Why Monarchies Are Out of Favor

For more of the West’s history than not (from roughly 600 to the present), monarchy has been the preferred political order. Not until 1789 did constitutional republicanism become an alternative. Since then, republicanism (rule by the few) or democracy (rule by the many) have been the characteristic features of the West’s politics. Sure, we still have a monarch in England and the Netherlands, but they function more like furniture than political figures with real power.

This trend in the West’s politics has not transferred to the West’s ecclesiology. Rule by one (episcopacy) is still popular (even sacred) for some of the West’s Christians, while rule by the many (congregationalism/independency) dominates the worlds of New Calvinism, Baptists, charismatics, and beyond. Rule by the few (presbyterianism) is practiced by a few.

All of this is to provide some context for the recent news that an English Roman Catholic bishop, Michael Campbell has used the power of rule by one to reign in a renegade deacon:

A deacon who runs a Catholic website that criticised bishops, theologians and lay groups for being out of step with church teaching has been asked to stop posting material.

Deacon Nick Donnelly has been asked by the Bishop of Lancaster to stop posting on his Protect the Pope site and undergo a “period of prayer and reflection”.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Lancaster said that Bishop Campbell had asked Mr Donnelly to “voluntarily pause” from publishing in order to reflect “on the duties involved for ordained bloggers/website administrators to truth, charity and unity in the Church.”

The site, however, is being operated by his wife, with the latest posting encouraging readers to submit their own articles. Mr Donnelly, who has agreed to his bishop’s request, told The Tablet that his wife was running the site on her own and he has “no say” over what is posted.

Protect the Pope, which received 100,000 hits a month, regularly criticised groups and individual bishops and took issue with several Tablet articles for being at odds with church teaching.

One of the curious aspects of this story is that it conflicts with what George Weigel tried to teach us about the pope’s power: “Popes, in other words, are not authoritarian figures, who teach what they will and as they will.” Well, when have monarch’s ever not been authoritarian figures except when they ran up against a constitution or parliament that supplied checks and balances? And if bishops (rule by one) have power to act unilaterally within their dioceses, why doesn’t Pope Francis have similar authority to reign in priests, deacons, bishops, and church members in the universal church?

And that makes Pope Francis’ affect all the more remarkable because at times he seems more interested in playing the court jester than the king:

“I want things messy and stirred up.”

This statement by Pope Francis to youth on Copacabana beach last summer in Rio de Janeiro during World Youth Day will no doubt become one of the iconic quotes from this papacy, not only because it is a pithy sound bite, but also because — we are learning — it seriously represents Francis’ modus operandi. He stirs things up and then waits to see what will rise out of the chaos.

Francis’ delight in stirring things up is no more evident than in the preparation for the October’s Synod of Bishops. Even before the Vatican officially announced an extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization of the family, there were signs that this event would be different.

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31 thoughts on “Why Monarchies Are Out of Favor

  1. “… it seriously represents Francis’ modus operandi. He stirs things up and then waits to see what will rise out of the chaos …”

    This is an interesting way of phrasing it because it not only represents the vertically structured organization leading to (or from depending on POV) the papacy, but also sounds a lot like the way events have occurred in other protestant entities in the past. The LCMS of the late 60’s into the early/mid-70’s comes to mind.

    There had been a ground swell of discontent with the synod’s decisions about various matters for some time. When the societal events of the 60’s reached the right boiling point (Viet Nam, poverty, race relations, etc.) it was time for the malcontents to unleash their platform for social justice, largely ignoring any doctrinal issues and reformation initiatives. And they had a student population at their seminary who had long since been warped by their junior and senior college feeder system. Hence entered John Tietjen to “stir things up,” subsequently pied pipering most of the students off into Seminex. Following several mergers with already liberal Lutheran synods what “rose from the ashes” was the ELCA and the results are obvious.

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  2. D, just like some presbyters get it.

    Some don’t.

    No one has a lock, yo.

    But most certainly not our Romanist creatures. Most certainly not the turncoats with smartpones and Twitter accounts.

    I’m fearful of humans of that stripe. A man with a smartphone is a man to be feared.

    You heard it here first, Elder Hart. When I take up smoking, I know where to find you.

    Peace.

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  3. DGH,

    This may be too picky, but isn’t it better to talk about Presbyterianism as a “monarchy in oligarchical stewardship,” rather than just as “rule by a few?” Practically, it may not seem to matter, but I think it is important that elders and deacons constantly remind themselves that they are to reflect the mind of their King as His stewards, rather than swaying to the mood of the crowd.

    “The Lord Jesus, as king and head of His Church, has therein appointed a government, in the hand of Church officers, distinct from the civil magistrate” ~ WCF 30.1

    At the same time, it is also right that these leaders be recognized by the congregation, so a democratic element added to the monarchical/oligarchical mix, since Christ grants His power to the whole body, both “rulers and ruled,” cf. Acts 6; I Peter 2:9; & PCA Book of Church Order, 3-1.

    So, in other words, presbyterianism is the true via media of church government, having both monarchical and democratic elements. But at heart, we are a monarchy, though our King is bodily absent.

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  4. And that makes Pope Francis’ affect all the more remarkable because at times he seems more interested in playing the court jester than the king:

    I’m looking forward to the next Pope, already. The shoes he leaves he filled are as large as Ronald McDonald’s.

    Enjoying popcorn over here,
    AB

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  5. I don’t understand; I thought RC were in perfect unity with each other, like they claim. Doesn’t every RC obey the Alter Christus, who makes sure that all his underlings are line?

    He wants things messy. He came to the right place (Rome, that is).

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  6. Chris, every bishop says he’s under the king. I don’t see where this gets us except for confusion. The rule in presbyterian churches is aristocratic.

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  7. But if NCAA ain’t your thing, at the very least, don’t forget to cast your vote for our very own Dr. Darryl Hart, a number 10 seed in the Warfield Division.

    Let’s see him score an upset! Go Hart!

    When your a big deal, D, you have to put up with groupies. Get used to it, yo

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  8. I think I should receive an ‘insider’ award or something. Apparently, Benedict’s, now Ratzinger, personal secretary, who’s in fact a double agent as he fills the same role for Francis, is leaking information about Ratzinger’s reactions to Francis’, off the cuff, style. And it’s not necessarily favorable. None of that is particularly surprising to anyone but the prot-catholics, what is telling is that Francis is the one drawing Ratzinger out and seeking his input. Now, this could be interpreted any number of ways and more than one is applicable, for example; my sister solicits everyone’s opinion before she does anything ‘major’ so that she can make sure she does the exact opposite of what’s advised. This is certainly in the wheelhouse given a number of the less than veiled barbs Francis and his bishops have thrown the prior administration’s way. What, to me, is more revealing about it all is, that despite Benedict’s reputation as being a throwback and traditionalist, at the end of the day he’s a Vat II theologian, and as such, He and Francis are going to share a philosophical and theological affinity for each other, even if Benedict, in the end, couldn’t help his german and autocratic ways, just as Francis can’t mend his liberation theologian and jesuitical ways. It’s a big arse tent, worthy of Barnum and Bailey.

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  9. Someone else joined, up to six now.

    Fellas, I know I’m a pain. Thanks all for allowing me to harangue.

    I think there’s consensus built that Duke’s loss is good news.

    In truth, you all know much more than me. I’ll pipe down and keep reading comments, eating the fat, and spittin’ out the bones.

    Later peeps. This OPC deacon needs to chill and exercise some good ol’ Old Calvinist restraint and moderation, as regards commenting, for the forseeable future.

    Enjoy the weekend and Sabbath rest. Later.

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  10. Enjoying some good ol fashioned caller fun here. Preslar pulls out a penalty flag of course.

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2014/03/the-quest-for-the-historical-church-a-protestant-assessment/#comment-79099

    I’d link and quote the French phrase how nothing changes. But I’m getting too old for this stuff. Gonna watch some YouTube cat videos, the ones where they chase their tales (oh just Google it, I’m not gonna link for you, for peets sake).

    You’d think i was actually talking to someone, with all the words I use here.

    Sigh..

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  11. Bryan explains to me why he won’t let comments through. Ok that’s fine. His blog, his rules.

    But I’m free to post here.

    So here’s my latest.

    Take note. Mr Addison wscal grad of 2012, wrote an article defending presby polity. It’s the first prot article out there I know of..

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  12. Darryl,

    I’ll stop if you give the word. Ideally, I’d like some help out at CtC supporting pastor Addison. John Bugay is out there.

    I can post to my own blog. But seeing as I know of no one else who has taken on Cross ad you have, this seems appropriate.

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  13. I’m finding the disucssion at CtC interesting. Those here may want to peruse the latest comment section and see who is commenting

    I post this to be public and get out of their “purgatory.” But I’m done, all around, for a while.

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  14. Darryl,

    One of the curious aspects of this story is that it conflicts with what George Weigel tried to teach us about the pope’s power: “Popes, in other words, are not authoritarian figures, who teach what they will and as they will.”

    No, it does not “conflict.” The truth of the story you cite is fully compatible with the truth of the quotation you cite. Merely asserting that there is a “conflict” between a story and a proposition does not show or demonstrate that there is a conflict between that story and proposition.

    And if bishops (rule by one) have power to act unilaterally within their dioceses, why doesn’t Pope Francis have similar authority to reign in priests, deacons, bishops, and church members in the universal church?

    He does. (Here’s an example.)

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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  15. Bryan, it’s always a good day when you show up at OL.

    Here, have some cat YouTube videos, your booby prize for dropping in.

    Like

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