Sunday, 25 October 2009

battle for the soul of two churches?

The Observer has published a full-page article by Diarmaid MacCulloch which has been headlined Pope Benedict opens new front in battle for the soul of two churches.

…There has been a great deal of excited talk about this move: one hysterical front-page headline in the Times proclaimed that 400,000 Anglicans were poised to head for the Tiber. This turns out to be the self-estimated membership of a faction calling itself the Traditional Anglican Communion.

Equally extravagant claims that this could be the end of the Protestant Reformation need to be taken with several fontfuls of salt. It is in the interests of various discontented groups on the margins of Anglicanism to talk up the significance of the latest piece of papal theatre, while ignoring its wider context.

This much broader struggle within Christianity at first sight appears to be about sex. Throughout the world, the most easily heard tone in religion (not just Christianity) is of a generally angry conservatism. Why? I hazard that the anger centres on a profound shift in gender roles traditionally given a religious significance and validated by religious traditions.

The conservative backlash embodies the hurt of heterosexual men (or those who would like to pass for being heterosexual men) at cultural shifts which have generally threatened to marginalise them and deprive them of dignity, hegemony or even much usefulness. What they notice amid their hurt is that the sacred texts generally back them in their assumptions, and they therefore assert the authority of sacred scripture…

By coincidence, the same issue has a review by Christina Odone of A History of Christianity by Diarmaid MacCulloch.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 25 October 2009 at 9:55am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion | Church of England
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Well, he's right, isn't he?

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Sunday, 25 October 2009 at 10:08am GMT

Peter Stanford (ex editor of the Catholic Herald) has also written a piece in the 'Independent on Sunday' - "After 500 years, has the Pope outfoxed the Archbishop?"
http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/peter-stanford-after-500-years-has-the-pope-outfoxed-the-archbishop-1808966.html

"The irony of the week's events is that, in the Church of England, the unravelling of its historic compromise between Catholic and Protestant factions may end up leaving it to go forward smaller but clearer about what it is and isn't. In Catholicism, by contrast, the Pope's apparent opportunism will bolster numbers but risks further confusing the faithful about precisely what it is their church stands for."

Posted by: MJ on Sunday, 25 October 2009 at 12:01pm GMT

This may have stirred up a hornets nest in the RC Church in Africa:

"The offer has raised questions whether it will not...reopen the issue of celibate priesthood for the Catholics. Kenyan clergy and scholars argue that the Pope’s move may not augur well for conservative Catholics who view the Apostolic Constitution as a dilution of the traditional Catholic doctrines...

Dr Nicholas Keya, a theological scholar and lecturer at Masinde Muliro University, said Catholics will be wondering if the Pope is admitting married priests through the back door.

The Catholic Church has been battling with rebel priests who have broken away to form splinter groups against the principle of celibacy. Fr Daniel Kasomo, a leading member of Married Priests Now! splinter group who openly admitted to having a family for 20 years, has since been barred from leading Mass or offering sacraments to Catholics. Other splinter groups include Ecumenical Catholic Church of Christ and Reformed Catholic Church.

“This is interesting and is a clear case of admitting double standards by the Catholic Church. It is not in keeping with Catholic doctrines,” said Dr Keya."

http://www.nation.co.ke/News/-/1056/676610/-/uo33jf/-/

Posted by: MJ on Sunday, 25 October 2009 at 12:31pm GMT

I think Stanford's piece deserves a separate posting. There are lots of interesting angles.

Posted by: john on Sunday, 25 October 2009 at 4:36pm GMT

MacCulloch is a great historian and I am grateful for his perspective. Roman Catholics should be drinking deep of the wisdom of their sister church, not wallowing in thuggish triumphalism.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Sunday, 25 October 2009 at 4:46pm GMT

Wow many thanks to DMacC for decoding assistance. He's right at the center in his decoding. One hidden bulls-eye being the shotgun marriage of mainly antigay/antiWO convenience between hard right evangelical believers and hard right Anglo-Catholic believers. Then he reaches deeper, decoding their conjoined roles in the current realignment dynamics - worldwide, after all, in nearly all religions? - a struggle unfinished between being closed or open, informed by real church and world history or some redacted pretend far right version of what facts are, able to change versus never really able to change for the better, hierarchy/obedience to weaponized doctrines versus all Sabbaths being made subject to humanity in genuine thriving and genuine Tikkun Olam service?

Then he helps decode the variety and breadth and depth of real believers in real time in real world cultural situations - facing the self-anointed protectors of an allegedly closed faith once and for all allegedly delivered in its own separate bubble; with the real true faith repeatedly and continuingly delivered, often outside of and beyond the grasping controls of big figures and even bigger church life institutions.

Alas, all those believers high and low, who can only look at the green growing forest of world religions; and see ancient (so-called, paganj, secular, humanist, progressive, inclusive, modernist ....fill in the blank?) living stands ripe for their cut and burn conservative realignment commerce and taking? Shall God deliver us all from these followers, or more to the point, from the small god principalities and powers that lie spiritually beneath, at the centers?

Posted by: drdanfee on Sunday, 25 October 2009 at 8:13pm GMT

"In one sense, this is a storm in a teacup, stirred by an elderly cleric in the Vatican with a private agenda and a track record of ill-thought-out policy moves. In another, it is a fascinating moment in a confrontation as much a struggle for the soul of the Church of Rome as of the Church of England. Once we have got past the screaming headlines, we should keep an eye open for the real story. - Diarmaid MacCulloch -

This, the final paragraph in Professor Diarmaid MacCullough's commentary on Rome's recent offer of 'Ordinariate's' to dissident Anglicans, is a
pretty accurate assessment of what is really at the heart of the Pope's offer of sanctuary to F.i.F. and others who want to quit Anglicanism because of their suspicion of women and gays.

As Diarmaid point out, there are many Roman Catholics - both clerical and lay - who will take issue with this apparent accommodation by the Pope of the perceived 'dualism' of accepting both celibate and married clergy under the umbrella of the Magisterium - as it seeks to further extend the influence of its R.C. dogmatic authority to former Anglican clergy - not to mention the laity being discipled by said clergy.

Duplicity is not unknown in the realm of Church politics; but Rome might seem the more vulnerable to internal dispute over this recent initiative, than any problems caused by the relatively small number of Anglicans who might be affected.

The vexing problem of the validity of their existing orders will not trouble ardent clerical aspirants to the Roman priesthood, but it will bring into question the perceived validity of their current and former ministry as Anglican priests (or bishops) to their former congregants.

This may not affect the consciences of these clerics who are thinking of forsaking their former jurisdiction, but it may affect the people they leave behind. But one supposes that their consciences may not be so tender as to cause them too much heartache. Such a sad reflection on the priorities of ministry. However, the present Pontiff, if he has a conscience on such matters, must surely be worrying his private confessor.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 26 October 2009 at 12:08am GMT

At the risk, i suppose of wallowing in thuggish triumphalism, I have to wonder about the basis for Professor MacCullough's assertion that "neither John Paul II nor his successor have been enthusiasts for the messages embodied in [Vatican II']statements of faith."

For years I've been asking for any particulars about where the last two popes differ from the pronouncements of the last Council. So far I've haven't received an answer.

My particular volume of the Council's documents runs almost 700 pages. It's not like there are any secrets out there. My guess is that people generally ignore what was said for what they wish was said. But surely we should hold a historian to higher standards than that.

Posted by: rick allen on Monday, 26 October 2009 at 2:00pm GMT

"For years I've been asking for any particulars about where the last two popes differ from the pronouncements of the last Council. So far I've haven't received an answer." - Rick Allen -

Well, let's start with these - discontinued:

1. Liturgical Reform (swept away by restoration of Latin Mass).

2. Place of the Laity in the sanctuary - especially women.

3. Ecumenical Dialogue (by recent courting of disaffected Anglicans into special ordinariates)

4. Dialogue with the Real World on Sexuality and gender issues - discontinued with the revelation of paedophilis scandals.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 27 October 2009 at 10:16am GMT

"Well, let's start with these - discontinued:

1. Liturgical Reform (swept away by restoration of Latin Mass)."

This is news to me. I've been a Catholic for going on 30 years now, and have never heard a Latin Mass. And the only reform I know of, ongoing, is some tinkering with the English translation of the Roman Rite.

Vatican II, of course, called for the retention of the liturgy in Latin. The near-universal use
of the vernacular was a post-concilar development, and, as far as I can tell, it's here to stay. But, yeah, Benedict has allowed greater liturgical diversion in that respect. Don't see how that contradicts the Council.

"2. Place of the Laity in the sanctuary - especially women."

Again, as far as I can tell, the women are still there--altar servers, lectors, ministers of the Eucharist. The clergy remains male, which I know a lot of people don't like, but I don't recall Vatican II calling for a change in that regard. If I am wrong I will be happy to be corrected.

"3. Ecumenical Dialogue (by recent courting of disaffected Anglicans into special ordinariates)"

You may think ecumenical dialogue is over, but apparently Archbishop Williams doesn't, and I don't either. Again, I don't see that anything in Vatican II that conflicts with the kind of semi-uniate structure contemplated here. The document addressing Eastern Catholic rites surely didn't implicitly rule out similar structures for Western developments, did it?

"4. Dialogue with the Real World on Sexuality and gender issues - discontinued with the revelation of paedophilis scandals."

One of the most commented-upon documents to come out of Vatican II was the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. It was distinctive in its discussion of the importance of the family in a concillar declaration. Needless to say, from today's progressive standpoint it looks hopelesssly reactionary, re-affirming the unbreakable nature of the marital bond, for example. I was not aware that those affirmations of Vatican II were being questioned--but if they were, it was hardly consistent with the Council's teaching on those subjects.

But really, is this the best you can do? Surely someone, somewhere, still has a dog-eared copy of The Documents of Vatican II and can point to something actually called for by the Council which Benedict has thwarted or blocked or opposed?

Posted by: rick allen on Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 2:27am GMT

Father Smith - The permission to use the old Latin mass in some circumstances certainly does not sweep away the liturgical reforms of Vatican II. Just attend mass at an RC parish church. I wouldn't even know where to find a Latin mass in my community, other than in an Anglican church.

The other three points - maybe you are right, I don't know anything about those. But I am kind of sceptical. I don't think the letter of Vatican II has been too much violated. The so-called spirit, however, may have been. What is called the spirit of Vatican II changes with the times. Today it is not the spirit that pervaded the church half a century ago, but something of today. It's true there's quite a bit of it Pope Benedict doesn't go along with, God bless him.

Posted by: anthony on Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 7:28am GMT

Rick Allen. You must surely be in some sort of cloud cuckoo land if you still think that the total intentions of Vatican II are part of the ongoing agenda of the Roman Catholic Church. You don't even have to ask a Catholic theologian about that. Just ask some of the faithful laity, who long for the reforms of Vatican II to be brought into proper use in the Church.

You say that women still have their place in the Sanctuary? That may be so where you happen to be worshipping. However, were you aware that the Vatican banned women from having their feet washed at the Holy Thursday Foot-Washing ceremony last Holy Week? In consequence, one of our local R.C. priests decided not to enact the ritual last time around, in protest.

I suspect many Roman Catholic clergy are making their own little acts of protest against the dictats of Rome on quite a few issues - not least the continuing prohibition of contraception.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 10:18am GMT

"You must surely be in some sort of cloud cuckoo land if you still think that the total intentions of Vatican II are part of the ongoing agenda of the Roman Catholic Church."

Fr. Ron, actually I live in Santa Fe, and of course Vatican II continues to define the life of the Church. It is apparent at every level.

For all the talk about this "reactionary" pope, his committment to Vatican II is apparent (and why not, at it's his generation's legacy?). Yes, he is trying to reconcile the Lefebrists, but he has made it quite clear that nothing can happen until they acknowledge the authority and validity of Vatican II. The same goes for any Anglican traditionalists.

You have yet to identify any act or position of the pope that is at odds with the specific direction or teaching of the Council. That is of course why we hear constantly of the "spirit" of Vatican II---the "spirit" can refer to anything.

Yes, I would very much like people to go back and actually read what the Council said. I am having no luck, apparently. This idea that John Paul II and Benedict XVI have tried to "dismantle" the work of the counsel has taken on such a life of its own that the facts are now pretty irrelevant.

Posted by: rick allen on Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 11:22am GMT

I am perhaps naive or living in a past century in imagining bookshelves.

For any interested, the documents of Vatican II can be read here:

http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/index.htm

Posted by: rick allen on Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 12:44pm GMT

Rick, if I may make an observation on your side. It seems to me that in Vatican II the various congregations who developed the conciliar documents became almost "Anglican" in their subtlety, and ability to include some things while allowing others -- a kind of Elizabethan settlement. The fact that some, particularly, I might add, in the US, took off in an allowed direction is by no means an indication that this was the only direction permitted. Thus, for example in an area with which I'm particularly familiar, the usage of celebrating the Mass "versus populum" became the norm, even though the documents do not forbid the traditional eastward posture. Recent expressions by the pope, while still a cardinal and since his elevation, praising the eastward posture do not, therefore, represent a retreat from V.II; since the 'versus populum' was permissive only. (An Episcopal Church analogy might be our canonical recognition that the KJV is still the "authorized" and "historic" version, even though many other translations are permitted. Someone using the KJV may be seen as reactionary; but not on canonical grounds.)

On other issues, I am by no means expert concerning women or girls at the altar, and I do not know if V.II ruled on such a matter, or the extent to which the 1983 canons mitigated against ir, or more recent rulings of the Conference in the US have addressed it. I seem to recall a bit of back and forth here in the NY Archdiocese. I know at tone time there was a ruling that women could not function in any regular liturgical capacity, but only exercise those offices on occasion -- which naturally led to the standard practice of making every instance 'an occasional use' of the possibility. Do you have any clarification?

Realizing this to be a tad off topic -- but when one speaks of the "soul" of the church, isn't it refreshing to find this capacity for a bit of flexibility in both refreshing?

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 2:39pm GMT

"I wouldn't even know where to find a Latin mass in my community, other than in an Anglican church."

LOL!

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 3:08pm GMT

"For all the talk about this "reactionary" pope, his committment to Vatican II is apparent (and why not, at it's his generation's legacy?).
- Rick Allen -

I suppose you are already aware that the present Pope was once a student of, and apologist for, Hans Kung. When things got stirred up by Kung, however, Ratzinger saw the way things were going and decided to change camps. So, from being one of those in favour of the reforms being put into place under Good Pope John XXIII, Ratzinger changed his tune to conform with post-Vatican II conservatism. There are Roman Catholics who are only too aware of this reality, and regretful.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 10:16pm GMT

"...from being one of those in favour of the reforms being put into place under Good Pope John XXIII, Ratzinger changed his tune."

How? What in the completed program of the Council did he oppose or thwart?

Sorry to keep beating a dead horse, but it strikes me as a significant historical question, whether the popes of the late 20th and early 21st century sought to implement or nullify the Second Vatican Council.

If you read Benedict's words, and look at his actions, he seems to me to mirror what was proclaimed at the Council. When I ask for examples of discord I get cited to contemporaary controversies that the Council never addressed.

Hans Kung has never hidden his unhappiness with the outcome of the Council, his conviction that it didn't go nearly far enough. But for some reason he is popularly considered the Council's champion, and Benedict its subverter. These things strike me as very curious.

Posted by: rick allen on Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 11:57pm GMT

Father Smith - Cardinal Wojtyla (John Paul II) and Archbishop Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) were at the very heart of Vatican II, directly responsible for many of its statements. They were in some ways young Turks at the time. Papal and Curial administrative responsibility set them back on their heels, as it did a lot of RCC administrators. The "anything goes" mentality in the late sixties and early seventies among the rank and file of the Americas and Northern Europe could not be absorbed by a hierarchical bureaucratic form of management. But there was not a volte face.

A post-Vatican II conservative reaction has been real throughout the RCC. But it is negligible compared to the conservative behavior among the Anglo-Romans, some of whom seem to have adopted the RCC usages of the time of Cardinal Newman and clung to them for dear life, mistaking their Habsburg-era character for ancient. Ir is negligible also compared to our contemporary revival of Calvinistic attitudes.

As for Hans Kueng, he is a principal 20th-century theologian, but he was always far to the left of Vatican II, even at the time.

Posted by: anthony on Thursday, 29 October 2009 at 1:03am GMT

"A post-Vatican II conservative reaction has been real throughout the RCC" - anthony on Thursday -

Thankyou, Anthony, for that gracious and telling admission of the 'conservative reaction' to the
work of vatican II within the R.C. Church. You, at least, are clear on that score - even if your fellow R.C., Rick Allen, is so obviously not.

Regarding your remarks on those Anglo-Papists who have 'adopted the usages of the time of Cardinal Newman and cluing to them for dear life', I do grant you have a point there. It is precisely in this 'Hapsburg era' culture (which might even be affecting the 'conservative reaction' you have been speaking of in the present day R.C. Church hierarchy) that is worrying for us who are both catholic and inclusive in the Anglican Churches.

When you speak of 'our contemporary revival of Calvinistic attitudes', I presume you might be speaking of recent attempts by the Vatican to rehabilitate the Reformers of Europe, like Martin Luther, whose eagerness to rid the Church of the abuses of his day - Sale of Indulgences, etc. -
caused him to abandon his R.C. allegiance in order to found one of the largest Reformed Churches in Europe, which still claims its own catholic and apostolic heritage despite the split.

You say that Hans Kung was 'always too far to the left of VaticanII, even at the time', even though some Roman Catholics still believe that VII did not go far enough - regarding married clergy and contraception. So perhaps Kung was just being prophetic about what the Roman Catholic Church needed (and still needs) to come to terms with.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 29 October 2009 at 10:03am GMT

Father Smith - Father Kueng was prophetic from the get go! There were quite a few other prophetic voices in the churches in the late fifties and t;hroughout the sixties. They have by and large faded over the years for one reason or another. But Kueng has blown unfailingly his alpenhorn of reform through the years. He is a most valuable theologian, though I frequently feel uncomfortable with his teachings.

I should clarify my awkward statement about Calvinistic attitudes. What I meant to propose is that tendencies to a fairly sturdy Calvinism within the Episcopal Church and its daughter breakaway churches, as well as (from what I can see) the Church of England, not to mention the Global South, are of far more conservative a character than the post-Vatican II reaction among the RCs. It is easy to exaggerate the postconciliar RC reaction. It was a fact, and is still with us, maybe even increasingly with us, but the documents of Vatican II are still, both de jure and de facto, considered authoritative.

Posted by: anthony on Thursday, 29 October 2009 at 9:09pm GMT

"It is easy to exaggerate the postconciliar RC reaction. It was a fact, and is still with us, maybe even increasingly with us, but the documents of Vatican II are still, both de jure and de facto, considered authoritative."
- Anthony -

The fact, Anthony, that the documents of VII are 'still with you' does not mean, necessarily, that they are being honoured.

We have the same problem with our LAMBETH 1:10 statement, which called for an ethic of respect for the LGBT community within the Church; but that does not mean that certain parts of our Anglican Communion (Uganda and Nigeria) are ignoring them preferring rather to aid and abet the criminalisation and imprisonment of gays.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 30 October 2009 at 9:09am GMT

Father Smith said "The fact, Anthony, that the documents of VII are 'still with you' does not mean, necessarily, that they are being honoured."

When I said "it is still with us," I meant the reaction, not the documents. Sorry for not being clearer.

As for parts of the conciliar teachings not being honored, unquestionably. Parts of the New Testament are not honored.

Posted by: anthony on Friday, 30 October 2009 at 5:10pm GMT
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