Thursday, August 14, 2003
Notice: I'm probably going to offend any Protestant or Catholic readers of this site. I apologize in advance.
For a while now, I've had a problem with mainstream Protestantism. To my mind, they fail to appreciate the beauty and glory inherent in art, architecture, and the liturgy. I disagree with them on several fairly major doctrinal issues, and it seems (not necessarily "is true") to me that most Evangelical Protestants seem to always about that close to snapping and becoming Puritans who want to burn Catholics (they'll presumably get to the Anglicans in time as well) at the stake for witchcraft. Several years ago I looked into several of the major Protestant denominations before finally deciding that there was just too much missing for me to switch. Most of my friends are Protestants, and I tend to have a lot more fun hanging out with them than with my Catholic friends (not a rule, to be sure!). However, in light of what appears to me to be an unintentionally disrespectful attitude towards God, I tend to think of myself as being pretty much evenly split between the Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic schools of Anglican thought and practice.
Recently, and even before this whole ECUSA SNAFU, I've been examining the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church (I looked into Eastern Orthodoxy, too, but their doctrines are just too far out for me, though without question they're Christians). I don't agree with many of their doctrines, but I understand them, and in most cases they're the sort of things where I wouldn't have any problem changing my own beliefs if I truly believed the Roman Catholic (I lump in all denominations in communion with the Church of Rome here, such as Marion Rite and Easter Rite) beliefs to be correct. I very much enjoy reading Catholic blogs, as they are very often superior in theological quality to Protestant blogs (again, with some very strong exceptions), at least from an Anglican perspective. However, there's a sort of pervading arrogance in the writings of many Catholics I've read, and often ignorance as well. I don't mean the kind of arrogance where you'd simply say "eh, they believe differently; no big thing" but rather the kind where you're instinctive response is to say something unutterable on a Christian blog. If they were saying something correct but in a rude way, I'd be offended but would probably accept the doctrine while disliking the proponent. Instead, I see the same sort of arrogance that caused the Eastern Orthodox churches to break away from Rome in AD 1054.
My main points of contention with the Roman Catholics is the validity of Anglican apostolic succession and the denial of Anglicanism as a Protestant faith. The Church of England prior to Henry VIII was a mixture of Roman Catholicism and Celtic Christianity, the latter of which arrived first and should rightly be considered an Orthodox faith, similar to the Greek Orthodox Church, for historical reasons and not necessarily theological ones. Prior to the coming of St. Augustine of Canterbury (sent by Rome to reconvert the pagans of southern England) in the fifth century, several British bishops participated in church councils of the fourth century who owed their allegiance to the monastery on the island of Iona off the coast of Scotland, as did the rest of British Christendom. In fact, in AD 1061, the See of Canterbury, one of the twin provinces of the Church of England, swore allegiance to the papal claimant in Lombardy rather than the one in Rome, and only changed this after William the Conqueror arrived five years later and forced the switch of allegiance by replacing nearly all the previous bishops. As this brought many financial benefits, people were generally content for about five hundred years until, partially swayed by the Protestants in Parliament, partially by his anger at the Pope, and partially by his own theological views (he had only a few years before been declared "Defender of the Faith" by the Pope; a title retained by British monarchs today), Henry VIII declared that the Church of England no longer owed allegiance to Rome but to the King of England. This was later amended by Elizabeth I to have the monarch as "Supreme Governor" and to transfer most of the church authority to the bishops, but the Church of England was now one of Orthodox and Catholic roots which had departed from Rome due to Protestant thought. It is this confusion and overlap which causes many scholars to simply refer to Anglicanism as the fourth major division of Christianity, especially as both Catholics and Protestants will claim that the other group is actually the home of Anglicans. Though no longer in communion with the [Arch]Bishop of Rome (whom I usually call the Pope, like everyone else, except when I'm being specific), the Church of England and its daughter churches retain a valid apostolic succession dating back to St. Peter. Catholics and Orthodox will deny it (most Protestants will simply roll their eyes), though without presenting much of an argument against it ("Pope Leo said no" doesn't cut it with people who don't recognize papal infallibility).