Sunday, April 19, 2015

"Why trust the church fathers?" From a denomination that doesn't.

  • Mass: Misericordia Domini plena est terra, alleluia. Book of Common Prayer translation of the gospel. The Good Shepherd, the name of what was one of the Philadelphia area's few Anglo-Catholic parishes, a place I knew on and off from 1985 until about 2010. Its core group is now in the church, the Community of Blessed John Henry Newman, and some former parishioners are with me at Our Lady of Lourdes.
  • Ask an Anglican: why trust the fathers? Fr. Mitchican well explains the classic Anglican position. They say the English (Fr. M is an American and an ex-Catholic) excel at irony. He and his school of thought make a good case for the church here, only his denomination undermines that same case for itself. "We trust the judgment of the church, except when we don't." First, Erastianism in England: Henry VIII dispensed with the church whether he meant to or not. As a result, Fr. M's Episcopalians think the church is neat but nonessential: "we can change the matter of the sacraments by vote." (Fallible and fungible: all it takes for apostasy here is a General Convention vote.) The best of them now are liberal high church: with us orthodox Catholics and not like Catholic liberals they believe the creeds and in the sacraments and love our stuff. But anybody thinking logically can see through it, so the Episcopal Church loses people like crazy. The kids cut out the churchy middleman (fallible and fungible: why waste my time Sunday morning when I have a loving community somewhere else?), going right for secular humanism, the Christian heresy that's the logical conclusion of Protestantism. The Vincentian canon (St. Vincent: everywhere, always, and by all) gives you the consensus of 1) the church, 2) Eastern Orthodoxy and its offshoots such as the Copts, and 3) old Anglo-Catholics, more or less Catholicism, not Episcopalianism. We don't believe the fathers are infallible (they made mistakes and contradict each other); we believe the church is. Saint Athanasius may not have worshipped from a Book of Common Prayer, but he would recognize in our liturgy the same faith that he defended against the Arians in the fourth century. No. Neither the biretta nor the iconostasis had been invented yet but he would have recognized the faith and the church in those liturgies, not the ones in the king's denomination. (By about 600 the text of the Roman Rite Mass would have been familiar to us traditionalists. We have the second oldest Eucharistic consecration prayer still in use, second to the Nestorians.)
  • I don't blog to pick on the Episcopal Church but this one's too good to pass up. The new "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You" sign is fitting because the shield tilts to the left and most of it's now missing.
  • A case for Hillary Clinton as president. She's actually less ambitious than Obama and won't do much to try to prove herself because she wouldn't have to; her whole point would be she's a woman. One of the writer's points: a wake-up call for men. But how would that be if she's just a symbol, really a do-nothing president, relatively a good thing? I worry she'd start a war in order to compensate. She has a shot but my guess is in the Punch-and-Judy show of our politics (in which the GOP and Dems only pretend to be against each other), it's the Republicans' turn so whoever they cough up will get it. Putin is the kind of thoroughly corrupt leader American men could actually be proud of (instead of the thoroughly corrupt leaders they actually have). He's an Eastern version of the Bad Catholic: an action-packed life probably fighting and sexing but he knows he's a sinner, showing up at Mass occasionally to light a candle asking a prayer of the Mother of God. The Russians are estranged Catholics; better that than the ex-Protestants running us.
  • Car-show season is here! At Johnson's Corner Farm, Medford, NJ, for a little one. I'm not a mid-'50s Chevy person; the best car there again was Jim Vertolli's '58 Pontiac.


  1. Not to rain on anyone's meme parade or anything but I just ordered our church's new blue-and-white, and they've gone back to the old un-hip style.

  2. Fr. Mitchican's claim about St. Athanasius misses the main point. Perhaps, simply as regards the liturgy, it may be true that "Saint Athanasius ... would recognize in our liturgy the same faith that he defended against the Arians in the fourth century," but as regards Anglican churches, NOT. Like all the Church Fathers, he would have believed in the unity and unicity of "the Church" and would have rejected any "Branch Theory" ecclesiology out of hand if it had been explained to him. Nobody can tell, if St. Athanasius were to be conveyed into the 21st Century, which church he would recognize as "the Church;" no doubt it would be the Catholic/papal communion, the Orthodox communion, or the Oriental Orthodox communion, but certainly not the Anglican quasi-communion.

    And another thing: Athanasius both uttered some strongly "papalish" statements, and bent over backwards to extenuate and exculpate Pope Liberius' forced assent to a condemnation of Athanasius himself and to one of the vapid creeds (we don't know which one, whether an Arianizing one or one so vague that Arians and "moderate Nicenes" could plausibly assent to it) formulated at councils (meant to be of equal authority with, and replacements of, the Council of Nicaea of 325) called in the early and mid 350s by the Emperor Constantius.

    St. Athanasius' thought on "the Roman primacy" is well and fully expounded in *Apostolikos Thronos. The Primacy of Rome as reflected in the Church History of Eusebius and the historico-apologetic writings of Saint Athanasius the Great* by D. Vincent Twomey (Muenster, 1982: Aschendorff). This is a published version of a PhD dissertation which Fr. Twomey undertook under the supervision of Professor Joseph Ratzinger and submitted in 1978. Cf.:


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