"Let unity, the greatest good of all goods, be your preoccupation." - St. Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to St. Polycarp)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Britain has become a 'Catholic country'

According to this article in the Telegraph, there are now more practicing Catholics in Britain than practicing Anglicans. That follows yesterday's news of Tony Blair's conversion to Catholicism. From a Catholic point of view, it is not entirely surprising that Anglicanism is in decline. In 1896 Pope Leo XIII ruled in Apostolicae Curae that "ordinations carried out according to the Anglican rite have been, and are, absolutely null and utterly void". Any organization lacking valid orders must eventually collapse. Those who reject Apostolicae Curae to become or remain Anglican are implicitly determining that the [Anglican] Archbishop of Canterbury (or whichever Anglican bishop in Africa under whom they have placed themselves) has more authority than the episcopal successor of St. Peter. One of the factors leading me out of Anglicanism was that I could not justify the claim that some Anglican bishop has more authority than the bishop of Rome.

6 comments:

Ragamuffin said...

To be fair though, this change isn't due to a resurgence in Catholicism in Britain. I read in another article that basically the change was due to the Catholic church losing less ground overall than the Anglican church. Over the last few years, the Anglican church dropped about 20% in attendance while the Catholic church dropped only 13% and that difference only because an influx of Catholic immigrants mitigated the damage on that side.

Principium unitatis said...

True. I didn't intend to imply any "resurgence in Catholicism" in Britain. I was pointing out the present relation of Anglicanism to Catholicism in Britain.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Tim said...

But...wait a second. That goes against your claim that this all makes sense because a church without "valid orders" must collapse. What's happening in Britain is affecting both of these denominations. The data do not support your interpretation.

None of this has anything to do with the formula used in ordination. That was gratuitous and insulting.

Principium unitatis said...

Tim,

Thanks for your comments. I did not claim (nor intend to imply that I was claiming) that the decline in Anglican practice "supports" (or buttresses or substantiates) the Catholic position about what must eventually happen to organizations lacking valid orders. In other words, I was not appealing to any evidence to support any theory. I was saying only that from a Catholic point of view, the decline of Anglicanism, so that its very continuation is at stake, is not surprising. If such a thing happened to Catholicism, that would be surprising, from a Catholic point of view. But the state of Catholicism in Britain, let alone Europe, is not the state of Catholicism as a whole. As you know, it is possible to point to data that *fits* a theory without thereby claiming that the data supports or confirms the theory. And it was the former that I was intending. If that was insulting to you, then I apologize.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Tim said...

Well, I can't see any logic in what you'd originally written, even with your caveat above. (And I'm glad you weren't meaning to be insulting.)

For example, let's say I have a theory that claims that all left-handed people must die early deaths, because the word "left" in Latin is "sinister." (And, by implication, this will not be true for right-handers, because the word for "right" is "dexter.")

And then I see that the town of Smallville is hit by a devastating tornado, killing a large fraction of both left-handers and right-handers in town, similar in percentages.

Does it make sense for me then to say, "Well, this is not surprising from the point of view of my theory"?

No. For one thing, there are still plenty of left-handers alive in Smallville, and I can't say yet that they'll all die young. And for another, I've forgotten that left-handers aren't confined to Smallville, but live happy and extended lives elsewhere around the world.

Now, to apply this to your idea of the Catholic mindset: You seem to think that the Anglican church only exists within Britain, so that if it ceases to exist there, it will cease to exist, period. But that's not true. By far, most Anglicans are in the developing world--places like Nigeria. So the present decline of the Anglican church in Britain says nothing about its future existence elsewhere. It is untrue to say that, "its very continuation is at stake"

You seem to understand this with regards to the Catholic church, because you shrug off the similar British decline of Catholics. You need to be consistent.

Furthermore, Leo XIII's reasoning applies to all Protestant denominations, because none of us hold to a "sacrificial" office for the pastor. I believe that Orthodox ordinations *are* held to be valid, on the contrary.

So by the distinguishing characteristic of "valid ordination," your two sample groups are not simply "Anglicans" and "Catholics," but "Protestants" and "Catholics/Orthodox."

And your thesis is that *all* of the "Protestant" sample must eventually cease to exist, while that will not be true for the "Catholic/Orthodox" sample.

Now, to validly make your statement that this is "not entirely surprising," you must show that the data are at least consistent with your theory, and further, that the observation is not what we would call "trivially" true. (I'm a scientist, and I'm not sure if that use of "trivial" is common outside of science.)

You have observed a similar decline in one *small* (minority) population of *both* samples. Your observations have not extended to the other populations of either sample, so you cannot make any conclusions whatsoever.

Nor can you even say that it's "not surprising," because without looking at the other populations of the two samples, you don't even know if it's *consistent* with your theory.

Principium unitatis said...

Tim,

What I said might make more sense if I add another piece to the puzzle. I'm not unaware that Anglicanism exists outside the UK. My time as an an Anglican took place in the US. But in my opinion, Anglicanism cannot continue to exist as such without the leadership and authority of Anglicanism in the UK, particularly in the Archbishop of Canterbury. That is because without a central authority in the UK, not only does nothing make extra-UK Anglicanism to be *one*, nothing makes it to be *Anglican* in essence. If, for example, certain "Anglican" churches place themselves under an African bishop, these churches then become Anglican in name only, not in actuality. They would be more properly named the "Church of ________ "(fill in the blank with the name of the country in which this African bishop resides). That is because, in my opinion, 'Anglican' does not refer only to style or form or history; it refers to the very essence and identity of the community with respect to authority. And if it does not have UK authority, then it does not have Anglican authority, and then it is not Anglican in essence, only in form or history. I hope that explains my comments better, even if you don't share my position.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan