Saturday, 18 July 2009

after General Convention...

Updated Sunday morning

Some media reports:

Associated Press Episcopalians: Bishops can bless same-sex unions

Reuters Episcopal Church moves toward blessing gay unions

Los Angeles Times Episcopal leaders affirm new policy on same-sex blessings

New York Times Pared-Down Episcopal Church Is Looking to Grow Through ‘Inclusivity’

Some comment:

Guardian Jim Naughton Face to faith

And some heavyweight analysis:

Wall Street Journal Philip Jenkins Their Separate Ways

And some simple explanation:

Changing Attitude Caro Hall Is this the Schism (finally)?

…The Presiding Bishop has stated in a letter to Rowan Williams and the other Primates ‘This General Convention has not repealed Resolution B033. It remains to be seen how Resolution B033 will be understood and interpreted in light of Resolution D025. Some within our Church may understand Resolution D025 to give Standing Committees (made up of elected clergy and laity) and Bishops with jurisdiction more latitude in consenting to Episcopal elections. Others, in light of Resolution B033, will not.’

So once again this resolution ‘holds the tension’ and provides a big tent within which people of many different theological stripes can come together. It’s classical Anglicanism – both/and not either/or and that drives some people crazy!

The Presiding Bishop describes D025 as descriptive not prescriptive and that’s probably what she’ll say about C056 as well which allows bishops to make a ‘generous pastoral response’ to those in same-gender relationships. It also calls for collecting and developing theological and liturgical materials for blessing same-gender relationships. It does not go as far as developing a rite for public blessings.

Just like D025 the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. How bishops interpret this will depend on their local circumstances. America is a big country and things vary a lot from place to place so local discernment makes a lot of sense…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 18 July 2009 at 7:31am BST | TrackBack
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: ECUSA
Comments

Oh Jim Naughton you are brilliant. The piece in the Guardian sums up so much I have been thinking this week, not least that there were 15 - fifteen! - Primates let alone other wonderful people from the wider communion like Jenny Te Paa at the General Convention. When was the last time 15 Primates turned up to the Church of England General Synod? The next Australian General Synod, set for Melbourne in 2010, will be lucky to have one Primate there, let alone 15. This ability to foster face-to-face relationships, and real interchange based on trust and committed conversation, is what communion is about.

Posted by: MrsBarlow on Saturday, 18 July 2009 at 12:33pm BST

Philip Jenkins in the WSJ: " It remains to be seen whether the Anglican Church in North America can appeal to mainstream Episcopalians who are uncomfortable with its strongly evangelical-charismatic flavor."

This is a point commenters don't often make and it's an important one. A lot of us who are Episcopalian are just not going to want to join a PowerPoint church with "blended music" but little of the Prayer Book, led by authoritarian clergy who conduct miracle healing services, speak in tongues, and practice an intrusive, micromanaging pastoral style. The pastor who thumps the Bible and shouts that "every word is the Word of God!" doesn't go down well with mainstream Episcopalians. We aren't Creationists. We like to be able to use our minds, even at church.

So how are things overseas? I keep hearing that the Church of England is dominated by Evangelicals and Charismatics, too, but I don't have much direct experience to go on. Do you have "pastors" and lay people who receive direct revelations about coming events through the Spirit? Do you have "prayer warriors" to support them? Do your clergy believe in the reality of demonic possession?

Posted by: Charlotte on Saturday, 18 July 2009 at 2:23pm BST

Well, I'm not English but I haven't seen anything of that, while visiting Charlotte, rather it tends towards the Catholic, but not Roman.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Saturday, 18 July 2009 at 7:16pm BST

re #2 Whilst the sound of 'prayer warriors' has me shuddering, I find the implication that creationists don't have brains somewhat patronising and am frankly amazed that you pour scorn on the reality of demonic possesion. Have you never read the Gospels or the book of Acts? Have you never used that 'brain' you like to excercise to ask why Jesus spoke more of hell than heaven and performed more exorcisms than almost any other form of healing within his earthly ministry...


...sheesh (at the risk of being inflammatory) it really does seem to me that many liberals have left no room for mystical encounter and supernatural grace. The faith based on a paranormal God who irrupts into this world is demythologised into a set of fairy tales and folklore. Tell me- how ARE you different to the politicians working for world peace in the United Nations offices?

Posted by: Ed Tomlinson on Saturday, 18 July 2009 at 7:39pm BST

Blessings and thanks to JNaughton and others, who help forge a thinking path through all the spin doctoring that has once again revved up, following the two GC resolutions.

I was just starting to think that a sort of common thread flowed beneath both new resolutions - the thread of recognizing, creating, reaffirming a rather traditionalistic Anglican leeway - applicable to both discerning deacons/priests/bishops, as to discerning prayers/blessings for committed same sex couples who might be civilly married in some states. A leeway of multiple levels, believers in good discernment together, not a leeway of jurisprudence and police and punishment. Very Anglican, then?

Then I got to read JN. Yes, yes, yes, yes.

Cling to this clarity of believers pushing back, committed to redistributing the brunt of the tensions. That is quite to the theoretical and real world point, in a flash.

Some burdens I would dearly love to see folks like Wright of Durham and Rowan Williams of Canterbury take up in all weight and complexity?

Well, let's start with two things which are more or less driving change. Let's start with - having to hang out with Out Honest queer folks for an extended period of time, and listen instead of preaching flat earth nonsense about them. Add to that, join them in some effective service to others for a significant time, as well. I'd also like to see that anybody who wants to spout off about queer folks have to be accountable to the peer reviewed competency literatures, period. No more free rides, because queer folks all by their special awful selves allegedly cause Fulcrum or AngMain or Wright or Canterbury to get creepy crawly sensations in their pants. No more dealing with negatives, apart from empirical literature testing data.

If bearing tensions or burdens were more equally distributed, the ranges might still be pretty much what they long have been and are; but the conversations would surely shift. Then we could talk about a shared basis of listening up close and personal to queer folks and of doing Tikkun service up close and personal with them. Then we could weight collectively the disconfirming empirical literatures, because we were doing our homework.

I think we would release valve a lot of very super heated air, right out of windbags in every spectrum.

Posted by: drdanfee on Saturday, 18 July 2009 at 7:55pm BST

Fantastic news. Isaiah 56:3 "And let not any eunuch complain, "I am only a dry tree.""

Charlotte, there are those kinds of Christians overseas. It's really amusing when they show such gifts as it is seen as jesus' blessings, but when they manifest in those who don't agree with them the same gifts are seen as from "the evil one".

Such ignored that God shows no partiality (Malachi 2:9) and recognises righteousness where it can be found.

Matthew 25:41 "'Depart from me... For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'"

Look at God's promise to those who mete out food (including companionship) and shelter (including compassion) in Isaiah 57:6-8 ""Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard."

Posted by: Cheryl Va. on Saturday, 18 July 2009 at 8:10pm BST

Charlotte,

I'm C of E. 'Evangelicals' cover a pretty wide range (from much more 'liberal' than Tom Wright to biblical fundamentalists). There are Charismatics and 'managerial', bullying churches (mostly fringe or ex-Anglican). Generally speaking, 'Evangelicans' (of some stripe) claim to be the only ones growing, and, certainly, there are some big successes. 'Liberal' churches are not very 'liberal' (though they provide a safe space for those individuals who are); there are plenty of 'mainstream' Anglicans; there are also 'Anglo-Catholics', some anti-WO and very pro-Rome, some 'liberal'. Difficult to generalise, I think. But there's little reason to fear a take-over by extremists, though there are certainly battles to be fought. In practice, three stabilising factors are: (1) British society is really very secular, in many obvious ways more so than the States; (2) the C of E as Established Church can't afford to get too far out of line with this; (3) more and more, the whole thing is funded by the congregations of individual churches.

John.

Posted by: john on Saturday, 18 July 2009 at 8:34pm BST

Don't worry Charlotte, the C of E is not like this and never shall be. The Anglo-Saxon spirit is too down to earth for this ! And even in the Celtic countries and communities of the UK the dreamy mystical vein gets channeled (pardon expression) differently from the kind of passe old fashion practices that give you some concern.

British religion by and large just isn't this exciting --thank goodness !

'So how are things overseas? I keep hearing that the Church of England is dominated by Evangelicals and Charismatics, too, but I don't have much direct experience to go on. Do you have "pastors" and lay people who receive direct revelations about coming events through the Spirit? Do you have "prayer warriors" to support them? Do your clergy believe in the reality of demonic possession?'

Posted by: Charlotte on Saturday, 18 July 2009 at 2:23pm BST

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Saturday, 18 July 2009 at 10:49pm BST

Ed,
You've been reading too much of Jack Spong.

Most "liberals" in the church have plenty of room for mystery and the supernatural. For one, we don't think that God's revelation ceased about 1800 years ago when the canon of Scripture was closed, but that the Spirit continues to be active in the world and continues to reveal God and God's will. One of the subtexts of the debate over Kevin Thew Forrester's election in Northern Michigan concerned the possibility of spiritual encounters in new and different ways. D025 comes right out and states that we don't know how or why God calls certain people to ordained ministry.

On the whole, I find liberals much more comfortable with uncertainty and mysticism than fundamentalists who want everything black and white. (and a literalist interpretation of the Scriptures means we take the improbable stories not as mystery but as fact)

Posted by: Jim Pratt on Sunday, 19 July 2009 at 3:15am BST

"I find the implication that creationists don't have brains somewhat patronising"

Creationists are, at best, about one iota at most brighter than Flat Earthers.

There is nothing to respect about their willed ignorance.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Sunday, 19 July 2009 at 5:06am BST

The 39 articles affirm that churches can err..so how do you know this is not an error?

As for quotes from Isaiah, what of the statment by that prophet under the inspiration of God....
Wo to those who call evil good....

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Sunday, 19 July 2009 at 6:27am BST

The Celtic Fringe, up here is Scotland anyhow, is very liberal and reasonably mystical, I think. More so both than the C of E .... we hope.

Posted by: RosemaryHannah on Sunday, 19 July 2009 at 8:54am BST

"The 39 articles affirm that churches can err..so how do you know this is not an error?"

We don't--but neither do you...nor anyone else...know for sure that it is. Each of us...singly and collectively...answers God's call in our own way, interprets the Spirit's words to us in our own way. Yes, sometimes our answers and interpretations will be wrong...but that is, to me, the point of "big-tent" Anglicanism. Only by agreeing that all of us hear the Spirit's voice and respond to it in faith and love can we let the Spirit act in this world--eventually the Spirit's true direction will become known.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Sunday, 19 July 2009 at 11:57am BST

"I find the implication that creationists don't have brains somewhat patronising"
Personally, I lament the lack of scientific literacy in the "educated" world. It is intellectually sloppy to willfully disregard the wonderful revelations we have been given regarding the elements of creation.
Mysticism should not be used as an excuse to explain away either a lack of education or, alternatively, a willing blindness to our present state of knowledge - they are different beasts.
I say this with a heavy heart and not from any desire to disrespect others. Nevertheless, so far, every creationist I know speaks from a position of little paleontological, biological, genetic, molecular etcetra knowledge but rather from a shallow perspective that ignores the knowledge that has been painfully acquired - with God's grace and help - over the centuries and without help from organized religion. Little wonder that a major portion of society has lost faith in such religion - especially when such ignorance is still extant on the web.

Posted by: ettu on Sunday, 19 July 2009 at 12:07pm BST

As an addendum to my previous post, I feel that "creationists", unfortunately, have no concept of the mischief that they do in making their brand of religion a laughingstock to much of the world - and this is a real impediment to many in their search for God.

Posted by: ettu on Sunday, 19 July 2009 at 1:03pm BST

"Creationists are, at best, about one iota at most brighter than Flat Earthers."

In my opinion, the Flat Earthers are the only true Creationists. If you truly believe that God wrote every word of Scripture, and that it is as inerrant as Muslims believe the Quran to be, then the only model of the cosmos completely consistent with the text of the creation accounts in Genesis is a flat earth. Otherwise, lines like the "dome of the sky" and "opening the windows of the heavens" to let it rain don't make much sense.

"I find the implication that creationists don't have brains somewhat patronising."

Well, in order to cling to the belief that the opening chapters of Genesis are a science textbook, then you have to willfully ignore about 2 centuries worth of geological and biological science. Growing up in a region dominated by literal minded fundamentalists, I've always noticed that the vilification of modern science ended at the Emergency Room admissions desk. I remember when the Powers That Be in the Southern Baptist Church wanted Baylor University to teach Creationism. They didn't back down when the entire science faculty threatened to quit en masse. They did back down when the State of Texas threatened to withdraw accreditation from their medical school.

Most of us are here in the Episcopal Church because we are refugees from this kind of stuff. And "stuff" it is.
We believe that Christianity is about God's infinite and saving Love in the Incarnation and the Resurrection, not about mindless superstition and bigotry.

Posted by: counterlight on Sunday, 19 July 2009 at 2:00pm BST

Dear Ed, I think those of us who are catholic anglicans believe wholeheartedly in grace but see it primarily MEDIATED through the God-given regular means of grace,within an understanding of the Church as Christ's Body, instrumental in mediating God's salvation to his people ( see the ARCIC document Salvation in the Church )We also see ecclesiology in the order Christ-Church-Individual rather than Christ-individual apprehension of justification by faith-looking around for a church essentially conceived as a fellowship of the justified...which owes more to the evangelicalism stemming from the evangelicalism of revivalism rather than the dlassical Reformers.A lot of this also stems from different understandings of nature and grace. It would help, I rather think, if anglicans did some internal ecumenism, going back to basics, as Abp Fisher asked catholics and anglicans to do in the early 1950's.The reports published then still repay study..but actually few anglicans today seem to have much historical awareness of, or engagement with, their own tradition.A fresh anglican appraisal of "reformed catholicism" might be a good way to start.

Posted by: Perry Butler on Sunday, 19 July 2009 at 3:12pm BST

Robert Ian Williams

'The 39 articles affirm that churches can err..so how do you know this is not an error?

As for quotes from Isaiah, what of the statment by that prophet under the inspiration of God....
Wo to those who call evil good....'

Okay, are you calling the resolutions that have been passed an 'error', or 'evil'? There is a significant difference between the two.

Also, the Isaiah quote you refer to could just as well have been used to respond to coverage of the defeat of the resolutions, had that happened.

Posted by: Sam on Sunday, 19 July 2009 at 3:22pm BST

Well as a Roman Catholic I believe that my Church in its official pronouncements on faith and morals can never err and that the pope confirms the brethren.

Homosexual practice is described by the Catholic Church in the official Universal Catechism as acts of grave depravity. In the Catechism of Christian Doctrine published by CTS and approved by the present English and Welsh bishops it is described as one of the four sins that cries for vengeance from Heaven. Pretty strong stuff. However the Church also tells us that there should be no unjust discrimination against persons who carry this cross and endeavour to conform their lives to the Chastity.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Sunday, 19 July 2009 at 6:19pm BST

Well, we already know that the RC church is institutionally homophobic, Robert, which is why I reject its beliefs. However, that is no reason for any other church or any other organisation, for that matter, to follow the same path. I would also never accept the views (personal opinions ) of any individual or organisation as 'truth', as I prefer to use my brain, and because the present Pope is not an individual worthy of respect in my view.

Posted by: Merseymike on Sunday, 19 July 2009 at 7:31pm BST

So, RIW, you're saying that you accept as inerrant the declaration that a loving, committed same-sex relationship is a "grave depravity" and "cries for vengeance from Heaven"? That's some Church you've got there! ... and some "God". You're welcome to them.

Thanks for reminding me why I'm happy I'm not a Roman Catholic. I just don't have the Orwellian gift for accepting every piece of officially promulgated ecclessiastical nonsense as infallible.... like this precious tidbit:

"It firmly believes, professes and preaches that all those who are outside the catholic church, not only pagans but also Jews or heretics and schismatics, cannot share in eternal life and will go into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless they are joined to the catholic church before the end of their lives; that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is of such importance that only for those who abide in it do the church's sacraments contribute to salvation and do fasts, almsgiving and other works of piety and practices of the Christian militia produce eternal rewards; and that nobody can be saved, no matter how much he has given away in alms and even if he has shed his blood in the name of Christ, unless he has persevered in the bosom and the unity of the catholic church." (Council of Florence session 11 -February 4, 1442)

Posted by: WilliamK on Sunday, 19 July 2009 at 8:39pm BST

"The 39 articles affirm that churches can err..so how do you know this is not an error?"

Because Churches aren't God?

Look, Robert, both the Church of Rome and the Churches of the Anglican Communion are susceptible to error. The difference is that my Church is honest about it.

Posted by: BillyD on Sunday, 19 July 2009 at 10:15pm BST

"Tell me- how ARE you different to the politicians working for world peace in the United Nations offices?"

Tell me, Ed T, who's "pouring scorn" here?

I think there are PLENTY of non-Christian "politicians working for world peace in the United Nations offices" who will be admitted to Heaven BEFORE Christians (so-called) of EITHER the 39 Articles *or* Daily Mass/Nightly Rosary varieties. Sheesh!

As for "supernatural": I don't pretend to *understand* God-in-Christ . . . I just EAT him! ;-D

Posted by: JCF on Monday, 20 July 2009 at 5:05am BST

RIW,

2357 extends rather weak arguments against homosexuality: "They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity."

Why must these old tiresome arguments be trotted out? There is "homosexuality" in other species, marital relations after menopause aren't forbidden, and straight folks like me can write pages of arguments against "sexual complementarity."

Actually, the justifications provided in 2357 work well as an argument against celibacy

(It's kind of funny, I have a copy of the current RC catechism in my library, but most of my cradle RC friends don't.)

Posted by: Lynn on Monday, 20 July 2009 at 6:35am BST

A comment on RIW's comment on the infallibility of the RC church: not long ago a cardinal in Rome made this statement about +Gene Robinson to an Anglican priest (not me, to be sure, but to a male priest). The problem isn't that his partner is a man, a priest, a bishop, even a cardinal can have a woman or a man, that doesn't matter (boys will be boys?) but they must be discreet. Luckily the comment wasn't made to me or I would have replied, Oh yes, what we call hypocrisy in my church.

Posted by: Sara MacVane on Monday, 20 July 2009 at 6:56am BST

Lets be frank about this. Catholic seminaries in this country are full of closet gays, and from an insider contact I have, they are certainly not celibate.

Everyone knows this to be so, and Hypocrisy is certainly the H-word which should be causing concern

Posted by: Merseymike on Monday, 20 July 2009 at 11:25am BST

"Well as a Roman Catholic I believe that my Church in its official pronouncements on faith and morals can never err and that the pope confirms the brethren."

Really, RIW? Then why did the Pope have to, within recent years, renounce the 500-year-old excommunication of Galileo? If the church's official pronouncements on faith (and its statements and actions on Galileo were just that) are never wrong, what was there for the Pope to renounce?

Similarly, why did Vatican II make such a point about changing RC attitudes toward our Jewish brethren, especially as expressed in such things as the Good Friday services? Are these not also official pronouncements of faith that were, eventually, perceived to have been in error?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 20 July 2009 at 11:29am BST

Sara McVane is on the side of the angels here. Though none of us has any way of telling how typical such an attitude is. What we do know is that it is not Christian: Jesus in Mk 4 spoke of 'secret' things being shouted from the rooftops (point being the Jonah-like foolishness of thinking anything can possibly be secret from God in the first place. Jonah sets off for Tarsheesh rather than Nineveh: 'Single to Tarsheesh, please.' 'Where's that?' 'God knows! - or, rather, I hope He doesn't.').

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Monday, 20 July 2009 at 1:14pm BST

"However the Church also tells us that there should be no unjust discrimination against persons who carry this cross and endeavour to conform their lives to the Chastity."

You know, coming from a Roman, and a convert at that, this is just a bit much. Given everything that we now know the Church has been party to in North America in this century alone, can you give one reason why Rome, of all the bishops on Earth, has any right, much less the moral authority, to make such a statement? Honestly, Rome has a lot more atoning to do yet for Her own odious sexual sins before She can presume to speak with any credibility at all on what She sees as the sexual sins of others. Frankly, given Rome's behaviour over just the last 50 years, I really don't think Rome would recognize a sexual sin if it walked up and slapped the Pope in the face.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 20 July 2009 at 1:28pm BST

Perry Butler's comment is like water in a desert. Why have we allowed so many extremists to get away with thinking that they are the real catholic voice of the Church of England?

Posted by: toby forward on Monday, 20 July 2009 at 2:28pm BST

Building on what Toby Forward said -- are Archbishop Fisher's books available on Project Canterbury or other Web sources?

Is there anyone who wants to produce a study guide or adult education course that uses his books (and others)?

Posted by: Charlotte on Monday, 20 July 2009 at 3:30pm BST

Dear folks , I am relating the official Catholic position.

Of course there is hypocrisy..there is in every religion ( apparently homosexual practice is widespread amongst the Taliban) ...but the difference is if the Cardinal exists in Sara's story... he knows that he will be kicked out if he pronounces it in public.

Furthermore doesn't it show that the Church is protected by the holy Spirit... as if the membership is so bad, why hasn't the doctrine been changed to put it in line?

As for Galileo that is an objection often trotted out and you should go to Catholic answers.com for the age old answer.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Monday, 20 July 2009 at 6:10pm BST

Pat O'Neil.. we still believe that the Gospel is necessary for the Jews as it is for the Gentiles. Its a question of nuance...but the doctrine is the same...as was revealed in the revised prayer for the Jews in the Tridentine Rite.

We don't tell Protestants , your church is false, but we say the same thing in more nuanced terms..following St Paul, " we become a Greek to the Greeks and to a Jew, a Jew."

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Monday, 20 July 2009 at 9:46pm BST

"Then why did the Pope have to, within recent years, renounce the 500-year-old excommunication of Galileo?"

Minor point, I suppose, but of course Galileo was never excommunicated.

Posted by: rick allen on Monday, 20 July 2009 at 11:10pm BST

RIW:

want to give a real citation for that? I go to "catholicanswers.com" and search on Galileo and it only gives me commercial sites for things like Galileo telescopes.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 20 July 2009 at 11:40pm BST

"Furthermore doesn't it show that the Church is protected by the holy Spirit... as if the membership is so bad, why hasn't the doctrine been changed to put it in line?"

Well, not unless Islam (not to mention all sorts of other religions not given to change) is also protected by the Holy Spirit.

Posted by: BillyD on Monday, 20 July 2009 at 11:46pm BST

"We don't tell Protestants , your church is false, but we say the same thing in more nuanced terms..."

Perhaps you are not being as nuanced as you think, sometimes. It very often seems as if you go out of your way to emphasize the fact that you believe Anglicanism is false.

Posted by: BillyD on Tuesday, 21 July 2009 at 1:48am BST

Anti-Catholics often assert that Gallieo's conviction and later rehabilitation somehow disproves the doctrine of papal infallibility, but this is not the case, for the pope never tried to make an infallible ruling concerning Galileo’s views.

The Church has never claimed ordinary tribunals, such as the one that judged Galileo, to be infallible. Church tribunals have disciplinary and juridical authority only; neither they nor their decisions are infallible.

No ecumenical council met concerning Galileo, and the pope was not at the center of the discussions, which were handled by the Holy Office. When the Holy Office finished its work, Urban VIII ratified its verdict, but did not attempt to engage infallibility.

Three conditions must be met for a pope to exercise the charism of infallibility: (1) he must speak in his official capacity as the successor of Peter; (2) he must speak on a matter of faith or morals; and (3) he must solemnly define the doctrine as one that must be held by all the faithful.

In Galileo’s case, the second and third conditions were not present, and possibly not even the first. Catholic theology has never claimed that a mere papal ratification of a tribunal decree is an exercise of infallibility. It is a straw man argument to represent the Catholic Church as having infallibly defined a scientific theory that turned out to be false. The strongest claim that can be made is that the Church of Galileo’s day issued a non-infallible disciplinary ruling concerning a scientist who was advocating a new and still-unproved theory and demanding that the Church change its understanding of Scripture to fit his.

It is a good thing that the Church did not rush to embrace Galileo’s views, because it turned out that his ideas were not entirely correct, either. Galileo believed that the sun was not just the fixed center of the solar system but the fixed center of the universe. We now know that the sun is not the center of the universe and that it does move—it simply orbits the center of the galaxy rather than the earth.

As more recent science has shown, both Galileo and his opponents were partly right and partly wrong. Galileo was right in asserting the mobility of the earth and wrong in asserting the immobility of the sun. His opponents were right in asserting the mobility of the sun and wrong in asserting the immobility of the earth.

Had the Catholic Church rushed to endorse Galileo’s views—and there were many in the Church who were quite favorable to them—the Church would have embraced what modern science has disproved.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Tuesday, 21 July 2009 at 7:23am BST

RIW
So are you saying the papal view on homosexuality is an infallible ruling?

I had a chuckle the other day when I read that the Pope now says that babies who die without having been baptised no longer reside in limbo for eternity, but that they will go to heaven where they are perfectly happy, albeit removed from God.

So if everything your church proclaims is true at all times, then babies who died before the current pope changed the doctrines are in limbo, whereas from now on all unbaptised babies will go to heaven.

Or isn't it rather a case that discernment moves on in the RC church, just as it does in any other church?
The mechanisms are different, but the understanding that our view of God and of his will changes over time is the same.

And there are many highly sophisticated Catholic theologians who are making very complex arguments for women priests and in favour of homosexuality. They are not being silenced by Rome, the discussion is broadening out just as in the Protestant churches, and the future verdict is still open. But Rome has shown often enough that it is, indeed, capable of new discernment.
It really is not as unsophisticated and unintelligent as you try to present it here.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 21 July 2009 at 8:53am BST

'As more recent science has shown, both Galileo and his opponents were partly right and partly wrong. Galileo was right in asserting the mobility of the earth and wrong in asserting the immobility of the sun. His opponents were right in asserting the mobility of the sun and wrong in asserting the immobility of the earth.'

A minor detail -- Galileo did not imprison, threaten and bully those with whom he disagreed. He wrote , discussed and published.

The RC denomination has yet to learn this lesson.

(In common with other denomiantions).

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Tuesday, 21 July 2009 at 9:16am BST

'Dear Ed, I think those of us who are catholic anglicans believe wholeheartedly in grace but see it primarily MEDIATED through the God-given regular means of grace,within an understanding of the Church as Christ's Body, instrumental in mediating God's salvation to his people...'

Many of us find much more grace mediated in pubs, discos, concerts, markets, parks and encounters with friends, neighbours or strangers, than in the goings on in church premises and rituals. Hope often do they / we come away from a special service or an ordinary one, or a funeral very disappointed or even disillusioned ?

(There are some abysmal funerals up and down the UK every day of the week. And a visit to one's parish church come Sunday may not be much better).

Too often basic kindness, and common humanity is lacking ...

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Tuesday, 21 July 2009 at 9:26am BST

'Too often basic kindness, and common humanity is lacking ...'

Absolutely right, though not so much of (many of) our churches as of many of our leaders. Don't start me on Tom Wright but he so lacks compassion. On the other hand, I continue to believe that Sentamu and Williams do have it.

Posted by: john on Tuesday, 21 July 2009 at 10:24am BST

"Had the Catholic Church rushed to endorse Galileo’s views—and there were many in the Church who were quite favorable to them—the Church would have embraced what modern science has disproved."

Rather, it would have shown that it was open to revising second- and third-order beliefs in the light of scientific exploration and discovery...allowing it to shift again when Galilean and Copernican cosmology were nuanced and replaced by newer observations.

Sort of like what it ought to be doing now regarding the science of human sexuality.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 21 July 2009 at 11:39am BST

"Many of us find much more grace mediated in pubs, discos, concerts, markets, parks and encounters with friends, neighbours or strangers, than in the goings on in church premises and rituals."

"Dear mother, dear mother, the church is cold,
But the ale-house is healthy and pleasant and warm..."

Posted by: BillyD on Tuesday, 21 July 2009 at 12:47pm BST

I notice in the discussions of Galileo that no one mentions that he was threatened with torture (shown the rack with the clear threat that it would be used), and that the evidence used to convict him was fraudulent ( a forged letter from Cardinal Bellarmine that was signed by neither the writer nor the recipient). The trial avoided matters of substance and concentrated on legal minutiae. Was Galileo specifically prohibited by hierarchical order from advocating and publishing certain views, and did he disobey that order? Galileo insisted that he never received any such specific order, and had a signed letter from Cardinal Bellarmine to that effect. The Holy Office manufactured another different letter from Bellarmine.

Pope Urban VIII Barberini was furious, and wanted Galileo convicted no matter what. He felt that he had been personally insulted and hoodwinked by Galileo's book The Starry Messenger. The last thing the pope wanted was a fair trial and an open discussion of the substance of Galileo's work. He wanted what he got, Galileo permanently silenced and under life-long house arrest.

The end result was to stop science throughout Catholic Europe into the 19th century. Science became a largely Protestant enterprise after the trial.

Posted by: counterlight on Tuesday, 21 July 2009 at 1:06pm BST

"Dear folks , I am relating the official Catholic position."

And you, and Rome, are perfectly free to continue doing that. I'm merely pointing out that it is a blatant display of hypocrisy, it angers quite a number of people, who then denounce Rome as essentially unchanged WRT to this hypocrisy and, despite the window dressing of Vatican II, and who scorn her as a result. If you don't care that people think that way, or that Rome is thus a laughing stock in wide swaths of society, with the resultant loss of credibility for the Church, and ultimately the Gospel, then, b'y, fill yer boots! It's just funny how this need to feel in some way opposed by the world is so strong, knows no denominational boundaries, and in every case is used as a means of abdicating responsibility for one's own actions. It's the same as the conservatives claiming violation of their freedom of speech if anyone tries to stop them fomenting anti-gay hatred.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 21 July 2009 at 2:14pm BST

Dear Revd L Roberts, I agree completely re "common grace" as Niebuhr termed it. But that too is a form of mediated grace as you say, unlike "signs and wonders", miraculous healings etc and the tendency in some places to see these as the normal way God relates to his people.Kindness is a fruit of the spirit whereever it is to be found, and "graced humanity" when I encounter it is always a sort of ephiphany.

Posted by: perry butler on Tuesday, 21 July 2009 at 3:58pm BST

"The end result was to stop science throughout Catholic Europe into the 19th century. Science became a largely Protestant enterprise."

Of course, especially those good Protestants Descartes, Gassendi, Pascal, Boscovich, Steno, Lavoirsier, Mendel, et cet.

Por favor....

Posted by: rick allen on Tuesday, 21 July 2009 at 4:17pm BST

Robert Ian Williams wrote: "No ecumenical council met concerning Galileo...."

Fair enough. So, let's discuss, therefore, the Council of Constance (1415), which condemned Jan Hus, violated the letter of indemnity under which he had traveled to the council assembly, and had him burned at the stake on July 6, 1415. The Church has actually expressed regret for this abomination. Yet, still, it doesn't seem to recognize that events like the condemnation, betrayal, and brutal execution of this conscientious and holy man show the lie to claim of institutional infallibility.

To add to Hus's name: Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer, William Tyndale.

You can respond with Thomas More, Edmund Campion, and others. HOWEVER, my church doesn't claim infallibility... and we never had an official policy of executing heretics.

For our next installment... the Popes' creation and enforcements of the Roman Ghetto into the 19th century....

Posted by: WilliamK on Tuesday, 21 July 2009 at 4:31pm BST

"In short, we did not resolve the tensions either in our church or in the communion, but we learned better how to bear with one another as we attempt to discern the will of God. I'd like to think that is a contribution to the larger church.
- Jim Naughton, in 'The Guardian' -

Once again, Jim Naughton says it how it really is - a masterpiece of distillation of the essence of what went on at General Convention 2009. One has to admire Bishop Katherine and TEC for their willingness to face to critics of the persistently conservative batallions who seem hell-bent on maintaining the homophobic status quo which is alive and well in many parts of the Communion.

Thank God for those who are willing to lose face for the sake of the Gospel ethic of inclusivity!
Honesty about one's own sexual nature is not unknown in the writings of the Desert Father (and Mothers?). Perhaps now is the time for all LBGT Christians to stake their claim to an authentic place in the life and ministry of the Church. The sooner the whole Church gets used to being honest about the place of sexuality in all our lives (bearing in mind both its negative and positive influence) the better.

One myth that really needs to be exploded is that gays actually get to choose the way they are made. Has anyone ever suggested that heterosexual people get to choose the way they are made? This, and other important questions, need to be faced honestly and without recourse to inbuilt and generally unhelpful quasi-biblical propaganda.

The Windsor Plan was that everyone should listen to what the LBGT community have to say about their own lives, and how they connect their sexual nature with their view of, and reverence for, the Christ of the Gospels. This seems to have hardly yet begun.

At least, the G.C. statement might help to overcome the inertia present in the Church on this and other important issues of relationships.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 21 July 2009 at 6:30pm BST

"Well as a Roman Catholic I believe that my Church in its official pronouncements on faith and morals can never err and that the pope confirms the brethren." - Robert Ian Williams -

Spoken like a good Roman Catholic neophyte, Robert. I would have been surprised to hear you thought any differently - at least not now, since your conversion from protestant anglicanism.

However, as a dyed-in-the-wool Anglican myself, I have to challenge your certitude in the area of magisterial inerrancy in the Roman Catholic Church. One only has to see where Rome has erred on matters of jurisdiction - for example: during the Double Papacy of Avignon and Rome (has that ever been satisfactorily explained away?) - not ot mention the problems associated with the fact that world was once categorically stated to be flat, when it was discovered to be spherical.

Such blindly dogmatic clinging to out-dated sureties is one of the problems being faced by the Christian Church in many areas today - especially where human sexuality and the position of women in the Church is concerned. Rome has al ong way to go to catch up with what Pope John 23 envisioned for its future in Vatican II. The present reversion to pre-Conciliar theology, liturgy and doctrine in the R.C. Church is one sign of its pastoral irrelevance.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 21 July 2009 at 6:47pm BST

"We don't tell Protestants , your church is false, but we say the same thing in more nuanced terms..."

RIW, I hope I can say this honestly but calmly. Anyone who has read the decrees from the Council of Trent would disagree with you. It is true that "other churches" are not named as false, but then again - they aren't recognized as more than communities of faith in Rome. And the condemnation of individual Protestants is severe: since anathema is hardly a subtle word.

That said, my RC friends understand the core of my faith much better than those who only know Protestant teachings. And since most of them haven't read the decrees from the Councils of Trent...

Posted by: Lynn on Tuesday, 21 July 2009 at 6:52pm BST

Very important point Counterlight. Thank you.

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Tuesday, 21 July 2009 at 8:00pm BST

Erika states:I had a chuckle the other day when I read that the Pope now says that babies who die without having been baptised no longer reside in limbo for eternity, but that they will go to heaven where they are perfectly happy, albeit removed from God.

The Pope has made no such statement. A theological investigation has been made but no definitive judgement.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Tuesday, 21 July 2009 at 9:48pm BST

RIW
"VATICAN CITY (AP) - April 20, 2007 -- Pope Benedict XVI has reversed centuries of traditional Roman Catholic teaching on limbo, approving a Vatican report released Friday that says there were "serious" grounds to hope that children who die without being baptized can go to heaven."

But my real question wasn't about that, it was about a. was the statement against homosexuality an infallible pronouncement, and b. isn't the fact that RC discernment changes a sign that the Catholic Church is open to the Spirit as much as Protestant churches are?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 21 July 2009 at 11:24pm BST

Rick Allen's comment re the decline of catholic science often proves the opposite point:

In many ways these Catholic scientists were on or forced to the margin, in ways that Boyle, Leibniz, Newton, etc. were not. After Galileo's condemnation, Descartes abandoned plans to publish his major work, The Treatise on the World. He exiled himself to Protestant countries, notably Holland and Sweden; about dozen years after his death in 1650, his works were prohibited to the Catholic faithful. Pascal, a deeply spiritual philosopher and mathematician, was home among the Jansenists, a group within Catholicism that was condemned as heretical and shut down. Boscovich was a great physicist and a Jesuit, yet this proved a difficulty for him, as his order was suppressed, leaving him without the prospect of support at age 62--until the secular government stepped in.

This is not to "Catholic bash" only to note that the Catholic church was not always happy with its scientists, and the Galileo affair put a chill on any theoretical work that might have cosmological overtones. "Catholic science" post Galileo tended towards careful description in natural history and astronomy. By the eighteenth century France had the strongest scientific community, for the church had lost power with respect to the state, which supported science for nationalistic reasons.

Posted by: Christopher (P.) on Tuesday, 21 July 2009 at 11:49pm BST

"Descartes, Gassendi, Pascal, Boscovich, Steno, Lavoirsier, Mendel, et cet."

As I recall, none on that list were darlings of Holy Mother Rome, including Brother Mendel.
Descartes had to seek refuge in the most Catholic Dutch Republic. His nemesis Pasacal found himself in hot water when Holy Mother Rome decided she didn't like Jansenism.

But how could I forget, the sciences were dominated by good Catholics like Kepler, Newton, Leewenhoek, Harvey, Leibniz, etc. And we all remember how enthusiastically the Roman hierarchy embraced the cosmological speculations of Giordano Bruno. I make a special point of saluting Papal Infallibility whenever I'm in Rome by laying flowers at Bruno's statue in the Campo dei Fiori.
"Defend Life" indeed.

Posted by: counterlight on Wednesday, 22 July 2009 at 12:07am BST

"...events like the condemnation, betrayal, and brutal execution of this conscientious and holy man show the lie to claim of institutional infallibility."

At the risk, I suppose, of prolonging this little dust up, I would suggest that what you mean by "institutional infallibility" is not exactly what the First Vatican Council meant.

Formal teaching, solemnly and explicitly promulgated as such, on matters of faith and morals, are within that sphere. Not governance, not judicial proceedings, not policy, not acts of curial officials, and not inferences therefrom.

So if you wish to dispute the notion of infallibility defined at Vatican I and re-affirmed at Vatican II, may I respectfully request sticking with the defined area of the claim? Unless, of course, you just want to talk about wicked popes.

Posted by: rick allen on Wednesday, 22 July 2009 at 12:18am BST

"The Pope has made no such statement. A theological investigation has been made but no definitive judgement."

Well, that's a relief, then. For a minute I was afraid those stinking heathen babies were going to get off scot free.

Posted by: BillyD on Wednesday, 22 July 2009 at 12:51am BST

On babies in "limbo":
"The Pope has made no such statement. A theological investigation has been made but no definitive judgement."

I'm sure the babies will be delighted to know where they really are once the theological investigation is completed and the Pope gets around to announcing a decree. Somewhat like the Blessed Virgin Mary... who might not actually have been bodily assumed into heaven until the Pope finally got around to issuing a dogmatic decree on November 1, 1950. It's positively Orwellian. On October 31, 1950, you could be a good Roman Catholic and not believe in the Assumption. On November 1, 1950, you had to accept it or endanged your immortal soul.

Thank God for this non-infallible statement of religious common sense: "Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation."

Posted by: WilliamK on Wednesday, 22 July 2009 at 1:37am BST

"Honesty about one's own sexual nature is not unknown in the writings of the Desert Father."

I would actually be very interested in how the desert Fathers wrote about sexuality. If you have any references they would be appreciated.

"One myth that really needs to be exploded is that gays actually get to choose the way they are made. Has anyone ever suggested that heterosexual people get to choose the way they are made?"

I don't know if I've ever heard anyone claim that we choose our desires. Obviously the passions are those feelings in which we experience ourselves as passive.

The fact that we don't choose our desires doesn't mean we lack all control over them. Much of traditional Christian formation consists of seeking self-mastery, through habit, through sacramental strengthening, through various forms of ascesis and self-denial. At the same time, the doctrine of original sin assures us that we cannot discipline ourselves into perfection. However virtuous we think ourselves, we are subject to falling, because spiritual pride is the deadliest sin of all.

So, no, we do not choose what we desire. But we can do our best not to feed and encourage those which are sinful. It is of course when we do not agree which are holy and which are sinful (and lack common ground to determine that) that we pull back and talk about things like innateness and necessity.

Posted by: rick allen on Wednesday, 22 July 2009 at 2:22am BST

Ron, without certitude, Christianity is meaningless.. God devised a plan for his Church to guarantee the transmission of truth and salvation. this was rejected by the Anglican Reformers in the sixteenth century and hence the current state of the Anglican Communion.

Surely a thinking Anglican must ask that question? I did and became a Roman Catholic.

Yes there are dissenters within Catholicism, and at present discipline is rather weak and shoddy, but I can still point to the magisterium, and hear the voice of Him who said, " He that hears you, hears me."

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Wednesday, 22 July 2009 at 7:31am BST

I don't think that anyone denies that the prosecution of Galileo was unjust and had a chilling effect on astronomy. But for some reason that gets turned into:

"The end result was to stop science throughout Catholic Europe into the 19th century. Science became a largely Protestant enterprise."

...which is patently untrue. Kepler, Newton, Leewenhoek, Harvey and Leibniz were giants of their age, but they were not the only ones, and it was not only in Protestant Europe that the scientific revolution continued. I feel almost silly pointing this out. Should we also claim that our churches' literature was better than everyone else's?

Again, it is not to defend the persecution of Galileo to point our that it comes nowhere near the conditions of infallibility set out in the two Vatican councils
-- but somehow that always comes into the polemics.

Galileo wasn't tortured, wasn't excommunicated, wasn't even found guilty by all of his judges, didn't have his sentence confirmed by the pope, was feted by the Archbishop of Siena after his conviction, and in fact did his best work in his "Two New Sciences" after his conviction and sentence to house arrest. That doesn't justify his trial, his sentence, or the heavy hand of censorship that continued to follow him. But somehow the actual facts are never bad enough.

Posted by: rick allen on Wednesday, 22 July 2009 at 1:00pm BST

"Ron, without certitude, Christianity is meaningless.. God devised a plan for his Church to guarantee the transmission of truth and salvation. this was rejected by the Anglican Reformers in the sixteenth century and hence the current state of the Anglican Communion.

Surely a thinking Anglican must ask that question? I did and became a Roman Catholic."

Was there a question in there that I missed? What question is it you asked yourself? Was it, by any chance, exactly why you believe that Christianity without certitude is meaningless?

Posted by: BillyD on Wednesday, 22 July 2009 at 1:16pm BST

Rick Allen,
No, I don't want to talk about "wicked popes." I want to talk about whether General Councils are inerrant or not. Did Constance get it right or not in condemning, betraying, and burning Hus? Did the Church, from the popes on down, get it right or wrong when it spent several centuries burning heretics? This isn't a minor question--especially when you're the heretic having flames excruciatingly consume your body. Surely, if God had disapproved of this brutality he could have given the Church an infallible teaching to stop it. Instead, it took the secular power to put an end to it.

I also find myself wondering how the Church managed to make it all the way to Vatican I without a clear definition of when a teaching is infallible or not. I'll repeat, the whole scenario looks quite Orwellian to me, with Truth depending on the Church making some kind of official decree, which then has to be accepted. Don't believe in the Assumption on October 31, 1050, you may be out-of-step with the dominant tradition, but you aren't a heretic; disbelieve it on November 1, 1950, and you're a heretic.

Robert Ian Williams: "certitude": I'll simply refer you to heretics screaming in agony as the fire consumes them. That's what Roman Catholic "certitude" gave to the Middle Ages. I'll take "meaningless" Christianity over that any day.

Posted by: WilliamK on Wednesday, 22 July 2009 at 4:26pm BST

"Did the Church, from the popes on down, get it right or wrong when it spent several centuries burning heretics?"

Tut, tut - that was the *secular arm*, not the Church. The Church only handed them over to be burned - after torturing them, of course. Apples and oranges!

/sarcasm off

Posted by: BillyD on Wednesday, 22 July 2009 at 4:44pm BST

"I want to talk about whether General Councils are inerrant or not. Did Constance get it right or not in condemning, betraying, and burning Hus?"

No, as I stated previously, there is no claim to inerrancy in judicial proceedings. Constance, as far as I can remember, was called not to settle dogmatic questions so much as to try to end the Great Schism. I don't know of anyone who doesn't consider the revocation of the safe conduct given to Hus a terrible crime.

"...it took the secular power to put an end to it."

There, again, I agree with you, but perhaps not for the reason you would give. The burning of heretics was ended by the secular states because it was the making of heresy a crime by the secular states that made the temporal punishment of heretics a possibility in the first place.

I don't absolve the churchmen of the day of complicity in that state of affairs, which, as far as I can tell, no one today, in either church or state, would want to return to. Nevertheless, I think you again misunderstand the notion of infallibility if you imagine that it is conceived of as something which grants any sort of moral perfection. You would be better to understand it as a simple confirmation that, in times of controversy, the Church is capable, through its ordinary structures of governance, to resolve disputes with finality.

"I also find myself wondering how the Church managed to make it all the way to Vatican I without a clear definition of when a teaching is infallible or not."

It was able to do so the same way in which it was able make it all the way to Nicea I without a clear definition of whether the Son was consubstantial with the Father. Prior to that point it was not an issue that had been "put in play" and required a decision.

I should add that all these questions are very apt, and though I doubt you will be convinced of the Church's power to teach infallibly, I hope you will at least understand that the claim for that gift is considerably more limited in scope than commonly thought by outsiders.


Posted by: rick allen on Wednesday, 22 July 2009 at 5:35pm BST

The Catholic Church has never taught that unbaptized infants are punished in Hell.

The Church has the power to bind the Catholic faithful in the law of Christ and doctrines of the Church. for us the Church in its official capacity is the voice and mind of Christ.

As for burning heretics...which is part of the culture of an age where peple were hung for stealing, let alone heresy..the secular state administerd the punishment.

However William probablly does not believe the words of Our lord...

Matthew 10:28
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Wednesday, 22 July 2009 at 6:03pm BST

Rick

seeing that RIW is consistently ignoring my question while insisting that Rome can never overturn the prohibition of homosexuality, could you please confirm whether there has been an infallibility rule about this issue?
Thank you.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 22 July 2009 at 6:42pm BST

Robert Ian Williams wrote: "The Church has the power to bind the Catholic faithful in the law of Christ and doctrines of the Church. for us the Church in its official capacity is the voice and mind of Christ."

What makes this claim so tragic is what Christ is made to say and think when the Church speak and thinks in his name.

I was waiting for the typical bait-and-switch about burning heretics: it was just part of the culture of the time [so, the church does conform to the spirit of the age, rather than the Spirit of Christ] ... and it was the secular state that did it [leaving out that heretics burned by the state were ALWAYS handed over to their fate by the Church, and the burning took place with the full blessing of the Church: in the immortal words of Pope Paul IV (former Cardinal Carafia), "Were my father a heretic, I would gather the wood to burn him myself!"]

I'm really not sure why Mr. Williams is citing Matthew 10:28. I do believe the words of our Lord, as did the thousands of faithful Christians (some names again, Jan Hus, Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridely, William Tyndale, Hugh Latimer) who went to the stake confident that while the Roman Church could destroy their bodies in the fire, they couldn't touch their faithful souls.

Listen, Mr. Williams, if you want to try to justify the burning of heretics, be my guest, if that's what you think you must do to be a good son of Holy Abusive Mother Church. But, I'll firmly stand with the Reformation in its recognition that no man, no church, no council can claim infallibility.

That the execution of heretics is a foundational denial of the teachings of Christ is one of the clearest indications that Rome has erred, not in minor matters, but in issues related to the essence of the Gospel.

Posted by: WilliamK on Wednesday, 22 July 2009 at 6:57pm BST

"As for burning heretics...which is part of the culture of an age where peple were hung for stealing, let alone heresy..the secular state administerd the punishment."

Would this (these) be the same state(s) that overwhelmingly was (were) influenced by the Most Holy One and Only True Church in Christ?

The same governments that allowed during this same time castration to preserve young voices to be kept in the choirs?

Must have been a wonderful monopoly. Thank God for Luther, Henry VIII, Calvin and Zwingli.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Wednesday, 22 July 2009 at 7:39pm BST

"Ron, without certitude, Christianity is meaningless.."

And there it is! Nice to see you admit it, RIW.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 22 July 2009 at 9:39pm BST

Erika, though I am hardly an expert in this area, I think it would be accurate to say that there has been no exercise of what might be called the extraordinary magisterium on the subject of the morality of homosexual acts.

Keep in mind, of course, that such exercises are extremely rare, the last one being Pius XII's affirmation of the assumption of the Virgin Mary.

For that reason it's important to recognize that a teaching is hardly "up for grabs" just because it hasn't been the subject of such attention.

I'm sure I need not tell you that Catholicism looks to scripture and tradition as the two sources of divine revelation upon which it bases its teaching. The passages of scripture which address sexual behavior between members of the same sex (which I'm sure I need not reiterate) have always been understood by the tradition as a part of the moral law which continues to be binding on Christians. I think it's fair to say that, though such prohibitions have not been unduly prominent in Christian history, they have been consistently articulated in all places and at all times where the Church Catholic has existed, and it would therefore greatly surprise me if the Church reached a point at which it acknowledged the possibility that such acts could be licit.

Part of the issue is also the fact that, over the centuries, the various sexual norms and prohibitions of scripture have been articulated as part of a systematic ethic of marriage and chastity, so that relaxation of norms in one area invariably affects others. We have seen some of these kinds of arguments where, for instance, rigorist bishops on the subject of homosexuality have been criticized, and rightly so, for holding, and acting on, rather lax standards regarding divorce and remarriage.

It is probably important to note that the Council of Trent, in affirming marriage to be a sacrament, seems to me, in its treatment of the subject, to fairly definitively exclude the possibility of same-sex marriage, as a formal teaching of pope and bishops in ecumenical council. That has, I would say, the stamp of teaching promulgated as infallible. But of course it says nothing directly about the morality of homosexual acts outside of marriage.

So, sorry for blathering on, but, to summarize, I'd say, no, the Church's teaching on the morality of homosexual acts has not, to my knowledge, been the subject of the "extraordinary magistarium" of explicit definition by pope or ecumenical council. At the same time, it has a very strong claim to authority in ordinary Church teaching in its grounding in scripture and in how that scripture has been understood in the development and articulation of tradition.

Posted by: rick allen on Wednesday, 22 July 2009 at 11:29pm BST

Rick
thank you.
So, if I understand you correctly, although you believe it to be highly unlikely, it is in theory at least possible that the view on homosexuality could be changed by new discernment from the Magisterium at some time in the future.

Whereas, presumably, once an extraordinary magisterium of explicit definition has been issued, it is never reversible, not even by future popes?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 23 July 2009 at 8:30am BST

Erika, I try to be a little circumspect when pontificating on what the future will bring. But I can never resist the temptation.

I think you are right that there is a certain "unreformability" of declarations made under the express charism of infallibility. Still we should remember that those kinds of statements are not always the most central. So far as I can tell, neither the Johannine assertion, "God is Love," nor the Levitical injunction, "Love your neighbor as yourself," has been the subject of an infallible declaration, or is contained in a creed--but I would be confident in asserting that they are not subject to change or denial.

My guess is that Catholic teaching on chastity will not change with respect to identification of behaviors that are right or wrong. At the same time, comparable to what has happened with the ubiquity of divorce, there will be much thought given to practical accommodation, and consideration of questions of gravity and culpability.

In a possible world of widespread sexual fluidity, marital transcience, and designer children, the Church will obviously have to find a way to remain in the world, but not of it.

Posted by: rick allen on Thursday, 23 July 2009 at 5:37pm BST

Rick
thank you again.
I know you and I have different views on this, and I was merely trying to get a clearer understanding of the Roman Catholic discernment process and the methods available for implementing new discernment - not merely about homosexuality but as a matter of principle.

The reason for my question really was that the Roman Catholic church is often referred to as being extremely inflexible and rigid, whereas I believe it to be much more subtle and to have clear pathways for making changes when necessary.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 23 July 2009 at 7:23pm BST

"The fact that we don't choose our desires doesn't mean we lack all control over them. Much of traditional Christian formation consists of seeking self-mastery, through habit, through sacramental strengthening, through various forms of ascesis and self-denial. At the same time, the doctrine of original sin assures us that we cannot discipline ourselves into perfection.

"However virtuous we think ourselves, we are subject to falling, because spiritual pride is the deadliest sin of all." - Rick Allen -

I think, Rick, that perhaps the most sensible thing you have said on this TA website is here contained in your second paragraph. What is often absent in theorising about the practise of Christian discipleship is any sense of the sheer hyposcrisy of thinking that we can discipline ourselves to the point that we can ever say 'we' have mastered a particular inclination in our lives which might be considered 'sinful'.

This distinctive lack of humility about our supposed capacity to personally overcome our sinful human nature by sheer act of the will is falacious - as any honest, practising Christian will attest to. And to insist that self-disciplne will ever conquer our capacity to sin is nothing less than hubris at its most self-delusional level.

The truth is that not even the Holy Spirit, without our co-operation, can overcome our human sinfulness - simply because God has given his human children the gift of free-will; and most of us know that we are constantly in danger of misusing that gift. This is one reason why Christ himself, in human form, sought to redeem our humanity by sharing fully in it - offering us all the hope of sharing in his divine life - if that is what we earnestly desire - but without compulsion!

This is something that some of your Roman Catholic brethren seem not yet able to come to terms with. Law will never overcome the power of Love - as encountered in God's free gift of salvation to all who desire it. Salvation cannot be earned - not even by the most assiduous practise of self-discipline. It is God's gift, not limisted to the offices of the Church, but offered freely through the sacrifice of Christ.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 23 July 2009 at 11:22pm BST

Ron its true that salvation and faith are gifts from God and that salvation is not earned by self merit outside of Christ. However when in Christ we must abide in his love and work out our alvation in fear and trembling. Not craven fear, but the fear of the Lord which gives wisdom.

We are told that if we act immorally we will not enter the Kingdom Of Heaven.

We are told by St Paul that he disciplines himself lest he becomes an outcast.

Sadly the silentcurrent heresy is Universlism..and we are warned by Isaiah" Wo to those who call evil good and good,evil."

That is why ( despiie the faults of its members , including muself ) I am grateful for a Church with a Divine mandate and guaranteed message.So what appears to my lberal influneced 21st century mind reasonable, is in fact exposed for what it really is....sin.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Friday, 24 July 2009 at 7:12am BST

"We are told by St Paul that he disciplines himself lest he becomes an outcast."
- Robert Ian Williams -

Robert, you obviously missed out on studying (during your Anglican Theological College training in New Zealand) the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans, chapter 7, beginning at verse 14, where he further reflects on his inability to control his own tendency to sin:

'We know that the Law is spiritual, but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin'

(concluding in verses 21 to 25): 'So I find this evil at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?"

And then Paul states the reality of his true position: 'Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord' (who delivers Paul from the penalty of his actual sins!)

What, Robert, does this say about the reality of the sins 'that are at work in the body'?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 24 July 2009 at 5:24pm BST

Ah, RIW - you named your need for something different than many of us here: you feel an element of fear must be involved. We can do what is moral in the name of love - for God, for neighbor. It's quite a helpful concept when there's no specific "rule" to follow.

Fear separates, love pulls us closer. To God. To neighbors. "If you love me, you will follow my commandments..." beautiful words, indeed.

Posted by: Lynn on Friday, 24 July 2009 at 5:50pm BST

Lyn you confuse fear of the Lord with craven fear....Ron I find your exegesis an isogesis. ..the whole tenor of the New Testament is to warn us that our sins of commission and ommision can sink us, if we step out of the Grace of Christ.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Saturday, 25 July 2009 at 7:55am BST
Post a comment









Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.