Tuesday, May 29, 2007

ON BEING BIG

I don't do a whole lot of "serious" posting here. Mainly because there are so many other people who say things a whole lot better than I ever could (Fr. Jake, Mark Harris, Tobias Haller, just to name a few); and also because there are so many voices chiming in that I don't feel it necessary to add mine to the almost endless list of people with an opinion. Probably also because I am a quiet little priest in a quiet little part of the world with two quiet little parishes who happens to have a quiet little blog, and that suits me just fine, thank you.

I ran across this post on Episcopal Majority this morning. If you haven't seen it, I suggest you read it.

Will the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion follow the words of Joel, "I will pour out my spirit on all flesh . . .", the example of Peter in Acts 2 who spoke to Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Phrygia, etc, and the words of Jesus who said that if he be lifted up he would draw all people unto him, in an effort to exemplify God's love and desire to bring everyone to the banquet?

Or will TEC & TAC (heh ... sort of a nice ring to that) follow the words and example of +Akinola, +Iker, +Duncan and the rest in their efforts to purify the church, further exclude and ostracize those on the outside, and set up high-stakes litmus tests in which they determine who is good enough to be allowed into the presence of God?

I hope we are big enough that we choose the former.

11 comments:

Young fogey emeritus | 10:10 AM, May 30, 2007  

I haven't got an M.Div. but don't need one to see that you and Frs Martin, Haller and others are setting up a false opposition, Father. A strawman.

The first big statement here is true. As you know I like to say, all are welcome to come and pray in a Catholic church.

As a libertarian I'll defend the civil right of upper-middle-class and other people to have gay weddings for themselves.

But the church, as in Catholic, like Hebrew National hot dogs answers to a higher power.

(One reason I bring up class is I really don't think Iraqis, Palestinians and other really oppressed people have much sympathy for this First World chic cause.)

If one wants to set up a house of worship to have that kind of wedding, teaching that homosex is not a sin, 'it's a free country' as they say, or at least it should be.

But if one does that one may still be Christian but forfeits any claim to be part of the historic church - you (rhetorical you, or 'one') forfeit the right to complain if foreign bishops more or less following the historic faith set up shop on your turf. (Sure, you can sue leaving congregations out of their buildings and almost always win but where's Jesus in that?) You can't change the faith on one hand then use tradition to defend yourself.

As for 'exclusion' sin is one's choice that excludes oneself, ¿no?

And remember that unpleasantness (oh, dear, how un-Anglican, LOL) with the money-changers in the temple? Or that little talk about lust in the heart?

Jesus could be exclusive indeed when it was called for.

But again, and I think we can agree on this, it wasn't really him doing the excluding.

It's one's own choice and choices have consequences.

BTW, Father, I know that ++Abuensis and his friends overseas are of the Protestant persuasion. They're an option for some ex-Episcopalians but not for the few remaining Catholic Anglicans in TEC.

The church is in the truth business.

A few months ago for St Patrick's Day an online acquaintance of us both posted a perennial favourite (I've blogged it), the Lorica of St Patrick in which he prays to deliver the church from heresy among other evils.

So does the 'apostle to the Irish' get damned by the liberals along with +Fort Worth for example? Is he really an embarrassment today?

(I really don't think he risked his neck going back to Ireland to convert them to the gospel of gay weddings.)

Just some food for thought.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG | 11:27 AM, May 30, 2007  

Problem is that the Young Fogey accuses us of a "strawman" when he's falling into the fallacy of "begging the question." The fact that the church has taught a specific thing for a long period doesn't automatically make it right. And it is within the church's competence to change its teaching.

That is what is happening in regard to same-sexuality. There is no question that in earlier ages gay persons were executed for their "sin"; later merely excommunicated. But a growing awareness that the church got the message wrong has also been at work. YF may well object to the change, but to deny either that it is happening, or that it is wrong because it is change (when clearly other things have changed) is to, as I say, "beg the question." He needs to offer a _reason_ for it not to change other than, "it's always been that way."

One thing that should give more pause to the anti-same-sex position is the absence of any reference to lesbianism in the OT, and only a passing [possible] reference in the NT. (Augustine, for example, didn't see Romans 1 as about lesbians, but about women having "irregular" sex with their husbands; and this actually makes more sense. Augustine took a dim view of lesbians (see his Letter 211), but didn't put them in the same class as gays. That alone should raise questions about what is going in from a moral standpoint.)

Young fogey emeritus | 11:50 AM, May 30, 2007  

And it is within the church's competence to change its teaching.

Interestingly this view of the church's competence, a distortion of the Catholic position that seems to give the church absolute power (rather like the Muslims believe Allah is irrational and can contradict himself), goes above and beyond the claims of Pastor æternus at Vatican I, of ultramontanism! When Pius IX was asked by some devotees of St Joseph to add that saint's name to the Roman Canon he said, 'I can't. I'm only the Pope!' (I know that later John XXIII did it.) Contrary to popular belief that Pope didn't claim the power to change teaching let alone this minor matter not even involving faith or morals. (The Pope today doesn't claim he can change teaching.)

And wasn't one of the excuses for the English 'Reformation' that of the continental Protestants, that the church had gone beyond its competence and changed its teachings, as the Articles of Religion seem to accuse? (Don't saw off the branch you're sitting on!)

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG | 6:31 PM, May 30, 2007  

YF, there are a couple of things at work here.

First, the demonstrable fact that the church has changed its teachings over time. Do you deny this? It was, as you point out, one of the reasons for the Reformation!

However, the objection wasn't to change as such, but to some of the particular changes Rome had made over the years (withdrawing the cup from the laity, for example; and requiring clerical celibacy). I can point you to a whole chapter in Hooker where he discusses the competence of the church to change its teaching -- not in the eternal matters of the gospel (for which there is no need to change), but in matters of rites and ceremonies; and even on matters of morality it is clear the church has the capacity to change. The best example is slavery, the morality of which was defended by the patristic and medieval church, and even up into the renaissance, but eventually came to be seen as morally wrong.

The only limiting factor for change in teaching for Anglicans is the Scripture. If it can be shown that the scriptural texts advanced against male same-sexuality (as I note there aren't any texts against female same-sexuality) can be shown to be of local or temporary import, then there is no reason not to move on this subject, at least within an Anglican context.

But you appear to be denying that change happens in church teadhing. I find that hard to believe if you know anything at all about church history. There are many more examples of changes in church teaching over the years: toleration of baptism for certain classes of people; the allowance for widows and widowers to marry; the eventual allowance of collecting interest; the allowance for intercourse during menses; the forbidding of translation of Scripture, then its allowance. The list goes on and on. Are you really trying to claim that there has been no change of teaching in the Catholic Church from the apostles on?

Young fogey emeritus | 7:31 PM, May 30, 2007  

I should have known better than to get into this with an expert on Richard Hooker. :)

The 'Reformation' was wrong.

(Even though I like my Coverdale psalter. More on that sort of thing below...)

That said the Protestants thought they were going back to the primitive church: they opposed what they thought were doctrinal innovations!

Of course withdrawing the cup from the laity and requiring clerical celibacy, as well as the matter of the language used in worship, are adiaphora like adding a saint's name to the Canon of the Mass. As are most of the other matters you mention as alleged examples of the church changing its teaching in doctrine and morals.

(BTW you forgot 'marriage with deceased wife's sister', the political and moral hot potato back in Gilbert & Sullivan's day as enshrined in one song in Iolanthe.)

Interest's a tricky one - anti-RC controversialists get some mileage out of it. I'll leave it to the degreed theologians and economists to explain.

As abhorrent as slavery is (well, what else would a libertarian say?), no, sins against nature are not the same: a non-negotiable for the church.

Again, as a citizen one's home is one's castle; such sins are none of my business. But just like a Christian minister can't allow a secular funeral in the church building (as came up in an Episcopal blog a while ago) it's part of the church's job to say they're wrong. The answer to both the secular funeral and the gay wedding is the same: rent a hall if you like but no, not here.

Are you really trying to claim that there has been no change of teaching in the Catholic Church from the apostles on?

LOL, I know what you're trying to get at, Father.

Essentially yes. One deposit of faith, one body of Catholic dogma.

That said there is development of doctrine (and no, this is not an apologia for Vatican I). The church defines doctrines but never contradicts past definitions. Unlike 'Allah the Irrational'... or modern liberal Protestantism.

Different doctrinal expressions of it through history... and varying from culture to culture (witness the various Eastern rites) but they can't and don't cancel each other out.

So that brings me back to this point: if you believe the church can change morals to accommodate you, you may be a Christian but can't claim to speak with the authority of the historic church.

Caelius | 12:58 AM, May 31, 2007  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Young fogey emeritus | 1:01 PM, May 31, 2007  

BTW, Father, TAC is the acronym of the Traditional Anglican Communion, one of the relatively more substantial Continuing churches with dioceses in Australia (where it's based) and the US, so as cool as 'TEC and TAC' sounds it seems one has to write out the Anglican Communion after all.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG | 5:10 PM, May 31, 2007  

Well, YF, I'm not sure what more I can say, as you keep shifting the ground, dismissing examples as "adiaphora" (a term that emerges from the Reformation, by the way!) None of the matters I mentioned were considered adiaphora at the time they were under discussion. The fact that Rome did, in some cases, essentially admit that they were adiaphora after 400 years or so (changing the position of the Council of Trent) rather would prove that the Reformation was right, and that these strongly defended doctrinal positions really weren't so important after all -- unless you think Rome has simply joined the "protestants" in their errors.

I agree that there are essential matters about which there need be no development or change of doctrine. I quite disagree with your assessment that same-sexuality falls under that definition. I can point you to any number of interesting aspects of the doctrine of Christian marriage on which the church has changed its teaching over time. Perhaps the most dramatic is the permission granted for marriage in which one of the couple is not baptized. This was vociferously opposed in the early church (Tertullian called it a form of sodomy!) but it is now permitted, even if not encouraged. Few would claim that any of the various marriage regulations of the catholic church come under the heading of dogma, but rather of discipline, which is subject to change.

Of course, Rome has also changed dogmatic matters: I'll mention only two, the addition of filioque to the Creed, and the declaration that the Immaculate Conception is dogma. (The early church didn't even have such a doctrine, as it wasn't until Augustine articulated the doctrine of Original Sin that such a belief was necessary. It has never been accepted in Eastern Orthodoxy). Talk about catholic!

When it comes to other moral matters, if you really want to learn rather than simply defend an indefensible position by mere assertion, you can obtain a copy of the Apostolic Canons or other early documents of the undivided church, and take a look at some of the things considered at that time by the catholic church to be grave moral matters, and ask yourself if the catholic church has changed its position on any of them. And by the way, the church taught that slavery was in accord with the natural order within the fallen world from Augustine on. Personally, I have little use for the natural law tradition, as it is so capable of merely enshrining prejudices and ignorance. (As in the case of slavery; which Augustine considered as "natural" as good government!)

However, if you would rather, you are perfectly free to maintain your position, and I have no vested interest of changing your point of view. It does require a certain degree of "certum quia impossibile est" to think that the catholic church has never changed its teaching, essentially or otherwise -- but as I prefer rational discussion based on demonstrable fact I will leave the field to you.

Young fogey emeritus | 6:28 PM, May 31, 2007  

Well, YF, I'm not sure what more I can say.

Same here. But here it is anyway. :)

None of the matters I mentioned were considered adiaphora at the time they were under discussion. The fact that Rome did, in some cases, essentially admit that they were adiaphora after 400 years or so (changing the position of the Council of Trent) rather would prove that the Reformation was right, and that these strongly defended doctrinal positions really weren't so important after all -- unless you think Rome has simply joined the "protestants" in their errors.

As I think you know, Father, they always were matters of discipline not doctrine. The Protestants however did change/make mistakes in doctrine. To counter AFAIK the Protestant error that Communion not under both kinds for the laity is not really Communion, Rome defended concomitance by retaining the mediæval discipline on the matter. The same holds for the language of worship: the Protestants, again IIRC, said the service must be in a tongue understanded of the people to have any grace; the church, to counter that, retained Latin in the Roman Rite as a matter of discipline.

And all that time Rome recognised the sacraments of the Eastern churches not under it, which have forms of Communion under both species, ordain married men as deacons and priests, and liturgically use languages other than Latin.

Few would claim that any of the various marriage regulations of the catholic church come under the heading of dogma, but rather of discipline, which is subject to change.

Thought you might head there on this matter. Still, regarding homosex, no.

Of course, Rome has also changed dogmatic matters: I'll mention only two, the addition of filioque to the Creed, and the declaration that the Immaculate Conception is dogma. (The early church didn't even have such a doctrine, as it wasn't until Augustine articulated the doctrine of Original Sin that such a belief was necessary. It has never been accepted in Eastern Orthodoxy). Talk about catholic!

Already covered that, Father. Both are local as in Western doctrinal expressions of the one body of Catholic dogma. The East never needed to come up with a similar explanation of original sin so no need to explain Our Lady's immaculateness. Though as you know many Orthodox make the claim you did, that Rome invented new doctrine whole cloth by so doing. (However the Orthodox have never held a general council defining that denial as their doctrine.)

Eastern Orthodoxy teaches the same thing about homosex as Rome, as it does on the nature of the Eucharist and the apostolic ministry. Talk about Catholic!

If you're going to appeal to the Orthodox to back up your argument that's really cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Personally, I have little use for the natural law tradition.

That's been fairly clear all along.

However, if you would rather, you are perfectly free to maintain your position, and I have no vested interest of changing your point of view.

Well, Father, I never thought we would change each other's POVs. But I knew of course that you're a formidable debater - nice sparring with you. :)

Brooke | 1:03 AM, June 01, 2007  

All I wish is that Reverend Ref didn't live so far away, so I could attend his services! :)

Reverend Ref + | 8:57 AM, June 01, 2007  

Brooke: If you ever get a chance to vacation out west, be sure to let me know. We'll save a spot for you.

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