The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

On Catholicity: A Thought for the Day

Of some applicability today, and explaining why I believe we need not just Anglocats but Protestants, not just liberals but conservatives, within the truly "catholic Church" of the Creed:
Every moral reformation within the Church was a protest of the conscience against unworthy views of God; every new Order that was founded was a nursery of moral reformation. Yet every protest against formalism and unreality in religion, every attack on ecclesiasticism and 'priestcraft' in the Church, or on worldliness and laxity in professing Christians, owed its strength to the reassertion of the truth, that in the Christian idea religion and morals are inseparably united.
The Reformation was a moral protest, and its results were seen within as well as outside the Roman communion. The Council of Trent was a reforming Council; the Jesuits were the children of the Reformation; and Roman Christianity in the strength of its own moral revival, even in the moment of defeat, became again 'a conquering power.'

On the other hand, those whose first impulse was a protest in favour of a moral religion and a belief in a God who hates iniquity, have bequeathed to the world a
legacy of immorality, of which they never dreamt, and of which we, in the present day, are feeling the full effects. Lutheranism starts with the belief that God is love: Calvinism with the conception of God as power. With the former, the desire, at all costs, to guard the belief in the freedom of God's grace, led to a morbid fear of righteousness, as if it were somehow a rival to faith. With the latter, a one-sided view of the power of God gradually obscured the fact that righteousness and justice eternally condition its exercise. If the one was, as history shews us, in constant danger of Antinomian developments, the other struck at the root of morality by making God Himself unjust. Forensic fictions of substitution, immoral theories of the Atonement,'the rending asunder of the Trinity,' and the opposing of the Divine Persons, like parties in a lawsuit, were the natural corollaries of a theory which taught that God was above morality and man beneath it.
Rev. Aubrey Moore, "The Christian Doctrine of God," in Lux Mundi (1889), at 78, 79-80.

This is why, although I identify as an Anglo-Catholic, I believe that the Church is best seen as a Hegelian dialectic: to steal from novelist Susan Howatch:
[T]he Protestant from the Low Church wing, the priest from the Middle Way, the Anglo-Catholic. Or, on another level, the Liberal Modernist, the conservative, the mystic. We clash, interlock, interweave, move apart--and then clash all over again in an unceasing engagement which produces the the process of becoming, we're all necessary to each other; we're all interlinked because we all have our part to play in the Creator's grand design.
Absolute Truths (1995) at 399.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

John Henry Newman

I've taken a break from
Lux Mundi to read Newman's Apologia Pro Vita Sua. I had hoped to find in Newman a kindred spirit--his journey from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism being an inverse reflection of my own from the RC Church to Anglicanism. I also hoped to gain some insight into the birth of Anglo-Catholicism. I must confess, I found Newman somewhat disappointing on both points.

First, I found Newman surprisingly lacking in charity for those with whom he disagreed, both in his pre-conversion and post-conversion stages. He describes himself, for example, as having not only
confidence in our cause, both in itself and in its polemical force, but also, on the other hand, I despised every rival system of doctrine and its arguments to. As to the high Church and the low Church, I thought that the one had not much more more of a logical basis than the other; while I had a thoroughgoing contempt of the controversial position of the latter.
(Norton Critical Edition at 47).

Additionally, Newman describes himself "not distressed at the wonder or anger of dull or self-conceited men, at propositions which they did not understand," and enjoyed "playing" with his intellectual inferiors. (Id. at 48). He further describes himself as being "open, not unfairly, to the [] charge of fierceness," and gives several examples:
In the Lyra Apostolica, I have said that, before learning to love, we must "learn to hate;" though I had explained my words by adding "hatred of sin." In one of my first Sermons I said, "I do not shrink from uttering my firm conviction that it would be a gain to the country were it vastly more superstitious, more bigoted, more gloomy, more fierce in its religion than at present it shows itself to be." I added, of course, that it would be an absurdity to suppose such tempers of mind desirable in themselves....In consequence of a passage in my work upon the Arian History, a Northern dignitary wrote to accuse me of wishing to re-establish the blood and torture of the Inquisition. Contrasting heretics and heresiarchs, I had said, "The latter should meet with no mercy; he assumes the office of the Tempter, and, so far forth as his error goes, must be dealt with by the competent authority, as if he were embodied evil. To spare him is a false and dangerous pity. It is to endanger the souls of thousands, and it is uncharitable towards himself." I cannot deny that this is a very fierce passage; but Arius was banished, not burned; and it is only fair to myself to say that neither at this, nor any other time of my life, not even when I was fiercest, could I have even cut off a Puritan's ears, and I think the sight of a Spanish auto-da-fe would have been the death of me. Again, when one of my friends, of liberal and evangelical opinions, wrote to expostulate with me on the course I was taking, I said that we would ride over him and his, as Othniel prevailed over Chushan-rishathaim, king of Mesopotamia. Again, I would have no dealings with my brother, and I put my conduct upon a syllogism. I said, "St. Paul bids us avoid those who cause divisions; you cause divisions: therefore I must avoid you." I dissuaded a lady from attending the marriage of a sister who had seceded from the Anglican Church
Id. at 49-50.

These acts do not, exactly, prepossess one--or at any rate me--in Newman's favor.

Newman's secession to Rome is really not surprising; he showed a strong attraction to authority, even when an Anglican, describing himself as "simply the servant and instrument of my Bishop" based on the latter's being "set over me by the Divine Hand." (Id. at 52). His attraction to Rome was only held in check by his firm conviction, at first exultant, later sorrowful, that "the Pope is the antichrist," a position the origin of which Newman does not do much to elucidate.

More fundamentally, his understanding of the Via Media seems to me lacking in his Anglican stage:
It is an expressive title, but not altogether satisfactory, because it is at first sight negative. This had been the reason of my dislike to the word "Protestant;" [in the idea which it conveyed,] it was not the profession of any particular religion at all; and was compatible with infidelity. A Via Media was but a receding from extremes,therefore I had to draw it out into a definite shape[,] and [a] character; before it had claims on our respect, it must first be shown to be one, intelligible, and consistent. This was the first condition of any reasonable treatise on the Via Media.... Even if the Via Media were ever so positive a religious system, it was not as yet objective and real; it had no original any where of which it was the representative. It was at present a paper religion. This I confess in my Introduction; I say, "Protestantism and Popery are real religions ... but the Via Media, viewed as an integral system, has scarcely had existence except on paper." I grant the objection and proceed to lessen it. [There I say,] "It still remains to be tried, whether what is called Anglo-Catholicism, the religion of Andrewes, Laud, Hammond, Butler, and Wilson, is capable of being professed, acted on, and maintained on a large sphere of action, or whether it be a mere modification or transition-state of either Romanism or popular Protestantism." I trusted that some day it would prove to be a substantive religion
(Id. at 64-65).

It's curious that this onetime adherent of Via Media who authored a full length exposition on the subject was unable to view it as anything less than a win for his ecclesiastical faction; Newman apparently saw no value in the Church's containing protestants and Catholics in a dynamic tension that produces a harmony--a reflection of the total of Christian thought and belief. In his desire for a settled, authoritarian Church with one faction triumphant, he is all too familiar to modern Anglicans.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Beat Goes On...

So, the Presiding Bishop has at last inhibited John-David Schofield, the putative "Southern Cone" Bishop of San Joaquin. In response, Schofield thunders that "[t]he Episcopal Church’s assertion that Bishop Schofield has abandoned the communion of this Church is an admission that TEC rejects the historical Anglican faith."

Well, no. It's an assertion--not an admission--that a bishop cannot unilaterally remove himself from TEC while asserting that he remains a bishop within it--but not under its canons and constitution. Now, a claim could be made that Schofield's action does not violate the Canons (although I am highly skeptical), but the inhibition does not turn on any alleged deviance from faith, doctrine or dogma--it's about purporting to secede. Thus, Schofield's claim is simply false, and as an intelligent man, he must surely know it.

Which raises my earlier point: those who conflate their own personal and political agendas with the Will of God place little to no value on Truth, or, all too often, on charity (read the other comments on the second link!).

Update: In the few hours since I posted this, Schofield's patron has denied that Schofield can be a bishop in TEC, leading to a rewriting of the post originally linked above. Schofield, who had previously asserted that he "is currently a member of both the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church and the House of Bishops of the Southern Cone, a position not prohibited by either house" now "clarifies" that "The fact is that neither the Diocese nor Bishop John-David Schofield are part of The Episcopal Church. The Bishop is a member of the House of Bishops of the Southern Cone as of December 8th, 2007. The Diocese is a part of the Southern Cone. Neither the Presiding Bishop or the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church have any further jurisdiction. Bishop Schofield is no longer a member of the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church." (Hat Tip: Father Jake).

In a crowning instance of "reasserter" doublethink, the T19 and SF crowd, in the links above, now claim that all the confusion is on TEC's part--this after comments supporting Schofield's dual membership in both the TEC and SC Houses of Bishops, and then questioning our sanity in thinking Schofield intended to claim membership in both houses. Truth--we have all the truth we need in the "faith once delivered to the saints"; reappraisers don't desreve the truth, and, apparently, all things are justified when performed for the good of their vision of the Church, to paraphrase the onetime Jesuit slogan.

My previous point seems, if anything, strengthened by this ability on Schofield's part to assert the "thing-which-is-not" and on his supporters' part to believe six impossible things before breakfast.

Meanwhile, the veneration of the world's leading advocate of government power to control ideas, as well as persecute gays and their families and supporters continues. And, forgive me, with the incredible lengths his supporters and Schofield's go to win, I can't help but believe that this need to demonize, to win at all costs, is fundamental.

Second update: I have, on reflection, redacted certain portions of this post, which I felt were inflammatory, and which would spur not useful discussion but only acrimony.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Robertson Davies on the Three Kings

The late Roberston Davies, in
The Rebel Angels (1981), depicts a discussion over a handmade creche between an Anglican priest, the Rev. Simon Darcourt, and Yerko Laoutaro, a Gypsy restorer of musical instruments, in which the priest learns something about the Gifts of the Magi:
"Everybody owes a gift to Bebby Jesus," said Yerko. "Even kings. Look, here are the kings; I made the crowns myself. You know what they bring?"

"The first brings a gift of Gold," said Darcourt, turning toward the creche.

"Yes, Gold . . . But Gold was not all. The other kings bring Frank Innocence and Mirth."

Darcourt was startled, then delighted. "That is very fine, Yerko; is it your own?"

No, it is in the story. I saw it in New York. The kings say, we bring you Gold, Frank Innocence, and Mirth."

"Sancta simplicitas, said Darcourt, raising his eyes to mine. "If only there were more Mirth in the message He has left to us. We miss it sadly, in the world we have made. And Frank Innocence. Oh, Yerko, you dear man."
Scriptural? No more so than depicting them as Kings, and assigning them names, as the Archbishop of Canterbury recently pointed out. It's a fable, a parable, if you will, but with a point. And so, on the feast of the Epiphany, I'll wish you--not necessarily gold, but daily bread, and, especially Frank Innocence and Mirth.