What If?

Fr. Dwight thinks that ecumenical talks between Anglicans and Roman Catholics are at a dead end:

Unless there is some unexpected turnaround in the Church of England and the Anglican churches of the developed world, GAFCON is the Anglican Communion of the future. If so, what does this development mean for Anglican-Roman Catholic ecumenism?

First, it should be recognized that the old form of Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue is finished. Started during the fresh optimism of the 1960s, ecumenism between Anglicans and Roman Catholics included convergence on liturgical matters running parallel with regular discussions among theologians on both sides. The problem with this model is that the Anglican theologians were invariably from the more Anglo-Catholic wing of the Anglican Church. They were also almost exclusively drawn from the Church of England and the Episcopal Church. The Africans were scarcely included. Like Cardinal Walter Kasper, most members of the Episcopal and Anglican churches didn’t think the Africans were worth listening to.

As the Anglicans on both sides of the Atlantic proceeded with their progressive agenda, discussions with the Catholic Church became increasingly strained. Despite diplomatic noises from both sides, it is generally agreed that the Anglicans have introduced such “grave obstacles to unity” as to put any real ecumenical hopes on hold. Pope Benedict XVI did not improve matters by erecting the Anglican Ordinariate — a structure within the Catholic Church that provides disenchanted Anglicans a semi-detached home within Catholicism.

But think about what Pope Francis said recently about people who are divorced:

Speaking out on one of the most contentious issues of his papacy, Pope Francis on Wednesday told a gathering at the Vatican that the church should embrace Catholics who have divorced and remarried, and that such couples “are not excommunicated, and they absolutely must not be treated that way!”

“They always belong to the church,” he added, calling on pastors to welcome Catholics who have remarried without an annulment, even though such Catholics are currently barred in most cases from receiving the Eucharist, the central sacrament of the faith.

“The church is called to be always the open house of the Father. … No closed doors! No closed doors!” Francis told the crowd at his weekly public audience, which resumed after a monthlong summer break.

Imagine if Pope Francis had been the Bishop of Rome when Henry VIII sought an annulment. If Pope Francis had been as pastoral with the English monarch as he is with today’s marriage challenged Roman Catholics, would the Reformation have happened?


11 thoughts on “What If?

  1. (1) I think Pope Clement VII might have been quite open to Henry VIII’s annulment, but he “cut a deal” with Charles V. After all, old Clement had a few gals on the side. (2) Cardinal Wolsey of England also an an “irregular” and “uncanonical” relationship resulting in two children. All hush, hush, however. (3) Old Jorge Bertogoglio isn’t a Joseph Ratzinger, the Bavarian German Shepherd. (4) Fun to watch.


  2. Darryl, also to your post.

    (1) Just in from WashPo at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/a-conservative-revolt-is-brewing-inside-the-vatican/2015/09/07/1d8e02ba-4b3d-11e5-80c2-106ea7fb80d4_story.html

    (2) For crying out loud, maybe we’ll get another Anti-Pope (46 of them? Out of 265ish or so?). Or, an Avignon Papacy? I still don’t understand why Nancy Pelosi and similarly situated Democrats upholding abortion aren’t openly identified by Cardinals and Bishops and put under open and public church discipline. It’s a no-brainer. Said to include Timothy Dolan. I rather suppose it’s a T-deficiency or cowardice.

    (3) As for Western Anglicans, Britain and America? Oy vey. But, Darryl, still holding out as a contrarian, holding the WCF and old BCP. We’re still in the TEC, but that’s another story not worth telling. BTW, Sharon is in her doctoral studies for the pipe organ/sacred music. Sheer delight in the old Anglican, Lutheran and even Psalter classics amongst others. Our parish is the beneficiary and the singing, atop a decent liturgy, is serviceable and enjoyable.



  3. Fr. Dwight thinks that ecumenical talks between Anglicans and Roman Catholics are at a dead end:

    The Anglicans are at a dead end.


    In his latest speech, Archbishop Welby acknowledged for the first time that the Lambeth conference—a once-in-a-decade gathering of Anglican bishops—might never happen again. Nor, he made clear, was it even certain whether the basis existed for convening another “primates’ meeting”—a global gathering of slightly lesser status which would normally take place every couple of years. In any case, he was no longer prepared to take sole responsibility for deciding such matters; instead there should be a “collegial model of leadership” with Anglican leaders from around the world deciding which meetings were worthwhile.

    Despite all this, the archbishop gallantly insisted, reports of the global club’s death were exaggerated. “The Anglican Communion exists and is flourishing in roughly 165 countries.” That may be sort-of true as far as it goes, but it is rather like the Queen saying that the Commonwealth exists. Of course it does, in the sense that nobody has abolished it, and not many people have left it. But post-imperial arrangements can lose salience very very gradually, to the point where the boundary between existence and non-existence becomes almost imperceptible.


  4. Dreher, Fr. Dwight… neither are connected at all to Evangelical Anglicans, the ones that still carry weight. And neither can actually claim to really get them, or they would not be wasting breath on the subject of institutional ccumenism. That’s a 1960s chimera that infatuated Paul VI and the painfully clueless Good Pope John. Lord, why is the subject even still on the table. Oh, I forgot, Pope Francis and Bryan Cross… Like I was saying, why is the subject even still on the table. It may be rude to all people fools, but not to call their pet projects foolish. Ecumenism is about as relevant to the modern scene as ‘Green Acres’ or the old Smoky their commercials.


  5. (1) A few amplifications on the Western Anglican issue.

    (2) In discussing the ordination of sodomites and lesbians in the Church of England, the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, noted that Anglicans were drunks walking along a precipice. For an archbishop, conscious of his words, this was a body blow. Here’s one outlet amongst many others that reported the comments. http://news.nationalpost.com/holy-post/anglican-church-a-drunk-man-staggering-ever-closer-to-the-edge-of-a-cliff-archbishop-says

    (3) On the same theme of “Anglican drunks,” Dr. James Innes Packer makes the same imputation in his “The Thirty-nine Articles: Their Place and Use Today.” Dr. Packer, as usual, writes with conciseness and summarizes skillfully earlier commentators on the 39 Articles. http://www.amazon.com/Thirty-Nine-Articles-Their-Place-Today/dp/0946307563/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1441798178&sr=8-1&keywords=james+packer+thirty-nine+articlesBut, early on, complaining of the non-Confessional posture of Western Anglicanism, he calls them “drunks.” To really rub it in, Dr. Packer cites the Irish jig, “What will we do do with a drunken sailor?…Shave his belly with a rusty razor…put ’em in long boat till he’s sober…that’s what we do with a drunken sailor…” It’s unexpected, but when it comes, old Dr. Packer has delivered a crippling body blow.

    (4) Ecumenical talks between the Anglican drunks and the Vatican won’t go very far other than mutual courtesies. Forget the American Episcopalians. They’re struggling against aging and dying demographics in a serious way.


  6. So SCOTUS loosens up marriage at the same time that Pope Francis does:

    In the late 1960s (before the new norms), there were fewer than 400 annulments here, but in the years following the number of annulments ballooned into the tens of thousands. Today, the Church in the United States accounts for half the annulments worldwide, even though it has only 6 percent of the world’s Catholics. It would take real blindness not to see the relevance of those norms for this explosion, and St. John Paul II was anything but blind.

    Today, the United States is the abortion capital of the world, and the American Church is the annulment capital. The Church can say all she wants that an annulment is not a divorce, which is obviously true in terms of Catholic doctrine, but the general population, including a huge percentage of Catholics, has simply come to see the annulment process as Catholic divorce. An Anglican friend of mine used to chide me in the 1970s, “we Anglicans call it divorce and you Catholics call it annulment, but in the end it amounts to the same thing in the way it affects people’s lives.”

    They have a divorce mentality, and we now have an annulment mentality. That new mentality might explain why the number of marriages itself is sinking today and the number of annulments is gradually declining. Many Catholics ask, “Why bother?” If that doesn’t suggest something has happened to undermine the permanence of marriage, I don’t know what it could suggest.

    Pope Francis surely has the best intentions, but he has quite clearly rejected the careful and prudential decision made by his predecessor, who gave us the 1983 Code. And it seems he thinks that the experimental American norms were just fine and should be extended to the whole Catholic world. But is he ready for the same results that followed in the United States?

    If he really thinks that fast tracking the annulment process is simply going to help the poor and won’t result in undermining the permanency of marriage in general, all I can say is I hope he’s right. But the experience of the American Church is not reassuring.

    Harmonic convergence?


  7. What I’m sayin’:

    The idea that Catholics should be allowed to remarry and receive communion did not begin with the letter signed by Cardinal Kasper and other members of the German episcopate in 1993. Another country’s episcopate – England’s – pioneered this experiment in Christian doctrine nearly 500 years ago. At stake then was not just whether any Catholic could remarry, but whether the king could, since his wife had not borne him a son.

    As with those who advocate for communion for the civilly remarried, the English bishops were uncomfortable with embracing divorce and remarriage outright. Instead, they chose to bend the law to the individual circumstances of the case with which they were confronted, and King Henry VIII was granted an “annulment” — on a fraudulent basis and without the sanction of Rome.

    If “heroism is not for the average Christian,” as the German Cardinal Walter Kasper has put it, it certainly wasn’t for the King of England. Instead, issues of personal happiness and the well-being of a country made a strong utilitarian argument for Henry’s divorce. And the King could hardly be bothered to skip communion as the result of an irregular marriage.
    England’s Cardinal Wolsey and all the country’s bishops, with the exception of Bishop John Fisher of Rochester, supported the king’s attempt to undo his first – and legitimate – marriage.

    Like Fisher, Thomas More a layman and the king’s chancellor, also withheld his support. Both were martyred – and later canonized.

    In publicly advocating that the king’s marriage was indissoluble, Fisher argued that “this marriage of the king and queen can be dissolved by no power, human or Divine.” For this principle, he said, he was willing to give his life. He continued by noting that John the Baptist saw no way to “die more gloriously than in the cause of marriage,” despite the fact that marriage then “was not so holy at that time as it has now become by the shedding of Christ’s Blood.”

    Like Thomas More and John the Baptist, Fisher was beheaded, and like them, he is called “saint.”

    At the Synod on the Family taking place right now in Rome, some of the German bishops and their supporters are pushing for the Church to allow those who are both divorced and remarried to receive communion, while other bishops from around the world are insisting that the Church cannot change Christ’s teaching. And this begs a question: Do the German bishops believe that Sts. Thomas More and John Fischer sacrificed their lives in vain?


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