Monthly Archives: November 2009

Australian Bishops set up channel for implementing “Anglicanorum Coetibus”

Statement from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference

November 27, 2009

Anglicanorum Coetibus

At its November Plenary meeting, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference discussed and welcomed the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus of Pope Benedict XVI, providing for Personal Ordinariates for Anglicans seeking full communion with the Catholic Church.

This Constitution enables the bishops to respond to requests received here in Australia.

To assist those who have approached individual bishops, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has appointed Bishop Peter Elliott as the delegate in this matter, and we encourage any Anglicans who wish to take up the provisions of the Constitution to make initial contact with him.

The bishops reaffirm their commitment to the ecumenical journey with the Anglican bishops and communities of Australia. They express their gratitude to the Anglican bishops who have similarly reaffirmed their commitment to ecumenical relationships with the Catholic Church at this time.

Contact details for Bishop Peter Elliott:
Bishop Peter Elliott,
PO Box 62,
(03) 9576 9145

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“Come on in… it’s awful!”

"Come on in! It's Awful" by Joanna Bogle

Of course, this is the well known title of the book by Joanna Bogle (click the picture to go to the Google books page). But never was a truer word spoken. We Catholics are not under any illusions about how bad things are in Holy Mother Church. Past Elder, when he used to frequent this blog, delighted in calling her a “whore” rather than a “mother”. We can see how he might come to that conclusion.

Here is a less colourful, but rather more extended critique of things as they stand, from an article by Philip Blosser [ ‘The Kasper-Ratzinger Debate and the State of the Church’]:

With a few thankful exceptions, our collective acquaintance with Scripture is piecemeal, our knowledge of Tradition is pathetic, our hymns are embarrassing, our religious art is ugly, our churches look like U.N. meditation chapels, our ethics are slipshod, and our aesthetic and spiritual sensibilities are so far from being sublime that they almost look ridiculous.

No wonder a gap is widening between the Church’s official teachings and the actual practices of many local churches! No wonder the Church’s official positions are implemented with increasing reluctance or simply ignored! For over two generations our faith formation has been shaped by a media culture that has portrayed our Church as a dinosaur that is either an impediment to social progress or simply irrelevant. We are blinded by ignorance. Where there is no vision, the people perish. The truth is that our Church’s traditions and teachings have not been tried and found wanting; they have been found demanding and are no longer tried.

Many blame the Second Vatican Council and 1968 and all that, but the roots of the current problems in the Church (I have it on good authority) go back long before that. One scholar (in a yet to be published book) reckons the rot can be traced back to the rise of nominalism in the fourteenth century…

And yet still we say: Come on in! Still we urge our brothers and sisters in other communions to come into full communion with the bishop of Rome. Still we carry on evangelising and baptising and raising people in the faith in this Church. Why don’t we just give up on her and go elsewhere? (Of course, there are many – most of them over on Catholica – whose litany of woes in the Church would be the direct opposite of Blosser’s above, and yet who also show a decided attachment to the Old Mother and show no signs of bailing out just yet!).

I believe it is because we are convinced that this “whore”, this “old woman” is, warts and all, the Bride of Christ. The two texts that stand out most for me are: John 6:68 (“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life”) and Matt 16:18: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” They give one a kind of reckless optimism which nothing can extinguish.


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Watch out for “The Watcher”

I have recently had my trust abused by a commentator calling himself “The Watcher”.

As you may know, when a new commentator leaves a comment on Sentire Cum Ecclesia, it first comes into my email box to be moderated. This email contains a lot of information: who sent the email, what the email address is, what server is used, etc. So from the start I have a few clues as to who the commentator is. But in addition, I always ask three questions of potential commentators before approving them. I keep this information to myself, but it is for my own protection so that I know the bona fides of the commentator.

I ask:

1) Your real name (where a pseudonym is used)
2) Your approximate geographic location (eg. Melbourne or Timbuktoo)
3) Your religious background

As I said, I show trust in my commentators by agreeing to keep this information private.

“The Watcher” recently left a comment to be moderated on my blog. Some of you may have seen it. I wrote to “The Watcher” and asked him the usual three questions. He replied, answering all questions, and I approved him and his comment.

But I noticed that the name that he gave did not match the name on the email attached to the moderating notification, and enquired further.

I discovered that in fact he was not only using someone else’s email, but further (from speaking to that someone else, whose identity I will keep to myself), that the identity he gave me was not only not his but was actually (except for the Christian name) that of a known and respected scholar.

I do not take kindly to having my trust abused like this. I wrote asking him to give me an apology within 24 hours, otherwise I would post this warning. That was 48 hours ago, and as have not heard from him, let me warn you against this commentator, in case you find him posting on your blog or discusion board.

I judge such behaviour to be “not nice” and abusive of my trust. This is not the kind of behaviour that we want on SCE, or on Catholic internet discussion boards in general.


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“Did Darwin Kill God?”

On Sunday night, ABC TV ran two programs on the same night about Charles Darwin with entirely different messages in regard to the relationship between Darwin’s theory of the Origin of Species and the Christian religion.

The first was the final in a three part series, “Darwin’s Brave New World”. I have already commented on this disappointing and atheistic documentary here. I wouldn’t have minded quite so much if those who wrote this material had openly said “We believe that Darwin’s theory of evolution killed off any reason for believing in a Divine Creator, and we are going to show you our version of the Darwin narrative that makes us think this is a reasonable belief.” But, of course, they did not.

Far more upfront was the second Darwinian themed program for the night, a short documentary on Compass called “Did Darwin Kill God?”. The maker of this documentary tells you right from the beginning that he believes “that Christ was God incarnate and that he was resurrected from the dead. But I also believe creationists are wrong to read Genesis literally.” So no hidden agendas there.

“Did Darwin Kill God?” is simply supurb. If you are a Religious Education teacher in a Catholic school: go out and buy this one NOW and use it in your classrooms. I am personally keeping it to show to my kids in a few years time when all these questions become issues for them.

If you missed it, you can still watch it here on the ABC website. And if you would rather read the transcript, here it is thanks to someone who collected the teletext subtitles for the deaf.


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The Apostolic Ministry and the Sacramental Economy: a “second order issue” in Ecumenism?

The Archbishop of Canterbury was in Rome recently, not to meet the pope (which he did, but) to give a speech at the Willebrands Symposium at the Gregorian University as the guest of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.The full text of this speech can be found here. 

In this speech, Rowan Williams asks the following questions:  

The strong convergence in these agreements about what the Church of God really is, is very striking. The various agreed statements of the churches stress that the Church is a community, in which human beings are made sons and daughters of God, and reconciled both with God and one another. The Church celebrates this through the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion in which God acts upon us to transform us ‘in communion’. More detailed questions about ordained ministry and other issues have been framed in this context.  

Therefore the major question that remains is whether in the light of that depth of agreement the issues that still divide us have the same weight – issues about authority in the Church, about primacy (especially the unique position of the pope), and the relations between the local churches and the universal church in making decisions (about matters like the ordination of women, for instance). Are they theological questions in the same sense as the bigger issues on which there is already clear agreement? And if they are, how exactly is it that they make a difference to our basic understanding of salvation and communion? But if they are not, why do they still stand in the way of fuller visible unity? Can there, for example, be a model of unity as a communion of churches which have different attitudes to how the papal primacy is expressed?  

The central question is whether and how we can properly tell the difference between ‘second order’ and ‘first order’ issues. When so very much agreement has been firmly established in first-order matters about the identity and mission of the Church, is it really justifiable to treat other issues as equally vital for its health and integrity?”  

He attempts to build a case for ecclesial recognition and closer communion upon the “eucharistic” or “communion ecclesiology” that has generally come to be accepted in the dialogues between Catholics, Anglicans and Orthodox in the 20th Century:  

In broad outline, the picture is something like this. God is eternally a life of threefold communion; and if human persons are to be reconciled to God and restored to the capacity for which they were made, they must be included in that life of communion. The incarnation of God the Son recreates in human persons the possibility of filial relation with the Father, standing in the place of Christ and praying his prayer; and only the Holy Spirit, which animates and directs the entire human identity of the Incarnate Word, can create that filial reality in us. To be restored to life with God is to be incorporated into Jesus Christ by the Spirit; but because the gift of the Spirit is what takes away mutual fear and hostility and the shutting-up of human selves against each other, it is inseparably and necessarily a gift of mutual human communion also. The sacramental life and the communal disciplines of the Church exist to serve and witness to this dual fact of communion, with the Father and with all believers. To take only one of the countless formulations referred to in the Harvesting document, in this case from the 1993 Lutheran-Catholic statement on Church and Justification (#6), ‘According to the witness of the New Testament, our salvation, the justification of sinners and the existence of the church are indissolubly linked with the triune God and are founded in him alone.’  

There is nothing wrong with this ecclesiology. It is quite genuine. The difficulty is that the Archbishop attempts to play this off against another, slightly different, traditional Roman ecclesiology:  

Part of what Vatican II turned away from is a way of talking about the Church as primarily an institution existing because of divine decree, governed by prescription from the Lord, faithfully administering the sacraments ordained by him for the salvation of souls – ‘an external, visible society, whose members, under a hierarchical authority headed by the pope, constitute with him one visible body, tending to the same spiritual and supernatural end, i.e., sanctification of souls and their eternal happiness’ (Pietro Palazzini, s.v. ‘Church (Society)’ in the Dictionary of Moral Theology, ed. F. Roberti and P. Palazzini, originally published in 1957).  

Did Vatican II in fact turn away from such an ecclesiology? Lumen Gentium has it as follows:  

This is the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Saviour, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd, and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority, which He erected for all ages as “the pillar and mainstay of the truth”. This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity.  

So the answer to the question “Did Vatican II in fact turn away from an ecclesiology which describes the Church as “an external, visible society, whose members, under a hierarchical authority headed by the pope, constitute with him one visible body, tending to the same spiritual and supernatural end, i.e., sanctification of souls and their eternal happiness” is: Obviously not.  

Eucharistic or Communion ecclesiology is right and true and helpful as far as it goes, but it is (at least as Catholics and Orthodox would understand it) dependant upon the validity of the Eucharistic life of an ecclesial community – which is itself dependant upon the validity of the bishop and the priesthood which administers the Eucharist in that community. These are not “second order” issues. It was a central issue for St Ignatius in the early 2nd Century and remains a central – first order – issue today.  

(One might add, but it is not the main focus of my post on this subject that neither is the issue of the Petrine Ministry “second order” – at least in the teaching of the Second Vatican Council.)  

Only if the Apostolic Ministry is seen in purely functional terms and only if the ecclesial community which that Ministry serves is seen to have the authority to constitute that ministry as it sees fit to best to serve the purpose of the gospel, could issues of Apostolic Ministry be seen as “second order”. Williams said:  

The summary on pp.137-8 of Harvesting [Harvesting the Fruits: Basic Aspects of the Christian Faith in Ecumenical Dialogue. PCPCU, edited by Cardinal Walter Kasper] puts it very well in describing convergence around the belief that ‘the ministry and the ministries in the Church are not an end in themselves’; the Church is called to obedience, and thus to the discerning conservation of the authentic gospel in its teaching and preaching. But is that obedience, discernment and conservation in some sense the task of the entire body of the baptised or essentially that of a group designated as having binding power?

His answer in the following paragraphs is quite definitely: this is the “task of the entire body of the baptised” and not “a group designated as having binding power”, by which he quite clearly refers to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.  

Williams argument is that the “the essential character of filial and communal holiness as set out in Scripture and tradition and ecumenical agreement” that is going on in Anglican Churches is the same as that which is going on in Catholic Churches and should be recognised as such, despite the fact that many Anglican Churches ordain women as priests and even bishops. Williams gets to the hub of the matter when he asks:  

The challenge to recent Roman Catholic thinking on this would have to be: in what way does the prohibition against ordaining women so ‘enhance the life of communion’, reinforcing the essential character of filial and communal holiness as set out in Scripture and tradition and ecumenical agreement, that its breach would compromise the purposes of the Church as so defined? And do the arguments advanced about the “essence” of male and female vocations and capacities stand on the same level as a theology derived more directly from scripture and the common theological heritage such as we find in these ecumenical texts?

In other words, the prohibition of the ordination of women is a second order issue to the primary issue of a life of filial and communion holiness. He describes this “prohibition” as the result of “recent determinations on the Roman Catholic side”. Here is how he puts the question:

All ordained ministers are ordained into the shared richness of the apostolic ministerial order – or perhaps we could say ministerial ‘communion’ yet again. None ministers as a solitary individual. Thus if the ministerial collective is understood strictly in terms of the ecclesiology we have been considering, as serving the goal of filial and communal holiness as the character of restored humanity, how much is that undermined if individuals within the ministerial communion are of different genders? Even if there remains uncertainty in the minds of some about the rightness of ordaining women, is there a way of recognising that somehow the corporate exercise of a Catholic and evangelical ministry remains intact even when there is dispute about the standing of female individuals? In terms of the relation of local to universal, what we are saying here is that a degree of recognizability of ‘the same Catholic thing’ has survived: [my emphasis]

How are we to reply to this? One would be to point out that a genuine ecclesiology of communion, a genuine Eucharistic ecclesiology, cannot allow any room for “uncertainty” in relation to the Sacraments of the Church. The reason for this is, as the Catechism puts it in a most significant passage:

1076 The Church was made manifest to the world on the day of Pentecost by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit [cf. SC 6; LG 2]. The gift of the Spirit ushers in a new era in the “dispensation of the mystery” the age of the Church, during which Christ manifests, makes present, and communicates his work of salvation through the liturgy of his Church, “until he comes” [1 Cor 11:26]. In this age of the Church Christ now lives and acts in and with his Church, in a new way appropriate to this new age. He acts through the sacraments in what the common Tradition of the East and the West calls “the sacramental economy”; this is the communication (or “dispensation”) of the fruits of Christ’s Paschal mystery in the celebration of the Church’s “sacramental” liturgy. 

The preservation of the “Sacramental Economy” as instituted by Christ is therefore A FIRST ORDER ISSUE, for apart from the Sacraments, there is no other means by which “Christ now lives and acts in and with his Church”.
For all the Archbishop of Canterbury’s valiant attempts to say “It really doesn’t matter”, the answer that we must give is: “Oh yes it does.” 


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On Interfaith Dialogue

You might be interested in this discussion on the Catholica forum with Dr Elmer and Brian Coyne on Interfaith Dialogue and the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

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An Unfortunate Situation in Benedigo

The news is that Bishop Joe Grech of Sandhurst has reconsidered his original offer to the local Anglicans of the use of St Kilian’s for their upcoming ordinations while their own Cathedral is unsafe for use.

I think all readers will agree that it is an unfortunate situtation, especially as the offer had already been made and had to be withdrawn. Nevertheless we will also agree that it was the right decision to make. To have gone ahead with the planned ceremony would simply have caused even more hurt and confusion.

That being said, I would like to point out that Bishop Grech – in originally making the offer of the use of a Catholic church building to the Anglicans in their time of need – was simply acting in accordance with the protocols of the DIRECTORY FOR THE APPLICATION OF PRINCIPLES AND NORMS ON ECUMENISM, which states:

137. Catholic churches are consecrated or blessed buildings which have an important theological and liturgical significance for the Catholic community. They are therefore generally reserved for Catholic worship. However, if priests, ministers or communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church do not have a place or the liturgical objects necessary for celebrating worthily their religious ceremonies, the diocesan Bishop may allow them the use of a church or a Catholic building and also lend them what may be necessary for their services. Under similar circumstances, permission may be given to them for interment or for the celebration of services at Catholic cemeteries.

He was also acting in accord with an ecumenical protocol to which the Catholic Church in Australia is a signatory, namely, the National Council of Churches in Australia agreement “Australian Churches Covenanting Together”. This “Covenant” contains a number of clauses, and the member churches of the NCCA (which includes, through the Bishops Conference, all dioceses of the Catholic Church in Australia) had the option of signing up to those clauses to which they could assent.

The clause in question is “Dimension Two” of “Part B” which reads:

b. Shared Use of Physical Resources
We AGREE together to support initiatives for sharing physical resources, such as buildings, and to encourage consultation between the appropriate governing bodies of our churches before new major developments are undertaken

This clause has been agreed to by the following:

Anglican Church of Australia
Assyrian Church of the East
Churches of Christ in Australia
Congregational Federation of Australia
Coptic Orthodox Church
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia
Lutheran Church of Australia
Religious Society of Friends
Roman Catholic Church in Australia
The Salvation Army
Uniting Church in Australia

There is certainly precedent in other parts of Australia, where non-Catholic Christian communities have used Catholic churches for worship with the permission of the local bishop when they have not had a building of their own to use.

What are the provisos? None are spelled out either in the Covenant or in the Ecumenical Directory, except that the latter says:

140. Before making plans for a shared building [or by extension, I guess, sharing a building], the authorities of the communities concerned should first reach agreement as to how their various disciplines will be observed, particularly in regard to the sacraments [my emphasis].

The fact that the sacraments are singled out for mention is significant. One could not imagine there being any problem with another community such as the Anglicans using our church buildings for baptism or marriages (or funeralsfor that matter), because we recognise the validity of these sacraments in the Anglican Church. Problems would arise however with those protestant sacraments whose validity we do not recognise: namely confirmations or ordinations, and perhaps even the Eucharist.

I guess the proviso therefore is that nothing take place in the Catholic building which could reasonably be supposed to give scandal to the Catholic faithful. And, in the current climate, an ordination ceremony involving women held in a Catholic church would definitely cause a great deal of misunderstanding.

I think that St Paul’s advice about eating meat offered to idols (1 Cor 8 ) would have to come in to play here.


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