Comments: Pastoral Letter from the Bishop of Richborough

A plus: he's not going to be "conducting any public episcopal services between now and" when he Popes. Thank you, Mr Newton, for your consistancy.

A minus: Newton refers to Anglicanorum Coetibus, as some sort of fulfillment of "the ARCIC process." NOTHING could be further from the truth. In fact, Anglicanorum Coetibus undermines if doesn't totally KILL "the ARCIC process."

I hope Newton can live w/ the reality that he may have set back, for generations or centuries, his "longed and prayed for corporate union with the [Roman] Catholic Church."

Posted by JCF at Wednesday, 10 November 2010 at 6:15am GMT

Upon serious reflection, I think I can say that Bishop Keith has done the honourable thing. He has acknowledged his own inability to live within the church community that has proved itself infinitely more open to the ministry of women than when he first voiced his objections. Even though General Synod had insisted that there was to be a 'period of reception' for women's ministry (and that time may have long passed), he could no longer live with the situation in which his leadership is at serious odds with the polity of the Church who is his employer. The Bishop's apology to those he has left behind goes to show his sincere regret that he has, as a matter of his own conscience, to go.

Private conscience on such matters is primary, and this is why he had to go. He could no longer live with the fact that his ministry represented a systemic departure from that of a bishop in the Church Catholic. The sort of double entendre of his mission - to a select cadre within the Church of England which no longer believed that Church to hold the tenets of the Faith - bespoke his acute awareness of an ecclesial unreality in that context. He has now obeyed his conscience without regard to the loss of a personal ministry that his departure will in all likelihood bring.
May God bless him in his new situation.

This whole business points to the failure of the General Synod of the C.of E. which encouraged the ethos of a divided Church in appointing vagantes bishops to minister exclusively to a selective party of dissenters from the official polity of the Church of England. Rather than helping to encourage fraternal diversity, this measure has brought untold grief - for the Church and for both sides of the arguments, which could have been contained by a proper discernment process and pastoral leadership from the House of Bishops

One hopes that the system of 'Flying Bishops' will not be allowed to continue. If people are unable to agree to women clergy, then the women that are clergy in the C.of E. should be spared the irony of seeming to have caused the situation of a divided Church. The only answer for a new era of peace in the Communion is for all to agree to ordained ministry being exercised by each and everyone whom God may call - regardless of race, gender, social position, or sexual difference.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 10 November 2010 at 8:52am GMT

I hope Newton can live w/ the reality that he may have set back, for generations or centuries, his "longed and prayed for corporate union with the [Roman] Catholic Church."

You don't think the ordination of women and homosexual activists accomplished this setback to Christian unity long before this latest development?

Posted by aas at Wednesday, 10 November 2010 at 9:01am GMT

"One hopes that the system of 'Flying Bishops' will not be allowed to continue. Father Ron Smith. And one rejoices that members of the new Synod of the Church of England may well yet prove to have a more sympathetic attitude than you, Father Smith. I presume you are also against the proposed Anglican Covenant? If you are, your comments fall on deaf ears, giving that you come from another Anglican Province, which by your own tenets, I imagine, ought not to have the scope for intereference in the affairs of a different province. By all means, express your opinion, but perhaps not in such a totalitarian way.

Posted by Benedict at Wednesday, 10 November 2010 at 11:53am GMT

Somehow, I think cradle-Catholics will be less than completely delighted to see him move into the neighborhood.

Posted by Counterlight at Wednesday, 10 November 2010 at 1:15pm GMT

Ron says: "The only answer for a new era of peace in the Communion is for all to agree to ordained ministry being exercised by each and everyone whom God may call - regardless of race, gender, social position, or sexual difference."

There it is. The true liberal viewpoint, rarely so clearly expressed: My way, or the highway.

Posted by Clive at Wednesday, 10 November 2010 at 2:09pm GMT

I do wish someone would spell out what it is from the Anglican tradition those who join the Ordinariate are taking....I am still wondering what it is, as Prof Diarmaid MacCullloch did in his recent Times article.
Reference to ARCIC is also odd...since those going are being received on the basis of their belief in Roman Catholic teaching as understood in the universal catechism.ARCIC surely was seeking a different model of "reconciled diversity".The problem with the Ordinariate is that it may make even friendly cooperation at the local level in all sorts of ecumenical and other areas rather more difficult.

Posted by Perry Butler at Wednesday, 10 November 2010 at 2:27pm GMT

We are frequently reminded that those who are leaving/have left are obeying their conscience and that is probably true. The conscience seems to be supreme. Yet they have used their conscience as their pretext for their words and actions without any real regard for the fact that others have consciences too. You cannot use your conscience to justify yourself while disregarding the consciences of others. Respect for conscience is a two way street. As for blaming "The ordination of women and homosexual activists" for the situation, I assume that aas would prefer that women and gay people go back into hiding and leaving the Church to heterosexual men. We know that no gays have ever been in the Church until recently. At least in the good old days, gays knew better than to be "activist". They knew the Christian virtues of hiding in fear and living dishonestly. Good times. Now if women could only go back to being invisible and submissive all would be perfect. It's worked so well for Rome. Too bad the Gospel tells us how Jesus empowered the outcast and marginalized, while castigating the powerful and comfortable. Much too radical for us.

Posted by Adam Armstrong at Wednesday, 10 November 2010 at 2:43pm GMT

Why are "women and gays" always conflated? It does sound much more threatening when it seems to be a conspiracy by the two non-male heterosexual (thus inferior)groups to somehow mess up the patriarchal system we all know and love. if we could just get back to it, they seem to say, the Church would then be mainstream and important and people would flock to it. It's those gays and women that have wrecked what was so obviously perfect (for heterosexuals, mysogynists, and men who pretended to be straight.)What I have learned is that men who oppose the ordination of women and whatever else are principled and have consciences. They are to be admired. On the other hand people who support things like the ordination of women and inclusivity are self-seeking, activist, of dubious morality and perhaps questionable faith.

Posted by Richard Grand at Wednesday, 10 November 2010 at 3:29pm GMT

Clive said "There it is. The true liberal viewpoint, rarely so clearly expressed: My way, or the highway." I can't see how Ron's right to express his view is any more "my way" than those who say the opposite. Ron did say that "the only way" was the way he outlined, but that is his view. it wasn't an ultimatum and it didn't castigate or anathematise anyone. Why are liberals always treated as if they are committing some crime? Ron's viewpoint is quite widely held and he entitled to it in the same way that Clive is to his. I doubt that anyone is forcing anyone to hit the road and that isn't Ron's intention. Hopefully not Clive's either.

Posted by Richard Grand at Wednesday, 10 November 2010 at 8:15pm GMT

"You don't think the ordination of women and homosexual activists accomplished this setback to Christian unity long before this latest development?" Posted by aas

I think you meant "homosexual honest-ists", aas. Rome is FILLED w/ priests who are ACTIVELY (sexually) homosexual! ;-/

But in response to your question (and you're probably not going to like what I'm going to say): inasmuch as I believe that ordination of women and the honestly LGBT is the *work of the Holy Spirit* then, by definition, it can only HELP the cause of TRUE Christian unity. Alleluia!

Posted by JCF at Wednesday, 10 November 2010 at 9:16pm GMT

"The true liberal viewpoint, rarely so clearly expressed: My way, or the highway." - Posted by Clive

Wow, there's a radical (radically FALSE) interpretation of what Fr Ron said!

"each and everyone whom God may call - regardless of race, gender, social position, or sexual difference"

Fr Ron's calling for GOD's way, Clive. Not his own, or mine, or "the true liberal viewpoint". God's way!

Posted by JCF at Wednesday, 10 November 2010 at 9:33pm GMT

"I presume you are also against the proposed Anglican Covenant? If you are, your comments fall on deaf ears, giving that you come from another Anglican Province, which by your own tenets, I imagine, ought not to have the scope for intereference (sic) in the affairs of a different province. By all means, express your opinion, but perhaps not in such a totalitarian way.

- Posted by: Benedict on Wednesday -

This sounds a little unreasonable - given that the Covenant affects ALL Provinces of the Communion. 'Inter-reference' is precisley what should be happening in all matters of Covenantal relation-ship.

On a different matter, but in the same vein, The Church of England did not discuss the imposition of 'Flying Bishops' with the other Provinces of the Communion. Is not that a polity matter which affects all of us - as members of an ecclesial body with a shared *catholic order*? Is this in accord with a covenantal relationship?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 10 November 2010 at 9:57pm GMT

The difficulty I have with this letter is the notion of "the Richborough Area" - the resolution C parishes round here have been served by the Bishop of Richborough - does that make me in the Richborough Area?

The whole scheme of the Act of Synod was to provide episcopal ministry for parishes which remained within their existing dioceses - not creating extra-diocesan areas on top of a new class of bishop.

Posted by Mark Bennet at Wednesday, 10 November 2010 at 10:19pm GMT

"The difficulty I have with this letter is the notion of 'the Richborough Area.'"

Mark, if you have a problem with that terminology, you'll have a real problem with Andrew Burnham, who styles himself as the bishop of "The See of Ebbsfleet" - http://www.ebbsfleet.org.uk . I virtually choked the first time I saw that.

Posted by dr.primrose at Wednesday, 10 November 2010 at 11:04pm GMT

Benedict posted, in a reply to New Zealand's Fr. Smith: "I presume you are also against the proposed Anglican Covenant? If you are, your comments fall on deaf ears, giving that you come from another Anglican Province, which by your own tenets, I imagine, ought not to have the scope for intereference in the affairs of a different province."

I suppose that I might not laugh, or vomit, at Benedict's words if I could have him answer this question: Benedict, did you comment negatively (and therefore "interfere," in your parlance) about either the U.S. Episcopal Church, or the Anglcan Church of Canada, when they ordained women as Priests or Bishops, or when the Episcopal Church consecrated an openly homosexual and partnered man as a Bishop?

It's the old mote and beam disorder, my friend, isn't it?

Posted by Jerry Hannon at Wednesday, 10 November 2010 at 11:08pm GMT

dr.primrose choked on "The See of Ebbsfleet".

But there is indeed a See of Ebbsfleet. That is not an issue. The See of Ebbsfleet is a suffragan see to the See of Canterbury. The Bishop of Ebbsfleet for the time being is the holder of that See. The difficulty was not that Bishop Andrew saw himself as the occupant of the See of Ebbsfleet; rather the difficulty was that he saw the parishes which he had been asked to minister to by and on behalf of their respective diocesan bishops as an alternative episcopal area, a diocese in waiting. A quasi-diocese.

As for 'Richborough Area', I suppose it depends what is meant. There is an area within which parishes that petition their diocesan bishop for appropriate episcopal ministry will likely find themselves being ministered to by the Bishop of Richborough (parishes in an area north of the Thames, south of the Humber, and east of the M1 or thereabouts). So this area might be considered as the 'Richborough area'. But to consider the parishes themselves as forming some sort of 'Richborough area' perhaps shows an element of wishful ecclesiological thinking, and it is that wishful thinking that has, not entirely surprisingly, turned out to be a house of cards. Whose fault that is, people will no doubt have different views!

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Wednesday, 10 November 2010 at 11:25pm GMT

JCF: the whole point is that God's way in this, as in other matters, is not handily spelled out on gold tablets and delivered by UPS to the ABC. It has to be discerned. Your discernment, and Ron's, and many others is that the recent innovations are indeed God's way. But how can you be so certain as to so arrogantly dismiss anyone who does not share your discernment? This is the essential difference between you and the F in F crowd.

Since 1994, nobody has tried to prevent the main body of the CofE going full steam ahead on women's ordination. Women have been ordained in every diocese, unlike the US. All the conservatives have ever asked is to be left alone and not forcibly dragged to the same discernment as you. Nobody has been out trying to convert liberal parishes to Resolution A,B,C parishes.

But what you and Ron are both saying is that everyone in the whole church must share your discernment of God's way at this time. I haven't mischacterized that at all. You are saying your way is the only way. It's not. You could find it in your hearts to allow for differing views - just as there are differing views on Eucharist, or even on the virgin birth and resurrection welcome within Anglicanism. By should the ordination of women be more of an article of faith than the virgin birth? Answer: because you want it to be.

Posted by Clive at Wednesday, 10 November 2010 at 11:33pm GMT

"Ron says: "The only answer for a new era of peace in the Communion is for all to agree to ordained ministry being exercised by each and everyone whom God may call - regardless of race, gender, social position, or sexual difference."

There it is. The true liberal viewpoint, rarely so clearly expressed: My way, or the highway."

Yes, because acceptance of all is so *obviously* un-Christlike.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Wednesday, 10 November 2010 at 11:53pm GMT

"There it is. The true liberal viewpoint, rarely so clearly expressed: My way, or the highway."

Interesting.
The Rightwing version that I heard growing up in deeply evangelical and frequently fundamentalist Texas was "My way is the right way; follow it or burn you evil spawn of Satan!" sometimes expressed in just so many words.

Posted by Counterlight at Thursday, 11 November 2010 at 2:27am GMT

Clive:

"But how can you be so certain as to so arrogantly dismiss anyone who does not share your discernment? This is the essential difference between you and the F in F crowd. "

Really? Turn the question to full participation of gays in the church and the whole thing gets spun right around, doesn't it?

Here's the thing, Clive: Nobody's forcing you to go to a parish with a woman in charge. And if your diocese should wind up with a woman bishop in the future, where's the problem? If she comes to visit your parish, just don't go that week, if you truly believe she cannot be a priest or a bishop. You ARE trying to force the rest of the church to accept your view, by making accommodations for your beliefs. You are entitled to those beliefs, you are not entitled to use them as a club on the rest of the church.

As a Yank, let me offer an analogy: When the US passed the Civil Rights laws in the 1960s, it became illegal to treat non-whites as second-class citizens. Those who believed non-whites were lesser beings than whites could still hold those beliefs, of course. Should we have "accommodated" them by allowing, say, one restaurant in every town that would only serve whites?

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Thursday, 11 November 2010 at 11:18am GMT

Oh dear goodness. the less than 3% who are against women bishops are making proverbial martyrs of themselves. It's all so dramatic and tumultuous! The noise coming from a scarce few middle aged/elderly males moving to RC is like a tiny alarm clock in a gigantic biscuit tin. The amplification in volume of this particular, restrictive and exclusive view is incredible. What about the roar of the vast majority of this CofE that works on a synodical structure? the very structure the departing have been happy with since becoming priests and bishops all those years ago?

Posted by Rachel at Thursday, 11 November 2010 at 11:38am GMT

I feel uncomfortable with too much attribution to the guidance of the holy Spirit with capital G etc implicit.

All we can really say, surely,if we are really honest and basic, is that this is how I feel drawn, moved, in some sense maybe 'led'? To give our inner and outer journeyings and meanderings some kind of imprimatur, seems to go too far. Especially as we all are drawn in various and varying directions (even within say FiF., or TA etc).

It's still worth praying, pondering, hoping, wondering on one's life and the world within and without, and then from time to time, taking steps, however tentatively into some kind of future .... Especially if we can do someone a kindness however small, as we pass by...

Or am I just turning / turned into an olde humanist! I do not feel cynical -- it's all worth it!

Just trying to be honest about my motivations and their limitations.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Thursday, 11 November 2010 at 11:55am GMT

"All we can really say, surely,if we are really honest and basic, is that this is how I feel drawn, moved, in some sense maybe 'led'? To give our inner and outer journeyings and meanderings some kind of imprimatur, seems to go too far" Laurence Roberts

Absolutely! To this outsider, the expression "the Holy Spirit has led me to..." sounds just like "I've had an idea" but served with a bit of justificatory religious frosting on the top. It also reminds me of those celebrities who refer to themselves in the third person - it's as though they are unable to take ownership of and responsibility for their own thoughts and the actions that proceed from them.

"Or am I just turning / turned into an olde humanist!" Laurence Roberts

Yep - think you're pretty much there!
*inserts smiley*


Posted by Laurence C. at Thursday, 11 November 2010 at 1:18pm GMT

Actually you will find it is the elderly who will stay for their pensions, the middle aged who seem a bit timid and remaining behind and thus the younger FIF clergy who are heading, with energy and vision, into the Ordinariate.

Sorry to rain on your dismissive, intolerant and factually inaccurate parade...

Posted by Ed Tomlinson at Thursday, 11 November 2010 at 1:39pm GMT

Ed,
so far we've heard of 3 bishops, 2 retired bishops and 1 priest (whose age I don't know) and who may be bringing some of his congregation with him.
That's hardly a group of visionary young clergy.
Or has anyone else announced their departure yet?

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 11 November 2010 at 2:40pm GMT

Jerry Hanon, in answer to your question, no I did not comment, and I can substantiate that by asking you to look through my previous threads. I think your reaction is rather disturbing, in your reference to vomiting. Frankly, what goes in in the episcopal churches of Canada and the USA is of no interest to me whatsoever. I am concerned with the liberal drift of the Church of England, and it is upon that alone that I have made any contribution to the debates on this site and elsewhere. And in any case, my point was directed at where Father Smith was coming from, in his understanding, not mine. Read the threads carefully.

Posted by Benedict at Thursday, 11 November 2010 at 5:34pm GMT

"Or am I just turning / turned into an olde humanist!" Laurence Roberts

Yep - think you're pretty much there!
*inserts smiley*


Posted by: Laurence C. on Thursday, 11 November 2010 at 1:18

oh thank you --that's so sweet !


Posted by Laurence Roberts at Thursday, 11 November 2010 at 5:42pm GMT

"Actually you will find it is the elderly who will stay for their pensions, the middle aged who seem a bit timid and remaining behind and thus the younger FIF clergy who are heading, with energy and vision, into the Ordinariate.

Sorry to rain on your dismissive, intolerant and factually inaccurate parade...

- Posted by: Ed Tomlinson on Thursday -

Well, Fr.Ed., thank God for your youth and energy. How soon will you be blogging from the 'inside' of 'real' catholicism? I look forward to a bit more sparring with you from your new 'orthodox' perspective.

Sincerely, Ed., I do love the catholick and apostolick emphasis in the Church of England (which is the location of your nurture) - I was baptized into it. But I do fear that it's denigrators may soon find that the Church of Rome has little more to offer - except the 'certainty' of being right. Is that a virtue, I wonder?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 11 November 2010 at 8:30pm GMT

The whole scheme of the Act of Synod was to provide episcopal ministry for parishes which remained within their existing dioceses - not creating extra-diocesan areas on top of a new class of bishop.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Wednesday, 10 Nov

Yes - this expresses succinctly, a vital and largely over-looked point.

These bishops were never invited or empowered to carry on like this -- they just given a couple of inches by G Synod, and took miles and miles - and a good many liberties along the way, in my opinion. I have been appalled that instead of taking Confirmation services and giving 'pastoral care' (is a bishop really necessary for this ?), they have tended to become rallying points, it seems to me, for disaffection.

Nor do I detect much sense of thanks that the Church of England did, however inadequately in their eyes, seek to make provision for them. (Whereas no provision was made prior to 1993 for those wishing to have women ministers). And to this date no official 'provision' has been made for lgbt people -- do we need our own bishops too ? No, but some other things like celebration of our relationships and real pastoral care, wouldn't go amiss, with me.

Over to you.


Posted by Laurence Roberts at Thursday, 11 November 2010 at 8:38pm GMT

"giving 'pastoral care' (is a bishop really necessary for this ?)"

You seem to have given yourself away, Laurence. Do you actually not understand what bishops are for, or are you just sabre-rattling? Pastoral care is at the heart of episcopal ministry - the shepherd and his flock, etc... Through Resolution C, the PEVs have actually been able to focus on their pastoral and sacramental ministries, which I think makes them very good bishops, whereas most diocesan bishops have simply been turned into administrators and bureaucrats.

Posted by Fr James at Thursday, 11 November 2010 at 10:49pm GMT

I think Simon Kershaw has correctly understood what I was trying to say about the ecclesiology of this.

It is interesting to me how many distinct ecclesiologies seem to be present in the current debate about the consecration of women, and how few of these ecclesiologies have a well integrated synodical component. [In the sense that party views are given precedence over synodical outcomes on pretty much every side - if synod votes against us, it is synod that is wrong].

Posted by Mark Bennet at Thursday, 11 November 2010 at 11:03pm GMT

"Since 1994, nobody has tried to prevent the main body of the CofE going full steam ahead on women's ordination." - Clive, on Wednesday -

Well, Clive, certainly you and many others must surely have expended your not inconsiderable energies in fighting the measure, which accorded to faithful women called by God into the ministry of God's Church. The energy of that opposition is still being felt - by at least five suffragan bishops in the Church of England - each of whom has been zealous in opposition to the ordination of women. However, despite some negative comment on the role of the Holy Spirit in such a venture, I am sure that God had a hand in what went on.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 11 November 2010 at 11:40pm GMT

Just for the record, I am not declaring that God (the Holy Spirit) has definitively come down in favor of OOW, ordaining the honestly/partnered LGBT, mass in the vernacular, or anything else for that matter!

I AM saying that it is the "liberal viewpoint" to be OPEN to discerning God's Will in all of this---whereas it the "traditionalist" POV, to try to ***shut God up*** (claiming infallible interpretations of Scripture and Tradition, inc. by way of the Popoid "Magisterium").

Furthermore, I am not persuaded by traditionalist claims to be victims in all of this---when their loyalties have always been implicitly/explicitly w/ "My Way or the Highway (nee' Burning Stake)" ROME. The CofE's GS has bent over backwards to meet the traditionalists' demands . . . and then they're off to Rome anyway (isn't that what this thread's about?)

Posted by JCF at Friday, 12 November 2010 at 1:15am GMT

Benedict chastises me for using the word "vomit" in my reaction to what I perceived as ultra orthodox hypocrisy.

That's form over substance, but I do apologize if my pinky was not in the correct position.

I take you at your word, Benedict, that you did not criticize either ACC or TEC for any of the local prerogatives which they exercised, within their own jurisdictions, which have so greatly ticked off some of the other Provinces of the Anglican Communion.

You are commendably different than most of the ultra orthodox within the CofE seem to be.

However, I do feel that Fr. Smith was right to originally criticize the Covenant, and to urge its rejection by the CofE, and even more so after he posted his response to you, and referred to the fact that "...the Covenant affects ALL Provinces of the Communion. 'Inter-reference' is precisley what should be happening in all matters of Covenantal relation-ship."

It is accordingly a matter of proper concern to the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, just as much as it is to the Anglican Church of Canada, and to The Episcopal Church, and to other Provinces which will find this Covenant a very bad idea, indeed.

What ACC and TEC have done with their theological judgments may not be to your liking, or to that of other ultra orthodox in the CofE, but they are not forcing their ways upon the CofE, nor upon other Provinces.

Posted by Jerry Hannon at Friday, 12 November 2010 at 3:07am GMT

Fr James: ""giving 'pastoral care' (is a bishop really necessary for this ?)"

You seem to have given yourself away, Laurence. Do you actually not understand what bishops are for, or are you just sabre-rattling?"

This is interesting, as the Ordinary of the Pope's new arrangement will not necessarily be a bishop, implying that pastoral care of the clergy and faithful does not necessarily go with episcopacy.

Similarly, in the Church of England, clergy are generally advised not to regard their diocesan bishop in too pastoral a light, as the bishop also potentially sits as judge over them, an unfortunate conflation of roles.

Posted by Fr Mark at Friday, 12 November 2010 at 8:33am GMT

Fr Mark

Jesus is pastor and judge - how is this an unfortunate conflation of roles?

Posted by Mark Bennet at Friday, 12 November 2010 at 6:40pm GMT

Mark, Jesus is able to rise above the inherent conflict. Most bishops, in my experience, are not quite as good as Jesus.

Posted by Malcolm French+ at Friday, 12 November 2010 at 10:53pm GMT

Mark B "Jesus is pastor and judge - how is this an unfortunate conflation of roles?"

Well, in a religious community, for example, a member is never allowed to go for confession or spiritual direction to a person who is their religious superior. Similarly, in a boarding school, the chaplain must not stand in a disciplinary role vis-a-vis those to whom s/he provides pastoral care... isn't that fairly basic good practice when it comes to any kind of professional pastoral care?

Posted by Fr Mark at Saturday, 13 November 2010 at 9:29am GMT

I'm going to continue the drift to develop the point on pastor and judge - no Bishops are not as good as Jesus, nor am I - if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves.

What I want to challenge is any unreflective idea that pastor and judge must be separate roles - it is an ideology which permeates our society and which is not the only option. It seems to me to prioritise functional relationships rather than personal ones.

A couple of examples. Once upon a time a jury of your peers meant people who were from your own community, who knew you and knew about you - and because of their rich understanding of the context were thought to provide a fairer system of justice than people who knew nothing. Today we call that 'prejudice' and jury members are supposed to know as little as possible about the matters in hand. So they know only what is told them by witnesses and advocates, and that is supposed to be more 'objective'. I'm not saying that the change here is wrong, just that the current system is not the only possible one. Perhaps it is a necessary development in a society in which we know less of our neighbours than we used to.

As another example, where we cannot separate the roles - a parent provides love and care for a child, but also boundaries and discipline. We see in our society more "poor parenting" than we used to - and most of this would be down to parents withdrawing from the disciplining of their children and setting good boundaries. Such parents are separating the roles of pastor and judge in a manner comparable with the rest of society - and the results are not uniformly good.

I made a brief comment above, and didn't have time to raise the issue in full. But having raised it, it is quite a diversion from the topic of the thread.

Posted by Mark Bennet at Saturday, 13 November 2010 at 11:55am GMT

Mark B: it's an interesting diversion, though.

Don't you think there would be abuses of power if, in my examples, a religious superior or novice master were hearing the confessions of their subordinates? Or a school chaplain were expecting pupils to own up to things or shop their fellows to him/her if the chaplain were also in a disciplinary role?

I remember too, doing jury service when the case we heard concerned things which had happened in another part of the country. The crime must have been reported in the local press, but we had never heard of it before the case. Surely it is not just modern slackness that sees clear boundaries as important in judgement or pastoral roles?

My theory is that boundaries were not always well adhered to by professionals in Britain in the past, and hence a great deal of abuse of various kinds, which was routinely swept under carpets, whereas nowadays professionals of any kind are much more switched on to their importance.

I don't think poor parenting is to do with confusing pastoring/judging children, but rather a whole range of other things. Parenting seems to work very much better here where I am in Scandinavia mainly because parents do a lot of activities with their children and enjoy their company, rather than farming them out to other people or just ignoring them, as is more common (and traditional) in the UK. (Of course, there are plenty of downsides to the Scandinavian way of doing it too, not least that there are kids everywhere all the time, and the adults often seem to behave too much like them.)

Posted by Fr Mark at Saturday, 13 November 2010 at 9:24pm GMT

Fr Mark

Yes, it is interesting.
My main point, before I get into details, is still that dividing these things renders justice procedural rather than personal - and that Christianity has always stressed the personal nature of God's justice.
Power, where people have it, can obviously be abused - in fact it is almost inevitable that it will be. But power exists, and different ways of doing things merely redistribute power, sometimes so that it is unclear who has it. When "the system" has impersonal power injustice can be almost impossible to challenge or correct, and it is easy for officials to deny responsibility.
I think that the issue of confession is not entirely in point - but partly that is because I believe that our confession is made to God, and that the role of the priest is to help needy souls to be brought honestly into God's holy presence. But I can see your point - however, the ideology which seems to say that separation is the solution to all our ills is just as dangerous.
Imagine a case in which two men have been niggling each other since some incident which happened at school, and one has accidentally injured the other more seriously than really intended - a local community might take a different view of such a relationship than an impersonal jury who are told only part of the story: if I wanted to be provocative I could suggest that justice based on ignorance can be just as flawed as justice based on prejudice.
The family relationship is, I think, more in point than you suggest. It is after all the relationship God claims with us - and there is the ecclesiological idea of the Bishop as "father in God".
I would suggest that we live in a society wary of personal power, but not yet having learned that power exercised impersonally and procedurally can be just as problematic.
Mark

Posted by Mark Bennet at Sunday, 14 November 2010 at 8:08am GMT
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