July 30, 2007

Prayers and answers

God always answers prayer. When we knock, the door will be opened. But it may be opened in rather than opened out. The answer to our prayer may be the call to convert our desire into a paschal mystery of giving rather than receiving. We may think we approach God's door as trick-or-treaters on the Eve of All Saints, ready to receive a sweet bounty; only to find ourselves commissioned and sent out to seek and serve others instead. Blessed is the gift, and blessed those who receive the gift to give. Thus are loaves and fishes multiplied, and prayers answered.

Tobias Haller BSG
back from Convocation and facing a pile of work with which to catch up!

July 24, 2007

Time away

Dear Friends, it is the time of year when Gregorians gather, and I will be at Mount Alvernia with minimal internet access. Some will say that is all to the good. But it will mean some delays in comment moderation and so forth. Also, time for prayer and not for blogging, as much as blogging is a form of prayer. Or so it is said.

July 22, 2007

Philosophical Action Figures

Courtesy of The Postulant an assortment of Philosophical Action Figures with many and amazing powers. Be sure to check them all out in their plastic containers (In Mint Condition) to see the details of their special skills. "Bashin'" Bishop Berkeley's trademarked Eye Closing Power ("Close his eyes and his enemies disappear!") seems to be much employed in the Church of England these days.

But perhaps it only seems that way... In any case, for anyone interested in faith seeking an understanding of a way to bash your enemies, these are the action figures to go to.

July 21, 2007

A gracious summary

Over at "Betwixt and Between" *Christopher has published a beautiful summary of what it means to be an Anglican. I commend it not least because it begins with one of my favorite quotations from one of my favorite Anglican theologians, William Reed Huntington.

Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest...


July 20, 2007

Disordered Thinking

One way to tell if a proposition is correct or not is to see if the reasons advanced in its favor contradict other propositions already accepted.

It seems clear that one of the reasons the Roman Catholic Church gave up on trying to find reasons for its opposition to the ordination of women — now simply forbidding further discussion of the matter — must be the realization at some level that the reasons advanced against it were leading into erroneous waters.

It took them a while to reach the stonewall position. By 1976, in the official commentary on Inter Insigniores (1976), the leadership had come to realize the shakiness of Fortress Reason: “It is well known that in solemn teaching infallibility affects the doctrinal affirmation, not the arguments intended to explain it. Thus the doctrinal chapters of the Council of Trent contain certain processes of reasoning that today no longer seem to hold.” An interesting confession; yet still they were reluctant to stop trying to defend the position, and soldier on with arguments in support of the faltering cause: “But this risk has never stopped the magisterium from endeavoring at all times to clarify doctrine... Faith seeks understanding, and tries to distinguish the grounds for and the coherence of what is taught.”

Unfortunately, Inter Insigniores itself contains arguments, most of which apart from the unassailable “we’ve always done it that way” have now been dropped in favor of the total stonewall. Let me give an example from this document of the kind of disorder into which rational minds can descend in the interests of maintaining the status quo.

The priest is a sign, the supernatural effectiveness of which comes from the ordination received, but a sign that must be perceptible, and which the faithful must be able to recognize with ease. The whole sacramental economy is in fact based upon natural signs, on symbols imprinted upon the human psychology: “Sacramental signs,” says Saint Thomas, “represent what they signify by natural resemblance.” The same natural resemblance is required for persons as for things: when Christ’s role in the Eucharist is to be expressed sacramentally, there would not be this “natural resemblance” which must exist between Christ and his minister if the role of Christ were not taken by a man: in such a case it would be difficult to see in the minister the image of Christ. For Christ was and remains a man.

Leaving aside the fact that women are as “perceptible” as men, this leads to a kind of sacramental receptionism (in which the believer’s perceptions are what render the sacrament valid). This reduces the sacrament from an objective reality into a subjective experience. It also puts an undue focus upon one aspect of the priestly person: his (or her!) sex. Why, after all, should sex be any more determinative of perceiving Christ — if perception were the sine qua non for the validity of the sacrament — than any other quality. And isn’t a woman more “perceptible” as Christ than a loaf of bread is as his flesh? Personally, I don’t find the figure of a paunchy octogenarian cardinal to be as “natural” or immediate a reminder of Christ as a younger and more ascetical woman.

Which is, of course, my fault. For I should be able to see Christ in every member of Christ’s body, for Christ is in them. It is not Christ’s maleness that is of significance, in the Eucharist or in anything else, but his humanity, which obviously includes his maleness, but just as obviously is not limited to or by it.

Which brings us to the serious doctrine this position contradicts. For it is taught that what is not assumed (by Christ in the Incarnation) is not redeemed. And Christ assumed the whole of human nature. Otherwise how could women be saved? Christ assumed the totality of human nature when he became incarnate, and as the Chalcedonian Definition affirms, he received that totality of human nature solely from his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. And she was, obviously, a woman.

I first noted this contradiction with the Chalcedonian Definition, and the implications for the ordination of women, over twenty years ago. I am very pleased to say that some of the theologians in Eastern Orthodoxy — who hold the doctrine of the Incarnation very seriously and also highly honor the Theotokos — are beginning to see the implications as well. The summer 2002 issue of Anglican Theological Review included a number of essays from an Orthodox/Old Catholic conference that raised this question.

Facing the contradiction

Let’s look at the issue more closely, by asking what relationship sex has to human nature. The nature of any class must be something possessed by every member of that class. As Hooker says, “Now if men had not naturally this desire to be happy, how were it possible that all men should have it? All men have. Therefore this desire in man is natural. It is not in our power not to do the same...” (Laws, 1.11.4) The desire to happiness is thus a part of human nature. But what about sex? “Having a sex” is natural to all human beings. But the actual quality of being male only applies to men; being female only to women. So it is part of the manly nature to be male, the womanly nature to be female. But when human nature is considered as a whole, including both men and women, the specific sex is left to one side as a quality of the individual or of the class of men or women, and only the generic quality of “having a sex” applies to human beings. Maleness or femaleness applies only to individuals, and not to human nature as a whole. So, the “natural resemblance” argument already having been defeated both on objective grounds and on the grounds of a proper understanding of the nature of the sacrament, we are left with an assertion that there is something about maleness, as a human quality, that is required for ordination.

And this is where the conflict with Chalcedon arises: for the Council affirmed that whatever it is in human nature that is of saving importance (since that is the object of the Incarnation) came through a woman — the Blessed Mother of God — and she could not confer what she did not possess. Ergo, the male character is not essential, but accidental. Even if Christ’s maleness was necessary for the fulfilment of prophecy, there is no natural reason to think this carries over to the ministers of the church. To do so is to attach a greater significance to maleness than is warranted.

Some twenty years ago, I wrote the following brief comment in the style of Richard Hooker, addressing these questions. I think it still holds up, and so I offer it here, for the first time in the blogosphere:

They say that women may not receive the benefit of the sacrament of order. But how is this; seeing that they may receive the benefit of both of the sacraments ordained by Christ, and may be, as they will admit, the ministers of baptism, which is the prime sacrament of the church’s very being; and seeing that they may alike receive the benefits of the other sacramental rites of the church, in confirmation, penance, matrimony, and unction; wherefore then are they incapable of receiving benefit of this one only sacrament of orders? Is it that they are incapable of receiving this grace, as if they were a material unfit to receive the impress of a seal? What is the grace? and what that receives it? Is there somewhat in male humanity that exists not in the female? Is it not rather that male and female are qualities of the individual person, and not of collective human nature? For humanity as a whole is neither male nor female, but each individual is either one or the other. To say otherwise were an error, since we know that all that is of human nature in woman comes from man, as Eve was taken wholly out of Adam; and further, all that is in human nature resides in woman, for Christ’s humanity came to him wholly by way of his blessed mother, and she could not bestow that which she did not possess: and finally both man and woman come from God as made in God’s image. (1Cor 11.12) So if they say that either humanity or divinity is the form or image that a woman cannot possess, they are mistaken, for she has it both by nature of birth; and further by the grace of baptism whatever of the divine image is marred or obscured in man or woman is restored to its original likeness. Finally, we hold that the grace of the sacraments comes not from the ministers who perform the rites associated thereunto, but from God; and that the lawful performance of a sacramental rite assures us of its validity and of the grace imparted thereby.

Tobias Haller BSG
on the feast of Elizabeth, Amelia, Sojourner and Harriet: bearers of Christ’s likeness all, and ministers of his Truth!

July 18, 2007

Mixed Blessing


The Employment Tribunal in which the Board of Finance of the Diocese of Hereford, was accused of Sexual Discrimination has issued its judgement. The Tribunal found in favour of the plaintiff, accepting that the Diocese did discriminate against Mr. John Reaney in not appointing him to the post of Youth Officer within the Diocese.

Well, if the Church of England is only going to give mixed blessings, then that is all it is likely to receive.

July 17, 2007

Blog Roll Update 7/17/07

I've spent a bit of time adding a few more names to the blogroll. Some of these additions are much belated, and I'm glad I had the chance to rectify the belatedness.

July 16, 2007

Canonical Camouflage

In the form-letter issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s office, in response to concerns about the lack of invitation to the duly-elected bishop of New Hampshire to the next Lambeth Conference, the following reminder is made (emphasis mine):

From the time of the election of Bishop Gene Robinson to See of New Hampshire, both the representatives of many Anglican Provinces and the Instruments of Communion made it clear that full recognition by the Communion could not be given to a bishop whose chosen lifestyle would, in most Provinces of the Communion, give rise to canonical impediment to his consecration as a bishop. The Archbishop has to be loyal to that widespread concern as well as bearing in mind the position of Bishop Robinson within The Episcopal Church. The Archbishop is therefore exploring inviting Bishop Robinson to the conference in another status.

Thus it appears that the reason for Robinson’s status is some clear-cut canonical principle. However, any woman bishop would also find herself in a similar canonical situation in “most Provinces of the Communion” since most of the provinces do not as yet allow women to exercise the episcopate, and their canons are really rather clear to that end. Yet none of the women diocesans in the Anglican Communion have been told they might be invited to Lambeth “in another status.” As far as I know, all of the women diocesans have been “fully recognized” at Lambeth even though they could not be “fully recognized” canonically.

So the “canonical impediment” cannot be the real root issue here. And I suspect raising it was an effort to divert the discussion — and perhaps to deflect our collective attention with a bit of camouflage — from the real problem for most of those who find it problematical throughout the communion: the chosen lifestyle — which would be “a concern” to them even if it were not mentioned in the canons — as I dare say it is not mentioned in most of them. The canons really have very little to do with it, and it is a bit coy for the Archbishop’s office to try to make it appear that way. I understand they are in a difficult position — but it would be better to stand in it than stoop to such excuses.

Tobias Haller BSG

House of Special Purpose

The Martyrdom and Apotheosis of the Victims of Ekaterinburg, for chamber instruments. Tobias Haller, 2006.

MP3 File

July 13, 2007

What Has This To Do With Us?

A number of folks have asked me directly, or posed the question in other forums: Why should we as Anglicans be at all interested in what the Roman Catholic Church has said about us recently. There is, as I have noted, absolutely nothing new in what they have said. They are simply reaffirming a position that has its roots in the middle ages, reasserted at the Counter-Reformation, restated with abundant clarity at Vatican I, and reaffirmed before and after by Pius IX, Leo XIII and Pius XII, and only very lightly nuanced by Vatican II and the pontiffs since.

So, it is true that there is nothing new here. Which makes it all the more important to ask, Then why did they issue this statement? I gave a partial answer to that question in a previous post. This statement addresses some Roman Catholic ecumenists, to say, as Larry David might, “Curb your enthusiasm.” It is a reminder to them that the old rules are still in place, and the CDF is acting in the role of a chaperone who has found her charge cozying up a bit too close with her date.

But again, what does this have to do with us other than recognizing that some of our Roman Catholic ecumenical friends may find themselves having to be a bit more stand-offish than they may have been over the last few years?

While I do not think this document was specifically aimed at the Anglican Communion, I would not want to underestimate Pope Benedict’s ability to hit more than one bird with a stone. He is certainly well aware of the current tensions in Anglicanism, and has gone so far as to comment upon them. He has also observed, if I recall correctly, that these tensions make it difficult to know who to talk to in ecumenical dialogue: if one Anglican “Church” (let’s remember the invisibles scare-quotes) can say this, and another can say that — whose authority are We to accept? Who is in charge? How can you really be in communion with each other and still disagree? Some kind of central authority would surely be helpful to settle these differences, not just so We will have someone to talk to, but for your own good order, don’t you think? You can’t really be even a “church” in scare quotes without some central government or headship.

I hope you can see where I am heading with this, and I am not, I think, misreading what the document may be saying to us; not so much as a shot across the bow, but as a reminder of how Roman Catholics understand the structures of the Church.

And that is by always combining communion with governance. Thus, as Vatican II said, the One Church of Christ, “constituted and organised in this world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him.” The only thing new in this statement from Vatican II was the word subsists. The linkage of governance with communion goes well back into the roots of Roman Catholic self-understanding, from the medieval period through the Renaissance and up through Vatican I. It received probably its most eloquent theological exposition in the thought of Pius XII, in his encyclical Mystici Corporis — which even in its title expresses the concept of body joined with spirit, and which focuses explicitly upon the episcopate of the Catholic Church as the means by which the faithful are united in subordination to the authority of the Roman Pontiff. Towards the end of this document the Holy Father turns a bit stern:

We, therefore, deplore and condemn the pernicious error of those who conjure up from their fancies an imaginary Church, a kind of Society that finds its origin and growth in charity, to which they somewhat contemptuously oppose another which they call juridical. To draw such a distinction is utterly futile. For they fail to understand that the divine Redeemer had one single purpose in view when He wanted the community of men of which He was the founder to be established as a society perfect in its own order and possessing all juridical and social elements — the purpose, namely, of perpetuating the salutary work of the redemption here on earth.

In short, no body of charity without a body of law. Vatican II nuanced this language, as I have noted. But it did not contradict it: the linkage of communion and governance is still the defining self understanding of the Catholic Church, focused upon the person of the Bishop of Rome. Let me close here with a quotation from the post-conciliar period, lest one think Vatican II undid all that went before. Pope Paul VI, in his 1975 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, writes:

Let us, however, be very careful not to conceive of the universal Church as the sum or, if one can say so, the more or less heterogenous federation of essentially different particular Churches.... Each particular Church that would voluntarily cut itself off from the universal Church would lose its relationship to God’s plan and would be impoverished in its ecclesial dimension... But at the same time a Church which is spread all over the world would become an abstraction if she did not take body and life precisely through the particular Churches. Only continuous attention to these two poles of the church will enable us to perceive the richness of this relationship between the universal Church and the particular Churches. (emphasis mine.)

Now, does that sound familiar? Isn’t this in part the very discussion that is taking place in the Anglican Communion in the movement towards an Anglican Covenant — a form of government to go along with the spirit of communion? “More than a mere federation,” and not simply all the churches spread around, but juridically bound, particular to particular, in a single government?

Implications and Possibilities

Obviously the church must have some form of government. You will get no argument from me on that. But, contrary to the Roman assertion, that government need not follow an imperial model of particular churches ultimately answerable to a single individual governor.

It seems that churches, like other human entities — and yes, I will dare say that the church as institution is at least as much the work of human hands as it is of God, just like the Eucharistic bread — churches often get stuck with the models of government available to them at the time of their foundation. Rome has inherited the imperial model. Anglicanism, which came to birth under an absolute monarch (with imperial ambitions, to be sure), came to maturity out of the fires of a civil war, influenced by the concept of a parliamentarianism. And the Episcopal Church, as is evident, was surely influenced in its form of government by the simultaneous national developments.

I would suggest that contrary to Paul VI’s vision, and the hopes of some Anglican Covenanters, that the Anglican Communion can do quite well as “a federation of essentially similar particular churches.” We have survived this far without any central government to bind us together; and ultimately those who wish to stay together will do so without constraint. That is, in large part, what communion means.

But how will conflicts be settled? some might ask. Let me ask in return, Who says that conflicts have to be settled? Who is in charge? some ask. Let me ask, Why does anyone have to be in charge? Didn’t Jesus tell the disciples, when they asked who would join him in running the world to come, “The kings of the gentiles exercise authority... but with you it shall not be so.” He rose from his seat to wash their feet, by way of example. Yet, he is the head of the church, not any one of us, nor even the whole collegial bunch of us.

So, while the current Roman Catholic document has no immediate bearing upon us, it does offer food for thought. The church of Christ can be governed quite well in and by a communion of churches, in service and charity to one another, under the only law required: Serve one another as I have served you; Love one another as I have loved you. And I have no opposition to a Covenant, so long as it is a Covenant of love and service.

Tobias Haller BSG

Liturgical Peevishness

Sr Joan Chittister has just had a reflection published concerning recent developments in the Roman Catholic Church's liturgical life. I agree with much that she says in her article, but she has also lit upon two of my pet liturgical peeves.

The "many" and "all" issue: the Scriptural record of the Last Supper uses 'many' -- though Joachim Jeremias made an argument back in the era of the Liturgical Movement that in this context "many" means "all." However, contrary to his assertion, there is a clear distinction in Hebrew and Greek between the words for "many" and "all" -- just as in English. (This argument was invoked when we changed "many" to "all" in Enriching Our Worship, so there is some relevance to TEC here.)

Most importantly, this is not about salvation, as Sr Joan suggests, but about those who drink from the cup -- and manifestly "all" do not in fact do so. To my mind it distorts the message and implies that those who do not drink from the cup have no salvation -- exactly the opposite of the intent of the revisers. We've always taught the reception of communion (in both kinds) is not required for salvation; and putting "all" here confuses the issue -- as well as not being what Jesus actually (is reported to have) said.

The Eastward Position: As those who have read my longer reflection on this will know, I do not find the Eastward position to be "all about the priest." On the contrary, I find the celebration "versus populum" to lead to more of an "all about the priest" mentality. Nor do I note that the introduction of this practice made the RCC (or TEC) more outgoing or missionary in its attitudes or more in touch with human need. Some may say it fostered a greater sense of community, but I don't think I've seen any hard evidence of that. On the contrary, I think the great days of outreach from Vincent de Paul through the Catholic Worker movement (or the ministry of the Anglo-Catholic slum priests) give the lie to the idea that the posture of the priest in relation to the congregation impedes a sense of community or mission.

Sorry, but these are two of my pet peeves, and Sr Joan just got on the wrong side of them...

Tobias Haller BSG

July 11, 2007

Corrective Lenses

In light of some continued comments on the previous post, and some conversation on the House of Bishops/Deputies “list” I’d like to offer some additional observations on the recent pronouncement of the Roman Catholic Church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. I will put this in the form of a brief catechism, as that may be the easiest way to deal with the issues that have been raised by some of my friends and colleagues.

Why was this document composed and to whom is it primarily addressed?

This document was produced as an attempt to clarify the position of the Roman Catholic Church with regard to other Christian bodies. In the wake of Vatican II a number of theologians have expressed opinions with which the Congregation takes issue. As the introduction to the document states, “Among the many new contributions to the field, some are not immune from erroneous interpretation which in turn give rise to confusion and doubt.” So, in place of the rose-tinted spectacles that many ecumenists are wont to wear, the Congregation is presenting them with this short current document as a set of corrective lenses, designed to sharpen the focus and correct any misapprehensions they might have. Thus, to a substantial degree, it is an “in house” reminder; it sets out nothing new, but is intended to rein in the exuberant.

Do the Conciliar documents present a different view from the present document?

The present document was issued to clarify the Church’s position as expressed in the Council, which was itself seen as a “development and deepening” of the standing doctrine, not a novelty. The intent is that the former documents will be read through this clarifying lens, not the other way around. This is a long-standing principle in Roman Catholic legal thinking: The most recent statement is the governing statement in the light of which all that goes before must be interpreted; all the more so when the document in question describes itself in precisely those terms.

What then is the Roman Catholic understanding of the Church?

There is only one Church established by Christ, and it subsists in the visible Roman Catholic Church, “governed by the successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him.” Because of the divisions among those who profess Christianity, this “one Church” is not at present realized in its fullness, and so “subsists” in the Roman Catholic Church, towards which all reunion ought of right to be directed. It is possible to say that the Church is in some partial sense present in other ecclesial communities that are not at present so governed, because there are “elements of sanctification and truth” in them. But those very elements are designed to “impel” those other bodies towards visible unity with the one Church.

How has this been misunderstood?

Non-Roman Catholics, and some Roman Catholic ecumenists, have forgotten the underlying definition of the “one Church subsisting” and that whenever the Conciliar documents use the phrase “the Church” — as the present document reminds us — they are not talking, as we, for example, do, simply of the body of all the baptized, but of those among the baptized who are corporately united with the Roman Catholic Church. Thus all Conciliar language about “division among Christians” is not about division “in” the Church, but division “from” the Church. When “the Church finds it difficult” to express her full catholicity, it is the Roman Catholic Church which is impeded in this expression precisely because of the departure of her children, and the divisions between her and them — not because of any intrinsic lack in herself. She is where the one Church subsists, not anywhere else. Subsistence is not full realization, but it is all there is, at present.

Speaking of “lack,” what does the document mean about the “absence” of ministerial priesthood in the protestant traditions?

It is tempting to translate “defectum” as “defect” rather than absence; for the English word can have a rather different connotation (“something not quite working correctly”) than the Latin, which refers to a “lack” or “something missing.” For example, Roman Catholic ecumenist Susan Wood wrote, “Ecumenical discussions today raise the question whether in the light of a more developed understanding of the ministry, sacramental life, and ecclesiology, ‘defectus’ should continue to be translated as ‘lack’ rather than as ‘deficiency’ or ‘defect.’” (“Ecclesia De Eucharistia: A Roman Catholic Response,” in Pro Ecclesia, 12/4 [2003], 398)

The present document gives her an answer, “No.” By “defectum” the Roman Catholic Church means, as it always has, and as the present translation states, a lack or absence or “something missing.” If there were any doubt, the context of the present document is clear: There is no sacramental priesthood in the churches of the Reformation, and hence, they (including us) “have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery...” This is contrasted with the Eastern Orthodox churches, who “have” a valid ministry, and hence sacraments, and are thus recognized as “churches” though they still “lack something” by not being united with the “one Church.”

What impact will this document have?

This document will no doubt have some chilling effect on the more exuberant among Roman Catholic ecumenists, as it was expressly designed to do. It will also dampen the hopes of those who had looked towards a more collegial model of church unity — one not based on papal primacy, but rather on a communion of communions. The present document is a reminder that even for the Eastern Orthodox, complete participation in that “one Church” will involve a recognition of Petrine centrality, and, more importantly, authority. The phrase “governed by the successor of Peter” is not used lightly. It represents a “constitutive principle” of a particular church, by means of which it is in relationship with the “one Church.”

How does this view differ from that of other Christian bodies?

The World Council of Churches deputy general secretary has released a statement in response to the Roman Catholic document, reaffirming a 2006 position adopted by the WCC at Porto Alegre: “Each church is the Church catholic and not simply a part of it. Each church is the Church catholic, but not the whole of it. Each church fulfils its catholicity when it is in communion with the other churches.” The WCC represents most Christian bodies in the world apart from the Roman Catholic Church.

The Anglican position can be well summed up by a few words from Richard Hooker, not unlike the Porto Alegre definition: “As the main body of the sea being one, yet within divers precincts hath divers names; so the Catholic Church is in like sort divided into a number of distinct Societies, every of which is termed a Church within itself.” (Laws III.1.14)

These positions are obviously not congruent with the Roman Catholic position, and none of these positions is likely to change in the foreseeable future.

Tobias Haller BSG


Be sure to check out a follow up article on What This Has To Do With Us (Anglicans.) There is more to this than meets the eye. — Tobias

July 10, 2007


The Roman Catholic Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has now made it abundantly clear that the Church means what it says when it says the Holy Catholic Church of Rome is the place in which the Church on earth "subsists."

The document includes a delicate nuance on what is is, and more importantly, is not, at least in distinction from "subsists."

Third Question: Why was the expression 'subsists in' adopted instead of the simple word 'is'?

Response: The use of this expression, which indicates the full identity of the Church of Christ with the Catholic Church, does not change the doctrine on the Church. Rather, it comes from and brings out more clearly the fact that there are 'numerous elements of sanctification and of truth' which are found outside her structure, but which 'as gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, impel towards Catholic Unity.'

Protestant bodies (including Anglicans and all "Christian Communities born out of the Reformation of the sixteenth century") are not proper "Churches," and aren't to be called such under this understanding. There is One Church, and it subsists in the entity with the successor of Peter at its head, and the Bishops in union with him. The rest of us must be content with the scattered "elements of sanctification and truth" we might have stowed in our baggage before we ran away from home. Whatever of value we have is derivative, and we bring nothing to the table that we didn't take from it. And of course, according to the Doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, one of the things we left behind was the Apostolic Succession. Lacking the valid priesthood, there is really very little we could bring to the eucharistic table.

This document makes it abundantly clear that the old model of ecumenism is still dominant: come home, prodigal children; Mother will forgive you. It is the same model of sedentary unity (unity around the Chair of Peter) that I contrasted with the more collegial model favored by William Reed Huntington some years ago. Anyone interested in the comparison can read the paper here. I submit it still holds. This document will be a blow to ecumenism, but it really is nothing new -- just a reminder of the costs and expectations in the wounded body of Christ.

Tobias Haller BSG

Leave Rage Alone

A friend of mine recently got into a battle of words that has led to no small amount of intemperate language in the blogosphere. Some hornets’ nests require very little stirring up, and there are many who are waiting for any sign of weakness, any act at which they can take offense. I can’t help but observe from my occasional visits to certain blogs that the primary authors of the content and the commentary actually appear to relish the opportunity to be offended. In all honesty I note that this is not confined entirely to blogs from the right of the ecclesio-political spectrum. There is something deeper here, some character flaw that afflicts us all, and of which we had all best be aware. All of us need a good long look in the mirror now and again, and I include myself in this.

Anger, offense, luxuriating in one’s own victimization, in being insulted and injured, can be powerful sources of emotional energy. They are stimulant drugs, the energy drinks of the soul; and though they“give you wings” I fear they are the kind with scales instead of feathers. They may help you build up a head of steam, but their addictive quality will lead you to seek for more and more offense, rather than seeking peace, understanding and reconciliation. Revenge, whether served hot or cold, may be tasty but it is not nutritious. The junk food of the soul will leave you empty and exhausted.

Still, when offense is given can offense be taken? I suggest it is the manner of response that is at issue. Righteous indignation may be righteous, but it is undignified by definition. So I call upon us all — and I preach to myself in this as well — to aim for righteous dignation instead. Disagree, as it appears we must disagree, but hold back from empty attacks and dismissals that assault the person rather than the premise. Make your case as calmly and clearly as you can, in a spirit of humility as far as in you lies. Speak the truth in love, with as much emphasis on the love as on the truth. As the psalm says, “Refrain from anger, leave rage alone; do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil.”

It is, after all, so easy to be witty and clever when saying something nasty. We all enjoy a good “snap” line from time to time, though no one enjoys being on the receiving end of one. That alone should tell us something. And how much more difficult it is to be witty and clever when saying something nice! It is, after all, so easy to tear down — it takes no more talent than a bulldozer; and a house of cards can be dismantled with a breath — but it is far harder to build up; that takes real skill, real talent. Yet isn’t that what God has called us to do, equipped us to do, expects us to do?

Peace be with us all.

Tobias Haller BSG

July 8, 2007

What God Is

Yesterday I attended the long-delayed funeral for Brother Justus Van Houten SSF. Justus was a friar, a deacon, a tireless minister and advocate for those on the edge. The funeral was a powerfully moving liturgy in the best Franciscan sense -- simple and respectful. The burial of his ashes in the friary burial place was eloquent, as each of us there added a shovelful of soil to the small place where his ashes were poured moments before.

Brother Derek Ford SSF preached a moving homily about how some people, such as Brother Justus, will continue speaking long after they are dead. He touched so many lives. This vision of the unstoppable utterance of praise reminded me of a musical meditation I wrote years ago, and which I share with you here. The choir sings over and over a simple phrase, which recurs on different notes each time it is sung, but which is a constant message that is my poor effort musically to envision heaven: "What God is I know not but that God is Love I know."

Brother Justus, this one's for you.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

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July 7, 2007

Want Latin? Got Latin...

It is a singular delight to find that the Motu Proprio on the restoration of the Tridentine Latin mass (in its 1962 version) has at this point in the day (nearly 6 pm Daylight Savings Time) only appeared on the Vatican Website in Latin! Thus only those with facility in the tongue will have the joy of seeing if and to what extent all of the various hedged-about predictions have been accurate, and others unfamiliar with the Mother Tongue of Mother Church will be left to await the translation. I don't know about you, but I find this a delicious touch, and I can't but imagine a somewhat wry smile on the face of Pope Benedict XVI.

I don't know if this is the norm for papal documents, but as this particular one has been awaited with so much interest in so many circles, I would love to think this Latin-only publication (I'm sure soon to be followed by the vernacular) has a self-referential quality.

Tobias Haller BSG

July 4, 2007

Now Thank We All Our God

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices, who wondrous things hath done, in whom his world rejoices; who from our mother's arms, hath blessed us on our way with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given, the Son and him who reigns with them in highest heaven; eternal Triune God, whom earth and heav'n adore; for thus it was, is now, and shall be, evermore. Amen.

Text and melody by Martin Rinckart, translated by Catherine Winkworth and arranged by Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

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