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!


Caelius said...

So apparently this point occurred to people long before I thought of it. Excellent. I'm not insane. Let me point out in addition that the Fathers understood that the Son had female qualities by understanding Him as both Word and Wisdom (the latter being female in the Scriptures). Moreover, while comparisons of Christ to the Passover and Yom Kippur victims are ubiquitous in the NT and the Fathers, I'm pretty sure that the preacher to the Hebrews' most central comparison is to the red heifer.

Erin said...

Fantastic post. As one of my colleagues said once, the RC church confuses the priest's role as alter Christus when she thinks he is called to be alter Jesus.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Tobias...I just wallow in the wonder of it! Why don't we just send you all alone to Lambeth -- that would clear it all up?

A couple of inconvenient typos:

“…Personally, I find don’t find the figure of a paunchy octogenarian cardinal..”


“…the Chalcedonian Definition affirms, the received that totality of human nature…”

and, do use the subjunctive here - and add an 'l' in "fulfillment":

“…Even if Christ’s maleness was [were?] necessary for the fulfilment [sp?]of prophecy…”

With limitless love and blessings:


Cecilia said...

Thank you for this sublime piece of writing, as current 20 years after written as it was when written (possibly moreso).

Having come of age under Rome, I still find that sound theology (and my inferred affirmation of my call) is something for which I still hunger.

Pax, C.

John D Bassett said...

What's also sad about this kind of thinking is that it does not help the Roman Catholic Church to focus on the critical issue of leadership.

So many RC priests seem incapable of providing real leadership for their parishes. Some seem quite passive while others are autocratic. Neither really works for helping the American church to identify how it needs to develop programs and policies and to implement them. For the Catholics no less than other Christians, those is positions of leadership must possess qualities of leadership.

I think the Eucharist is important, of course, but presiding at the celebration is just as aspect of leading the congregation. To think about it in terms of "representing Christ" just serves to attract individuals seeking their own sanctification (or running from some personal demons) instead of getting people who have a vision for the church and an ability to work collaboratively with others to achieve it.

bls said...

Wow, this is wonderful, Fr. Haller! Especially this part:

"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?

This is such a striking argument, and yet I don't think I've ever seen it before!

(BTW, as I was reading along, my mind also ran to the difficulty of seeing Christ in "paunchy octogenarian cardinals," believe it or not!

Apparently we have similar - well, identical, actually - shortcomings we need to work on.... ;-) )

Chris Jones said...

Fr Haller,

One way to tell if a proposition is correct ...

Perhaps so, if what we are doing is assessing the correctness of an opinion or theory that is the product of the human mind. It is otherwise if it is a matter of divine revelation.

The reasons advanced against the ordination of women may be as shaky as you suggest. If this were a matter that is ours to decide, your arguments might be weighty. What we are called to do, however, is not to decide the matter, but to be faithful to the Apostolic Tradition.

Another way to tell whether a proposition is correct is to see whether the reasons advanced in its favor proceed from faithfulness to the Apostolic Tradition, or instead from adherence to a worldly ideology.

Anonymous said...

Justa coupla pints:

1) The reason for something is not necessarily the explanation of why it should be that way. The male priesthood seems to exist because, throughout the time that the office developed, it was filled by males. This is a historical point, and some people have read the data otherwise. But in the absence of some sort of historic Expulsion of the Women I think we are warranted in thinking that this characteristic goes back to the beginning. We can call the reason "inertia" or "tradition."

2) Is inertia a reason to keep anything? Usually not. But if one believes that Jesus himself, God incarnate in the flesh, willed to found a Church, and had it founded a certain way, then that would appear to be some reason to preserve its characteristics. If it is a human construct, we can fool with it all we like; if it is divine, that may be some reason not to monkey with it. I understand of course that many Christians will take issue with whether Jesus intended to found the Church, or that the male Twelve had any particular intended role. There is some widespread opinion that he had no such intent, and that gospel attributions to the contrary are interpolations by those who really founded the Church, by Paul and others. I understand the arguments, but, if I was persuaded by them, I'd sleep later on Sunday.

3) If orders is a sacrament, they're a sign. A sign is necessarily arbitrary. It is similar in some respects, but not all, to the thing signified (otherwise it wouldn't be a sign, but the very thing signified). Many different sets of attributes can signify the thing signified. Christ can be signified as the presider over the Eucharist by many different sets of signs. As it happens, he has been signified by this one for a very long time. It is arbitrary, but that is the nature of signs.

4) So I agree that the arguments in favor of one kind of sign being better than another kind of sign for the thing signified are kind of strained. But I don't know if they are any more strained than the arguments for a different kind of sign being superior. Are young women a better sign of Christ than old men? It's not going to be demonstrable one way or the other. Would oreos and coke be better and more relevant signs than unleavened bread and wine? I could make the argument against, but it would sound similarly strained. Why can't cookies and pop signify the body and blood of Christ? I don't know what to say except, well, Jesus didn't set it up that way. Inertia. Tradition.

5) I understand why the clergy are very much into these issues. You shouldn't necessarily infer that my acquiesence in the status quo implies some deep committment to it. If some future pope or council declares women can be priests and bishops, that would be fine by me, just as retaining the current scheme would be fine with me. But I don't find myself outraged by a male priesthood any more than I imagine Jesus was outraged by a priesthood restricted to male descendants of Aaron.

6) In the end, I don't find arguments from radical equality compelling because ordination, the separation of lay and cleric, is itself an origin of inequality. I have no problem with it, but, if I really valued equality above all things, I would be for banishing orders altogether.

Nick Finke said...


I like your pseudo-Hooker. Understanding the interplay of the elements of our belief is one of the best ways of attaining a real understanding ("inward digestion") of them.

It was just about the time of Inter Insigniores (and, indeed, primarily because of the thinking behind it) that I decided that the Roman church could no longer be my home and headed off to a place where my mind fits better.

I think that the approach to this area that draws me at the moment is one that might avoid the Roman problem by taking a different tack. The Roman emphasis on the role of the eucharistic presider as a stand-in for Christ seems to me a bit too theatrical and rather misplaced.

By envisioning the recalling of the words of institution as some sort of replay of the Last Supper, the Roman approach runs the risk of making the Eucharist too focused on the elements with the result that it is viewed primarily as a Communion-making machine for us, rather than as a thanks-offering for God.

I prefer to think of the role of the Lord taken in a real way by the assembly as a whole. Gathered together in his name, we all share in his priesthood as we join ourselves to him in his self-offering. I see this reflected in the Liturgy of Chrysostom where the assembly assents each time with an "Amen" to the words of institution sung by the priest.

I like this way of looking at priesthood because it emphasizes to my mind the essential continuity between the priesthood of all the faithful and that of those ordained to exercise this charism in a special way. Since we are all united in the priesthood of the Risen Lord, there is no reason to think that a male is a better exemplar of this than a female.

Anyway, I liked what you said.

Anonymous said...

While your reasoning is, per usual, very fine Tobias, this

“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 [Emphasis added, on the singular "a"]

is discordant with those of us incarnate as intersexed, transgendered, and/or gender-queer. Some have more than one sex (as well as gender), or none (precisely). There are women who experience "being male" (and vice-versa), and it's *another* part of the "manly nature" (?) to be female (and vice-versa).

Praise the Triune God for the Imago Dei created, redeemed and sanctified in infinite variety of sexes, genders and sexualities! :-D

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks for the many comments. Fr J-J, I've made two out of three of the corrections you noted. I'm avoiding the subjunctive on that third as I think Jesus' maleness is linked to the fulfillment of several prophecies and images (i.e., suffering servant, righteous man, king).

Addressing some other thoughts in reverse order...

JCF, I was concerned about that indefinite article "a" before the word "sex" -- and used it primarily because of the confusion leaving it out might have caused! I do recognize, as many do not, apparently, that there are more than two sexes -- and that genetic and anatomic differences (toghether with psychological self-understandings) expand the range significantly.

Nicholas and others,
The fixation on the celebrant as "alter Christus" (actually, functionally in the RC view "alter Jesus" -- though noting the problems in trying to "separate the natures" in the one person) is a large part of the problem. As I understand it, the notion of alter Christus is not so uniform as it might seem. Ignatius of Antioch, for example, made a quite different typology: Bishop - God the Father; Presbyters = Council of the Apostles; Deacon = God the Son. This in part because Jesus is the ultimate "servant" and stands between God and the people as the mediator. I can also add that Pius XI referred to St Francis of Assisi as the most perfect exemplar of the "alter Christus" -- and Francis was not a priest.

I can also add that limiting the priestly role to the altar is also missing, as John Bassett notes, undercuts much of what the actual life of priesthood is about. I can certainly testify that my role as Mother Hen in most of my parish ministry is just as much real as any purported likeness to Christ my male sex confers!

Chris, and Rick,
The faithfulness to apostolic tradition (or surmised apostolic tradition) is the sole reason remaining for the maintenance of this position. The problem arises when, as I've noted, one tradition begins to be perceived as out of order in relation to a far more important teaching or tradition -- and in this case that is exactly what is happening in the Orthodox East, as the implications of the Chalcedonian Definition for this issue begin to be addressed. It is true that in the West the ordination of women came about more through a secular understanding of justice. However, I hope I don't need to remind anyone of the important role that Justice plays in the writing of the Prophets, and in the ministry of Jesus Christ. Justice is a theological issue, ultimately, not simply a worldly phenomenon. What if the all-male ministry is not a matter of divine revelation, but actually a result of the culture of the times in which the revelation was made? There is, after all, no revelation without reception -- and reception can always be plagued by static of one sort or another. It this has then been maintained simply by "inertia" as Rick suggests is possible, then that inertia cannot really itself be used as an argument in its favor. (This is not to deny that there is some evidence even in Scripture that women functioned in ordained capacities as part of the apostolic college; though the evidence is mixed.)

Finally, I do think Rome will eventually come to embrace the ordination of women; perhaps even before the East -- in part because of the structures of the two ecclesiastical entities. Rome can change quickly when it so chooses; the East is rather tied up in a conciliar process (and no Emperor!) which makes coming to a common mind much more time consuming.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

postscript: the Ignatius of Antioch citation is from Trallians 3:1-2.

Ecgbert said...

As I blogged when you brought this up in a com-box conversation with me this week, this is a very impressive argument, Father. A worthy answer to people like Peter Kreeft.

That said, I'll disappoint you yet again (I know, I know) by saying... exactly what Chris Jones and more or less what Rick Allen said.

Even if Inter Insigniores has a weak argument, the question is: is this matter really ours to decide?

Finally, I do think Rome will eventually come to embrace the ordination of women; perhaps even before the East -- in part because of the structures of the two ecclesiastical entities. Rome can change quickly when it so chooses; the East is rather tied up in a conciliar process (and no Emperor!) which makes coming to a common mind much more time consuming.

Sorry but that seems a caricature of Western Catholicism in which the Pope has absolute power to change any past teaching (which is not what the claim of papal infallibility means) and a unintended compliment to Orthodoxy where of course the church is infallible (which Western Catholicism also holds) but the office of any one bishop, even an important one, is not.

Like I said, Orthodoxy's been successfully doing the 'communion' (соборность) thing for more than a millennium and a half, back when Anglicans were Roman Catholics (and I maintain that the Pope is still Anglicans' rightful patriarch) and indeed before there was an English Church.

P.S. Fr John-Julian, as you probably know, some of us, especially those who learnt English outside of the United States (the name of the language should give a clue to its true origin!), do spell 'fulfilment' that way. :)

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Dear YF,
Thanks for the comment. I agree that the question does come down to the capacity of the church to make changes. I'll rest on my comment though, as regards the church's right to weigh relative elements of the tradition and judge accordingly. I think this is what the church has usually done when making the kinds of changes it has. For instance, the East adopted episcopal celibacy after a significant delay, as a tip of the mitre to the West.

As to my vision of change in policy in the RCC vs the East. I do not mean it as a caricature. The fact is that the RCC doesn't just change course at papal whim. What actually happens is the employment of carefully placed loopholes that leave openings for adaptation without drastic change. Even Inter Insignores contains a few very carefully placed ones. And the more recent stonewalling has not declared the ordination of women totally out of bounds, but as a matter not to be questioned at this time. This is standard RCC practice: as you know, for instance regarding the liturgical matters at the forefront now, Vatican II did not forbid the Eastward Position -- even though some acted as if it did -- and the current rulings aren't really about Latin, but other issues. I've studied the ins and outs and subtleties of the Curia for some time, and they are wizards at the game!

June Butler said...

Tobias, you're on a roll. However, I don't think I agree with you about RCC ordination of women coming any time soon. It's quite true that it could be done more quickly in the RCC than in the Eastern church, but I don't believe that it will be done.

Think of all of their own words that the authorities would have to eat, plus, it would be such a shock to the systems of certain members of the flock, that they would likely never recover.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks GM. You may be right. I'm factoring in a lot of general impressions, though. These may be too conditioned by the US situation, and so if I'm off it may be the limit of my experience. Here are some of the things that inform my suspicions:

-- the number of male clergy has shrunk and their average age increased markedly over the last two decades.

-- many US parishes are now being served by clergy from overseas -- and I know in some cases this has caused no small amount of ill will. This is anecdotal, I admit, but I know of one congregation that is mightily upset because their Indian priest has an accent that they find it very difficult to understand. I'm sure this is not an isolated incident.

-- a number of parishes have gotten quite accustomed to seeing women -- usually women religious -- exercising all of the leadership and administrative functions of a pastor, and even distributing communion previously consecrated due to a shortage of priests. Image and experience will count for something when the time comes.

-- I suspect we may see the Roman Catholic Church attempting to retain control of the clergy by beginning with the ordination of celibate women to the priesthood, before a broader acceptance of a married clergy. Economically speaking it would be almost impossible for the Roman Catholic Church to support a married clergy, without a huge reshuffling of assets. Having a celibate clergy would allow continued power of translation and assignment.

You may be correct that this is all a fantasy... and OCICBW!

June Butler said...

For what it's worth, I believe that ordination of married men will come before women priests in the RCC.

Before I moved to the Episcopal Church, I sat through many a long sermon by priests who spoke English with heavy accents, so that if I understood half the sermon, that was a good day. My RCC diocese had a pipeline to the Phillipines and to Vietnam, and the number of priests from those countries was approaching half the priests in the diocese - or so it seemed to me.

Local candidates for the priesthood are few and far between, and of those who are from the neighborhood, I would guess that half are gay. OCICBW.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post, Fr Haller. I linked to it from my place -- there was a discussion recently over there about WO, and it was great to have this to link to as a follow-up.

I'm more or less where you are about expectations for the future of the RCC -- I just don't see how economically they can begin ordaining married men. I also see some moves on the part of Pope Benedict that to me signal a possible opening of the female diaconate. I doubt it'll happen in his pontificate -- these things happen so, so slowly -- but I have some hope that a few highly-placed minds are starting to comprehend what God is doing on this.

Anonymous said...

the hooker quote contains a logical disaster, which does not affect your recasting of it or your use of it, but which should be noted.

hooker argues from "X is universal among humans" to "X is natural for humans"; this argument is invalid. (The converse, which you rely on here, is certainly valid, so that's why you're on safer ground.)

there are many things universal for humans which are surely not human nature. for example, once it was the case (it seems) that all humans lived in Africa. it does not follow that living in Africa is a part of human nature, or ever was. likewise, living in the solar system is not a part of human nature, even though it seems likely that this is a universal trait of humans.

Hooker argues that because desire for happiness is universal, it must be a part of human nature, but this is not correct. it may be a part of human nature, but the fact that it is universal is merely a necessary, not a sufficient condition.

(and, of course, i think we now know enough to put to rest the Aristotelian canard that the desire for happiness is universal, but that's off the point.)

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Indeed, Thomas. I think Hooker here falls into what might well become the No True Scotsman fallacy:

1. A desire for happiness is part of human nature;
2. George is human but he is a melancholic.
3. His human nature is defective.

Oops. I'm sure he and Aristotle would find a way to wiggle around it; but I agree that the contrary is the valid argument: that is, not that universal qualities are necessarily a part of the nature, but that something that is not universal to members of a class cannot be a part of a nature of a class.

But, to get back to the argument, as the Synod of Douzy proclaimed, "Eva ipsa est Adam." And if she is the Old Adam, she can just as completely be the New. It just takes the church over a millennium to catch up with its own doctrines and get them into its disciplines, sometimes.

Unknown said...

Warning: Possible odd musings ahead!

This has got me thinking. If Jesus got all that made him human from his mother Mary, then where did the Y chromosome come from? She would only have been able to provide X chromosomes. The easy answer would be to say that God did a bit of genetic snipping, but that might impinge on the fullness of humanity from Mary. However, Jesus might indeed have had 2 X chromosomes but appeared anatomically male, such as in someone with de la Chapelle syndrome (aka XX male syndrome). That would have interesting implications, though, since neither XY men nor XX women would be fully "perceptible" as Christ.

Anyway, I'm not taking line of thought too seriously but just seeing where it goes.


Closed said...

A late weigh-in, but I second Caelius' remarks. When I began thinking about the ordination of women {ahem} not women's ordination, as a Roman Catholic, I couldn't reconcile the present teaching with Chalcedon or over all teaching, including Irenaeus's famed "what Christ hasn't assumed...". Then I read Elizabeth Johnson and realized I wasn't alone after all.

Anonymous said...

I guess it falls to me, "ignint pew-sitter" to say, contra YF, that I don't believe that Anglicans EVER were "Roman Catholics"? (Maybe "Western Catholics" at most?)

I know we've all seen the scene in A Lion in Winter, where the (14th c., IIRC?) English king wants to go charging off to Rome "because that's where the Pope is" (typically, over a temporal matter!).

I would argue, however, that the "Patriarch of the West"/Bishop of Rome had little to no functional or essential role in Ecclesia Anglicana, beyond the (sometime) doling out of crowns and red hats. Catholicism in Merry Olde was Anglican, and the birth of self-consciously *Roman* Catholicism (outside the Papal States, say) was a result of "our unhappy divisions."

May there someday be---in God's Good Time---a united Catholic Church! Maranatha!

johnieb said...


Henry II was mid-twelfth century, as I re-collect.

Anonymous said...

Excellent piece (I'm following directions from Jeff Steel's blog, hence late arrival).

I'd add James 1.18 (written by Jesus' brother?), where God the Father is imaged as a pregnant mother.