Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Fr. Hunwicke on the Anglican Flaw

One blogger to whom I have long linked at the right (under "LiturgiCannon") is Fr. John Hunwicke, formerly the rector of St. Thomas' in Oxford, and now incardinated in the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. He is an unimpeachable scholar of Church Latin and Greek, and is a constant source of new insights regarding our common liturgy (Catholic and Anglican).

In a recent post, Fr. Hunwicke has, as usual, pierced to the heart of the matter -- the "matter" being the currently disordered state of the Anglican Communion. The amazing part is that he wrote and first published the post in 2010, when he was still a priest in the Church of England. I hope he will not mind if I quote here for you the salient parts (omitting the scholarly backup; all italics are in the original), but be sure to go to his own blog and absorb the whole thing, on his own terms and presentation. My point here is to highlight his incidental insight into the problems which currently beset our Anglican Communion -- thanks to ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada.

He begins by tracing a logical parallel between a diocese (led by a bishop) and the Church Catholic ("Universal"), led by the Church of Rome:
Recently, a fashionable Orthodox hierarch, commenting on the dialogue between Rome and the Orthodox Churches, expressed the view that, while Orthodoxy may have things to learn from Rome about a Universal Primacy, Rome had things to learn from Orthodoxy about Intermediate Primacies. How very reasonable. Everybody learns from everybody else's insights and we end up with Wholeness. The essence of Ecumenism.  
Except that it's rubbish. The New Testament - well, I mean the Pauline Letters - knows two usages of the term ekklesia. There is the local Church - the Church, let us say, in Corinth. That is how S Paul uses the term in his earlier correspondence. But, without abandoning that usage, in Colossians and Ephesians ... he writes also of the Church as a universal body. 
This is a most valuable insight into the ecclesiology of St. Paul (or in Fr. Hunwicke's British usage, "S Paul"). Now look what Fr. Hunwicke does with that distinction:
In later ecclesiology, that gives us the Local, 'Particular', Church; which means, not the Church in some country or region, but a Christian community with Bishop, Presbyterium, Diaconate, and Laos [laity]. Then there is the Universal Church; and the late, great, Dom Gregory 'Patrimony' Dix showed that the role played in the Local Church by the Bishop is closely paralleled by the role played in the Universal Church by the Church of Rome (among other evidence, he illustrated this by examining the language used in the epistles of S Ignatius of Antioch about the bishop in relation to the Local Church, in comparison with that used about the Roman Church in relation to the Universal Church). 
All right, the parallel has been drawn. But how does it mean that the traditional Eastern Orthodox Patriarchies differ in ecclesiological function from the Church of Rome? Back to Fr. Hunwicke's explanation:
The Local and the Universal Church exist as entities jure divine [by divine right]. Indeed, they are in a sense the same entity, because in the Local Church the Universal Church subsists in its entirety .... Intermediate Primacies - such as Patriarchates - do not exist by divine right. They may be given a theological rationale in terms of Incarnational Theology: that is to say, an association of local churches may laudably express forms of spirituality adapted to the instincts of particular cultural groupings (one thinks of the Eastern Churches of particular rites). And Patriarchates and Major Archbishoprics may make organisational good sense. I do not deny that and I do not refuse respect to the Patriarchates of Byzantine and Oriental Christianity. But an Archbishopric or a Patriarchate does not exist in the primary ecclesiological sense in which Universal Church and Local Church exist.
But Rome's primacy in the Church Catholic does not stem from its initial identification with the center of the Roman Empire -- it took the ascendancy of the Emperor Constantine to give rise to that claim. No, the primacy of Rome's Church rests entirely upon St. Peter -- the one disciple singled out by Jesus, upon whom He based His Church Catholic:
Dom Gregory Dix then went on to show that the belief in the Primacy of the Roman Church existed at a very early date and, when described, was seen in terms of the Petrine status of the Roman Church. He pointed out that there is no evidence in the early centuries of the notion that the Roman Church acquired its status from its location in the Imperial City. This would have been improbable; as Dix says, no other cult (not even that of Dea Roma) assigned primacy to its group in the city of Rome; and early Christianity, far from respecting the city of Rome, loathed it as the Whore of Babylon which slaughtered the Saints....  
The Roman Primacy is not the institution of Patriarch written larger. It is something sui generis or it is nothing. Now: you may not agree that Rome does have a universal Primacy. You may prove this negative to your own entire satisfaction. But you will not thereby have proved that 'Intermediate Primacies' - Patriarchates and the like - do have status jure divino. You'll have to come up with another set of arguments to establish that.
And no doubt many of us Anglicans may not agree that Rome has a "universal Primacy" -- otherwise, why do we insist on remaining Anglican (while many of us still see ourselves as "Catholic")? But one has to admit that Fr. Hunwicke has a point: there is nothing about the See of Canterbury -- or the Patriarchy of Alexandria, Jerusalem or Constantinople -- that lends to any of them the color or status of having been established by anything akin to Christ's ordination of St. Peter, the first Bishop of Rome.

So you may or may not agree with Fr. Hunwicke thus far -- and that is all right, because he is now -- may God always bless him -- happily and fully a part of the Roman Catholic Church in Great Britain. It is his next point to which I wish to draw your specific attention. Here is his lead-in (remember, it was written when Fr. Hunwicke was still an Anglican):
I for one applauded the move of John Paul II to explain that Episcopal Conferences, unlike the Universal Roman Primacy and unlike the Local Primacy of the Bishop in his own Church, do not have any existence by divine right. And I very much doubt if the papal title 'Patriarch of the West' is any older than the Byzantinising of Pope Gregory I. And so when Benedict XVI, as one of his first moves, divested himself in the Annuario Pontificio of the title 'Patriarch of the West', "Goodie", I cried, "at last we have pope who knows what he isn't"
And here is his clincher (again, emphasis is always in the original):
We Anglican Catholics know what Intermediate Primacies can lead to if left without a check or a balance. They can lead to the mess that the Anglican Communion finds itself in. They lead to the concept of the Infallible Local Synod whose heretical decisions are irreformable.  
They can lead to self-righteous schism.

"Self-righteous schism" -- there is no better term to describe the results of General Convention 2003 and the Episcopal Church (USA) since, under the unchecked apostasy of the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori. (Canadian Anglicans, you may cast your own stones here.)

The contrast between the catholicism of the Petrine Church, and the self-righteousness of ECUSA and ACoC, could not be made more stark. Pray for them both, that they may return to the catholic path of their honorable forebears.


  1. Father Hunwicke has hit this one for six (to use the proper British cricket terminology). Thank you for bringing his article to the fore.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  2. Wiithout a bishop with universal jurisdiction, the Orthodox Eastern Churches have been able to maintain unity of faith, and mostly, intercommunion for over a thousand years. I wonder why that is? something fr. Hunwicke (whom I greatly respect) does not mention.

    1. There was an expression in my family that we passed around whenever it seemed remotely appropriate, and this time seems a little more appropriate than many others. It was, "If you have to scruff a cat to hold him on your lap so he won't run away, then he's not your cat. If you leave a cat to go and he comes back to you, then he's your cat."
      It seems that the Eastern Churches were simultaneously centred around a general ethnic grouping that was then united further by an Orthodox and Traditional, Historical Church that would preside over the affairs of the people with an understandable language and music, along with the celebration of dates important to the people. The various of the Eastern Orthodox Communions did not have to "scruff" their people and experiment with "relevancy". Their Church "intrigues" were almost always within the inner sanctum, while the parishioners would fill the pews for weddings, funerals, Mass, and to listen the music.
      We found the entire article put before us by our host to be challenging and refreshing. But, it also points up the tragedy that we have an Anglican and Episcopal leadership that prides itself in being deceptive and mendacious, and that it totally dedicated to the ruination of a Traditional Anglican Church.

      Thank you all for your time and interest.

  3. Auriel Ragmon- I think that Fr, Hunwicke was not intending his brief article to be a complete survey of all religious traditions. He was writing from the point of view of a British Anglo Catholic, and the intended British audience was likely much more familiar with the basic structure of the Roman Church than with Orthodoxy. Given the intervening events, it is also clear that Fr. Hundwicke was probably more familiar himself with the structure of Catholicism, and leaning toward conversion.

    The real point though, I think, is that in the case of Rome or Orthodoxy, structures exist that prevent a small local council of bishops or other local ecclesial body from making wholesale changes to the doctrine of the Church. It is, of course, true that even the Catholic and Orthodox Churches make some accommodations for local customs, however, there is also guidance from international bodies, and limits placed on the nature of local adaptations.

    It is almost self evident that the purpose of the Lambeth Conference was to bring together bishops from around the world to provide guidance and oversight of the council of the whole church to the leadership of the regional churches. Why belong to a worldwide communion if you intend to follow your own path?

    Unfortunately, TEC has found an answer to that question- their intention is clearly to use the international structures to spread their new gospel, that has very little resemblance to the Gospel of our Lord and Savior.

    1. Amen! to each of the three other posters. We hope and wish a pleasant run through the rest of Advent.
      We shall light our Yule Log on the 24th and celebrate the Feast of the Nativity at our little hideaway on the Sierra Madre Oriental. I am making a turkey w/ dressing for some of our neighbours, and a real, live kidney pie...perhaps only for the dogs, cats, and me but I just wanted to show them that I am Anglophile as much as Gringo and Mexophile.
      God rest ye merry, Gentlemen, and ladies.
      We shall also give a very few, very inexpensive gifts to a very few small children on the 6th of January, to re-enforce the old traditions there.