11 November 2009

Back to before Nicaea

I skip the statements-of-the-obvious about our Holy Father's generosity in Anglicanorum coetibus (everybody else has been busy doing that) to make a couple of ecclesiological points.

In the nineteenth century, the appointment of bishops in the Latin church was, by a process of bureaucratic centralisation, removed from the local churches who, in primitive days, chose their own Bishop. Previously, various customary processes had survived in a lot of places: election, for example, by the Chapter. By the time that Canon Law came to be revised in the twentieth century, only a handful of examples of the old ways survived. The usage of the Western Church at this present time is that a diplomat - the nuncio - consults around and submits to Rome three names: a terna.

In AC, the terna, it is true, survives. But it is to be submitted to Rome by the Priests' Council, the Governing Body, of the Ordinariate. I find this remarkable ... and I wonder what some episcopal conferences will make of it. This is the first time for centuries that the centralising impetus of the Counter-Reformation has been rolled back. I am not surprised that it is this Pontiff who has done it; I wrote a post some months ago in which I speculated on just such a move by Benedict (you read it all first in Hunwicke). But I am surprised that it is in the Ordinariates erected for 'schismatical' Anglicans that he has made this move. It shows how very great is his confidence in Anglican Catholics. But then ... he has made it his business to find out about us. And (to return to another of my own brilliant diagnoses), since Papa Ratzinger is the first Anglican Pope, he clearly has a personal sympathy and fellow-feeling for us.

The second ecclesiological point is the power he gives to Governing Bodies with regard to the admission of candidates to Holy Orders. Gregory Dix, our Anglican Catholic scourge of prelacy, loved to point out that Jurisdiction, as we know it, did not exist in the early church. "One only has to read the anxious apologies which Cyprian sends to his clergy for having in an emergency ordained a subdeacon and a lector without their express consent, to realise how limited was the bishop's prerogative in such matters. ... in the pre-Nicene Church the bishop's part is simply the essential sacramental act of laying on hands, for which episcopal orders are the indispensible qualification. But he cannot exercise this power at his own discretion, but only with the consent of his church".

For years now, we Anglican Catholics have prided ourselves on having made the rediscovery, through experiencing the Flying Bishop system, of true, unprelatical, episcopacy. Quite a long time ago Rutupiensis said "Remember, fathers, that the only jurisdiction we have is what you give us". We're very proud of this; and I for one regard it as one of the most valuable elements of our Patrimony.

I am glad the Holy Father does too. And I am very impressed by the extent to which he has identified and tried to preserve our Patrimony. Patrimony is not just a matter of Choral Evensong with Vergers and Stanford in Z Flat; and Needlework.

Not that Needlework is without its significance. I hope to return tomorrow with some thoughts about the Pope and the Needlework.


Anonymous said...

Excellent point, Father. I am absolutely amazed at how charitable and gracious the Constitution is. Would we have thought to ask for such a thing as the Pope has offered?

But Father, I do believe Anglican Chant is one our finest patrimonalities(sp?). I have seen well rendered An.Ct. tranquilize even the most prickly of individuals, especially when the appointed Psalm is number 78. The beautiful thing is that anyone who can count to "ten" can sing it!

Simon Cotton said...

You'll have us all in stitches tomorrow.

Священник села said...

You'll have us all in stitches tomorrow.

Only if he follows this thread.

Michael McDonough said...

I had noted myself, but not internalized, the point you make here, Fr. H, regarding appointment of bishops. I was not aware that the local selection approaches had only been superceded in the 19th century. But, it has long seemed to me a logical necessity for the future that some forms of local selection or election, with subsequent approval by the Pope, would need to be formulated.

The "problem", as I see it, with its (re)institution currently is the nasty politicization of the Church in the West, such that the claim would certainly be made that the Church was acknowledging its democratic and non-hierarchic, "new nature". The "power politics" approach.

I think the Pope is displaying a great deal of trust in Anglorum coetibus, and I think it makes a great deal of common sense. Since your "tradition" includes such procedures, you will not receive this "law" in the silly way, say, a Richard McBrien would interpret it (will that be his retirement project?). Thus, the whole Church will gain from your example, and the "best practices" (as they say in the inhumanity of the Corporate World) can be approved elsewhere eventually.

I might add that I wouldn't be surprised if Benedict had something analagous in mind with respect to the possibilities envisioned in the Constitution with respect to ordaining married men as priests. (Perhaps that's too much of tea leaves, but I'm not an activist one way or t'other.)

I think it puts those who decide to take up the Pope's offer under AC under a perhaps too bright spotlight, but I suspect that the grace of God will be available all the more abundantly.

Maurice said...

"Our" Holy Father? Really?

Anonymous said...

I missed it, but I think it should be "H" (flat); recall those dandy fantasia by Max Reger and Franz Liszt?



Fr John Hunwicke said...

Maurice intrigues me.

My reading of the decrees of Vatican I on the Papal Primacy is that the Bishop of Rome exercises a jurisdiction de jure over all the baptised.

If Maurice denies this, I wonder who is the heretic?

Canon Jerome Lloyd OSJV said...

Fr Hunwicke. Did Dom Gregory Dix ever convert to Rome and if not, why not?

William Tighe said...

For Gregory Dix's attitude towards Rome, see my:


Steve said...

Maurice isn't the only one who (if he does) denies that "the Bishop of Rome exercises a jurisdiction de jure over all the baptised". I deny it: so does the vast majority of the membership of the Church of England.

Do you think Papa Ben will try to have us all thrown out of the C of E for heresy? What interesting times we live in!

Anonymous said...

But Steve, the "vast majority of the membership of the Church of England" are wrong.

Steve said...

Throw us out then!

Anonymous said...

OK. I think Kata Guruma will do the trick.

Kata Guruma, "the form of a wheel."

O my God, make them like unto a wheel, and as the stubble before the wind; Psalm lxxxiii.13.