Friday, November 24, 2006

A little vacation. . .

To the faithful readers of this blog (many of whom I know have been disappointed lately by the infrequent postings), I will be signing off until the start of the (secular) New Year.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

ENGLAND: Outrage as Church backs calls for severely disabled babies to be killed at birth

The Daily Mail
November 12, 2006

The Church of England has broken with tradition dogma by calling for doctors to be allowed to let sick newborn babies die.Christians have long argued that life should preserved at all costs - but a bishop representing the national church has now sparked controversy by arguing that there are occasions when it is compassionate to leave a severely disabled child to die.And the Bishop of Southwark, Tom Butler, who is the vice chair of the Church of England's Mission and Public Affairs Council, has also argued that the high financial cost of keeping desperately ill babies alive should be a factor in life or death decisions.The shock new policy from the church has caused outrage among the disabled.A spokeswoman for the UK Disabled People's Council, which represents tens of thousands of members in 140 different organisations, said: "How can the Church of England say that Christian compassion includes killing of disabled babies either through the withdrawing or withholding of treatment or by active euthanasia?"It is not for doctors or indeed anyone else to determine whether a baby's life is worthwhile simply on the grounds of impairment or health condition."

The church's surprise call comes just a week after the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology sparked fury by calling for a debate on the mercy killing of disabled infants.But it has been made in a carefully thought out official Church of England paper written by Bishop Butler for a public inquiry into the ethical issues surrounding the care of long premature or desperately ill newborn babies.The inquiry, by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, began two years ago and its findings are due to be published in London - but the church's contribution to the debate has been leaked in advance.The Nuffield Council, an independent body which issues ethical guidelines for doctors, began the inquiry to take account of scientific advances which mean increasingly disabled and premature babies can technically be kept alive.In practice, doing so can be controversial - with the three months premature Charlotte Wyatt a case in point.The Portsmouth baby weighed just 1lb at birth, and had severe brain and lung damage. Doctors wanted to be allowed to leave her to die, but her parents successfully campaigned through the courts against them.Now that the child is three, however, and could be cared for at home, her parents have separated and are considered unsuitable to look after. In future cases doctors may work to guidelines proposed by the Nuffield inquiry.In the Church of England's contribution to the inquiry, Bishop Butler wrote: "It may in some circumstances be right to choose to withold or withdraw treatment, knowing it will possibly, probably, or even certainly result in death."The church stressed that it was not saying some lives were not worth living, but said there were "strong proportionate reasons" for "overriding the presupposition that life should be maintained".The bishop's submission continued: "There may be occasions where, for a Christian, compassion will override the 'rule' that life should inevitably be preserved."Disproportionate treatment for the sake of prolonging life is an example of this.The church said it would support the potentially fatal withdrawal of treatment only if all alternatives had been considered, "so that the possibly lethal act would only be performed with manifest reluctance."Yet the Revd Butler's submission makes clear that there are a wide range of acceptable reasons to withdraw care from a child - with the cost of the care among the considerations."Great caution should be exercised in bringing questions of cost into the equation when considering what treatment might be provided," he wrote."The principle of justice inevitably means that the potential cost of treatment itself, the longer term costs of health care and education and opportunity cost to the NHS in terms of saving other lives have to be considered."

The church also urges all the parties involved in care for critically ill babies should be realistic in their expectations, demands, and claims.The submission says: "The principle of humility asks that members of the medical profession restrain themselves from claiming greater powers to heal than they can deliver."It asks that parents restrain themselves from demanding the impossible.":UK Disabled Peoples Council spokeswoman Simone Aspis said the group's members were appalled that the Church was joining doctors in calling for disabled babies to be left to die."It appears that the whole debate on whether disabled babies are worth keeping alive is being dominated by professionals and religious people without any consultation with disabled people," she said.Out of babies born at just 22 weeks of pregnancy or less, 98 per cent currently die. In Holland babies born before 25 weeks are not given medial treatment.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Heresy of Heresies!

More on the Free Church of England/Reformed Episcopal Declaration of Principles:

This Church CONDEMNS and REJECTS the following erroneous and strange doctrines as contrary to God's Word:

That the Presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper is a presence in the elements of Bread and Wine

Oh my! What novel protestant nonsense is this? Obviously, a clear rejection of the “real and objective presence” of Christ in the Eucharist. . .well, not quite.

Let’s see if there are some other “reputable sources” we could quote that make the very same point:

Saint Thomas Aquinas:

“That one body should be at the same time locally in two different
places is not possible, even by a miracle. Therefore, the Body of Christ is not on the altar locally.”

Scriptum in Sent., lib. IV., dist. 44, ques. 2, art. 2, ad quar.

“A body is in place where its dimensions are commensurate with the dimensions of the place; and according to this, the Body of Christ is not present except in one only place, that is in heaven (secundum hoc corpus Christi non est nisi in uno loco tantum, scilicet in coelo).”

Ibid. lib. IV., dist. 10, ques. 1, art. 1, ad quin.

“It is impossible that the Body of Christ should be made present under the Sacrament by a local motion, because if this were so, it would follow that the Body of Christ would cease to be in heaven whenever the Sacrament was celebrated.”

Contra Gentiles, lib. IV., cap. 63.

“In no way is the Body of Christ locally in this Sacrament.”

Summa, III. 76. 5.

Vernon, on the doctrine of the Council of Trent:

“Not only may the body of Christ under the symbols be called a spiritual body, and Christ himself a spirit, but the body of Christ may be said to be under the symbols in a spiritual manner or spiritually, and not in a natural or corporal manner, that is neither corporally nor carnally.”

Regula Fidei. Ed. Brunner, p. 108

William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury:
By means of the Bread He is present to our souls. He is not locally in the elements. ‘Corpus Christi non est in hoc sacramento sicut in loco’ is the explicit declaration of St. Thomas Aquinas. . .”

Christus Veritas, p 239.

Friday, November 10, 2006

A Very Brief Overview of the Reformed Episcopal & Free Church of England Declaration of Principles:

In response to Father Anderson's request to examine some of the foundational tenets of the REC I've prepared this very brief overview.

First let me state by saying that, like the Articles of Religion themselves, we must keep in mind the historical context in which the Declaration was written/adopted. Too often we read theology or actions within history without knowing what was actually being said and the context in which it was said or written. We rip apart the writings or actions of Luther or Cranmer (or Laud or Keble) for being "so extreme" without fully understanding what it was they were reacting to and why. We see the reasoned result of decades or centuries of theological debate and judge those that came before us with that rather unrealistic yardstick.

While the early Anglo-Catholics were reacting against lukewarm, rationalist, sedentary elements in the CofE that failed to see the CofE as the “Catholic Church in England,” it must be acknowledged that some of them went so far in equating “Catholicism” with 19th century Romanism (adopting the Latin Missal, Roman feast days, Roman doctrine, non-communicating High Masses, compulsory Confession, not allowing "non-Catholics" to the Eucharist, etc) that it was inevitable that many in the CofE and PECUSA would react against such extremism with their own manner of extremism. Not to say that the Declaration of Principles is "extreme," but many in the REC went so far in trying to eliminate all elements in Anglicanism that could possibly present "Roman germs" that it made Anglicanism into something like "Presbyterianism with a Prayer Book." In my opinion, neither side was right, but both had substantive objections as to why the other side was wrong.

This Church CONDEMNS and REJECTS the following erroneous and strange doctrines as contrary to God's Word:

First, That the Church of Christ exists only in one order or form of ecclesiastical polity;

(Paraphrase of the 17th century Anglican divines; Andrewes, Cosin, and Laud, while believing in the Divine Right of the Episcopacy, did not believe that the lack of an Episcopacy in other Christian bodies "de-churched" them. This was a concept introduced in the Tractarian movement, hence the reason for the inclusion of the point here. It is true that the Free Church of England and the REC in America have usually held that Episcopacy is not of "essence of the Church" but is ancient and apostolic and there is no reason to do away with it because it was the most ancient form of Church structure. However, like the later Continuing Church, these bodies have always been careful to obtain and preserve the Anglican episcopate).

Second, That Christian Ministers are "priests" in another sense than that in which all believers are "a royal priesthood";

("The Articles of Religion allow the use of the word priest as the anglicized version of the word presbyter by their consistent use of it to describe a minister of the Word and Sacrament (XXXII, XXXVI), and not as someone who can uniquely provide atonement (XXXI)" (from the web pages of the Reformed Episcopal Church).

There is a sense in which the Eucharist is sacrifice, but it is not a new sacrifice which the priest offers on his own behalf, and it adds nothing to the Sacrifice made upon the Cross--it is a memorial sacrifice, a Eucharistic sacrifice, but its sacrificial nature is eternally linked to a single and all sufficient Sacrifice. There is also a very real sense in which the ministers of Christ, both in Word and Sacrament, are serving a priestly function via the preaching of the Gospel and administering Baptism, Eucharist, pronouncing Absolution, performing anointing, etc., but the danger is there in thinking that these functions can be viewed as somehow "apart from" the Body of Christ, the Church, which itself is a priestly Body because it is united to the One True High Priest, Jesus Christ. We must remember that when those in the REC and FCofE adopted the Declaration many Anglo-Catholics (Anglo-Romans) in the CofE and PECUSA were adopting Roman theories of both the Mass and the nature of Holy Orders, making pronounced distinction between their thinking and the writing of the 17th and 18th century Anglican divines.

Also, I always have to wonder what is wrong with the term "presbyter"?--it is more ancient than the use of the term "priest" in Christendom, and widely employed in Orthodoxy.)

Third, That the Lord's Table is an altar on which the oblation of the Body and Blood of Christ is offered anew to the Father:

(Only a rejection of Anglo-Romanism: Table and altar are used interchangeably in Holy Scripture (Malachi 1:10, 12)--there is no real problem in calling the Lord's Table an altar, for it is here that the Sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood is celebrated. However, there should be no difficulty in calling it the Holy Table either. Also, take note of the word "anew"--this is the line of demarcation between saying that Christ is sacrificed again at the Eucharist or He is not).

Fourth, That the Presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper is a presence in the elements of Bread and Wine:

(Again, we have to take note of the word "in" the elements. The same view as that expressed by Cranmer, Hooker, Laud, etc; even Thomas Aquinas rejected the notion that Christ was localized in the elements. To paraphrase Cardinal Newman--when the host moves in procession, Christ does not move. A bit ironic using the official theory of Rome to explain and defend this stance, which I hold to, but there it is nonetheless. Even so, Keble and Pusey--to my knowledge--stick close to the Anglican Formularies and refer to the Presence of Christ's Body and Blood being "with and under" the bread and wine, not "in them" by way of a localized interpenetration. Rejecting Christ being "in" the elements is not a rejection of the objective Real Presence as presented by the Caroline Divines or by the early Anglo-Catholics. Again, take careful note of the phrasing: "The Presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper"--Christ's Presence is acknowledged--is not "a presence in the elements of bread and wine." Nothing un-Anglican, nothing even that goes against the founders of the Anglo-Catholic movement, only a rejection of the "prisoner of the tabernacle" mentality that was already in existence in Roman Catholicism and was growing in branches of Tractarianism).

Fifth, That Regeneration is inseparably connected with Baptism.

(More elaboration is needed to fully understand this statement. Bp. Cheney affirmed the doctrine of "ecclesiastical regeneration" such as that taught by Lord Bp. Browne in his Exposition on the Articles, but felt that he could not use the word in good conscience due to its meaning having changed in use by the late 19th century--here in the Declaration there is only the rejection that Regeneration is inseparably tied to Baptism, but not that it occurs at Baptism. For a full explanation of the historical theology of this point see Bishop Sutton's text on this issue; for a full understanding of the traditional Anglican teaching on the Sacrament of Baptism, see Bishop Browne's Exposition on the Articles).