"The Preachers chiefly shall take heed that they teach nothing in their preaching, which they would have the people religiously to observe and believe, but that which is agreeable to the Doctrine of the Old Testament and the New, and that which the Catholick Fathers and Ancient Bishops have gathered out of that Doctrine." A proposed canon of Elizabeth I, 1571

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Location: Bedford, Texas, United States

I am a presbyter in the diocese of Fort Worth, Texas (Anglican Church in North America). I serve as Chaplain at St. Vincent's School and as a canon of St. Vincent's Cathedral Church in Bedford, Texas. In addition to my parish duties and teaching Religion classes in the school I am also the Middle School Social Studies teacher.

Friday, May 05, 2006

More from Jeff Moore

For those who might be interested, Jeff Moore, formerly curate at St. Vincent's, has published a supplement to his apologia for departing from our diocese for the Roman Catholic Church. It may be found at Pontifications.

I cannot say that I usually find this sort of essay particularly enlightening. The authors typically assume as given points that I consider open. For example, one crucial question in any such discussion is "What is the precise relationship between the authority given to St. Peter by our Lord during his earthly ministry and the present claims of the bishops of Rome to govern the universal Church?" That is a very worthy topic for consideration, and should provide the keystone of any effective argument that an Anglican ought to "swim the Tiber." Mr. Moore, however, simply assumes that wherever the present successor to the apostle Peter is, there is the plenitudo potestatis to lead Christ's Church on earth. The assumption he makes demands his conclusion, but the assumption is unproven. Hence, I do not find the essay persuasive.

For me the intervening 1975 years of historical development are relevant to the issue. The claims made by the bishops of Rome in antiquity were clearly less sweeping that those of their medieval successors and Vatican I (primacy of jurisdiction, infallibity of the Petrine office, etc.). Leo I and Gregory I would surely have been dumbfounded by the "imperial papacy" of the high middle ages. (I am not, incidentally, referring to the wicked personal lives of some long-dead popes. My concerns with the claims of the papacy are theological, not moral. A great many of the popes have been devout, holy men, certainly including the present incumbent.) Must one swallow all of these later developments "hook, line and sinker" in order to be faithful to God's will for the Church? That is the issue for me.

It appears to me that one must be willing to accept Cardinal Newman's arguments about "the development of doctrine" for Mr. Moore's apologia to persuade. Before I could submit to the full authority presently claimed by the bishops of Rome, I need to be convinced that the view of the Eastern Orthodox Churches on the primacy of Rome (e.g., a primacy of honor within a conciliar Church, which I take to be closer to the ancient Church's understanding) is not correct. I would need to be convinced that this later evolution of the Petrine office has been guided by the Holy Spirit and is God's will for the Church. I am not so persuaded at present, and I am afraid that Mr. Moore's essays have not moved me any closer to being convinced.

The image above is of Gregory I of Rome, one pontiff (among many) for whom I have the highest esteem.


Blogger Ma Beck said...

Thanks for the link. It was very interesting. The only thing I would humbly add is this:
I wish I could 'prove' Petrine authority, but I can't, anymore than I can 'prove' to an atheist that there is indeed a God, or prove that Saturn's rings are made up of ice crystals.

11:11 AM  
Blogger texanglican said...

Indeed, ma'am. I would, however, say that the two different examples you gave highlight the difficulty. The question of ice crystals in Saturn's rings is clearly solveable by scientific investigation. If you and I took up graduate planetary science studies and received the proper data from telescopes and space probes, we could know with absolute certainty whether the rings were composed of ice crystals or not. Obviously, you and I are not willing to put in the effort to find out ourselves, so we trust the experts who have studied the matter--i.e., JPL scientists--to tell us the answer. I have put my "faith" in them, but with the proviso that I can change my mind is more trustworthy evidence comes in to the contrary.

Proving God's existence to an atheist, on the other hand, purely by rational argument based upon empirical evidence is, in fact, impossible. In the end, it is a matter of faith (it is not contrarational, but reason alone cannot get you there). Even the best "proofs" cooked up by the Schoolmen don't really prove God's existence beyond a reasonable doubt, and never really could. It is a matter of faith in the end, pure and simple.

For me the question of the validity of Newman's analysis in "the Development of Doctrine" is still open. Perhaps it is, in the end, like proving God to an atheist. Maybe I simply must accept, on pure faith, that the Holy Spirit led the Roman see to its present rights and duties in governing the entire Church. But I am not yet convinced that this is not a question more like the "ice crystal" question. Perhaps there is an answer, proveable by reason and historical/theological analysis, that will bring me to a conclusion.

For the moment, I am skeptical. If Pope Benedict truly did insist on the recognition of nothing more in the authority in the bishops of Rome than the entire Church, east and west, recognized and lived out before the Great Schism of the eleventh century I would be on-board in a heartbeat. I pray for a reunion between Rome and Constantinople every day. That is, in my opinion, long overdue and will have amazing "spin offs" in restoring the bonds of affection in the west as well.

Thanks for stopping by, Ma! God bless.

11:37 AM  
Blogger Julian said...

Thanks for giving us your own take on a link, for once :-)

3:39 PM  
Blogger James the Thickheaded said...

Have imense respect for Rome and Romans. I wish Jeff well. One thing Anglicans of any stripe have difficulty proving is consistent with the difficulty once felt in proving the merits of democracies when it looks disorganized, weak, and confused. But given a measure of mutual accountability, a free society - even in the body of christ - can and does create a vibrant and living organism of inimitable grace and strength no finely ordered monarchy can match. This is hard to remember and impossible to sustain amongst the drumbeat at times.....but we cannot forget it even when a good man decides the question another way.

10:32 PM  
Blogger Caelius said...

I am resisting the urge to imagine the near-infrared spectrum of the Pope in which the trace writes out, "TU ES PETRUS." Oh dear.

10:43 PM  
Blogger James the Thickheaded said...

Your point about development is a good one. Not one I have dealt with. Save it for a rainy day.

When I have tried to reconcile myself with Peter on the infallibility matter, I find myself compelled to follow more after the Eastern Orthodox in allowing the Church to be infallible and this the intent....but I'm afraid that's not what is communicated or intended. So as much as I could submit to Rome's Holy Men....I am not there hook line and sinker. Yet.

An interesting comment the other day was made that the 815 Crowd has in effect established their own magisterium with far greater assumption of authority than any Pope: they assume to themselves the right to change and over-rule scripture. And this they do in the name of liberty, social justice, or just because. So one wonders, how can one really object to the development of doctrine while part of a jurisdiction that assumes far broader and more sweeping powers unto itself? In some respects, my guess is that the terms developed by Rome are far more conservative of doctrine than those assumed by ECUSA.

The odd circumstances where the bishop and diocese of Ft. Worth is more catholic in its faith through disobedience to its jurisdiction is a comparatively small matter as well, but still curious.

Some day, some place, one imagines these divergences get worked out, but in the meantime, it must make for some real oddities.

12:16 PM  
Blogger Ma Beck said...

But that's just it.
I take on faith that the rings are ice crystals. I'll never be able to prove it. Nor will they, unless they can take me there.
Faith and science are not so very different.
I can't prove that there are Pyramids in Egypt.
I trust that there are, because competent authorities have told me that.
I trust that there is a God because of certain evidence.
And I trust that B16 has been chosen by the Holy Spirit to lead the Church.
Because in the end, trust and faith (and a bit of evidence) are all I have.


"What if the Hari Krishnas are right?!"

3:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But doesn't doctrine develop at least a little?


6:18 PM  
Blogger Ma Beck said...

Doctrine develops.
Dogma doesn't.

9:29 AM  
Blogger Derek the ├ćnglican said...

I agree with your post, Randall. Newman holds an exalted status especially for Anglo-Catholic Tiber-swimmers. The conclusion that I inevitably come to is that those who hold most stridently to the notion of a big T Tradition are those who have read said tradition with blinders--or haven't read it at all. The diversity of acceptable thought within Late Antiquity and the Early Medieval Church as at odds with Newman and the teachings of Vatican I.

9:56 AM  
Blogger J. Gordon Anderson said...

I agree with your post too. The papal supremacy, and all that goes along with it (infallibility, etc.) is, like mandatory priestly celibacy, due simply to historical circumstances. RC apologists read the scriptures (particularly the "power of the keys" part) through ultramontanist lenses.

8:12 AM  
Blogger wyclif said...

Good post, Randall. The main issue you raise is a salient one.

But along with the claims of Petrine authority as well as Newman's argument, would you not also have to be convinced of the demerits of the classical Anglican way, which does not place authority in a Pope but in conciliarism?

11:44 PM  

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