Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Cardinal Kasper: Anglicans must choose between Protestantism and Catholicism

The Times reports on this ultimatum, delivered to the Anglican Communion by Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council of Christian Unity. It is, he asserts, time for the Anglican Church to choose between Catholicism and Orthodoxy of the first millennium, or Protestantism of the 16th century. It is time for Anglicanism to ‘clarify its identity’ because it is presently unacceptably ‘somewhere in between’.

While one is tempted to wonder if Cardinal Kasper is locked in a time-warp (what about a church of relevance to the 21st century?), one certainly has to ask what kind of pastor whose heart genuinely seeks Christian unity issues such an offensive ultimatum? This is exemplary diplomacy from the Vatican, displaying an alarming ignorance of Anglicanism, and manifestly timed perfectly to coincide with the visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury to His Holiness.

But it is an affront to Anglicans worldwide. It ranks with the declaration of Cardinal Ratzinger that the Church of England is ‘not a church in the proper sense’, and qualifies merely as an ‘ecclesial community’.

Who does Cardinal Kasper think he is to issue such a demand? He cannot possibly be speaking with the approval of His Holiness, who is too eminent a theologian and knowledgeable a historian to pontificate in such absolutes. Certainly, the Anglican Communion is in a state of paralysis between the Rt Rev Gene Robinson of New Hampshire and Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, but the conservative / liberal factions have coexisted in the via media for centuries, and this is the essence of the Elizabethan settlement which has suited England since its inception. The Cardinal ought to heed the wise observations of many Roman Catholics in the House of Commons last night, who were unanimous in their support for the Church of England and marvelled at a via media which permits the coronation ceremony of a Protestant monarch to be organised and presided over by the Earl Marshal the Duke of Norfolk who is a Roman Catholic and the Premier Duke in the peerage of England. It is ambiguous; it is a compromise, but it works in practice if not in theory.

Cardinal Kasper might also like to consider that it is the contention of the Church of England that it is both Catholic and Reformed, and his dissent from this assertion does not make it not so. It is not necessary to conform to Rome’s narrow capacity for definition, for there is little latitude in its dogma. And even the Church of Rome is divided between its conservatives and liberals - there are few who would assert that The Tablet articulates the same adherence to doctrine as The Catholic Herald - but no ultimatum has been issued demanding unity of voice, for that would require a meeting of minds between His Holiness and Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor. And Cranmer cannot quite envisage that. Indeed, most of the Roman Catholic bishops in England appear to be pathologically antipathetic to all that Pope Benedict XVI stands for, so Cardinal Kasper may care to lecture his own house before presuming to instruct the Anglicans.

Roman Catholicism is literally a broad church, and the gulf between its disparate factions are tolerated because they can coexist in tension, in the imperfect communion that is exemplified in the suffering of the cross. And so it is with the Church of England.

Of course there are immense concerns over the ordination of homosexuals and women priests and bishops, and it may even be time to lay the worldwide Anglican Communion to rest, but it is not for any Cardinal to dictate to the Church of England what it must and must not do, for that is contrary to the Constitution of the United Kingdom, and is hardly conducive to ecumenical progress.

The Church of England need not ‘clarify its identity’ for any foreign prince, prelate or potentate, because its Anglo-Catholic wing and its Evangelical Protestant wing constitute a whole, and without each other the body would be wounded, possibly mortally so.

But perhaps that is the Cardinal’s real agenda.


Anonymous dexey said...

"Of course there are immense concerns over the ordination of homosexuals "

Quite so, Your Grace. Haven't I read that the American Catholics have been ordaining them for years and some of them have been busy buggering Catholic children?
Why are paedophile males exploiting male children never referred to as homosexuals in the press?

7 May 2008 at 07:47  
Blogger the presby said...

"because its Anglo-Catholic wing and its Evangelical Protestant wing constitute a whole, and without each other the body would be wounded, possibly mortally so."

Your Grace,If i may humbly say has this mortal wound not already taken place? in reality the anglican communion is split already.
Also surely the doctrinal bases of the church of England suggests it is a reformed Church, how therefore can it also be Anglo catholic? when the mass is a "blasphemous fable"

7 May 2008 at 08:27  
Anonymous steadmancinques said...

The Anglican church is part of the catholic, universal church, in the same way as the Eastern Orthodox is, because we recognise the validity of the definitions of the Christian faith, expressed in the creeds and the canons of scripture arrived at by various councils in the first four centuries after the death and resurrection of Christ, as they struggled to arrive at an explanation and understanding of the risen Lord. We are, in every sense, in communion with God.
The opinions of a minion of the current Bishop of Rome therefore leave me strangely unmoved.

7 May 2008 at 08:57  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach has a priest in his diocese; Manel Pousa, who in an interview in a Spanish newspaper, acknowledged that he had paid abortions, thus demonstrating that it is progressive. The Cardinal has not done anything with this person. From Spain we need, that we uphold our pastors of these scandals. And the Vatican rewards Martinez Sistach appointed member to the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and the Congregation for the Clergy.

I do not speak English well, I hope you will understand ...

7 May 2008 at 10:21  
Blogger ultramontane grumpy old catholic said...

Your Grace

For me as a Roman Catholic, the differences between the Anglo Catholic and the Protestant wings of the Church of England are of less concern than their range of views in the Church of England on the great moral issues of our time: abortion, homosexuality, embryo research.

At present, secularism is triumphant and the secularists, to push their agenda can usually find some Anglican Divine to muddy the waters sufficiently to suit their own purposes.

Your Grace will remember not so long ago, Bishop David Jenkins and before him Bishop John 'Honest to God' Robinson and how much damage they caused. The present Archbishop of Canterbury's own views on abortion and homosexuality can best be described as 'Delphic'.

Christians have to stand together or face the prospect of being totally marginalised in today's society.

7 May 2008 at 12:44  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Ultramontane Grumpy Old Catholic,

It is precisely because Christians need to 'stand together' that His Grace is bemused by this abruptly alienating and ignorant ultimatum.

7 May 2008 at 13:21  
Blogger botogol said...

it's a funny old thing, the CofE, though, isn't it? It wasn't really founded for theologically protestant reasons, more for expedient ones, and became portestant by virute of not being catholic.

David Sparkey is fond of comparing the CofE to Shinto, which always makes me smile.

7 May 2008 at 13:46  
Anonymous The recusant said...

Your Grace is taking it on the chin a little too hard, Cardinal Kasper knows full well the state or the Anglican Communion both here and abroad and his comments are more portents of the future rather than decrees of the absolute. This statement has little to do with the CofE as such and far more to do with what is happening across the pond with the likes of Jefferts Schori and the Southern break-up. Lawsuits are being filed in courts across the southern states for property and land rights (funny how its always the lawyers that win). More and more faithful Anglicans are looking to the TAC and the Anglican Continuum for a safe harbour to shelter this particular storm; ultimately these more traditional Anglicans are seeking fuller union with Rome as is evident from the actions of Archbishop John Hepworth who recently said the following:

"On 9th October last I returned to Rome with Bishops Mercer and Wilkinson ... This time we met with the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the body appointed by the Holy See to receive applications for "Corporate Reunion" from churches that are not in Communion with the Holy See, and we carried a letter solemnly signed by the Bishops and Vicars General of the Traditional Anglican Communion during a Votive Mass for Unity in the venerable church of Saint Agatha in Portsmouth, England, where we had just completed a powerful Plenary Meeting.”

This exodus will not be halted by the ABC, he is largely an irrelevance now with the likes of Nigel McCulloch, the Church of England's bishop of Manchester, who has just published a report by a group he headed that had been tasked with preparing draft legislation on the consecration of "women bishops." So you see your grace the desire for reunion with Rome is coming from the Anglican quarter, not every Anglican desires this but those that do are being urged to decide before the storm breaks at Lambeth later this year. As the outcome will inevitably affect you I hope to see you in a pew next to me soon!

Ad Fidem Redeant Angli

7 May 2008 at 14:50  
Blogger Little Black Sambo said...

Botogol: has Shinto any actual doctrines? I suppose any establishment religion - Christian or not - is bound to have a Shinto element, and among many of the "adherents" the doctrinal content would be minimal. Certainly true of much of the C of E as Master Sparkey (I love that name) says.
I agree with Presby that the "mortal wound" has already happened. The chief doctrine of Anglicanism seems to be that we must stay "together" at any cost, and for what? The only belief that is effectively compulsory is that women can be ordained priest, except in little enclaves. You can deny everything else.

7 May 2008 at 15:14  
Anonymous Voyager said...

This is how the Catholic Church lost Martin Luther and retained a nonentity as Pope....I have no problem with a Protestant Church is what made The Netherlands, England, Sweden, and the USA great....the decline of Protestantism has pari-pasu symbolised the decay of these societies and polities

7 May 2008 at 17:10  
Blogger Frank said...

This is why I insist on referring to my self as a Church of England atheist.

7 May 2008 at 17:30  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having women priest and gay bishops does not make you close to the Catholic Church. Once the Church of England decide to have woman as priest then that will the final straw for many Anglicans and they will become Catholics. You can't be protestant and Catholic at the same time you must choose the direction the Church of England will take.

7 May 2008 at 20:46  
Anonymous judith said...

Forgive the murmurings of a bewildered agnostic, Your Grace, but over many, many years and much reading of history, I simply cannot understand this internecine warfare.

Christians believe in the existence of an omnipotent deity and that Jesus was the Messiah - why does it matter if one group expresses this belief in gaily decorated cathedrals heady with the smell of incense and another group comes together largely in silence without even a Minister to lead (together with all the other fashions of worship in between)?

Why can't you all accept that it is the end rather than the means that matters?

Indeed, the same goes for Jews and Muslims - what does it say for believers that procedural infighting is more important (sometime to the point of slaughter) than the Word you all profess to believe in?

Yours respectfully, etc

8 May 2008 at 06:50  
Anonymous steadmancinques said...

Queen Elizabeth I said, 'there is only one Jesus Christ who died for us and all our sins, and the rest is merely a squabble amongst children over trifles'
I do sympathise with your perplexity; to me, as a Christian, Anglicanism is a matter of taste rather than commitment, despite my tongue-in-cheek polemic above possibly giving the contrary impression. The foundation of Anglicanism is a dispute over authority, not over doctrine.
The story is told of an Oxford professor, observed by a friend leaving the cathedral after Sunday morning service; 'Good Lord', said the friend, 'I thought you were an atheist.'
'Indeed I am', was the reply, 'but I am a High Church Anglican atheist, which is the best sort to be!'

8 May 2008 at 12:04  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Divide and ConqEUr.

8 May 2008 at 17:47  
Blogger Stefan said...

Pfft...if the CofE is null and void, then so is the Roman 'church' having stripped itself of its supremacy in Vatican II under Antipope Paul VI.

8 May 2008 at 21:21  
Blogger Grim Reader said...

founded on the balls of king henry viii

15 May 2008 at 00:11  
Anonymous munday said...

It was the fifth century saint, Vincent of Lerins, who expressed the meaning of Catholic in what has become known as The Vincentian Canon:

Now in the Catholic Church itself we take the greatest care to hold that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all. That is truly and properly 'Catholic,' as is shown by the very force and meaning of the word, which comprehends everything almost universally. We shall hold to this rule if we follow universality [i.e. oecumenicity], antiquity, and consent. We shall follow universality if we acknowledge that one Faith to be true which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is clear that our ancestors and fathers proclaimed; consent, if in antiquity itself we keep following the definitions and opinions of all, or certainly nearly all, bishops and doctors alike.

Recovering the faith that was held universally, from antiquity, and by all, is what many of the Reformers believed they were doing in protesting against the medieval innovations and errors of the Roman Church. While the Radical Reformers did not care whether they rejected Rome and catholicity as well, our Anglican forebears were careful to demonstrate that their teaching was in accord with both Holy Scripture as it was understood and interpreted by the early Church Fathers and Councils of the undivided (Catholic) Church. So are Anglicans Protestant? Yes, in that our forebears protested against Rome's departure from true catholicity. Are Anglicans Catholic? Yes, in that our forebears always sought to maintain the Catholic Faith--as Vincent of Lerins would have recognized.

So, while, in one sense, Cardinal Walter Kasper seems to be presenting a false dichotomy, what he really means is this: Are Anglicans going to follow the Protestant Churches of the sixteenth century, the modern, "mainline" expressions of which are (almost without exception) departing into heresy, apostasy, and immorality? Or are we going to remain true to the teaching of the one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church? That is not a difficult choice at all for orthodox Anglicans. But it remains to be seen whether the various national Churches that make up the Anglican Communion, particularly the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada, even have any desire to try to be Catholic Churches. In that sense, Cardinal Kasper's words are a welcome and needed challenge.

I would simply add that Anglicans who think of themselves as Protestants don't need to be afraid of the word "Catholic." It means that we are true to the Faith of the undivided Church; it doesn't mean we are Papists. And Anglicans who consider themselves Catholics shouldn't be afraid of the term "Protestant;" because protest is what you have to do sometimes when the Church departs from catholicity at an official level, be it in the controversies of the sixteenth century or the controversies of the twenty first century.

25 May 2008 at 12:31  

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