18 June 2019

Dr Eric Mascall and the errors of Walter Kasper

One of our greatest Anglican Catholic theologians was the late Fr Mascall. When I was an undergraduate, he said his private (Tridentine) Mass daily at the Altar next to the Altar in S Mary Mags where I was hearing the public (Tridentine) Mass. He was as kind a man as he was a fine Thomist and a scholar of immense erudition. I cite below some passages in which he repeatedly emphasises that we err if we use the phrase "the Church" to mean "Christians now on earth". It really incorporates all those who have ever been incorporated by Baptism into Christ's Body and have not been lost. We must conclude from this that questions such as those about Marriage and sexuality are therefore not matters for individual local Churches to make decisions upon, nor even just for the whole state of Christ's Church now militant here in earth. 'Tradition' is the expression of this understanding. A shame Kasper and his like have never read Mascall. They would have understood, poor things, how obvious it is that the Church Universal, the Body of Christ throughout Space and Time, is ontologically [in the order of Being] prior to individual Particular Churches.

The Church is not merely "a society formed by the voluntary association of those individual Christians who are now on earth"; it is "rooted in the concrete historical events of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ ... we who are now on earth are only the last of sixty or so generations of Christians who have each in its turn made up the earthly Church ... There is a fine phrase in which tradition has been described as 'the democracy of the dead' ... But, since Christ has overcome death and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life, the Church which was once militant here upon earth in the past is the Church which is now triumphant and expectant beyond the grave. This is therefore not just the democracy of the dead but of the living, as God himself is not of the dead but of the living. "
" ... the Church  ... is not just the empirically manifested Church now militant on earth, but the archetypal Church which is nothing less than Christ's own manhood into which generations of Christians have been incorporated ..."
" ... at any particular epoch the Church militant is only a minute fraction of the Church Catholic... in the great living and growing organism which is the Body of Christ, we who are now on earth are not the successors of those who are now at rest and sleep in the sleep of peace or of the saints who now enjoy the beatific vision; we are their contemporaries, united with them by incorporation into the ascended Lord who is the Body's Head ..."
"If we identify the Church of God simply with the Church Militant, we shall look upon it as a society with membership that is constantly changing as new members enter it by baptism and old ones leave it by death, after the pattern of any other earthly society. If, however, we remember that the Church militant is only the lower fringe of the whole Church, we shall see the Church as an organism, a body which is constantly growing, which is being built up into the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ".

VIVAT the Anglican Patrimony!


GOR said...

Something that is unclear, or even unknown, to many people today is the true meaning of “The Mystical Body of Christ” - encompassing the Church Militant, Church Suffering and Church Triumphant. Rarely, if ever, does one hear a sermon on it these days. This probably stems from the avoidance of preaching on “The Four Last Things”.

As a result many people, consciously or unconsciously, think of this world and the present time as “It” - as if nothing else exists or existed. Chesterton’s “Democracy of the dead” is apt. He went on to say: “Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about…”

That is what we used to refer to as: putting things in their proper perspective and is a salient lesson for our time.

Matthew F Kluk said...

What a wonderful excerpt to publish. Of course Kasper will never see it and if he did he'd deny it's Truth. But thank you Father nonetheless.