Father Kevin Donlon’s parish in Florida has an article on its website called, “Being Anglican, Being Catholic.” It presumably reflects the thinking of this man who is currently the Canon for Ecclesiastical Affairs of the AMiA.
The article is thoroughly Anglo-Catholic. I searched in vain for the words “Scripture” or “Bible” in this article – they aren’t there. This is not to say that this parish doesn’t hold to Scriptural norms of course, but it is telling that when you write an article outlining what you are about, you don’t see fit to mention the Bible anywhere in it. The article says of the Prayer Book:
This book provided a consistent tool for liturgical worship and formation throughout England that, over time and after the death of Henry and the accession of his son, Edward VI, became much more Protestant in nature than the former king would have tolerated.
Let’s grant for the sake of argument that this comparison of Edward VI and Henry VII is correct, what of it? This statement says nothing of the relative merits of the positions of Edward or Henry, it just puts it out there as if being “more Protestant” is recognizably a bad thing. This is where the Bible might come in handy as a standard to measure liturgical practices against. Who cares if something is more or less Protestant, or more or less Catholic? What matters is if it is more or less Scriptural.
The article says that the term Catholic, “refers to the idea that the fullness of Christian belief is that which is shared by all believers from the birth of the Faith forward. (St. Vincent of Lérins described this view best when he described the Catholic Faith as that which is believed in all places, in all times, and by all people.)”
This standard from St. Vincent is a pleasant sounding canard that is often used to bless all manner of idolatry. As a standard, what does it really mean? At bottom, it does not end debate, it merely broadens it to untenable proportions. Take the example of icons as an example, St. Epiphanius was entirely against them, writing to John, the Bishop of Jerusalem written in 394 A.D., he condemns images of men or Christ being set up in churches as against the Scriptures:
Moreover, I have heard that certain persons have this grievance against me: When I accompanied you to the holy place called Bethel, there to join you in celebrating the Collect, after the use of the Church, I came to a villa called Anablatha and, as I was passing, saw a lamp burning there. Asking what place it was, and learning it to be a church, I went in to pray, and found there a curtain hanging on the doors of the said church, dyed and embroidered. It bore an image either of Christ or of one of the saints; I do not rightly remember whose the image was. Seeing this, and being loath that an image of a man should be hung up in Christ’s church contrary to the teaching of the Scriptures, I tore it asunder and advised the custodians of the place to use it as a winding sheet for some poor person. They, however, murmured, and said that if I made up my mind to tear it, it was only fair that I should give them another curtain in its place. As soon as I heard this, I promised that I would give one, and said that I would send it at once. Since then there has been some little delay, due to the fact that I have been seeking a curtain of the best quality to give to them instead of the former one, and thought it right to send to Cyprus for one. I have now sent the best that I could find, and I beg that you will order the presbyter of the place to take the curtain which I have sent from the hands of the Reader, and that you will afterwards give directions that curtains of the other sort—opposed as they are to our religion—shall not be hung up in any church of Christ. A man of your uprightness should be careful to remove an occasion of offence unworthy alike of the Church of Christ and of those Christians who are committed to your charge.
How does this fit the standard of St. Vincent? Or take St. Augustine, who wrote:
Do not hunt up the numbers of ignorant people, who even in the true religion are superstitious, or are so given up to evil passions as to forget what they have promised to God. I know that there are many worshippers of tombs and pictures. I know that there are many who drink to great excess over the dead, and who, in the feasts which they make for corpses, bury themselves over the buried,and give to their gluttony and drunkenness the name of religion.
Both Epiphanius and Augustine disagree with the Seventh Ecumenical Council; how do we decide which of them is correct? Is St. Vincent’s dictum of any help here? No, it isn’t. Instead, we can agree with St. Gregory of Nyssa, who wrote in “On the Soul and the Resurrection”:
I mean that of affirming what we please; we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings.
And again, we can affirm with St. Cyril who wrote in Glaphyrorum, Genesis, lib. ii.:
That which the holy Scripture has not said, by what means should we receive and account it among those things that be true?
Following the Vicentian canon affirmed by Donlon’s parish, what we end up affirming (if anything) are the Apostles and Nicene Creeds, something that all Classical Anglicans agree with anyway. The article goes on to say this of the Pope:
Where does this leave the Roman Catholic Church? How should we relate to it? There can be no question of the place of the Bishop of Rome within the Western Church; his very title among the great leaders of the Church was, indeed, “Patriarch of the West.”
There can be no question about the position of the Pope? How is this sentiment in any way Anglican? It would be news to Thomas Cranmer, who wrote: “I know none other head but Christ of his catholic church, neither will I acknowledge the bishop of Rome to have any more authority than any other bishop hath, by the word of God, and by the doctrine of the old and pure catholic church four hundred years after Christ.” The church itself realized in times gone by that the supremacy of Rome was due to the supremacy of the Roman Empire, as in the 28th canon of the Council of Chalcedon:
For the Fathers rightly granted privileges to the throne of old Rome, because it was the royal city.
The statement from Donlon’s parish does not elaborate on what our relationship to the Pope should be, but it does say, “ It is vitally important that we recognize the importance of the ministry of the Church of Rome and consider the many spiritual riches they have to offer those seeking to live out the Catholic Faith.” I believe in a degree of receptive ecumenism, which is to say that there are things in Rome that we can learn from. However, this is a church that still holds to Indulgences, Purgatory, prayer to the dead, bowing to inanimate objects, and so on. These are all things universally and correctly rejected by Classical Anglicanism. To embrace them is to reject God’s Word on the subject, and to betray Anglican history.
Finally, the article deals with “Celtic Christianity”, something you hear a lot about from people who like Celtic crosses, St. Patrick’s Day and not being totally submitted to the Pope. Just what is Celtic Christianity? Who knows? Richard Fletcher says:
There never was a ‘Celtic church’. Irish churchmen repeatedly and sincerely professed their Roman allegiances: and if there were divergent practices between Rome and Ireland, well, so there were between Rome and Constantinople – or Alexandria or Carthage or Milan or Toledo. The terms ‘Roman’ and ‘Celtic’ are too monolithic. In terms of custom and practice there were many churches in sixth- and seventh-century Europe, not One Church. Christendom was many-mansioned.
It still is!
You have to wonder why it is that “we” must always be appreciating and gaining from Rome, the East and “Celtic” Christianity, and why they don’t need to accommodate us?
Ultimately, this is a parish that would be more comfortable in the Ordinariate, and I can’t help but wonder if that is where it is headed.
What I find unsettling about this entire article and the position of power that Donlon has been in it that his position is totally opposed to what the AMiA was founded to be. The AMiA’s Solemn Declaration of Principles affirmed the 39 Articles clearly. This declaration was to be re-affirmed annually by every AMiA priest, and initially using these words:
I further affirm the catholic creeds, the dogmatic definitions of the General Councils of the undivided Church, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal, 1662, the 39 Articles of Religion of the Church of England in their literal and grammatical sense, and the Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1888, since the same are conformable to the Scriptures, and I consequently hold myself bound to teach nothing contrary thereto, therefore I do solemnly engage to conform to the Doctrines, Discipline and Worship of the Anglican Mission in America.”
Did vows like this mean anything to our modern Tractarians?