Catholic Notes

Two interesting things:

Former Episcopalians often have quite a lot to say about Episcopal and Anglican dealings. Their words are often voluminous, often colorful, and not often “edifying”. It’s in light of these realities that I was interested to read a more measured take on the actions of General Convention from a Former Episcopalian now Roman Catholic, our favorite online Cistercian, Br. Stephen. While I don’t agree with everything he says there, of course, I did find his perspective and analysis quite interesting.

On the other hand, I do believe we’ve just been identified as the Antichrist by noted anglo-paplist Fr. Hunwicke:

The essence of the concept of the Antichrist is that he, the ultimate manifestation of evil, is skilfully dressed up so as plausibly to appear the genuine article. It occurs to me that the movement known as Affirming Catholicism is exactly this. The enthusiasm and the technical mastery with which they deploy their props – the lace, the monstrances, the music, the incense, the 39 buttons down their soutanes – are simply deceptions of the Evil One, designed to draw away the faithful from their Redeemer.

I mustn’t let my rhetoric run away with me. Some of them are decent and well-meaning, but misguided, people. I am not their judge; I shall stand before the same tribunal as they do. But there are some of them who have a virulent hatred of us. They do not say “These people who reject women priests are decent and good Catholics with whom I would wish to collaborate in every possible way because – except in this one issue – we share the same faith; and I wish them well because – although they’re just making this one mistake – they can share with us our mission to spread the Catholic Faith within the Church of England”. They want to see us persecuted, they want to see us denied a place within the Provinces of Canterbury and York. Their hatred of us seems visceral.

Now that’s where the devil really is.

Actually, I believe that I do and have said “These people who reject women priests are decent and good Catholics with whom I would wish to collaborate in every possible way because we share the same faith…” so I guess that makes me a well-meaning but misguided soul.

(Personally, I take real issue with the notion that “catholicity” is identical with the Neoscholasticism of the past hundred-and-change years, but now’s not the time for that particular discussion.)

Fr. Hunwicke is, of course, correct: the devil is in visceral hatred of other humans—especially fellow Christians no matter what their “party”. It’s unfortunate how often that point gets missed, and how often the opposite gets pushed on blogs.

21 thoughts on “Catholic Notes

  1. John-Julian, OJN

    Maybe we should all get together and form a new ecclesiastical society: WMBMS = “Well-meaning-but-misguided-souls”. :-))

  2. rick allen

    I tend to agree with you that we apostates, of whatever stripe, need to be a little circumspect. Even when in perfect good faith, it is very common to be tagged as a “turn-coat,” and treated as Kingsley treated Newman–and to invite such treatment from tactless pontification and self-absorbtion by one’s own story.

    As an apostate Presbyterian what interest I have in Anglicanism is not nostalgia for the “old country.” It may be nostalgia for the ecumenicism for which there was such enthusiasm when I was very young. But this is plainly an era of divergence. There’s a Martin Luther around every corner, and the Church is getting a scrubbing.

    We still have much more in common than in what divides us. But what divides us remains important to us, and will certainly continue to do so in my lifetime. Still, it’s nice to come to places like this where the common generally predominates, and where the diverse is gently rather than polemically handled.

    Whoever the Antichrist turns out to be, I don’t think he’ll be a misguided compassionate liberal, or a kind-hearted old fuddy-duddy conservative.

  3. Paul Goings


    Two points:

    1. Surely you consider my own position to be “well-meaning, but misguided,” no?

    2. As for calling anyone an antichrist, I take some issue with Fr Hunwicke’s use of hyperbole, but there are those who “want to see us denied a place,” and I encounter them all too frequently. However, unless you’re one of them, Father’s exaggerated condemnation doesn’t apply to you, at least as far as I can tell.

  4. Stuart

    Hi Derek,

    I just finished Br. Stephen’s blog post and I thought it was excellent. It was interesting that he didn’t see the creeds as an essential element of the Anglican “deposit of faith.” Also, do you know what he’s referring to when he says that theologians in TEC are debating the permanence of marriage and the number of possible partners in a marriage. I haven’t seen anything like that going on.

  5. JD Treat


    Thanks for picking this piece up and for all of the other kind mentions in the last few months.


    If memory serves (and I’ll admit I’m getting a bit rusty on Anglican history and theology), the place of the creed as core doctrine v. a historic statement was a central issue in the Pike controversy. Pike got a wrist slap but remained a bishop in good standing. Bishop Spong has since gone a great deal further than Pike in explicitly repudiating large portions of the historic creeds and has challenged anyone to challenge him. He remains a member of the HOB in good-standing.

    Certainly most Episcopalians still believe in the creeds after some fashion, but I think that the new baptismal covenant (which does include the Apostles Creed) is, at this point a more central piece of TEC identity.

    As for polyamory being on the horizon, those discussions were certainly happening when I lived in Boston a decade ago. It won’t be a big issue tomorrow, but I think it will in five years.

    It always upset many of my friends, but I think you can’t say that gender is irrelevant to marriage but that number somehow remains sacrosanct. In fact, I love to tease one of my old friends who’s long been a same-sex marriage advocate by calling him a numerist, since he refuses to concede the relationship between gender and number. Polyamory, of course, also has Biblical and historical precedent and a wide number of examples of practice across cultures. Stay tuned.

  6. Derek the Ænglican

    Rick, I too and convinced that far more holds us in common and, as the central thing that holds us is Christ, that is and always will be greater than what divides us.

    Paul, 1) yes—hence my reply to Annie who agrees with you on WO rather than me, 2) you’re right, technically I’m not within his definition.

    Br. Stephen, As far as I’m concerned (and, I think a weighty majority of my Episcopal readers as well), the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral still defines the boundaries of Anglican belief. That means Bishops in Apostolic Succession as the safeguards of the right teaching of the Creeds which are the pre-eminent lens of Scripture used within a community nourished by the two greatest Sacraments.

    (And yes, some of our bishops seem to have forgotten or be otherwise unclear in their duties but there is a distinction to be made between the place and purpose of the office and its incumbentss…)

    I have put forward my own arguments concerning the sex squabble and why same-sex marriage does not open the door for polyamorous relationships. It’s in two parts with the first here and the second here.

  7. Robert Hendrickson

    It is interesting that this is his take on the controversies. One of the things that has marked many of my conversations over the last year or two both at seminary and in the parish is the need for dialogue and ongoing fraternity. Actually, I and others I know have said “except for this one issue” (namely women’s ordination) we are generally on the same page with many of the critics of the church’s direction.

    It is an unfortunate sign of the times that such moderate sentiments were not the tone or tenor of the day when the current leadership of the church learned to stretch its wings so to speak. However, I am more convinced than ever that leadership of a more moderate and careful nature is in the offing.

    Like the Avignon controversy, however, I think the first generation of leadership in this current round of debate must go into their winter years before much progress will be made. The waters seem too poisoned now, as evidenced by Fr Hunwicke’s post.

  8. Paul Goings


    I think that your article ultimately fails to establish any grounds for suggesting that fidelity and chastity are not present in groupings of three, four, five, etc., so your cavalier dismissal of polyamory amounts to so much smoke and mirrors. You might wish to assert that these virtues cannot exist in a polyamorous relationship, but others would strongly disagree with you, and they see such arrangements as “a legitimate outlet for their created sexual urges.” Like Br Stephen’s friend, you are apparently willing to redefine Christian marriage with respect to gender, but not with respect to number.

    Of course something also needs to be said about what constitute “created sexual urges,” and whether all such urges should have some sort of legitimate outlet. This is what I think the Archbishop of Canterbury is referring to when he regrets the lack of theological thinking which many perceive has characterized the pronouncements of the Episcopal Church on such issues.

  9. Stephen, O.Cist.


    I would have deferred to the Quadrilateral as well in my years as an Episcopalian, but I think that too has to be seen as on the block in light of the language of the ecumenical agreements with the Methodists and Presbyterians.

    Both of these documents encourage Episcopalians to partake of the Eucharist in churches where ministers are, by even a very small “c” understanding of catholic, outside of the apostolic succession. That pretty much toasts the fourth article of the Quadrilateral on the historic episcopate, unless one is willing to put the phrase “locally adapted” into a theological taffy machine.

    As for the bishops, yes, certainly bishops say all sorts of wacky things, be they Anglican, Roman or Orthodox, but ultimately the later two groups can and sometimes are held accountable to some objective, agreed-upon standard. This has not been the case in the Episcopal Church for more than two generations. Today, TEC bishops can expect to be rigorously disciplined for ethical breaches, but an ever-widening range of theological positions are understood to be acceptable.

    Again, I think that this is a logical development and one that my former classmates from HDS and former colleagues at EDS welcome.

    Per usual, I agree with Mr. Goings: There are many thoughtful folks who want an Episcopal Church with a place for everyone, but there are many in positions of leadership who see total theological victory in sight. History tells us that rarely ends well for the loser, be it at Nicea or the General Convention.

    (WordPress name duly updated–I don’t get around so much anymore.)

  10. Derek the Ænglican

    Paul, I do assert that fidelity and mutuality cannot exist in a polyamorous relationship. By the definition of the two terms used together, they cannot apply to more than one. Changing the number alters and, I believe, destroys the concept. Changing the gender does not; it retains the classical definition of both virtues.

    I’m sure others would disagree from both sides…

  11. Paul Goings


    Please feel free to cut this off at any point, but I don’t know of anything intrinsic to the virtues of fidelity and mutuality that would preclude them from being practiced in a group larger than two. Indeed, this is what happens–or should–in a monastic community, albeit without the added layer of sexual expression, and S. Benedict’s own phrasing of stability and conversion of manners simply expresses these same virtues in different terms.

    If you then want to make the argument that, yes, it is the element of sexual expression that makes this a different situation entirely, then you’ll have to start over and address my second point above.

  12. Stuart

    Br. Stephen,

    Interim Eucharistic sharing with the Methodists and Presbyterians recognizes point 2 of the preface of the 1886 Chicago Statement (a point which I believe is too often neglected): “2. That we believe that all who have been duly baptized with water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, are members of the Holy Catholic Church.”

    The Presbyterians and Methodists also celebrate the Lord’s Supper “ministered with unfailing use of Christ’s words of institution and of the elements ordained by Him.”

    If the Presbyterians and Methodists are Catholics and their sacraments administered properly, there’s no reason not to share the Eucharist with them on an interim basis while TEC explores what can be determined with regard to the Historic Episcopate.

    TEC believes that sharing the Body and Blood of Christ is a means to unity and not only a sign of unity. I suspect most in TEC believe that sharing Christ will help us all arrive at a solution that allows the adoption of the Historic Episcopate by the Presbyterians and Methodists adapted in a way that respects their history and theology.


  13. Stephen, O.Cist.


    I missed your answer above on the Quadrilateral and sharing the Euchrist with Methodists and Presbyterians. I think it rather makes the point that I was trying to make in my piece on the General Convention.

    What you say fits well with certain schools of Anglican thinking going back to the Reformation, but this understanding of sacraments and order would not be acceptable to Roman Catholics or to the Orthodox. More importantly, it’s not an answer that would have been acceptable to the vast majority of those who identified themselves as Anglo-Catholics over the last 150 years.

    That doesn’t mean that there are no longer Anglo-Catholics in the Episcopal Church (when I left for Rome, I believe I probably lost the right to quibble about who’s an Anglo-Catholic), but it does seem to mean that the use of the term “catholic” within the Episcopal Church increasingly diverges from the way catholic identity was historically understood both inside and outside it. Several people have said of this GC that we should rejoice that a new thing is happening. I can’t rejoice, but I do agree.

  14. Derek the Ænglican

    I hadn’t replied on Eucharist sharing.

    I’m actually not thrilled about those precisely because I do take a more catholic attitude towards the sacraments.

    Back when I was Lutheran I protested hard against communion-sharing agreements with the Moravians and could back it up with an appeal to the Lutheran Confessions. When I railed about these arrangements that TEC has made to a High Church Methodist friend his response was that their sacramental theology fit perfectly within the 39 Articles.

    And he’s right.

    I disagree with it personally and theologically; to borrow the Roman Catholic line, they don’t intend what the Church intends when they do the Eucharist. I.e., it’s a rare Methodist who believes in the objective Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. However, I don’t believe that I can argue against these on eccesially rooted grounds given that great hands-ful of evangelical Archbishops of Canterbury have had a lower Eucharistic theology than some Presbys and Methodists I currently know…

  15. Derek the Ænglican


    Thanks for pushing me on this one; I think we need a separate post fully devoted to why polyamory is not within the sphere of proper Christian sexual ethics. I’ve got some initial ideas that continue and build on the earlier essays but engage the eschatological aspects in addition to the virtue-ethic aspects.

    So—stay tuned for that one, although I probably won’t get to it before next week…

  16. Stuart


    Out of curiousity, do you really believe the intention of TEC as a Church is to confect the objective, real presence of Christ in the Eucharist?

    Ironically, Eucharistic Prayer C has the strongest post-epiclectic statement that the bread and wine are objective and real manifestations of the Body and Blood of Christ. I would think you would champion it!! ;-)

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