Ontology and Sacraments

I’ve been continuing to ponder things sacramental, which is always likely to get me into trouble.  I realised recently that I have been teaching the Orthodox view of ordination all wrong, mixing it in with the Catholic view. In this discovery, I realised that opposition to the ordination of women has a different basis on either side of the Great Schism. From this I realised that there are significantly differing views on the ontology of (at least some of) the sacraments.

No doubt there will be theologians, professional and amateur, most of who would never bother to visit this blog, who would say (if they were to visit it), “Well, duh.” Those would of course be Valley Girl theologians, but there would be other theologians who would have a similar, if less blonde, response, incredulous that I have not already explored this in some depth and embarrassed for me that I even feel the need to write about it and demonstrate my ignorance.

I already knew that Orthodoxy did not subscribe to the Catholic idea of the indelible priestly character. However, I hadn’t thought about the implication of this being that in Orthodoxy a woman may not be a priest, whereas in Catholicism a woman cannot be a priest.

I suppose this is why the idea of deaconesses is considered seriously in some Orthodox circles. If it were demonstated (as some attempt to do) that deaconesses were the female equivalent of deacons at some time in the ancient past, then the precedent has been established in Holy Tradition that could eventually lead to such an equivalency being re-introduced. It seems to follow from this that the only thing preventing women priests in Orthodoxy is that it has never been done that way. Admittedly, this is a pretty high wall when it comes to Orthodoxy.  It does however, remove the ontological impossiblity. (While I have been writing and editing this, there has been a related discussion on Deacon Steve Hayes’ Khanya blog.)

One thing I don’t get is how the Catholic Church only sees three of the sacraments as unrepeatable, viz., Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders. I seems to me that Marriage should fit in this category as well. After all, Catholic theology does not recognise remarriage after divorce. Does this not make the sacrament of marriage unrepeatable? It also seems like there should be an indelible married character, that there is an ontological (as opposed to a merely economic) aspect to becoming one flesh.

I don’t know if Orthodoxy considered ordination, not being indelible, to be unrepeatable. Can a laicised Orthodox cleric be re-clericised? I’m sure there is a textbook answer to such a question.

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How a Bishop Should Respond

In a previous post I mention the conflict between Bishop Tobin of Providence and Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island over the issue of abortion and Kennedy’s putative Catholic faith.

With thanks to Seraphim, who mentioned it in a comment and to Fr John Whiteford, from whose blog he got it, I refer you to Bishop Tobin’s direct response to Kennedy’s claim to Catholicism.

Our Orthodox bishop should take note. Won’t but should.

Wireless Monks

My patron saint (the predecessor of my name saint and to whom I feel a greater affinity) used to spend Lent each year on Caldey Island, which lies three miles off the Pembrokeshire coast. He ordained its second Abbot, St Samson, to the diaconate, priesthood, and episcopate. He probably never imagined that the monks of Caldey would support themselves by e-commerce.

Now the monks have wireless broadband.

Father Daniel, Abbot of Caldey Abbey, said: “Patience is one of the characteristics of monastic life, but even the patience of the brothers was being tested by our slow, dial-up internet service.”

Yes, even monks move along with the times.

Indescriminate Baptism

I like Charlotte Church. I bear her no personal animosity in any way. I just thought I ought to say that before I continue.

Charlotte and her boyfriend Gavin Henson had their daughter Ruby baptised today. Their other child was present in utero. When I first saw the headline in the news, I assumed that the baptism was in a building belonging to the Church in Wales – the Welsh component of the Anglican Communion. After all, Anglicans take a wide range of views on the propriety of certain types of relationships. If they are willing to marry gay couples in London, it does not seems unreasonable to suppose they might baptise the child born out of wedlock to two people living very openly (as celebrities do) in fornication.

But no, it was a Roman Catholic church with, one must presume, a Roman Catholic priest, using, again one must presume, a Roman Catholic rite of baptism. In 1980, Pope John Paul II approved of the “Instruction on Infant Baptism” promulgated by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It specifically addresses the Dialogue Between Pastors and Families With Little Faith or Non-Christian Families:

In fact the Church can only accede to the desire of these parents if they give an assurance that, once the child is baptized, it will be given the benefit of the Christian upbringing required by the sacrament. The Church must have a well-founded hope that the Baptism will bear fruit.

How can the Church have assurance that the child will have a Christian upbringing when the parents have no regard for the sacrament of marriage? I have no problem with the baptism of children born out of wedlock, if their parents have subsequently gotten married. Otherwise, how can the parents acknowledge at the font their duty to raise the child to keep God’s commandments?

Charlotte wants to have six children by the time she is 32. She has not indicated when, along the way, she plans to enter into the sacrament of marriage. But like I said, my problem isn’t with Charlotte. She is living in perfect harmony with the spirit of the age and that is the life she has chosen.

My problem is with a church possessing valid sacraments demonstrating a very unguarded approach to their administration and sending a message that the church has given up on the exclusivity of marriage as the valid relationships within which to engage in sexual relationship and raise children.

Women in Pointy Hats

The principal beneficiary will be the Roman Catholic Church, but Orthodoxy in Britian may also benefit from the decision made by the Church of England House of Bishops. The bishops have decided that it is time for the purported consecration of women to join their number. At the same time, they have left opponents out in the cold.

Heretofore, those in the C of E who have faithfully received the sacraments from men of God were cared for under the shepherding guidance of “flying bishops” – officially known as episcopal visitors – authorised to cross diocesan boundaries to care for parishes objecting to women priests. If the General Synod approves the legislation, flying bishops will be no more and all of the Church of England will be ruled by women. For many Anglicans, any pretense of valid orders and valid sacraments will be gone.

As far as I’m concerned the C of E can do what it wants to do. I’m not opposed to women priestesses or bishopettes. As far as I’m concerned, just like any other Protestants they don’t have valid sacraments, so it doesn’t matter what they do. Since this new development will push more people out of the C of E, perhaps I should even view it as a positive development.

Being rather ecumenical as I am toward Rome, I’m not bothered that most of them will swim the Tiber. I know that most western Christians find Orthodoxy a difficult fit – something that I think is probably as much to do with the non-essential cultural and liturgical aspects of Orthodoxy as anything – but Rome has valid sacraments despite some theological deficiencies. Some, due in part to lingering anti-papal attitudes, will cross the Bosphorus instead.

The huge number of clergy threatening to defect to Rome will boost the declining numbers in vocations there. Perhaps this will enlighten the Holy Father to the possibility of extending the Eastern Catholic practice of married priests to the West as a normality rather than a concession to certain converted clergy. Thus, if played right, the knock-on effect of the Anglican decision could be quite significant. I’d still call it a long shot, though.

Even if they are only Protestant clergy, I still can’t get over the cringe factor of seeing a woman pose as a priest in a black shirt and white collar. No doubt I will double cringe at a woman in a cope and mitre.

The Scandal of No Scandal

Peter Phillips is 11th in the line of succession to the British throne. He was on the verge of losing his place in less than three weeks. He was planning to marry a Roman Catholic. He could marry a Buddhist or a Muslim or even a Baptist and keep his place. It’s only Catholics that pose a problem.

He will now remain in the succession. He’s still getting married to the same person. His intended, Autumn Kelly, has conveniently converted to Anglicanism. She has been receiving instruction from the Dean of Windsor and was confirmed in the C of E. None of the news articles indicate which bishop confirmed her.

This has raised hackles on various sides of the argument. Reading the comments on the various online newspaper articles, some people are outraged that she would have to leave her faith for him to keep his place. Others ostracise her for giving in. Some think he is being selfish for making her leave the Catholic Church rather than giving up his place.

I really don’t see what all the kerfuffle is about. News articles all say they don’t know whether she was a practicing Catholic. If they would read their own articles they would realise that she wasn’t. She has been living with Peter for a long time without the benefit of marriage. They have a flat in London and a cottage in Gloucestershire.  They live in open fornication.

The question I have is why she was confimed in the Church of England in the midst of what should be scandal. Sadly, this says a lot about the C of E.

Misrepresenting the Truth to Defame the Church

In a bid to show me how bad the Church is, an anti-clerical sort over where I been discussing science and religion included a link to an anti-Catholic site. It includes this picture:

ratzingernaziyouthsalutinghitler.jpg

The interesting thing is that Joseph Ratzinger is shown in priestly vestments. In fact, without the caption you might think he was doing anything from consecrating the Body and Blood to blessing the congregation. But, no, this website assures us he is saluting Hitler.

There’s only one tiny problem. Ratzinger was ordained in June of 1951.  That is a full six years after the death of Hitler.

I guess there’s no limit to the depth some people will go to villify the Church.

Update:

Here is the whole picture. It is more likely that the Ratzinger brothers are about start a sychronised dive than that they are saluting a long-dead German dictator.

Ratzinger Brothers Ordination

Ratzinger Brothers Ordination