21 July 2008

What is a Church?

In Catholic theology, 'Church' , in the local sense, is an integrated perfection of the Bishop, the fount of its sacramental life, who mediates the Universal Church to his own particular church, and represents his church to the Universal Church, and manifests the authentic Tradition of his predecessors to the Present Moment. And Presbyterate, not an ad hoc collection of individuals but a collegiate unity, one in their union with their bishop whose priesthood they share and extend; one with each other in the priesthood they share with each other. And Deacons, ministering to the Priesthood which Bishop and Presbyterate share. And Laos, what the Classical Roman Rite calls the plebs sancta Dei, the Body of Christ in its local manifestation, for whom and with whom and in whom Priesthood exists. Such a structure is called in modern Cathlic theology 'a Particular Church', but most Anglicans would simply think of the word 'Diocese'. (Roman terminology also includes 'Apostolic Administrations', 'Personal Prelatures'; even in the Church of England there is the Episcopal Royal Peculiar of Windsor.)

As a matter of common sense, for those who do not accept that women can be validly ordained to priestly ministry, such a 'particular church' in which women (or, for that matter, Protestant ministers of either gender who have not been ordained to Priesthood) have been de facto inserted into its priestly ministry, radically vitiates the unities and relationships inherent in the structures of a church. Not in a personal popular sense of the words but as a technical and logical fact, such a purported church is 'corrupt'. Not corrupt in the sense of the personal failings and sinfulness of the human being who make it up, but in terms of its constitution qua church.

This is why John Pritchard has got it so totally wrong in his letter, in which he talks with abhorrence about 'a church within a church'. Catholic Anglicans can only live within the C of E if

(1) they are not expected to be members of a diocese vitiated in the way described above; and

(2) they have particular churches, that is to say dioceses (although it wouldn't be the end of the world if they were called by some term other than 'diocese') in which the God-given structures of the Catholic Church have not been thus corrupted.

This can only mean discrete, distinct, ecclesial structures within the C of E.

1 comment:

David said...

Father, I am an Anglo-Catholic living in Canada. I have read many of your commentaries that run along these lines.

I'm not at all sure that most Anglicans over here including bishops, priests or deacons would have any idea what you are talking about.

To hear such words spoken by an Anglican priest is so very important. Thank God for the Internet despite what people say about it!

You must fight over there for the faith. In this diocese (and I don't think we are exceptional in this country)a priest cannot be incardinated let alone ordained if he doesn't at last outwardly accept the ordination of women and a priest is appointed to a parish as incumbent rather than rector so that if he is thought not to be following the party line he can be removed in an instant.

Still we fight on and we look very much to England for inspiration.

The only thing that concerns me is that your strong Paapalist views (which I share) might lead you to swim the Tiber.

Forgive my presumptiousness but please don't go. We need voices like yours. Desperately!