Another big rock about to fall into the Anglican Pond

Our friend, William Tighe, alerted me to this, but now The Australian has a story on the possibility of the appointment of an openly gay cleric to the position of Bishop of Southwark. While reportedly “celibate” he has nailed his colours to the mast by being in an officially registered “civil union” with a man. If appointed, this will have two effects: it will widen the cracks already apparent in the Anglican Communion, and it will be another nail in the coffin for the ecumenical endeavour between the Church of England and the Holy See (nb. I state it this way deliberately – distinguishing this relationship from the relationship of the Catholic Church and Anglicans in general).

There was a time when ecumenism between the Catholic Church and the protestant communities was all about healing the rifts of the 16th Century (that was what the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification was all about). However, these days issues such as the ordination of women and morality (eg. abortion and homosexuality) are just as divisive, if not more. I don’t have a crystal ball, but the overall effect of the new issues seems to be that the ecumenical scene is being totally reconfigured before our eyes. While Anglicanorum Coetibus can be seen as a reaction to the new situation, while the bilateral dialogues continue on the old “heal-the-rift-of-the-16th-century” model. As a result, the dialogues seem to be missing the real contemporary issues (as important as the 16th Century issues may continue to be between those communions that neither ordain women nor approve of the new morality).

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25 responses to “Another big rock about to fall into the Anglican Pond

  1. Matthias

    “issues may continue to be between those communions that neither ordain women nor approve of the new morality”
    I think Schutz that those communions that share the non-ordination of women and disapprove of gay marriage and gay clergy ,will probably maintain ground whilst those that do approve of these acts,will move further together.
    Archbishops jensen and pell have more in common than Archbishop Jensen has with the current Archbishop of Canterbury .
    When i was growing up many of the dispensationalists preached about,and the appalling Chit publications still does,a Super church made up of the Catholics,orthdox and renegade proddies. What they missed out on but what Vladimir Soloviev-credited with starting the Russian Catholic church- wrote about ,was a church remnant -made up of Catholics,orthodox and Protestants ,faithful to Christ and the Gospel ,out in awilderness ,whilst the others of their respective communions joined together to become politically and culturally relevant.
    Are we seeing the beginning of another version of “heal-the-rift-of-the-16th-century” model

  2. Fr John Fleming

    This is the reality we have faced for more than 30 years now. The Anglican Church wanted dialogue to achieve full communion with the Catholic Church. It wanted that dialogue to be based upon the ancient common traditions, to go back behind Reformation controversies and work forward. The Anglicans clearly never meant it. They have ordained women, they embrace moral positions that is completely contrary to both Scripture and Tradition, and they rub people’s noses in it by ordaining women and practising homosexuals and lesbians. In my book, “Convinced by the Truth, I advise the Traditional Anglicans not to get involved in the fruitless dialogues that have led nowhere, and take a whole new approach to ecumenism. They did that and Anglicanorum coetibus is the fruit of that new approach. I completely agree, as almost always, with what David Schutz has said on this matter in the light of the impending consecration of Dr John. But Dr John is just another example of the whole problem.

  3. Peregrinus

    Couple of thoughts, not necessarily connected, and in no particular order:

    The “heal the rift” strand of ecumenical dialogue continues to be of central importance, not least because developments like Anglicanorum Coetibus would be impossible but for the progress made in that strand.

    I don’t know about “the dialogues . . . missing the real contemporary issues”. There is plenty of (active, and often heated) discusson about things like women’s ordination, or the vocation of the person who experiences homosexual attraction. The thing is, different views here don’t line up neatly along the denominational frontiers. There are plainly diverse opinions on these questions within Anglicanism. And – I’ll come back to this – there are diverse opinions on these questions within Catholicism too.

    As long as we conceive of ecumenical dialogue as dialogue between distinct Christian traditions embodied in or represented by easily identified institutions, then dialogue about (say) women’s ordination isn’t going to be seen as ecumenical dialogue.

    That doesn’t mean that that dialogue isn’t going on, though. I can talk to my brother in law, an Anglican priest, about women’s ordination, but that’s unlikely to be seen as “ecumenical dialogue” merely because he is an Anglican and I am a Catholic. After all, he says things that would be said just as readily by many Catholics, and I say things that would be said just as readily by many Anglicans. Thus this isn’t, except coincidentally, a dialogue bewteen Anglicans as such, and Catholics as such.

    It’s clear that the Anglican communion cannot speak with a coherent voice about women’s ordination. This is a barrier to formal ecumenical dialogue about the subject, but it’s not a barrier to dialogue about the subject which includes both Anglicans and Catholics.

    Right. Coming back to the diverse opinions within Catholicism . . .

    When the pope expresses a particular view on women’s ordination, he clearly represents the Catholic position with an authority which a Catholic articulating an inconsistent view does not. Anglicanism lacks this mechanism for authoritative declaration of the Anglican view; there is no Anglican pope. Hence it’s not so easy to say that a particular position on women’s ordination is the authentic Anglican position.

    This means, if we wish to engage in point-scoring, which of course we don’t, that we could “blame” Anglicans for the lack of an Anglican-Catholic dialogue on this subject. We’ve got something to say on this subject; they don’t. It’s they who cannot engage in dialogue.

    But, if we are honest, the Catholic mechanism for authoritatively declaring the Catholic position can serve, not to resolve a diversity of views, but simply to conceal it. We may marginalise all views but the official one by authoritatively declaring the official one, but that doesn’t make those views go away.

    We know there are some areas of church teaching which are tacitly – and sometimes not so tacitly – rejected by significant numbers of Catholics. The teaching on artificial contraception is the classic example, but I suspect that fair a few Catholics are not all that enchanted about the teaching on women priests. (The church is not a democracy, etc, etc; this doesn’t mean that the official teaching is “wrong”. That’s not my point.)

    And, at the risk of being slightly controversial, I suspect that the church has tacitly given up on trying to evangelise people on this subject. For some years now the official position on women’s ordiation has been that Discussion Is Closed, an environment in which effective evangelisation is of course impossible. The attitude seems to be that we have set out an authentic teaching, now let’s move on.

    All of this is somewhat embarrassing for the church, in the sense that we don’t quite know what to do about it. (I don’t know, but maybe part of the brief of the recently-established Congregation for the New Evangelisation will be to do some creative thinking about this challenge. I certainly hope so.)

    Given all that, though, the absence of a formal ecumenical dialogue on the subject with Anglicans might quite suit the church. If there is an area on which there are embarrassingly differing opinions within the church, and that area is the subject of ecumenical discussions with other churches, heaven knows where that may lead.

    • Fr John Fleming

      On the basis of a purely Protestant ecclesiology, Peregrinus has a point. Eveyone is entitled to their opinion and so “ecumenical dialogue” takes place whenever two Christians from two different Communions have a chin wag. On the basis of a Catholic ecclesiology nothing could be further from the truth. Christ gave us a Church with a constitution. The Magisterium is the only body, in the end which can enunciate binding Catholic teaching. The ecumenical project between Catholics and Protestants has always encountered the difficulty that no one in Protestant Churches can ever make a real ecumenical decision. This is not the case with Catholics and the Orthodox. The disarray within Anglicanism is fatal to coherence and fatal to ecumenical dialogue except, of course, the dialoguen that goes on with the bien pensants in Anglican and Catholic Communions. Peregrinus is quite wrong to suggest an equivalence in the different opinions expressednin the Catholic Church and those expressed in the Anglican
      Communion. In the Anglican Church those opinions are quickly translated into changes to the Christian Tradition of Faith and morals. In the Catholic Church different opinions are just that, and may well have no impact at all on the Tradition.

      • Peregrinus

        I may not be expressing myself clearly. Wouldn’t be the first time.

        I don’t mean to suggest that . . .

        . . . “ecumenical dialogue” takes place whenever two Christians from two different Communions have a chin wag . . .”

        In fact, I thought I explicitly disavowed that. Ecumenical dialogue in the fullest sense has to be dialogue between the traditions as such, and not merely between people who happen to belong to different traditions.

        Peregrinus is quite wrong to suggest an equivalence in the different opinions expressed in the Catholic Church and those expressed in the Anglican
        Communion.

        I don’t mean to suggest such an equivalence; I don’t think it exists. As I pointed out before, the Catholic church has a mechanism for authoritative articulation of the Catholic position which the Anglican communion lacks, and Catholics who express views which diverge from those authoritatively articulated are therefore not in the same position as Anglicans contending for competing views, none of which as yet can be definitively articulated as the Anglican position.

        My point is that, even without that equivalence, Catholics holding diverging views in significant numbers are an issue that the church has to face, and it hasn’t quite worked out how to face it. For the time being, the approach seems to be not to face it (which, of course, is classic romanità).

        In that situation, formal ecumenical dialogue on topics where there are signficant diverging views within the church could be embarrassing, and the fact that such formal ecumenical dialogue can’t really take place could be a relief. (As in, it makes it easier for the church to go on practising this particular form of romanità.)

        The ecumenical project between Catholics and Protestants has always encountered the difficulty that no one in Protestant Churches can ever make a real ecumenical decision. This is not the case with Catholics and the Orthodox.

        I think we come here to the heart of the matter. If

        – as I suggest, ecumenical dialogue in the fullest sense has to be dialogue between the traditions; and

        – the protestant traditions lack an (individual or collective) “pope” who can authoritatively state the tradition’s position on any subject,

        how can there be dialogue? How can you converse with someone who has no opinion to offer?

        I think the answer has to be that dialogue, to be of any profit, has to be between real people, and real traditions. It can have nothing to do with some platonic ideal of what a religious tradition can be or should be.

        The Protestant traditions really do exist; they really are living ecclesial communities. They really do have faith-positions that we can talk meaningfully about, engage with and learn from. The fact that they lack a mechanism for defining their own officially-held intellectual boundaries as precisely as Catholic and Orthodox churches can define theirs is (a) a part of their distinctive identity, and (b) a part of the paradigm within which real ecumenical dialogue has to take place. It doesn’t mean that dialogue is impossible, or fruitless.

    • There is plenty of (active, and often heated) discusson about things like women’s ordination, or the vocation of the person who experiences homosexual attraction.

      Not in the official bi-lateral dialogues there isn’t.

      But, if we are honest, the Catholic mechanism for authoritatively declaring the Catholic position can serve, not to resolve a diversity of views, but simply to conceal it.

      But the official bi-lateral dialogues are not about a dialogue of a “diversity of views” within the communions, but rather about a dialogue between the “official” public teachings of those communions. It only causes grave and harmful confusion when dialogue partners discuss their own ideas rather than the teachings of their respective churches.

      However, the fact that some communions DO NOT HAVE an “official” view only makes this model of dialogue more difficult – nay, impossible and ridiculous.

      The whole bi-lateral project is becoming more and more pointless precisely because of the individualisation of the public doctrine of our ecclesiastical communions.

      • Peregrinus

        Peregrinus: There is plenty of (active, and often heated) discusson about things like women’s ordination, or the vocation of the person who experiences homosexual attraction.

        Schütz: Not in the official bi-lateral dialogues there isn’t.

        I know. And that’s because

        (a) on one side, there isn’t a coherent official view which can be put forward for discussion; and

        (b) on the other side, there is a coherent official view that could be discussed, but sometimes they’re as happy not to discuss it.

        Peregrinus: But, if we are honest, the Catholic mechanism for authoritatively declaring the Catholic position can serve, not to resolve a diversity of views, but simply to conceal it.

        Schütz: But the official bi-lateral dialogues are not about a dialogue of a “diversity of views” within the communions, but rather about a dialogue between the “official” public teachings of those communions. It only causes grave and harmful confusion when dialogue partners discuss their own ideas rather than the teachings of their respective churches.

        However, the fact that some communions DO NOT HAVE an “official” view only makes this model of dialogue more difficult – nay, impossible and ridiculous.

        The whole bi-lateral project is becoming more and more pointless precisely because of the individualisation of the public doctrine of our ecclesiastical communions.

        Well, I see where you’re coming from. But Protestantism in general, and Anglicanism in particular, have always been characterised by a striking diversity of views about topics which are frankly rather more central than homosexuality – e.g. the Eucharist. The defining characteristic of Anglicanism has never been theological uniformity so much as common worship. Are you coming close to saying that bilateral ecumenical conversation with Anglicans has always been pointless, but you are only now realising it?

        Is there a danger here that we are really saying that, unless another tradition is already like the Catholic church in its ecclesiology and its authority structures, there is no point in talking to it? Surely the whole reason why it is “another tradition” is precisely that it isn’t like the Catholic church?

        • Fr John Fleming

          Well, Peregrinus, you need to ask yourself why the Anglicans are as they are. And the answer is that at the Reformation the victory of one side over the other was never complete. So, in England, since the attempt to impose Calvinism did not succeed, parts of Catholicism (such as an Episcopal form of Church government) survived there but not, say, in Scotland. Once the authority of the Pope was removed from the equation, individual opinion was pitted against individual opinion. Which is why it is often more difficult to talk to the Anglican Communion than the Orthodox and the Calvinists.

          P: “Are you coming close to saying that bilateral ecumenical conversation with Anglicans has always been pointless, but you are only now realising it?”

          I would say the answer to that is that it has not always been pointless, and that there are some Anglicans with whom you can have a sensible ecumenical conversation (eg TAC, FiF). But the mainstream Anglicans have decimated the Catholic and Evangelical wings and are now just free wheeling protestant communities in which pretty much anything goes depending on the fashion. Talking with these Anglicans is indeed a fruitless exercise.

          • Peregrinus

            I would say [that bilateral ecumenical conversation with Anglicans] has not always been pointless, and that there are some Anglicans with whom you can have a sensible ecumenical conversation (eg TAC, FiF). But the mainstream Anglicans have decimated the Catholic and Evangelical wings and are now just free wheeling protestant communities in which pretty much anything goes depending on the fashion. Talking with these Anglicans is indeed a fruitless exercise.

            Particularly with respect to conversation tending towards any kind of institutional unity, or even any altered or improved inter-institutional relationship, the existence of an institution with which to converse is a sine qua non. What’s happening now, I think, is that the Anglican communion is splintering, and losing its significance and even identity as an institution.

            Unless the apparent course of events changes fairly dramatically, and fairly soon, the Anglican communion is going to be succeeded by a variety of institutions, each smaller and with a theological focus representing a subset of the fairly broad range of belief currently (and I think historically) to be found within Anglicanism. (Each will no doubt claim the mantle of true authentic Anglicanism; as a matter of both principle and policy I don’t think Catholics need to have a view about those claims.)

            The identity, characteristics and relative signficance of these institutions has yet to emerge. Given their generally more focussed theological identity, though, it is reasonable to hope that they will each be at least able to articulate a coherent set of beliefs.

            Give that, it seems to me that inter-institutional dialogue with any or all of them will be possible in principle. With respect to those on the Protestant end of the ex-Anglican spectrum, the principal barriers to successful dialogue will be (a) a general lack of interest on the Protestant side, and (b) the fairly profound theological gulf between them and Catholicism. These are not problems which are going to be remedied by a general conservatism on matters of gender and sexuality. With respect to those closer to the Anglo-Catholic end, the prospects for success must generally be better. But there will always be non-Catholic views on some issues that cannot simply be wished away. That, by definition, will be a feature of any ecumenical relationship. If we see that as a fundamental barrier to an ecumenical relationship, we might as well give up the whole endeavour.

            • Fr John Fleming

              Well, that is the reality. Ecumenical endeavour is about institutional unity, “that we may all be one”. Other conversations are just that, conversations. However, provided we do not have any unrealistic expectations about outcomes in the short and medium terms, I believe we should always keep conversations going in the hope that hearts will be softened and the truth embraced. When I was an Anglican seeking to become a Catholic, I was told by certain Catholic priests not to bother, and that I should remain within Ecclesia Anglicana and work for unity. I suspect that one of the reasons for this view was an unrealistic expectation (then widely held by many, including me) that unity was just around the corner. Well, those expectations were wrong as we now know. And it is always a pity when those who want to be Catholics (either individuals or groups) are discouraged from doing so for political expediency, viz it will get in the way, somehow, of “ecumenical relations”. In my view ecumenism was highjacked in the Anglican Communion by the liberals and then just as quickly sabotaged by the same people who then went on to successfully push for the ordination of women and the rest.

              • However, provided we do not have any unrealistic expectations about outcomes in the short and medium terms, I believe we should always keep conversations going in the hope that hearts will be softened and the truth embraced.

                Amen to that, Father. That is my point of view, anyway. I could never become entirely cynical about the ecumenical endeavour – otherwise I would hardly be able to do my job, would I?! No, I for one still hold out the hope of the Holy Spirit surprising us all.

                One eg.: I am sure that the Americans who participated in the Lutheran/Catholic dialogues there during the 1970’s and 1980’s had no idea that their published conclusions would be influential in enabling an Australian Lutheran pastor in the late 1990’s/early 2000’s come to see the necessity for communion with the Bishop of Rome. However, they were thus influential, and I was thus enabled.

  4. Gareth

    I may be getting off the topic of ecumenical dialogue at an official level here but an interesting point to note here is that in my own personal life the issues that you have discussed such as women priests, homosexuality and abortion that would actually divide Catholics are actually unifying force to forming a friendship with some of my conservative Protestant friends.

    For example, on the one hand I might not enter into a friendship or consider that I have much in common with some of my fellow Catholics who see nothing wrong with women priests, homosexuality etc.

    YET if I manage to form a friendship with a strong Protestant, there is a common bond there if they have conservative/orthodox viewpoints on these issues and are in some cases are willing to put the historical doctrinal differences behind them to form a friendship with someone that they perceive that they have something in common with.

    It is all slightly ironic that at in this day and age where so many issues divide Catholics, there are such many issues that Catholics and Protestants who may have a certain broad theological view may find common ground with.

    I know I personally have time for good Protestants as opposed to bad Catholics.

    • Peregrinus

      Hi Gareth

      It is ironic, but it illustrates the complexity of the issue.

      Another irony; Canon John, whose prospective appointment as Bishop of Southwark is the subject of David’s post, identifies, and is identified as, an Anglo-Catholic. He affirms the real presence; he upholds the seven sacraments; he promotes a Eucharistic spirituality and “Roman” practices such as regular private confession, the daily office, etc. In short, in fundamental ways he is much closer to Catholicism that your conservative Protestant friends who agree with you about women’s ordination. He is much closer to Catholicism than, I think, most Anglicans.

      And I think we reach the limiting case when we consider someone like Philip Jensen, who opposes women’s ordination, but has no objection to women presiding over the Eucharist in his diocese. For Dr. Jensen, ordination has nothing to do with Eucharistic presidency; I suggest that this makes any agreement between Dr Jensen and the Pope about women’s ordination more apparent than real. They just happen to use the term “ordination” for substantially different concepts.

      In short, I don’t think we can divide the Christian world into neat camps of “Catholic” and “not Catholic”. It is meaningful to talk of people being more or less Catholic, and moreover of their being more Catholic in this respect, but less Catholic in that. But such things are quite nuanced; as noted, the fact that Dr Jensen opposes the ordination of women does not mean that he holds to a Catholic view of ordination, or to a Catholic view of the capacity and vocation of women. The truth is that his views on both these matters are distinctly unCatholic.

      There is a temptation, encouraged by our superficial modern culture, to attempt to categorise or place people by reference to a small number of “hot-button” issues. And, within that, there is a further temptation, strongly encouraged by our superficial modern culture, to pick issues which have to do with gender or sexuality. They arouse strong feelings, and they make for sexy headlines. What’s not to like?

      I don’t want to downgrade the importance of human sexuality. But you will read a long way into the Catechism before you get to any mention of, e.g., homosexuality. What we believe about the Eucharist is of both deeper and wider significance for our Catholicism than what we believe about homosexuality.

      I don’t wish to imply any judgment, but you seem to suggest that you find it easier to establish a friendship with a Protestant who is close to Catholicism in his views on matters of gender and sexuality. Obviously your friendships are a matter for yourself, and you certainly don’t have to account to me for them. But it might be worth your while reflecting on why catholicity on these matters provides a foundation for friendship, in a way that catholicity in the understanding of the Eucharist, sacramentality, ecclesiology or the Incarnation apparently doesn’t. You describe this as “a certain broad theological view” but actually – no offence intended – it strikes me as quite a narrow focus.

      • He is much closer to Catholicism than, I think, most Anglicans.

        And yet, for all this, he is most distant from Catholicism because he does not accept the authority of the Bishop of Rome. In this sense, he is as protestant as any other protestant. This is, and will always be, the dividing line.

        • Does that mean the Orthodox are Protestants too, David? After all, they don’t accept the authority of the Bishop of Rome either.

          • Naughty, Mark! I was speaking of non-Catholics who want to be “Catholic” without accepting the authority of the bishop of Rome. The Orthodox do not try to be “Catholic” – they are secure in their own identity. But Protestant attempts to be Catholic are always, at the end of the day, “Western Catholicism minus the Pope”, even though they do not recognise this deficiency. One of my repeated rules is that there is no way of being “Catholic” which doesn’t included recognition of the perogatives of the Bishop of Rome.

        • William Tighe

          His “closeness” to Catholicism may be more apparent than real, as he seems to embrace a purely “exemplarist” of the Crucifixion/Atonement, and has written of his repulsion at the idea of Christ’s “sacrificial death” effecting an atonement for sins.

          • Yes, it is one thing to have the form of Catholicism, but another thing to have its substance. Anglicans are generally very skilled at the former, but have wandered on many paths into the wilderness on the latter.

            • Peregrinus

              Gosh. It would be hard to defend the position that a Catholic Eucharistic faith is a matter of form, not substance, while a negative view of homosexuality is a matter of substance, not form.

        • Peter

          “And yet, for all this, he is most distant from Catholicism because he does not accept the authority of the Bishop of Rome. In this sense, he is as protestant as any other protestant. This is, and will always be, the dividing line.”

          Once again you put your finger on the nub of the matter. In the book “There we stood, here we stand” are the stories of at least 2 women who were ‘ordained’ Lutheran ministers who came home to Rome. Like Fr John, David and myself, it was a ‘contemporary’ issue (or a few of them) that set them thinking seriously about authority, ecclesiology and epistemology, but it was the age old questions (and answers) that led us all home. We can talk about these contemporary issues till we are blue in the face but real eccumenism still resides in those foundational questions.

          Someone might seem to hold a great number of articles of faith similar to Catholicism, but even if they could tick off 90% of the Catechism, they would not be ‘close’ to being Catholic until they could come to grips with her sacred authority.

          On the other hand, as many life stories this centurty alone have told, even a woman playing ‘pastor’, or an enthusiastic evangelical, or a campaigning athiest are dangerously close to the Catholic fold when they seriously consider the matter of authority and truth.

          • And the one thing of which just about all our dialogue partners suspect us (I know because they have told me) is that we are trying to bring them back “under the authority of the pope”, in otherwords, an “ecumenism of return” as it is often called.

            Well… guilty as charged, your honour! At least in so far as another of my regular sayings goes, which is that if we are working for the “full visible unity of all Christians” and if “the Pope is a Christians” then the logical conclusion of this syllogism is that “full visible unity of all Christians” includes unity with the Bishop of Rome!

            In actual fact, rather than an ecumenism of return, what I believe the Church is attempting to foster is an “ecumenism of pilgrimage toward Christ”, that is, a journey of conversion toward the Truth. I tell my dialogue partners that we should not be afraid of the Truth, that it is what we all seek, and in seeking it, since the Truth is One, we will all be drawn together into Christ. That is a little more diplomatic, perhaps, but still includes, for Catholics in dialogue, a conviction that Christ has authorised certain “witnesses to the Truth” of which the living magisterium is certainly one of these.

        • Peregrinus

          And yet, for all this, [John] is most distant from Catholicism because he does not accept the authority of the Bishop of Rome. In this sense, he is as protestant as any other protestant. This is, and will always be, the dividing line.

          Well, I’m much more comfortable with the idea that communion with the Bishop of Rome is the badge of catholicity than I am with the idea that opposition to homosexuality is. But of course adopting that as our benchmark doesn’t do any favours to Gareth’s conservative Protestant friends – unless we think “communion with” can be reduced to “superficially agrees with, on the subjects of women’s ordination and homosexuality”.

          The fact that an Anglo-Catholic doesn’t hold to a catholic understanding of communion with Rome doesn’t change the fact that (a) he may hold to a catholic understanding of the Eucharist and (b) if so, this would be very, very important.

          I cautiously suggest that holding to a Catholic understanding of the Eucharist, a Catholic understanding of the Incarnation, a Catholic ecclesiology, etc, is a fairly promising place from which to start an ecumenical relationship. My admittedly limited experience suggests that Protestants who start from there are much more open to considering the idea that the Bishop of Rome does have, or could have, a central role, a particular authority, a meaningful primacy. I even suggest that the company I find myself in in this very thread could have something to tell us about that.

          I’m not suggesting that Jeffrey John is about to swim the Tiber; I doubt that he is. My point is simply that there is more a great deal more to be said about his religious views than simply that he favours the ordination of women and has liberal views on homosexuality, just as there is a great deal more to be said about Philip Jensen’s position that goes past his views on these two subjects.

          As far as ecumenical relations and the barriers to them are concerned, one of the things we would have to say about Philip Jensen is that there is a fundamental barrier; he simply isn’t interested. He sees no value whatsoever in the ecumenical project, and says so quite freely. This seems to me to be a rather bigger hurdle than either disagreement about, or failure to have a coherent position on, women’s ordination.

          • Gareth

            Hi Peregrinus,
            In response.

            Pere: I don’t want to downgrade the importance of human sexuality. But you will read a long way into the Catechism before you get to any mention of, e.g., homosexuality.

            Gareth: I personally wish people would stop using this argument or the argument that Our Lord did not having to say on the matter. He didn’t say much about rape, but we know this is a grievous sin. The fact that there isnt pages and pages in the Catechism on sexuality does not deter from the fact that what we know of God in Scripture and moral tradition is that in His eyes, He does view matters relating to sexuality very, very seriously .

            So much so that in the Scriptures God has delegated the misuse of sexuality as one of the four sins (on par with willful murder) as one the four sins that Heaven calls out for vengeance.

            In my opinion, what we believe about sexuality is every bit as significance as our views on issues such as the Eucharist. In fact, the two probably go hand in hand so to speak and it is pointless as Catholics upholding an orthodox belief without an orthodox view on the other.

            Pere: But of course adopting that as our benchmark doesn’t do any favours to Gareth’s conservative Protestant friends – unless we think “communion with” can be reduced to “superficially agrees with, on the subjects of women’s ordination and homosexuality.

            Gareth: In fairness, I did clarify that such benchmarks were simply a standard that I have found in finding friends at a personal level as opposed to ecumenical relations at a institutional level. And I say why not?

            I know when I attended university finding decent friends who even had some sort of religious practice was a relief in itself and a common bond against the rampant secularism found in academic environment and amongst the personal beliefs of the student population.

            It was only natural to form a common bond with Christians who share one’s beliefs on such matters.

            I came at it from the viewpoint that I can’t really expect my Protestant friends to have a common view on the Eucharist or the Papacy anyway, so moral or political issues may be a good starting point.

            I have found in my experience, that besides a few exceptions – there are a heap of un-knowledgeable or misinformed Catholics out there, so why waste one’s time forming a friendship with people that by mere coincidence are born into the same religion as me, as opposed to knowledgeable Christians from other traditions who are at least put in some effort to living a moral life opposed to the secular society we find ourselves in.

    • the issues that you have discussed such as women priests, homosexuality and abortion that would actually divide Catholics are actually unifying force to forming a friendship with some of my conservative Protestant friends.

      My point exactly. But as Matthias pointed out, even with this bond of friendship, it is precisely with these communities that the 16th Century divisions are likely to still be a serious concern. So, we make friends on the basis of the current issues, but still have to reconcile with the issues of the past. With the liberal protestants, they couldn’t care less about the 16th Century issues, and yet we have almost zilch in common with them on modern issues.