An Anglican Priest

"Protestant and Reformed according to the principles of the ancient Catholic Church." Bishop John Cosin (d. 1672)

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Articles of Religion of the Church of England: XV. Of Christ alone without Sin.

"Christ in the truth of our nature was made like unto us in all things, sin only except, from which he was clearly void, both in his flesh, and in his spirit. He came to be the Lamb without spot, who, by sacrifice of himself once made, should take away the sins of the world; and sin (as Saint John saith) was not in him. But all we the rest, although baptized and born again in Christ, yet offend in many things; and if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."

In light of the recent Anglican-Roman Catholic statement tacitly accepting the Marian doctrine of the Immaculate Conception and the related ideas concerning her bodily assumption into Heaven, as well as in light of the fact that many modern Anglicans are open to these speculations, I think several factors need to be considered pertaining specifically to the Immaculate Conception: 1) This is not a “Catholic” doctrine; it is not accepted by the East nor by the West during the period of the Ecumenical Councils; 2) The Orthodox reject this doctrine, 3) The Old Catholics reject this notion; 4) Early Anglo-Catholics rejected this notion as “un-Catholic” and heretical. Its modern acceptance by many Anglo-Catholics is therefore noteworthy, troubling, and unfortunate. Per the Old Catholic rejection of the Immaculate Conception, the Fourteen Theses state:

"We reject the new Roman doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as being contrary to the tradition of the first thirteen centuries according to which Christ alone is conceived without sin."

Early Anglo-Catholic rejection of the notion of the Immaculate Conception is usually tempered by accepting notions of Mary’s perpetual virginity and high degree of sanctity. Even so, Westcott’s statements in his dogmatic theology text Catholic Principles illustrates the continuing problems with the doctrine in a manner similar to the Old Catholic reflection:

"The first example of a papal definition of doctrine made independently of a council occurred in 1854, when, under Jesuit influence, Pope Pius IX declared that the doctrine that the Blessed Virgin was "preserved in the first instant of her conception from all stain of original sin . . . was revealed by God, and is therefore to be firmly and steadfastly believed by all the faithful." We must be careful to note exactly what this doctrine means and involves. Anglican Churchmen do not deny that the Blessed Virgin may have been so sanctified by the Holy Ghost, that she was preserved from actually committing sin, though this is merely a pious opinion; nor do Anglicans dispute the Catholic tradition of the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin. What the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception affirms is, that she did not inherit original sin, a sinful nature, the taint which has been transmitted from Adam; and if this be true, then it would seem to follow that the Blessed Virgin, and not our Lord, is the starting point of our redemption; the beginning of the new humanity, the second Adam; and that the inherited taint of sin was cut off by Mary, not by Christ; and that from Mary we inherit the new nature, rather than from Christ. Now of this doctrine, there is not the slightest hint in the Bible; and when it first began to be taught, it was controverted and disputed. St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, and St. Thomas Aquinas, taught the contrary; and the whole Greek Church has always repudiated it. It virtually contradicts one of our Lord’s unique attributes, namely, that He alone was born without taint of sin. If this doctrine be true, then salvation begins with the Blessed Virgin, rather than with Christ; and yet this doctrine was proclaimed in 1854, as a dogma divinely revealed."

Another point of concern would be that through the Immaculate Conceptions as the Romans teach it that you could argue that Christ's humanity, the humanity he took on in order to redeem it (kai o logoV sarx egeneto kai eskhnwsen en hmin; St. John 1:14), need not be subject to the suffering (hunger, thirst, pain) and death that resulted from the Fall if Mary were cleansed from every taint of Original Sin at her conception and then did not sin throughout her life (was she able not to sin, or not able to sin due to her arguably perfect human nature?).

If Mary is the New Adam (so to speak), rather than Christ, our new nature and redemption is brought to us not by Christ, but by the Virgin: "If this doctrine be true, then salvation begins with the Blessed Virgin, rather than with Christ" (Catholic Principles, Westcott, 1902). Then all of the Roman titles that have been allotted to the Virgin Mary would be accurate and valid and we're bordering on Christological heresy to the point of making Jesus superfluous. In short, the Immaculate Conception is an un-Catholic doctrine that contradicts the Scriptures.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


All Saints Church,
Amarillo Texas

This is one of the best websites I’ve seen for a traditional Anglican parish—please check it out. Turn on your volume for the Gregorian chant.

http://allsaintsamarillo.org/

From the website:

"At All Saints Church our aim is to help people understand they were made to love and worship God. This is why we exist. In the middle of the 4th century a man by the name of Augustine wrote this short prayer that summarizes our purpose, "Thou hast made us for Thyself and our hearts are restless until they find rest in Thee."

We believe there's one hour of the week unlike any other hour. It is Sunday's corporate appointment with God when we say with the Psalmist, "O God, thou art my God, I seek thee, my soul thirsts for thee; my flesh faints for thee, as in a dry and weary land where no water is (Psalm 63:1)."

Our worship is shaped and directed by the ancient liturgy. The theology and wisdom of these extraordinary prayers help us maintain a balance between doctrinal purity and warm-hearted devotion. C.S. Lewis captured our sentiments when he wrote the following,

"Every service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do these things best...when, through familiarity, we don't have to think about it. As long as you notice, and have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don't notice. Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling. The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God (Letters to Malcolm)."

All people are welcome in our church. The Bible affirms that we are all sinners in need of repentance, conversion and amendment of life. Hence, we open our arms to everyone and invite them to discover the transforming power of Jesus Christ.

We're especially interested in meeting people who are on a spiritual journey. People who value learning, reading and the collective wisdom of church history will feel at home at All Saints.
When you visit All Saints you'll be inspired by the wonder and pageantry of liturgical worship. The worship of God will awaken in you an unknown capacity for joy and you'll say with King David, "O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water. So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, To see Your power and Your glory (Psalm 63:1).

Thank you for taking time to visit us on the web. We look forward to meeting you.

Monday, October 16, 2006


A Short Reflection on Terminology. . .

As the Patristic Anglican has pointed out on his blog on not a few occasions, the use of the term "Anglo-Catholic" is a bit elastic (at best); I sometimes lament that I even use the term, for it often confuses instead of clarifies: "Oh, that means you're closer to Rome--why don't you just 'join the Catholic Church'?" The follow up attempt to explain many of the points set forth in the post below will often lead to more confusion. Many people today proudly proclaim that they or their parish is "evangelical," but if you ask them if their priest wears a chasuble and celebrates the Eucharist every Sunday and they've already said they're "evangelical" you can point out that these are the marks of early Anglo-Catholicism. However, the parish may very well be "evangelical," for this is not a dirty word and it is not opposed to "Catholicism." Again, more confusion than clarity.

Similarly, terms such as "low church" or "evangelical" are often meaningless and usually depend on who is talking. One person will look at the service at St. Andrew's and call it "low church" because we don't use incense. Another will call it "just right" because it is nearly identical to the old Episcopal services from the 1950s. A third person will think us too "high church" or "catholic" because we're always making the sign of the cross and bowing (to the cross, to the Holy Table, at the Name of Jesus, at the Name of the Trinity, etc), and we've got all of those fancy gold vessels on the altar.

While I consider myself an "Anglo-Catholic," my thinking is most in line with the Caroline divines, the early Tractarians like Pusey and Keble, writers like Staley, and those who sought to conform the reformed Church of England to the theology of the ancient Church (so I also have an affinity for Eastern Orthodox authors such as Fr. Alexander Schmemann). I know that others will say, "Well, you're not really Anglo-Catholic" and then go on to expand the definition of the term to eliminate my line of thinking or place me into some other category.

I think that I and other like minded bloggers (if I may be so bold as to include writers such as the Patristic Anglican and the Anglican Parish Priest) are simply attempting to foster "mere Anglicanism" centered around the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, and the teaching of the ancient Church.

Sunday, October 15, 2006



Some Thoughts on Oxford Martyrs Day, October 16th

Hugh Latimer, Bishop and Martyr
Nicholas Ridley, Bishop and Martyr
Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury and Martyr

There is a seemingly unending debate as to whether Anglicanism is "Catholic" or "Protestant"--Some Anglo-Catholics often view Cranmer as a heretic, and William Laud is often viewed by evangelicals likewise. As everyone has noticed, at the top of this page is a quote from Bishop John Cosin (d 1672): "Protestant and Reformed according to the principles of the ancient Catholic Church." My reason for placing this quote in such a prominent position is to emphasize that the Anglican Reformers, Cranmer, Ridley, Jewel, etc (and the reformers on the contintent, Luther and Calvin) were protesting against the Church of Rome because they felt that Rome had added so much to the primitive faith so as to make it unrecognizable when compared to the faith and practice of the ancient Church: Purgatory, pardons, and indulgences, transubstantiation and gazing upon the consecrated bread with awe rather than following the command "take and eat," the service in Latin rather than the common tongue, priestly celibacy, papal jurisdiction over the whole Church, ritual that obscured rather than clarified the faith? Are these the characteristics of Catholicism? Do we find such things supported by an appeal to the Scriptures and the Fathers? Certainly not.

Cranmer faced the flames of martyrdom confessing that he believed nothing but that which the ancient Catholic Fathers and Doctors taught and professed--Cranmer was a martyr for the Catholic Faith, stripped of all that obscured it from the view of the common man. Many Anglo-Catholics proudly state that they themselves are Anglicans that "do not knock and kneel at the name of Cranmer" because the man was a "black hearted protestant." All of this stems from a misunderstanding of the nature of Catholicism, the continual confusion of the very term "Catholic" with the Church of Rome and her ritual, and the legacy Cranmer has left us in his Book of Common Prayer and the homilies. As Anglicans we are not Cranmerians, but we do need to take notice that when we hold the Prayer Book in our hands it was bought with the blood of men like Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer and King Charles and William Laud.

Those last two names mentioned bring us to another point: On the other side of the extreme there are those Anglicans who look at a man such as Archbishop William Laud and see all the evils of prelacy and view him simplistically as a man who sought to "bring back popery" to England. They find themselves in a strange predicament defending the actions of those who, in the end, saw their desire achieved in the Archbishop with his head on the executioner's block, the Church of England and its bishops in exile, and the Book of Common Prayer suppressed--going so far as to forbid it for the funeral of a king. While they may view the death of Cranmer as an example of martyrdom (as I do as well) they look upon Laud as a Romanist fanatic and his death as justified. What did Laud seek to do that earns him such hatred? A return to the Latin Mass? Subjection to Rome? No. Foremost, Laud endeavored to enforce the use of the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer, so that throughout the realm there was truly "Common Prayer." Yes, he wanted the communion table placed "altar-wise" and he wanted reverence and uniformity in worship--he wanted the canons of 1604 upheld and put into effect and the Prayer Book followed. Imagine someone running into a modern service of the Holy Communion or Morning Prayer at the local Anglican parish and throwing excrement at the priest (because he was wearing a surplice) and tearing up the Prayer Books and Bibles all the while yelling "anti-Christ." Imagine ministers never celebrating the Eucharist (for decades) because they believed there was not one among the parish worthy to receive it? If you were the head bishop of the realm, what would you have done? Laud, at his execution, prayed for his executioners and expressed his belief that in all he had done he was only trying to defend the Church of England, protestant and reformed.

Cranmer died to defend the Catholic Faith without Roman additions. Laud died to defend the Protestant Church of England, rightly reformed to conform to the ancient Church, not wishing to see its faith and worship destroyed. I see them both as martyrs for the Anglican Church.

As C.B. Moss pointed out, the opposite of Catholic is not Protestant, but heretic. The opposite of Protestant is not Catholic, but Roman. Anglicanism: "Protestant and Reformed according to the principles of the ancient Catholic Church." As Anglicans, we should proudly proclaim the fullness of our heritage.

Prayer on this Feast:
Keep us, O Lord, constant in faith and zealous in witness, after The examples of thy servants Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, and Thomas Cranmer; that we may live in thy fear, die in thy favor, and rest in thy peace; for the sake of Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


St. Andrew's Anglican Church, Tinley Park, Illinois

A Reformed Episcopal Parish

Per the request of at least one reader, here is some information about the parish I serve in as a curate, St. Andrew's Anglican Church.

St. Andrew's is a traditional Anglican parish south of Chicago, with Morning Prayer and the Holy Eucharist celebrated every Sunday at 9:30 and 10:30 AM, respectively.

In June of 2006 the parish hosted the 100th Synod of the Diocese of Mid-America; this Synod saw the gathering of all of the bishops of the Diocese as well as the current Presiding Bishop and a former Presiding Bishop and rector of the parish, the Right Reverend Franklin Sellers. The Synod Eucharist was celebrated according to the 1928 rite included in the 2006 Book of Common Prayer of the Reformed Episcopal Church.


The parish church contains many beautiful stained glass windows, including several Tiffany windows, the original Holy Table used by Bishop Cheney, and a beautiful brass eagle lectern from the late 1800s . If you are in the Chicagoland area you are sincerely invited to join us for the Eucharist. As a retired Episcopal priest who is now a member of the parish has commented several times: "It is like the church I remember from my youth."

Erratum: Fr. Brad of St. Timothy alerted me to the fact that the Synod was indeed not in August (August was when I received the Diocese news letter that contained the group photo of bishops above). Here's some additional info on the Synod from The Crozier Connection, the Newsletter of the Diocese of Mid-America:

"The 100th Synod of the Diocese of Mid-America was held June 15-16, in Chicago (Tinley Park), Illinois. Chicago was the original See of the Diocese when it was first established under The Rt. Rev. Charles Edward Cheney in the late1800's. Delivering the sermon at the Synod Eucharist was The Rt. Rev. Franklin Sellers, retired Bishop of this Diocese and past Presiding Bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church.[In the picture L to R: Bp. Morse, Presiding Bp. Riches, Bp. Sellers (retired), Bp. Grote, Bp. Sutton, & Bp. Fincke.] "

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Christ Church, 1884

Joliet Illinois, before the city was even really there.

Again, a short history of the parish (from the Joliet Herald):

May 1835: Bishop Philander Chase and eight area residents convene a Communion service forming the parish at the home of Joliet's first physician. It became Joliet's oldest recognized congregation.

May 1848 - April 1853: During the Gold Rush and cholera epidemic, church members do not hold vestry meetings as numbers dwindle to seven.

June 1857: Members worship in their new church building: a small, wooden structure featuring stained glass windows at the northeast corner of Joliet and Van Buren streets. The windows were later incorporated into the modern-day structure.

January 1887: Episcopal Church clergy consecrate the new church, constructed of Joliet limestone, on Van Buren Street. The architect is F.S. Allen.

May 1935: Christ Episcopal Church celebrates the 100th anniversary of its founding with activities and a special book featuring well wishes from clergy and the parish's history. The theme is "They have builded Him an Altar."

June 1953: Bishop Wallace Conkling dedicates St. Edward Chapel at Campbell Street and Midland Avenue. It is intended to serve as a West Side extension of Christ Episcopal.

August 1982: The Christ Episcopal Church building erected in 1887 is placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

November 2003: Faced with dwindling numbers and mounting expense for the Christ Episcopal building, members from Christ and St. Edward vote to close the Christ Church building and merge the two congregations.

January 2004: Members celebrate their final Eucharist at Christ Episcopal Church.

January 2004 - early 2006: The future of the old Christ Episcopal Church building is uncertain.

August 2006: Joliet resident Mark Tomac and other local investors publicly confirm they have purchased the building and plan to reopen it as a concert venue in March 2007.

Oct. 8, 2006: An early morning fire sweeps through the historic sanctuary, hall and rectory gutting the beloved building.

Sunday, October 08, 2006



Fire destroys Joliet, Illinois church

(Note: This church was mentioned in a previous blog article. This is a horrible loss. Even though the building was no longer being used as a place of worship, almost 20 years of fond memories, culminating in my marriage at this beautiful gothic church, now no longer have a focus. I know this sounds rather self-centered, but I've spoken with other former members of the church and they feel similarly.

I joined the Episcopal Church in 1987 through this parish and was confirmed there. I remember serving as a layreader, assisting the rector on Good Friday, and the many beautiful Midnight Masses on Christmas Eve. Soon even the ruins pictured above will be gone).

By Jeff LongTribune staff reporterOctober 8, 2006, 4:42 PM CDTA fire in Joliet destroyed a historic church building early Sunday, forcing several people to flee, but no one was injured, according to the fire chief.Firefighters arrived at the former Christ Episcopal Church, 73 W. Van Buren St., at about 5:15 a.m. Sunday, said Joliet Fire Chief Larry Mores.Mores said five people escaped the former rectory. But Tony Menza, who had been living in the former church's rectory, said six people were in the house-three rent-paying tenants and three others. All escaped without injury."My girlfriend heard the crackling of the roof being on fire," said Menza. "She saw the fire and yelled for me to get up. I saw the orange flashing outside my window and knew it was bad."Menza said the building's owner wants to convert the church, which was closed in 2003, into a nightclub. The owner could not be reached Sunday."Definitely a total loss," Mores said of the building. "The rectory portion does still resemble some sort of building.Mores said it's too early to tell whether the fire is suspicious. Joliet police, city and regional fire investigators and the state fire marshal's office are investigating.When crews arrived, Mores said, flames were already visible coming from the church's roof and the sanctuary area."It's been a long time since we've seen a fire of this magnitude," Mores said. "There were fireballs going everywhere."But firefighters kept adjacent buildings from catching fire and Mores praised their efforts."The crews did an excellent job containing the fire," he said.The church is the second oldest Episcopal Parish in the metropolitan Chicago area, according to the Landmark Illinois' website.


Invocation of the Saints.

XXII. Of Purgatory.The Romish Doctrine concerning. . .the Invocation of Saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.

In previous posts we’ve already dispatched with the issues of Purgatory, Pardon, and Relics and Images. This leaves us with the "Invocation of Saints" and "Worshipping and Adoration." I’ve chosen to address the Invocation of the Saints as the next topic (so the last topic we'll cover will be "Adoration").

How to address this contentious issue, the issue of the Invocation of the Saints? Do Anglicans accept this practice? Many do, but think that the Articles are thereby opposed to “Catholicism” as they see it because it denounces the Romish Doctrine of Invocation. As with some of the other issues we’ve addressed, we must not equate the Roman practices of the Reformation era (or the 19th century, which many Anglicans chose to mimic) with Catholicism proper. We’ve seen that Purgatory is not a Catholic doctrine (rejected as it is in the Eastern Church), but a Roman one. Here too we must distinguish the Roman from the Catholic, for they are not identical. We can still pray for the departed (as we do in the 1549 and 1928 Eucharists) and have no need to embrace the Roman justification for engaging in the practice.

So, do we Anglican believe that the saints pray for us? Yes, for we pray with “all the company of heaven” in the Holy Eucharist (whether one uses the 1549, the 1662, or the 1928 variations). I’ve read pieces by C.S. Lewis and the Rev’d Dr. Toon supporting the notion that as we can ask the saints on earth for their prayers (“oremus”), so too can we ask the Saints in heaven for theirs. However, are there objections to the practice? I must admit that there are, if we engage in this practice after a certain way, namely phrasing the prayers to the saints without reference to God the Father or Christ Jesus. Can the objections be overcome? I believe they can, in a manner commensurate with the thinking of the Caroline divines of Anglicanism and the practice of the ancient Church.

On this issue I will first turn to a favorite English Catholic text of mine—Vernon Staley’s The Catholic Religion, for I believe Canon Staley addresses this issue in a concise, honest, and forthright manner:

“That the saints who have gone before pray for us, has always been the belief of the Church. We believe that they join in prayer for us on earth with a power which was not theirs whilst in the flesh—the mother for her children, the priest for his flock, friend for friend. And it is lawful to ask God to grant us a share in their intercession. In what way, or to what extent, the saints are conscious of our needs, has not been revealed to us.

The Church of England, in Article XXII condemns “the Romish doctrine concerning invocation of the saints,” that is to say, that system of prayer to the saints which led to their being regarded otherwise than as exalted supplicants. Before the Reformation serious abuses had arisen. It was supposed, for instance, that the saints had power with God because of their own merits, and that they were kinder, and had greater sympathy for sinners than Christ our Saviour.

Upon this subject we quote the words of Dr. Pusey—“The exclusive address of unseen beings has an obvious tendency at once to fall into a sort of worship; it is too like the mode in which we address almighty God to be any way safe; the exclusive request of their intercession is likely at once to constitute them intercessors in a way different from God’s servants on earth, and to interfere with the office of the Great Intercessor;” and again , “For members of the English Church, who desire the prayers of the departed, it has to him ever seemed safest to express the desire for those prayers to God ‘of whom and through whom and to whom are all things.’”pp 130-131

Here we are actually left with a solution to any perceived problem with “invoking the saints,” which we will come back to shortly. In summary of the points above, Canon Staley notes that the Roman practice was tied up with the saints having merits of their own, something that is rejected in the Articles when they reject the works of supererogation: “whereas Christ saith plainly When ye have done all that are commanded to you, say, We are unprofitable servants.” The only merits we can rightfully plead are the merits of Christ. So this element of the practice must be left by the theological wayside. Lamentably, the Anglican and American Missals copy Roman prayers verbatim and make mention of the “merits of the saints.”

We must also reject the notion that the saints are, in a sense, replacements for Christ as a mediator—that Christ is too far off, too fearfully awful that we must come to Him through another channel. The is a notion of the Middle Ages that Staley rightfully notes as erroneous. This idea must be countered, for Christ is our only Mediator and Advocate who intercedes with the Father on our behalf. That Christ is too remote or unsympathetic is no justification for invoking the Saints.

The last issue that Staley notes it the idea that the Saints in heaven may not be conscious of our needs. This issue must be addressed. Also, Pusey remarks that “The exclusive address of unseen beings has an obvious tendency at once to fall into a sort of worship; it is too like the mode in which we address almighty God to be any way safe.” Pusey is not rejecting prayers to the Saints—he is commenting that prayers composed in a manner in which they are exclusively addressed to the Saints comes too close to the form of prayer we use to address God alone.
What then is the remedy to this and to the criticism that we have no assurance that the Saints even hear our requests? Pusey provides the suggestion that addresses both of these issues, that “for members of the English Church, who desire the prayers of the departed, it has to him ever seemed safest to express the desire for those prayers to God ‘of whom and through whom and to whom are all things.”

Here we have a conclusion that was arrived at also by the Caroline divines, one that is illustrated by reference to the old Roman Mass itself. For in the Roman Mass, we have a prayer addressed to God Almighty, but within this prayer there is a request for the prayers of the saints. Again, note that this is not initially a prayer addressed to the Virgin, St. Andrew, or St. Agnes—it is addressed to God and concluded “through Christ.” What many Anglo-Catholics rejected (see Pusey, Staley, or Westcott’s Catholic Principles) were long prayers addressed to the saint alone and giving the saint (especially the Blessed Virgin) titles usually reserved for Christ. But the prayer in the old Roman Mass is different. Within it is a petition that the saints may pray for us. Several other prayers of the old Missals resemble this prayer. Consider this prayer on the Vigil of the Feast of St. Andrew:

“Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God: that as we do prevent the festival of Thy holy Apostle Saint Andrew, so he may implore Thy mercy for us; that we being delivered from all our iniquities, may likewise be defended against all adversities. . .”

At this point it should be clear that this older manner of requesting the prayers of the Saints addresses the main concerns that usually arise. In that we are addressing the prayer to God through Christ, we have the assurance that the Saints in heaven are being commanded by God. We do not pray to the saints to bypass Christ because He is too stern and the saints more merciful—the mercy of God is implored. Also, we do not use titles and manners of address reserved for God in Trinity. As Pusey rightly states, those who desire the prayers of the saints ought address this desire to God, in whom are all things.

Monday, October 02, 2006


Indulgences? Follow up from the post on Purgatory

XXII. Of Purgatory.The Romish Doctrine concerning. . .Pardons (or Indulgences). . .is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.

Note: Lord Bishop Browne's Exposition on the Articles is the basis for the historical information in this piece.

In the last post I dealt with the question of linking prayers for the dead with a belief in the Roman doctrine of Purgatory, this doctrine holding that there is a place where the faithful must suffer for their sins in their existence after death. As we saw, via recourse to sources from the Eastern Church and the more "reformed" tradition in Anglicanism, that growth in the Intermediate State is not to be equated with Purgatory. The two concepts are not identical, although some defenders of the concept of Purgatory often present them in this manner.

As Father Anderson pointed out in a comment to the Purgatory post, the belief in this state was tied tightly in the Middle Ages to the practice of Indulgences ("Pardons" in the Article). Bishop Browne traces the history of "indulgences" or "pardons." They were not originally tied to Purgatory. In the ancient Church a martyr or confessor in prison could intercede on behalf of an individual censured by the Church--such a relaxation of a penance was done by the bishop of the diocese. The bishop might shorten a term from which someone was kept from the Eucharist or, as was mentioned, lessen some other penalty. It must be noted that these penalties were temporal in nature, imposed in the here and now and to be completed in the here and now.

You can see where the logic might now go, becoming tied to the concept of Purgatory. The teaching concerning pardons was expanded to include not only the censures of the Church but the pains of Purgatory as well. If the episcopacy could lessen a sentence in the temporal realm, could it not also lessen the pains in the life after this? So, we see the concept of "pardons" from temporal punishment in this life carried over to the next. But how could a bishop grant indulgences to the souls in Purgatory? Someone in this life would have to do some deed or another to merit this action. Prayers, masses, donations to the Church all became reasons for the granting of Indulgences. The first use of indulgences tied to Purgatory can be dated to the papacy of Alexander III at the end of the 12th century. This corruption of an ancient practice reached its height with Leo X with Tetzel openly selling indulgences in Germany:

"When the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory spring!"

It is this that the Article rejects. Being tied to Purgatory as it is in the corrupt form mentioned above, we must also point out that the Old Catholics (in the Fourteen Theses) retain the older teaching concerning indulgences:

"We agree that “indulgences” can only refer to penalties actually imposed by the Church herself."

Therefore, prayers for the departed are 1) in no way tied to the teaching of Purgatory held in the Middle Ages, and 2) even if one were to hold to the Roman teaching of Purgatory, this does not logically require one to accept the Roman teaching on Indulgences, for in their original use they were tied only to temporal punishment imposed by the Church. However, the two tied together, as they were in the Western Church of the Middle Ages, were in need of reformation and/or outright repudiation.

In this writer's humble opinion, the Rev. Dr. Luther had just cause for his protestations against both the concept of Purgatory as a place were penalties were imposed for sins, and the notion that the Church had the authority to buy and sell Christian souls out from such a place. In our previous examination of the teaching concerning the Intermediate State, there is no need to throw the "baby" of spiritual growth after death and prayers for and with the faithful departed out with the murky bathwater of late Roman doctrine, for such practices existed in ancient Church and in the Eastern Church--without ties to erroneous doctrine these practices can be rightly kept as orthodox. If they are ever misunderstood by the faithful, it is the role of the clergy to provide clear and correct information.

The next entry will address the Invocation of the Saints.

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