Friday, November 23, 2012

Difficulties with "Catholic" and "Priest"


I am always a bit anxious about describing Anglkcan clergy as "priests", it is not just Apostolicae Curiae saying their orders as being "absolutely null and void" because in the late 1920s many Anglican bishops introduced "the dutch touch", Old Catholic bishops laying on hands, to confuse matters, so now Apostolicae Curiae is perhaps less secure than it was when it promulgated in the nineteenth century.

The problem is more the intention with which orders are giving and received in the CofE. Most Anglican bishops would say they intend to create "Catholic Priests" when they ordain but the problem, as we have seen over the last few days, is what Anglicans mean by both "Catholic" and "Priests".

We Catholics understand "Catholic" to mean those in communion with, and recognised as being so by the Bishop of Rome, the geographical adjective such as Roman, Greek or Ukrainian designating which Rite these particular Catholics use. Personally, I prefer (Latin or)  Roman Rite Catholic, to Roman Catholic. Anglican seem to use "Catholic" in the sense of "universal". The ordination of female presbyters made it difficult for them to use the term to mean what Anglo-Catholics had understood by it: an Anglican who in some sense is faithful to "Catholic" tradition, in the same sense that we might understand the Orthodox or other ancient Churches to be "Catholic". The ordination of women, in fact did so much to damage to the notion that Anglicanism has anything in common with the ancient Churches that although Anglicans might use "catholic" in the Creed it as void of meaning as it is in the mouth of any other member of a Protestant sect. The presence of female "priests" rather undermines the argument the CofE is "both Catholic and Reformed".

The word "Priest" too is so vague, there has been no mention of Bishops as being "High Priests" in any of the discussions before or after the Synod debate. Administrators, senior management, chief executives, pastoral workers, carers have all figured but nothing that is specifically "priestly". Being a priest is even necessarily about "presiding" over the liturgy both deacons and lay women can do that. Priesthood is about offering sacrifice, a propitiatory sacrifice. Despite the Oxford Movement's attempt to reconcile the 39 Articles with Catholic doctrine Article 31 in its plain meaning will always present difficulties for Anglicanism.
Article xxxi.—"The sacrifices (sacrificia) of Masses, in the which it was commonly said, that the priest did offer CHRIST for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits (perniciosae imposturae)."
Anglicanism is built on the repudiation of priesthood and sacrifice. With the severe weakening of the Anglo-Catholic faction in Anglicanism, few in today's CofE will speak of "priests", male or female, in terms of offering Christ for the "quick and dead". The most sacral argument might suggest that a CofE "priest" is a preacher, or teacher, a pastoral worker or even a head of a local Church. Catholics will have no real problem with these functions. Women have done these things in the Church down the ages, just think of medieval abbesses.

The majority of Anglican's might not actually share this Anglican clergyman's disbelief which appears on James Preece's blog, but it seems to be growing part of Anglicanism. Don Cuppitt's "Sea of Faith" movement and similar groups are able grow unhindered. There was a rather staggering survey of Anglican clergy, such a large proportion denied the Virgin Birth, the Divinity of Christ, the veracity of scripture, the Resurrection of Christ and of the dead that one really is forced ask quite what being a Christian means in today's CofE, the survey showed women clergy are weaker in their belief than their male counterparts. One is almost forced to say there are deeply committed Christians within Anglicanism but left wondering about whether Anglicanism is actually Christian or merely springs from a once "Christian ethos".

7 comments:

Delia said...

In any case, ordination isn't a Sacrament in the C of E, so historically what did they think they were doing when ordaining 'priests'?

bob said...

In the C16 & C17 the opposite of Catholic was Papist; now it is Protestant.

words change their meaning and not everyone has the same definition.

Andrew Leach said...

I have always taken Christian Research's results with a large pinch of salt and advise others to do so too. To my knowledge, they have never published any worthwhile supporting statistics (on sample size or selection methodology for example), simply saying they are "impartial".

nickbris said...

Sir Tony Baldry who thinks he is a lot cleverer than he is by a wide margin has said that the Church's stance on Lady Bishops would would lead people to view them as a sect. and they would be implausible in the SSM debate

I thought that when the Good King Hal withdrew from Rome and made himself head of the Church he intended it to be a sect and totally independent.

It's not very charitable to laugh at the unfortunate but who can help themselves having a little snigger

Matthew Roth said...

I would suggest that Apostolicae Curiae is still secure; Old Catholic bishops might intend to ordain Catholic priests, but under a form that is invalid (at least in the CofE,because each new clergy candidate must uphold the 39 Articles) and thus goes against the intentions of the Roman Church and how she defines the sacrament.

Rabies Theologorum said...

I think the term Roman placed before Catholic is a neologism which derives from the 19th century. If you look at recusant sources catholic was sufficient. As regards the Dutch touch it was still problematic with a plethora of episcopi vagrantes - and is still the cause of claims to the apostolic succession now. I recently went on the website of the the so called Society of St Leo XIII and was surprised to see a chap in the lower year to me in Ushaw is now a bishop and no less the assiatant bishop of Sunderland, and also with a DD. Mind all the bishops of that society seem to be doctors of Divinity. Vagrant bishops can ordian whom they want but not in communion with the church. From what I have read the Holy See is taking a more stingent approach to such ordinations and the nature of their vailidity, and that is where the idea of the intention of the Church comes in. As I understand it Orthodoxy has been much stricter regarding the recognition of apostolic orders in regard to intention. It may be that we have had a too scholastic approach to the understanding of apostolic sucession as hands on heads.We forget that the Dutch touch church was riddled with Jansensim and a touch of quietism. I don't think the Dutch touch will save the C of E now because they are not bothered about apostolic succession although they prehaps say something general about following Jesus. Moreover, they are not going to talk about apostolic tradition, and a catholics know tradition and revelation go together. You cannot have one without the other, if you could why would we believe anyting the apostles said, or the early teachers of the Chruch?
As to Don Cupitt, philosophical non-realism was trendy when I studied Theology in the late 80's not among philosophers I may say. You write a book with an interesting tile like Taking leave of God and SCM Press published it and I suspect made a profit. He took the title from Meister Eckhart BUT Eckhart was anyting but a non-realist. The C of E never disciplined Cupitt, or removed him from his office as a priest. This is what happens when non realist philosophy can be peddled as Christianity. Its late and tired - Ite ad Thomam or realism, if you don't believe me take a good run at a wall or make a run at a glass window, or run under a bus (please don') because you will find it hurts and is real. Regards

Nicolas Bellord said...

Excellent and very useful post Father. In the next door village to me there is an Anglican hospital chaplain who does not believe in the divinity of Christ. Surely he does not qualify as a Christian let alone a Catholic.