Friday, October 28, 2005

Where I Am, There Is the Church

Also bouncing around the Anglican blogosphere is a question from All Too Common:

">Are Anglicans Really Catholic?

"Catholic" is of course the most loaded possible word in ecclesiology, so to even begin to confront the question one must pick among its many connotations and denotations. Or one can go straight to the creed, and stick with "universal". Well, OK: that's not good enough either. Better to go straight to the problem claim.

Interpreting "my church is catholic" to mean "my church comprises the entirety of the earthly church" is sectarian. Everyone believes that their own church is part of the "Catholic Church"; in that wise ecclesiology reduces to a rationalization of one's "choice" of church. Given the multiplicity of "one true" churches, and the variety of arguments made for them, I cannot accept the view that rational arguments are going to show us which of the competitors truly is the house of God. Only the presence of God in those places is a truly infallible sign, and if He be found in more than one, then it is clear that the catholicos must encompass more than a single sect.

This is particularly a problem for those who abandon one church for another on the basis of their zeal for the Lord, and especially for clerics who do so. If a priest abandons Canterbury for Rome, and does not denounce all his old "pretense" at sacraments, then when he denounces the legitimacy of his old church on ecclesiological grounds, he is a flaming hypocrite. What I really see is that one's faith can be carried, like luggage, from one church to the next. The actuality of ecclesiology is personal judgement.

Are the Anglican churches by themselves the Catholic Church on earth? No; of course not. Are they of the Catholic Church? Yes; of course they are.

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