Archive for the 'Roman Catholic Church' Category

ACNA Archbishop asks his bishops and clergy to hold off on signing The Marriage Pledge | Virtueonline

December 1, 2014

Archbishop Foley Beech is right to ask ACNA clergy to pause before signing the currently circulating pledge concerning the lawful recording of marriage certificates. This action serves people who have come to ordained clergy seeking what ordained clergy do. The legal documentation is beside the point and has nothing whatever to do with the very unfortunate situation in which same gender marriages are permitted.

This will require a bit of time and patience. There are two links immediately below. The first takes you to a widely circulated source which, in this instance, I presume to be accurate. This item brings the reader up to date on what is frequently called the “Radner-Seitz pledge.” The second link takes you to the Roman Catholic canon law page of J. N. Peters, whose reputation and qualifications are, to the best of my knowledge, unblemished. Please put aside old prejudices (if I did, you can too!) and careful read the arguments. In my humble opinion, Peters makes a sufficient case as to why the marriage pledge is a bad idea, no matter how much we may oppose same gender marriage.

ACNA Archbishop asks his bishops and clergy to hold off on signing The Marriage Pledge | Virtueonline – The Voice for Global Orthodox Anglicanism.

Peters view, which seems fairly clear headed to me, is understood by following this link to “A chronology of (mostly) my comments on ecclesiastical cooperation with civil marriage.” Abp. Beach is well advised to avoid the knee-jerk response that provides little more than instant gratification





The Sacred Page: God Mounts His Throne with Shouts of Joy: The Readings for Ascension Day

May 28, 2014

Our Roman Catholic friends have some fine analysis of Ascension Day, which is properly celebrated on a Thursday, 40 days after Easter. Not many RC jurisdictions celebrate the correct day, moving it over to the following Sunday. Anglicans use the same readings which are discussed in detail on the Sacred Page blog.

The Sacred Page: God Mounts His Throne with Shouts of Joy: The Readings for Ascension Day.

And, by the way, I double-dog date my Anglican clergy friends to read the traditional, and amazingly beautiful, Collect for the feast.

GRANT, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that like as we do believe thy only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens; so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.


Supremes weaken church, strengthen state, damage wall of separation

May 6, 2014

The consequence of the unfortunate high court ruling to allow prayers before town meetings will not be a good thing for those who take prayer seriously. The triumphalism of the most vocal and obnoxious Evangelicals will place Christianity in an even worse light as seeking the power and privilege of a class ruling by divine right. It is as if these Christians have never heard of gay marriage. This small supposed victory will be paid for at a dear price.

Some of us traditionalist Christians think the Supreme Court was completely wrong, that prayer is, in one sense, part of a sacred relationship between individuals and their Creator and, in another sense, between the Church and its head and redeemer, Jesus Christ. We understand that civil religion is no religion and serves only the state interests. Christianity suffers because of the inherent trivialization of our practices. Justice Kennedy says the prayers should be seen as “ceremonial” and part of the national tradition.

That sounds good, unless one believes that there is an Entity on the other end who cares, listens, and acts upon our supplications. “The inclusion of a brief, ceremonial prayer as part of a larger exercise in civic recognition suggests that its purpose and effect are to acknowledge religious leaders and the institutions they represent, rather than to exclude or coerce nonbelievers,” Kennedy said.

The decision echos the mega-church notion of ego driven and materialistic mega-preachers. And do not think that any other less colorful religious leaders will be called up on except in the rarest circumstance. I grew up as a Roman Catholic in Alabama, so I know what the underside of a Baptist’s thumb looks like. Although Roman Catholics must make up a substantial portion of Mobile’s population (40% ?), I never recall any Roman Catholic clergy ever being allowed to lead a public prayer – not even once.

And some of my friends actually call that a victory?

What if the purpose of public prayer (we Anglicans call it Common Prayer) is to give glory and worship to the One who is the King of Creation, a being who reigns far above Supreme Court Justices? What if prayer is intended to request good weather, bountiful harvests, safety in battle, good grades, physical healing and a host of blessings that only the Triune God of orthodox Christianity may mercifully grant.

But Justice Kennedy is a modern man whose public positions could never conceive of an all-powerful God who sets up and brings down nations. Kennedy’s God is an artifact of culture, an idol. This bad ruling is a sorry reflection on our system of constitutional interpretation.

Christian life and the sacraments

May 5, 2014

A former vice-presidential candidate is in some trouble because of a comment that many have taken to be disrespectful of sacraments. Some have called the statement blasphemy, but that seems unlikely. It was in poor taste and disrespectful, both of which fall well inside the American understanding of permissible free speech. I am not worked up against the offending party and you can scroll immediately down to find out why. This is about a religious idea and not part of the wide world of vicious political attacks.

Those of us who attend churches with a “high” sacramental comprehension find that this outlook leaks into every aspect of our world. There is no need to call the plumber. It is a good thing. Many believers cringe at the word, apparently fearful that admitting to such things as sacraments might turn them into Roman Catholics. It is not a biblical word, but has to do with “mystery.” It is a “sure and certain” sign that God shows his favor toward believers. This gets pretty deep. Roman Catholics and some protestants (Anglicans and Lutherans, for example) do not quite agree on the finer points. God uses his stuff (bread and wine, or water) as symbols to show the good things he does.

This is foundational in worship that celebrates the Light of the World with candles, rising prayer with incense, and strengthening with oil. In Baptism, the believer is buried with Christ and rises with him. The old man is put to death and the new person rises from a watery symbolic grave. It’s in the Bible (Rm 6). In Communion, Christians are fed with the “bread of life.” We become one with Christ and he dwells in us.

The sacramental idea is that we live in a good world in the care of a good God. This is not a naive viewpoint. Sacramental Christians watch the 10 o’clock news and we know that things are a mess. God took on our human form to bring peace with man. Jesus lived in a real human body, had real friends and enemies, ate regular food, experienced pain, died a human death and ascended bodily into heaven. He is coming back to reign over this earth and his people are coming with him. That is the Christian hope.

In the meantime, the Church’s job is to preach the word of God and rightly administer the sacraments. This is a demonstration of God’s work in the world today. God deals with his people in his church and we do his work in the world by living out the gospel. Sacraments remind us of God’s generosity, so it is a little unnerving to hear them misused.



The rise of two saints and the demise of authority #JPII #JohnXXIII

April 27, 2014

Can this be me? Is it possible to be sticking up for the heavy-fisted oppressors of the meek. When that hamy hand falls hard, it hurts. When one is robbed of livelihood and reputation by the sinister forces that seem to control the means of survival, it is final. There is no human court of last resort. The wrongful verdict stands and the weak is brought low by the strong. The self-centered world of individual purgative is a garden of delights for the wealthy and well established, but lesser individuals just suck it up. That is why endorsing the notion of authority comes with all the comfort of a sudden leg cramp. This really hurts. One reason we hate authority is that it is so frequently abused.

For those of us who believe in the church, authority is an idea that is held up with the highest optimism. After all, the church is the body of Christ. It is his living presence in the world. Should the church not, therefore, behave itself with as much kindness as is possible when dealing with fallen humans? Should the church not be an example of justice properly understood and mercy for those who turn from evil? Instead, we find bishops devoted to covering up the criminal misdeeds of clerical child molesters. It is not just the Roman Catholics either. The female students at presumably orthodox evangelical schools are not safe from the lewd advances of professors, but these so-called Christian educators are secure from any hint of scandal. There will certainly be no real consequences for the sexually immoral instructors. And then there are the regular crooks and liars. Let us not forget the greedy! They all bring such shame upon the church.

God knows that the wheat grows amongst the tares until the day of judgment when angels will toss the bad ones into the flames of eternal damnation. The church is a very human organization. Sometimes, God must be completely speechless at what the disordered body parts of Christ are doing to his faithful people and the disrepute we bring upon him in society.

Much has already been said about the two newest arrivals in the heavenly court of officially designated saints. Perhaps they get smoking jackets and admission to an exclusive club. You know. It is something similar to the cool digs enjoyed by those who have several times hosted Saturday Night Live. These deceased bishops of Rome are probably good guys and deserve to be luxuriously rewarded. The question of the day is this; among all God’s people, could we have done better? Do John XXIII and John Paul II really set a fine example?

I am not a Roman Catholic and if you want to know what I think of the Church of Rome, check out the 39 Articles of Religion. Still, the Pope occupies an important role as the most important Christian in the western church. These two men have done a great deal of harm to the religious institutions. One may not believe in certain aspects of Roman doctrine (check the Articles!) but, darn it all, Christians need the Roman Catholic Church. Who else can muster an intellectual army that defines and defends our commonly held beliefs? There is no other similar international organization of believers.

John XXIII was wrong. There is no need to open the windows to worldly influences. The people of the church meet the world in everyday life and attests to the resurrection of Christ by the quality of their good works. The worship of the church is directed to the Almighty God who has made us all and became one of us so that we might be saved. Worship is about salvation. It has nothing whatever to do with how one feels, whether we enjoy the music, whether the sermon has satisfied the high standards of lay critics. The decline of Roman Catholic ceremonial is the first movement in the fall of Christianity.

Now, there is a distinction that must be made here. Ritual performed for its; own sake becomes mere entertainment and is meaningless. The Roman failure is not the use of ritual, but the inability or unwillingness to teach the meaning of liturgical worship. All of the little gestures mean something and have a historical context. Anglicans are equally as guilty of tearing down liturgical worship. Since Gregory Dix was an Anglican, my people may be more guilty. Dix took the liturgical movement forward into outright consumerism. The older rites of churches following ancient patterns were centered on the idea of salvation. The newer rites are centered on human experience of worship.

The concept of teaching authority is very much part of this conversation, first, because liturgy teaches theology and, second, liturgy reveals the dignity and respectability of the church. There is an unworldly quality to liturgy when it is correctly presented. This quality is what the world needs to approach the wicked influences that surround us. Liturgy is part of the active work of God on earth through the agency of the body of Christ. Genial John XXIII started the ball rolling on the destruction of his own ancient style of worship, and the subsequent harm done to the rest of Christianity.

And then there is JPII. He did much to change the world in a positive sense. Give him credit for going after the godless Commies. What a shame that his record is so marred by mediocre appointments and the criminal conspiracies to protect pedophiles. It may be that many will be thrilled by the elevation of these men, but no amount of spinning can conceal the sorry record of devaluing an essential expression of Christ’s presence.


The Sacred Page: The Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple: Thoughts on the Sunday Readings

January 31, 2014

Sunday is the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, Commonly Called The Purification of St. Mary the Virgin. In the traditional observance, this day has precedence over the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany. Since probably neither of the two Anglican churches in Little Rock will be celebrating this liturgical event, you might well wonder, why bother?

Of course, it’s not a heaven-or-hell kind of thing, but the church calendar has a particular richness that instructs the believer in the Christian faith. It is the old Anglican idea of lex orandi, lex credendi. The law of prayer is the law of belief. This is one way liturgy teaches theology. It cannot go without saying that good liturgy teaches good theology, and poorly conceived liturgy teaches poorly conceived theology. My Roman Catholic neighbors do a better job of presenting liturgy.

John Bergsma over at the “Sacred Page” blog has a comprehensive commentary on the feast day. He is a Roman Catholic scholar, but his lengthy essay contains nothing offensive. The readings in the Roman Missal turn out to be the same as the traditional Anglican lectionary. Dr. Bergsma’s excellent piece does suffer from a small imperfection in the biblical citation of Luke 2:22. (A PhD theologian makes a typographical error! Thank you, Lord!) Read it all at the link below.

The Sacred Page: The Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple: Thoughts on the Sunday Readings.

Ken Cuccinelli Is Amazed God Hasn’t Punished America For Abortion

October 15, 2013

Cuccinelli is running for Governor of Virginia. He is pro-life, as am I. He has been soft-peddling his own position on abortion on the advice of political consultants who have held sway since the days of desegregation. “You can’t do good if you don’t get elected,” or so it goes. He has a lot of nerve to criticize the Roman Catholic church for being “soft” on its moral teaching. Here is a little quote from today’s story, followed by a link and a few pithy comments from me.

Ken Cuccinelli Is Amazed God Hasn’t Punished America For Abortion

By Laura Bassett Posted: 10/15/2013 9:40 am EDT  |  Updated: 10/15/2013 10:43 am EDT

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has been trying to downplay his outspoken opposition to abortion rights in his campaign for governor this year as part of an effort to win back the support of women voters.

But in his speech to the Christian Life Summit last year — unearthed Monday night by NBC12 — Cuccinelli said he is surprised that God has not yet “imposed” more judgement on America for allowing abortion to be legal.

“Really, given that God does judge nations, it’s amazing that abortion has run as far and foully as it has, without what I would consider to be a greater imposition of judgment on this country,” Cuccinelli said. “Who knows what the future holds?”

Cuccinelli also criticized the Catholic church for its “soft and weak” leadership on social issues.

Ken Cuccinelli Is Amazed God Hasn’t Punished America For Abortion.

Deep breath.

Yes, God does punish countries. He did a pretty good job with Nazi Germany after WWII. There is, however, a lot of historical evidence to the contrary concerning divine retribution. Have things really gotten any worse for Russia? It has been pretty consistently awful for hundreds of years (thousands?) but can we really discern punishment? How about Iran? All of Europe is hopelessly secular, and I mean in the wrong sort of way. And, yes, the good old United States of America comes to mind. Has American been punished for the sin of abortion? I have two things here.

First, considering the economic collapse of 2008, does Cuccinelli not feel a little bit punished himself? Does he expect that Christians will escape the punishment? Our lives may be spared, but we are still right here, still salt and light. Perhaps, Mr. Cuccinelli, an examination of conscience is in order.

Secondly, by the way he poses the question, the would-be governor,demonstrates that he has misdiagnosed the offense. Yes, abortion is almost always wrong. The common practice is an offense against Almighty God, but abortion is not the chief shortcoming of America. The real problem is our selfishness and materialism. So long as a handicapped child represents an intolerable inconvenience, we have a problem. It is not that we kicked God out of our schools, it is that we kicked God out of the everyday life of most Americans.

This is a country that has heard of Jesus, and rejected his gospel. Our churches face little fear of persecution because many have long ago rolled over to accommodate the idolatry of consumerism and narcissism. Messing with the status quo would require a real love for our neighbors and the living God. We treat compassion as a despicable sign of weakness and respect as a joke. That is what God is going to punish, and the smaller issues, such as abortion, will take care of themselves.

Pope Francis: Gays, Abortion: Catholic Church’s Obsession #PopeFrancis #Catholic

September 19, 2013

Pope Francis is back in the news and this time it is a long-form print interview. That means that it is more substantial and presumably less likely to be misinterpreted. Here is a segment of the story, followed by a link to the longer article and some commentary from me.

Pope Francis faulted the Roman Catholic church for focusing too much on gays, abortion and contraception, saying the church has become “obsessed” with those issues to the detriment of its larger mission to be “home for all,” according to an extensive new interview published Thursday.

The church can share its views on homosexuality, abortion and other issues, but should not “interfere spiritually” with the lives of gays and lesbians, the pope added in the interview, which was published in La Civilta Cattolica, a Rome-based Jesuit journal.

“We have to find a new balance, otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel,” Francis said in the interview.

“The church has sometimes locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules,’ Francis said. “The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials.”

The 12,000-word interview ranges widely, touching upon the pope’s personal faith, the role of women and nuns in the church, Latin Mass and even the pope’s favorite artists.

Here is a link to the longer story.

Pope Francis: Gays, Abortion Too Much Of Catholic Church’s Obsession.

And the New York Times story is here.

And here are a few further thoughts.

This interview will be especially important for so-called “liberals.” I use that tag with caution because the liberal-conservative, one side is headed to heaven and the others are going straight to hell, division really does not work out well in religious discussions.  It actually does not work in political conversations any more either, but that is for another forum.

Progressive Roman Catholics, especially nuns, will make a lot of this new papal statement, and I want to be careful not to diminish what I think Francis is saying by pointing out how it will be received. I expect the altars of EWTN will be draped in black and poor Raymond Arroyo will announce that the Pope has lost his mind. The right-wing politicians that are always made comfortable at Arroyo’s side will ignore this pope much like church progressives have given little credence to his predecessors.

This interview may have some serious political consequences in the United States, so I will attempt to chose these words carefully. It is very possible to misunderstand this, or any, pope because they are not Americans and are naturally suspicious of a country which is so rabidly individualistic and shamelessly materialistic. Our media is especially suspect for church leaders from someplace else. This needs some unpacking.

Yes, the American news establishment is owned and managed a bunch of egotistical and generally under-educated individuals who are a lot more interested in making a buck than getting it right. When the pedophile priest story began to explode some years ago, church leaders dismissed the stories as the product of irresponsible American journalists. The people at the top of the Vatican do not “get” the USA.

If the Roman Catholic Church actually plans to tone down the current message on abortion, contraception and gay marriage, this ought to have a tremendous negative impact on American social conservatism. I say “ought to” because it is a long way from the Sistine Chapel to Branson, Mo. American conservative Roman Catholics will try to ignore this or twist the meaning, but bishops do take orders from Rome.

This is where things get sticky. One must wonder if Pope Francis has any awareness of how close the American branch of the Roman church has gotten to one political party. This same pope has embraced the notorious fugitive from justice, Cardinal Bernard Law. In any decent society, Law would have stood trail for his protection of pedophiles and be securely locked inside a prison instead of the Vatican’s luxury suites. Pope Francis is no man of steel.

This interview must also be reviewed from the ecclesiastical perspective. The pope is speaking as a pastor and his concern is the winning and care of souls. He is making a practical point that is hard to dispute, no matter one’s partisan position. His word “obsession” is very strong and one must wonder if it will be softened by Vatican officials in the next few days. Regardless, Francis is telling the church to emphasize God’s love for man and his invitation for us to join him in building his kingdom in expectation of the King’s coming.

Francis knows that conflict does not sell. It is unattractive and marks the church as being out-of-touch with real people. As one who often dwells on the doctrinal side of things, I must add an “amen.” As an Anglican, I see Roman Catholics as an important part of the living Body of Christ. We are the true living presence of Jesus in the world and when our words are full of division and mistrust, we do him dishonor.

Jesus is present in the gospel narrative as compassionate and involved in people’s everyday concerns. He does not compromise on morals and doctrine, but he builds relationships first. There is no easy way. Jesus says to grab your cross and come along to your own execution. It is not exactly “tough love,” but Jesus proposes love that is strong and selfless.

The commercial, political, material interests are taken up with the self-worship of pleasure, power and greed. Pope Francis proposes the right corrective, the gospel of salvation. It is a message that starts with divine grace and love.

Political activists have nothing to fear, until Jesus comes back. In the meantime, most people never have a serious thought anyway, and certainly no deep religious reflection. For those who have ears to hear, even among evangelical Anglicans, the Pope’s call for pastoral action is still big news.

UPDATED: Standing up for the Boy Scouts #BSA #boyscouts

May 30, 2013

This is not a point-by-point analysis of the Boy Scouts of America decision to permit membership for those young people who profess a same-gender attraction. Roman Catholic canon lawyer Dr. Edward Peters, in his excellent In the Light of the Law blog, has done all the heavy lifting in his essay “Thoughts for Catholics Impacted by the Boy Scouts of America Membership Policies.”

Although he approaches the matter from a Roman Catholic perspective, the principles apply, I think, to all orthodox churches and all thoughtful Christians. It is important to keep in mind that the BSA maintains a position keeping with sexual abstinence for all members. The BSA does not exist to advance particular viewpoints outside the stated goals of the organization which develop well-formed young people. Peters posted a fine follow-up, “A Few Days Into the Boy Scout Membership Controversy.”

I think that there is a good deal of evidence suggesting that abandoning the BSA is a very bad idea. There are some things that need to be said and it is going to demand patience as we go through the steps. Even with the latest adjustment in policy, there are not many large and prominent organizations that maintain what we might call “old fashioned” moral standards. The BSA has not made itself a haven for immorality and is not a mouthpiece for any social movement. Yes, there is reason to speculate about what MIGHT happen someday, but that is someday. Today is today and we are better served by trying to help BSA.
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Pope Francis, meet Rob Bell: Pope Says Atheists Who Do Good Are Redeemed, Not Just Catholics #universalism

May 23, 2013

Gosh, I love a good old-fashioned stoning, this story from Vatican City has plenty of fuel to make the boulders fly. I have some commentary on the jump, but first, here is the briefest outline of what is going on, and  link to the full story.

Pope Francis rocked some religious and atheist minds today when he declared that everyone was redeemed through Jesus, including atheists.

During his homily at Wednesday Mass in Rome, Francis emphasized the importance of “doing good” as a principle that unites all humanity, and a “culture of encounter” to support peace.

Using scripture from the Gospel of Mark, Francis explained how upset Jesus’ disciples were that someone outside their group was doing good, according to a report from Vatican Radio.

Pope Francis Says Atheists Who Do Good Are Redeemed, Not Just Catholics.

UPDATE: Vatican Radio also carries the story.

National Catholic Register has a very informative and helpful report.

You may also read an excellent discussion on Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed blog.

Note also that Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, in Europe Voice, has posted a more nuanced commentary on the Pope’s sermon. Let me especially direct your attention to the section in which he quotes lengthy sections of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in defining the Church. For example:

162. Where does the one Church of Christ subsist?

The one Church of Christ, as a society constituted and organized in the world, subsists in (subsistit in) the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and the bishops in communion with him. Only through this Church can one obtain the fullness of the means of salvation since the Lord has entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone whose head is Peter.

A careful reading will show that those outside the Church of Rome (lowly Anglicans, for example) are not automatically out of the parade. This essay also address the concept of the “anonymous Christian.” I must respectfully observe, at the risk over-emphasizing individual salvation, that this theological approach seems to somewhat devalue God’s free gift of grace.


I am writing this “on the fly,” so I am sure that many better minds will have  comprehensive and thoughtful comments over the next few days. My first reaction is that, despite the current media-driven tendency toward immediate rage, we owe it to Pope Francis to interpret his remarks in the most favorable light and should not do otherwise without the strongest evidence.
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