Times have changed…but we haven’t


One of the strangest ideas modernist theologians hold is “progressivism”. The idea that humanity is somehow naturally improving simply by virtue of time! As if humanity automatically becomes more civilised the further into the future we travel. Wow! Is our human nature mystically linked to advances in technology and science? Its bonkers but many people seem to believe it or behave as if they do.

Hence modernists are ever found calling us to “move with the times” or “get with the programme” As if the programme itself could never be wrong- or the times be shallow and corrupt. Its ever out with the old, in with the new. Didn’t you know Catholicism was invented shortly after the Second Vatican Council, as something divorced from all that went before? The modern Catholics being the first in history to have considered issues such as mercy and compassion and how to fit the Gospel to everyday life… No?

Then get with the times dinosaur!! Of course the modernist  programme is best- it comes from those living today- you know- not yesterday! How better informed we must be compared with those dopey church fathers, or the primitive numbskulls who built the ancient Churches, the very Churches we had to improve by replacing altar rails and high altars with concrete tabernacles and coffee tables from Ikea!

I am being flippant but the point holds. It is because modernists believe they know best that they feel entitled to update and improve Holy Scripture and the teaching of the Church in all ages. God ought to be grateful! After all the bible is an ancient document not written for them but for a primitive and less civilised breed of human.

The problem is, of course, that it is a lie! We might have more information today but access to knowledge is no substitute for knowledge itself. Have standards gone up or down? And what of the arts? How do modern artists like Damian Hurst compare with Caravaggio? Are we really improving or sliding as a culture?

But even leaving aside such comparisons -which are arguably subjective- the very notion of progressivism itself is daft. There is no evidence to support it. If we are automatically becoming more civilised then why did more people die at the hands of others during the 20th Century than in all other Centuries combined? Would you rather dine with the lads from modern day ISIS or those who erected Cambridge and Oxford Universities during the so-called Dark Ages?

The lamentable reality is human nature, unlike science and technology, does not advance with time. Hence nobody has improved on the moral teaching of Jesus Christ. And thus the upgrade of the human condition still requires what he revealed; obedience, humility, self discipline, repentance, conversion and a willingness to co-operate with God. The rules of that Covenant he assured us would last to the end of time, of that Kingdom of which there is to be no end. The divine truth yesterday, today and forever.

This point was hammered home at Mass this morning as we read about the demise of John the Baptist. Who died precisely because he would not “get with the programme” accepting the remarriage of a divorcee without an annulment, to her former husband’s brother! And that issue, dealing with divorce minus annulment, is also what caused the schism in England with Henry VIII!

What this reveals is that dealing with divorce and issues of sexual morality is manifestly not new. The breakdown of families not being a recent thing or any different today than it was then. So why are people speaking as if it is new? As if nobody before us considered the implications of upholding matrimony as a life long union between one and and one woman? As if no other culture found it bothersome having standards set down by God which we fallen humans can struggle with?

Silly John the Baptism- couldn’t he see the need for “mercy”? Why didn’t he respond to Herod with a new pastoral solution? That the modern world of his day might view the faith as relevant and edgy? Thank goodness homosexuality hadn’t been invented or sex outside  marriage..heaven only knows how the Early Church would have coped with that knowledge when they consistently backed the ideal of marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman!

You get the point. There is nothing remotely new for the Synod to consider as regards human behaviour and sexual morality. The only difference is the modern attitude we have to certain matters of morality and God’s word.

So if the Synod finds a way to help the world better hear God’s word and receive the forgiveness and mercy that has ever been there- that will delight me! But if the desire is to forge ahead with innovation under the notion that we somehow know best simply because times have changed…well that would be dangerous, being founded on a lie so big even Pinocchio’s nose wouldn’t cope with it!

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66 thoughts on “Times have changed…but we haven’t

    1. Simply by going to confession, at which point, if they receive absolution, they are free to receive holy communion. Why, what did you think happens to divorcees?

        1. There is, of course, the annulment procedure that brings hope and mercy to a great many people.

          But if the union is found to have been sincere and sacramental there is surely a problem. For if marriage really is all that the bride and groom publicly professed it to be, for worse as well as better and till death us do part, then only death releases the bond.

          Now given that entering a new sexual relationship, when one is already married, is the very definition of adultery- why do you suggest that the term is reserved only to my church? The church is merely using logic and the vows originally made to reach a sane conclusion.

          What would you call it? And if the answer is a legitimate union- then what do you make of the vows taken? Do you think the words ’till death us do part’ and ‘for better and worse” need removing from the marriage service and replaced with language explaining an ideal unto which neither party need actually aspire? Do tell.

          1. I have a parishioner who married in his early twenties. A few years later his wife left him. He lived as a single man for a few years, then remarried. They have been together for 30 years. If I tell him he is committing adultery, he would laugh at me, as would most of the congregation. If perchance he chose to listen and abstain from the physical side of marriage, then I would be guilty of introducing tension and difficulty into that marriage which was not there before.
            Billy Graham, talking of cases like this in the 1960s said “You cannot unscramble eggs”. I’m sure he is right, and I would personally feel that the first marriage was dead, and to dwell on it now would be unproductive.
            That was why I questioned your suggestion of using the confessional.
            I am sure that nearly every couple mean the vows when they say them, and I would not suggest changing them. Sometimes we have to accept that we live in an imperfect world, and people do not always live up to the promises they have made.
            The situation is not ideal from a Christian point of view, but it is probably better than any other option, such as divorcing the 2nd wife, or pretending the 1st marriage was not real.

          2. I can think of a very similar case in which the person, on seeking entry into the Catholic church, went to the Tribunal. It took a bit of time, and there was a sense of re-visiting things that were long ended. But at the end of the process that person told me they felt a weight lifted. Having been granted an annulment they felt a lot of unresolved guilt was laid to rest and a new chapter began for them spiritually. Obviously this was not the business of any one else in the congregation- so they were not involved. Going through a process of reflection in which confession and absolution were key elements was cathartic. Better surely than brushing it all under the carpet. Obviously he did have to run the risk of not being granted an annulment. But he was prepared to do so understanding that the powerful words used during the marital service must mean more than “lets give this a go” The trouble with what you write is that, whilst it appeals heavily to the heart it does not deal with the issues raised. What price the vows? Are they for worse as well as better? Are they for life? And Jesus was crystal clear on the point that backs Catholic teaching. How do you just ignore them on the excuse of eggs being scrambled?

  1. You continually confuse the words modern/modernist/modernise. If you could get your head around their separate meanings you would make a lot more sense!

    1. Don’t stop him; he’s on a rant and role.

      Recidivism is a fun heresy to watch being defended – you can blame all the church woes on the fact that we grow and mature.

      Some people just don’t want to grow up.

      1. So did Jesus need to grow up and develop? And given that you clearly believe the divine revelation is not fixed- why did he not champion developmental change as defined by man but insisted not on dot or iota could be thrown away. I have no issue with development. I have huge issue with non scriptural innovation stemming from modern culture not historic faith.

  2. The bible can’t even get the correct brother of Herod’s Herodias was married to originally. I don’t know why anyone would take guidance from such a flawed book. Maybe progressivism isn’t such a bad thing after all. I will say that modern art is garbage though.

  3. You seem to be overly concerned with the approaching synod on the family. In response to an earlier post one of your Catholic brethren has counselled you to stop worrying and trust the church to find God’s will.

    To those of us looking at your crossing the Tiber with interest your concern is puzzling. You don’t seem to be displaying much confidence in the church you claim to be the authentic and true church. Infact you seem as uncomfortable as you were as an Anglican.

    I believe every Eucharist I preside at is genuine and every Eucharist you presided at as an Anglican was genuine too. If you’re honest you do as well.

    Theologically you and I are very similar in our rejection of modernism’s innovations but I can’t for the life of me understand why you would want people like me to join you to face the same problems albeit shinier package.

    1. (1). Fr. Ed.,
      Have you read Newman’s ‘Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine.

      (2). Fr. Paul Hamilton

      Do you consider your Eucharists to be valid by virtue of Anglican Orders per se, or because of some other source?
      I ask this only from interest and I am not making any points. I would genuinely like to know exactly what you believe.

      1. Yes. He also wrote:
        “the apostles had the fulness of revealed knowledge, a fulness which they could as little realise to themselves, as the human mind, as such, can have all its thoughts present before it at once. . . in an apostle’s mind great part of his knowledge is latent or implicit. . . I wish to hold that there is nothing which the Church has defined or shall define but what an apostle, if asked would have been fully able to answer and would have answered, as the Church has answered, the one answering by inspiration, the other from its gift of infallibility”

          1. Blessed JPII, “Our separated brethren are mysteriously linked to the Catholic Church.’

            In other words despite our failings we are a part of the one church by God’s definition. There’s no such thing as an ecclesial community.

            But we’ve disagreed on that point many times…

        1. Fr. Paul,

          You have avoided answering my question.
          Do you consider that being ordained in the Anglican Church gives you the status of a sacrificing priest and what precisely is the structure and organisation of the ‘one, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church’ to which you belong.

          1. Come on Fr. Paul. ” mysteriously linked to” does not mean the same as “part of”. And, if you say you are part of the one church by God’s definition in contradistinction to the Pope’s definition how do you know? Who says so?

          2. Given that the Eucharistic prayer tells us that we pray for the hierarchy of the church as “guardians of the One Holy and Apostolic faith” We might ask how the Anglican church can claim to be doing this in changing the very orders being spoken of and recognised by the rest of Christendom?

            Cardinal Kasper, of all people, visited General Synod and made clear that it must choose between a Catholic ordering and possible unified future or a protestant and liberal path ended hope of visible unity in our day. When it consecrated women that choice was sealed. It cannot have its cake and eat it. It opted to go it alone on a raft of issues which clearly set it apart from the One Holy and Apostolic faith.

            One can argue this actually happened at the reformation, of course, or one can argue that it became a sort of via media that came to an end in the last decade. But what cannot be argued with much integrity is that it is in any way catholic anymore hence the very obvious and terminal crisis within Anglo-Catholicism which must now morph and liberalise to accept women priests or die within a generation.

          3. On the contrary, David, I’ve answered your question precisely. What I haven’t done is been drawn into a historical and political debate where some people believe that human fallibility can create another church by calling it another name and adjusting structure.

            There is no such thing as the Church of England in terms of anything that matters, only one God and one church of which I am a part. My authority comes from God administered by his chosen vessels, His church.

  4. Thank you Fr for the clarity of the position of the Church in regards to marriage – a situation that should not be entered into lightly…….

  5. To return to your previous point (there was no possibility of reply), in the case you quote, the RC church chose to pretend the first marriage never existed. Annulments can be granted for quite spurious reasons. There has been a lot of debate in the USA about the varying standards used. A few years ago the Southwark Archdiocesan website had a page for the Marriage Tribunal encouraging people to seek annulments, saying that being married in an Anglican church was a sufficient reason. I regard that as a trivial excuse to pretend a marriage did not exist.
    Scripture has two reasons for divorce. Adultery Matthew 5.32, and where an unbelieving partner leaves a believer (1 Cor 7), so the situation is not as clear cut as you suggest.
    There are times when the breaking of a vow is the lesser of two evils and also occasions where decisions taken years ago have consequences which continue to this day. How would you have advised my parishioner who is convinced his first marriage was genuine?

    1. 1. You say that the church pretends the first marriage never existed. Just not true. Hence any children remain legitimate regardless of what the tribunal decides. The job of the tribunal is not to say a marriage never happened but to judge if it was conducted in such a way that the sacramental bond and aspect was present.
      2. This is why those married as Anglicans are often able to get one. If you have been taught, by word or example, that marriage is not really life long or for worse- then you did not consent to marriage as the Catholic church understands it -ergo an annulment is possible.
      3. Dont confuse permission to divorce with the very different issue of entering a new sexual union. People often do but they are, actually, different things. And for the record the church has always forgiven divorcees and admitted them to communion. The problem comes if, whilst still married technically, they start up in a new sexual union. Problematic because sex with a person who is not your spouse is the definition of adultery.
      4. I would guide your parishioner to a tribunal and the expert care that exists to help him deal with the issue.

      What do you do to help him make sense of Jesus words in Luke that: every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery. No outs, no exception. Luke apparently thought that he omitted nothing central to the issue when he quoted Jesus on the issue of divorce. If he thought that Jesus taught that adultery was an exception, why would Luke leave that out? Matthew does add an exception but it is for grounds for divorce not remarriage.

      1. So all you can offer my friend is the Tribunal which will find a reason to discount the first marriage!
        Incidentally, the Southwark Archdiocese still says “What if I was married outside the Catholic Church?
        Catholics are bound to marry according to the Catholic form of marriage, unless they are dispensed. So if a Catholic has married in a non-Catholic Church, or in a register office, without this dispensation being given, the marriage is invalid. Both parties to such a union can be declared free to marry, enabling each of them to enter a new marriage.”
        It cannot be said in this case that the parties were brought up in a church with deficient teaching. No wonder I, and many RCs consider the system archaic and a farce.

        1. It isn’t about what I can offer, not being a salesman. It is about fidelity to divine revelation surely. Nobody is forced to marry- that in itself would make it invalid- so why is it unreasonable to accept that actions have consequences? They themselves- not the church or anyone else- promised themselves to another until separated by death. That is the issue at the heart of all of this. Do we honour the vows made? And if not on what grounds? And how do those grounds not change the essence of what happens?

          Besides a Tribunal does not discount any marriages, however many times you throw that accusation out there. It carefully works alongside people and explore the nature of what went on at the moment of a marriage to see if it was licit or not. And the issue isn’t the Catholic form but what people understand at the point they make the vows, and if they are making that decision freely with full understanding. You call it a farce but still havent explained theologically what else could be done without clearly ignoring the teaching of Christ himself? Nor have you explained to me how your scrambled egg theory and admittance of remarriage being a lesser evil makes it an ok thing for the church to bless…

        2. Telling Catholics that if they marry outside the Church without permission then your marriage is invalid is hardly big news. It’s always been a cornerstone of the church’s jurisprudence in this field. Indeed part of the reasoning behind the rule is to allow the competent ecclesiastical authorities – usually the celebrating priest – at the very worst to clock potentially void marriages (and privately note the records by means for example of a signed note to that effect lodged with the registers) and at best to dissuade the parties from marrying. If the church recognised as valid every marriage wheresoever and howsoever celebrated that would go by the board. I do also slightly wonder at Fr. Barry saying his parishioner and most of his congregation would laugh at him, the parish spiritual leader, if he told them said parishioner was committing adultery. I can quite see they might disagree but LAUGH? Has it never even occurred to them that this is one possible analysis of their situation? That in my respectful opinion is the problem with the approach that says “Well in this particular case, not many others mind you but this one, binding vows which we’d all accept really were binding don’t count.” you end up very rapidly in a situation where nothing really matters that much any more. Hence someone who has taken those binding vows and ends up, for whatever reason, in another sexually active union says ” Adultery? Me? No; you’re joking! Because that can’t possibly apply to me.”
          Or can it?

    1. I have much sympathy with the article. I still think that there are logical hurdles that only annulment can help with. So a huge reform of the process would seem wise, but I cannot for the life of me see how it could be replaced. And it is not the case that anglican marriages are slam dunks. I know of one person still awaiting a decision after 3 years…

  6. It is such a caricature to say that on the one hand we have traditional Catholics who are faithful to God and the Church and on the other “modernists” who want to rewrite the faith to fit in with contemporary mores. Why is the Church such a battleground? Why cannot we listen to each other in love and stop pretending that we, our side, has got God fully and properly worked once and for all? Because, I would suggest, we are far more engrossed in being religious and Catholic than we ever are in wanting to know God.

    1. Margaret you suggest a distinction which I cannot recognise. A quietist notion that truth faith in God is quite distinct from the need for doctrine, religion and all that.

      I would argue Christ gave us the church because it is vital and necessary. And that to be engrossed in being robustly Catholic and religious is to come to know the true God. Jesus is not divorce from his church but to be encountered within it.

      Which isn’t to say I don’t recognise the problem of those who are religious but not faithful- after all -sitting in church doesn’t make you a Christian anymore than sitting in a garage makes you a car.

      1. I don’t think I did quite suggest the distinction you mention. It is not a matter of not needing the Church, doctrine, ritual etc., or not finding Christ there, but it is very much a matter of recognising that God is not confined to the Church and that sometimes religion can even be a barrier to knowing God, as the prophets and Christ himself saw clearly. My main point, however, was the over-simplified distinction you seem to make between faithful Catholics and so-called modernists and the equally over-simplified polemics traditionalists engage in against those they label as modernists. As I said before, Why cannot we listen to each other in love and stop pretending that we, our side, has got God fully and properly worked once and for all?

        1. Within a social milieu that encourages the expression of a variety of opinions on every question that arises, it is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate. It is the truth revealed through Scripture and Tradition and articulated by the Church’s Magisterium that sets us free.

          Benedict XVI speaking to the bishops of England and Wales answered this one

          1. That is not an answer to my point. The loaded use of the word dissent gives the game away. Dissent from what?
            Stigmatising those who in some ways see God differently from us as dissenters (from what someone has decided is unassailable truth) is precisely what I think is thoroughly unChristian behaviour. If God is mystery (which most of us think he is) we can afford to be open in exploring his mystery, rather than closing it down in advance. Pope Benedict’s comment shows sadly a sense of timidity and fear, even a lack of faith in God and his ability to guide us, rather typical of an authoritarian bureaucrat. Don’t let that cuddly grandfather act fool you. His record as leader of the CDF in persecuting forward-thinking theologians is appalling.

  7. Fr. Paul,

    Following on from what you say about the fallibility of man, am I to understand that simply to claim to be part of the church is enough to confer validity of orders?

    If so can I receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, United Reformed, Salvation Army, United Reformed and local Evangelical Union?

    1. David, you are free to receive the body and blood of Christ from me as long as you fit the criteria of St Paul’s instruction laid out in 1Cor10. I suspect you are. Just as you were free to receive from Fr Ed when he was an Anglican.

      Are you really saying that the political accident that created a new branch from the tree means that my prayer in faith means that the Eucharist at my hands is not as valid? Was Fr Ed’s valid or invalid when he was an Anglican?

      With regards to the other denominations that’s something of a smoke screen and I won’t be drawn on the individual history of each, suffice to say that their lack of episcopal authority and in each case their unwillingness to address sacramental theology causes an anomaly that must remain in God’s hands without you or I judging them.

      1. The problem with the “branch theory” is that it ignores a fundamental yet obvious problem for you.

        What happens to a branch cut off from the tree? At the reformation that cut was made. So whilst one might argue – for it is truth- that the Catholic church of England and Wales, the Catholic church of Kenya, the Catholic church of Scotland etc are all branches connected by the See of Peter. One begins to falter when trying to argue that Anglicanism is another valid branch given its refusal to be tied to and with the others on the vine. It stands alone- and there is the very problem being highlighted for you. Stand alone is not Catholic. By definition it is a separate entity- an ecclesial communion that by its own desire is not part of the Church founded on the Apostles in whose sanctuaries those bones still reside.

        This won’t bother those who have no desire to be Catholic. But for those who do there is good news. The Ordinariate was created as a way to graft a branch back onto the trunk from which it was hewn. Our doors are always open Paul and you will always be welcome. It is, I sincerely believe to the marrow of my bones, the only ‘catholic’ option existing for Anglicans in the 21st Century.

      2. I think David is indeed saying that your Eucharists are not valid although of course sincerely meant and channels of grace. But again that’s not big news either. It’s been common knowledge that this is the view of the Catholic Church amongst those who are interested in such things since Apostolicae Curae. The wording agreed for the ordination of Anglican clergy who have been received specifically acknowledges this, but nonetheless those clergy are ordained not conditionally re ordained.

  8. Mary, if any Pope made such a clear definition of the invalidity of a Christian community then he is clearly wrong. Unless you think every word from a Pope’s mouth is infallible of course which would be totally madness.

    Ed, we’ve discussed the vey points you make in response to mine many times. I’m sorry but your take on this does not make any sense to me at all. All you’re able to do is point to our weaknesses, or attempted changes which many Anglicans like myself consider invalid. You and I were ordained together many years ago…that’s when our priestly ministry began, not when you happened to become Roman Catholic.

    1. Paul answer David. He raises the crucial point. Can anyone be a priest or, if not, what is needed? Where is the authority?

      The Catholic church is clear that sacramental validity comes through use of
      1) the correct form
      2) the correct ingredients
      3) the correct intention

      It becomes obvious why Anglican orders cannot be recognised.
      We hit the nub and the real root of all Anglican problems. The lack of a clear universal authority beyond the crown.

      1. My initial question to Fr. Paul was triggered by his obvious sincere confidence in the validity of his Eucharists. Had he asserted the validity of his Anglican ordination, or given some explanation regarding the presence at his ordination of a bishop having orders purportedly recognised by Rome then I could have understood and accepted that answer.
        Even though I as a Catholic would not have had his ‘sacramental assurance’, I agree with him that there would have been little point in going over the old historical and theological points. It was simply that my curiosity was genuinely aroused.
        However the answers from Fr. Paul seemed almost to be suggesting something along the lines of ‘baptism by desire’ but surely some kind of ordination by desire would be a steep too far!
        Where is he going with this?

        1. Well to put it within the context you require, the presence of valid Bishops ordained with the authority of the church by men who are a part of the Apostolic line conveys authority.

          I guess I just thought that was implicit and wanted to avoid the usual, ‘I’m more valid than you’ tedious arguments that arise from time to time on this blog.

      2. Have done. No problem and those 3 essential elements were present when you and I were ordained many years ago.

        The attempted ordination of people incapable by natural law of being Fathers makes them invalid as Priests, but not ministers.

    2. Again Fr. Paul how do you KNOW the Pope was “clearly wrong” in referring to Christian communities outside the Catholic Church (by which he clearly meant those Christians he considered to be members of the Catholic Church which doesn’t include Anglicans) as ecckesial communities. Is it your opinion? Infallibility is a red herring here. You said that John Paul when Pope had said that separated brethren were part of the Catholic Church. I have pointed out that that is not what he said at all.. You went on to say that you are part of the one church by God’s definition.
      1.What definition?
      2. By what authority or proof is it God’s definition?
      3. How are you part of it if it is indeed God’s definition?
      If this is simply a matter of your personal opinion or even the personal opinion of lots of Anglicans that’s fine but please have the honesty to say so .

  9. Mary, I trust scripture, tradition and reason. Those three things make it blatantly obvious that other denominations are valid. The burden of proof lies with those who try to over argue the supremacy of Peter and the model that is considered to be authentic and valid. Such a model would be clearly spelled out in scripture but it isn’t and the usual texts are stretched beyond all recognition to justify Rome’s alleged supremacy.

    1. I understand that scripture, tradition and reason are the three legs of the Anglican “stool” as it were. What I am asking you to do is demonstrate that they support your argument that the Anglican Church is part of the one true etc church when the head on earth of said one true etc ( the Pope) says it isn’t. The burden of proof argument is, with respect, irrelevant. You still have to advance proof on both sides of the argument.

      1. Not in the slightest. The burden of proof is the RCs to prove or judge if it thinks it has the authority to demonstrate that other groups are invalid. The ‘keys given to Peter’ text that RCs are so fond of is fanciful at best to prove your model that evolved over some considerable time is the only valid and biblical one.

        1. Ok Fr Paul. I put that text forward to prove my case. Now you tell me why it doesn’t and advance your proof instead. You must know what it is surely.? If I were a cynical lawyer I would think you might be ducking and diving just a tiny bit.

    2. Apart from ‘you are Peter and on this rock etc’, we have to remember even more precisely that ‘Peter’, meaning rock, had never before been used as a forename. Jesus would have used the Aramaic word for rock or stone when saying this to Simon bar Jonah. He would in all probability not have said ‘you are stone and on this stone I will build my church’.It is far more likely and makes more sense in normal language that He would have said ‘Simon, you are the stone on which I will build My church’ and this is far more direct. It was only after that that he was called Stone or in today’s parlance perhaps even ‘Rocky’!
      Another thing to remember is that Jesus was most insistent on referring to only to Himself as the Good Shepherd. That he should give only Peter the three-fold command to ‘feed My sheep’ is the most intimate and important hand-over of authority in history.
      It may be that the 1870 ultra montane declaration of Papal Infallibility was laying it on with a trowel, but to emphasise something strongly at certain times in history does not make it less true.
      The Petrine ministry is the means by which Jesus provides a means and focus of unity for His sheep and those other sheep of His,’not of this flock’, can only be diminished if they are not in communion with the Suuccessor of Peter.

      1. One of my many difficulties with that view is that even you would have to admit the text is ambiguous. Other denominations would at least feel themselves on some level to have something missing but the truth is they don’t. Equally there are too many gaps in early church history of deference to Rome. It was an evolving model that served the early Christian church well, but it was only a model. If this was the correct model instituted by Christ it would be clearer in scripture, but it isn’t and you know this to be the case. It would be clearer historically but the truth is it isn’t. Your points are far from convincing I’m afraid and the RC church does not have the authority to declare other churches to be invalid or claim the Eucharist in another church is some how lacking.

  10. Just to clarify my above post which, upon rereading, I find ambiguous : John Paul and indeed every Pope by the expression ” Catholic Church” or “the one etc Church” meant/means only those Christians explicitly accepted by the Magisterium as part of the Catholic Church and that doesn’t include Anglicans. Hence the reference to those Christian communities outside the Catholic Church by that definition to be “ecclesial communities” which does include Anglicans. Fr. Paul says he is using God’s definition of “the one etc Church” and it is about his reliance on that definition that I have challenged him.

    1. Mary, I really think you should spend more time reading scripture and church history and less time reading the Catholic Catechism (even though I admire and envy it). You will find answers to the questions you raise in there.

      1. Fr Paul; I don’t read the Catechism much nowadays because I don’t have much time; I just have a good memory. So, on the basis I don’t have much time, please could you instead tell me exactly where in scripture and church history are the answers to the questions I have put to you? And what those answers are?

  11. Fr. Paul,

    I cannot understand how Anglican bishops and ordinands of the 16th,17th and 18th centuries, who condemned the Mass as an abomination and Eucharistic adoration as idolatry, can have had the intention to pass on or receive either the episcopal or priestly ministry as understood by Catholics. Nor can I understand how the Oxford Movement, by restoring the trappings of Catholicism and using a form of Catholic worship could miraculously have received the Apostolic Succession from their Protestant forebears.

    1. Do you really want to get into a debate on how individuals departing from church teaching invalidates their sacramental link? How many Roman Catholic Priests and Bishops would you like me to point to who would be invalid therefore?

      1. It wasn’t individuals who departed from church teaching.
        Anglicanism,a newly created state church under the monarchy, as a national institution rejected the basic tenets of Catholicism and embraced Luther, Calvin and inculcated the doctrines of continental Protestantism. In this way the state legislated away the Catholic faith of the English people.
        Saying Mass was treason, harbouring priests punishable by death and even possessing a rosary or Angus die was a crime.
        How can such an institution claim to be part of the Catholic church?

        1. Despite the departures from common sense and political struggles within both of our traditions the burden of proof remains with you to prove our invalidity. I’m not arguing yours, you are arguing mine.

          How could a church be genuine that has instructed the faithful that immunising their children is a sinful intrusion upon the will of God? We could play barbaric table tennis all day, but what will that prove?

          I stand at the altar and pray as priests around the world pray. Your desire to call any such prayer invalid for not being a part of your institution makes you very pharisaical in my view.

  12. I find personally that debate about whose rites are valid or genuine gets us nowhere. The Catholic Church in its catechism teaches that all the baptised are in some way members of the Catholic Church founded by Christ. Human frailties, only natural in this imperfect world, have caused Christians to have differing points of view.
    People who have grown up with different points of view from those brought up within the Church under the guidance of the Roman Pontiff cannot personally be blamed for this. For them their sacraments are genuine and it is best, for me anyway, to leave it like this, merely pointing out they are not celebrating with the authority of the Catholic Church in communion with the pope.

    What interests me more, and what I should appreciate Father Paul’s opinion about, is how does he deal with the sacraments as celebrated and administered by non episcopally ordained Presbyterian and Lutheran pastors. Are they, to his mind, as ‘valid’ or as ‘genuine’ as his Anglican eucharists ? Surely we must say that they are both ‘valid’ and ‘genuine’ to the members of these communities.

  13. But again there are quotes of a historical nature and the sin of separation past. Your very theology of church seems too dependant upon a human created boundary and system of allegiance to the magisterium.

    Until you can answer why a priest ordained by another Bishop with hands laid on by other priests, in line with the churches tradition invalidates him from saying Mass then there’s little scope for discussion and an impasse is blocking our way.

    From my perspective you are using one interpretation of history, one interpretation of scripture to put God in the box where you can understand and define him. I just can’t do that and I think the growth of the church around the world and the blessings to communities around who do not fit into your box are witness to this. You cope by calling us ecclesial communities…well that’s up to you but I’m not going there as it makes no sense to me whatsoever.

    1. See above comments. We rely on the authority of the pope relying in turn upon the Peter text ( and many others as Fr. Ed has so eloquently demonstrated). The Pope and the magisterium of the church has consistently taught that separated brethren are not PART of the one true etc church. You started off by saying that John Paul said they were then you segued into saying actually they were irrespective of what any Pope said which seems to be the real view you hold. That’s your prerogative but it is logically inconsistent and your constantly trying to hide behind a “burden of proof” argument – which is a specialist legal concept not something to be prated about in theological debate – is not making you look any less evasive. However, as you have entered the lists on this topic, please say exactly why – with proper reasons rather than ” I say so” -the burden of proof is upon the Catholic Church to demonstrate the invalidity point?Putting it another way why do you say there is a presumption of validity for churches irrespective? Just answer that one single question.

  14. Dear Father Paul – and I am happy to call you ‘Father,if you wish
    and to call you a priest, also if you wish. I would not, however call you a priest in communion with the Church under the guidance of the bishop of Rome. Nor would I expect that you would wish to be identified as such.

    I am happy to use the word ‘Church’ for the various Christian communities not in full communion with the Roman church.
    I didn’t use the words ‘ecclesial communities’.
    Though you tell me what I didn’t say, you don’t tell me what your views are on the validity (you were the one to use this term) of the eucharist as celebrated,no doubt in good faith, by members of the National Church of Scotland and the Evangelische Kirche Deutschlands (German Lutheran Church)

  15. Well, I was not necessarily responding just to you but to others on this stream but I’m delighted to read you don’t recognise such terms.

    I suppose what gets my goat on a bad day and make me laugh on a good day is the narrow, monosyllabic and purely human understanding of the concept of communion. Some of my RC brethren speak of it as something divne but when you look closely at their application it’s little more than a pharisaical instrument to measure the extent to which you agree with them in all matters…even those which ‘pass all our understanding.’ I’m just not happy squeezing God into an RC shaped box constructed by those who think they have the authority to do so based upon some words given by Our Lord to Peter which are open to numerous interpretations.

    1. But you havent yet explained how we do know who is validly ordained therefore? Is the crank in the garage church down the road? If not- why not? Are Anglicans valid through the State- how does that work? Are methodists in but pentecostals out where sacramental validity is concerned. Do tell us how, if we can simply opt out of the Apostolic church Christ founded, authority is found and proved. This really is the biggie for you.

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