Comments: Women bishops: valid sacraments and catholicity

I have the same problem with Jonathan Clatworthy as I do with Simon Killwick: they both assume that the opponents of women's ordination speak for all Anglo-Catholics, and present the most stringent position as The Anglo-Catholic Position.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Thursday, 2 September 2010 at 4:08pm BST

In the article on women bishops, Clatworthy sums up the view of sacramental validity this way:

"What this means is that God does not turn the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ so the congregation do not receive the spiritual benefits they have been misled to expect. Had they walked down the road to Christchurch, where the priest is male, they would have received the spiritual benefits; but they do not."

If this is the "Anglo-Catholic position" in Britain, it seems a faulty one in light of the fact that physically receiving Holy Communion is NOT necessary to receive its benefits, as the rubric at the end of the Communion of the Sick in both the 1928 and 1979 American BCPs make clear (don't have the 1662 book at hand this second, but I think it's in there, too). Whatever sacramental validity means, it can't mean that the invalid celebration of the Eucharist (lay presider, blackberry cordial instead of wine, or whatever) deprives the well-intentioned communicant of the grace conveyed by the sacrament.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Thursday, 2 September 2010 at 5:07pm BST

You know, Clatworthy's papers brought to my attention another "innovation" that separates churches in the Anglican tradition from that of Rome or Orthodoxy, one of which their occasional Evangelical fellow travelers ought to be attentive. The churches of the Anglican Communion, unlike Rome or Orthodoxy, embrace the Hebrew Old Testament, and not the Septuagint, as the standard for belief. With the Articles, we might find Apocryphal books as useful for education in morals; but they aren't Scripture, at least in the sense of Torah, Histories, and Prophets. If we're to lean toward the "three denomination" vision of the Universal Church (or even of its norms and "best practices") we need to note that distinction as well. It's just one we haven't argued about - yet.

Posted by Marshall Scott at Thursday, 2 September 2010 at 5:29pm BST

I would like to see Mr. Clatworthy's dissection of the arguments about the Anglican Covenant and the related brouhaha. It seems that similar reasons (but of more recent origin) are being presented for doing new things in odd ways and not doing ordinary things in traditional ways. (But I do suppose ABC like the notion of apostolic succession.)

Posted by John E. Clifford at Thursday, 2 September 2010 at 5:39pm BST

The Catholic answer to these questions of validity is not new. The Faith of the people supplies whatever the celebrant is lacking. The 39 Articles themselves say that the worthiness of the minister doesn't affect the validity of the sacrament.


XXVI. Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacraments.
Although in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometimes the evil have chief authority in the Ministration of the Word and Sacraments, yet forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, but in Christ's, and do minister by his commission and authority, we may use their Ministry, both in hearing the Word of God, and in receiving the Sacraments. Neither is the effect of Christ's ordinance taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God's gifts diminished from such as by faith, and rightly, do receive the Sacraments ministered unto them; which be effectual, because of Christ's institution and promise, although they be ministered by evil men.

I don't really get the complaints about sacramental assurance. It is the Faith of the people which supports the Church.

Posted by ruidh at Thursday, 2 September 2010 at 5:44pm BST

Clatworthy's articles are interesting. And I realise,I have no desire to 'kneel at an altar'.

That practice seems as problematic to me as those he dismantles so fully.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Thursday, 2 September 2010 at 6:00pm BST

I don't agree with Jonathan Clatworthy that the 19th century Anglo-Catholics were trying to return to a magical worldview. I think they were very realistic often hard-headed practical-minded churchbuilders with a drive for mission in modern urban contexts, rather than mediaeval romanticisers. I think he misunderstands what the Catholic Revival was about, which was the rediscovery that despite all the iconcolastic battering of the Reformation and Puritan periods, the Catholic religion still survives and touches people in ways that the Protestant one cannot.

Jonathan Clatworthy does the cause for the ordination of women a disservice by making arguments that are basically against the whole Catholic sacramental system: the point is that if one really accepts the Catholic religion and believes in its system of spirituality pro omnibus et ubique then it follows that the outrageously wanton love of God draws all people male and female, straight and gay, in, and that all God's holy people are valid matter, indeed necessarily so, for the sacramental celebration of that reality. That is why the Church came round to accepting black clergy too. (I've just been reading about Bishop William Guerry who called for the election of a black suffragan in South Carolina, for which he was assassinated by a white opponent in 1928). It's not to do with magic, it's to do with how the Church models the all-embracing love of God.

Posted by Fr Mark at Thursday, 2 September 2010 at 6:15pm BST

Clatworthy on the Covenant can be found here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/aug/02/anglican-covenant-communion

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Thursday, 2 September 2010 at 6:56pm BST

"Rome, meanwhile, resolutely refuses to acknowledge Anglican orders; to most Anglicans the continued appeal to the 'universal Church' sounds like the unhappy state of a deserted lover who years after the separation still refuses to do anything of which the beloved would have disapproved."

Heh, I can relate. When my ex left and divorced me, I spent a couple of years in a fog like this (thankfully, and by the Grace of God, I outgrew it!)

@Fr Mark. On the surface, I agree that Clatworthy is "making arguments that are basically against the whole Catholic sacramental system." However, underneath, I don't think he would really disagree w/ your (lovely) final faith-claim: "the outrageously wanton love of God draws all people male and female, straight and gay, in, and that all God's holy people are valid matter, indeed necessarily so, for the sacramental celebration of that reality".

I think it's just a question of emphasis and semantics.

Posted by JCF at Thursday, 2 September 2010 at 11:36pm BST

Re: With the Articles, we might find Apocryphal books as useful for education in morals; but they aren't Scripture, at least in the sense of Torah, Histories, and Prophets.

This is simply word games, as far as I can tell. We include them in the daily office and the lectionary, thus they're scripture as far as I'm concerned. The bit about them being 'not scripture in the strict sense' might have made sense in the 17th century to please the Calvinists, but there's no reason we still need to follow it to the letter today.

Incidentally, it's always seemed very silly to me to leave out the Deuterocanonical books. Second Maccabees has some truly inspiring examples of martyrdom, and it's full of historical, moral, and theological meaning. The Greek version of Esther is so much richer and fuller (at least for me) then the Hebrew version, it includes beautiful scenes such as the one with Esther before the King (which is full of typological resonances with Mary, the Mother of God). And the book of Wisdom is full of some fascinating messianic prophecy (it was quoted often by St. Athanasius, evidently _he_ thought it was scripture, but of course I suppose the infallible Luther & Calvin knew better). My spiritual life is much richer because of books like 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, and Greek Esther, and I resent people telling me I can't accept them as scripture.

Posted by Hector at Friday, 3 September 2010 at 3:39am BST

Re: If we're to lean toward the "three denomination" vision of the Universal Church (or even of its norms and "best practices") we need to note that distinction as well.

I'm not sure why. The non-chalcedon churches (Armenians, Copts, and Jacobites) are all in communion with each other, even though they differ on what books are in the canon (the Jacobites of Syria & India have a shorter Bible then we do, the Ethiopian Church have a longer one). That we differ about the exact status of the Deuterocanon (and personally I view it as scripture same as the rest of the Old Testament) shouldn't prevent us from being three branches of one tree.

Posted by Hector at Friday, 3 September 2010 at 3:44am BST

Jonathan Clatworthy states.."There was a renewed conviction that the priest really does have powers unavailable to lay people, that the Prayer of Consecration, uttered by a priest, really can turn bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, and that the consecrated sacrament really can affect the spiritual condition of the Christian communicant.

This sacramentalism is in a sense a revival of medieval magic."

A statement that Ian Paisley and many other Protestant fundamentalists would heartily agree.

Now what do you think of that Bill and Ron?

Posted by Robert Ian Williams at Friday, 3 September 2010 at 7:58am BST

"Now what do you think of that Bill and Ron?"

Well, thank goodness the RCC has never given rise to individuals who don't conform to its teachings! Rome, here I come! Yep - I can be sure that *everyone* in the RCC always believes the same thing.

Oh, wait - no they don't. Never mind. Guess I'll stay an Anglican after all.

Seriously, though - why on earth would what a CofE priest says affect me? Has the CofE adopted his views while I wasn't looking?

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Friday, 3 September 2010 at 11:24am BST

There is a distinction to be made between the supernatural and the magical, and it isn't always the case that 'the right way to do something' implies a magical approach when it involves supernature.

What Jonathan Clatworthy seems to be doing is bringing it all down to an anthropological and consensual understanding, a sort of whatever floats the boat and works approach. The problem with that argument for many Anglicans - yet one I agree with - is that it allows anything to evolve in terms of consensual agreement and what seems to work. Thus any practice can be legitimate, and I say that as a non-clerical person in any sense who once conducted a communion service, but not for Anglicans.

Exchange rituals that involve some (usually useless but symbolically charged) token passed from one person to another, in the opposite direction from the material effort put in (like the time taken to turn up, paying money for upkeep), is to gain spiritual benefit manifested in the group binding itself together more in common cause. That's all they are and all they do, and where the 'benefit' comes. In the end, you can design your own.

Posted by Pluralist at Friday, 3 September 2010 at 12:28pm BST

"(don't have the 1662 book at hand this second, but I think it's in there, too)."

Yes, Bill it most certainly is in the BCP. You make a vital point.

I would have thought that contrary to the impression given on TA., many (most)parishioners in England, are at heart receptionists, as is the BCP Communion Service itself. Many of the scruples being expressed melt away in the light of the understanding of eucharist articulated in 1552.

Perhaps if Communion were celebrated less frequently,a sense of perspective might be restored to us.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Friday, 3 September 2010 at 12:48pm BST

I agree with much of Clatworthy's argument, in both pieces. But his cry for more discussion of the theology is a waste of time. FiF people (and, of course, not only they) are NEVER going to accept his arguments re the Eucharist.

Father Mark,

My Proddy soul (or part of my soul) dislikes talk of 'the Catholic religion' as opposed to 'the Protestant one' (terminology much beloved of a certain type of RC), as if the differences between 'Catholicism' (to the extent that it is an entity) and 'Protestantism' (ditto) were of the same magnitude as those between Christianity or Islam as religions. Please abjure. And doesn't your very high conception of Catholicity (which actually I like and to some extent profess) deconstruct itself in one sense: that there is absolutely no reason why the sacramental activities of priests shouldn't be performed by lay people? I'm not trying to get rid of priests - please understand - (they have their uses) but I can't see why they should be regarded as necessary for those activities.

Posted by john at Friday, 3 September 2010 at 3:25pm BST

"Perhaps if Communion were celebrated less frequently,a sense of perspective might be restored to us."

It's not very Anglo-Catholic of me, but sometimes I wish that we followed the pattern that prevailed in much of Anglicanism in the 20th century: Early Celebration, at 8:00, and then Morning Prayer as the principal service at 9 or whatever. Since ECUSA formally adopted the policy that the Eucharist is to be the primary service on Sundays and Holy Days we've poorer for the loss of MP. Oh, it may still be wedged in as a preliminary service to HE, but it's probably sparsely attended and of course has none of the music developed over the centuries. Some places try to get around this by using the BCP's option of having the Liturgy of the Word take the form of MP (the "Frankenmass") but it's not really satisfactory in my opinion.

It also seems to me that emphasis on personal preparation ("let a man examine himself," etc.) has diminished now that HE is the default service.

I'm a Catholic, but I don't think that means that Anglican practice has to be identical to that of other bodies in everything.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Friday, 3 September 2010 at 4:29pm BST

"The churches of the Anglican Communion, unlike Rome or Orthodoxy, embrace the Hebrew Old Testament, and not the Septuagint, as the standard for belief."

Well, yes and no. The Articles specify that the Apocrypha isn't to be appealed to as a basis for doctrine, but the versions of the Bibles that Anglicans use take Septuagint readings into account. That and the fact that, AFAIK, allusions to the Old Testament that occur in the NT seem to refer to the Septuagint means we aren't as cut off from it as might appear at first. The Old Testament that appears in Christian Bibles simply is not the same text as the Hebrew Bible.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Friday, 3 September 2010 at 4:39pm BST

Believers are really up against it when/if disputations and doubts and differences manage to have us shifting gears - from God as the trustworthy guarantor of sacrament powers - to dark whispers and odors all having to do with ritualistic purities, substitutes for a law of diminishing returns as we grow increasingly preoccupied with weighing and fearing neighbors instead of understanding/relating to them?

Just go way back, keep every jot and tittle of the Law - claiming your version is the purest of course - and avert your eyes, heart, body, mind, soul from God to that very extent?

Where in the world have all these Anglican teapot stirrers so originated?

Posted by drdanfee at Friday, 3 September 2010 at 7:56pm BST

>> The Catholic answer to these questions of validity is not new. The Faith of the people supplies whatever the celebrant is lacking. The 39 Articles themselves say that the worthiness of the minister doesn't affect the validity of the sacrament. << [ruidh]

From a Catholic perspective (and I write as a cradle RC and progressive A-C), the foregoing assertion conflates two distinct concepts: (a) the worthiness of the minister and (b) the *nature* of the minister, i.e., is the person acting as minister even really a *valid* minister in the first place.

The first goes to the personal moral character of the minister. The second goes to whether the person in question is, ontologically, a priest at all. Keep in mind that the Catholic view is that the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and holy orders each confers a "sacramental character," an indelible mark upon the soul, such that one who has received that mark is ontologically distinct from other folks.

Agree or disagree, but those are the basic building blocks, and as Fr. Mark notes, Clatworthy relies on an assault on the entire Catholic sacramental system, or at least, on core principles that underlie it -- which is not an effective way of persuading either traditionalist or progressive Anglo-Catholics of anything.

And so re "The Faith of the people supplies whatever the celebrant is lacking": That is the Catholic view when it's about the personal moral worthiness of the minister, *not* as to whether someone is a priest in the first place, and yes, the Catholic view is that if a purported priest is not actually a priest, all sacraments administered by that priest that depend upon priesthood are indeed invalid and ineffective. (Baptism is not considered dependent on priesthood, and in marriage the ministers are the couple.) E.g., the Eucharist was not truly confected at their Masses...

Again, agree or disagree with the Catholic perspectives, but only truly engaging with actual Catholic categories will enable dialogue. Attempting to convince Catholics that their/our perspectives are just so much medieval magical thinking is a rather less fruitful approach.

Posted by David da Silva Cornell at Friday, 3 September 2010 at 8:48pm BST

David, you wrote: "E.g., the Eucharist was not truly confected at their Masses..."

But, given the very Catholic practice of making a "Spiritual Communion," an echo of which can be found in the rubrics in the Communion of the Sick (cited above), surely there's no practical difference for a communicant who takes part in them thinking that they are valid celebrations of the Eucharist - doesn't it?

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Saturday, 4 September 2010 at 1:34am BST

"as other parts of the universal Christian Church do not have women priests and bishops, for the Church of England to introduce them is to set us at odds with them so that we cease to be part of the universal Church." - Jonathan Clatworthy -

What is seemingly not understood here is that in parts of the world-wide Anglican Communion (which is in communion with the Church of England) there are already women priests, and in some Provinces, women Bishops. To say that: 'For the Church of England to introduce them' - when the C.of E. has already taken on board the process of ordaining women priests - is to beg the question: What is the Church of England about to do that has not already been done? - if not by the C.of E. (in the case of women Bishops) then at least by her sister Churches in other Provinces of the Anglican Communion. THE HORSE HAS ALREADY BOLTED!

If one were to have to wait for Constantinople or Rome before opening up sacerdotal ministry to 50% of the membership of the Church, it would never likely happen. God is not mocked! Whomever God is calling into ministry, it is God's call - as well as that of the Church. God can never be limited to the whim of the reigning Pontiff: This may not be the last time that God will be saying "Behold! I am doing a New Thing!" What needs to be realised and remembered is that the Anglican Churches are both Catholic and REFORMED! Pope John XXIII want this to happen in the Roman Catholic Church, but the present hierarchy has already reneged on the forward movement of Vatican II. Semper Reformanda!

The word 'Catholic' can no longer be arrogated to the satellites of Rome. The difference between Rome and Canterbury is that Anglicans have taken on board the charism of REASON - to add to those of Scripture and Tradition. We must never ignore the reality of scientific progress - especially in matters of gender and sexuality - both of which issues affect every single human being that God has made - in all their diversity and grace.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 4 September 2010 at 3:46am BST

Hector, Bill: Thanks for responding,.

Hector, remember that until very recently both Rome and Constantinople considered the "ecclesial defects" of the Oriental Orthodox churches at least as serious as those of the Anglican churches, and those of the Churches of the East to be even more so. They do indeed differ from the Western Churches (and in this historical context, the Orthodox churches are "Western," institutions of the Roman Empire) on the Canon; and those differences were certainly seen as part of the evidence of separation.

Bill, Hector, since one of critical arguments *among* Anglican churches is about interpretation of Scripture, it would seem to me that this notable difference in the interpretation of Scripture would be as meaningful *between* churches, even if it's long been ignored. Clearly it was important to our Reformation forebears, as they did speak to it.

Frankly, I think this is one reason to reject the "three denomination image" of the visible church - and I do.

By the way, Bill, I do agree with you about Morning Prayer on Sundays, at least to an extent. I do understand the reason we see weekly Eucharist as the Biblical norm; but I do think we could regain some things of value if we found ways to incorporate it again.

Posted by Marshall Scott at Saturday, 4 September 2010 at 4:44am BST

>> But, given the very Catholic practice of making a "Spiritual Communion," an echo of which can be found in the rubrics in the Communion of the Sick (cited above), surely there's no practical difference for a communicant who takes part in them thinking that they are valid celebrations of the Eucharist - doesn't it? <<

Bill -- In a word, yes -- yes, there is a significant difference, from a Catholic perspective (both RC and A-C).

"Practical" is a term that doesn't really enter into the Catholic categories at play here. The operative categories would be "spiritual" and "sacramental."

An act of "spiritual communion" is *not* the Eucharist. It is a second-best devotion for use when the sacrament is not available; it does not replace, or rise to the level of, the Eucharist.

In the Catholic view, the Eucharist, like all sacraments, has an objective reality. It is not just about what happens in the mind of the recipient of the sacrament. (Sometimes that enters into the intent, e.g., in Holy Matrimony, but not in the Eucharist.) Hence, "Real Presence" etc. - whether one perceives/believes it or not.

So a well-intentioned lay person being duped by a non-priest at a putative "Eucharist" does not objectively receive the Body and Blood, although s/he may have some spiritual benefit via "spiritual communion."

Buddhism has the story of the "Dog-Tooth Buddha." (Google can direct you.) Catholic understanding of sacramental action does not function like that.

Posted by David da Silva Cornell at Saturday, 4 September 2010 at 2:49pm BST

1 of 2

David, thank you for your explanation. I hope a couple of questions won't bother you (or Simon).

"An act of "spiritual communion" is *not* the Eucharist. It is a second-best devotion for use when the sacrament is not available; it does not replace, or rise to the level of, the Eucharist."

Well, of course it isn't the Eucharist. But what we're really talking here is the Presence of Christ, not any particular liturgical or extra-liturgical rite, I think. And while there may be liturgical hierarchy, I don't see how it makes sense to rank different manifestations of the Presence of Christ. Different in the way they occur? Yes. One better than another? Well, either Christ is present, or he isn't. Being present would seem to be in the same category as being pregnant - you either are or you aren't. Aren't you? :-)

"In the Catholic view, the Eucharist, like all sacraments, has an objective reality. It is not just about what happens in the mind of the recipient of the sacrament."

Check. I in no want to argue against the Real Presence.

"(Sometimes that enters into the intent, e.g., in Holy Matrimony, but not in the Eucharist.) Hence, "Real Presence" etc. - whether one perceives/believes it or not"

What to make of Article XXX, then, when it says, "The Wicked, and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth (as Saint Augustine saith) the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ; yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ" ? What to make of the prayer of preparation for Holy Communion attributed to St. Thomas Aquinis, when it makes a distinction between "not only the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of the Lord, but also the substance and virtue of the Sacrament"? If the disposition of the communicant doesn't come into play, I don't see how these statements are true.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Saturday, 4 September 2010 at 8:09pm BST

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What to make of the rubric in the service for the Communion of the Sick: "If a person desires to receive the Sacrament, but, by reason of extreme sickness or physical disability, is unable to eat and drink the Bread and Wine, the Celebrant is to assure that person that all the benefits of Communion are received, even though the Sacrament is not received with the mouth"? Why would one be able to receive "all the benefits of Communion" without taking the Sacrament in one situation, but not another?

It appears from the textual witness of the Church that Christ is more dynamic in his Presence than we are used to thinking.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Saturday, 4 September 2010 at 8:11pm BST

Bill. I believe there can be such a thing as the 'Communion of/by Desire'. A possible case occurred in my experience this morning, thus:

Having just experienced a 7.1 (it turns out to have been) Earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, the CBD has been close off to all but residents and business managers. Apparently this morning, for all intents and purposes, I became a 'business manager' - as I was allowed through the barriers to Celebrate the 8am Mass, in company with the Parish Priest who had arrived earlier to field calls from parishioners who intended to attend the Mass but found they were forbidden by the authorities (for safety and security reasons).

NOW, in celebrating that Mass, I felt that those who had intended to come, but were unable by force of circumstance, were actually present with me in spirit - and therefore valid recipients of the grace of the Sacrament. Do you have a comment?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 5 September 2010 at 2:04am BST

1 of 2 - Bill, a few responses:

Re "I don't see how it makes sense to rank different manifestations of the Presence of Christ. Different in the way they occur? Yes. One better than another? Well, either Christ is present, or he isn't. Being present would seem to be in the same category as being pregnant - you either are or you aren't. Aren't you? :-)"

Apples and oranges; not analogous to being pregnant. There are indeed degrees of presence, and different ways of being present. Someone may be "present" in person, by phone, or by Skype. Silly example, but see the point? Spiritual communion lacks the sacramental action; it is a hope for and affirmation of faith in the Eucharist, not rising to the same type of sacramental presence. At least, that's the Catholic view I was taught. See, e.g., http://www.htcatholic.org/2009/08/making-spiritual-communion/

Re the 39 Articles, I'm not quite sure why you have cited them a couple of times. The 39 Articles are as non-Catholic, even originally anti-Catholic, formulation as any in the Anglican heritage. Newman and his Oxford Movement fathers had to contort themselves intellectually to make the 39 Articles read in a way purportedly compatible with a Catholic understanding. And certainly for Episcopalians, we have never had to subscribe to this "historical document." But the key point is that citing the 39 Articles in attempting to ascertain a "Catholic" position is basically citing Luther or Calvin for that - i.e., not an authority for most Catholics, Roman or otherwise.

Posted by David da Silva Cornell at Sunday, 5 September 2010 at 3:45am BST

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Re Aquinas: Read in its full context, this is a prayer for the valid Sacrament to not just be received physically but for it to work its grace. In other words, yes, the disposition of the communicant matters -- but in terms of maximizing the action of the grace received. The full grace conveyed by the Sacrament exists regardless of the disposition of the communicant, but is *received* by the communicant dependent upon her/his disposition. But to receive at all, it has to be a valid Sacrament in the first place - which requires a valid priest.

Re Communion of the Sick: That's a situation that assumes that validly consecrated Eucharistic elements are physically present. It is *not* a situation which contemplates working in the presence of non-consecrated elements. And as far as I know, the RC requirement is still that there be at least a symbolic consumption as an objective act -- such as placing a drop of wine on the tongue of a person who cannot consume a host or swallow the wine. (If anyone knows otherwise, please correct this.)

Look, while I consider myself a Catholic simply moved from Rome to TEC, the positions I have been attempting to articulate are no longer exactly what I myself hold. But I'm clear to myself that I have pushed the Catholic envelope and in a couple of ways pushed right through it. The point I have been trying to make here is that, agree or disagree with it, there is a certain documentable historical Catholic understanding of the sacraments, and it as a matter of ascertainable fact, it does *not* include making the existence of the Eucharist dependent upon the intention of the communicant, but *does* make it dependent on having been confected by a valid priest intending to do as the Church does in the Eucharist. And for those who hold that understanding, it is counterproductive for advocates of women bishops to seek to persuade them by assaulting the Catholic understanding of how sacraments work; it is also unnecessary, as that same understanding can indeed be used to argue for women bishops.

Posted by David da Silva Cornell at Sunday, 5 September 2010 at 4:23am BST

Thanks for the response, David.

"Someone may be "present" in person, by phone, or by Skype. Silly example, but see the point?"

Not really. It would never occur to me that, for example, because I telephoned Buckingham Palace and spoke with someone, that I had ever been present there. I don't think that's what we mean by "being present."

"Re the 39 Articles, I'm not quite sure why you have cited them a couple of times."

Because they refer to a position of St. Augustine.

"But the key point is that citing the 39 Articles in attempting to ascertain a "Catholic" position is basically citing Luther or Calvin for that - i.e., not an authority for most Catholics, Roman or otherwise."

Do I have to also throw out what the Articles say when it comes to the Trinity or the Resurrection of Christ? The Articles may have been written by anti-Catholics, but that doesn't mean they completely unreliable. And it seems to me that if the Tractarians had had a problem with that particular Article, it would have been addressed in Tract 90. I couldn't find it there, but maybe I missed it.

"Re Communion of the Sick: That's a situation that assumes that validly consecrated Eucharistic elements are physically present. It is *not* a situation which contemplates working in the presence of non-consecrated elements."

No offense, but this doesn't make any sense. Exactly how close does someone have to be to a validly consecrated Host for this to "work"? Is the Presence of Christ some sort of force field that goes out to a certain number of feet or yards, or is it a line of sight thing? If so, could we put a really large Host on the moon and make it possible for everyone to enjoy the Presence of Christ? Silly, yes, but see the point?

"And as far as I know, the RC requirement..."

...is not what is articulated in the BCP rubric.

The problem I've got with the positions you put forth is that they seem to make the Blessed Sacrament a straitjacket for Christ. We are, after all, talking about a real and active Person, not a passive object of contemplation. He goes where he wants to go. He's promised to be with us under certain circumstances (e.g. the Sacrament) but that can't possibly mean that he's limited to those circumstances.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Sunday, 5 September 2010 at 12:28pm BST

Father Ron, first of all I'm very happy to learn that you're okay. You were the first thought in my mind when I saw the news of the quake.

"NOW, in celebrating that Mass, I felt that those who had intended to come, but were unable by force of circumstance, were actually present with me in spirit - and therefore valid recipients of the grace of the Sacrament. Do you have a comment?"

Other than "This makes sense to me, but probably won't pass muster with David's take on the sacramental system," no.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Sunday, 5 September 2010 at 12:32pm BST

Incidentally,, the 1549 BCP was even fuller in its assurances given to people separated from Christ in the Blessed Sacrament:

":ΒΆ But yf any man eyther by reason of extremitie of sickenesse, or for lacke of warnyng geven in due tyme, to the curate, or by any other just impedimente, doe not receyne the sacramente of Christes bodye and bloud then the curate shall instruct hym, that yf he doe truely repent hym of his sinnes and stedfastly beleve that Jesus Christ hath suffered death upon the cosse for hym, and shed his bloud for his redempcion, earnestly remembring the benefites he hath therby, and geving hym hertie thankes therfore; he doeth eate and drynke spiritually the bodye and bloud of our savioure Christe, profitably to his soules helth, although he doe not receyve the sacrament with his mouth."

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Sunday, 5 September 2010 at 1:00pm BST

"And as far as I know, the RC requirement is still that there be at least a symbolic consumption as an objective act -- such as placing a drop of wine on the tongue of a person who cannot consume a host or swallow the wine. "

That's not a symbolic consumption, David - it's consumption. Christ is fully present in the smallest crumb of the consecrated Bread and the smallest drop of the consecrated Wine. What you are describing here is simply receiving Communion under one species, reduced to the bare minimum.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Sunday, 5 September 2010 at 1:45pm BST

Father Ron, your use of the phrase Communion by Desire really hit me at church this morning. It makes perfect sense: if there's such a thing as Baptism by Desire, then why not Communion by Desire? I googled the term when I got home, and came up with 171 hits for it, and a whopping 3,980 for Communion *of* Desire! It seems that it is used as a term for what I was taught to call making an Act of Spiritual Communion.

I think it's much more accurate than the term I was taught to use (isn't every reception of Holy Communion spiritual?). Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Sunday, 5 September 2010 at 5:53pm BST

>> The problem I've got with the positions you put forth is that they seem to make the Blessed Sacrament a straitjacket for Christ. We are, after all, talking about a real and active Person, not a passive object of contemplation. He goes where he wants to go. He's promised to be with us under certain circumstances (e.g. the Sacrament) but that can't possibly mean that he's limited to those circumstances. <<

Bill, we could go on and on, and I'm happy to do so if you wish, whether here or by private e-mail, and address such sideshows as your resort to the 39 Articles for determining "Catholic" views, when you presumably wouldn't cite the Quran in a Christian discussion of the nature of God, even though they both worship the God of Abraham, and even though you presumably understand that *how* someone like Augustine gets cited and understood can differ between, say, Catholics and Lutherans.

But engaging further in such a point by point rebuttal clearly distracts from the point I set out to make, which was *not* to persuade you as to the consistency or reasonableness of classic Catholic understandings.

So allow me then to reiterate in a more summary fashion:

1. Clatworthy, rather than utilize classic Catholic concepts and categories to generate an argument for women bishops, seeks to show the silliness of the concept of "sacramental assurance."

2. Within even a progressive Catholic context, "sacramental assurance" as a concept makes sense, even while Catholics may differ as to whether it exists in a specific situation.

3. If one is trying to engage with and persuade someone (e.g., Catholics), it's usually more productive, if at all possible, to work with the concepts and categories that they accept, rather than seeking to persuade them as to how silly their concepts and categories are and that they therefore should things exactly as you do.

4. Affirming Catholicism et al. have long shown how to make the case for women bishops in a way that respects and builds upon classic Catholic concepts and categories.

In our own discussion, you seem intent on arguing how Catholics *should* see things, even if it requires their discarding their classic understanding of something fundamental as how sacraments work -- an approach akin to that which Clatworthy adopts, and just as unproductive. As I noted, I don't myself entirely disagree with you on some points -- but I also recognize that that is only possible by my departing from a classic Catholic understanding. To get to women bishops, though, that's just not necessary, and for most Catholics, not likely successful.

Posted by David da Silva Cornell at Sunday, 5 September 2010 at 8:02pm BST

Solidarity with Ron and our kith and kin in Christchurch! Our prayers are with you.

Posted by Robert Ian Williams at Sunday, 5 September 2010 at 8:21pm BST

Fr. Ron, also glad to hear you are alright... there were prayers for New Zealand this morning in Nova Scotia.. there was a Eucharist this morning in our parish church without electricity because of hurricane Earl... a very minor nuisance it turns out compared with the quake in New Zealand... blessings to you and all there.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Sunday, 5 September 2010 at 11:33pm BST

Wow, David, the Articles of Religion really did push a button, didn't they? I was taught that it's possible to give the Articles a Catholic reading (I suppose that would be the intellectual contortion you write of above). If my citing them really bothers you that much, just leave it alone.

For the record, I don't disagree with you about Clatworthy. I simply think that he, at least, has misstated the Catholic position.

Let me make a clarification. I am not arguing for a receptionist view of the Blessed Sacrament; I believe in a Real and Objective Presence in the Sacrament. I am not arguing that somehow the elements at an invalid Eucharist are transmuted into the Body and Blood of Christ in the well-intentioned believer's mouth, or anything like that. I'm not arguing that sacramental assurance doesn't matter. What I am arguing is that Jesus Christ is not limited to the sacramental system. I think that's a perfectly valid Catholic stance, and I think the quotations from the Communion of the Sick in various editions of the BCP and the parallels between Baptism by/of Desire and Communion by/of Desire demonstrate it pretty clearly.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Sunday, 5 September 2010 at 11:51pm BST

Thank you, Robert. "It's moments like these you need Minties" - and the prayers of friends - and even those of people with whom you may have not always agreed. Pax Vobiscum!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 6 September 2010 at 12:56am BST

Bill. I still remember the story of Teilhard de Chardin who, on one occasion when he was in the desert without wine or bread - or any means of physically *Making Eucharist* - he cupped his hands together and prayed: "Lord become the Bread and Wine of the Eucharist for me today - or words to that effect. I found that most inspirational - but only to be used in an absolute emergency. And remember, as a R.C. priest, T. de C. would have been used to celebrate Mass every day. So that to be deprived of it - even for one day - would have been, for him, a real deprivation.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 6 September 2010 at 1:03am BST

I just noticed this passage in the first article:

"This objection to women as priests and bishops has its place within a larger set of conditions: consecration of Holy Communion will also be invalidated if red wine is not used..."

That is, of course, incorrect. In the West there is no requirement that the wine used at Mass be red, although there is such a requirement in the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Monday, 6 September 2010 at 5:11pm BST

>> Wow, David, the Articles of Religion really did push a button, didn't they? I was taught that it's possible to give the Articles a Catholic reading (I suppose that would be the intellectual contortion you write of above). If my citing them really bothers you that much, just leave it alone. <<

"Bothers" and "buttons" assume an emotional investment on my part that I don't think you're in a position to evaluate, Bill.

But notwithstanding Tractarian mental gymnastics to re-shape them, I assume from your clearly well-informed state of knowledge that you know perfectly well that when originally written they carried a different intent than what Newman et al. squeezed out of them, what with the plain meaning of "The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon or to be carried about," etc etc.

And again, my responses to your many (and ever-multiplying) points above are not limited to the Articles, and I'm happy to correspond more offline re the same if you'd like (we might swap e-mails via the kind moderators here), but they're tangents getting away from the points I set out to make.

In that regard, thanks for the clarification as to your own views; I can and do heartily concur with everything you write in the last paragraph of your 5 September 2010 at 11:51pm BST post.

As my own clarification, I'm not arguing that "Jesus Christ is...limited to the sacramental system." Of course not -- God's grace flows where God wills it to flow! But "sacramental" is a specific, distinct subset of "spiritual," and sacraments carry unique assurances of grace in a way that other spiritual acts do not -- that's inherent in their being sacraments, isn't it?

Posted by David da Silva Cornell at Tuesday, 7 September 2010 at 12:28am BST

" "The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon or to be carried about," etc etc."

I was taught that the proper response to this was, "Well, whoever said they were?"

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Tuesday, 7 September 2010 at 1:00pm BST

"Of course not -- God's grace flows where God wills it to flow!"

I am glad that we agree on this.

" But "sacramental" is a specific, distinct subset of "spiritual," and sacraments carry unique assurances of grace in a way that other spiritual acts do not -- that's inherent in their being sacraments, isn't it?"

But that assurance has to do only with where grace is to be found, not where it isn't. It assures us that when the Church rightly administers the Sacraments, grace results, not *only* when the Church rightly administers the Sacraments.

It's probably worth noting that Clatworthy's original article doesn't use the term "sacramental grace" but the "benefits" of Holy Communion. To my mind, the distinctions between kinds graces suggests the way that God acts in a particular circumstance, not the end result. That end result seems to be what the BCP means as the benefit of Holy Communion in the service of Communion of the Sick.

If you follow the link on my name, it will take you to my blog; my e-mail is on my profile.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Tuesday, 7 September 2010 at 5:16pm BST

By the way, Newman wasn't the first one to interpret the Articles in a Catholic sense. That would be the seventeenth century friar Franciscus a Sancta Clara, in his "Paraphrastica Expositio Articulorum Confessionis Anglicanae".

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Tuesday, 7 September 2010 at 5:58pm BST
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