Daily Archives: January 7, 2010

Is the search for “The True Church” a valid one?

The comment string on my post below linking to Pastor Weedon’s blog (An entertaining comment string on Weedon’s Blog) drew an old and familiar voice back into the discussion. Terry Maher (aka Past Elder) ended that discussion by saying he was “bowing out”, which is why, rather than reply to his comment there expecting an answer from him, I choose to post this as a separate question here throwing it open to all of you.

The comment string ended with this comment from Terry:

Your question is circular: which church is the true church as the Catholic church says the true church is. There will only be one answer, ever — the Catholic Church. The problem is not in the answer but in the loaded question designed to produce the answer. The RCC may offer these days more variations on the question, but the answer is always the only thing the RC faith is about — the RC church.

The difficulty with that proposition is twofold:

1) Personal: Years ago I thought to myself that the Catholic Church of the Creed was simply an article of faith – the “true Church” does not have a corporate visible existence here on earth. I came to that conclusion to enable myself to be faithful to what I thought was “Catholic” while yet remaining a Lutheran (this was way back in 1986 already). Yet the issue of the ordination of women threw all this into confusion. If some visible corporate Christian communions (perhaps even the one to which I belonged) were ordaining women what did this mean for my ecclesiology. At first, I ran with the idea that each decision was valid for the communion which made that decision so long as it followed the lines of authority recognised by that tradition. Two good Lutheran clergy friends (one now a Catholic the other not) put paid to that idea by pointing out that something was either true or not true: either it was a valid act to ordian a woman to the holy ministry or it wasn’t. That meant that some Christian communities got it wrong – they were not all equally valid expressions of the Church Catholic. So which communions could claim to be valid expressions of the Church Christ established? Could my own communion make such a choice? In effect, I was asking the question: Which of all the possible Churches to which I could belong are “true Churches”? I asked this question not as a Roman Catholic, but as a Lutheran. Lutheran ecclesiology could not answer my question. Eventually – as a Lutheran – I found that I could no longer maintain the ecclesiology I had developed. Eventually eventually I found the only ecclesiology that seemed to ring true was that of the Church which calls herself Catholic. So I wasn’t asking a “loaded question” proposed by the Catholic Church. I was embarking on a search as a Lutheran and found the answer as a Catholic.

2) Historical: From the word go, it appears that there was some debate about which was and which was not the true Church. St Paul rejected the “church” of the “Judaisers”. St Ignatius and St Ireneaus rejected the “church” of the Gnostics. Laterthe “churches” of the Montanists and Donatists were also rejected (although they were recognised to have true sacraments). The entire history of Christianity seems to have been built upon the idea of searching for “the true Church”. This was seen as a matter of eternal salvation. Was this whole history wrong-headed? Was the question wrong-headed from the beginning? In this day and age, when the variety of Christianities is as great as any other, are we to seek only the “true Christianity” and not the “true Church” which teaches it?

In short: is the search for “the True Church” a valid one, or not?


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Invoke History, but first consult it!

There is an excellent, short and well referenced article on the wartime record of Pius XII at Times Online by an Inside the Vatican writer, William Donio Jnr: “Pius XII did help the Jews”. The author ends with this statement:

Invoke history to assess Pius XII by all means, but first consult it, before passing judgment.

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Celebrating the Epiphany on January 6th

On “The Anglo-Catholic” blog comes this short discussion on Celebrating the Epiphany on January 6th. The question there is whether the new Anglican Ordinariates will be allowed to continue to celebrate Epiphany on January 6th or will they be required (in those countries where the Bishops Conference has so determined, such as Australia) to move the feast to the nearest Sunday.

Apart from that question, which really doesn’t concern me, the question of how to celebrate the Epiphany in our homes is, I think, an important one apart from the question of when the feast is officially celebrated in the region to which we belong. This came up yesterday and the day before in our home devotions when we marked the last day of Christmas (Twelfth Night) and the Epiphany on their traditional days.

I have always tried to instill in the girls an understanding that Christmas is a full 12 day festival, only ending with the coming of the wise men at the Epiphany. Only now do we bring down the Christmas tree and other decorations. This rhythm is very important, I think. I can understand why the Church has shifted the feast to the Sunday – as a day of obligation, you would really have Buckley’s of getting anyone to turn up on a weeknight in the middle of the January summer holidays in Australia. Even the Lutheran Church generally takes the option of shifting the feast to Sunday so that the full story gets told to the whole people of God. But I don’t think this should stop us from celebrating January 6th as it is supposed to be celebrated, any more than we should stop the English celebrating St George’s day just because it isn’t on the Calendar any more.

A minor note is that in these days the Orthodox have their annual blessing of the waters – which fits right in with the Summer Holidays down under. The competition is for strapping young Greeks to dive into the ocean to retrieve the cross that the priest throws off the jetty at the blessing. A popular event that always gets a picture in the paper.


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Catholic Heritage and CHRISTVS REGNAT journal

A commentator (another from Ireland) has asked me to promote their blog Catholic Heritage and their journal CHRISTVS REGNAT. Worth a look.

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Death of Mgr Graham Leonard, former Anglican Bishop of London

This news just in from Damian Thompson at the Telegraph:

I’ve just heard that Mgr Graham Leonard, the former Bishop of London who became a Catholic and was made a (married) Monsignor by Pope John Paul II, has died.

Mgr Leonard, 88, was a formidable and dignified champion of the Anglo-Catholic cause in the Church of England; when he converted to Catholicism after the vote to ordain women priests, he was ordained priest conditionally, having persuaded the Vatican that he might already possess valid orders by virtue of an Old Catholic apostolic succession.

Mgr Leonard had originally hoped that he could bring with him Anglican priests and faithful who could worship together after their reception; as it turned out, the time was not yet ripe. But it is now. The Ordinariate scheme, currently taking shape, will be a fitting memorial to this inspiring priest.

Personally, I had always hoped that the good Monsignor would have been made a Cardinal. I liked the thought of the Leonards being announced upon their arrival at an official function as: “His Eminence, Graham Cardinal and Mrs Leonard”. May he rest in peace.

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