faux catholic

I went for a run last night in the rain. It was only my second real run since my high school cross-country days (and boy am I out of shape!). Since the spider episode I’m much more committed to improving my fitness so with that behind me and the good example of M before me, I’m out pounding the pavement again.

It gives me space, an open place, to think as I run.

Last night my mind kept drifting back to the English decision on women bishops and to this post on the matter by Third Mill Catholic. If not accepting women bishops and clergy is the distinguishing mark of catholicism, then Young Fogey and others are right—it is done within Anglicanism, now and forever. If we’re honest, it was a done deal back in the ’90s but the implications are only now moving towards their inevitable conclusion.

If women can be priests, then there is no logical reason why they cannot be bishops. If they can be bishops, there is no reason why they cannot be archbishops. If they can be archbishops than it is only a matter of time before one sits upon the throne of the See of Canterbury.

In England, the Anglo-Catholics who remain will be further indulging themselves in a game of “let’s pretend”. In America, the “true” catholics are acting like congregationalists and joining themselves to to a Protestant province or hooking their hopes to an evangelical organization who won’t hesitate to turn on them once it’s convenient. (If liberals who like to play dress-up and swing-the-censer without an embrace of catholic theology are AffCats, we’ll shortly need to come up with a new word for evangelicals with similar tastes.)

I suppose in the midst of all of this, I’ll just keep on being what I am: a faux catholic. I’m resigned to never meriting being a real one as I’m not against the right things. I’ve irrevocably sold-out the faith by maintaining the silly notion that what grounds and guides Christian morals is the practice and cultivation of virtue, rather than ticking boxes on vice lists. I’ve betrayed Christianity in my belief that the power of the Holy Spirit and the firm promises of Christ are efficacious even without the presence of a penis. I’ll just keep understanding scripture in light of my three creeds and seven councils. I’ll keep on reading the Fathers.

But the readings from Matthew we’ve been moving through in the Office sound the louder note: it’s not about our words or the faith that we profess. It’s not even about our deeds of power. It won’t matter at the end of the Day what back-stabbing little faction we’re part of—the key is our fruits.

When we look at others do we strive to see Christ; when Christ looks at us, does he recognize himself?

Another thing rolling around on my run was words I’d read on the bus ride home from work:

Since all of our Lord’s sacred utterances contain commandments, why does he say about love as if it were a special commandment: This is my commandment, that you love one another? It is because every commandment is about love, and they all add up to one commandment because whatever is commanded is founded on love alone. As a tree’s many branches come from one root, so do many virtues come forth from love alone. The branch which is our good works has no sap unless it remains attached to the root of love. Our Lord’s commandments are then both many and one: many through the variety of the works, one in their root which is love. He himself instructs us to love our friends in him, and our enemies for his sake. That person truly possesses love who loves his friend in God and his enemy for God’s sake. (Gregory the Great, Hom. 27)

The love of which Gregory speaks is not some gooey emotion, a set of excuses for bad behavior,or a label to cover over a different agenda. It’s a way of life. It’s a fundamental orientation.  It’s a burning engine that impels and compels us to do even that which we do not wish to do. And from where I sit it seems in precious short supply. God knows I lack it in spades, but that seems to be not uncommon around our Communion either.

Now don’t get me wrong—I’m not calling for an end to Christian factionalism. After all, it has a long proud history: every single writing in the New Testament mentions it at one point or another. It’s more traditional than Tradition itself!

What I do wish is that we have an awareness: every time we pull out the long knives—whatever we achieve—-we always carve away a piece of ourselves in the process…

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37 Responses to faux catholic

  1. Jason Wells says:

    Nicely put, Derek.

    Would the evangelical equivalent of AffCath be the Open Evangelical movement? It’s well-attested in the Church of England and championed by Graham Kings of St. Mary’s-Islington.

    There’s a good representation at Fulcrum.

    At any rate, I’m in deep agreement with your assessment here.

  2. Clearly genuine Catholicism requires an unbending allegiance to transparently bad arguments and tenuous inferences from Holy Writ regarding God’s inability to graft women onto the apostolic tree.

    Make room for me over in the Faux Catholic section.

  3. Thanks for stopping by, Jason!

    Actually, Postulant, the genuine criterion to be an Anglo-Catholic is to know at least five people who think that they’re Anglo-Catholic—but you know they’re not really catholic enough to be one…

  4. bls says:

    I still don’t know why we have to assent to FiF theology/ecclesiology/whatever in order to be considered “Anglo-Catholic.”

    It’s really not about penises and birettas. (Now there’s a weird mental picture for you….)

    And honestly I’m not sure what “liberals who like to play dress-up and swing-the-censer without an embrace of catholic theology” implies here; most TECers I know who don’t embrace catholic theology don’t consider themselves “Catholic” in any way. They proudly self-identify as Protestant and don’t care who knows it.

    Anyway, definitions are changing; Anglo-Catholicism won’t be the same thing forever, either. If it were expected to be, we’d have to drop the “Anglo-” prefix, wouldn’t we?

    Anyway, there’s a very good case for women’s ordination, for instance, in the Epistles. I think the “Vincentian canon” is just an excuse for 21st-Century traditionalism in non-essential matters.

    Probably that makes me “Protestant” (that dread epithet) in the eyes of some – but like you: I don’t really care.

  5. And honestly I’m not sure what “liberals who like to play dress-up and swing-the-censer without an embrace of catholic theology” implies here; most TECers I know who don’t embrace catholic theology don’t consider themselves “Catholic” in any way. They proudly self-identify as Protestant and don’t care who knows it.

    Oh, trust me they’re out there… I have no problem with Protestants, the folks I take issue with are those who think that being “catholic” is being fussy about ceremonial (and who more often than not are making it up as they go). To my way of thinking it’s simple: those who don’t know the Fathers, the Councils, or our pre-Reformation heritage and don’t care to either (i.e., not those in the process of learning but those who don’t care to learn at all) shouldn’t refer to themselves as “catholic”.

    And, yes, I’ve perfectly exemplified my above criterion…

  6. bls says:

    (And BTW: doesn’t the vote of the Synod have to be affirmed in some way further down the line or something? I heard something like this but don’t know if it’s right, or the details.

    So isn’t it possible that the FiFers will be accommodated in some way, either formally or informally, after all? I really don’t care if they are, although I think it will become quite difficult after awhile to maintain a “pure” line of whatever.

    And I can imagine, I have to say, the RCC ordaining women eventually; like I say, the case is there in Scripture, and then the RCC will do what it always does: argue that it’s always taught that women could in fact have been ordained.)

  7. bls says:

    I have no problem with Protestants, the folks I take issue with are those who think that being “catholic” is being fussy about ceremonial (and who more often than not are making it up as they go).

    I think that crowd is disappearing now, though; isn’t this part of the Boomers bunch I’m always ranting about?

    I definitely sense a change in the air currently; things are quite different than they were even a few years ago, when TEC really was in the deep doldrums of weak faith and so-called “Enlightenment” thinking about faith. Things are happening, really – and people just aren’t aware of the things you’ve laid out as criteria because they haven’t been taught for a long time.

    But even the “Early Church” movement has its uses along these lines, don’t you think?

  8. The idea is that UKFiF will be protected by a code of practice which in a nutshell reminds bishops not to be asses to them and to respect their deeply held convictions. The issue is that a code isn’t legally binding and they fear what this will look like in practice.

    I do believe that the RCC will ordain women at some future point. But then, I don’t think being against ordained women is the be-all-end-all of catholicism either as you well know.

  9. bls says:

    (Hey, maybe there will develop an “Anglo-Orthodox” movement in one of the Western Orthodox groups!

    I can see the Orthodox remaining with male priests and bishops forever; traditionalism is what they do. And for those who want this: terrific.

    I think this is already happening to some extent in England, actually; I know about several “Western Rite” Orthodox guys in London.)

  10. I hope the tide is turning. It will only turn—and keep heading the right direction—if our clergy and leaders have a sense of what they don’t know, or of what they ought to know.

    Personally I’m not sure we’re there.

    Yes, the “ad fontes” crowd is useful in that respect—but all too often they bring an agenda that pre-determines what they find. Case in point being the abuse of the Nicene canon regarding not kneeling on Sundays or Easter. They may read the letter but without a larger picture they miss the spirit.

  11. Yes, the Western Rite Antiochene Orthodox are essentially disaffected Anglicans with Antiochene Orthodox oversite. They’re the ones operating Lancelot Andrewes press from whence the St Dunstan’s Psalter comes…

  12. Caelius Spinator says:

    Put me in the same section with the gentleman who said this, “All things cannot be of ancient continuance, which are expedient and needful of the ordering of spiritual affairs: but the Church being a body which dieth not hath always power…no less to ordain that which never was than to ratify what hath been before.”

    Did you hear what the Bishop of Liverpool said in Synod? He said that the role of the Bishop was to feed the Body of Christ and found it amazing that the Body of Christ was nourished in the womb and as a helpless infant by the sole agency of a woman. Strangely enough, I’ve not seen anyone discussing this kind of argument in any detail. If we disagree, shouldn’t we be arguing, not threatening not to talk to one another?

  13. bls says:

    He said that the role of the Bishop was to feed the Body of Christ and found it amazing that the Body of Christ was nourished in the womb and as a helpless infant by the sole agency of a woman. Strangely enough, I’ve not seen anyone discussing this kind of argument in any detail. If we disagree, shouldn’t we be arguing, not threatening not to talk to one another?

    Fr. Haller has gone there, I do believe.

  14. LP says:

    I have no problem with Protestants, the folks I take issue with are those who think that being “catholic” is being fussy about ceremonial (and who more often than not are making it up as they go). To my way of thinking it’s simple: those who don’t know the Fathers, the Councils, or our pre-Reformation heritage and don’t care to either (i.e., not those in the process of learning but those who don’t care to learn at all) shouldn’t refer to themselves as “catholic”.

    The problem with the terms “Protestant” and “Catholic” is that they have been stripped of any real meaning. I for one find them as useless as “high” or “low” church to describe one’s theology.

    What makes a church (or a person) Catholic or Protestant anyway? Is it really engagement with broader (ie pre-Reformation) tradition? We both had profs in div school who taught those areas who were decidedly Protestant.

    The funny thing is that – the more I am engaged in debates about what is truly Catholic – the more it feels like other debates about meaningless subcultures: is Green Day punk in the same way as The Ramones; can you be a true Goth and listen to Marilyn Manson; wh best represents country music, David Allen Coe or Kenny Chesney? (btw, there is only one right answer to that last question!!!)

    Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanity; all is vanity…

    …The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is nothing new under the sun.

  15. I’m nowhere near in shape for running so I ride a bicycle instead both for my body’s benefit and for that space to think.

    BTW although he and I differ I’m happy to see Third Mill (Dr Dunlap) blogging again.

    Been looking forward to hearing from you on this, Derek. Thanks for the mention but…

    If not accepting women bishops and [other] clergy is the distinguishing mark of catholicism…

    I think you know better. When all else is equal – for example I think you’re the most Catholic writer at Episcopal Café (and not coincidentally the youngest), and that you and M have things in common with me I don’t with mainstream RC; we believe the creeds and in the Mass and the office – the distinguishing mark of Catholicism is an infallible church, which gives a church’s current management of any era far less power to change things (such as the creeds, the matter of the apostolic ministry or blessing sins against nature) than Protestantism does. (‘I can’t. I’m only the Pope.’)

    ‘You lot just hate women’ is beneath you.

    (BTW improbabalism – the idea that the larger church as a whole could change on WO as a matter of discipline – is a perfectly good Catholic opinion alongside impossibilism.)

    Claiming some kind of moral superiority to the teachings of the church states ipso facto one is not Catholic.

    So again as you know in my POV you’re Protestant. That’s simply a statement not a putdown.

    In England, the Anglo-Catholics who remain will be further indulging themselves in a game of “let’s pretend”. In America, the “true” catholics [in TEC] are acting like congregationalists…

    I agree entirely with this paragraph! One of my readers, AMM (who’s Orthodox BTW), has named this: ‘ritualist congregationalism’. It’s exactly what ACism in Episcopal parishes outside Fort Worth and Quincy (Catholic diocese = Catholic ecclesiology, except… what other Catholic bodies are they in communion with?) has become. (Or why although for five years I’ve been a happy part-timer at one of the last Tridentine Anglo-Catholic parishes in TEC I’m not a member or a communicant there.)

    Catholicism reduced to opinion and style (dressing up) in either a liberal or a conservative Protestant denomination is not Catholicism.

    Fr Wells, yes, Open Evangelicals are their version of AffCath.

    The Postulant, to us the faith is a package deal. Drop moral theology or the apostolic ministry (Episcopalians are now in communion with the United Methodist Church) and you might as well drop the creeds and stay in on Sundays.

    Finally of course endearing eccentricity including crotchetiness is part of AC culture like nut rolls are to Slovaks and street festas are to Italians, part of what the Romeward want to keep and I hope they do.

  16. Christopher says:

    Derek,

    Maybe you can help me with this whole thing? What is “catholic theology”? Many others have categorized me as “Anglo-catholic” and yet, I don’t think the category fits. Maybe like you I’m a faux Catholic?

    As for this, Chalcedon guided my thinking on the matter when I was 20 years old and noticed a problem (and this before theological education) and still guides my thinking. Following that, it seems that arguments of priesthood in the Roman tradition of in persona Christi (this btw is not an E Orthodox position) seem rather thin in light of say, Mthr. Theresa of Calcutta or . What they say at heart is that women cannot image Christ due to lack of the proper genitalia, and frankly, real life says quite otherwise. Not too mention such thinking loops back to Chalcedon again.

  17. LP, “I was drunk, the day my momma got out of prison…” :-)

  18. Christopher says:

    Kenny Chesney. ;)

  19. Christopher says:

    Actually bls, the Orthodox, including venerables like Bp. Kallistos Ware met not to many years back about this topic. They’re thinking, and the thinking is running toward hard firm theological undestandings like those given in the RC run counter to Chalcedon. Now it can be discipline and remain as such for cultural reasons.

  20. P.S. There used to be Anglo-Orthodox in the Church of England, trying to be Orthodox where they were and hoping for corporate reunion (encouraged by friendly Orthodox who said if all Anglicans became Orthodox the clergy would be received in their orders). Logically all that ended after the C of E had women priests. They disbanded and converted to Orthodoxy.

    Derek’s description of Antiochian Western Rite Orthodox fits most of them perfectly. A few others are conservative former ‘independent Catholics’ using a slightly edited Tridentine Mass in English.

  21. bls says:

    Actually, I think of “Anglo-Catholicism” as a movement within Anglicanism that’s dedicated to continually reminding it of sacramentality – and of its duty to the poor and needy.

    That’s pretty much it, in fact; that’s how it started (at least in some quarters) and that’s how I still understand it. To me, this is what “Anglo-Catholic” means, as well as the things that Derek speaks of. I assume that Protestants in the church all hold to the Creeds, and that the BCP works for everybody.

    But I think LP is right: the Protestant/Catholic distinction that was so central at one time (in my youth, for instance) no longer is so central, as P’s have become more C, and C’s have become more P in outlook. At one time this gulf had seemed immense, and it really no longer does.

    Of course, the RCC itself really does require certain loyalties and actions that Protestants generally don’t, so we have to acknowledge that, too. But there are other Catholics in the world.

  22. YF,

    ‘You lot just hate women’ is beneath you.

    You’re absolutely right—which is why I didn’t say it…

    I don’t buy an infallible church which is why I think it’s preferable to go back to our moral theology and recognize that identifying the practices and attitudes that give birth to virtue in our times and places are harder, messier, and less clear than ticking off boxes but are of infinitely more value. Yes, a lot will be similar—but not all—and the earnest quest for truth inevitably tempers a pharisaical triumphalism that ticking boxes does not.

    If that’s “drop[ping] moral theology” in your eyes, so be it…

    Christopher, taking the words “catholic” and “theology” seriously would, it seems to me, suggest that we need to look at the words spoken to God and about God by the undivided church.

  23. bls says:

    (It’s funny that “Anglo-Catholic” threads always seem to immediately gather controversy, isn’t it?

    ;-) )

  24. LP says:

    It would seem to me that the infallible church died when two patriarchs excommunicated one another with no good cause. Somewhere someone erred, and the other isn’t the true church. Don’t hand me any of that two lungs crap. If you carry the infallible church to its logical conclusion then the church only exists insofar as it is in communion with the eastern patriarchates of the Bishop of Rome, and none of those guys seem to buy it.

  25. bls says:

    You know, I’m thinking that perhaps the CofE synod (again I’m not exactly sure of names and procedures etc.) will amend this vote at some point in the future to allow for the FiF crowd formally.

    That’s the beauty of Anglicanism, actually! If the Church hath erred, it can correct itself – and if this is an error it will become evident.

  26. LP says:

    sorry, that should be “or the Bishop of Rome”, not “of.”

  27. bls says:

    There’s a (quite long) thread about this going at Ship of Fools, BTW, with lots of CofE perspective.

  28. bls says:

    (Also – sorry if somebody has linked this already, but it didn’t seem so – there’s something about what the Bishop of London is doing about this here.)

  29. Of course, the RCC itself really does require certain loyalties and actions that Protestants generally don’t, so we have to acknowledge that, too. But there are other Catholics in the world.

    At the teaching level, and in the opinions of most of the faithful (outside Protestant-influenced Northern Europe and North America), a good-sized portion of the world’s Christians, Rome and Orthodoxy are unanimous on these issues.

    (Which is why I quote a RC friend: to liberals Orthodoxy should be an embarrassment because you can’t blame their being Catholic on the Pope or coercion.)

    That leaves some small churches: the Oriental communion (including Copts and Armenians) and the Assyrian (Nestorian) Church (‘the Lesser Eastern Churches’), the Old Catholics (Utrecht), the Polish National Catholic Church (a small immigrant schism in America started 100 years ago, which used to be Old Catholic) and, to use a polite term, the independent-sacramental-movement churches.

    The Lesser Eastern Churches agree with Rome and Orthodoxy on this as does the PNCC, which is why it’s not Old Catholic any more (as of a few years ago).

    So you’ve got Utrecht and the indies agreeing with you.

    LP, good point. It’s really between the Roman and Orthodox sides (IMO the Lesser Eastern Churches, at least the Oriental communion, will be reunited with Orthodoxy soon). Or else Jesus was a fraud (the last sentence in Matthew a lie) and I’ll either be bris’d into Judaism or jack it all in.

  30. Yes, the Ship thread is very good.

  31. YF — you and I agree that the faith is a package deal. We disagree about what belongs to the faith.

  32. bls says:

    At the teaching level, and in the opinions of most of the faithful (outside Protestant-influenced Northern Europe and North America), a good-sized portion of the world’s Christians, Rome and Orthodoxy are unanimous on these issues.

    Actually, I myself agree with and admire many portions of the RCC’s Catechism (although I haven’t read it all, I acknowledge).

    I just don’t agree with all of it – which is the same way most Roman Catholics approach it on such widely varying topics as Papal Infallibility and Birth Control. The only difference, really, between me and most of the RCC laity is that I’m not required to pretend that I do agree with all of it.

  33. The Postulant: you’re right.

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  35. Dan Dunlap says:

    Thanks, Derek, for the mention!

    Perhaps we should start a “Faux (sic) Catholic” movement.

    Third Mill Catholic

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