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For if that which was done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Scylla and Charybdis

Just suppose one takes vows seriously (I for one don't think that perjury is a great start to a life in Holy Orders)....

If one is a candidate for Holy Orders in the Anglican church one must swear to uphold the 39 Articles and use only the Book of Common Prayer (deviations therefrom being permitted only by episcopal permission). If one is of an orthodox persuasion, one must invoke Tract 90 and accept that however deficient the Eucharistic Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer, it is not so destructive of the patristic doctrine that it contradicts it. One would also most likely be aware that episcopal permission - at least implied - will almost inevitably follow on one's choice to use the so-called interim rite, the English Missal, or whatever one's preference.

If one is a candidate for Holy Orders in the Roman communion one make the following Oath of Fidelity, after assenting to the Apostles Creed:

"With firm faith, I also believe everything contained in the word of God, whether written or handed down in Tradition, which the Church, either by a solemn judgment or by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, sets forth to be believed as divinely revealed.
I also firmly accept and hold each and everything definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals.
Moreover, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act."

The first paragraph seems to me to be very ambiguous. The "which" refers to what, in this rather tortured sentence? Is it referring to a qualified belief in the word of God, that is to be extended by the one who vows only to what the Church has "set forth to be believed as divinely revealed"? But if that is the case, then one vows one's faith in only those teachings that are contained in the word of God, and then subsequently taught by the Church universal, from the Fathers until now. And that qualified statement - "contained" in God's word - would rule out certain innovations that may have been taught by a supposedly solemn judgment, but that are neither found in the word of God nor taught by the Fathers and the Church as an organic whole.

The second paragraph binds one to an acceptance of what the Church teaches - not a particular part of the Church at a particular time, but the whole Church throughout the ages.

And as for the third and final paragraph, the words hinge upon that interesting term "authentic", which I take to be a qualification implying that there is a possibility that Popes and Bishops can teach what is inauthentic, to which one need not give "religious submission of will and intellect".

Further, for those of us who delight in religious submission of will and intellect, the current teaching about doctrinal development current among the high and mighty of the Church is something we can surely internalise. Take some words of our Lord and their constant re-affirmation throughout 2000 years of Christian teaching, "develop" them a little and Bing! they can mean their opposite. This possibility opens up a kind of quantum physics in theology and faith, the "indeterminacy principle". Any new-fangled doctrine (ultramontanism, whatever you like) can be or not be at one and the same time, and can be developed on a spectrum of alteration - a spectrum that runs from the subtlest tweak to flat out contradiction.

The previous paragraph may be discounted as an attempt at irony. But am I being disingenuous, I wonder? Or do legalistic formulae designed to "stitch you up" and leave you without any room for manoeuvre deserve to be read legalistically, dissected, and then interpreted in as wide a sense as the words will allow? Vide Tract 90.

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