Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Question 13 from CANA


Q13. What is CANA’s position on women’s ordination?

CANA recognizes that there are differing theological positions in the Anglican Communion about women in ordained ministry. CANA acknowledges the integrity of those who understand the Holy Scriptures to permit the ordination of women to the priesthood and those who believe the Scriptures prohibit women’s ordination. Archbishop Peter Akinola has stated that there needs to be freedom for CANA to include both perspectives because of its North American character. CANA believes that for the health and well being of the church the particular gifts of women must be freely expressed. CANA will welcome applications from congregations and female clergy on the same basis as other applications with the expectation that women clergy will be licensed to continue their ministry.

Because of the differing positions regarding the ordination of women to the priesthood CANA policies regarding the ordination of new female aspirants will be developed from a biblical and pastoral perspective. This is a matter that is being actively pursued by the CANA clergy and elected lay leadership.

An Excellent Reflection on CANA

Question 13: What is CANA's position on WO?

For an excellent, thoughtful and sober assessment of the difficulties currently emerging from the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, please visit Apologetics Galore and read the well-presented post by its blogger, DH. In light of the historic move on the part of The Falls Church, Truro Church and 13 other former parishes in Virginia of the Episcopal Church which have already voted or are in the process of voting to separate from TEC, it is imperative that the serious theological, sacramental and ecclesiological issues at stake be addressed openly and deliberately in the days ahead. The role of the Covenant Union between the Church of Nigeria and the APA/REC is not at all clear at the moment, as CANA appears to have moved forward in allowing purportedly-ordained women to function within its jurisdiction. Will the Covenant Union be upheld? Will the proper consultation and discussion to which the Covenant Union commits both CANA and the APA/REC take place? Only time will tell.

Let us pray that the errors made and the theological novelties promoted in the Anglican Communion over the past thirty years will not be repeated yet again in this situation. Let us pray for the unity and fidelity of the Anglican expression of the Holy Catholic Church.


In the CANA news conference linked above, you will discover that the CANA-sponsored mission of Christ the Redeemer, Centreville, Virginia, has as its interim rector a lady who purports to have received priestly ordination, one who we presume has now been licenced to function sacramentally in CANA. The Falls Church of CANA already has on its pastoral staff a lady who has undergone the rite of presbyteral ordination. Problematic indeed...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Ten Years of Priesthood...

Dearly Beloved:

Saturday 21 December 1996, on bright clear glistening snow-covered morning in Lexington, Virginia, I was ordained to the Sacred Order of Priests in Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church at Saint Paul’s Church by the Most Reverend John Thayer Cahoon, Junior of the Anglican Catholic Church. What a glorious day it was!

In commemoration of that joyful and life-transforming event, a Solemn High Mass will be celebrated at Saint Alban’s Anglican Cathedral, 3348 West State Road 426, Oviedo, Florida, at 7 PM on Wednesday 20 December 2006 for the transferred Feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle. If you happen to be in the Central Florida area next week, you are most cordially invited to attend the Mass and a dinner gathering (dutch treat) to follow. Please be assured of my prayers for you and your ministries in the Lord on that special day. Should you like to attend the Mass and join our dinner party, please notify me at your convenience. I would be honoured beyond words by your presence and prayers.

You go with me to the Altar of God as the Holy Sacrifice is offered in thanksgiving for ten years of participation in Christ’s Holy Priesthood. Thank you very much and God bless you.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Sacrificing Priesthood

Recently on the blog Pontifications it was asserted that the Anglicans do not possess and do intend to possess a 'sacrificing priesthood.' Is that true?

Here's the definitive answer from Saepius Officio, the official Reply of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to Pope Leo XIII (1897)...

XI. We inquire therefore what authority the Pope has for discovering a definite form in the bestowal of holy orders? We have seen no evidence produced by him except two passages from the determinations of the Council of Trent (Session xxiii. On the Sacrament of Order, canon i., and Session xxii. On the sacrifice of the Mass, canon iii.) which were promulgated after our Ordinal was composed, from which he infers that the principal grace and power of the Christian priesthood is the consecration and oblation of the Body and Blood of the Lord. The authority of that Council has certainly never been admitted in our country, and we find that by it many truths were mixed with falsehoods, much that is uncertain with what is certain. But we answer as regards the passages quoted by the Pope, that we make provision with the greatest reverence for the consecration of the holy Eucharist and commit it only to properly ordained Priests and to no other ministers of the Church. Further we truly teach the doctrine of Eucharistic sacrifice and do not believe it to be a ' nude commemoration of the Sacrifice of the Cross,' an opinion which seems to be attributed to us by the quotation made from that Council. But we think it sufficient in the Liturgy which we use in celebrat­ing the holy Eucharist,—while lifting up our hearts to the Lord, and when now consecrating the gifts already offered that they may become to us the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ,—to signify the sacrifice which is offered at that point of the service in such terms as these. We continue a perpetual memory of the precious death of Christ, who is our Advocate with the Father and the propitiation for our sins, according to His precept, until His coming again. For first we offer the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; then next we plead and represent before the Father the sacrifice of the cross, and by it we con­fidently entreat remission of sins and all other benefits of the Lord's Passion for all the whole Church ; and lastly we offer the sacrifice of ourselves to the Creator of all things which we have already signified by the oblations of His creatures. This whole action, in which the people has necessarily to take its part with the Priest, we are accustomed to call the Eucharistic sacrifice.

Undeniably, we have what the whole Catholic Church has always understood to be the only 'sacrificing priesthood.'

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Tale of Two Priesthoods

Father Alvin Kimel:

'...Whatever I was as a priest within the Anglican Communion has now been gathered into the deeper, more fundamental and primary ecclesial reality that simply is the Catholic Church. I do not know the words to express this newness and difference. Certainly the canonical categories employed in Apostolicae curae do not adequately capture it. Yet at an existential level, I understand now why the Catholic Church has always insisted upon the absolute ordination of Anglican priests. The Catholic priest is different. His ministry is different. He is a priest in a way that an Anglican presbyter can never be a priest. This is not a matter of intention, belief, or practice. I know many godly Anglo-Catholic priests who ardently believe they are priests as truly as any Catholic or Orthodox priest … and yet they are not, because the Church in which they serve and minister is not the Church in the same way that the Catholic Church is the Church. The catholicity of the Anglican presbyter will always remain optional...'

'...This is why the debate on the validity of Anglican Orders so quickly descends into irrelevance. It’s not just a matter of proving an unbroken historic succession of properly ordained ordaining hands. Be the physical links ever so intact, yet the sacerdotal line is ruptured if Anglicanism is not Church in doctrinal and catholic fullness; and by both Catholic and Orthodox standards, it is not. How can the Anglican Church, for example, pass on the sacerdotium, when it has always denied a sacrificing priesthood?...'

Dr C. B. Moss:

The Anglican Communion claims that its bishops, priests, and deacons are bishops, priests, and deacons in the sense in which those words were used by the ancient Church and by the Roman Communion today. The Archbishop of Canterbury is a bishop in the same sense as the Pope. Every Anglican priest is as much a priest as any Romanist priest. It is his duty and his privilege to offer the Eucharistic sacrifice, to give absolution, and to bless in the name of the Church; and this claim is supported by the Prayer Book...' (The Christian Faith, 408).

There were three stages in the sacrifice or self-offering of our Lord, corresponding to three stages in the Old Testament sacrifices. The first was His death on the Cross, corresponding to the slaying of the victim. The second is His perpetual self-offering in Heaven which began with His Ascension and corresponds to the entry of the High Priest into the Holy of Holies carrying the blood of the sin offering on the Day of Atonement. The third is the Holy Eucharist, corresponding to the feast upon the sacrifice which belonged to the peace offering.

The sacrifice of Christ is one and cannot be repeated. There is no sacrifice in the Christian religion other than the sacrifice of Christ. The Holy Eucharist is not in any sense whatever a repetition of Christ's death on the Cross or of His offering of Himself in Heaven. It is not called a sacrifice in the New Testament, nor are the Christian ministers called priests (hiereis). The reason is clear. Jewish priests and heathen priests were well known to the first readers of the New Testament. If the Christian presbuteroi (elders) had been called priests, it would have been supposed that animal sacrifice was part of their duty. But animal sacrifice had been abolished.

Nevertheless, sacrificial language was used of the Eucharist, as we have seen, by our Lord Himself, who said, "This is My blood of the covenant", when He instituted the Eucharist. St. Paul called himself leitourgos, a sacrificial word (Rom. 15:16), doing priestly work (hierourgounta), that the offering (prosphora) of the Gentiles might be made acceptable. He contrasted the "table of the Lord" with "the table of devils", the heathen sacrifices (I Cor. 10:21), showing that he regarded the Christian Eucharist as sacrificial. The sacrifice of Christ was the Christian Passover; "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast" (I Cor. 5:7). Compare also I Cor. 10:18: the Jews who "eat the sacrifices" and "have communion with the altar" are compared to the Christian at the Eucharist.

All the Fathers beginning with St. Clement of Rome called the Eucharist a sacrifice. So do all the ancient liturgies. But whereas the New Testament appears to regard the Eucharist as corresponding to the feast which was the last stage of the sacrifice, the Fathers taught that it was also the representation of earth of what is continually going on in Heaven. As the Epistle to the Hebrews constantly asserts, our Lord is the true High Priest, "a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek" (Heb. 6:20) who passed into the heavens at the Ascension bearing His own blood (like the High Priest into the Holy of Holies), and who perpetually presents to the Father His own life, for His priesthood is unchangeable (7:24). The Christian Church of which He is the Head is "a royal priesthood" (I Peter 2:9) sharing the priesthood of its Head and His heavenly work of offering. This the Church does by the whole of her life which is, ideally, one long self-offering, united with the self-offering of our Lord in Heaven. But she shares in His self-offering especially at the Eucharist, in which the congregation is united with Jesus Christ in Heaven, first by offering His Body and Blood (with which all their other offerings, their alms, the bread and wine, their own lives, are united), and then by receiving it in communion.

The earthly priest is the necessary organ of the Church for this purpose, as the eye is the necessary organ of sight. There can be no offering without him, but the offering is the people's, not his alone... (The Christian Faith, 369, 370).

The word "priest" represents both presbuteros, presbyter, and hiereus, sacerdos. The latter title was given to bishops from the third century onwards and later to priests as well. It describes them as "offering sacrifice". The Christian priest is not a priest in the same sense as the Hebrew priests under the Old Covenant. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the only Priest in the proper sense under the New Covenant. In what sense the Christian "presbyter" is also "sacerdos", sacrificing priest, has already been explained. The use of the word "presbyter" in the Catholic Church to mean a member of the second order of the Apostolic ministry is not to be confused with its use by the "Reformed churches". The Calvinist "presbyter" is not a priest but a preacher, as we shall see.

The essential duties of the priest which cannot be performed by anyone but a priest (all bishops being also priests) are to consecrate the Eucharist, to give absolution to sinners, to anoint the sick, and to bless in the name of the Church. (Anyone may bless as a father blesses his children, but the blessing of the Church is given only by the bishop, or in his absence by the priest.)
All these duties of the priest belong properly to the bishop and are performed by the priest as the representative of some bishop (or person with the jurisdiction of a bishop). In early times the bishop, when present, was always the celebrant of the Eucharist. The absolution and the blessing in the Eucharist are still given by the bishop of the diocese (or the suffragan or assistant bishop who represents him), even though he is not the celebrant.

The priest is also ordinarily a pastor, teacher, and evangelist. He is the normal minister of baptism. These duties can also be performed by others; but they form the largest part of the priest's work, and his training is chiefly directed to prepare him for carrying them out. Experience has shown that though the functions which are confined to the priest are limited and can easily be learned, priests who should do nothing but perform those functions would be of little use. The priest's highest duty is to consecrate the Eucharist, and the next to give absolution. But the Eucharist must be accompanied by preaching and teaching, and the absolution must usually be accompanied by counsel. Therefore the priest must be a man of holiness, of learning, and of knowledge of human nature. He must know his Bible and be trained in dogmatic, moral, and ascetic theology, and in the art of teaching (The Christian Faith, 393, 394).

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

CANA, Nigeria and the Ordination of Women

From the text I Will Welcome You, A Report of The Falls Church, November 2006:

'This hoped-for unity faces obstacles, including some important doctrinal questions - chiefly, the ordination of women. (CANA intends to welcome applications from women clergy, and expects that women clergy will be licensed to continue their ministries. The question whether CANA will itself ordain women has yet to be determined. While the Church of Nigeria does not currently ordain women, Archbishop Akinola has stated that he recognizes that there needs to be freedom for CANA to take a different direction because of its North American context.) It is relatively easy for orthodox Anglicans to agree against the errors of the Episcopal Church, but harder to come to agreement on all the matters, practical and doctrinal, that must be resolved before full unity is achieved. This will become a major subject of our prayers in the months and years ahead.'

What will happen to the Covenant Union between the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and the Anglican Province of America/Reformed Episcopal Church if the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, a mission of the Church of Nigeria, proceeds to licence and purportedly ordain women to the priesthood? Such a willful break in Catholic Order would have unquestionably dire consequences for the recent intra-Anglican movement towards unity and co-operation in our country. Let us pray fervently for the preservation of the Catholic Priesthood in CANA and in those Dioceses and Provinces of the Anglican Communion which have heretofore been faithful to the Apostolic Tradition.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Roman Antipathy for the Anglican Church...

Is this what modern-day Roman Catholics still actually believe about Anglicanism? Ponder these statements placed on the blog New Liturgical Movement regarding the celebration of the Anglican Holy Eucharist by His Grace Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams in the Dominican Church of S. Sabina in Rome.

-'it's sacreligious' [sic]

-'in a [Roman] Catholic understanding the service which took place was certainly not the Eucharistic Sacrifice and so, to my mind, was profane use.'

-'the profanity of the [Roman] Catholic altar.'

-'the priest in question gave the false impression that the [Roman] Catholic Church attaches a sacramental significance to the act of worship of this Ecclesial communion.'

-'For the [Roman] Catholic commentator to describe this service as a 'Mass' is disingenuous at the very least. More likely, the service was a scandalous action...'

-'I am certain Christ, Mary and Joseph are offended'

-'This is horrendous, but not a surprise. In yesterdays gospel, Jesus speaks of the Abomination of Desolation standing in the temple. This means that the presider, Man has taken the position of God as the center of worship, even in His earthly churches.'

-'If I put on a costume can I -- as equally without orders as Dr. Williams -- say Mass in Rome'

-'So I suppose nothing will be done about this recent outrage.'

-'This is a scandal in the truest sense of the word: a stumbling block to belief. For me, this is the lowest point so far in the pontificate of Benedict XVI.'

-'I am apalled [sic] and disgusted at such overt disregard for what the [Roman] Catholic Church teaches... to allow the Archbishop of Canterbury to celebrate a liturgical celebration which is null and void in the eyes of the Church on a [Roman] Catholic altar in a [Roman] Catholic temple? That is going much too far and yes, it is sacriledge [sic]. Shame on the Dominicans... how did this fall through the cracks with the Vatican? How could this have happened?'

-'I think this is an insult to the memory of the [Roman] Catholic martyrs who forfeited their lives rather than profess loyalty to the schismatic Church of England.'

-'Fr. [the Roman priest who proclaimed the Gospel] should be tried by Tomas deTorquemada, and a fitting punishment should be applied. (Please send a cord of seasoned firewood...)'

Mercifully, it appears that the Pope of Rome and the Roman Curia do not sympathise with the above-cited comments, as the celebration of the Mass in the Anglican Rite was permitted by Vatican officials with the full knowledge and consent of the proper authorities.

Sour grapes! How tragic and sad in this purportedly enlightened age of ecumenism that some Roman Catholics still harbour such antipathy, even hatred, for our beloved Mother, the Ecclesia Anglicana. Romanist controversalists still make it very hard to dispel the myths about us constructed over the last five centuries. Why would Pope Paul VI have given his papal ring to Archbishop Michael Ramsey, why would Pope John Paul II have given his pectoral cross to Archbishop Williams and have kissed Canterbury's ring, and why would the Pope have allowed the celebration of the Anglican Eucharist in one of the Roman See's great shrines if the Anglican Church were but an invalid sect? Such episcopal and sacerdotal honours are not conferred on laymen. The real point at issue is that the Anglican Church is the one thing some Roman Catholics cannot abide, cannot and will not accept, to wit, a Western Catholic Church with valid Orders and Sacraments, possessing tremendous social, cultural and religious influence, all beyond the control of the Vatican. Let us pray for the turning of hearts and the restoration of visible unity to the Apostolic and Catholic Church.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Owain Robert Holder Jones

24 November 2006
S. John of the Cross

My dear friends:

Praised be Jesus Christ!

On Friday 24 November 2006 at 2.25 AM in lovely Orlando, Florida, my beloved wife Megan gave birth to a healthy beautiful baby boy, 7 pounds 11 ounces, 20 and one-half inches long.

Our son has been given the name Owain Robert Holder Jones - Owain is the Welsh variant of the English 'Owen' and is pronounced the same, at least in our family! Saint Owen (Owini) of Lichfield was in Anglican history a primary disciple of Saint Chad of Lichfield and Robert is the very Welsh name of my father and grandfather. We praise and thank Almighty God for His mercy and grace is providing a safe and joyful delivery for Megan and Owain. Please be assured of our deepest and most profound gratitude for your prayers and of our prayers for you all.

May the Lord bless and keep you!


Monday, November 13, 2006

Another thought...

I must confess I do get a bit exasperated with the Anglo-Tridentine side of things when it seems to be quite oblivious to the intervening 400 years of Anglican history and development between now and the Henrician Reformation. Using post-Trent hyperscholastic Roman theological and philosophical arguments of the kind we now encounter in the blogosphere will get Anglicans absolutely nowhere fast.

Of course, I absolutely swear by the Catholic Tradition and the unique sacramental ministerial eucharistic sacrificial priesthood, the sacerdotium exactly as understood by the Roman, Eastern and Old Catholic Communions. I believe utterly in apostolic succession and the grace of apostolic Holy Order. But some Anglo-Papalist arguments just don't hold water. I see the REC's historical position as analogous to that of the Church of Sweden and the Church of South India, churches of a more protestant character which nevertheless have transmitted unimpaired the true Apostolic Ministry. The Church of England, in the days of her orthodoxy, recognised the orders of the Swedish Church in 1920 and those of the CSI in 1955. Surely if the Anglican Communion has recognised those Churches as possessing the sacerdotium in spite of what may be perceived as lower or lesser views of the priesthood, Mass and sacramental system, it can and should do the same for the REC. Even Dr E.L. Mascall would come to our defence in this matter, as he did with the CSI in the 1950's. His example demonstrates, I think, in a nutshell the theological difference between the irenic and scholarly Anglo-Catholic position held by our classic theologians and what now obtains in a certain segment of the Continuing Church.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Father Alfred Hope Patten, SSC


I have just finished reading an utterly compelling page-turner of a book, newly-published and certainly a must for every Traditional Anglican library, Alfred Hope Patten and the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham: An Illustrated Biography by Michael Yelton, Canterbury Press, Norwich, 2006. This gem contains new information and stories about the controversial and saintly Father Patten, Restorer of the Shrine, which I have never before encountered. Yelton's new book is the first comprehensively-researched biography of Father Patten published since Canon Colin Stephenson wrote his famous Walsingham Way in 1970. This handsome volume delves deeply into the history of 20th century Anglo-Catholicism in England and places Father Patten in the context of the wider Church of England, Anglican Papalism and the Catholic Revival of the last century. I could not more highly recommend it - get your copy today!

If you love Our Lady of Walsingham, you'll love this book...

Friday, November 10, 2006

The REC Orders Controversy

In this matter I believe one can be seriously mistaken, as one may follow a line of strict theological interpretation, especially of sacramental intention, that ends up justifying Apostolicae Curae and Leo XIII and the Roman claim against Anglican Orders. The imposition of too rigid views on the validity of orders runs the risk of undoing the theology that has underpinned an Anglican understanding of the validity of orders since the sixteenth century.

The Catholic Church has always said that so long as proper matter and form are used in the administration of sacramental ordination, and proper liturgical expression is given to the sacramental act in question, the sacrament is valid, even if those who convey and receive it are heretics, not just heretics on Christology or Trinitarian theology, but heretics even on the question of Holy Orders itself. The only way ordination can be rendered invalid by way of intention is if an ecclesial body purposefully frames rites of ordination which clearly intend not to ordain to the three sacred Orders of the Catholic Church. That simply cannot be said of the REC Ordinal, which is virtually identical to the 1789 American Ordinal. Sacramental intention is always liturgical exterior intention, the intention of the Catholic Church enshrined in her rites and manifested in her liturgical action, not the private intention of the minister or subject. For that reason REC orders are as valid as those of the Anglican Communion...

Please visit The Continuum and the All Too Common blogs to contribute to the ongoing discussion.


Orders Again

It is interesting to see that this conversation is still generating such thoughtful contributions, which we should all welcome.

I shall add these points, just for my own clarification...

An important note - the Anglican Church in America has affiliated with the Federation of Anglican Churches in the Americas, which was co-founded by the REC and APA. The ACA's membership in FACA constitutes full communicatio in sacris with the Reformed Episcopal Church and thus the recognition of the validity of REC Orders. So it is now inaccurate to say that the APA alone of the Continuing Churches recognises the sacramental order and ministry of the REC. The ACA has now definitively decided in favour of the APA position on this matter.

Father Anderson's probing and excellent comments reiterate precisely what I have attempted to articulate regarding the thorny question of sacramental intention. Pope Leo XIII in Apostolicae Curae explicitly states that the Anglican Ordinal itself possesses an 'anti-intention' because of its asserted protestant origin, which contains, as he puts it, an 'anti-sacerdotal signification.' On the basis of purported defect of intention, Orders conferred with the Anglican Ordinal are always held by the Roman Church to be invalid. If one too rigidly defines the meaning of 'generally doing what the Church does,' then one has moved from that Augustinian theological axiom to a theological novum, one which is not necessary to the valid administration of a sacrament, to wit, to 'intend what the church intends.' From what I have read most carefully of our correspondence, it is exactly this view which is being postulated by Father, e.g., to have valid orders a church must not only do what the Church does, but must also intend what the Church intends. Such a definition is beyond the traditional Western Augustinian theological method and moves into the Eastern and Cyprianic view of sacramental validity. That is fine, of course, if one wishes to so define the meaning of sacramental intention, but that is not the classical Anglican approach to the subject.

Moving from the minimalist view of doing what the Church does, a view held universally in the Western Church, into something more stringent or strictly defined puts us exactly where Pope Leo wants us to be. Dr E. J. Bicknell reminds us that Anglican Orders are valid simply because the Anglican Church generally intends to do in ordination what Our Lord, the Apostles and the New Testament Church instituted, nothing more, nothing less. That can certainly be said of the REC, no matter how imprecisely the REC expresses that view or how imperfectly she has grasped the objective truth of it in the course of history.

As Father Anderson points out, the intention to do what the Church does in ordination exists even in ecclesial bodies which lack apostolic succession. They do not have valid orders, not because of defect of intention, but defect of minister, for only a bishop can validly ordain. The case could be strongly made that even classical Lutheran and Calvinist ministries intend themselves to be true manifestations of the Office and Ministry of the Apostles. Such a general intention is all that is necessary for valid ordination.

Otherwise, to come full circle, we Anglicans have used Apostolicae Curae against ourselves. The sacraments always convey what they symbolise, ex opere operato, in the serious performance of the matter and form, with the deliberate intention of doing what the Church does in a general sense. In this case of ordination, it is 'ordination.' The minister and subject do not even have to intend to produce the objective grace or effect of the sacrament; they must only intend, in a general way, to do what the Church understands as 'ordination.' To demand anything beyond that is, for Anglicans at least, to confirm that Leo XIII is right.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Sacramental Intention

Theological Outlines by Rev. Dr. Francis J. Hall:

'The intention of a Sacrament is always the intention of Christ and His Church, unless the matter and form are so employed as visibly to exclude such intention, in which case the Sacrament is altogether invalid.'

The Christian Faith: An Introduction to Dogmatic Theology by Dr. C. B. Moss

Intention of Ordination

The intention of ordination is that the bishop ordaining or consecrating intends to admit the candidate to one of the three Holy Orders of the Catholic Church. It is not necessary that his personal belief about the functions of those who are ordained should be orthodox; nor is the internal intention necessary, for if it were, we could never be certain that anyone was rightly ordained. (In Spain in the fifteenth century there were many bishops who were secretly Jews; the notorious Bishop Talleyrand, afterwards Napoleon's minister, was an open unbeliever, but those whom such men ordained were held to be validly ordained.)

A Eucharistic Hymn

Lord, how delightful 'tis to see
A whole assembly worship thee:
At once they sing, at once they pray;
They hear of heaven, and learn the way.
I have been there, and still would go,
'Tis like a little heaven below;
Not all that earth and sin can say,
Shall tempt me to forget this day.
O write upon my memory, Lord,
The text and doctrine of thy word;
That I may break thy laws no more,
But love thee better than before.
With thoughts of Christ and things divine,
Fill up this sinful heart of mine;
That hoping pardon through his blood,
I may lie down and wake with God.

From "Hymns, Suited to the Feasts and Fasts of the Church" as published in the 1848 edition of the American Prayer Book. Author unknown.

Friday, November 03, 2006

REC Orders - A Final Thought

3 November 2006

Dear Father:

I thank you for your thoughtful and helpful remarks regarding the subject we have recently discussed. Catholic Anglicans certainly want, and should, assert the necessity of maintaining an orthodox doctrine on the sacramental eucharistic priesthood, or if you will, the sacrificing priesthood, and of the anamnetic re-presentation of Our Lord's one perfect offering of Himself in the eucharistic sacrifice. And no doubt you are utterly right to insist that the said doctrines are integral to an authentic and biblical understanding of the sacramental system given to us by Jesus Christ and the Holy Apostles. Having come through the Tractarian Revival, we Catholics clearly see the need to emphasise afresh these key catholic doctrines of the Church and the sacramental life. However, to insist that the orders of the Reformed Episcopal Church are invalid because it lapsed into error regarding the nature of the sacerdotal priesthood and the objective sacrificial character of the Mass is precisely to invoke the argument and the theological matrix of Apostolicae Curae of Pope Leo XIII. I believe this is extremely dangerous territory for Anglicans to tread upon. Our orders were condemned by Rome in 1896 specifically because the Vatican held that the construction of the Anglican Ordinal and the ethos of the Anglican Church in which it was and is used construes an invalidating defect - by rejection of the very same dogmatic realities which the REC rejected. By using the argument of Apostolicae Curae to reject as invalid REC orders is to demonstrate, by logical extension, the possibility that our own orders are invalid. Is Rome right when she says that the Anglican Ordinal is defective because it removes all reference to the power of offering and consecrating the true Body and Blood of Christ in the eucharistic sacrifice? We should say absolutely not! But then, if this standard cannot apply to us, then it cannot apply to the REC either. Pope Leo XIII would have us believe that the Anglican Church rejected the priesthood and the eucharistic sacrifice at the Reformation because it altered its rite of ordination purposely to remove all references to the power of offering sacrifice to God and of transforming the Eucharistic oblation into Our Lord's Body and Blood, and that therefore all orders conferred with the Anglican Ordinal are not the orders of the Catholic Church, although the titles of bishop, priest and deacon are used for the three orders of the Anglican hierarchy. Rome officially holds that all orders ever conferred by the Edwardine Ordinal of 1550, and amended in 1662, are always and everywhere invalid because of defect of intention and defect of form, based upon the supposed anti-sacerdotal 'native spirit' of Anglicanism. This is exactly what you are saying about the REC. But if it can be said of the REC, then, saith Rome, it can be said of us as well, and we all fall equally under the judgement of 1896.

We may vociferously disagree with the Roman assessment that the rite of ordination, in order validly to confer the grace of Holy Order, must make explicit reference to the power of the sacerdotium to offer the eucharistic sacrifice, and well we should, as Saepius Officio brilliantly points out, taking the examples of the earliest patristic Western ordination rites and the catechism and rites of the Eastern Churches. If we are correct in our judgement about Apostolicae Curae, then we should conclude that if the REC uses the Anglican rite of ordination without substantial change, it possesses by virtue of the liturgy (exterior and ecclesiastical intention), thus employed, the intention of the Anglican Church in the conferral of Holy Orders. The private intentions of the ordaining and ordained, even expressed on paper by the Declaration of Principles, would not override the intention of the Anglican Ordinal, and thus the intention of the Church, used for the administration of the sacrament.

Your comments bring to mind these words of Apostolicae Curae: 'But the words which until recently were commonly held by Anglicans to constitute the proper form of priestly ordination namely, "Receive the Holy Ghost," certainly do not in the least definitely express the sacred Order of Priesthood or its grace and power, which is chiefly the power "of consecrating and of offering the true Body and Blood of the Lord" in that sacrifice which is no "bare commemoration of the sacrifice offered on the Cross"'. Anglicans have always said that it is not the power of eucharistic consecration and offering which must be explicitly signified in the sacramental action of ordination (the porrectio instrumentorum or the anointing with chrism), but the grace of the Holy Ghost for the office and work of the priesthood which is of necessity. The Eastern ordination rites lack any explicit gesture signifying the power to offer sacrifice. The grace of the sacrament, the Holy Ghost Himself, is signified by the laying-on-of-hands and prayer for grace and for the conferral of the order in question, and the Anglican Ordinal does exactly this. But so does the rite used by the REC. Now you may say, 'but the REC deliberately rejected the sacramental character and grace of Holy Order.' Yes, that is true to the extent that the Declaration repudiated any special grace or character in the administration of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, but the rite the REC has consistently used prays for such grace and signifies the communication of such grace with the proper sacramental sign. In other words, the grace of Apostolic Succession is given even if the ordaining prelate and ordained subject do not accurately or rightly believe in this particular grace because the liturgical rite objectively acts to confer the grace, bringing to bear with it the intention of the Church. All the sacraments act thus according to the 'working of the work,' ex opere operato. Otherwise we could never know with moral certainty if any given ordinations in any church have ever been valid. In 1872 the Roman Holy Office affirmed that Methodist Baptisms administered in Oceania are valid, even when the minister publicly preaches at the service itself that there is no grace of regeneration in Baptism, because the proper matter and form are used and they suffice to fix the necessary intention of the Church in the sacramental act. Baptism is valid, even in ecclesial bodies which publicly and officially deny baptismal regeneration, because the intention of the Church is supplied when the proper matter and form are used. If this applies to Baptism, it must also apply to ordination. Ordination is valid, even in Churches which publicly and officially deny the grace of sacerdotium, because the intention of the Church is supplied when the proper matter and form are used. Heretical views on the sacrament of order do not invalidate ordination, just as heretical views on baptism do not invalidate baptism. Historic REC teaching and thinking on the subject of orders is probably just as muddled and confused as that held by Anglicans during and after the Reformation, but because of the safeguard of the ordination rites held in common within Anglicanism, these problems do not jeopardise validity unless the rites themselves are voided of necessary matter and form. I confidently assert that that has not happened in the REC.

It has been a pleasure to discuss this subject with you and I look forward to conversing over other important topics in future.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Orthodox Goal for the Anglican Communion Network


In a truly astonishing and encouraging letter, the official ecumenical representative of the Russian Orthodox Church's Moscow Patriarchate has responded to the letter of Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh in which the latter expressed his concern that the Orthodox Churches might not be willing to pursue dialogue with the ACN because of the purported ordination of women.

In a gracious and remarkable reply, Bishop Kirill has expressed the desire of the Orthodox Churches to continue dialogue with Anglicans in order that they might be led to restore their full catholicity in the Apostolic Tradition regarding the male character of Holy Orders and the Catholic sacramental priesthood:

'The Russian Orthodox Church however has not discontinued dialogue with Protestant and Anglican Churches after they adopted female priesthood, in the hope that mutual contacts and talks will help persuade the Protestant and Anglican sides into returning to the apostolic tradition in their view of female ordination.'

Let us thank God for the powerful witness of the Orthodox Church towards the Anglican world and let us pray for the restoration of the Catholic Faith amongst those Anglicans who once possessed it in its fullness and then rejected it in the strife created by the modernist onslaught of our own age. Note that the Orthodox are not calling Anglicans to introduce a new position, but rather to re-establish their own integral life, a life shared with the Orthodox Churches of the East. The Orthodox Church historically recognised the validity of Anglican Orders and now serves to remind us, in a loving and pastoral manner, of our own profound inheritance in the Apostolic Tradition. Would it not be a wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit if our dearly beloved sister, the Eastern Communion, could lead us all back to our own proper Faith and Order?

REC Orders Again

2 November 2006
All Souls' Day

Dear Father:

I concur that the Church of England in her official formularies never formally attempted to redefine the nature or the meaning of the Threefold Apostolic Ministry, save for the fact that the Preface to the Ordinal and the ordination rites themselves sought to clarify the original, that is, the primitive and apostolic, character of Holy Orders and to re-express a more bibliodidactic and pastoral role for the Sacred Ministry. Certainly the situation in 1873 with the formation of the Reformed Episcopal Church is not an exact parallel of the English Reformation, although one must point out that many divines and churchmen of sixteenth and seventeenth century Anglicanism clearly held to views similar if not identical to those espoused by the founders of the REC. It was on that very basis that the REC organisers could claim they were continuing and restoring the principles of the English Reformation. At one early stage, the Edwardian, 1547-1553, the Church of England was spared something like the Declaration of Principles because of the interplay between the Monarchy and Church authorities, not to mention the untimely death of Edward VI which brought the protestant campaign to an end with the accession of Mary. By the time of Blessed King Charles I and Blessed Archbishop Laud, general Anglican views, having passed through the Settlement and the refinement of the Elizabethan age, had moderated from those held by the protestantising bishops and divines who had inaugurated the Reformation in England almost two generations before. Surely we were rescued by the Caroline Divines from the more extreme protestant views which would come to define only a party within Anglicanism, and not the whole.

However, the entire point of my submission yesterday is this: even if the REC Declaration of Principles radically redefines the meaning of Holy Order by its revision of essential doctrines, most particularly the doctrines of the Real Presence, the sacrificial nature of the Eucharistic oblation and the sacerdotal nature of the Apostolic Ministry, nevertheless, so long as the REC retains the minimal intention to ordain Sacred Ministers, bishops, presbyters and deacons, in conformity to the mind of Our Blessed Lord and the New Testament Church, such Orders are sacramentally valid ex opere operato, on the basis of the promise and institution of Christ. So long as one intends to ordain according to the teaching of Holy Scripture, the institution of Our Lord and the practice of the Apostolic Church, with proper laying-on-of-hands and prayer, the ordination is valid, even if the minister and subject have totally misunderstood what Our Lord, the Scriptures and the earliest Church have given and instituted concerning ordination. The original consecrators in the REC episcopate believed that they were making genuine bishops, presbyters and deacons according to the true mind of Christ and His Church and deliberately employed a rite which the Anglican Communion herself has used essentially unchanged since 1550. That minimal intention, expressed liturgically and ritually, suffices for validity. Where proper form, matter, minister and subject are present, the Church, as I understand it, has always presumed in favour of proper intention. Therefore the onus of responsibility for adjudging such orders invalid would fall on those who reject them; one must then prove theologically that a proper and necessary minimal intention was not present, and that would be very difficult to achieve. Defect of form and defect of intention are so closely bound together in the organic unity of sacramental action that it is difficult to separate them. Leo XIII tried, and, I think, failed. The principles of sacramental theology which I have attempted to postulate would supply that a necessary sacramental intention is a remarkably easy, uncomplicated and direct element in the administration of the sacraments. A minister of ordination would have to try extremely hard or be mind-numbingly negligent to lack the necessary minimal intention. Regarding ordination, the only way to lack such an intention 'generally to do what the Church does' would be to form, liturgically and personally, a clear intention not to ordain. A purposed intention not to ordain, such as in play, jest or mockery, would be the only radical denial which could eradicate necessary sacramental intention.

I recommend that one consult Dr RD Fenwick's magisterial work The Free Church of England. Originally, the Church of England accepted the validity of REC Orders, at least in theory. In 1878 a Convocation was established to examine the question of Reformed Episcopal Orders. In 1879, the Counsel of the Convocation advised the Archbishop of Canterbury, Tait, that 'the orders conferred by Bishops Gregg and Toke [of the REC] are as undoubtedly valid as any conferred by your Grace.' This was the legal opinion given to the episcopal committee of the Church of England, which was later challenged by the American Bishops. On 5 April 1885 Bishop Richardson of the REC wrote to Archbishop Benson of Canterbury claiming that REC Orders had been acknowledged as valid by no less a figure than Dr Pusey. It is true that in a letter of 8 February 1882 Dr Pusey had referred to Bishop Gregg as a Bishop. As I noted in earlier correspondence, Bishop Edward King of Lincoln acknowledged the validity of REC Orders as well. The expert legal opinion that REC Orders were 'valid but irregular' ran counter to the American desire, plainly political, to see the REC mitigated as a potential influence over the evangelical wing of PECUSA. Eventually an American Memorandum rejecting REC Orders as null and void was considered and entered into the record by the Lambeth Conference 1888. However, on 20 July 1886, the Dean of the Court of Arches, Sir Walter Phillimore, issued a legal opinion on behalf of the Bishop of Bath and Wells stating that REC Orders were 'valid though irregularly and improperly conferred.' The Church of England did not officially decide to administer absolute ordination to former REC ministers until after the submission of the 1888 American judgement. To maintain the unity of the Anglican episcopate, the Church of England from henceforth followed the American lead on the subject. As late as 1891, Archbishop Benson was unsure of what course of action to take with former REC clergy; he could not decide if REC Orders were valid or not - he clearly did not want to reiterate the Sacrament of Holy Orders, hesitating to administer absolute ordination in the case of REC ministers. Finally Benson stated that the re-ordination of REC ministers was 'a matter on which each Bishop exercises his own discretion.' In order not to rile Rome on one hand, which at the time was busily examining the validity of Anglican Orders and the legitimacy of the Anglican episcopate in dialogue with Lord Halifax and Anglo-Catholic constituency, and PECUSA on the other, which was threatened by the existence of a new rival church, the Church of England determined to maintain solidarity with the American Church rather than introduce a dispute that could undermine the unity of the Lambeth Conference.

The conclusions I have presented are based squarely on the premises which I have provided; of course, one would have to accept deductively the premises here given to arrive at the same conclusion I have discovered. I deeply appreciate your kindness and your candour in this discussion.

Are REC Orders Valid?

1 November 2006
The Feast of All Saints

'I really don't understand why this concordant was rushed through with a Protestant denomination that has rejected every essential part of Intention for the sacrament of Holy Orders. No one in the APA has ever taken the time to tell me how Holy Orders can be valid with a rejection of everything that allows the Intention to be present. This is not at all like the 16th Century C of E with its Preface to the Ordinal; in the REC even "the minimal intention of doing what the Church does" is not present, and cannot be present. I see some APA names on the list, and I am throwing this friendly challenge at your feet. Convince me.'

Dear Father:

Omnes Sancti et Sanctae Dei, intercedite pro nobis.

With trepidation I, as a priest of the Anglican Province of America, take up your daunting challenge. I am not an expert sacramentologist, nor am I a particularly qualified spokesman for the position of the APA: but I am a committed Anglican Catholic, a priest of the Society of the Holy Cross, who believes in the Seven Sacraments, the Real Objective Presence, the Eucharistic Sacrifice and the Catholic Sacramental Priesthood, and who also believes that the episcopal orders of the Reformed Episcopal Church are valid. To take one precedent from our Anglo-Catholic side of things, the saintly Bishop of Lincoln, Edward King, held, as I do, that the sacramental orders of the REC are 'valid but irregular.' The following reflection was written some time ago precisely in order to address the concerns which you have raised. You may find my line of thinking thoroughly unconvincing, but I have tried very diligently to apply only the most orthodox standards of Catholic sacramental theology to this controverted question. In the following words I assert that indeed the necessary minimal intention of 'doing what the Church does' is in fact what is exactly present in the REC transmission of Holy Orders. Please bear with me.

The episcopate of the Reformed Episcopal Church depends for its sacramental validity upon those same five components which are necessary for any valid consecration and ordination: proper minister, matter, form, subject, and intention. The necessary intention for a valid ordination is, simply, 'generally to do what the Church does.' This is not to intend what the Church intends, but to do what the Church does, i.e., ordain. This general intention suffices, even if the minister and the subject hold to an heretical doctrine of the sacrament being conferred. So long as one intends seriously to perform and receive the rite of ordination, that is, seriously to perform the Christian rite however understood, the intention is valid for the administration of the sacrament. So long as one merely intends to do what Our Lord Jesus Christ or the true Church do in Ordination (even in opposition to the Catholic Church's doctrine), such an ordination is valid, even if heretical views are maintained on ordination itself. Heretical views on the sacrament of order do not invalidate ordination, just as heretical views on baptism do not invalidate baptism (see the decision of the Roman Holy Office on Oceanic Methodist Baptisms 1872). This position is precisely the position Saint Augustine of Hippo took against the Donatist schism, and it has been the general and authoritative teaching of the Western Church since the fourth century. Saint Thomas Aquinas echoes this teaching in the Summa Theologica, Supplement, Question 38, Second Article. Cardinal Robert Bellarmine defends this very point in his On the Sacraments In Gen. I.21. Those who dissent from the Catholic Church can validly baptise and ordain, even if they hold doctrines on the very sacraments themselves at odds with the Church, as long as the Church's basic rule on baptism and order is preserved.

For the purposes of this discussion, I shall leave aside the debate on the orthodoxy or heterodoxy of the Declaration of Principles of the REC. It may suffice to say that its teachings regarding the Real Objective Presence, the Eucharistic Sacrifice and the Christian sacerdotium are not in accord with the received Tradition of the ancient and undivided Catholic Church. Its orthodoxy or otherwise, however, does not affect the substance of the argument I here present - for this reason. It is the rite that matters, not the internal belief or error of the celebrant. Sacramental intention, for Anglicans at least, is usually understood as external or exterior intention, which is manifested ritually, in the liturgical rite used for the administration of the sacrament. Internal intention or personal intention are not usually brought into the discussion because it is impossible to determine in any given case what the personal or interior intention of the minister of a sacrament is. If the sacraments depend on the personal orthodoxy or right belief or interior disposition of the minister, no sacrament could ever be held to have a moral certainty of validity, as one could never determine such a needful state in the mind or heart of the bishop or priest in question. Sacraments are by nature ecclesial, ecclesiastical, and this is particularly the case with ordination. Sacraments belong to the Holy Catholic Church, and as such to a particular local Church specifically. What matters is the Church's intention. The necessary intention of the Church, and of the minister who functions publicly as the agent, officer and representative of the Church, is put forward in the Church's official rite, the matter and form, used for the conferral of the sacrament. On the basis of these principles, the episcopate of the Reformed Episcopal Church is valid from 1873 forward. As long as the proper matter and form of ordination remain, prayer with the laying-on-of-hands for the conferral of the particular order, with the intention to ordain a baptised man as a bishop, priest, or deacon, changes to the rite of ordination do not and cannot void the sacrament on the basis of defective intention. Otherwise, Pope Leo XIII and Apostolicae Curae (1896) are right and all Anglican Orders were invalidated by the changes Archbishop Cranmer made to the Pontificale Romanum in the construction of the 1550 Anglican Ordinal.

Let us look at the original reformed Ordinal used for the consecration of Reformed Episcopal bishops from the 1870's -

It is, in fact, a very slightly altered version of the 1662 English Ordinal. It is virtually identical to the 1789 American version. It clearly identifies the Order of Bishop as that being conferred. It includes the traditional collect for the Eucharist of episcopal consecration. The traditional lessons clearly refer to the episcopate, Acts 20.17ff and S. John 21.15ff or S. Matthew 28.18ff. The Litany invokes the grace of God upon the consecrand for the Office of Bishop, 'our Brother.' The collect at the end of the Litany prays for the one 'called to the Work and Ministry of a Bishop.' The vows unambiguously charge the candidate with episcopal authority and oversight. The Veni Creator Spiritus is sung over the consecrand, invoking the Holy Ghost upon him. The Prayer of Ordination before the imposition of hands is the 1662 English version, replete with its prayer for grace for the candidate. The imposition of hands is accompanied by the formula: 'Take thou Authority to execute the Office and Work of a Bishop in the Church of God now committed unto thee...' This change is the only major alteration in the Consecration Service and is modelled on the alternative formula for the ordination of priests in the American Ordinal. The final prayers are exactly the same as those found in the Anglican Ordinal.

What does this all mean?

1. Proper matter: imposition of hands is the matter of the Reformed Episcopal Ordinal.

2. Proper form: prayer for the grace of the episcopate is found throughout the Ordinal and suffices for validity; the formula at the imposition of hands fixes the intention of the rite as the transmission of the authority and office of the episcopate.

3. Proper minister: undoubted bishops in the Anglican line of succession, beginning with Bishop George David Cummins of Kentucky, have always presided at consecrations in this rite. One bishop in apostolic succession is required for validity, three for regularity.

4. Proper subject: the original REC bishops were episcopally-ordained priests; however, per saltum ('by a leap') consecrations are valid. Even if the candidate were not himself a priest, he would still receive the character of the episcopate with this rite. Per saltum consecrations are valid but irregular, and were actually administered by the Church of England to titular Scottish bishops in 1610. The Lambeth Conference of 1908 recommended per saltum consecration as the way by which to introduce episcopacy into non-episcopal bodies.

5. Proper intention: the intention of the Ordinal in question is to consecrate a Bishop in the Church of God. That is all that is necessary.

The original presence of Bishop G. Cummins alone as sole consecrator does not affect validity; the hierarchies of both the Polish National Catholic Church and the entire Old Catholic Union of Utrecht originated from solus consecrations and are regarded as valid by Rome. The presence of and imposition of hands by non-episcopally ordained ministers or episcopally-ordained priests in the consecration of REC bishops also do not affect validity, as long as the consecrator himself is in valid episcopal orders. Bishop Cummins' public statements at and before the consecration of Bishop Cheney, by which he personally asserted a 'low' view of the episcopate, a bene esse view, do not render his sacramental acts invalid. By following the Ordinal described above, he clearly intended to confer the episcopate of the Church of God, and that is all that is necessary.

As Dr John Wordsworth writes: 'The "Sacrament of Order" requires laying-on-of-hands, with prayer suitable to the office conferred, and with a general intention of making a man what the Church intends as a Bishop, Priest or Deacon. We hold that such an Ordination conferred by a Bishop, as sole or chief minister, who has been himself so ordained, even if he is a heretic, is valid and cannot be reiterated without sacrilege.' A stricter requirement than this in the matter of intention would be contrary to the main theological tradition of Western Christendom and might involve difficulty concerning earlier ordinations in history. Such has been the formal position of the Church of England for the duration of her history.

In fine, it is my prudent judgement that neither the American Report of the House of Bishops 1888, the Lambeth Conference of 1888, nor Bishop Charles C. Grafton of Fon du Lac were fully and sufficiently informed on this subject. And that is exactly the prudent judgement of Bishop Frank Wilson of Eau Claire in his 1941 report affirming the validity of the Reformed Episcopal episcopate. I firmly believe Bishop Wilson, himself a faithful Anglican Catholic, was correct.

Let us avoid the nineteenth-century scholastic mistake of judging the validity of Orders on the primary basis of the orthodoxy of formularies, what Leo XIII called the 'native spirit' of a church. REC Orders are valid in spite of the heresy of the Declaration, just as our Orders are valid in spite of the heresies held by sixteenth and seventeenth century Anglicans. Were that not so, Apostolicae Curae would be right and we would all be laymen. We must be very careful not to take the very theological paradigm used by Rome to condemn Anglican Orders and then turn around and apply that same paradigm to other Churches whose theology we correctly find erroneous but who have preserved in its substance the Apostolic Ministry. By doing that we could hazard the same indictment of Pope Leo, who was admonished by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in their 1897 Reply to Apostolicae Curae, Saepius Officio: 'Thus in overthrowing our orders, he overthrows all his own, and pronounces sentence on his own Church.' Let us pray for the unity of Christ's One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Thank you for your kind and gracious consideration.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Must For Every Anglo-Catholic Library!


If enough good Anglican Catholics pre-order this product, it will be produced and sold, so please order today...

Oxford Movement Historical Theology Collection (10 volumes)

The Oxford Movement Historical Theology Collection brings together some of the most important titles to have stemmed from the Oxford Movement and the Tractarians. As historical documents, the ten volumes, all long out-of-print, play witness to one of the greatest debates in the Church of England since its split from the Roman Papacy. As works of theology, the volumes deliver edifying accounts of church history, apostolic succession, the nature of the Virgin Mary, the doctrine of the Eucharist, and many other issues pertinent to any era.

This collection focuses particularly on the works of Edward Pusey, leader of the Oxford Movement. Also included are three books by Darwell Stone and Charles Gore (Archbishop of Oxford) who helped assure by their writings that the work started by the Oxford Movement would continue into the 20th century. Moreover, the collection features an important work by J. B. Lightfoot, in which he clarifies some of his earlier claims that were contrary to the ancient traditions of the early undivided Church. This collection is valuable for students, clergymen, or anyone interested in church history, Eucharistic doctrine, or Anglicanism.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Orthodox View of the 'Immaculate Conception'

Saint John Maximovitch of Shanghai and San Francisco (died 1966)

Zeal Not According to Knowledge
(Romans 10:2)

The corruption by the Latins, in the newly invented
dogma, of the "Immaculate Conception," of the true
veneration of the Most Holy Mother of God
and Ever-Virgin Mary.

WHEN THOSE WHO censured the immaculate life of the Most Holy Virgin had been rebuked, as well as those who denied Her Ever-virginity, those who denied Her dignity as the Mother of God, and those who disdained Her Icons—then, when the glory of the Mother of God had illuminated the whole universe, there appeared a teaching which seemingly exalted highly the Virgin Mary, but in reality denied all Her virtues.

This teaching is called that of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, and it was accepted by the followers of the Papal throne of Rome. The teaching is this: that "the All-blessed Virgin Mary in the first instant of Her Conception, by the special grace of Almighty God and by a special privilege, for the sake of the future merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin" (Bull of Pope Pius IX concerning the new dogma). In other words, the Mother of God at Her very conception was preserved from original sin and, by the grace of God, was placed in a state where it was impossible for Her to have personal sins.

Christians had not heard of this before the ninth century, when for the first time the Abbot of Corvey, Paschasius Radbertus, expressed the opinion that the Holy Virgin was conceived without original sin. Beginning from the 12th cen­tury, this idea begins to spread among the clergy and flock of the Western church. However, by no means all of the members of the Roman church agreed with the new teaching. There was a difference of opinion even among the most renowned theologians of the West, the pillars, so to speak, of the Latin church. Thomas Aquinas and Bernard of Clairvaux decisively censured it, while Duns Scotus defended it. From the teachers this division carried over to their disciples: the Latin Dominican monks, after their teacher Thomas Aquinas, preached against the teaching of the Immaculate Conception, while the followers of Duns Scotus, the Franciscans, strove to implant it everywhere. The battle between these two currents continued for the course of several centuries. Both on the one and on the other side there were those who were considered among the Catholics as the greatest au­thorities.

There was no help in deciding the question in the fact that several people declared that they had had a revelation from above concerning it. The nun Bridget of Sweden, renowned in the 14th century among the Catholics, spoke in her writings about the appearances to her of the Mother of God, Who Herself told her that She had been conceived immaculately, without original sin. But her contemporary, the yet more re­nowned ascetic Catherine of Sienna, affirmed that in Her conception the Holy Virgin participated in original sin, con­cerning which she had received a revelation from Christ Himself. (See the book of Archpriest A. Lebedev, Differences in the Teaching on the Most Holy Mother of God in the Churches of East and West.)

Thus, neither on the foundation of theological writings, nor on the foundation of miraculous manifestations which con­tradicted each other, could the Latin flock distinguish for a long time where the truth was. Roman Popes until Sixtus IV (end of the 15th century) remained apart from these disputes, and only this Pope in 1475 approved a service in which the teaching of the Immaculate Conception was clearly expressed; and several years later he forbade a condemnation of those who believed in the Immaculate Conception. However, even Sixtus IV did not yet decide to affirm that such was the unwavering teaching of the church; and therefore, having forbidden the condemnation of those who believed in the Immaculate Conception, he also did not condemn those who believed otherwise.

Meanwhile, the teaching of the Immaculate Conception obtained more and more partisans among the members of the Roman church. The reason for this was the fact that it seemed more pious and pleasing to the Mother of God to give Her as much glory as possible. The striving of the people to glorify the Heavenly Intercessor, on the one hand, and on the other hand, the deviation of Western theologians into abstract speculations which led only to a seeming truth (Scholasticism), and finally, the patronage of the Roman Popes after Sixtus IV—all this led to the fact that the opinion concerning the Immaculate Con­ception which had been expressed by Paschasius Radbertus in the 9th century was already the general belief of the Latin church in the 19th century. There remained only to proclaim this definitely as the church's teaching, which was done by the Roman Pope Pius IX during a solemn service on December 8, 1854, when he declared that the Immaculate Conception of the Most Holy Virgin was a dogma of the Roman church.

Thus the Roman church added yet another deviation from the teaching which it had confessed, which faith has been held up to now unaltered and unchanged by the Orthodox Church. The proclamation of the new dogma satisfied the broad masses of people who belonged to the Roman church, who in simplicity of heart thought that the proclamation of the new teaching in the church would serve for the greater glory of the Mother of God, to Whom by this they were making a gift, as it were. There was also satisfied the vainglory of the Western theologians who defended and worked it out. But most of all the proclamation of the new dogma was profitable for the Roman throne itself, since, having proclaimed the new dogma by his own authority, even though he did listen to the opinions of the bishops of the Catholic church, the Roman Pope by this very fact openly appropriated to himself the right to change the teaching of the Roman church and placed his own voice above the testimony of Sacred Scripture and Tradition. A direct deduction from this was the fact that the Roman Popes were infallible in matters of faith, which indeed this very same Pope Pius IX likewise pro­claimed as a dogma of the Catholic church in 1870.

Thus was the teaching of the Western church changed. It has introduced into itself newer and newer teachings, thinking by this to glorify the Truth yet more, but in reality distorting it. While the Orthodox Church humbly confesses what it has received from Christ and the Apostles, the Roman church dares to add to it, sometimes from zeal not according to knowledge (cf. Rom. 10:2), and sometimes by deviating into superstitions and into the contradictions of knowledge falsely so called. (I Tim. 6:20). It could not be otherwise. That the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church (Matt. 16:18) is promised only to the True, Universal Church; but upon those who have fallen away from it are fulfilled the words: As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; so neither can ye, except ye abide in Me (John 15:4).

It is true that in the very definition of the new dogma it is said that a new teaching is not being established, but that there is only being proclaimed as the church's that which always existed in the church and which has been held by many Holy Fathers, excerpts from whose writings are cited. However, all the cited references speak only of the exalted sanctity of the Virgin Mary and of Her immaculateness, and give Her various names which define Her purity and spiritual might; but no­where is there any word of the immaculateness of Her concep­tion. Meanwhile, these same Holy Fathers in other places say that only Jesus Christ is completely pure of every sin, while all men, being born of Adam, have borne a flesh subject to the law of sin.

None of the ancient Holy Fathers say that God in miracu­lous fashion purified the Virgin Mary while yet in the womb; and many directly indicate that the Virgin Mary, just as all men, endured a battle with sinfulness, but was victorious over temp­tations and was saved by Her Divine Son.

Commentators of the Latin confession likewise say that the Virgin Mary was saved by Christ. But they understand this in the sense that Mary was preserved from the taint of original sin in view of the future merits of Christ (Bull on the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception). The Virgin Mary, according to their teaching, received in advance, as it were, the gift which Christ brought to men by His sufferings and death on the Cross. Moreover, speaking of the torments of the Mother of God which She endured standing at the Cross of Her Beloved Son, and in general of the sorrows with which the life of the Mother of God was filled, they consider them an addition to the sufferings of Christ and consider Mary to be our Co-Redemptress.

According to the commentary of the Latin theologians, "Mary is an associate with our Redeemer as Co-Redemptress" (see Lebedev, op. cit. p. 273). "In the act of Redemption, She, in a certain way, helped Christ" (Catechism of Dr. Weimar). "The Mother of God," writes Dr. Lentz, "bore the burden of Her martyrdom not merely courageously, but also joyfully, even though with a broken heart" (Mariology of Dr. Lentz). For this reason, She is "a complement of the Holy Trinity," and "just as Her Son is the only Intermediary chosen by God between His offended majesty and sinful men, so also, precisely, the chief Mediatress placed by Him between His Son and us is the Blessed Virgin." "In three respects—as Daughter, as Mother, and as Spouse of God—the Holy Virgin is exalted to a certain equality with the Father, to a certain superiority over the Son, to a certain nearness to the Holy Spirit" ("The Immaculate Conception," Malou, Bishop of Brouges).

Thus, according to the teaching of the representatives of Latin theology, the Virgin Mary in the work of Redemption is placed side by side with Christ Himself and is exalted to an equality with God. One cannot go farther than this. If all this has not been definitively formulated as a dogma of the Roman church as yet, still the Roman Pope Pius IX, having made the first step in this direction, has shown the direction for the further development of the generally recognized teaching of his church, and has indirectly confirmed the above-cited teaching about the Virgin Mary.

Thus the Roman church, in its strivings to exalt the Most Holy Virgin, is going on the path of complete deification of Her. And if even now its authorities call Mary a complement of the Holy Trinity, one may soon expect that the Virgin will be revered like God.

There have entered on this same path a group of thinkers who for the time being, belong to the Orthodox Church, but who are building a new theological system having as its founda­tion the philosophical teaching of Sophia, Wisdom, as a special power binding the Divinity and the creation. Likewise develop­ing the teaching of the dignity of the Mother of God, they wish to see in Her an Essence which is some kind of mid-point between God and man. In some questions they are more moderate than the Latin theologians, but in others, if you please, they have already left them behind. While denying the teaching of the Immaculate Conception and the freedom from original sin, they still teach Her full freedom from any personal sins, seeing in Her an Intermediary between men and God, like Christ: in the person of Christ there has appeared on earth the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Pre-eternal Word, the Son of God; while the Holy Spirit is manifest through the Virgin Mary.

In the words of one of the representatives of this tendency, when the Holy Spirit came to dwell in the Virgin Mary, she acquired "a dyadic life, human and divine; that is, She was completely deified, because in Her hypostatic being was mani­fest the living, creative revelation of the Holy Spirit" (Archpriest Sergei Bulgakov, The Unburnt Bush, 1927, p. 154). "She is a perfect manifestation of the Third Hypostasis" (Ibid., p. 175), "a creature, but also no longer a creature" (p.191). This striving towards the deification of the Mother of God is to be observed primarily in the West, where at the same time, on the other hand, various sects of a Protestant character are having great success, together with the chief branches of Protestantism, Lutheranism and Calvinism, which in general deny the vener­ation of the Mother of God and the calling upon Her in prayer.

But we can say with the words of St. Epiphanius of Cyprus: "There is an equal harm in both these heresies, both when men demean the Virgin and when, on the contrary, they glorify Her beyond what is proper" (Panarion, "Against the Collyridians").

This Holy Father accuses those who give Her an almost divine worship: "Let Mary be in honor, but let worship be given to the Lord" (same source). "Although Mary is a chosen vessel, still She was a woman by nature, not to be distinguished at all from others. Although the history of Mary and Tradition relate that it was said to Her father Joachim in the desert, 'Thy wife hath conceived,' still this was done not without marital union and not without the seed of man" (same source). "One should not revere the saints above what is proper, but should revere their Master. Mary is not God, and did not receive a body from heaven, but from the joining of man and woman; and according to the promise, like Isaac, She was prepared to take part in the Divine Economy. But, on the other hand, let none dare foolishly to offend the Holy Virgin" (St. Epiphanius, "Against the Antidikomarionites").

The Orthodox Church, highly exalting the Mother of God in its hymns of praise, does not dare to ascribe to Her that which has not been communicated about Her by Sacred Scripture or Tradition. "Truth is foreign to all overstatements as well as to all understatements. It gives to everything a fitting measure and fitting place" (Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov). Glorifying the immaculateness of the Virgin Mary and the manful bearing of sorrows in Her earthly life, the Fathers of the Church, on the other hand, reject the idea that She was an intermediary between God and men in the sense of the joint Redemption by Them of the human race. Speaking of Her preparedness to die together with Her Son and to suffer together with Him for the sake of the salvation of all, the renowned Father of the Western Church, Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, adds: "But the sufferings of Christ did not need any help, as the Lord Himself prophesied concerning this long before: I looked about, and there was none to help; I sought and there was none to give aid: therefore My arm delivered them (Is. 63:5)." (St. Ambrose, "Concerning the Upbringing of the Virgin and the Ever-Virginity of Holy Mary," ch. 7).

This same Holy Father teaches concerning the universality of original sin, from which Christ alone is an exception. "Of all those born of women, there is not a single one who is perfectly holy, apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, Who in a special new way of immaculate birthgiving, did not experience earthly taint" (St. Ambrose, Commentary on Luke, ch. 2). "God alone is without sin. All born in the usual manner of woman and man, that is, of fleshly union, become guilty of sin. Consequently, He Who does not have sin was not conceived in this manner" (St. Ambrose, Ap. Aug. "Concerning Marriage and Concupis­cence"). "One Man alone, the Intermediary between God and man, is free from the bonds of sinful birth, because He was born of a Virgin, and because in being born He did not experience the touch of sin" (St. Ambrose, ibid., Book 2: "Against Julianus").

Another renowned teacher of the Church, especially revered in the West, Blessed Augustine, writes: "As for other men, excluding Him Who is the cornerstone, I do not see for them any other means to become temples of God and to be dwellings for God apart from spiritual rebirth, which must absolutely be preceded by fleshly birth. Thus, no matter how much we might think about children who are in the womb of the mother, and even though the word of the holy Evangelist who says of John the Baptist that he leaped for joy in the womb of his mother (which occurred not otherwise than by the action of the Holy Spirit), or the word of the Lord Himself spoken to Jeremiah: I have sanctified thee before thou didst leave the womb of thy mother (Jer. 1:5)— no matter how much these might or might not give us basis for thinking that children in this condition are capable of a certain sanctification, still in any case it cannot be doubted that the sanctification by which all of us together and each of us separately become the temple of God is possible only for those who are reborn, and rebirth always presupposes birth. Only those who have already been born can be united with Christ and be in union with this Divine Body which makes His Church the living temple of the majesty of God" (Blessed Augustine, Letter 187).

The above-cited words of the ancient teachers of the Church testify that in the West itself the teaching which is now spread there was earlier rejected there. Even after the falling away of the Western church, Bernard, who is acknowledged there as a great authority, wrote, " I am frightened now, seeing that certainof you have desired to change the condition of important matters, introducing a new festival unknown to the Church, unapproved by reason, unjustified by ancient tradition. Are we really more learned and more pious than our fathers? You will say, 'One must glorify the Mother of God as much as possible.' This is true; but the glorification given to the Queen of Heaven demands discernment. This Royal Virgin does not have need of false glorifications, possessing as She does true crowns of glory and signs of dignity. Glorify the purity of Her flesh and the sanctity of Her life. Marvel at the abundance of the gifts of this Virgin; venerate Her Divine Son; exalt Her Who conceived without knowing concupiscence and gave birth without know­ing pain. But what does one yet need to add to these dignities? People say that one must revere the conception which preceded the glorious birth-giving; for if the conception had not pre­ceded, the birth-giving also would not have been glorious. Butwhat would one say if anyone for the same reason should demand the same kind of veneration of the father and mother of Holy Mary? One might equally demand the same for Her grandparents and great-grandparents, to infinity. Moreover, how can there not be sin in the place where there was concupis­cence? All the more, let one not say that the Holy Virgin was conceived of the Holy Spirit and not of man. I say decisively that the Holy Spirit descended upon Her, but not that He came with Her." "I say that the Virgin Mary could not be sanctified before Her conception, inasmuch as She did not exist. If, all the more, She could not be sanctified in the moment of Her conception by reason of the sin which is inseparable from conception, then it remains to believe that She was sanctified after She was conceived in the womb of Her mother. This sanctification, if it annihilates sin, makes holy Her birth, but not Her conception. No one is given the right to be conceived in sanctity; only the Lord Christ was conceived of the Holy Spirit, and He alone is holy from His very conception. Excluding Him, it is to all the descendants of Adam that must be referred that which one of them says of himself, both out of a feeling of humility and in acknowledgement of the truth: Behold I was conceived in iniq­uities (Ps. 50:7). How can one demand that this conception be holy, when it was not the work of the Holy Spirit, not to mention that it came from concupiscence? The Holy Virgin, of course, rejects that glory which, evidently, glorifies sin. She cannot in any way justify a novelty invented in spite of the teaching of the Church, a novelty which is the mother of imprudence, the sister of unbelief, and the daughter of light-mindedness" (Bernard, Epistle 174; cited, as were the references from Blessed Augustine, from Lebedev). The above-cited words clearly reveal both the novelty and the absurdity of the new dogma of the Roman church.

The teaching of the complete sinlessness of the Mother of God:

(1) does not correspond to Sacred Scripture, where there is repeatedly mentioned the sinlessness of the One Mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ (I Tim. 2:5); and in Him is no sin (I John 3:5); Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth (I Peter 2:22); One that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15); Him Who knew no sin, He made to be sin on our behalf ' (II Cor. 5:21). But concerning the rest of men it is said, Who is pure of defilement? No one who has lived a single day of his life on earth (Job 14:4). God commendeth His own love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us..... If, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by His life (Rom. 5:8-10).

(2) This teaching contradicts also Sacred Tradition, which is contained in numerous Patristic writings, where there is mentioned the exalted sanctity of the Virgin Mary from Her very birth, as well as Her cleansing by the Holy Spirit at Her conception of Christ, but not at Her own conception by Anna. "There is none without stain before Thee, even though his life be but a day, save Thee alone, Jesus Christ our God, Who didst appear on earth without sin, and through Whom we all trust to obtain mercy and the remission of sins" (St. Basil the Great, Third Prayer of Vespers of Pentecost). "But when Christ came through a pure, virginal, unwedded, God-fearing, undefiled Mother without wedlock and without father, and inasmuch as it befitted Him to be born, He purified the female nature, rejected the bitter Eve and overthrew the laws of the flesh" (St. Gregory the Theologian, "In Praise of Virginity"). However, even then, as Sts. Basil the Great and John Chrysostom speak of this, She was not placed in the state of being unable to sin, but continued to take care for Her salvation and overcame all temptations (St. John Chrysostom, Commentary on John, Hom­ily 85; St. Basil the Great, Epistle 160).

(3) The teaching that the Mother of God was purified before Her birth, so that from Her might be born the Pure Christ, is meaningless; because if the Pure Christ could be born only if the Virgin might be born pure, it would be necessary that Her parents also should be pure of original sin, and they again would have to be born of purified parents, and going further in this way, one would have to come to the conclusion that Christ could not have become incarnate unless all His ancestors in the flesh, right up to Adam inclusive, had been purified beforehand of original sin. But then there would not have been any need for the very Incarnation of Christ, since Christ came down to earth in order to annihilate sin.

(4) The teaching that the Mother of God was preserved from original sin, as likewise the teaching that She was preserved by God's grace from personal sins, makes God unmerciful and unjust; because if God could preserve Mary from sin and purify Her before Her birth, then why does He not purify other men before their birth, but rather leaves them in sin? It follows likewise that God saves men apart from their will, predetermin­ing certain ones before their birth to salvation.

(5) This teaching, which seemingly has the aim of exalting the Mother of God, in reality completely denies all Her virtues. After all, if Mary, even in the womb of Her mother, when She could not even desire anything either good or evil, was preserved by God's grace from every impurity, and then by that grace was preserved from sin even after Her birth, then in what does Her merit consist? If She could have been placed in the state of being unable to sin, and did not sin, then for what did God glorify Her? If She, without any effort, and without having any kind of impulses to sin, remained pure, then why is She crowned more than everyone else? There is no victory without an adver­sary.

The righteousness and sanctity of the Virgin Mary were manifested in the fact that She, being "human with passions like us," so loved God and gave Herself over to Him, that by Her purity She was exalted high above the rest of the human race. For this, having been foreknown and forechosen, She was vouchsafed to be purified by the Holy Spirit Who came upon Her, and to conceive of Him the very Saviour of the world. The teaching of the grace-given sinlessness of the Virgin Mary denies Her victory over temptations; from a victor who is worthy to be crowned with crowns of glory, this makes Her a blind instru­ment of God's Providence.

It is not an exaltation and greater glory, but a belittlement of Her, this "gift" which was given Her by Pope Pius IX and all the rest who think they can glorify the Mother of God by seeking out new truths. The Most Holy Mary has been so much glorified by God Himself, so exalted is Her life on earth and Her glory in heaven, that human inventions cannot add anything to Her honor and glory. That which people themselves invent only obscures Her Face from their eyes. Brethren, take heed lest there shall be any one that maketh spoil of you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ, wrote the Apostle Paul by the Holy Spirit (Col. 2:8).

Such a "vain deceit" is the teaching of the Immaculate Conception by Anna of the Virgin Mary, which at first sight exalts, but in actual fact belittles Her. Like every lie, it is a seed of the "father of lies" (John 8:44), the devil, who has succeeded by it in deceiving many who do not understand that they blaspheme the Virgin Mary. Together with it there should also be rejected all the other teachings which have come from it or are akin to it. The striving to exalt the Most Holy Virgin to an equality with Christ ascribing to Her maternal tortures at the Cross an equal significance with the sufferings of Christ, so that the Redeemer and "Co-Redemptress" suffered equally, accord­ing to the teaching of the Papists, or that "the human nature of the Mother of God in heaven together with the God-Man Jesus jointly reveal the full image of man" (Archpriest S. Bulgakov, The Unburnt Bush, p. 141)—is likewise a vain deceit and a seduction of philosophy. In Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female (Gal. 3:28), and Christ has redeemed the whole human race; therefore at His Resurrection equally did "Adam dance for joy and Eve rejoice" (Sunday Kontakia of the First and Third Tones), and by His Ascension did the Lord raise up the whole of human nature.

Likewise, that the Mother of God is a "complement of the Holy Trinity" or a "fourth Hypostasis"; that "the Son and the Mother are a revelation of the Father through the Second and Third Hypostases"; that the Virgin Mary is "a creature, but also no longer a creature"—all this is the fruit of vain, false wisdom which is not satisfied with what the Church has held from the time of the Apostles, but strives to glorify the Holy Virgin more than God has glorified Her.

Thus are the words of St. Epiphanius of Cyprus fulfilled - "Certain senseless ones in their opinion about the Holy Ever-Virgin have striven and are striving to put Her in place of God" (St. Epiphanius, "Against the Antidikomarionites"). But that which is offered to the Virgin in senselessness, instead of praise of Her, turns out to be blasphemy; and the All-Immaculate One rejects the lie, being the Mother of Truth (John 14:6).

The 'Immaculate Conception'

Although the Immaculate Conception has come to be viewed by some Anglicans as a theologumenon, a theological opinion or pious belief, its inadmissibility as an acceptable adiaphoron was certainly held by the Tractarians and the early nineteenth-century Anglo-Catholics. The spread of the doctrine amongst Anglicans is a product, not directly of the Catholic Revival or Tractarian Movement, but of the later and, one could convincingly argue, separate phenomenon today described as Anglican Papalism. Beliefs concerning the personal holiness, the sanctification and perpetual virginity, and even the corporeal glorification, of Our Lady (all of which I profess, for they are based on Scripture and the universal Tradition of the Undivided Church) are distinct in nature and origin from that of the Immaculate Conception, as the Eastern Orthodox and Old Catholics will vociferously attest. I for one must fall in with the consensus catholicus shared historically by Anglicans, Orthodox and Old Catholics: the papal dogma of 1854 is not a part of the Catholic Faith, but is a theological novum, a new dogma which has been surreptiously added to Apostolic Tradition by the unilateral action of the Pope of Rome. The very definition of what comprises the Catholic Faith given by St Vincent of Lerins excludes the papal dogmas, of which the Immaculate Conception is absolutely fundamental. The Immaculate Conception is the down-payment on papal infallibility. As was quipped at the time of the I Vatican Council: 'Peter hath said to Mary, "thou art immaculate" and Mary hath said to Peter, "thou art infallible."'

The following quote nicely summarises an historic Anglican position on the matter:

'The proclamation of the [Roman] dogma of the Immaculate Conception [by Pius IX in 1854] is of enormous importance, for two reasons: one of faith, and one of order. It illustrates the method by which the opening made by the Council of Trent, when it set Tradition on a level with Scripture, can be used to introduce any novelty that appeals to popular devotion. Here was a doctrine which was clearly contrary both to Scripture and to the teaching of the Fathers, all of whom held that Christ alone was without sin; unheard of before the twelfth century, condemned by the greatest divines of the Middle Ages, St Bernard and St Thomas Aquinas, and based on the Augustinian theory of "original guilt" (to be distinguished from "original sin"), which had never been formally defined by the Church as necessary, and which is especially difficult for most modern Christians to accept, but without which the Immaculate Conception is meaningless. Yet it was taken up by powerful religious orders [Franciscans and Jesuits] for party reasons, and made popular by means of devotions based upon it, and at last came to be so widely accepted that it could be made into a necessary dogma without serious opposition; the Spanish bishops actually told Pius IX that it had been believed in Spain since the beginning of Christianity there! It was not defined to meet any heresy; it had no connexion with the Catholic dogmatic scheme, which is quite complete without it. There is nothing to prevent any popular superstition from being defined as a dogma in the same way.
As a matter of order, the Bull Ineffabilis [which proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception] was an entirely new departure, and was universally recognised as being so. Never before had any Pope added a fresh dogma to the Faith without a Council. The Bull Unigenitus was the nearest precedent, but that was only the condemnation of a set of propositions, not the definition of a new dogma. Indeed, Dr [John Mason] Neale calls the Ineffabilis "a second and worse Unigenitus".The Bull was inconsistent with the Gallican opinion that the judgment of the Pope is not irreversible until confirmed by the consent of the Church; for the Immaculate Conception was proclaimed as an irreversible dogma, though the consent of the Church had never been asked. Therefore the infallibility of the Pope, by himself and not by the consent of the Church, decreed sixteen years later by the Vatican Council [I], was already implied by the Bull Ineffabilis. The contrast between the long and fierce opposition to the Unigenitus, and the almost universal acceptance of the Ineffabilis, marks the decline of Gallicanism... The Bull Ineffabilis had behind it the vast system of popular devotion to the Blessed Virgin, against which the doubts and difficulties of the theologians counted for nothing.'

-Dr CB Moss, The Old Catholic Movement, pages 179-181

May 2024 Comprovincial Newsletter

The Comprovincial Newsletter for May 2024 - https://tinyurl.com/comprovincial-2024may