Saturday, August 02, 2008

My Thoughts on the Fr. Kimel Kerfuffle

To quote myself:

I came to the conclusion some years ago that "Anglicanism" was not primarily about doctrine or formularies, but about connection to and continuity with the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church as mediated through the Church of England. So it seemed foolish to me to identify with Anglicanism on this level while aligning myself with a church or movement that almost entirely identified Anglicanism with doctrine (39 Articles) and formularies (1662 BCP). ("Why I Migrated to The Episcopal Church," Entry: July 30, 2007)

At least one constructive thing has come out of the recent dialogue (charity compels me to call it such) between Fr. Al Kimel and myself. It has reminded me of my own words above. Indeed, it was Fr. Kimel himself who linked the article which contains the above quote to his most recent critque of my article "Personal Reflections on Why I Remain in TEC".

As I hinted in the "trailer" of a previous entry, Fr. Kimel has asked the wrong question, (or, perhaps better, an inadequate question) in the title of his article, "Is The Episcopal Church Truly a Catholic Church?" In so doing, he has unwittingly pigeon-holed himself into answering the question in terms of the relative orthodoxy of TEC's adherents, and thus comes across not as a Roman Catholic apologist debating the catholic claims of Anglicanism as much as he does a former Episcopalian displaying his disappointment and disenchantment with his former church's continuous flirtations with erroneous teaching (the pan-sexual agenda), or, in some cases, embracing of innovative positions (e.g., women's ordination). His arguments in this respect are not much different than those who have thrown their lot in with CANA or the AMiA, or the GAFCON movement for that matter.

Now, I'm not about to engage in a debate over or defend various recent actions of TEC. I should think that Fr. Kimel and I agree for the most part about these matters, and so these hardly need rehashing. My point, however, should not be missed: To argue against the catholicity of a particular church based on a point-in-time snapshot of the relative orthodoxy of its adherents, whether a majority or a significant tolerated minority, is to subject every church at every point in history (including one's own) to the same standard.

But does Fr. Kimel really want to go down that road? Does he really wish to uphold the relative orthodoxy of the adherents of Roman Catholicism throughout its long and less than exemplary history as the standard by which all others are judged catholic? Or is he claiming for Rome and its adherents an "abosulte orthodoxy and orthopraxy" by which all other catholic claimants are judged? (The recent comment from the Anglican Scotist about how Fr. Kimel wants "to make a clean, binary distinction in terms of esse sufficient to completely unchurch Episcopalians" is right on the money here.)

If that is the route Fr. Kimel would like to pursue, then perhaps we should begin our discussion with the sins of simony and nepotism, or the sale of grace through indulgences in the sixteenth century. Or perhaps we should bring the discussion into modern times, and talk about the "Ted Kennedys" and "Nancy Pelosis" of the world. Should we discuss the American Roman hierarchy's complicity in covering up the recent sex scandals and child molestations which some of her priests have perpetrated? I, for one, would rather not go down that road.

So, Fr. Kimel, let's not go there, because, unless one wishes to assume the foolish position of an absolute orthodoxy, there are no winners in such a contest. Instead, let's engage in a debate about the nature of catholicity itself. And I think a good place to begin would be with my quoted statement above. Show me how my "connection to" and "continuity with" the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church as mediated through the Church of England has been severed or interrupted by my remaining in The Episcopal Church.


Catholicdude15 said...

Fr. Dunlap,

I would counsel you that your idea of "relative orthodoxy" has nothing to do with whether or not the Episcopal church is indeed Catholic. One could really care less what the individual people in the pew actually believe. As Catholics, we believe in the doctrines, precepts, and dogmas that the Catholic Church and proclaims to be revealed by God. It has nothing to do with percentage polls or how many people in the pew actually hold personally to the teachings of the Catholic Church. Our Church, unlike the Episcopal church, is not a popular democracy. Truth in the Catholic Church is not a matter of up or down vote. It is a matter of the Deposit of Faith. The Faith once for all delivered to the saints, the faith which Jesus Christ himself established on Peter the Rock. We could care less about what Nancy Pelosi or Ted Kennedy believe about abortion, or whether or not lay Catholics actually accept the Church's teaching about artificial contraception, or whatever. What the people personally hold to is of no consequence. What's important is what the Magisterium of the Catholic Church upholds as True. It is up to the people to bend their wills to the will of the Church, not the other way around. The opposite is how it goes in the Episcopal church. Nothing is held as sacred for Episcopalians. Why, the General Convention of your church could vote up or down on any article of the Nicene Creed, and there still would be people out there defending it as a "catholic" church, when in reality all it is doing is endorsing H-E-R-E-S-Y heresy! Unlike the Episcopal church the Catholic Church was given the pledge from Christ that the gates of Hell would never prevail against his Church. Unfortunately, the Episcopal church is outside the Catholic Church, and therefore the gates of Hell have been making a very orderly march towards conquering the Episcopal church, and it is the duty of all orthodox Christians to oppose the evil that is being masqueraded as acceptable by this Church.

In Christ,

Catholicdude15, who never ever was an Episcopalian.

Third Mill Catholic said...

Well, Catholicdude, you may never have been an Episcopalian, but I might venture a guess that you were once a Protestant of some other variety. I could be wrong, but you sound like a convert.

Indeed, it is I who has said all along that the debate that we should be having is over the nature of catholicity, and challenged Fr. Kimel on that very point. Yet he persists to argue against the catholicity of the Episcopal Church on the grounds of relative orthodoxy, very much like others who left the Episcopal Church. You should go back and read my post more carefully, especially the last paragraph.

As I read your comments, your faith seems to be based in the Magisterium, not the Faith Once Delivered. The Consensus Fidelium to your way of thinking appears to be nothing more than the passive affirmation and loyal obedience to all that the Magisterium promulgates.

I am comforted by the fact that I have Roman Catholic friends who are not Vatican I throwbacks like you appear to be, but who rather have a better grasp of the implications of Vatican II, and may actually contribute to what it means to be Catholic in the Third Millennium.

Nonetheless, I wish you all the best and thank you for dropping by.

Third Mill Catholic

Anonymous said...

As enlightening as a debate on the nature of catholicity would be, I wonder if such an undertaking is possible? In order to make his case, Fr. Kimel would need to ground his arguments in the RC claim of ecclesial ultimacy ( the integrity of the RC position demands no less; catholicity cannot be divorced or abstracted from the RC Church ) And the result would be impasse. IOW, the insularity of Fr. Kimel's positions ( e.g. any church that refuses the claim to ecclesial ultimacy, is a mere sect) makes an abstract discussion of the nature of catholicity-sans any talk of relative orthodoxy -untenable. The coup de grace in any such discussion, I fear, would be ecclesial ultimacy.


Third Mill Catholic said...

Sure, Mark, there would be an impasse, but at least the differences of definition would be clear. Fr. Kimel makes his rounds in the blogosphere obscuring the differences by assuming (1) that Rome's definition of catholicity is the only definition of catholicity, (2) that no one seriously doubts this, so no one will take him to task on this, (3) that at the end of the day every would-be catholic Anglican is merely aspiring to be "Roman without a pope." So his argument is simple: Anglicanism's problems are due to the fact that one cannot be catholic without the Pope. Then he points to the problems and says, "See, there's the proof."

I'm looking for an acknowledgement from him that we are actually arguing different visions of catholicity, and, if you mix the Orient into the mix, three or four or more.

Catholicdude15 said...

Fr. Dunlap,

Matthew 16:18: "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it." This is my standard of catholicity, Fr. Dunlap. Jesus pledged to Peter that he would preserve his church from the gates of hell. His church is indefectable. It cannot err. Therefore, anytime one places oneself in opposition to the church duly established by Christ he is placing himself in a grave state, a state of obstinate opposition to the will of Christ. This may not be his own fault, but the fact still remains that, as the Second Vatican Council proclaimed in its seminal constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium: "This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure." In order to be fully a member of the Body of Christ one must fully be a member of the Catholic Church. I sincerely hope that you will one day join the Tiber River Swim Team and realize the joy of being able to profess belief in the catholic and apostolic faith.

And yes, Fr. Dunlap, I am a convert to the Catholic Church, from the Baptist tradition, and if my loyalty to the Holy Father, the Magisterium, and Historic Christianity makes me a Vatican I throwback, then I wear that badge with much honor and pride. However, since I hold to views that are nothing more than the views of the Second Vatican Council, I think it would be much more accurate to describe me as a throwback to Vatican II. God Bless You and keep you.

Anonymous said...

Well, we shall see. To defend the RC position in debate against a competing vision of catholicity may be too dangerous; since it assumes, if only hypothetically, the possibility of the rival vision having merit.

Simply stated, such a debate-sans getting side-tracked on issues of relative orthodoxy, and without playing the ecclesial ultimacy card, might be construed as compromising the integrity of a pivotal dogma. But perhaps this is blinkered.


Third Mill Catholic said...


"Indefectible" does not mean "cannot err." I'm pretty sure the Roman Church hasn't ever made a claim to inerrancy, though I'm not surprised that a former Baptist would consider her to be such.

I would also suggest that your loyalty to the Holy Father and the Magisterium trumps any loyalty you may have towards historic Christianity where they come into conflict. Might I suggest that you do a little reading into the history of your church. Recall what I said early about the Consensus Fidelium being reduced to a passive affirmation of and loyal obedience to the Magisterium. Indeed, we have two very different ideas of what it means to be Catholic.

Incidentally, I scratched the Roman itch a long time ago. It would have been an easy jump for me about ten years ago. But then I was faced with another choice, which at the time did not seem to be at all connected. And that choice, to make a long story short, was whether to remain in a fundamentalist mindset or not. I consciously chose to leave fundamentalism behind. Funny thing, once I was no longer under the sway of fundamentalism, I no longer felt the need or the desire to cross the Tiber, because I was no longer looking for the "perfect church."

Had I been born a Roman, things may have been different.

Third Mill Catholic said...


You're correct, of course. But it doesn't matter since I very much doubt that Fr. Kimel will not take me up on the challenge anyway. I suspect he may not even get around to writing "Part 2" of his diatribe against me.

He counts on the fact that many (most perhaps) Anglo-Catholics are just the type of folks that I described in my earlier response: Roman catholics without a pope. These are the types he befriends, because he knows that it is simply a matter of time before they burn out or lose all hope. I'm sure he has quite a fruitful apologetic ministry with these types. They've already accepted the Roman model of catholicity, and are looking merely to reunite the "Anglican patrimony" to the Holy See. This is precisely why I never got around to joining the SSC, though I was mightily tempted at one point in my career. Thankfully, my bishop at the time would not permit me.

This is also the reason that Kimel despises Anglican Catholics like myself. We haven't bought into the Roman model, nor some of the keystones of Roman theology (and I don't mean the IC and the AoM -- I mean things like the filioque and Augustinism.)

He really has no time of day for Anglicans who are comfortable in their own catholic skins as Anglicans. And he really doesn't know how to debate them either. I suspect we shall not hear much more from him. I could be wrong, but I'll be surprised if we do.

Catholicdude15 said...

Fr. Dunlap,

I have no doubt in my mind that the Catholic Church has erred in many matters. But when it comes to the essential matters of faith and morals the Catholic Church cannot err. She has been preserved from error by the Holy Spirit for two thousand years.

I have no conflicts between the Magisterium and historic Christianity. In fact, history was one of the primary reasons I became a Catholic. It wasn't because I was looking for the perfect church. The perfect church doesn't exist. I was only looking to learn about other Christian denominations in my journey toward Catholicism. By studying the Reformation and Church History I came to the conclusion that the Catholic Church is the church that was established by the Lord Jesus Christ, and if I wanted salvation I had no recourse but to seek to become a member of the Catholic Church. My being a Catholic has nothing to do with fundamentalism. It had to do with the unalloyed record of history, which shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Catholic Church is indeed what she claims to be.

With regard to your definition of the consensus fidelium, I would counsel you that the consensus fidelium has always been subject to the ratification and approval of Peter and his successors, and that the only consensus fidelium that has ever mattered in the Church is the one that has submitted itself to Peter and his successors. The Supreme Pontiff is the sign of our consensus of faith. Where Peter is, there also is the Church. Without Peter the faith becomes diluted. He is the Rock founded on Jesus Christ.

Third Mill Catholic said...

Catholicdude says:
"With regard to your definition of the consensus fidelium, I would counsel you that the consensus fidelium has always been subject to the ratification and approval of Peter and his successors, and that the only consensus fidelium that has ever mattered in the Church is the one that has submitted itself to Peter and his successors. The Supreme Pontiff is the sign of our consensus of faith. Where Peter is, there also is the Church. Without Peter the faith becomes diluted. He is the Rock founded on Jesus Christ."

That you can say this with as much conviction as you do and claim that this is your conclusion based on the "unalloyed record of history" only tells me that you have not read much history.

At best, this is a theological conclusion grounded in the theory of doctrinal development. It is certainly NOT grounded in an objective reading of history.

Thanks for dropping by, O follower of Peter, and feel free to drop by again from time to time. As far as this thread is concerned, I think it is well spent.