were in their impoverished situation, I would like to think that those members who believe the Catholic Church is the one true Church would engage me not only in dialogue, but would invite me to join them in the Lord's fields of peace and light.

It seems that Holy Scripture sheds light on this type of activity as revealed in St. Paul's constant Apostolic exhortations to some of the early Church's that had been mislead.

Peace to all on this first Friday of Lent.


NAT! said...

Thanks for this topic, Father.

As a Catholic convert and former Episcopalian, I'll offer the following overly brief points on this matter:

1) Yes, the theological demise of the Anglican Communion does offer some commentary on Catholic theologians/activists who share the agenda of the "liberals".

2) Although this petrie dish of heresies is a dangerous thing, and can contaminate the Catholic waters, it cannot touch the water supply. Those worried that a similar thing could happen to Catholicism needn't worry so much: the detailed and confused issues of Anglican ecclesiology are too numerous to detail here....let's just say that their current dilemma is a result of many things, not least of which a denial of some very important sacramental truths as related to the idea of community and communion itself. So, no, this won't happen to the Church--it never will. As it is, it serves as a good warning, though, for how souls can be mislead. There is a sense in which they are useful example to those who suggest a similar path for the Church--we can now easily point out that denominations hemorrage, rather than boom, when women are "ordained" (statistics since the '70s will show this) and that arguing from a contraceptive standpoint ends with concepts of gender being arbitrary and everything else follows: divorce allowed, women "priests", abortion "rights", homosexual "unions" "blessed". The Holy Spirit will protect us from this, but we must do our part, that fewer souls are mislead by these things.


Anonymous said...


Well said!