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Future of Anglo-Catholics in the Episcopal Church

December 8, 2009

People keep asking me if there is any future for Anglo-Catholics in the Episcopal Church. Well, the obvious answer is “Yes, of course’: the more interesting question is “What kind of future is there for Anglo-Catholics in the Episcopal Church?”

There is certainly no problem for Anglo-Catholics as far as liturgy and worship are concerned. Compared to the situation decades ago, there is now a great freedom of choice in the rites and ceremonies used in the Church. Of course, some of these choices make my hair stand on end – Clown Masses, pseudo-seven-veil “liturgical” dances, ten-minute love-ins for the Sign of Peace, for example. But I am sure that there may be faithful Episcopalians who would have similar negative reactions at some of the goings-on in St Clement’s. The hymn “O Mary I could weep for joy” with its chorus “Immaculate, Immaculate” springs to mind; not to mention the number of times the Sacred Ministers take their birettas off and on in the High Mass, or the frequency with which the hand of the Celebrant is kissed.

So I doubt if there will be any return to the old days when the Anglo-Catholic High Church Mass was banned or denigrated. Apart from their unfamiliarity with it, it seems to me that, on the whole, less elevated Episcopalians have a greater appreciation of the stately liturgy of the old rite and a much wider tolerance of diverse modes of worship than in the past. And almost every Episcopal church looks Catholic enough to delight the heart of the early Tractarians, who had to put up with bare Protestant chancels.

When it comes to doctrine, Anglo-Catholics have always claimed to believe only the doctrine of the Catholic Church as expressed in the creeds and the early Councils of the Church. We know that many of our fellow Episcopalians do not believe all these doctrines; so there is still a tremendous job of teaching and preaching to be undertaken by Anglo- Catholics as there was in the 1840s when the Oxford Movement got going. The change is that now we struggle against indifference, while our forbears were faced with open hatred and hostility. But at the crunch points in life, misunderstanding, loneliness, sickness, death – even prosperity – the Catholic Faith can be rediscovered as a wonderful giver of meaning to the seeming mess we and the world are in.

In the sphere of morality, Anglo-Catholics have another sphere where sacramental life and teaching may help solve some of the problems ahead of us and already surrounding us. Most of the moral dilemmas we face come from scientific discoveries, whether in the field of medicine or of sociology. Unlike Roman Catholics, we do not have to be absolutist in our judgements, simply because the Pope has pronounced. We have a freedom denied to RC’s (though envied by many of them) to debate matters such as contraception, divorce, homosexuality, euthanasia, abortion etc from first principles. and I would suggest that our first principles must always be the sacramental life in which we participate in the life of the Holy Trinity which was shown to us in human form in our Lord Jesus Christ.

This means that Anglo-Catholics must stand in the Church as resisters of unthinking fundamentalism, whether it be of the Biblical inerrancy sort or the Papal infallibility sort. Both doctrines are stultifying and lead to infantile religion. God knows, there is more of a need for this kind of Catholicism in the Church than ever and I hope that we Anglo-Catholics will stand up for Reason as much as for Scripture and Tradition.

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73 Comments leave one →
  1. Edward permalink
    December 9, 2009 2:34 am

    An excelent series of observations Father. As a member of the Catholic Church on the Roman side of the Chanel, I have often lamented the fact that the Sacramental Life of the Church is used often as a means of dividing instead of uniting. I find it interesting (an increasingly frustrating!) that high Roman liturgy often indicates a fundamentalist stance with regard to questions of Papal Infalibility while on the Anglican side liturgy is simply collective worship offered up to God in the most fitting manner possible – communio first. I also think there exists a tendency in the Roman Church to confuse what is essential with regard to questions of doctrinal orthodoxy and what are later additions, or superfluous. Stick to the Fathers and the early Church Councils to help keep us on course – always open to the work of the Spirit who guides us, and who works through the sciences and our human reason. Let worship be a place where we can leave campy-ness with regard to trifles aside. Wonderful post as usual Father!

  2. December 9, 2009 4:59 am

    Amen, Father!

  3. December 9, 2009 1:21 pm

    “Most of the moral dilemmas we face come from scientific discoveries, whether in the field of medicine or of sociology.”

    Do they?

    I can’t actually think of any solid evidence that’s relevant. It would be helpful if you could give some more detail.

    • December 9, 2009 2:16 pm

      Scientific advance has made contraception very easy, and in an overcrowded world, I would say it is a Christian duty.

      Abortion is always a sad thing, but it is sometimes by far the lesser of two evils. Modern medicine has made it much safer than in the days of back-street abortionists.

      I think homosexuality has been proven to be partially a matter of heredity, and therefore for some people not the “going against nature” that it used to be taken to be. It should therefore be judged by Christians on whether it is an expression of a loving relationship or (like so much heterosexual behaviour) selfishly promiscuous.

      Divorce, which, like abortion, is always a sad thing, is again often the lesser of evils. And why should a failure in a relationship preclude a Christian from having another? Here sociology and psychology help get things in perspective. Even the RC Church has recognized the need for divorce, though it calls it a nullity.

      So in all these examples, advances in physical, medical and other sciences have opened up new ways of dealing with moral questions.

      • December 9, 2009 3:43 pm

        I could not agree more with you on abortion, homosexuality, and divorce.

      • fr. bill permalink
        December 10, 2009 1:25 am

        Father, Can you shed more light on your assertion that abortion ” is sometimes by far the lesser of two evils”?
        I expect that from the Protestant wing of Christianity, especially the Unitarian far reaches, and understand how private judgment arrives there. However, I’ve never heard an Anglo-Catholic apology for abortion.

      • Nick permalink
        December 16, 2009 5:31 pm

        How, exactly, could abortion be the lesser of two evils even in your “back alley” case as one human always dies in an abortion (or at least the lion’s share of the time)?

        As to homosexuality being a matter of heredity, how does that change it being both a sin and harmful to the persons involved any more than say an inherited tendency to steal? Also, how does even an inherited adoration become more natural?

        How does divorce solve any problems exactly? How does marriage with divorce represent the love of God as shown in Ephesians?

        How are any of these positions even in the slightest orthodox?

  4. December 9, 2009 2:00 pm

    As an Anglo-Catholic in the Episcopal Church, I deeply appreciated your comments on this topic.

  5. belovedmaiden permalink
    December 9, 2009 4:19 pm

    Thank you for this thoughtful post. Hopefully it will remind other Anglo-Catholics about the importance of their presence in our worship. I have been going through an education and ‘conversion’ of sorts into Anglo-Catholicism and cannot stress how important it has been in my own spiritual development and piety. Once the education began, there was no turning back ~ it is becoming part of who I am in relation to God, the Church, and the world.

    So, for those of you out there who grew up knowing nothing different than Anglo-Catholicsm, don’t take it for granted. Consider it your duty and task to educate others ~ you never know whose life it will change.

  6. December 9, 2009 7:59 pm

    Is it fair to ask whether “advances in physical, medical and other sciences” might “open up new ways” of seeing the ordination of women?

    • December 9, 2009 9:54 pm

      Yes, Brian, it is possible. There are strong theological arguments on both sides and there are strong pragmatic arguments on both sides. And the theological arguments must surely take note of the pragmatic arguments. Sadly there are those on both sides who refuse to believe that the other side has a point.

  7. David O'Rourke permalink
    December 10, 2009 4:28 am

    Father, in your enumerating of the various moral issues of our time your views leave me wondering how your positions, as a priest, are any different from the prevaling views of secular society. Your readers seem rather comforted by these views but then who wouldn’t be comforted by a good dose of moral relatavism spooned out by a priest.

    You will no doubt think I am being rude and even snarkey but the way you are misleading people with this answer is tragic.

  8. December 10, 2009 8:26 am

    “I’ve never heard an Anglo-Catholic apology for abortion.”

    It is notable that Rowan Williams for all his liberalism in other areas remains firmly pro-life.

    Affirming Catholicism publish The Practice of Abortion: a critique by Michael Banner, which takes a strong anti-abortion line. A useful monograph (if one ignores the left-wing politics that creep in towards the end).

  9. Stephen permalink
    December 10, 2009 8:58 am

    Father, Your comments are a breath of fresh air, and I thank you for them! As an RC who loves the Traditional Mass, I am sick and tired of priests telling me from the pulpit that there is only one candidate that I may vote for in an upcoming election, or that as a Catholic, I MUST sign on to this or that post-card campaign meant to influence an upcoming piece of legislation. This borders on spiritual violence and I thoroughly resent it! That’s why its so nice to read such enlightened and compassionate comments from a Traditionalist priest such as you, Father! May God Bless You!

  10. December 10, 2009 5:03 pm

    Sorry, Father, you know me so this won’t be a surprise, but what you describe is Affirming Catholicism which is not Catholicism but credally orthodox high-church Protestantism.

    I don’t see liberal relativism allowing Catholic practices as a victory. As they say, the Anglo-Catholics won all these little battles but lost the war, or does ceremonial matter if you’re in a (liberal) Protestant denomination not a Catholic church?

    Since the ‘Enlightenment’ shattered Anglicanism’s Calvinised faith, much of Anglicanism’s been a deep freezer of latitudinarian moralism giving lip service to credal orthodoxy, something the real Anglo-Catholics were reacting against, denying it and trying to change it at the same time, claiming the whole patrimony of ancient Chalcedonian orthodox Christianity as their own. As you know high church originally meant authority not ceremonial. That patrimony applies to everything including morals… and why in that consensus including today women’s ordination isn’t done and may well be impossible.

    As a libertarian I see Stephen’s point and thanks, Welsh Jacobite, for the pro-life one. An Episcopal priest in my blogroll is like that: quietly pro-life and like me won’t let herself get played by the Republican Party. So as you can see, I see the other side’s point on WO – loving and esteeming women of course and their holding that WO is discipline not doctrine – but our holy mother the church, the greatest lady of course, trumps all.

  11. Bromartin permalink
    December 10, 2009 5:39 pm

    As a lifelong Anglican, and Anglo-Catholic for most of those years, I would claim to be a “conservative” in Christian faith, although my earthly “politics” are, I believe, more moderate.
    I do find your direct list of replies, to the Welsh Jacobite, yesterday, to be quite, shall we say, “provokative.” As one who has been directly involved with abortion, my shame and indifference has only been resolved by the Blood of Christ by way of the Confessional. There is little justification for abortion on demand, and I stand opposed to it personally; however, the extreme reaction to this unfortunate practice, and to the law (after all), is something else again, and Rome’s militant rallies, in its “life or murder” ultimatum, provides no edification for well-meaning Catholics, but only prejudice and muttering.
    Father, I don’t know that anything has been scientifically decided regarding sexual “orientation,” though you suggest that maybe we should know these things by now..(?) Your suggestion that the social sciences are providing answers and discussion is interesting, but though they are at least said to use “scientific method,” we hear constantly of the resulting flip-flops of these “ologies.”
    SAINTCLEMENTSBLOG is fascinating. Thank-you.

  12. william permalink
    December 10, 2009 8:17 pm

    This is turning into an interesting thread. To come to the defense of Fr. Reid a little, whose ministry I admired very much while attending St. Clement’s during my college days, whatever one thinks of abortion, homosexuality, divorce, and women’s ordination, what the godly clerk’ has described here does not fit what I understand to be ‘moral relativism’, as Plato would say, “in the proper way of speaking.”. Isn’t moral relativism more like Alister Crowley’s famous injunction: “Do was thou wilt, and that shall be the whole of the law.”–but even that doesn’t quite get at it, because, presumably, one would quantitatively and/or qualitatively will some things more than others. For example, claiming abortion or birth control are permissible under certain circumstances seems to me like some sort of a value claim. I also presume when we speak about subjects like abortion and homosexuality–even those who take a more liberal view are not understanding this to mean the complete abandonment of other guiding virtues–someone wise once told me there is a quantitative and qualitative difference between being celibate or ‘the whore of Babylon’. Divorce for reasons of martial abuse, or abortions performed for the health of the mother are different than ‘irreconcilable differences’ and morning after pills. Perhaps I am mistaken in this, but I understood the notion of moral relativism to mean all actions are equally good–which would be more like Dr. Pangloss in Candide–where everything is equally good because we live in the best of all possible worlds. I don’t think anyone here is claiming that all actions are equally good, and in fact this conversation itself seems to suggest definite distinctions being made. I just see “moral relativism” being tossed around a great deal in our society like ‘nazism’ to stand for something that is considered distasteful.

  13. December 10, 2009 9:20 pm

    Abortion to save the life of the mother was always legal and is allowed by the church through the principle of double effect (indirect abortion as a result of an operation etc. to save the mother).

  14. December 10, 2009 9:31 pm

    Sorry, John, but you’re wrong: RC doctrine is that abortion is always wrong, even when it might save the life of the mother. In fact one manual makes this very clear by pointing out that the mother is baptized and will go to heaven, but the unborn baby is unbaptized and so must be saved. The kind of God postulated by such views is pretty nasty.

    • dcs permalink
      December 11, 2009 3:50 pm

      In fact one manual makes this very clear by pointing out that the mother is baptized and will go to heaven, but the unborn baby is unbaptized and so must be saved. The kind of God postulated by such views is pretty nasty.

      I would say, rather, that the kind of person who would murder an unborn baby to save the mother is nasty. We would not murder a born baby to save a mother.

  15. December 10, 2009 10:02 pm

    I was expecting that, Father. Direct abortion is wrong; indirect is the taking of a life but not a murder unlike 99.99 per cent of abortions today (which are what people mean when they say abortion), which are elective and for convenience’s sake, not life-saving out of medical necessity. Then you can get into the question of viability; save the mother or both die anyway. (I’m certain that double effect applies in ectopic pregnancies for example, where viability is impossible.) There’s the case of St Gianna Molla.

  16. December 11, 2009 12:23 am

    Ah, yes, I see what you mean. I agree that abortion for anything but the most compelling medical necessity is gravely sinful.

  17. william permalink
    December 11, 2009 1:56 am

    Sorry, John, but you’re wrong: RC doctrine is that abortion is always wrong, even when it might save the life of the mother. In fact one manual makes this very clear by pointing out that the mother is baptized and will go to heaven, but the unborn baby is unbaptized and so must be saved. The kind of God postulated by such views is pretty nasty.

    I’ve never heard of this, so I’m curious–what happens to all the children who die before they are born in this model–do they all go to Limbo? Some streams of Calvinist thought look to the passage where David is mourning his son to point towards the salvation of all infants (in the sense that a great portion of the elect happen to be babies that die before their year of maturity/conscience). Babies always seem to be one of those ‘out lier’ cases that is difficult for different soteriological models find a good way to deal with.

    • December 11, 2009 2:01 am

      [Unbaptised] babies always seem to be one of those ‘out lier’ cases that is difficult for different soteriological models find a good way to deal with.

      Which is exactly what Catholic doctrine says. we don’t know!

      You may believe in limbo or, like the reigning Pope, not (that they go to heaven).

      • Disgusted in DC permalink
        December 11, 2009 7:26 pm

        The problem of abortions to save the life of the mother is a bit complicated. A direct abortion, that is, directly intending the termination of pregnancy before viability or the directly intended destruction of a viable fetus, whether as a means or an end, is a direct abortion, and therefore always illicit in Catholic moral theolgoy, even if the purpose of the abortion is save the life of the mother. However, medical treatments to save the life of the mother which have the side effect of the death of embryo/fetus, in which the death of the unborn is not intended, may be an indirect abortion and therefore morally acceptable under the doctrine of “double effect.” If a pregnant mother has uterine cancer, it is licit to remove the uterus even if that will result in the death of the baby.

        Ectopic pregnancies are a bit trickier as some treatments are considered to be direct abortions and others not. Catholic moralists who accept the magisterium have arrived at different opinions on particular treatments. About a century ago, a Holy Office ruling seemed (at least to many) to rule that all treatments for tubular pregnancy were direct abortions. However, as later clarified, the ruling did not preclude removing a fallopian tube that had an ectopic pregnancy on the grounds that the tube was infected and a danger to the life of the mother.

        There are still, thankfully exceptionally rare, cases where the mother will die if she does not have a direct abortion. Although moralists like Germain Grisez tried to come up with a way of redefining such abortions as indirect, but the magisterium has not accepted his views.

  18. fr. bill permalink
    December 11, 2009 4:55 am

    Father, May I ask what you make of the Episcopal Church being part of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, or the outspoken pro-abortion stance of the dean of Episcopal Divinity School, Katherine Ragsdale? I’m not trying to call you out; I, too, am an Episcopal priest and I cannot reconcile Catholic social teaching with the position of our own church. (when push comes to shove, I’m on the side of the Magisterium over General Convention any day)

  19. December 11, 2009 1:42 pm

    I disagree with a great number of the “official” positions of the Episcopal Church on many subjects, including this one. But, more fundamentally, I hold such official positions as impertinent interferences with our right to disagree with one another. This is part of our Anglican heritage. People who want authoritative teaching from the Church are much happier as RC’s or Orthodox Christians. Or fundamentalist Protestants, for that matter.

    • fr. bill permalink
      December 11, 2009 1:58 pm

      Thanks. I must admit to needing authoritative teaching, I’m not that smart.

      God bless you and I wish you a wonderful remainder of Advent, a merry Christmas, etc.

      Fr. Bill

    • December 11, 2009 2:54 pm

      I hold such official positions as impertinent interferences with our right to disagree with one another. This is part of our Anglican heritage. People who want authoritative teaching from the Church are much happier as RC’s or Orthodox Christians. Or fundamentalist Protestants, for that matter.

      The old high churchmen, Tractarians and traditional Anglo-Catholics didn’t see the church as a perpetual debating society but, in theory anyway (in fact they’ve always been a minority in Anglicanism battling with their bishops), magistra (just like Rome), and identifying with RCs and Orthodox was certainly what the last were about, not identifying with Anglican comprehensivenss nor saying that broadness is a feature not a bug of their church (read classic ACs like Clem’s own Fr Joiner and it’s clear they saw it as a bug to be squashed), nor begging for inclusion in that under some sort of politically correct amnesty.

      As wrong as fundamentalist Protestants are I admire their and other conservative Protestants’ (often miscalled fundamentalists) fidelity to their doctrine but they have the same authority problem as their liberal Protestant cousins. They don’t have a leg to stand on.

  20. AMM permalink
    December 11, 2009 1:54 pm

    People who want authoritative teaching from the Church are much happier as RC’s or Orthodox Christians

    When it comes to doctrine, Anglo-Catholics have always claimed to believe only the doctrine of the Catholic Church as expressed in the creeds and the early Councils of the Church.

    When did authority go out of the church?

    • December 11, 2009 2:44 pm

      ‘When it comes to doctrine, Anglo-Catholics have always claimed to believe only the doctrine of the Catholic Church as expressed in the creeds and the early Councils of the Church.’

      When did authority go out of the church?

      Yes, the ‘first five centuries’ spiel of Lancelot Andrewes doesn’t make sense. To a Restorationist (not in the Stuart sense but the American Protestant one, founded by a Ulster Scot, Campbell, that Brother Stephen was born into) perhaps but not to a Catholic. The church didn’t suddenly develop laryngitis and go dumb/silent at some point. (Nor can it change defined doctrine.)

  21. dcs permalink
    December 11, 2009 3:48 pm

    Yes, the ‘first five centuries’ spiel of Lancelot Andrewes doesn’t make sense.

    And even if it did, the Church of the first five centuries certainly condemned abortion, contraception, homosexuality, and virtually every other relativist talking point afflicting the Church today.

    If we have a fundamental “right to disagree with one another” then no truth can be affirmed and no heresy can be condemned.

    God bless.

  22. AMM permalink
    December 11, 2009 4:47 pm

    The church didn’t suddenly develop laryngitis and go dumb/silent at some point.

    That’s why I would disagree with this statement

    People who want authoritative teaching from the Church are much happier as RC’s or Orthodox Christians. Or fundamentalist Protestants, for that matter.

    Because the source of authority for fundamentalists Protestants is the same as the other churches of the Reformation (including now the mainstream Anglican ones); and that is private judgment. I agree with you YF that Keble, Liddon, Pusey and others did not envision things this way; and their reaction to things like the Colenso, Essays & Reviews, or their view of authority would likely put them in the category of fundamentalists by current standards.

    I would also have to say in my own opinion that papal infallibility does not represent and unthinking fundamentalism.

  23. December 11, 2009 8:39 pm

    “We would not murder a born baby to save a mother.”

    That’s not stating the case fairly.

    The case is of two human beings, both innocent, both of equal worth, but if one lives, the other dies – and you have the choice. Even if you refuse to act one will die, so you have effectively made a choice.

    The fact that one is a mother and the other her baby (whether born or unborn) does not materially alter the case. (And it is of course one that arises in other contexts, e.g. warfare.)

  24. David O'Rourke permalink
    December 11, 2009 9:34 pm

    Welsh Jacobite says: “The case is of two human beings, both innocent, both of equal worth, but if one lives, the other dies – and you have the choice. Even if you refuse to act one will die, so you have effectively made a choice”.

    One may not directly kill the child to save the mother nor may one directly kill the mother to save the child. The classic prodedure in this happily rare situation is to choose between KILLING the child to save the mother or ALLOWING THE MOTHER TO DIE in an attempt to save the child. From what I understand, any third option whereby the child would be ALLOWED to die as a result of choosing to save the mother is a medical impossibility.

    Thus, the choice has nothing to do with valuing the child over the mother or vice versa. It has everything to do with saving one or both of them while not directly killing either and apparently, from a medical standpoint, this can only mean saving the child while the mother dies.

    The commandment remains, “You shall not kill.”

  25. December 11, 2009 9:46 pm

    I’d be happier with the fanatical anti-abortionists if I did not know that many of them are very happy to kill criminals with the death penalty and Afghans, Iraqis and others for military reasons. I wonder how many children have been killed, not in the womb, but in their homes and daily lives in war zones. Of course, maybe they are not killing these children but just allowing them too die, as an unfortunate consequence of the wars.

    • December 11, 2009 9:58 pm

      You know me well enough to know we’re nearly singing from the same hymn sheet on this one (see above on not being used by the Republicans, which many pro-life people are), certainly on not only Iraq and Afghanistan but Palestine, but the traditional thinking as you know is some crimes forfeit your right to live, something an inconvenient baby doesn’t do, and there is such a thing as just war (self-defence writ large as if you or I shot an attacker in our homes), which very few of them are.

    • william permalink
      December 11, 2009 10:40 pm

      I wonder, Father, what you think of the position that, while I admit theoretically permitted within Catholic tradition, in practice the death penalty should essentially never be used, and that a just war would be almost impossible to fight. (I suppose for honesty of disclosure, I have to admit I am a little personally extreme in this area, since I pretty much take after the minority position of complete pacifism (in the sense of not being willing to kill in self defense or fight a defensive war); I certainly understand the perspective of mothers who say they would kill to defend their children, but I cannot personally imagine a situation, even defending my family, where I would feel morally comfortable killing someone else).

      Regarding the first point, I wonder if the Rabbinical sources provide a guide for us in interpreting Biblical death penalties–while the Mishnah and Talmud comment on legal passages the proscribe the death penalty, it is made so difficult to implement that these ideas are essentially theoretical, and it is very doubtful whether any of the execution methods were ever carried out in real life. This may also be because some are so bizarre that they would be difficult to perform–like pouring molten metal down the throat of a criminal. If I remember this correctly, they are aimed at killing in a way that mimics the way God kills people–instantaneously, without torture, and without creating any external marks on the body which would indicate human involvement. These seem like very good moral guide lines for a hypothetical execution, and I doubt whether there is any modern method which actually achieves them. Even lethal injection is said to be not as quick or painless as it is sometimes represented as being. It also seems to me like Our Lord provides a model here when he is being led away by the soldiers, and the disciples try to defend him with weapons by attacking the guards, and He tells them to put away their weapons, and then goes willingly to His death.

      Maybe I will be criticized for saying this, but I would even consider World War II an unjust war–certainly the Germans and Japanese committed unbelievably horrible atrocities, but the way the narrative about this conflict has been rewritten to valourize American involvement is incredible to my way of thinking. Much is often made of how vicious the Japanese forces were in the sense that they would rather die in Kamikaze missions rather than surrender–but rarely is it mentioned that one contributing motivation for this suicidal tendency is the fact that many believed the Americans would just kill them if they were captured, so there was no point to surrendering. If the US had lost the war, we may also be fairly certain I believe, the individuals responsible for fire-bombing Dresden and Tokyo, and nuking Nagasaki and Hiroshima would have faced war crimes tribunals and likely have been executed just like the Tojo and certain members of the German High Command.

  26. dcs permalink
    December 11, 2009 10:04 pm

    I’d be happier with the fanatical anti-abortionists if I did not know that many of them are very happy to kill criminals with the death penalty and Afghans, Iraqis and others for military reasons.

    It is dishonest to compare abortion with the death penalty. One is murder, the other is not.

    I agree that it is sad that so few Catholics support the teachings of the Church on just war.

    However, if “fanatical anti-abortionists” are guilty of focusing on abortion to the exclusion of the death penalty and unjust war, perhaps it is because the sheer number of deaths caused by abortion dwarfs the number of deaths caused by the death penalty and unjust war.

    • Nick permalink
      December 16, 2009 5:41 pm

      Indeed. The difference in the totals is outstanding. Not to mention the argument is baseless. That is, I will not defend person X because I don’t like person Y’s politics who is also defending person X.

      Really?

  27. Stephen permalink
    December 11, 2009 11:02 pm

    I freely concede that more people die because of abortion then from the death penalty or unjust wars. But I dare say that virtually all of us as Catholics (whether of the Roman, Anglican or Orthodox Tradition) support the concept of “choosing life” as scriptures admonish us.With that in mind, I am always bewildered when I see “pro-lifers” who are so willing to oppose nutrition programs , education programs and even health care itself to poor children who are already born!

    • December 11, 2009 11:22 pm

      I am always bewildered when I see “pro-lifers” who are so willing to oppose nutrition programs , education programs and even health care itself to poor children who are already born!

      Here they could be authentically libertarian: not denying that children should have these things but not agreeing with the left on the means to give them. In other words the end doesn’t justify the means of the government taking your, my and others’ money to play Santa Claus. (It’s easy to play the big shot with stolen money.) And if you give the state that power you also give it the power to wage unjust wars and deny your civil rights.

  28. David O'Rourke permalink
    December 12, 2009 4:48 am

    dcs is right wben he says that it is dishonest to compare abortion to the death penalty. Abortion is inherently or intrinsically wrong. The fetus has a right to life and there is no way an innocent unborn child could do anything to relinquish this right. by contrast, the murderer has surrendered his/her right to freedom and even to life so the state can WITH GOOD REASON EXECUTE THE MURDERER. Still, it is hard to imagine a good reason in our day. I am a Canadian. We haven’t had capital punishment for many years, Thank God.

    Is the war in Afganistan just? I change my mind once a week on that one. Certainly the war in Iraq was NOT just.

    YOUNG FOGEY said: “Here they could be authentically libertarian: not denying that children should have these things but not agreeing with the left on the means to give them. In other words the end doesn’t justify the means of the government taking your, my and others’ money to play Santa Claus.”

    But the right to the possession of wealth is not unlimited. Generally speaking, the wealth of this earth is meant for the inhabitants of this earth. All of them! This doesn’t mean that everyone is entitled to possess an equal amount of wealth, regardless of their efforts nor does it by any means suggest any kind of “dictatorship of the proletariat” but it does imply that everyone has certain rights to the means to maintain life and health and to take part reasonably in the benefits of the society in which they live. The libertarian paranoia of government finds scant support in moral law. I might add, this paranoia seems to be very much an American characteristic and to you who are Americans might I say that the world outside your borders is watching in bemused unbelief as you fall over each other in a strange rush to further enrich the private insurance empire as a means of avoiding what you call the “public option”. In other words, the end emphatically CAN justify the means of the government taking some of your money for the betterment of the commonweal.

  29. John Reilly permalink
    December 12, 2009 9:03 pm

    Dear Father Reid: I recognize the need for brevity on a blog, but I believe you are knocking down straw men by citing “old manuals” and criticizing “fanatical anti-abortionists.”

    A discussion of the Church’s teaching should address the encyclical Evangelium Vitae. There, the late JPII used scripture, tradition and natural law to demonstrate the necessity for respect for life generally and against abortion in particular. The encyclical is persuasive not merely for its authority, but for the intellectual force of its argument.

    Since you acknowledge abortion is gravely sinful, surely the church’s teaching about such a serious matter can’t be an “impertinent interference with our right to disagree with one another,” can it? Doesn’t Peter have the duty to explain the meaning of the Fifth Commandment?

    Best regards, John

    • December 12, 2009 9:23 pm

      That’s fine if you regard the Pope as Peter! I don’t. I am very much pro-life, but still refuse to rule out abortion and other bad things as necessary on occasion. The lesser of two evils is always to be chosen, even though it is itself evil. If I saw someone about to machine gun a school full of children, I would put a bullet between his eyes (well, I’d try to – I’m no great shot!) and would regard it as a good deed.

      • dcs permalink
        December 14, 2009 5:22 pm

        The lesser of two evils is always to be chosen, even though it is itself evil.

        If true, why should one assume that killing the infant is the lesser of two evils?

        If I saw someone about to machine gun a school full of children, I would put a bullet between his eyes (well, I’d try to – I’m no great shot!) and would regard it as a good deed.

        But of course one can’t compare an unborn baby to a (potential or actual) mass murderer, or at least one shouldn’t.

        Furthermore, killing in self-defense or in defense of another isn’t evil. If it were evil, then it would not be permitted, since we can’t do evil in the hopes that good may come of it.

  30. David O'Rourke permalink
    December 13, 2009 12:12 am

    Father, we can all sympathise with your example of shooting the killer in order to defend and protect the innocent chidren but surely, applying the logic of your analogy to any instance of abortion would mean shooting the abortionist (who in this case is the killer) in order to defend and protect the fetus) who in this case is the innocent child).

    But this is not where you intended your analogy to lead. You would go against your own analogy and let the abortionist have his violent way with the child. What possible circumstances could you suggest that would justify abrogating the right of the child to his or her life.

  31. David O'Rourke permalink
    December 13, 2009 12:52 am

    Whoops! That last sentence should end with a question mark rather than a period.

  32. December 13, 2009 1:24 am

    No, the abortionist may be the healer, saving the life of the mother.

    • Nick permalink
      December 16, 2009 5:43 pm

      And how often is that the case and how does your position in any way make sure that is the only case in which it occurs?

  33. David O'Rourke permalink
    December 13, 2009 3:30 am

    Are you telling us that the abortionist is NOT killing the child?

  34. AMM permalink
    December 13, 2009 3:56 am

    I reflected back on the original post, and the part that I sort of missed before was this

    The change is that now we struggle against indifference, while our forbears were faced with open hatred and hostility.

    I think I felt like it wasn’t just indifference, but an inevitable stripping away of all the things that mattered to me. I wasn’t, and am not, a super conservative person; I view myself as just middle of the road traditional. What I saw and felt though was that everything was going to go away, and that the ethos at work was not indifference and perhaps not even hostile; but that there was no stopping it.

  35. December 14, 2009 3:03 am

    Let’s try not to forget there is one Holy Spirit and one faith as we all say in the Nicene Creed. I find it hard to reconcile the Anglo-Catholic interpretation of Anglicanism with the Evangelical Anglican interpretations of Anglicanism.

    They are two very different religions. Ultimately, Anglicanism says every person is his or her own infallible pope.

    • December 14, 2009 3:10 am

      Not really. We Anglicans say there is no infallible Pope.

      • December 14, 2009 4:28 pm

        So when you represent S. Clement’s, an Anglo-Papalist parish, is it… a pose?

        Which to be fair brings this up: how is it Anglo-Papalist? Is it just understood, an unwritten rule? I understand the official standard for doctrine at Clem’s is Trent. (But does Clem’s have that authority?) Of course it’s part of a diocese, a national church and a communion that teach exactly what you say.

      • December 15, 2009 1:32 am

        So then do you believe each person’s individual ego is the arbiter of truth rather than the Holy Spirit and his guidance of the universal Church to share one infallible rule of faith? Also, is truth defined by individual feelings or reason that is devoid of sentimentalism or emotionalism?

        It seems that Anglicans who favor women’s ordination, homosexuality, abortion, etc. always resort to the logical fallacy of the appeal to emotion, which is profoundly unreasonable and subjective.

        I gave up Protestantism when I read St. Paul’s teachings.
        “Beware lest any man cheat you by philosophy and vain deceit: according to the tradition of men according to the elements of the world and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8

        “And we charge you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother walking disorderly and not according to the tradition which they have received of us.” 2 Thessalonians 3:6

        “Therefore, brethren, stand fast: and hold the traditions, which you have learned, whether by word or by our epistle.” 2 Thessalonians 2:15

        “Careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 One body and one Spirit: as you are called in one hope of your calling. 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” Ephesians 4:3-5

        (How can Anglicans have one faith when in reality there seem to be many faiths in Anglicanism?)

        ” Which is not another: only there are some that trouble you and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema. 9 As we said before, so now I say again: If any one preach to you a gospel, besides that which you have received, let him be anathema.” Galatians 1:7-9

        “For God is not the God of dissension, but of peace: as also I teach in all the churches of the saints.”1 Cornithians 14:33

        “A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid: 11 Knowing that he that is such an one is subverted and sinneth, being condemned by his own judgment.” Titus 3:10

        (If St. Paul were a subjectivist, why would he admonish against heresy or heretics?)

        I think you would be hard-pressed to find someone like St. Irenaeus who would have said it is OK to be simultaneously Catholic and still be a Gnostic. That seems to be the Anglican ethic from my outsider’s perspective.

        Either there are seven sacraments as most Anglo-Catholics believe or there are two. Either Jesus is truly present in the Holy Eucharist, or the Eucharist is some sort of memorial.
        Most of the practices at St. Clement’s run contrary to the 39 Articles of Religion. Not that is a bad thing of course.

        Before we get to papal infallibility, where do you stand on ecclesiastical infallibility or conciliar infallibility? (Papal infallibility is really a subset of ecclesiastical infallibility.)

    • December 14, 2009 4:20 pm

      I find it hard to reconcile the Anglo-Catholic interpretation of Anglicanism with the Evangelical Anglican interpretations of Anglicanism.

      They are two very different religions. Ultimately, Anglicanism says every person is his or her own infallible pope.

      Exactly. Protestant private judgement.

      But church and papal infallibility can’t change defined church teachings; the Anglicans with women clergy and homosexual weddings say they can, claiming a power no Pope dared.

  36. Russell Fuhrman permalink
    December 14, 2009 3:44 am

    I find it strange that this whole debate on abortion has been between men. Aren’t there any women who read this blog?

    • December 14, 2009 3:27 pm

      Thank you for this observation.

    • Nick permalink
      December 16, 2009 5:45 pm

      Saying that men aren’t involved in birth is a bit short sighted.

      • December 19, 2009 4:09 pm

        It’s not a question as to whether men are involved in birth, or not, but rather that women haven’t been heard from, and their voices in this matter have exceptional value.

      • December 22, 2009 5:06 am

        @Russel: yes, there are women who read this blog. And, like ambly, I am also grateful for your observation.
        @Nick: it doesn’t appear that anyone has denied men’s involvement in birth.

        I find these “saving the baby” while “allowing the mother to die” theories appalling and offensive.

  37. David O'Rourke permalink
    December 14, 2009 7:49 am

    Father, just above you and I had a little dialogue in which you presented an analogy whereby a man is about to machine gun a school full of children and you would shoot him between the eyes so stop him from so doing.

    The dialogue continues through about two or three succesive postings and concludes with my saying, “are you telling us that the abortionist is NOT killing the child?

    You didn’t reply and I think the answer is pretty important.

    The postings are just above. You or anyone else can read them easily.

  38. December 14, 2009 2:19 pm

    I thought it was a rhetorical question – of course the abortionist is killing the child.

  39. Bromartin permalink
    December 14, 2009 2:49 pm

    Before we start splitting hairs over the infallibility of the Bishop of Rome and/or the Church (which may be a bit more understandable by the words of Jesus), the Pope’s infallible statements are not made without much discussion and debate among counsels and commissions, correct? He is not a dictator, although many, as a defensive measure or through ignorance see him as such. He is very much a first among equals and a focus for authority by his heritage.

    • December 14, 2009 4:23 pm

      Yes, that’s true. I wrote above that he can’t change past defined doctrine; he can’t invent new doctrine. The only times he’s used his claim, for the Immaculate Conception (before the definition of papal infallibility but still a use of the claim) and the Assumption, were after consultations and to define things all Roman Catholics believed anyway. Very tame!

  40. Stephen permalink
    December 14, 2009 11:59 pm

    I agree that the Popes have been extremely prudent in their use of Papal Infalability since Vatican I defined it in 1870. That having been said, I must admit that I almost fell out of my chair when I saw someone had written that the Pope was the “first among equals”. I’m sure that’s what the writer sincerely believes, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be what recent Popes believe about their own office! Please recall that John Paul II said many times that The Church posessed an “ordinary magesterium” which the faithful were bound to obey even when the “Ex Cathedra” option was not invoked, and this certainly has not changed under Benedict XVI. This “ordinary magesterium” is the authority they used to claim that issues like Women’s Ordination and Birth Control are settled matters.

  41. AMM permalink
    December 15, 2009 1:11 am

    While I don’t happen to subscribe to pastor aeternus, I do believe there was some thinking and reasoning behind it. I don’t think it’s just revelation on tap.

    A discussion on Young Fogey’s blog actually made me think a little today. The two parishes I’ve visited that were the most expressly Anglo-Catholic were Ascension in Chicago and St. Paul’s in Seattle. It’s been a long time since the former, but probably a decade for the latter. My guess is the style of Anglo-Catholicism will end up probably aligning around what it is like at St. Paul’s. 79 BCP, contemporary vestments, some other currents mixed in like inclusive language liturgies and so on. What struck me today thinking about this is that it is actually pretty consistent with how Anglo Papalism has evolved in terms of its liturgical ethos.

    The one danger I saw for the future was the lack of children in these environments. That does not bode well.

  42. MWB permalink
    December 15, 2009 12:40 pm

    This is a very interesting discussion. The ghost of Newman is everywhere, and not surprisingly, as this discussion wouldn’t have been taking place without the Oxford Movement AND the development of Catholicsm which arose out of Newman’s thought at the Second Vatican council. However, is it not possible to look beyond Newman’s idea that Protestantism is defined (and invalidated) by the use of Private Judgement and his characterisation of the Anglican Church is ‘the veriest of non-entities’? The future of Anglo-Catholicism seems to me to lie in coming to terms with Newman by re-appropriating the Reformation. I think this is what Cardinal Kasper had in mind when he talked of going back to the sources of Anglicanism. Of course Anglicanorum Coetibus put this out of everybody’s mind.

    ‘How can Anglicans have one faith when in reality there seem to be many faiths in Anglicanism?’

    I think many Anglicans, including some Anglo-Papalists, have complicitly agreed with Newman that it is possible to believe anything as an Anglican. (The ‘broad ship’ – ‘many traditions’ approach to Anglicanism). This is unfortunate and may have lead in part to the current malaise. The only solution to this that I see, is to open the universally-accepted basic document of Anglicanism, the BCP, and read it anew in the light of the present situation. Does it still speak? Is the Anglican way not beautifully both Catholic (Creedal and Sacramental) and Reformed (Justification by faith and sola scriptura)? A way free of the errors of Rome and the errors of sectarianism? Could not Fr. Reid’s post which began this discussion be seen in that light?

    Abortion (which got this intriguing discussion going) is wrong if it is contrary to the moral law not to kill, but there is no earthly authority that can tell me when, in my particular circumstances, that is. I must determine that for myself. If I realise later that I was mistaken, I must seek forgiveness. The role of the state in regulating moral choices is not my concern in this place. This is not moral relativism, there is right and wrong. However faith is more important than ideology.

  43. December 15, 2009 10:45 pm

    What future? With women bishops, you will have no remaining shred of valid orders, ergo no catholicism, just Protestantism in fancy dress.

  44. Jordan permalink
    December 16, 2009 2:03 am

    Father, I agree with you on the future of the High Mass. I am homosexual (though I find that term devisive), but I love the lord and try to love others with all my heart. I am inspired by the quality and love in which you praise our lord! Thank you for your love and devotion!

  45. David O'Rourke permalink
    December 18, 2009 11:12 pm

    MWB, Why is it that no earthly authority can tell you if you can kill an uborn baby? Is there also no earthly authority that can tell you not to kill a baby that has been born? What’s the difference between a born baby and an unborn baby that killing one is something the state can interfere with but the other is your own bnusiness?

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