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March 01, 2008


Mark Andrews

I have two comments to begin. First, I take a dim view of applying secular models of democracy to the Church. Do politics and ecclesiology mix at all?

Second, the theological chaos in Anglicanism is the foundation of its equally chaotic polity. Anglicanism, from its foundations, was a creation of coercive state power, both "above" the church and external to it. This also reminds me of Eastern Orthodoxy's historic subservience to the State.

Whatever a more modern Roman Catholic ecclesial polity looks like, I suggest it must avoid the worst excesses of Anglicanism and Orthodoxy. Politics abhors a vacuum. If everybody is in charge then nobody is in charge.

Spirit of Vatican II

Thanks for your input. I suppose the libertas ecclesiae should be thought about first of all in theological terms -- along the lines of St Paul's meditations on the Body of Christ. Democratic culture can however alert us to structures of unfreedom in the Church, structures that can then be more powerfully critiqued in light of the biblical vision.

Christian tradition does not exclude State Churches and Vatican II formally recognizes, albeit concessively, that the State may privilege a given religious community (thinking of Catholic Concordats -- or the former Art. 44 of the Irish Constitution). But I think French and American Catholics now recognize that the Separation of Church and State serves to purify and strengthen the Church.

Papal leadership is important, but if it was less direct and centralized it might be more effective. Anglicans could perhaps come round to accepting a papal primacy that allowed full freedom of internal government to the Anglican communion, something along the lines of the 21 autochthonous churches alleged by Kaiser in his silly novel. We need a new Council to come up with a more modern RC polity!

Is Anglicanism in a state of theological chaos? I don't see it like that. Of course there is bitter conflict between the Evangelicals and everyone else and milder conflict between liberals and mainstream orthodox/High Church. But the debate goes on. Much the same debate is afoot in the RCC, but in a stifled and inarticulate fashion. Roman Notifications do not bring closure.

Spirit of Vatican II

Commentaries on the above essay have appeared on the sites of Dr Carla Castellacci and Michael Bayly. See:


Spirit of Vatican II

I am amazed to learn that when the present Secretary of State, Cardinal Bertone, was bishop of Genoa, the Catholic hospital there had 400 abortions a year: http://www.repubblica.it/2007/05/sezioni/cronaca/aborti-genova-bagnasco/aborti-genova-bagnasco/aborti-genova-bagnasco.html

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