Wednesday, July 11, 2007

More on the Pope and subsistit in
Repeating long-defined Roman Catholic doctrine
Pope says other denominations not true churches
— Headline in Philadelphia Inquirer

Well, duh.
The document said Orthodox churches were indeed "churches" because they have apostolic succession and that they enjoyed "many elements of sanctification and of truth." But it said they lack something because they do not recognize the primacy of the pope -- a defect, or a "wound" that harmed them, it said.
The mainstream media don’t get religion.

This is one of those chestnuts like ‘the Patriarch of Constantinople is the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians’ (you know, their Pope) that screams for justice every time it’s printed (if only I had a dollar for each time).

OK. Deep breath.

The Orthodox do recognise the Pope as having a man-made primacy, holding a man-made rank (just like other patriarchs, and metropolitans and archbishops) in the divinely instituted episcopate for the orderly running of the church. At least that’s how they envisage a reunited church.



Photo of Pope Paul VI from Hallowedground

Anyway, some are asking why the Pope is repeating this teaching. It’s not news really.

But apparently it is to many Roman Catholics: exactly the point.

Many have been mistaught in the past 40 years.

The roots of the problem go back to before Vatican II when Catholics lived with the tension between the faith and (ex-)Protestant American culture. As Edwin Faust wrote recently in The Latin Mass (a magazine I recommend):
Throughout my grade-school years I had in my desk two history books...
This tension was there even in the zenith of Roman Catholic life in America with mainstream acceptance (helped and reflected by Hollywood with things like The Bells of St Mary’s and symbolised by the unworthy but photogenic JFK getting into the White House).

Likewise old acquaintance Archimandrite Serge (Keleher) once said to me that there is a tension built into orthodoxy between extremes.

So it’s not surprising that with the council and mistakes in prudential judgement implementing it, many, many American Roman Catholics relieved that tension by adopting American-style indifferentism (‘bland ecumenicism’) just like their mainline-Protestant new neighbours in the middle class.

So for his own people’s benefit the Pope needed to repeat this teaching!

Gotta love the maximum-damage spin the mainstream media are trying to put on it: ‘Pope to other Christians: you suck!’

(You mean the media don’t like the Roman Catholic Church? Noooooo!)

Sed autem, semper idem: no bishop means no church. (Anglo-Catholic tracts in the late 1800s forcefully and perhaps tactlessly said the same thing: ‘Dissenters have no ministry’!) The Orthodox are churches but lacking (‘defective’), says Rome, because Rome teaches the Pope is the Vicar of Christ on earth by divine institution, with immediate and universal jurisdiction and the charism of defining doctrine by himself. Protestants don’t have bishops; therefore they are not churches.

To balance that I’d like to add that although I believe this about Protestants entirely, I and the Pope also hold, with no contradiction, that whenever two or three are gathered together, any real ministry every week to real people, it gets my respect (not necessarily the same as agreeing with, being in communion with or joining it!), from the Anglican woman vicar and her congregation or four to the free churches, from megachurches to hard-core Presbyterians meeting in a house one town over from me, to my friend the independent bishop and his two services a week with a sweet lesbian couple and others who otherwise would go to no church (he says he doesn’t see himself as competing with the big churches but more a ministry to people they don’t get, who’d otherwise fall through the cracks).

I really like Pope Benedict. (More than Santo subito! actually.) I literally cheered when he was elected and it seems I was right.

He stands for a true ecumenism, not the two sides’ liberals (quislings and Modernists) getting together and agreeing with each other but ‘highest common denominator’.

Laus Deo.

What does it mean for Anglicans?
My comment

An Orthodox blogger writes on this
I for one am not even remotely offended. This is the traditional understanding that Rome has always had and it’s on balance a good thing for them to reassert some level of orthodoxy (small ‘o’) in the face of the liberal wing in their church. Also it’s not terribly far removed from Orthodoxy’s understanding of the Church. We would generally agree with most of what the document says about Protestants although we might employ a different rationale for reaching the same conclusions. Most Orthodox would say that Protestants lack the grace of the Holy Mysteries by virtue of being heretics, as opposed to simply having abandoned the mechanics of apostolic succession. Here we differ from Rome. Orthodoxy generally does not recognize that true sacramental grace exists outside of the Church, which of course we would argue subsists (what a wonderful term) in Orthodoxy. Whether or not a certain sect was careful to maintain the form and intent of Apostolic Succession is not terribly germane to us. In short, the so called “Dutch Touch” does not impress on this side of the Bosporus.
From Ad Orientem.

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