2 November 2009

The Parting of Friends

On the wireless on Sunday morning, an interview with Fr Killwick, chairman of the Catholic Group on General Synod. Unlike his recent predecessors in that position, he was rejecting the Roman Option because it would involve accepting unacceptable doctrines such as Papal Infallibillity and the 'Marian Dogmas'. At the Westminster F in F meeting, the Bishop of Fort Worth made similar remarks.

This was a common standpoint a couple of generations ago: 'Non-Papal Catholicism'. Conceptually, of course, it was exploded by Dom Gregory Dix's masterly demonstration back in the 1930s that 'the Papal doctrines' are inherent to the Catholic Faith and not just 'Romanising additions'. And ARCIC has, after all, provided ways of understanding Papal Primacy and Infallibility which keep the meaning while putting them into more cuddly language. I don't see how anyone can look at the actual texts of Vatican I without realising (as Newman did when he, a very apprehensive man, saw what the Council decrees actually said; and heaved a great sigh of relief as he realised that the Ultramontanes had lost the battle of the small print) that unless you want to find them problematic, you can find easily ways of glossing them acceptably. The plain fact is that Killwick's sort of churchmanship was for long an alibi that some Catholic-minded Anglicans clung to to save them from the complexities and possible inconveniences of accepting the Petrine Ministry.

Bishop John Broadhurst spoke for many at Westminster when he quite frankly and honestly admitted that, a decade or so ago, that was his position; but that now he had come to understand things. For very many, it is the C of E which has taught them that Catholicism without the Magisterium is not just conceptually flawed but, in the real world, just plain impractical. (Not for me. More than fifty years ago I formally joined a Papalist organisation, the Catholic League, which required that postulants sign their adherence to the decrees of Vatican I and Trent.)

There will be those now who follow Fr Killwick in clinging to this ancient alibi. It will be more because they want to find problems with Vatican I than because can't accept it.

They will always be our friends, and we shall never forget the fun we had together.

18 comments:

Andrew said...

What Vatican I did for Newman, Vatican II is doing for me. Only a year ago, Fr Killwick's position was mine. What people need to do is read what the CCC actually says and what the documents of Vatican II actually say. The one that made me think again was the Apostolic Constitution on the Apostolate of the Laity, which says, in as many words, that the Pope shares his infallibility with the whole Church - pretty much the Orthodox position, I would have thought.

rev'd up said...

I would guess that Kenneth Ross' book 'Why I am not a Roman Catholic' presents the case for the want-to-be skeptic. But those who don't want-to-be a skeptic can easily shrug off his arguments. I don't want-to-be; for me it's simple:

1)Papal infallibility - The Pope has never made claim to his infallibility charism in an historically incongruent way. The Pope has never said, "It's that way because I'm infallible. So, La-Di-Da" So what's the beef?

2)Immaculate Conception of BVM - Would Anglicans rather have it that the BVM was born in a barn, and raised in a cave...? I rather doubt it.

The dogmatic pronouncement of our Lady's Immaculate Conception is one of the Church's finest. The Church recognized the protestant "novelties-on-the-wall" and took appropriate measures to set a hedge about Her integrity.

3)The Assumption of BVM - Yet another hedge against the modernist, pseudo-scientific, anti-mystery, Machiavellian juggernaut of protestant "ecumenism." This dogma squeaked in by a hair's breadth before the cataclysm of Vatican II. Providence!

--------

I think of the Papacy as it were an ancient Roman dictatorship which is necessary in times of all out war. We find ourselves in such a war. Anglicans who "will not serve" are "like as the children of Ephraim; who being harnessed, and carrying bows, turned themselves back in the day of battle."

Bishop of Ebbsfleet said...

May I just say that the 'Andrew' who commented on your blog is not me. I remember John Drury calling the promulging of the dogma of the Assumption a 'breathtaking anachronism' and myself had difficulty, quarter of a century ago, in saying 'body and soul' in the collect for the Assumption. But I got over that, simply by reflecting of the Creed. I haven't held 'Andrew''s position since that realisation.

+ Andrew (it's all in the '+')

witcombesmall said...

No, I am indeed not the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, fortunately for the church at large, but one of Fr John's parishioners. Dare I suspect that +Andrew (note the plus) misunderstands what I said? It was reading the ACAL that made me start to realise that Papal infallibility was not what I thought it was, and was therefore believable. Having come to that conclusion, I am seriously contemplating acting on it. Roll on Feb 22!

I got over my difficulties with the Assumption years ago through the explanation given by a former Orthdox priest who was by then a Continuing Anglican bishop. Still not sure about the Immaculate Conception, though, but I'm sure it will come with time.

Albert said...

As even Edward Schillebeeckx put it in 1973:

"it is hardly possible to accept, from the ecclesiological point of view, that the Church in its confession of baptism, can 'remain in the truth' if there is no promise that its teaching will have a similar lasting value. The Church's 'remaining in the truth' implies faitfulness in the teaching Church."

So we need infallibility. It is the Church that is infallible, but infallibility is of little use, if it is unclear when and where the Church has spoken infallibly. If you appeal to Ecumenical Councils, to which Ecumenical Councils will you appeal? If you appeal to consensus or reception you will never accept anything. If you appeal to the majority of Christendom you forget that the Church may at times be a persecuted "little flock" (Lk.12.32). If you appeal to orthodoxy you assume the point you need to prove. So we need infallibility, but we cannot see where it is to be found.

Our Lord provided for this necessity: he gave the Church the rock. The position of the Pope in infallible definitions is therefore to show us where the Church is and that Christ is speaking through her by bringing her to a definitive mind.

Independent said...

The Modern Papacy was not so obvious to Dr Mascall - see his Chapters on the Papacy in his "Recovery of Unity". He points out that the decision when the Pope has fulfilled the criteria for infallibility is made by fallible theologians, Mascall believes in a Papacy but not the one we have got. Perhps the present Holy Father is trying to recover the earlier conception of the Papacy?

Presumably Mascall had read the Dix writings on the Papacy to which Fr Hunwicke refers.He does not mention them.

I suppose however that interpreting Vatican I and II is easy meat for those brought up on interpreting the 39 Articles . There seems to be an incredible amount of elasticity in the Catholic Church.

However there are real difficulties concerning Vatican I and they should be approached in an objective manner, not being determined to find problems or not to find them.

William Tighe said...

But Mascall in his old age considerably moderated the views about the papacy he had expressed in 1957, and he had more-or-less decided by August 1992 (when I visited him for the last time) that he would have to cross that river if the General Synod apprived the WO measure, as it did in November. By that time, however, his debilitation was rapidly advancing (he died in February 1993) and he seems to have decided that he was not mentally capable of making such a decision in the state in which he found himself.

I have had this from Aidan nichols, Graham Leonard and, especially, Fr. Robert Gould, a priest of the Archdiocese of Southwark who, as an Anglican clergyman for many years before he "swam" in 1992, was very close to Mascall.

When I visited Mascall for the last time, he was upset and distressed in a way that I had never seen him ever since I first met him in 1977. He said to me that he was gravely worried about the measure then impending before the General Synod, and said to me "I know what I shall have to do if it passes, but I don't know whether I shall have the health or strength to do it. I hope I die first." I did not ask him what it was that he knew he would "have to do," but it is pretty clear from what I have learned what it was.

Albert said...

Independent

the decision when the Pope has fulfilled the criteria for infallibility is made by fallible theologians, Mascall believes in a Papacy but not the one we have got.

I think there are two problems here. Firstly, how can it be possible to believe in the papacy, but not the papacy that exists in actual fact? Either it is believable or not. I think we need more details to assess Mascall here.

Secondly, I don't think papal accounts of infallibility are commensurate with non-papal accounts of teaching authority. The distinction to make, I think is between the formal and the material aspects of a teaching. The formal aspect relates to the authority giving the teaching. The material aspect relates here to the truth of the teaching in itself regardless of who is teaching it.

The Catholic Church has clear criteria for assessing the formal aspect: e.g. who says it? about what? in what kind of way? Then there is Canon 747:

§3. No doctrine is understood as defined infallibly unless this is manifestly evident.

Consequently, even when the material aspect remains obscure, it can still be possible to know the truth of a doctrine because the Church can teach in such a way that the judgment of the formal authority of a doctrine is within the capacity of theologians.

But outside of Catholicism there are no clear criteria for judging the formal aspect. So everything devolves down to private judgment about the material aspect of doctrine.

But when the truth (or otherwise) of that material aspect of doctrine is unclear (and there wouldn’t be a dispute if it were completely clear) you’re left in doubt. But Jesus promised to lead us into all truth.

Accordingly, if you allow your fallibility argument to weight against Roman Catholicism, it weighs even more against non-Roman Catholic visions of Christianity.

Independent said...

Thank you Dr Tighe, I was hoping that with your friendship with Dr Mascall, you would respond to my remarks. I can remember Mascall replying to a query by Fr Thomas of St Francis, Bournemouth in the late 1970's as to whether a bishop who "ordained" a woman could henceforth perform valid ordinations by saying that he could.

Thank you also Albert, I suggest that you read his book. I have given the reference.

Albert said...

Thanks Independent. I have to confess that it is unlikely I will have the chance to get hold of and read the book. There's no chance of your giving a brief resume is there please?

Chris Jones said...

I don't see how anyone can look at the actual texts of Vatican I without realising ... that unless you want to find them problematic, you can find easily ways of glossing them acceptably.

What we must do with the dogmatic definitions of the Church is to confess them, not to gloss them. To confess them is to mean by them what the Church means by them, whereas to gloss them is to make them mean what we wish they meant. To subject oneself to the Roman obedience on the basis of one's own "gloss" of Vatican I is to enter in to the Roman Catholic Church while reserving (horrors!) private judgement with respect to a major Roman Catholic distinctive.

Besides, what does it mean to "gloss them acceptably"? By what possible standard will you judge whether your gloss is acceptable? The only standard that would possibly apply is the Apostolic Tradition of the Church, by which standard Pastor Aeternus and any possible gloss on it fail utterly.

I have never seen, BTW, an argument in favour of the infallibility of the Pope which goes beyond a demonstration of the indefectibility of the Church. The step from there to the necessary localization of that indefectibility in the office of the Pope is always glided over effortlessly, with (perhaps) some attempt to show its plausibility.

Albert said...

Chris, you may well have a point. Certainly, it is not possible to go by pure logic from indefectibility of the Church to the infallibility of the Roman Pontiff in one leap.

I wonder if the question is more whether indefectibility really answers the promises of Christ to lead us into all truth, unless we know where the Church is indefectible.

By this path one can perhaps exclude all other positions, which would leave us with Catholicism I suggest. This seems reasonable enough to me, especially if you agree that logical necessity is not the only key to doctrinal development and articulation.

Chris Jones said...

Albert,

I am not saying the argument that bridges the gap between ecclesial indefectibility and Papal infallibility can't be made. I just never have seen it made. A lot of folks apparently don't realize that there is a gap there.

whether indefectibility really answers the promises of Christ to lead us into all truth, unless we know where the Church is indefectible

Indefectibility says that the Apostolic Church will exist and will be faithful until the Parousia (heck, even the Lutheran Confessions say that). It does not mean that there will not be schisms nor that particular local Churches will not fall into heresy and schism; and it does not say that it will be easy to tell, when Churches divide, which of them has remained faithful. It is one thing to say that there will always be an orthodox fellowship of Apostolic Churches; it is quite another to say that one local Church in particular -- the diocese of Rome -- enjoys a guarantee that it will never fall into heresy or schism. It certainly doesn't say that explicitly in the Scriptures; and if it was handed down in the Apostolic Tradition there are several important local Apostolic Churches that didn't get the memo.

So indefectibility is not a matter of where, but a matter of faithfulness to the Apostolic Tradition. The Apostolic Tradition is replete with concrete witnesses to the unchanging faith of the Church; it is all the where that you need.

This seems reasonable enough to me, especially if you agree that logical necessity is not the only key to doctrinal development and articulation.

Not to me. There is no such thing as "development of doctrine." If you cannot show that your teaching and practice are Apostolic without recourse to "development," then you have failed.

Albert said...

Chris, am I understanding you correctly by saying that we know where the true Church is because it is where the Apostolic Tradition is? If so, how do you know what the contents of the Apostolic Tradition are?

And as a matter of interest, do you accept the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed or the Chalcedonian Definition? If so, are they not in any sense developments of doctrine?

Steve said...

Thank you, Chris and Albert, for your comments. They have clarified for me the absolutely essential point of Christianity - that it is about following and trusting, not a particular Church, not a particular eucharistic liturgy, not a particular corpus of doctrine, but a person.

William Tighe said...

The last comment sounds very nice, but in reality it is little more than a solipsistic nonsense. To follow and trust a person means that you have to be in communication with that person, two-way communication. The way in which Christians communicate with the person of the Saviour is through his body, the Church: Christians pray to God "in Christ," which is both "in the Church" and as incorporated in Christ through Baptism and Communion; and the Saviour communicates with his own through and in his body, the Church.

However, if "following and trusting" the Lord means imagining that one has an invisible "personal chum" who gives one direct personal guidance (should I marry that divorced woman; can I receive the sacraments from that nice lady vicar; can I enter a "faithful and monogamous" relationship with a member of my own sex), then one is simply trying to ascribe God's will and directions to what are one's own lucubrations. Even if one purports to ground such conclusions on "what I think that the Bible tells me," one is still exalting one's individual conceits and notions to a status that they can in no way bear.

Chris Jones said...

Albert,

I don't want you to think that I was ignoring your questions; but I fear that we (or I, at least) have trespassed too long on Fr Hunwicke's blog, which is not, after all, either polemical or apologetic in its purpose. My intent in my original comment was to express my puzzlement at Fr Hunwicke's comments, considered from Papalist principles. I oughtn't to have added my own dissent to that comment.

I had actually written a rather long and detailed reply to your questions, but again, I should not expect Fr Hunwicke to provide a forum for my views. If this exchange is worth continuing it would probably be better done off of this forum. If you want to pursue it you could e-mail me (ckewinjones (at) yahoo (dot com)).

Nevertheless, to give you the courtesy of a reply to your questions, I will answer briefly:

am I understanding you correctly by saying that we know where the true Church is because it is where the Apostolic Tradition is?

Yes.

If so, how do you know what the contents of the Apostolic Tradition are?

The witnesses to the Tradition are concrete and readily available: the Holy Scriptures, the writings of the Fathers, the Church's liturgy, the definitions of the councils, the ecumenical canons, and so forth. These witnesses, taken together over the centuries, all point to the one, unchanging canon of Truth. The Tradition is not abstract and mysterious; it is concrete and there for all to see.

And as a matter of interest, do you accept the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed or the Chalcedonian Definition?

Yes, because they bear witness to the unchanging canon of Truth.

If so, are they not in any sense developments of doctrine?

No, not in any sense for which "development" is really an appropriate, rather than a misleading, term.

Again, if you have any interest in my more detailed answers you could e-mail me.

Albert said...

Steve,

Certainly, Christianity is about trusting a person, but being sure that we are trusting Christ in all that he gives us requires more than just trusting our own judgment.

In trusting the Church one is trusting Christ, for God "has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all." Eph.1.22-23

That's why thse kinds of questions Chris and I are asking cannot be dismissed, but require answers - if we are serious about trusting Christ.

Chris, thanks for the invitation to email you - I'll be in touch!