TO HIERARCH OR NOT TO HIERARCH??? That is the real question…

THIS IS NOT MEANT AS AN PERSONAL ATTACK upon any religion or group of people so please do not read it as such. I base it upon my own studies, struggles with the Faith, and subsequent conclusions that Christianity in her fullness is either founded upon the Apostles and thus passed down, or it is not. I believe it is.
  • I recently came across a well-designed web page, laying out a grand “new direction” for the Roman Catholic Church and signed by many self-professed theologians (most of whom bask in far more obscurity than me), as well as other Catholic lay persons, and which gives opportunity for each of us to add our 3 cents in as well. In other words, read it and sign it (actually please do not sign!). So I choose to do instead give my thoughts here. The link to this document is as follows:
  •       and at first glance it sounds both compelling and worth further study. It isn’t.
  • Having spent nearly a year of my life within the Anglican Communion, and some of that time fairly recently, as well as formally studying Church History through a local seminary from that perspective this last fall, I will just say that each of these ideas or concepts could be lifted (ummmm…most likely are in fact!!!) from their collective “scratch pad.” There is little or no theology or philosophy within this proposal which was not bantered about during class at one time or another, and primarily by other students in fact. So while I hear what they are saying, I will categorically say I have “heard it all before.” And many of those reading have as well.
  • My limited experience with Anglicanism is that the primary difference between her and Rome is not doctrinal, but rather the glaring lack thereof. And it is in fact a point of pride with many of the good folk I studied with. They as a group presently do many of the things suggested here, lay people “voting” on doctrine for instance (as if it were even up for a vote under any circumstances), or whole segments of the Communion simply ignoring the core 39 “Articles of Religion”  which were laid out during the Elizabethian settlement. The second is a direct result of instituting the proposed “not-so-new” idea of allowing local Bishop‘s synods more authority and de-centralizing from Rome. See:
  •      for more detailed information on these articles and their historical and present impact upon Anglicanism worldwide. Again, or the lack thereof.
  • My point is this–if these supposed “scholars” really believe and feel as they say here, why not simply become Anglicans in the first place and not attempt to re-rudder the fundamental teachings of a 2000 year old Roman Catholic Church with 1.2 billion members? I say “supposed” not in questioning their credentials, but in attempting to point out the utter lack of original thinking here. I could have written this document, even while sleep deprived, and I am quite far from an authority (plus I would not bother to pretend such audacity anyway, since I would be found out in short order to say the least). This is lay people “trying or dying” to become the hierarchy. Pure and simple.
  • The attempt to foist it upon the world as some type of “official” needed fulfillment of Vatican II is what troubles me most here. It is neither realistic nor intellectually honest in the least. No wonder Hans Kung gets into trouble so often (the only signer whose name I recognized by the way).
  • I am sure Bishop John Shelby Spong would have gladly endorsed it, but he is not Roman Catholic. He, in fact, is Anglican, and in good standing, of course. So is his polar opposite, NT Wright. And J I Packer. And Archbishop Tutu. And Eugene Robinson. And Katharine Jefferts Schori too. Anyone, of any or no theological persuasion, can become a Bishop in Anglicanism in our day and age. And that is not to condemn or rip apart the above list of people. Many of them are deeply caring and dedicated to the Gospel of Christ. So again that is not my point here.
Cover of "The Church"
Cover of The Church
  • My point is this though. Houses built upon the sand do not stand during storms. And authentic unity costs more than beach mud, water, and wading, and writing petitions. It may cost you your life. And your theology. And mine too. That however is what the Church is all about. Truth and love. Love and truth. Not either but both.
Le Jour ni l’Heure 9974 : plaque à l’emplaceme...
Le Jour ni l’Heure 9974 : plaque à l’emplacement du meurtre de Thomas Becket, 29 décembre 1070, lieu où se recueillirent le 29 mai 1982 Jean-Paul II et l’archevêque Robert Runcie, Cantorbéry, mercredi 11 avril 2012, 09:31:34 (Photo credit: Renaud Camus)

13 Replies to “TO HIERARCH OR NOT TO HIERARCH??? That is the real question…”

  1. Interesting! I did not know this was a prohibition! Would a married Anglican Preist who convered and became a Catholic preist be sworn to chastity? I’ve heard both affirmative/negative.


    1. it would depend on the individual situation. For instance someone who had been a faithful lifelong Anglican and converts to follow Rome is generally accepted “as is” these days, and in fact the current Holy Father has set up an entire ordinariate for this purpose.

      But if, to use a famous example, someone such as Father Alberto Cutie (and this is in NO way a slam on him, but just a matter of history) leaves the Catholic priesthood, becomes an Anglican priest, and then marries, I am sure that they would be far more hesitant to receive him back as he, like me, is in reality a lifelong Catholic in the eyes of the Church. The provision for him would have been to become laicized rather than attempting to do both. That means he remains a priest but cannot function as one unless in cases of dire emergency, someone dying along the roadside and the like where no other priest is avaialble.

      And that is a discipline, not a doctrine, so it could conceivably be revisited one day. But that is the procedure for now.

      In any case Rome is opening the doors wide for Anglicans in general, and lots are flocking in that direction. Here is a link from the Q and A section on the Personal Ordinariate of St Peter page for the United States.

      Much more general and specific information is there as well, but I have copied below the pertinent section about marriage and the priesthood. You might note that the Church however does not accept even former Anglican bishops to be bishops. All bishops, East and West, Catholic or Orthodox, are normally to be celibate.

      Can ordinariate priests marry?

      Former Anglican bishops, priests or deacons who are married and who complete the application and formation process may become priests for the ordinariate. Non-married clergy who are ordained Catholic priests may not subsequently marry.

      With the exception of these former clergy, the discipline of a celibate clergy in the Roman Catholic Church, will, as a rule, be followed. However, the ordinary “may also petition the Roman Pontiff, as a derogation from canon 277, para 1, for the admission of married men to the order of presbyter on a case by case basis, according to objective criteria approved by the Holy See.” (Anglicanorum coetibus, Article VI).


  2. I wonder, what is so different between the Anglican view of magisterium and the Catholic view? I understand that Henry VIII believed that the authority to appoint bishops belongs with the King, and the King (or today, the Queen) is head of the church within his own country rather than the Pope. On the other hand, isn’t it the case that Anglicans worldwide are subject, to an extent, of the Archbishop of Canterbury? I just ask because Anglicanism is the one branch of Protestantism I am not that familiar with.


    1. In theory that is true, but in practice not really. The Archbishop of C is considered “first among equals,” and there is a certain amount of allegiance you must have in order to vote etc and the rest of the Anglican Communion can censure you under certain circumstances, but it means little. When Eugene Robinson was elected the first LGBT bishop the US Episcopals were allowed to attend the Lambeth Conference but, I believe, to vote, because they had gone against the rest of the Communion in this decision. It was either that or when they elected the current presiding Bishop, who is the first female, or was it when they decided to allow non-celibate gay clergy in general? One of those, or maybe even all of those. I am not positive. But–it meant nothing, the Episcopal Church is its own entity, and if worst came to worst could vote themselves out of the Communion.

      An interesting twist on this was the recent vote in England, which was on women bishops for the C of E. They allow womynpriests but not promotion to bishop. The vote would take a 2/3 majority from 3 groups, they clergy, again I am not sure but I would say the bishops separately, and the lay persons separately. What is ironic (and important) is that all 3 voted a majority but the LAY PERSONS are the ones who voted this with less than 2/3. So now the other two groups are forcing a fight in order to push it through somehow. Bottom line–if they do not like their own rules, they just change or ignore them and nothing really happens. So basically you have a bunch of little King Henry VIII’s going around deciding anything and everything. It was set up from a split, and set up for one as well. Then again that is not uncommon in Protestantism. What makes it distinct is that it does not claim to be Protestant but the “middle way” between Rome and a Calvinistic leaning Protestantism–officially. But if you ask the majority what they believe, it will likely be “none of the above.” So that is my take. And my flirtation with them is over.


  3. Heh. On a sidenote: I almost bought the “Nuns an the Run” game from a friend’s shop a while back. Quite a bit more innocent than what these folks spotlighted by Richard are proposing…..


  4. Good to note: CS Lewis noted that a person with the opinions of a Labour party man ought not be a member of the Tories. So, if you like the way the Anglicans do things, why not go there?


  5. It’s one of the burning questions I’ve had since my conversion: why try to alter someone else’s pre-set dogma instead of just moving along to a belief system you don’t revile and want to revise? I don’t get it. Is it pride? Is it sense of entitlement? Anyway, great examination and presentation of the question, Richard, and as usual, I appreciate most of all your honesty and the way you leave yourself vulnerable.


  6. Thanks for sharing Richard. In the post you asked “why not simply become Anglicans in the first place and not attempting to re-rudder the fundamental teachings of a 2000 year old Roman Catholic Church with 1.2 billion members?” Maybe one answer is that these people do not like the Church, or at least they really do not like what She continues to stand for. They don’t just want to be able to do their own thing, but they actively want to do away with the Church’s doctrines. The best way to do that is to change it from the inside.

    This is confirmed by their web site. If you look under their web site where it says ‘case studies’ one can see that they dissent regarding the Church’s teaching on sexual morality, the priesthood, and divorce.


    1. As I stated on the FB page, I agree with you, but would also point out that sometimes it is not even a conscious effort to rebel. At least not always.

      What happens is, once we reject what we know to be true, our intellect becomes darkened and confused. I know that was true for me during my short jaunts away from Rome in the past 2 years, and several other times when I really entertained doubts but did not act upon them as such.

      We become like Jonah–we run and we quit listening to the quiet voice of God. Then when we do become quiet, we have already pushed the truth so far away from our minds that it can take awhile to come back to it. That I know.


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