CDW puts the Kibbosh on Ecumenical Service – But is there more to this than meets the eye?

Okay, so it is making a bit of news around the traps today.

According to a story in the Sydney Herald, “the Vatican” has “put a stop to a joint Pentecostal service planned by the Newcastle and Maitland Catholic and Anglican bishops.”

The source of this information is said to be “a joint statement” issued by the Right Reverend Brian Farran, Anglican Bishop of Newcastle, and the Most Reverend Michael Malone, Catholic Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle.

I cannot find this joint statement anywhere on the web. Not even on the “media release” page of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

One does like to have the facts before offering comment or analysis. “I read it in the Herald” is not sufficient to say that “it” is true, and still less a basis for explaining or understanding “it”.

However, I think we are able to make some comment.

For a start, I think they mean “Pentecost service”, ie. a service for the feast of Pentecost, rather than a “Pentecostal service”, ie. a service for charismatic Catholics and Anglicans. Can’t quite see the two bishops being into the hand-waving…

Still, according to the Herald’s report, what was planned wasn’t just a run-of-the-mill ecumenical service for Pentecost. Those things happen all the time. Ecumenical services have been the go ever since the Second Vatican Council, and it seems very unlikely that the Congregation is trying to put the kibbosh on these as such. (I recall a very happy event here in Melbourne in 1999 when a joint Catholic-Lutheran Vespers took place in the Cathedral to celebrate the signing of the Joint Declaration).

I think the missing key to the CDW’s request to ditch the service is the fact that what was actually being planned was a joint “confirmation service”. That would certainly explain why the CDW “expressed concern about a simultaneous celebration and the possibility of confusing messages being given to the people”.

Confirmation is a tricky sacrament to pin down. I mean, there are so many variables about the way in which different ecclesial communities celebrate this rite – not to mention the fact that plenty of protestant folks would challenge that it is even a sacrament.

But I think you can say one definite thing about the way “confirmation” is celebrated by everyone and anyone: it is a rite that expresses a baptised person’s committment to a particular bishop, local church, confession, rite or community. In other words, while baptism may be universally agreed to be a “rite of initiation” into the Universal Church, confirmation is almost just as universally designed as a “rite of denominational demarcation”.

Thus, while one could imagine a situation in which the joint celebration of or rememberance of baptism would be very appropriate for an ecumenical service, the celebration of a joint ecumenical “confirmation service” would indeed by “confusing” (as the Herald suggests that the Bishops suggest that the CDW suggests).

It would be as hard to imagine as an ecumenical ordination service…

I hope that the Anglicans and Catholics in Newcastle go ahead with a joint service at Pentecost. I don’t think anyone would have objected to that. But it is very wise of the Congregation for Divine Worship to close down any plans for a joint “confirmation service”.

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “CDW puts the Kibbosh on Ecumenical Service – But is there more to this than meets the eye?

  1. Vicci

    I can’t get my head around Confirmation As Sacrament. Must be my upbringing, but ‘sacrament’ equated to (a way of) being saved.
    Happy with Baptism, and LS, naturally.
    (some I know would sugest that Marriage is more condemnation than salvation! )

    Qn for David:
    tell us (me) about your motorbike.
    Is it a big one?
    Does your wife ‘suggest’ another form of transport?
    Do you ride it a lot?

  2. Schütz

    I will answer you (unasked) question first, regarding Confirmation as a sacrament.

    You don’t really need to call Confirmation a “sacrament” if you don’t want to. We Catholics do, because we believe that it is 1) instituted by Christ himself, 2) a rite in which sacramental grace is conveyed.

    I think that the latter is what you mean when you say it is “equated to (a way of) being saved.” To that degree, it probably would help if you knew something of the rather complicated history of this rite – which is far too complicated for me to explain. The best place to start is (Wikipedia). It’s no authority, but a good roundup.

    It might help too if you consider that “confirmation” had its origins as either a “part” of the sacrament of baptism or as a “partner” rite to the sacrament of baptism – depending on how you read the historical data.

    Re my motor bike, it is a Yamaha XJ900 sports tourer (aka a “Diversion”). It’s twelve years old now, but still goes a treat. I don’t get out to ride often, usually only to work and back. I joke that it has an autopilot button that I push and it knows the route off by heart! See this post for a little video of me on the bike with my daughter.

    Now, quid pro quo: tell me something of yourself! You appeared rather suddenly in this combox some time ago and appear to be hanging around. Are you posting from Australia? Which city? What church do you currently attend/self-identify with?

  3. Tony

    I don’t know if this adds to the confusion or makes it worse. From the dio website –http://www.angdon.com/ (the url is very long but you’ll find it under ‘what’s on’):

    —-
    Ecumenical Service of Worship
    10.12.08 15:14

    Wednesday, May 27

    The service between the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle and the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Maitland Newcastle and Broken Bay, including a re-affirmation of the Covenant. At Sacred Heart Cathedral at 7:45pm.
    —-

    However you look at the situation it seems to be another case of the church’s very poor priorities in terms of communication.

    These days we should be able to see a statement from the Vatican and a statement from the Catholic dio otherwise concerns about ‘avoiding confusion’ look pretty lame.

    ushympu: (obscure african dialect) pointing out that your companion has dirty hair

  4. Tony

    Just to make it clear, could it be that ‘re-affirmation of the Covenant’ has morphed into ‘confirmation’ by those dreaded secular journalists?

    If it was an actual joint confirmation, why would it ‘lead to confusion’ if the Catholic Bishop confirmed the Catholic kids and the Anglican Bishop confirmed the Anglican kids?

    disesse: a neural condition affecting that part of the brain associated with spelling.

  5. Schütz

    Just to make it clear, could it be that ‘re-affirmation of the Covenant’ has morphed into ‘confirmation’ by those dreaded secular journalists?

    Could be. Wouldn’t put it past them…

    If it was an actual joint confirmation, why would it ‘lead to confusion’ if the Catholic Bishop confirmed the Catholic kids and the Anglican Bishop confirmed the Anglican kids?

    Now you’re just being dense.

  6. Joshua

    Dave, do you mean “kybosh”?

  7. Vicci

    You take your little girl on the back? !! (..golly)
    I got on the back of one in the country many years ago. The boy riding was either showing off, or trying to terrify me, probably both. Sorry if the qns seemed to be an interrogation!
    (but you have been remarkably candid in your ‘full profile’ -quite unusual for such a forum if I might say)
    I live in Melbourne, Victoria.
    My dad’s best friend was Catholic. One of my closest friends (male) is a faithful practicing ‘Roman’.
    I spent some wonderful challenging and learning times in camp sites run by a group called LYV. I am confronted by the life witness of a lovely Baptist man at the office. His ‘theology’ might not measure up to some, but if I’m not serving him in heaven then there’s no heaven.
    I don’t find Labels helpful.

  8. Salvatore

    What a strange story! As you say it just seems to come from nowhere, with no background documentation whatsoever. And one really wonders how Bishop Malone imagined he would ever be allowed to go through with it – particularly in the current Papacy. Incidentally, I have my doubts about the English “precedent.” English bishops (even the modernists) tend to be a bit wary of sharing the stage with their Anglican Brethren in that way – I think it’s mainly fear of being tarred with the “establishment” brush.

    Slightly off-topic, but I’m not sure about this:

    “In other words, while baptism may be universally agreed to be a “rite of initiation” into the Universal Church, confirmation is almost just as universally designed as a “rite of denominational demarcation”.”

    I would argue that (at least in the Catholic Churches) it is Baptism that confers “denominational demarcation”, in that it is Baptism that definitively enrols one in a Particular (Ritual) Church (Roman, Russian, Ukrainian, Greek etc), and from this enrolment the rest of ones life as a Catholic follows. In other words no-one is ever just a member of the Universal Church, but always a Catholic within the context of a particular liturgical and cultural tradition.

  9. Tony

    Now you’re just being dense.

    OK, I’m being dense. Humour me.

    shipitic: a person who ‘floats around’ a subject as in, ‘boy, the lecturer was a bit shipitic today; I thought he’d never get to the point!’.

  10. Schütz

    Tony,

    I think someone made the point rightly in the Cathnews combox for this article when they wrote:

    “And what of the Anglican converts [present at such an ecumenical service of Confirmation], for whom receiving the sacrament of Confirmation is the very act of their rejection of Anglicanism and joining the Catholic Church?”

    That would INDEED be confusing, wouldn’t it?

  11. Tony

    I’m not sure why.

    If those Anglicans are inclined to feel like that, they’d probably be uneasy with just about any formal shared events.

    And this notion of ‘confusion’ is so patronising.

    I know some Catholics who are quite hostile to just about anyting to do with ecumenism. Should we be sensitive to their ‘confusion’ too?

    I know some Catholics who are unsatisfied with the limited progress the church is making towards ecumenism. Should we be sensitive to their ‘confusions’ too?

    rokmak: raincoat for outside gigs

  12. Joshua

    Oh don’t be so deliberately obtuse, Tony!

    Blind Freddie would perceive how bizarre it would be to have a “joint” confirmation (actually, two parallel services occurring simultaneously), in which – in David’s example of its madness – potentially some Anglican converts to Catholicism could be being confirmed by the Catholic bishop, and these same could well have once been “confirmed” by the Anglican bishop: because Catholics don’t recognize Anglican Holy Orders, let alone Anglican confirmation as a true sacrament (indeed, neither do many Anglicans, they regard it as a useful rite but not a sacrament – the High would read it as such, the Low, not). It would be rather embarrassing and even offensive to the Anglican bishop!

    So, why on earth make it appear to the Catholics present that their own bishop thinks the Anglican confirmation to be as sacramental as his own – this will encourage a true confusion in the minds of Catholics, and confirm the Anglicans in their errors by seeming to give credence and recognition to what Catholics do not in fact recognize as valid – because any Anglican converts to Catholicism must as a matter of course be confirmed, since we hold that they never have been.

    You may not like this, but this is clearly the reasoning behind knocking this well-meaning but rather confused and confusion “joint” service on its head.

  13. Tony

    Oh don’t be so deliberately obtuse, Tony!

    LOL ‘dense’ yesterday, ‘obtuse’ today. ‘Hebetudinous’ tomorrow?

    Blind Freddie would perceive how bizarre it would be to have a “joint” confirmation (actually, two parallel services occurring simultaneously), … but not a sacrament – the High would read it as such, the Low, not). It would be rather embarrassing and even offensive to the Anglican bishop!

    Someone like Bishop Farran you mean?

    So, why on earth make it appear to the Catholics present that their own bishop thinks the Anglican confirmation to be as sacramental as his own – this will encourage a true confusion in the minds of Catholics, and confirm the Anglicans in their errors by seeming to give credence and recognition to what Catholics do not in fact recognize as valid –

    The same could be said of any interaction with other denominations.

    You may not like this, but this is clearly the reasoning behind knocking this well-meaning but rather confused and confusion “joint” service on its head.

    Like it? I neither like it or dislike it. I’m thousands of kilometres away. I’m interested in how this services was conceived and why it was cancelled.

    You’ve apparently got a good source and have found out why. It would be somewhat less ‘confusing’ if such information were more widely available.

    boactiv strangled by the excess energy of another.