Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Anglicans and Orthodox

  • The conflicted and contradictory classic Anglican view of Catholicism. I was reminded of this after Pope Benedict announced he was stepping down and Fr J. Gordon Anderson wrote this positive take on his theology’s view of England’s mother church: While it may seem strange to read an Anglican singing the praises of Pope Benedict XVI, those who have read Richard Hooker (see Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Book III. Ch. i. 10-11) know that the Anglican perspective has always been that the Roman Catholic Church, despite having some doctrinal errors, is a true branch of Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, Church, and that the pope is a true bishop of the Church and the historical patriarch of the west. As such he is worthy of honor and praise... but in Benedict XVI’s case, not only because of his office but because of his obvious godliness and commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. On Catholicism’s behalf, thanks, Father. But the Articles of Religion in the back of the Prayer Book are nowhere near as kind! (Miles away from the nice high-church ‘“some doctrinal errors” so regrettably we must part for now’ and beyond WASP snobbery to Catholics.) The conflict reflects Anglicanism’s confused origin as a government schism (much like the one in Red China putting the country’s Catholics under state control) that turned heretical because it happened at the same time as the ‘Reformation’. (Their remaining Catholic titles, such as ‘Archbishop of Canterbury’ and saints’ names on churches, are a reminder the English were pulled away from the church literally by force. Omnes sancti martyres Anglorum, orate pro nobis.) So the Articles curse the church but the Anglicans also claim apostolic succession (true bishops); they acknowledge the church as English Christianity’s founder/original church and thus the source of their claim to legitimacy (besides the king simply saying so): yes to the creeds, baptismal regeneration and the succession of bishops, a loud no to almost everything else! As most readers know, that claim to the episcopate later gave Anglican would-be Catholics (the people now in the ordinariates) a case of wishful thinking. (The Anglicans’ Evangelicals and liberal mainliners, such as the Episcopalians, don’t care much about the claim. The latter, like Swedish Lutherans, think it’s neat but not essential.) The church never recognized the claim and famously ruled against it in 1896. Because apostolic succession isn’t magic. It has to be in the context of true doctrine taught in unbroken succession too. (Regarding women priests, the church can’t change the matter of the sacraments, by vote or any other means.) Anyway, thanks again, Father: you’re like an Episcopal high churchman last century (that’s a compliment), Caroline non-papal doctrinally and Prayer Book liturgically, but looking like my idea of a recruiting-poster priest: biretta, fiddleback and lace alb right out of Cardinal Spellman’s New York.
  • Why on earth are Orthodox churches in the World and National Councils of Churches? Last century when the Orthodox still didn’t know the Protestants well, and the mainline Protestants were closer to them (and thus to Catholicism), polite theological talks with the goal of teaching the Protestants about Orthodoxy so they’d convert made sense. That obviously won’t happen. So why stick around? Because as a small church in the West, they’d rather hang out with libprots who don’t take them seriously than admit they’re really Catholic. (Likewise the high libprots such as the Western mainstream/official Anglicans, whom Fr Anderson’s group’s a conservative breakaway from, like having the Orthodox around to prop up their fantasy of being a cool version of Catholicism.) Prejudice trumps common sense. (By the way, from me to the Holy See: 86 whatever ARCIC is now. Waste. Of. Time. We each know what the other teaches and the Anglicans obviously don’t want to come back.)


  1. they’d rather ... [not] admit they’re really Catholic

    Catholics love to say this ("the Orthodox are really Catholic but don't know it") but it is simply not so. There really are dogmatic differences between Catholicism and Orthodoxy, beyond the "scope of the Pope." And it is by and large the Catholics rather than the Orthodox who have dogmatized those differences.

    While it is true that the Orthodox accept the primacy of the Pope if his authority were properly scoped (heck, even we Lutherans do that), Catholic errors on the Papacy go beyond the simple issue of scope to the point of fundamentally changing ecclesiology. Universal ordinary jurisdiction, rather than infallibility, is the sticking point here; it completely destroys the Orthodox ecclesiology of conciliarity and mutual accountability (because the Pope, by definition, is exempt from that accountability). And of course, it has become a matter of Church-dividing dogma, because the Catholics made it so at Vatican I.

    Add to that the triadological error of filioquism and the soteriological error of created grace, and you start to have quite a few genuinely dogmatic differences. You cannot wave that away with nice sentiments like "they're Catholic but don't know it / won't admit it" or "sacramentally they are the same Church."

    So no, the Orthodox are not Catholic.

  2. We sure do. Because even though the Orthodox apologists (not most Orthodox, just like most Catholics aren't Catholic apologists) hate it, it's true. The 'dogmatic differences' amount to semantic games. For example, Catholicism and Orthodoxy believe Communion's the true body and blood of Christ. The medieval West, not part of the eastern Roman Empire of the Orthodox (Orthodox: 'not in our empire' = not in the church), borrows Aristotle to describe this belief. Some Orthodox agree; others react badly simply out of anti-Westernism. Transubstantiation, metaousiosis. Tomayto, tomahto. Borrowing Plato, good; borrowing Aristotle, bad. Because people outside the empire did it.

    Universal ordinary jurisdiction: the closest you can get to the Orthodox case against it is Vatican II and what it caused: by authority, the destruction of the ordinary practice of Catholicism. But no doctrine was involved and it was abuses by people usurping authority, not the actual power of the papal office (which is really limited: he can't change the faith on a whim; in traditional Catholicism the Pope's a rather distant figure). So no sale. The office of Pope as a subset of church infallibility is part of the package, not a distortion. An infallible Pope gives you the continuing true teaching against contraception.

    'Mutual accountability': by whom and to whom? The Orthodox communion is national/ethnic churches next to nothing to do with each other. You can argue a kind of invisible, mystical accountability as the churches are still amazingly alike, and Catholic, in belief and practice. (Just like medieval Catholicism.)

    Filioquism ('through the Son'; it's not rocket science) and created grace (treating a theologoumenon like a doctrinal dispute, out of spite?)... born Orthodox: 'What?' Again, the apologists manufacture differences where there are really none.

    The Orthodox have never defined a heretical doctrine so Catholicism gives them the benefit of the doubt. (Orthodox doctrine = Catholicism around 800.) Born Orthodox are estranged Catholics, not Protestants.

  3. Deacon Jeremiah11:51 am

    Semi-arianism, Monoenergism, Jansenism, etc.,... born Catholics: “What?”

    1. Heh; good one. The point remains that highfalutin heresies aren't part of the core and life of either church. Essentially and sacramentally the same.

    2. Semi-arianism of the West?--and Arianism started in the East. So did alleged monophysitism and Nestorianism. And don't forget the West's mono-theletism (I think it started in the West). And Dualism in the East! (OK, perhaps this started in Persia and infected the Christian world, East & West, nearly completely at some point.)

      Much of the differences boil down to semanticism, nasty politics, and differences in religious/spiritual culture (I prefer the East's spiritualism, including Hesychasm, to the West's on the whole). This continues unto today.

      And re: uncreated grace??--wasn't this a post 1054 AD theological development tied to the doctrine of the Divine Energies and St. Gregory Palamas? The doctrine was fleshed out in the Palamite Councils as part of the contentions at the time between East and West (Palams vs. Barlaam the Calabrian????

      The basic theological approaches of apophaticism (East) vs. cataphaticism (West) have also caused friction.

      No, the differences are mostly IMHO due to the long-term Split itself, and cultural and political antagonisms fueled unto today by religious chauvinism EXCEPT for the Papacy. There is no workaround for this. It can't be explained away or even theologically diluted as so much Catholic teaching & belief has been diluted by the new "reformers" in the Catholic post-V2 age, a dilution to which many Orthodox of today rightfully object. The Papacy is the singular & tragic reason why the two great Churches will remain apart. The rest of the theological miasma is to "justify" the polemics that have been slung by both sides over the centuries.

      Jim C.

      My bumper sticker take on the differences between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches: (truth in advertising--->>does not originate with me)

      Catholic/Western--->>Faith seeking the UNDERSTANDING of God

      Orthodox/Eastern--->>Faith seeking the EXPERIENCE of God

      . . . not that the Orthodox don't want to understand and Catholics don't want to experience.

    3. "And don't forget the West's mono-theletism (I think it started in the West)."

      Nope; that was Eastern in origin also; cf. the Emperor Heraclius' "Ekthesis" of 638.

  4. Deacon Jeremiah5:46 pm

    "Semi-arianism of the West?"

    That wasn’t my point, and John understood that.

    Semi-arianism, Monoenergism, and Jansenism are all positions that the Catholic Church condemns as heretical, regardless of geographical origin. Whether or not the average “born Catholic” could articulate the positions of the heretics in question, or is even aware of the existence of these heresies, does not affect the fact that they are heretical by Roman Catholic standards (and not merely points of fruitless contention cooked up by Roman Catholic apologists).

    To put it another way, what percentage of Catholics could explain why Anglican clergy do not possess valid orders according to the Catholic Church (leave the “Dutch touch” to one side for the moment)? Are most Catholics even aware of the fact that they do not?

    Does the answer to the two previous questions have any bearing on whether Anglican clergy have valid orders? If a Roman Catholic apologist points out that they do not, is he just being spiteful or manufacturing differences?

    1. "To put it another way, what percentage of Catholics could explain why Anglican clergy do not possess valid orders according to the Catholic Church (leave the “Dutch touch” to one side for the moment)? Are most Catholics even aware of the fact that they do not?"

      The short answer is likely not one Catholic in 10 million to the first question. Perhaps one Catholic in 1 million for the 2nd question, not that it matters much to them anyway.

      My point was that, the Papacy aside (the big elephant in the china shop), the differences that have arisen between the two Churches are mainly due in my opinion to time and the separation itself. Organizations that separate end up having divergent paths in polity, religious approach, liturgical culture, etc. Theological developments have occurred in Orthodoxy as they have in Catholicism even as the Catholic Church has "developed" itself differently and seemingly to a much greater extent than Orthodoxy. E.g., The Catholic Church had suffered from a heresy of the Holy Eucharist (I think this heresy is back again in Protestant form and in modern Catholics' ignorance) while Orthodoxy, to the best of my knowledge, never experienced this, thankfully. The theology of the Eucharist is essentially the same in both Churches but nonetheless the Catholic Church has developed its theology and a liturgical practice (Benediction & Exposition) to address this heresy. Orthodoxy has not done this; didn't need to. Nonetheless, it still breeds a difference between the two Churches that ought not to be significant but in some eyes are.

  5. Anonymous7:39 pm

    Dear John,

    I fear that you have taken my post the wrong way. The fact that I believe the RCC teaches doctrinal error is in no way meant to be derogatory. It is simply a statement of fact. Many RCCs likewise believe that doctrinal error is taught by Anglicans. If I believed that the RCC did not teach error in certain critical areas that are of especial concern to me then I would quite obviously not be an Anglican, but Roman Catholic.

    As for what you wrote, you suggested that the Articles are derogatory towards the Roman pontiff. In response I would ask you to point out where they are derogatory towards him. And if they are then so what? They were written hundreds of years ago in a completely different day and age. What's more, RCCs and pontiffs have written many things that could be considered derogatory about Anglicans over the centuries. But again, who cares? To me there are more important things than perceived personal slights from hundreds of years ago. I don't care about that. Ministering full time for seven years helps one develop very thick skin. But I would ask you to support your assertion.

    As an Anglican, I, of course, maintain that the Articles don't say anything derogatory about the Roman pontiff. Article XIX refers the Church of Rome, and that it has erred. But it doesn't say the "pontiff." Perhaps XIX is what lead to your assertion that the Articles "curse the church (sic)." But really they do not "curse the church (sic)." They only, perhaps, curse those who assume that the Church is the pope and the pope is the Church. And that is the fundamental problem with the RCC. It has replaced "Credo in Umum Deum" with "Credo in Papam." The pope "is" the Church. He is the way, the truth, and life. No one comes to Father but through him. I cannot accept that. And I wonder if all of those innocent little boys who were molested by Roman Catholic priests, who in turn were protected by Roman Catholic bishops who answer to this man believe that? Probably not.


    1. I never said your post was derogatory. Quite the opposite. It reflects the high-church view mid-last century of Catholicism; very nice as I said. No, I was contrasting that with the harsh, obvious anti-Catholicism of the Articles, beyond pointing out slight doctrinal differences that old and moderate high churchmen say distinguish Anglicanism from Catholicism. I know that high churchmen may take Tract XC's approach to the Articles, saying the Articles attacked the ignorant 'common knowledge' Catholicism of their time, things that the church also doesn't teach/condemns (we don't give latreia to images and relics for example), but neither the Church of England in Newman's day nor I buy that. It's obvious what they mean: cursing the church as I say (not only in Article XIX but Articles XIV, XXI, XXII, XXIV, XXV, XXVIII and XXXI), cursing many of its doctrines and practices. Yet Anglicanism recognized and recognizes the church's grace as the source, Anglicanism says, of the Anglican episcopate, the basis of your theological view of the church (a true church but in grave error). Of course I know the Articles don't say much about the Pope (for example, Article XXXVII: 'the Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England'); I never said they did.

      I've been explaining in this blog that we're not the cult of the Pope. He's an indispensable part of the church but only part of the church.

      Regarding priests molesting boys, the church's teachings say what those priests did was a sin. The allusion doesn't make sense: 'I agree with the molesters that Catholic teaching about the Pope isn't true', as if the molestation was a good thing. By the way I've always said the law should throw the book at those priests and the priests and bishops who covered up what those priests did: jail.

  6. Your "Credo in Papam," etc., and "innocent little boys," etc. comments not derogatory??? Oh yeah . . . right.

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  8. In a way, to me this discussion, while interesting, is partly beside the point. The Anglican "branch theory," or the idea underlying it and presupposed by it, that "the Church" is divisible, is itself a product of the Reformation and of Protestant ecclesiology. All surviving pre-Reformation churches and/or "communions of churches," like the Catholic, the Orthodox, and the Oriental Orthodox -- and extinct heretical communions like rthose of the Arians, the Donatists, the Novatianists and even the Marcionites -- all believed that there was only one true visible Church, and each of them claimed to be it, exclusively. When the Nicene Creed states, as an article of faith, belief in "One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church" they meant nothing less or more than "us," and not some invisible or divisible entity comprehending sacramentally-divided "denominations." I exclude the Old Catholics, both of the liberal Union of Utrecht sort and of the conservative Union of Scranton sort, because from its beginnings in the 1870s OCism bought into a version of the Anglican "branch theory." I also exclude the Assyrian Church of the East, which in its glory days from the 400s to the 1700s certainly believed that it was the One True Church, but the one surviving fragment of that church, isolated from the others since the 1600s, seems to have likewise taken on aspects of the Anglican "branch theory" during the period from the 1890s to the 1920s when they rec'd much material and educational aid from the Church of England.

    1. Exactly. Fr Gollop and I are talking about the branch theory here. That theory, with the consensus of the pre-'Reformation' churches' (the 'other branches') beliefs and practices as the basis of one's doctrine and practices, is, I'm guessing, Anglican high churchmen's (and Union of Scranton Old Catholics') version of church infallibility ('we're part of the larger church', the Catholicizers in Anglicanism said); it does more or less give you Catholic teaching and practice. (The trouble is that's not what Anglicanism really believes in, in principle; it can and does change the faith by vote.) Catholicism believes in an attenuated branch theory that keeps the church's claim to the only true one: the criterion for inclusion seems to be valid orders (real bishops). There seem to be three requirements for that: credal orthodoxy so basic the Nestorians pass, an unbroken claim to apostolic succession (the deal-breaker for Norwegian Lutherans), and (the deal-breaker for Anglicans) uninterrupted true teaching about the nature of the Eucharist (Christ's one sacrifice made present and pleaded on the altar, and complete, changed real presence). If you have all that, you're a church. If you don't, if you're Protestants, then you're not a church; you're a group of Christians ('ecclesial community' in polite Vaticanspeak, meaning 'not a church'). The Orthodox, a church according to Catholicism, have no defined doctrine on this other than they're the true church: some mirror Catholicism's recognition of their sacraments (historically that mutual recognition happens a lot), others don't (lots of anti-Westernism*); they reserve the right to receive all converts by baptism. In either case, not the Anglican branch theory of the church as such as a house divided.

      I've noted that Fr Anderson looks like one of Cardinal Spellman's priests; great! 1950s high-Episcopal priests like that may not have accepted the papal claims in principle, but on liturgical matters they didn't look up what the pre-schism church of the fathers did; as Selden Delany wrote, they looked up the Roman Congregation of Rites. (Prayer Book text, Tridentine Mass ceremonial.) Whatever it's called now, in practice it calls the shots of the liturgical worship of the Western world.

      *Catholicism's selling point vs. Orthodoxy: it doesn't hate the East on principle like many Orthodox hate the West.


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