Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The Roman Conceit?

I have been following with both interest and some irritation, a discussion (in the comments) on the estimable Blog Cranmer. I don't happen to agree with what has been written by the Rev Dr Mullen on this occasion, concerning the decision by the Church in Wales to consecrate women bishops. Frankly, if you ordain women or men, then you have to accept that they can also be consecrated into the bishopric. The fact is that there is a considerable body of evidence to suggest that this is exactly what happened in the Early Church before the Council of Nicea.

My ire has, however, been raised by the supercilious and often patronising comments being made there by a number of people who are apparently converts to Roman Catholicism and one or two others who consider that Wikipedia articles give them all the information they need on the theology of the Anglican Church. One or two, in particular, simply ignore every argument they cannot refute with anything other than "Rome says" and have even managed to presume to tell some Orthodox Jews what a fundamentalist Rabbi has written as if it was the mainstream of Jewish thinking. The irony is that these trolls seem to be blissfully unaware of the row in Germany between the rigidly anti-women in the Church and the modernisers which has got the Bishop of Limburg (among others) into the headlines.

The problem with the RCC is that it cannot decide whether it is an inclusive church, or an exclusive one. In fact, it often seems that the "Church" is the clergy and the laity are merely "sheep" for the clergy to herd. There is no open discussion on anything, it is a case of "my way, or the highway" on everything. If that is how you like your faith to be, then fine, go there, but I am very, very certain, that is NOT how Christ intended it to be.

Reading the comments of the pro-RCC commenters as they denigrate everything about everyone else's faith, but particularly the Anglican Churches, one could be forgiven for wondering which century they live in. Prime among their arguments at the moment is the validity of Anglican Ordination. According to one man who seems to spend all day digging around Wikipedia, the Anglican Church 'lost' the Apostolic Succession in its Episcopacy at the Reformation. His source is a Wiki article that points to the Anglo-Catholic Revival in the 19th Century where some, concerned at the suggestion that the 'touch of the Apostles' had been lost, invited some Dutch Old Catholic Bishops to take part in their consecrations. In fact, this article and the event it describes, is not the entire picture. Even after the Papal excommunication of all England, there were still some 36 Bishops in post who continued the traditions of ordination and consecration. Read the 1662 Prayer Book Ordination Services and you see this clearly.

Even during the abomination of the Puritan and Presbyterian years of the Commonwealth, Cromwells efforts to expunge the Bishopric from Anglican life failed. Enough bishops went into hiding and exile to preserve the Apostilic link to restore it to the church as it emerged from the excesses of the Puritans, Iconoclasts and Presbyterians. As the Presbyterian and Puritan grip slackened on the church (it still remains in the form of Parliament's having a say in its governance) the true 'Catholic' nature of the church was able to re-emerge. One of the ironies that seems to have escaped one of the more rabid RCC commenters, is that the Archdiocese of Sydney is trying to revert to the Puritan ideas of the 17th Century, yet this man holds it up as an example of the church as a "woman free church".

Rome insists that to become a valid Church the Anglicans MUST bow the knee to the Popes, accept all Roman dogma and doctrine and the revalidation of all the Ordinariate. The claims of 'superiority' all hinge on one line from the Gospel of St Mark (taken completely out of context since, if read with what goes before and after and in the context of all the other gospels it is clearly a reference to all the faithful) and what, in the Vulgate, is refered to as the "Synod of Jerusalem" in which James (The brother of Christ) expounds at length on how he will implement Peter's directives in 'his' See (Jerusalem). The fact there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that any of the Apostles who out lived Peter, ever acknowledged his successor as exercising the authority they ascribe to Peter, is simply ignored or brushed aside.

The Dogma of Papal Infallibility is a major sticking point for many. In fact, it refers only to matters where the Pope speaks "ex-cathedra" and any such proclamation must pass three "tests". In fact it is usually a declaration made after years of preparation and study by a team set up for the purpose. It merely has the Pope's name on it. There are many arguments about where it originated, but the fact is that, as a 'dogma' it is of very recent date - the First Vatican Council in fact. I, for one, reject it as a doctrine or as a dogma, just as I reject utterly the claims to secular directions from the clergy. Yes, they are obliged (indeed, as a man in a Licensed ministry, I am as well) to point out error, and to give advice on ethics, morality and so on of various secular matters, but this must be limited. One has only to look at the abuse of power by RCC bishops and clergy throughout the centuries where they have had secular authority as well as sacred duties to see where that leads.

Ireland is only now emerging from the crushing yoke imposed by their Roman clergy and bishops who systematically abused their powers in orphangaes, care homes and 'correction' houses for unmarried girls. On the one hand the girls were punished for falling pregnant, and on the other women were prevented from reporting abuse, rape and the forcible removal of their offspring by the church. Yes, that's an encouraging record for a country that accepted the rule of the Roman Curia as trumping their own Parliament. Nor is this abuse an isolated case. One of the major reasons the English bishops went with Henry VIII when he broke with Rome was the abuse of the law. Clergy were not subject to the law of the land, and even murder could be committed with impunity, secure in the knowledge that, as a person subject to the 'Canon' law rather than the King's Justice' you would be secure in your monastery or carted off to Rome - the pepers conveniently lost on the way - to carry on as before. We have seen the echoes of this in the pedophile scandals that have rocked the RCC in almost every country in the last 20 yeasrs. The RCC knew what was happening, but refused to offer up the abusers to secular authorities and then victimised the victims by threatening them into silence.

Yes, the RCC and its authoritarian vision on the world and the faith is inspiring. Not. If it were as Christian as it claims to be it would embrace all those outside it, welcoming them to the sacraments, and not excluding them. It chooses to exclude - unless you bow the knee to the Pope. I therefore reject utterly it's claims of supremacy in matters of teaching any part of the faith I find in the Gospels. The Curia cannot shake off the abuses of power by the de Medici Popes, or the Borgias or a number of others. It cannot convince me that it has always held to the 'true' faith when at least three of the 4th Century Popes were Gnostics and followers of Arianism.

The current Bishop of Rome, Francis I, is a breath of fresh air. He refuses to live in the Imperial palace and stays in a Guest House, but he is surrounded by Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops who do not share his vision, or share his ideals. These are the real 'powers' in Rome and it has nothing to do with "faith' and everything to do with "power" of a very secular kind. The situation here in Germany with the scandal unfolding in the Limburg Diocese is far more typical than the example of Francis. That saddens me. It also angers me when I am faced with arrogant assertions of Rome's holding the only valid authority to the Christian faith.

I hope and pray that Francis I will be protected by the Holy Spirit and be able to overthrow the Old Regime in Rome to make his church more inclusive and less elitist. I pray for it, but I doubt he will be allowed to. In the meantime I will continue to worship as an Old Catholic and Anglican wherever I find myself. My faith does not depend on the approval, or otherwise, of the Pope or any of his minions. It centres on Christ and God and the church provides me with a vehicle through which to grow in faith and to share that with others. Over the years I have learned not to say something will 'never' happen or that I will 'never' change my view, but this is one issue where it will take a revelation like that experienced by Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus.    


  1. Interesting that Damascus should pop up!
    Muslims believe that the only path to Allah is by following the way of the prophet, except that it really, really matters if you accept that the prophet's cousin also has a say.
    Christians believe that the only route to God is through Christ, unless, of course, you believe that his Mother is equally important and more specifically that his apostle Peter was actually the one who makes the rules.

    If it were possible to convert to Judaism, I would give it a bash.

    I have no problem with the concept of an "Almighty", I would use the term "Architect of the Universe", but that is another story altogether. What I have always had a problem with is the way certain people set themselves up, traditionally with great wealth and ceremony rather than the monastic poverty that is more appropriate, to spend their lives telling others how to live theirs.

    Damascus today is torn apart by this type of artificial rift. Twenty years ago, it was Belfast.

    The world has moved in the last century from a time when authority of all sorts was absolute to a time when all authority, however legitimate, is questioned, much more so in Europe and the USA than in Africa, China or Muslim lands in the middle and far East.

    Why can those who feel their values threatened not accept that change comes every now and then, it always has and it always will. Many people feel threatened by change, but their fear will not stop the development of society.

    I do not agree with the way Ireland (not only Ireland, they just kept it going a tad too long.) treated unmarried mothers, however, I equally condemn the UK governments that will reward an unmarried mother with a house and lifestyle that her married counterparts struggle to equal. I do not approve of the current drive, despite understanding the legal issue, to force Muslim women to reveal their faces to male jurors and judges, however, I do remember the days when no decent woman would enter a CoE church without first covering her head. To forget your history condemns you to repeat it as G Santayana said.

    I have told the joke about factionalism here too often to repeat it again, but when, oh when will humanity wake up to the fact that the children of Moses believe in ten commandments and the first one states unequivocally that there is one God, or as Ned Flanders would say "OK, sometimes three" but he is the worst sort of floundering Christian, despite being a wonderful person.

    I prefer the wording in the first paragraph of the Nicene Creed, until it is spoiled by the second;

    We believe in one God,
    the Father, the Almighty,
    maker of heaven and earth,
    of all that is, seen and unseen.


    1. My dear Josephus, I know a good Rabbi or two who would gladly welcome you into their Synagogues, and perhaps even offer the 'Bris'. Your expression of faith would find no argument with them, and probably sums up most people's comfort zone. As my Bishop (Gloucester) once explained, to many folk get 'hung up' on the concept of the Trinity, when really all it really is, is a description of the manner God has interacted, and still acts, in the world. The roots of the doctrine lie in Judaism.