Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Consecrating Our Lives to God

Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman
For those of us prone to daydream, the Offertory seems to be the slowest part of the Mass. After the proclamation of the Gospel and the homily, but before the Eucharistic Prayer, there’s a pause in the action, in which the priest stops to receive the bread and wine, and the collection basket is passed around for the tithe. It can take a lot of spiritual discipline to stay focused here, but if you know what’s going on, you see the Church quietly answering a rampant heresy.

You see, one of the persistent errors existing prior to the Second Vatican Council (and existing under a slightly different form today) was a sort of clericalism that treated religion as the sole province of priests and “religious,” while the laity were, at best, part-time Catholics. The view is best epitomized by a remark by Msgr. George Talbot, criticizing Blessed John Henry Newman for over-involving the laity:
What is the province of the laity? To hunt, to shoot, to entertain? These matters they understand, but to meddle with ecclesiastical matters they have no right at all, and this affair of Newman is a matter purely ecclesiastical…. Dr. Newman is the most dangerous man in England, and you will see that he will make use of the laity against your Grace.
In this view, “the Church” consisted of priests, male and female religious, and no ordinary laypeople.  As a result, worship was too often conceived of as what’s done on the altar (and perhaps in the choir), not in the pews.

I. The Saints Against Clergy-Only Ecclesiology 

The Saints fought against this bad ecclesiology for centuries.  Besides Newman, there’s St. Francis De Sales, whose Introduction to the Devout Life was written to a laywoman who struggled to live out a life of sanctity, while remaining in the world.  In the third chapter of the book, Francis reminds her that “Devotion is suitable to every Vocation and Profession.”  At the end of the nineteenth century, St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s “Little Way” inspired scores of Catholic laypeople to live out the faith in small, daily acts. Five years after her death, St. Josemaria Escrivá was born. In 1928, he founded Opus Dei, in order “to announce the universal call to holiness and to point out that daily life and ordinary activities are a path to holiness.

The universal call to holiness is a simple, radical notion: all of us are called to be Saints, whether or not we’re called to the priesthood. Religion isn’t just done in the convent, or on the altar. It’s done in the pews, and even more radically, it’s done in the supermarket, and in the home, and in the office.  In 1947, Ven. Pope Pius XII approved and endorsed secular institutes in Provida Mater Ecclesia.  These “secular institutes” are institutes “of consecrated life in which the Christian faithful living in the world strive for the perfection of charity and work for the sanctification of the world especially from within.

II. Vatican II on the Role of the Laity

The Second Vatican Council continued this focus on the universal call to holiness. Lumen Gentium declares that the universal call to holiness is not dependent upon ordination, since “in the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness.”  The Council made two important points:
  1. The Church, and the economy of salvation, includes an important role for the laity.  In other words, the laity are not just the recipients of the Catholic faith, but are called to share it and participate in it themselves.
  2. Metropolitan Community Church communion service
  3. The mission of the laity is distinct from the mission of the clergy.  In His plan for the salvation of the world, Christ established different roles, and the role of the laity is necessarily different from that of the priests. While the hierarchy are tasked in a special way with caring for the lay faithful, the laity are equipped (by virtue of their secular state of life) to evangelize the world through their daily lives.
A year earlier, Sacrosanctum Concilium made the same point in the context of the liturgy: the laity are called to “full and active participation,” meaning participation “by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes.”  But the form of that participation differs, based on an individual’s vocation:
Liturgical services are not private functions, but are celebrations of the Church, which is the "sacrament of unity," namely, the holy people united and ordered under their bishops [33]


Therefore liturgical services pertain to the whole body of the Church; they manifest it and have effects upon it; but they concern the individual members of the Church in different ways, according to their differing rank, office, and actual participation.
In the intervening fifty years, several people have claimed to represent the “spirit of Vatican II” by encouraging the blurring of the differing ranks and offices within the Church, or by pushing for the ordination of women priests, or by cramming as many laypeople as possible into the sanctuary. In fact, these people are perpetuating the exact mindset that Vatican II was trying to eliminate: the notion that only the priest (or at least, someone mulling about the sanctuary) fully participates in the Mass.  Put simply, Vatican II was calling the laity to be more Catholic as laity, not to be ordained priests.

III. One Way for the Lay Faithful to Participate in the Mass

So if that’s not what Vatican II meant by “full and active participation” or the universal call to holiness, what did they mean?  It’s important to emphasize that the laity aren’t called to be ordained priests, because they are called to participate in the priestly office of Jesus Christ, but in a unique way. The Second Vatican Council explained all of this in Lumen Gentium:
The Widow’s Mite, Ottobeuren Abbey
The supreme and eternal Priest, Christ Jesus, since he wills to continue his witness and service also through the laity, vivifies them in this Spirit and increasingly urges them on to every good and perfect work. 
For besides intimately linking them to His life and His mission, He also gives them a sharing in His priestly function of offering spiritual worship for the glory of God and the salvation of men. For this reason the laity, dedicated to Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit, are marvelously called and wonderfully prepared so that ever more abundant fruits of the Spirit may be produced in them. For all their works, prayers and apostolic endeavors, their ordinary married and family life, their daily occupations, their physical and mental relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life, if patiently borne—all these become "spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ". (1 Peter 2:5) Together with the offering of the Lord's body, they are most fittingly offered in the celebration of the Eucharist. Thus, as those everywhere who adore in holy activity, the laity consecrate the world itself to God.
We see the same two themes: the laity have a role in the economy of salvation, but it’s different role from the one played by ordained priests.

We see the unique sacrifice of the laity in a few places in the Mass, but the central place is during the Offertory.  As the General Instruction on the Roman Missal explains:
The offerings are then brought forward. It is a praiseworthy practice for the bread and wine to be presented by the faithful. They are then accepted at an appropriate place by the Priest or the Deacon to be carried to the altar. Even though the faithful no longer bring from their own possessions the bread and wine intended for the liturgy as was once the case, nevertheless the rite of carrying up the offerings still keeps its spiritual efficacy and significance. 
Even money or other gifts for the poor or for the Church, brought by the faithful or collected in the church, are acceptable; given their purpose, they are to be put in a suitable place away from the Eucharistic table.
If they’ve been following the instructions of Lumen Gentium, the Catholic lay faithful have been offering up their daily work, and carrying out their daily tasks in the Spirit.  Now, it is time to turn the fruits of that work over to God, in two forms: by tithing (giving God’s money back to Him), and by symbolically bringing forward the bread and wine (to represent the fruits of their labors). The priest then acknowledges this, by praying:
Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life. 
Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the wine we offer you: fruit of the vine and work of human hands it will become our spiritual drink.
This is a two-fold acknowledgement: it recognizes the bread and wine as coming from the laity, but it also recognizes that their ultimate origin is from God Himself.  So we are giving back to God what He has given us, through the lay faithful.

So instead of viewing the Offertory as a break in the liturgical action, understand it for what it is: the first of the two Sacrifices offered in the Mass. The laity consecrates the work of their lives to God, symbolized in the bread and wine. The priest then consecrates the bread and wine, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, it becomes Jesus Christ. Christ, along with our “sacrifice of praise” (Heb. 13:15; EP 1).

Monday, November 19, 2012

Are Pro-Lifers Racist for Opposing Abortion?


In some post-election commentary, Nancy Giles (of CBS News Sunday Morning) suggested that pro-lifers were against abortion in order to build up the white race:
“It’s been weird to watch white people report on this,” she said. “And, you know, when you just showed that graph of the decline in the numbers, I thought, ‘Maybe that’s why they’re trying to eliminate all these abortions and stuff. They’re trying to build up the race.’ You know, maybe.”
 This raises two questions, then:
  1. Is being pro-life racist?
  2. And if not, why are abortion advocates so insistent upon finding a secret psychological reason for why a person would be against abortion?

I. Is Being Pro-Life Racist?

Giles’ claim is not just wrong, but particularly ironic, for two reasons.  First of all, eliminating abortion would mean a less white America, since abortion disproportionately kills Hispanic and (especially) African-American children.  Logically, then, a racist would want more abortions, not less, since abortion disproportionately harms minority communities, as James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal points out:

Margaret Sanger Square, New York City
According to U.S. Census estimates, the overall abortion rate in 2007 was 19.5 abortions for every thousand women between 15 and 44. But the rate is much lower for whites (13.8) than for blacks (48.2). For women classified as “other”--neither black nor white--the rate is slightly above the national average (21.6). 
The census table goes back to 1990, and the same pattern holds, though the rates were considerably higher than for both whites (21.5) and blacks (63.9). If one wanted to slow the increase in minority populations, one would urge more, not less, abortion.
As Fr. John J. Raphael, SSJ has explained, abortion is the leading cause of death in the African-American community, having claimed the lives of approximately 13,000,000 African-American children in the past three decades. Right now, for every two African-American children born in New York City, three more are killed in the womb.  If pro-lifers are successful, they’re save a disproportionately large number of minority children, especially African-American children.  If that’s a racist conspiracy, it’s the most convoluted conspiracy that I’ve ever seen.

It’s not just the statistics, either. Look at the history of each side of the abortion debate. What’s most ironic about Giles’ claim that pro-lifers are against abortion because they want to “build up the race,”  is that it was Planned Parenthood, not the pro-life movement, that was established to “build up the race.”  Margaret Sanger founded Planned Parenthood as part of her effort to, in her own words, “improve the quality of the race” by weeding out undesirables. In The Pivot of Civilizationshe argued that this was the single most important problem facing society, and suggested that drastic measures may be in order:


The example of the inferior classes, the fertility of the feeble-minded, the mentally defective, the poverty-stricken, should not be held up for emulation to the mentally and physically fit, and therefore less fertile, parents of the educated and well-to-do classes. On the contrary, the most urgent problem to-day is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective. Possibly drastic and Spartan methods may be forced upon American society if it continues complacently to encourage the chance and chaotic breeding that has resulted from our stupid, cruel sentimentalism.
When she talks about the possible need for “drastic and Spartan methods” in controlling the population of  “undesirables,” it’s important to note just what the Spartans did to unwanted children they found undesirable.  Namely, they killed them, even after birth:
Jean-Jacques-François Lebarbier,
A Spartan Woman Giving a Shield to Her Son (1805)
From the moment a Spartan child was born, they were tested to make sure they embodied the image of a Spartan warrior. Immediately after birth, a Spartan child was dipped into a bath of wine to test its strength and fortitude. The Spartans believed that a weak child bathed in wine would convulse and die (Fant and Lefkowitz, 2005). If the child passed this particular test they were then taken by the father before a group of elders. If the Elders found the child deficient in any way (Frail looking, Deformed etc…) then the child was left on the sides of Mount Taygetos to die (Harley, 1934).

Sanger’s hostility to these “undesirables” led her even to oppose charity, since it permitted the continued existence of “defectives, delinquents and dependents,” leading to a “full harvest of human waste” that harmed “the future of the race”:
Even if we accept organized charity at its own valuation, and grant that it does the best it can, it is exposed to a more profound criticism. It reveals a fundamental and irremediable defect. Its very success, its very efficiency, its very necessity to the social order, are themselves the most unanswerable indictment. Organized charity itself is the symptom of a malignant social disease.  
Those vast, complex, interrelated organizations aiming to control and to diminish the spread of misery and destitution and all the menacing evils that spring out of this sinisterly fertile soil, are the surest sign that our civilization has bred, is breeding and is perpetuating constantly increasing numbers of defectives, delinquents and dependents.  
My criticism, therefore, is not directed at the “failure” of philanthropy, but rather at its success. These dangers inherent in the very idea of humanitarianism and altruism, dangers which have to-day produced their full harvest of human waste, of inequality and inefficiency, were fully recognized in the last century at the moment when such ideas were first put into practice. [....]  
Such “benevolence is not merely ineffectual; it is positively injurious to the community and the future of the race. 
Whether you’re looking at contemporary abortion statistics, or the writings of the founders of each side of the abortion debate, the same picture emerges. One side of this issue has repeatedly indulged theories of racial purification and eugenics in justifying its positions, but it hasn’t been the pro-life side.  So when Giles accuses pro-lifers of racism for opposing abortion, it’s absurd, given both the abortion statistics and history.

II. Why Does the Abortion Side Want to Change the Subject?


Why then, is Giles quick to reach for such a ridiculous theory?  Taranto quite plausibly suggests that it’s to avoid treating the pro-life issue on its merits, by avoiding the question of whether unborn children are human beings with the right to life:
Have you noticed how abortion proponents always seem to come up with amazingly strained theories about opponents' motives--they hate sex, they want to control women, etc.? Abortion opponents say they believe that unborn children are human beings with the right to life. One may disagree, but that belief is an entirely straightforward and reasonable explanation for why someone would take an antiabortion position.

Apparently the pro-abortion side fears if it acknowledged that position is sincerely held, that would be tantamount to acknowledging it may be true.

Take this lesson to heart. When abortion is framed as a “women’s issue” or a “reproductive health” issue, that’s framing the issue. It suggests, falsely, that the most relevant question on the topic of abortion is whether it restricts the rights of women.

From a pro-life perspective, a more appropriate category for the abortion debate is under the aegis of human rights.  The question is simple, the one Taranto poses above: are unborn children human beings with the right to life?  If yes, it seems that abortion should be rejected outright.  If no, it seems that abortion should be accepted outright. To have a logical position on the question of abortion, this is the question that has to come first.

Abortion proponents evade this question in several ways.  For example, they’ll shift the debate to whether a woman should have the right to choose what happens to her own body, or whether or not a woman should be “punished” with a child after she’s been raped.  These are pure evasions, because the answers to these don’t answer the question of whether abortion should be allowed.


Most Americans (whether pro-life or pro-choice) would agree that everyone has a limited right to control what happens to their own body.  But this isn’t an unfettered right: you can’t decide to smoke crack because you’re putting it into your own body, and very few people would suggest otherwise.  Even the fringe that would suggest otherwise must concede that the right to control one’s own body doesn’t extend to the right to do what you want to another person’s body. My right to my own body might give me the “right” to drink arsenic, but it surely doesn’t give me the right to make you drink arsenic. Your right to swing your fist doesn’t extend to the ability to swing it into my face. Put another way, your right to bodily autonomy doesn’t give you the right to violate someone else’s bodily autonomy.

So does abortion violate the bodily autonomy of the fetus?  Well, that depends on the answer to a simple question: are unborn children human beings with the right to life?  If so, then we know two things: (1) the fetus is not part of the mother’s body, and (2) his mother doesn’t have the right to violate the fetus’ bodily autonomy (and human rights) by killing him.  Basic science would help here: when a mother is pregnant with her son, does she suddenly become a two-headed, eight-limbed hermaphrodite?  If not, this suggests that the fetus has a separate bodily existence from the mother, even if he is wholly dependent upon her for nutrients (just as he is wholly dependent upon her for nutrients for several months after birth).

The same line of reasoning applies to the question of rape.  Should a rape victim be forced to conceive and bear a child with her rapist? Of course not. The Catholic Church, as anti-contraception as they get, permits emergency contraception in the case of rape, as long as it is not an abortificant (Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, Directive 36).  This makes sense, given that the Catholic view is that marital sex is supposed to be unitive and procreative (which is why She’s against contraception in the first place), and the rape victim neither intends nor consents to the sex act.  Put more simply, the profanation of sex that occurs is entirely the fault of the rapist, not the rape victim.

So no, a rape victim shouldn’t be forced to have a child by her rapist. But once a child exists, the mother doesn’t have the right to kill him, just because of who his father was.  Here’s an obvious example. A woman and her husband are trying to have kids. At some point during the process, this woman is raped, and becomes pregnant. Only after she gives birth to the child does she discover that he’s the son of her rapist, not her husband. Does she have the right to “terminate” her baby in the cradle? Of course not.  She was cruelly violated, but that’s no justification to violate her child.  It’s considered cruel and unusual punishment to execute rapists. It’s radically more cruel and unjust to execute their innocent children.  But is a child in the womb similar to a child in the cradle, in that it is wrong to end their life?  That depends upon the answer to an important question is (you guessed it): are unborn children human beings with the right to life?  

As Taranto suggests, this is the question that abortion advocates are running from, because on this issue, both science and morality are on the pro-life side.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Why is Fish Allowed on Meatless Fridays?

Yesterday, Cardinal Dolan gave his Presidential Address to the USCCB about the need for penance, and the possibility of re-instituting meatless Fridays year-round:
​What an irony that despite the call of the Second Vatican Council for a renewal of the Sacrament of Penance, what we got instead was its near disappearance. 
​We became very good in the years following the Council in calling for the reform of structures, systems, institutions, and people other than ourselves.That, too, is important; it can transform our society and world. But did we fail along the way to realize that in no way can the New Evangelization be reduced to a program, a process, or a call to structural reform; that it is first and foremost a deeply personal conversion within? "The Kingdom of God is within," as Jesus taught. [....] 
The work of our Conference during the coming year includes reflections on re-embracing Friday as a particular day of penance, including the possible re-institution of abstinence on all Fridays of the year, not just during Lent.
This move doesn’t come as a total shock: Cardinal Dolan has been openly discussing the idea for over a year, after the British bishops restored the Friday abstinence (and canonically speaking, year-round meatless Fridays remain the norm (can. 1250) unless the bishops’ conference decides to substitute other forms of penance (can. 1253)).

Fr. Dwight Longenecker raised a reasonable objection, both on Facebook, and on his blog: “If they do bring back Friday as a day of abstinence I hope they'll suggest no meat or fish. Seafood is not really a penance.” Now, it’s true that Friday abstinence need not meat that your palate will suffer. It’s not hard to eat well without meat … with or without seafood. So as a penance, it’s rather light. But frankly, that’s not the point – or at least, not the primary point.  As I explained last year:
What's given up isn't technically “meat” but the Latin “caro,” which means "flesh." This is why fish is allowed: their meat isn't considered "flesh." So why do we give up flesh on Fridays? Two reasons.

First, “flesh” is often the term the New Testament writers (particularly St. Paul) use to describe our sinful appetites. So in Romans 8:13, Paul says, “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” We give up “flesh meat” to symbolize putting to death the deeds of the flesh.

Second, Christ Redeemed us by offering up His Flesh for our salvation on Good Friday. St. Paul explains in Colossians 1:19-23
For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell, and having made peace through the blood of His Cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself -- by Him, I say, whether they be things on earth or things in heaven.

And you, who were once alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, even now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblamable and unreprovable in His sight, if ye continue grounded and settled in the faith, and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel, which ye have heard and which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, am made a minister.
So Christ, by being put to Death in the Flesh, reconciles us to the Father. So our job is done, right? Christ bore all the bad stuff, so we're home free? Not quite. St. Paul says in the very next breath (Colossians 1:24-25)
I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh, for His body's sake, which is the church, of which I am made a minister according to the dispensation of God, which is given to me for you, to fulfill the Word of God-- even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints. 
Just read that passage a couple times, and tell me that St. Paul wasn't a Catholic. Christ being put to Death in the Flesh reconciles us to God the Father, but the Passion doesn't mean that we're going to free-ride. Rather, our job is to take up our cross daily, and follow Christ (Luke 9:23). A Cross is a for killing: Christ is saying that we have to die to ourselves every day. So it's fitting that we put away the flesh-meat on Friday, the day of week which forever honors Christ's Passion, to signify both our love of the ultimate Sacrifice of the Flesh, and to emulate our Savior by mortifying the flesh for the sake of the Spirit.
On a related, somewhat-amusing historical note: did you know that the Catholics of South America treat the capybara as a fish for Friday abstinence purposes, since it spends much of its time in the water?  Nor is that oddity merely historical: capybara remains a popular Lenten dish in Venezuela.  But prior to the modern system of classifying animals, there were several mammals (like beaver) that were lumped in with “fish” for purposes of the Friday abstinence.  For example, the 19th century explorer Alexander von Humboldt noted in his travel diary that:
[The capybara’s] flesh has a musky smell somewhat disagreeable; jet hams are made of it in this country, a circumstance which almost justifies the name of “water-hog,” given to the chiguire by some of the older naturalists. The missionary monks do not hesitate to eat these hams during Lent. According to their zoological classification they place the armadillo, the thick-nosed taper, and the manati, near the tortoises; the first, because it is covered with a hard armour like a sort of shell ; and the others because they are amphibious.
No word yet what Cardinal Dolan’s stance is on these faux-fish.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Why Conservative Anglicanism is Doomed

On Friday, the Anglican Church announced that the next Archbishop of Canterbury would be the current Bishop of Durham, Justin Welby.  This appointment is important, since the Archbishop of Canterbury is the highest-ranking bishop within the Anglican Communion.  Archbishop-elect Welby is a complex man: he’s an Evangelical with an admiration for Catholicism, and a traditional-minded bishop who supports women’s ordination.

In a way, he reflects the complex situation that the Anglican Communion finds itself in. The Communion has two major factions. The liberal wing is pushing for women’s ordination, church blessings of same-sex relationships, the ordination of practicing homosexuals, and in some cases a rejection of the inspiration of Scripture and the historicity of the physical Resurrection. Meanwhile, there’s a conservative Anglican wing that’s fighting against all of these things, and trying to preserve what remains of Anglican tradition.

Unfortunately (and genuinely, I say this with regret), I believe that the conservative wing is doomed for failure. Conservative Anglicanism will either cease to be Anglican, cease to be conservative, or simply cease to be.  As a movement, it is unsustainable, for the following reasons:

I. Conservative Anglicanism Fights for Traditional Marriage ... 
...But Grows Out of the Destruction of Marriage

Frank O. Salisbury, Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon
before Papal Legates at Blackfriars, 1529
(1910)
This point was put quite cleverly in a recent letter to the editor of a Washington state newspaper:
In its ads in the Herald, the local congregation of the Anglican Church in North America, which split from the Episcopalians in 2008, claims that it represents the “historic, traditional Anglican Church.” The ads affirm a belief in “faithful, monogamous marriage between one man and one woman.”

I imagine that the church's founder, King Henry VIII, is turning over in his grave as a result of the 21st-century “assault” on traditional marriage -- along with his wife, Catherine of Aragon; his wife, Anne Boleyn, his wife, Jane Seymour; his wife, Anne of Cleves; his wife, Kathryn Howard and his wife, Katherine Parr.

A couple of them lost their heads over Henry's devotion to “faithful, monogamous marriage.”
Most likely, the author of this letter is on the wrong side of the gay marriage debate, but he raises a salient point: conservative Anglicanism lacks credibility to defend traditional marriage on “traditional Anglican” grounds, because of King Henry VIII's serial divorces.

Obviously, every church, coffee shop, and cubicle in the world is occupied by sinners. But this is different. It’s not simply that King Henry VIII was a sinner who was married six times, and killed two of his wives. It’s that Henry founded Anglicanism specifically so he could do this.

When the Catholic Church stood Her ground on marriage being a faithful, monogamous marriage between one man and one woman, and refused to permit Henry to divorce and remarry, Henry declared himself the head of the Church in England, and Anglicanism was born.

The “traditional Anglican” position on marriage, then, is hardly a ringing endorsement of “faithful, monogamous marriage,” which is precisely why the Anglican Communion has offered relatively little in the way of principled resistance to “gay marriage.”

II. Conservative Anglicanism Rejects Women’s Ordination…
...But Considers the Queen of England the Head of the Church

Queen Elizabeth II
The original schism within the Anglican Communion was tied to the question of women’s ordination. Long story short, liberal Anglican churches began ordaining women, and a number of traditionalists broke off from the Anglican Communion over it, in what’s called the Continuing Anglican Movement.

Some of the traditional Anglicans are part of the Anglican Communion, some are not; some accept women’s ordination, some don’t.  Some, like the Anglican Church of North America, permit women’s ordination to the priesthood, but reject women’s ordination to the episcopacy.  But there is a certain disharmony in conservative Anglicanism’s rejection of female priests and bishops, while accepting the Queen of England as the “Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England” who continues to play a significant role in the structure of the Anglican Church:
Archbishops and bishops are appointed by The Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister, who considers the names selected by a Church Commission. They take an oath of allegiance to The Queen on appointment and may not resign without Royal authority.
To say the least, rejecting female Church leadership while acknowledging a woman as the head of the Church is something less than coherent as an ecclesiology.

III. Conservative Anglicanism is Fighting for Tradition…
… But this “Tradition” Grows Out of Rupture, and a Break with Authentic Tradition

As far as I can tell, there’s no such thing as a “good Anglican.” What I mean is that we can speak of someone being a “good Catholic,” if he holds to the Tradition of the Catholic Church: he believes what the Church believes, and what the Church has always believed.  But there doesn’t seem to be any sort of equivalent in the Anglican Communion, because her history is full of contradictions and complete reversals on core doctrines.

Gerlach Flicke, Thomas Cranmer (1545)
For example, the ACNA holds to the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1571 “as expressing the fundamental principles of authentic Anglican belief.”  I appreciate what they’re trying to do: maintain a connection to historic Anglicanism, from 1571 forward. But there’s a glaring flaw there: the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1571 directly contradict prior Anglican dogmas, as well as the teachings of the Catholic Church.

For example, the previous articles of belief, the Six Articles of 1539, affirmed the Anglican Church’s belief in transubstantiation:
First, that in the most blessed Sacrament of the Altar, by the strength and efficacy of Christ's mighty word, it being spoken by the priest, is present really, under the form of bread and wine, the natural body and blood of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, conceived of the Virgin Mary, and that after the consecration there remaineth no substance of bread and wine, nor any other substance but the substance of Christ, God and man;
But the Thirty-Nine Articles of 1571 deny transubstantiation. Specifically, the 28th Article says:
Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of bread and wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ, but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.
These are 180 degrees opposed from one another, and can’t both be right. Either Anglicans were heretics in 1571, or they were heretics in 1539, or both. So all of modern Anglicanism is built on the idea that the Anglican Communion was (or is) heretical.

Given this, the one thing that all Anglicans appear to agree upon is that the Anglican Church is untrustworthy on doctrinal issues.  If that is so, what merit is there in pledging allegiance to “Anglican tradition”?  Put another way, the Anglican “traditionalists” today are simply the ones who accept the radical liberals of 1571 over the radical liberals of 1971, and neither one has any particular basis to call themselves “traditionalists.”

Conclusion

Note that in each of the instances mentioned above, the problem isn’t that conservative Anglican’s positions are wrong.  In fact, from a Catholic perspective, we would say that they’re right about the definition of marriage; right about the male-only nature of the priesthood; and, while wrong to hold to the Thirty-Nine Articles, right to seek out an ancient and stable ground of traditional Christianity.

The problem is that these positions are virtually impossible to hold in a principled manner while remaining Anglican.  At some point, the would-be traditional Anglicans need to decide where Christian Tradition or Anglicanism is more important, because they can’t perpetually coexist.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Post-Election Quiz

One of my professors sent this Post-Election Quiz around today. I'm not sure who wrote it, but it's timely for Christians who are struggling with the results of last night's election.

After the Election: Perspective Check
    Jesus Christ, Icon, Eastern Orthodox Altar,
    Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem
  1. True/False: The day after the election, regardless of who wins, Jesus will still be King.
  2. True/False: The day after the election, regardless of who wins, our responsibilities as Christians will not have changed one iota.
  3. True/False: The day after the election, regardless of who wins, the greatest agent for social change in America will still be winning the hearts and minds of men and women through the gospel, not legislation.
  4. True/False: The day after the election, regardless of who wins, my primary citizenship will still be in this order – (1) the Kingdom of God, (2) America, not vice-versa.
  5. True/False: The day after the election, regardless of who wins, the tomb will still be empty.
  6. True/False: The day after the election, regardless of who wins, the cross, not the government, will still be our salvation.
  7. True/False: The day after the election, regardless of who wins, our children will still be more concerned with whether or not we spend time with them than with who is President.
  8. True/False: The day after the election, regardless of who wins, my neighbor will still be my neighbor, and loving him/her will still be the second greatest commandment. (Do you know the first?)
  9. True/False: The day after the election, regardless of who wins, the only way to see abortion ultimately overturned will still be winning men and women to a high view of life through the gospel of Christ.
  10. True/False: The day after the election, regardless of who wins, the only way to see gay marriage ultimately defeated will still be winning men and women to a biblical view of marriage through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  11. True/False: The day after the election, regardless of who wins, my retirement will still not match my treasure in Heaven.
  12. True/False: The day after the election, regardless of who wins, “Jesus Is Lord” will still be the greatest truth in the Universe.
  13. True/False: The day after the election, regardless of who wins, we will still know that God is in control.
As Christians living in a republic, we have a moral duty to vote according to a well-formed conscience, and we’re not called to ignore the world.  We’re called to bring the world to Christ.  Having said that, I think that we too quickly forget Psalm 146:3-10,
Christ the King, Świebodzin, Poland (2010)
Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no help. When his breath departs he returns to his earth; on that very day his plans perish. Happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith for ever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the sojourners, he upholds the widow and the fatherless; but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. The LORD will reign for ever, thy God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD!
Please, don’t misunderstand me.  Elections do have consequences, including eternal consequences.  The president’s re-election strategy centered on promoting abortion (and scaring voters about Romney’s plans regarding abortion) more than any major party campaign we’ve seen.  From a pro-life perspective, the growing embrace of abortion and gay marriage by (at least) one of the two major political parties is extremely troubling.

Part of the solution to that will come through the ballot box.  But the ballot box will do no good if it’s unaccompanied by prayer, because at the heart of these social problems are spiritual problems: a nation increasingly ignorant of, or apathetic to, the will of God.  I am reminded, and chastened, of two important anniversaries coming up next year: the 1700th anniversary of the legalization of Christianity, and the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.  Psalm 95:9-10 says, “For forty years I loathed that generation and said, ‘They are a people who err in heart, and they do not regard my ways.’ Therefore I swore in my anger that they should not enter my rest.

As a country, we’re very much at a crossroads, and we should implore God’s help and His guidance, and pray for our president and elected officials often.  Let this election chasten us, but not cause us to despair.  The solution to this crisis will ultimately come, not through a politician, but in the One who has already won the victory.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Fasting for the Election

With the election coming up tomorrow, one of my friends (and a fellow Kenrick seminary), Davide Bianchini, had a great suggestion: we should fast for the day.  Here’s what he wrote:
Peter Paul Ruben, The Prophet Elijah Receiving
Bread and Water from an Angel
(1628)
Someone encouraged me to do this, and I thought I'd pass it along to you as well. It is to do a one-day fast tomorrow (Tuesday) for the election. If you so feel inspired, please consider participating in this venerable tradition of the Church (As you know, the more traditional form of fasting is on bread and water, but if you think it will interfere with your duties, please consider making some sacrifice for the sake of our country, even if only to avoid desert. As Our Lord told Saint Faustina, any small sacrifice, when done with love, can effect change in the hearts of men.) Let us recall to mind the words of Our Lady at Fatima; "Many souls go to hell because there is no one to offer prayers and sacrifices for them", following the proclamation of the angel; "Penance! Penance! Penance!" And to Saint Faustina, Our Lord said the following; "You will save more souls through prayer and suffering than will a missionary through his teachings and sermons alone".
He then included excerpts from a post he wrote on his own blog, which included great quotes like this:
  • Saint Gregory: "It is impossible to engage in spiritual conflict, without the previous subjugation of the appetite."
  • Saint John Chrysostom: "Fasting is the support of our soul: it gives us wings to ascend on high, and to enjoy the highest contemplation! [...] God, like an indulgent father, offers us a cure by fasting."
  • Saint Alphonsus De Ligouri: "He that gratifies the taste will readily indulge the other senses; for, having lost the spirit of recollection, he will easily commit faults, by indecent words and by unbecoming gestures. But the greatest evil of intemperance, is that it exposes chastity to great danger. 'Repletion of the stomach,' says St. Jerome, 'is the hotbed of lust.'
Just some food for thought, if you'll forgive the terrible pun.