Thursday, November 19, 2009

Williams argues like a Protestant


Archbishop of Canterbury's address at a Willebrands Symposium in Rome is on-line, in it he asks this question:
Therefore the major question that remains is whether in the light of that depth of agreement the issues that still divide us have the same weight – issues about authority in the Church, about primacy (especially the unique position of the pope), and the relations between the local churches and the universal church in making decisions (about matters like the ordination of women, for instance). Are they theological questions in the same sense as the bigger issues on which there is already clear agreement? And if they are, how exactly is it that they make a difference to our basic understanding of salvation and communion? But if they are not, why do they still stand in the way of fuller visible unity? Can there, for example, be a model of unity as a communion of churches which have different attitudes to how the papal primacy is expressed?
This might sound terribly triumphalistic but Williams argues like a Protestant! We Catholics certainly believe in a "heirarchy" of doctrines: the Trinity is probably more significant than distinctions between the particular and general judgement, for example. We accept that we are human and not God, therefore though we are capable of penetrating the Mystery of God by reason and Revelation, we can never know Him fully, presumably not even by Grace.
Catholics believe God has revealed Himself, Revelation is of His nature. For us this Revelation is not merely Propositions drawn from scripture, which seems to be how the Protestant mind works, it is rather the acceptance of something much more pneumatological, an indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit that leads us into all Truth. Catholics, and those of the ancient Apostolic Churches believe "faith" and the aceceptance of Revelation is a gift which comes from baptism. The ancient pre-baptismal question illustrates this: the Priest asks, "What do you desire?" The catechumen -or God-parents- answers, "Faith". It is Faith in what the Church, the Christian community, through the power of the Holy Spirit has to pass on. In a sense it is aquiesance to the Church's teaching, in fact to communion with God in the Holy Spirit hook, line and sinker.
This is going to be the great problem with our future relations with Anglicanism, we can't any longer pretend we are speaking about unity, or wholeness only acout individual propositions.

12 comments:

On the side of the angels said...

I was stunned to the core with his speech. However polite and high-brow and seemingly 'unitive'; it was obfuscatory, duplicitous, mendacious [especially in his references to concord and 'agreements' at ARCIC and 'making eucharist'] and an all-out assault on the Papacy and Catholicism itself. To make things worse this man is a patristic theologian whose been enmeshed in the theology of His Holiness and von Balthasar; and he knew exactly how defamatory, how destructive and how defiantly hostile he was being in his seemingly innocuous [at least relayed as such] diatribe.

This call to unity is tantamount to a call to arms against everything Catholicism holds dear;
his heinous allusons to an almost 'revolutionary', 'innovative' theological ecclesial outlook after vatican II...

[as if Congar etc did anything but abrogate all intrinsically ontological reality and dignity within the Mystical Body of Christ and attempted to adopt a primus inter pares homogeneity devoid of dogmatic and metaphysically essential uniqueness and Catholicity ???]

...his pragmatism, relativism , his depiction of division of faith and reason and praxis as the enemy of unity which must be disseminated into an amalgam of liberty and optional participation, his diminution and despicable sleight of hand regarding the 'ordination of women' when we find ALL their ordinations invalid ; his loathsome side-swipes at papal authority...

I can understand his anger at the Papal initiative ; but to respond with such vitriol and animosity is incomprehensible ?

I've just spoken with Fr 'Hilariter' who informed me that throughout Cardinal Kasper was nodding affirmatively and the organisers endured there was no opportunity for Dr Williams to take questions from the floor...

Nevertheless this bridge-burning action from the not-so-venerable doctor has been a confrontational act ; verging upon a declaration of war....

Michael Petek said...

"For us this Revelation is not merely propositions drawn from scripture, which seems to be how the Protestant mind works . . ."

Not only the Protestant mind, but any created mind at all. We cannot but think in terms of concepts intelligible to the intellect, taking them as axioms from which we draw valid conclusions as in analytic philosophy.

We Catholics do it this way: we receive sacramentally the uncreated Word of God who is unintelligible to us save as revealed in His Sacred Humanity. He then draws the Catholic faithful into communion with Himself, so that their unanimous agreement in what is propositionally revealed can never be in error.

"The people of God, anointed as they are by the Holy One, cannot err in matters of faith" (Lumen Gentium)

Jacobi said...

I'm not sure what he means by "that depth of agreement", other than a commendable willingness to talk to and be agreeable to each other. From my experience of ecumenical gatherings (four years now)I am constantly surprised at the the differences between Catholics and Protestants. Apart from the expected rejection of the Mass, the Real Presence, etc, I have found for example widespread rejection of Christ as fully God (Arianism?)and a willingness to trust in salvation through ones own efforts (Pelagianism?) or is that just plain old-fashioned sola fide

Do I also detect an element of Relativism, or Secularism in the Archbishops musings i.e. the Pope,the ordination of women, do they really matter all that
much - in this day and age?

Antonio said...

I agree completely with "On the side of the angels".
These days we have seen here and there that the Pope and the Catholic Church have "insulted" Rowan Williams and anglicanism.
I feel insulted today.

Delia said...

What a slippery fellow! He must be in a dreadful fog, though, so needs our prayers.

GOR said...

I don’t profess to understand Rowan Williams. Clarity is not his strong point and maybe that’s intentional as it makes it harder to pin him down on something. His early reference to Yves Congar was indicative I thought. A few of his expressions stood out for me:

“adjust our expectations downward” – which I took to mean that Ecumenism as we (or rather he) knew it might be in decline. You might say that, Archbishop.

“ministerial collective” – this evokes images of the Chinese 5-year plans of Mao some time back and accurately depicts some of the CofE and Episcopal initiatives of recent years – probably with similar results.

“supplementary Episcopal oversight” – this reminds me of our local pastor who in the Canon of the Mass names our Ordinary and then the auxiliaries - including Rembert (…Weakland, disgraced former Ab. of Milwaukee) as the Ordinary’s “helping bishops”. Some help…!

“carefully crafted institutional ways” –somehow inconsistent with Our Lord’s admonition to say “Yes” when you mean yes and “No” when you mean no. If you have to “carefully craft” how you preach the Gospel, one suspects that clarity is not the objective.

But it is the two-question final paragraph that was most striking:

Q. “For many of us who are not Roman Catholics, the question we want to put, in a grateful and fraternal spirit, is whether this unfinished business is as fundamentally church-dividing as our Roman Catholic friends generally assume and maintain.?”

A. Yes.

Q. “And if it isn't, can we all allow ourselves to be challenged to address the outstanding issues with the same methodological assumptions and the same overall spiritual and sacramental vision that has brought us thus far?”

A. No.

So there you have Archbishop, with an economy of words – monosyllabic even…

Elizabeth said...

The teachings of the Catholic Church are very clear, there are no grey areas. This is not the case with protestant churches.
It is for them to come home to the one true Catholic Church left to us by Jesus Christ and headed by our wonderful Pope, a direct descendent of St Peter.

Basil Roberson said...

Is it suprising that Dr. Williams should say anything else?

After all Article XXXVII states "The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England."

Zephyrinus said...

I have always been perplexed by this man's creed (or lack of it). I think I now understand it and it can be summed up in the following way: Plank; Thick; Two; As. [Consider and discuss over, approx, 40 years and have lots of Committees and let's break up into Groups and see how we feel about things.]

JARay said...

There is little I can add.
(Then why say anything?!)
I just want to thank 'On the side of the angels' for his clear summing up of the situation.
JARay

Edward P. Walton said...

Why do Catholics continue to use the title, Archbishop of Canterbury? Even Vatican sources do not use the title, Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury.Is this not a type of Relativism?

In Westminster Cathedral, there was a bronze plaque near the statue of the Chair of Peter; on it was a list of all the Archbishops of Canterbury, Cardinal Pole was the last name.

Will the Pope ever fill the vacant see of Canterbury?

St. Thomas a'Becket's feast day is approaching, what a gift this would be for the Church In England.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Edward,
Courtesy.