Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. (revised)

So the Good Pope Benedict, when he was a lad, wrote the members of the Network saying that the Roman Catholic Church was looking on their efforts with some favor. The great and powerful OZ was, it appeared, willing to give some attention to them.

Only... stand over there in front of the throne, don't look behind the curtain. Back there there is the same crowd that, when it comes down to it, states that the poor miserable churches that took part in the Reformation are "deprived of a constitutive element of the Church." We are ecclesial Communities, not the church. We all are without, "a sacramental priesthood" and "cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called "Churches" in the proper sense."

Got that?

If not here is the Vatican word on the matter, taken from HERE.

"Fifth Question: Why do the texts of the Council and those of the Magisterium since the Council not use the title of "Church" with regard to those Christian Communities born out of the Reformation of the sixteenth century?

Response: According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called "Churches" in the proper sense."

Even Ruth Gledhill, who in recent times has spoken kindly of the doings of the Pope, got it.

What it is saying, dear friends is that (i) The Anglican Communion is not a "Church" (but we knew that already... it is a fellowship of churches) and (ii) The Church of England, The Episcopal Church, The Church of Nigeria (Anglican) or even The Episcopal Church of Scotland (who would like to share the title, "The Episcopal Church"). not to mention our dear brothers and sisters in the Lutheran Church of America, or the Provo Churches, or (Lord forbid) the Methodists and the Baptists and the Presbyterians, and everybody else... none of these are "Church" either. So much for our ecclesia quarrels...they are not church quarrels, but only the mutterings of misguided Christians. We might have been more than "ecclesial communities" if we really had sacraments, priests, etc but we don't. The importance of anything we do is suddenly made clear: it is unimportant to the body of Christ, the Church, because we are not in or of the Church.

So why does the Network congratulate itself on being noticed by the Roman Catholic Church? And for that matter why do regular not too ticked off Episcopalians worry about what Rome thinks about our polity and our willingness to ordain Bishop Robinson? They don't believe our priests are priests, our sacraments are real or that we are a church. By the way, they don't believe our bishops are bishops either.

Members of our church who came from Rome often chuckle about how it is impossible to get Rome out of one's system. So maybe that's it... here in the West its hard to get Rome out of our system. But that doesn't mean it doesn't stick in the craw.

This is not new news. It is old news. But we might remember it in days to come. Swimming over to Rome just became harder to take. It is not, "we receive you into this Church, we hope you will find some comfort here," it is "we receive you into The Church, we are thankful that you gave up your ecclesial community for the real thing."


  1. The Defective Ecclesial Society welcomes you!

  2. if you're going to damn the RC Church for speaking honestly, at least get the facts right before you damn them.

    in the RC ecclesiology laid out by Lumen Gentium and recently reiterated:

    all the baptized are in the Church, meaning the Church of Jesus Christ, which is not simply to be identified with the RC Church, and thus the story is extremely close to our own;

    saying that "group X is not a church" is not the same thing as saying "group X can't make good Christians" or "the members of group X are not Christian".

    at least, please, pay attention. if you don't like RC ecclesiology, fine, but please don't get it wrong in the process of damning it.

  3. "the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery"

    So the "Eucharistic Mystery" can only be preserved by Roman Catholic priests (who are by definition male)? This is how institutions (and men) come to justify themselves and set themselves apart (above) and by so doing betray the faith they set out to preserve.

    It is oh so common and oh so human, and has nothing to do with the life and work of Christ.

  4. As you say, Fr. Mark, there is really nothing new here. But the fact that he needed to say it for no particular reason I can see suggests that Ben XVI is modeling himself less on Ben XV than on Pius IX (aka Pio Nono).

    I understand that the intransigence of Rome on the status of Anglicanism actually delayed Mr. Newman's conversion by some years.

  5. thomas bushnell, bsg... right. We are all Christians by baptism, thank God. That is not in question. I believe I made a mistake in how I wrote this up, having perhaps inappropriately related Christian=body of Christ=Church. "Church" in this context is not "Church" in the sense that The Roman Catholic Church is the Church and we (whoever we are) are not.

    So the more proper way to state the problem is perhaps that (i) Anglican Orders are not recognized as vaild, (ii) our sacramental life is not valid, and (iii) we are not really to be called "Church." On the other hand (i) we are Christians individually and collectively, so we are "ecclesial communities."

    Thomas... as always you are a help.

  6. approaching accuracy. :)

    and sorry for my fiesty tone before... the whole thing is a silly tempest in a teapot, and misses the essential "nothing to see here" lack of any anything in the recent statement. desperate to make it a signal of some kind, it becomes an "anti-ecumenical" signal, when it's nothing of the kind.

    so, (i), yes, nothing has changed in that respect, though note that reiterations of that particular position have *not* been made, and this statement says nothing about anglican orders;

    (ii), it is not our "sacramental life" that is judged invalid, but only a portion of it. and note that this is something which *only* affects anglicans, because the Reformed do not *claim* to have a sacramental life in the way the RC church, Orthodox, or many of us do.

    and, one must recall the "special place" that Anglicans occupy within the RC view of things, a special place which is characterized at least by a shared valuation of such things as the historic episcopate and sacramental life, things which the Reformed lack and do not miss, whereas we (when we are told we lack them) get upset because *we* value them, even though the Reformed do not.

    (iii) what is the "we" here that is not to be called church? it is our organizational structure, and that only and precisely because the validity of our episcopal ordination is not accepted, and *not* because we don't happen to be RC. note that the Orthodox, equally out of union with the pope, *are* called churches, so this is not all an excuse to lambast "whatever is not Rome". but we, individually, *are* not only members of ecclesial communities, but true members of *the* one church of Christ. this is precisely why the "subsists in" language was adopted by vatican ii.

    i can affirm, as a consequence, and as an Anglican, that there is much in common between me and the mind that produced the recent statement. I would assert that our orders are valid, of course (and the recent statement does not discuss this); and that the church of Christ subsists in us just as it does in the RC Church.

    and, i am going to share the sense that the Reformed are truly missing something which, if not of the being of the church, is of the full being of the church. i do not, in the last analysis, recognize the ordination of Reformed ministers as being similar to the ordination of us or the RC or Orthodox or (fill in others here). and if that bothers the Reformed, i am only confused, because they explicitly do not *want* what I mean by ordination!

  7. The Diocese of Pittsburgh said the translation just doesn't translate well. Get that? Rev Ron Lengwen RC diocesan spokesman didn't seem to answer the question adequately. Funny that they felt the need to appear on the news and do damage control.

    In my years working for the Roman Catholic church many a priest told me Anglican orders were not recognized by Rome. They tried to get me to convert but I liked asking too many questions.

    First the Moslems now other Christians, who's next. Personally, what does Benedict get by saying anything other than breeding ill will and bad feelings.
    I'm sorry but I just don't understand why do this?

    Peace, Bob

  8. I am grateful that the Pope speaks the mind, tradition, and teaching of the Catholic Church without fudging. Sometimes I wonder if they are right.

    I have to admit that I am deeply, deeply discouraged about the Episcopal Church, and am beginning to consider my options. Certainly I will be somewhere else this Sunday, at least at 8 AM.

    The polarization, the resentment and bickering in the Episcopal blogosphere (and well beyond it) is just too much. I really don't need a church to teach me to hate; I need a church that will make me a better person and draw me close to Christ. I am sympathetic toward feminism and gay rights (the latter at least in the marketplace and in politics), but this is not why I go to church either.

    The idea of a church that upheld traditional Christian values rather than those of the Religious Right or the secular left is so appealing. It would be nice to be a part of a church I can encourage my children to remain in.

    I first came to the Episcopal Church because I needed the Eucharist and loved its liturgy. Both are still true. But I find absolutely frightening its uncritical acceptance of the political left, even to the rejection of Scripture and Tradition. And then with the Griffith/Kaeton+ mess this weekend, well ...

    I realize I probably shouldn't share this on this blog, where there will be few sympathetic voices. StandFirm would be more appropriate, but probably too affirming, and I don't really want that either.

    I'll stop here. Sorry if I offend.

  9. Mark+, all:

    I thought I'd share the reaction from the Missouri Synod to Benedict's latest controversy.

    Response to Pope's Release of Document on the Church

    July 12, 2007

    Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

    According to an Associated Press report, “Pope Benedict XVI approved a document … that says other Christian communities are either defective or not true churches and that only Roman Catholicism provides the true path to salvation.”

    This declaration, with which Lutherans and other Christian church bodies obviously disagree, is nothing new, similar statements and perspectives having precipitated the 16th century Reformation nearly 500 years ago. At that time Martin Luther said, “Popes and councils can err.” Apparently that is still true today.

    Even 500 years ago, the church was defined in the simple words of our Lutheran Confessions by those whose faith in Christ precipitated the Reformation:

    • [The church] is the assembly of all believers among whom the Gospel is preached in its purity and the holy sacraments are administered according to the Gospel. (Augsburg Confession Article VII)

    • “Thank God, [today] a child seven years old knows what the Church is, namely, the holy believers and lambs who hear the voice of their Shepherd. For the children pray thus: 'I believe in one holy Christian church.'” (Smalcald Articles: Art. XII; Triglot, p. 499)

    The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod looks forward to the continuation of our theological dialogues with Roman Catholic leaders in discussion of this very important matter and to strengthening our common witness on such matters as the sanctity of life.

    Sincerely, in Christ,

    Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, President
    The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod

  10. if that bothers the Reformed, i am only confused, because they explicitly do not *want* what I mean by ordination!

    To an extent, Thomas, I think you ARE confused, because through CUIC (nee' COCU) *some* of the Reformed (depending on how YOU define "Reformed": CUIC members are PCUSA, UMC, AME, AMEZ, CME, UCC, CC-DC, and Int'lCoComChurches) have been s-l-o-w-l-y comin' around to TEC's way of seeing things (chiefly, the Real Presence in the Eucharist, and "episcopate, adapted"---which only begs the question of a sacramental priesthood uniting the two! ;-p)

    [Lutherans (some), of course, are covered by "Called to Common Mission" w/ us, and "Porvoo" in Europe w/ the CofE]

    Ergo, while you can say "this only affects Anglicans" in the big (repeated since Apostolicae Curae) SMACKDOWN, by extension I believe Benny's latest does ill to the wider ecumenical project (or at the very least, does nuthin' to help it!)


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.