More on River Swimming

As I was writing the last post, I realized that perhaps this whole matter of Anglo-Roman relations could be grounds for a bit of philosophizing. Or theologizing. Perhaps just some obnoxious pontificating. We'll see what happens...

It seems to me that it's only a matter of time until something breaks. The Anglican communion, which has continuously headed into the trends of liberalism, will only withstand so much internal pressure before a leak is sprung and something ruptures. I think the leak has already sprung, and I think the rupture is not too far off. For the sake of reflection, I think this tells us two important things; one about the state of the Anglican community, and another of the state of affairs in the Catholic Church.

First, the Anglicans—and for that matter 'the world.'

The go-with-the-flow mentality of what I would call 'secular churches' is beginning to dominate the religious landscape of the age. Anyone who has had much exposure to the megachurch phenomenon of late can identify with this. It seems that there is an ever present attitude of conformity in these communities—even if it is superficially geared toward a sort of spiritual revival—which ultimately develops into a rigid doctrinalism, utterly incapable of dealing with real issues presented by society and culture. The shift from conformity in doctrine to conformity in secular trends may seem radical; one might even ask if they are not diametrically opposed. Nevertheless, however, the evidence points to such a continuum. It's not so much about the "what" of belief, but rather about the method of believing. If someone is won over to believing a radical principle of 'faith,' which is presented absolutely and remains without rational credibility, what prevents such a person from believing similarly absolute and logically frail cultural values when presented from the perspective of 'faith' in society's ability to judge between good and bad? In other words, if people are taught to believe without requiring rational bases for their assent, the manner of their belief in religious objects becomes the paradigm for their belief in secular objects. This model, I would conclude, is that most familiar in the West, and the model by which the majority of Protestant communities operate.

If this is truly so, then it explains at least part of the Anglican situation. The increasing degree of secularization within the communion is the leak to which I alluded. Certainly, the tendency toward secular conformity does not necessitate the total rupture of what is good and right in the Anglican faith. However, it will be hard to stop, and it is precisely that point of near-non-reversal at which the communion finds itself just now. Vital blows against the integrity of their faith have been struck and, as Cardinal Kasper pointed out, a recession ensues in their dialogue with the Catholic Church. With all the momentum swinging toward full-fledged Protestantism, though, the question still remains: why are the Anglicans so stuck on dialoguing with Rome?

The answer, I believe, is the second part of our initial consideration; what is revealed to us about the state of affairs within the Catholic Church. The Church of England's plight allows a unique glimpse into the Catholic faith, which would otherwise be almost unattainable. The position of a Catholic-based theology struggling to cope with the buffeting of a secular humanist culture offers perhaps the truest notion of what makes the Catholic faith so valuable in the first place. When Anglicans jump ship, they could just as easily swim the Channel (to, let's say, Holland or Sweden), but almost all prefer to seek safe harbor in the embracing arms of the Vatican.

Despite its own struggles with secularization and modernism (cf. Pope Leo XIII's encyclical letter, Aeterni Patris, for a good illustration), the Catholic Church has always maintained that belief, while aided by the theological virtue of faith, is nonetheless to be grounded upon and precipitated by the proper use of reason. Belief is a fundamentally human action—read any modern or post-modern philosopher who struggles with the notion to no end—but beliefs that remain are always and everywhere based on the more primal human affinity for rationality. People don't jump off a ship that is sinking in order to more speedily race to their watery end; they jump off so that they might swim to shore, or be rescued and thereby again touch solid ground. Quite similarly, those who realize the problems facing the Anglican communion do not see any merit in more swiftly securing a place in secular society, but would rather regain a sense of the stability they feel they've lost in recent years. Really, it is no surprise at all that the murky Teverian waters are more and more crowded with those experience the erosion of a formerly, yet only seemingly stable theological situation. Disunion with the Roman Pontiff is a dissociation from the fullness of the Logos, present in the Body of the Church. Fortunately, so long as people are willing to swim, the pope will be there to help them climb the banks of the Borgo and usher them into full union in the one true, holy, apostolic and catholic Church.

  1. gravatar

    # by annina - August 22, 2008 at 11:18 AM

    Si certamente un autore matura come tutte le persone! è vero che Dostoevkskij ha questa grandissima capacità di farti estrare nella storia, è proprio questo che all'inizio mi ha coinvolto quando ho cominciato a lggerlo! Domani parto per Rimini dove spiegherò la mostr (it's very hard to study it in english!!!), perciò arrivederci ad inizio settembre!