Thursday, May 21, 2009

When Church Leaders go Wrong

As a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, I was not happy when the president of the University of Notre Dame invited President Obama to speak at Notre Dame's commencement ceremony this year. Checking the Roman Catholic website, one finds a document dated June 15, 2004 which contains a statement from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops on the subject of Catholics in Political Life. It states clearly why he should not have been invited:

* We need to continue to teach clearly and help other Catholic leaders to teach clearly on our unequivocal commitment to the legal protection of human life from the moment of conception until natural death. Our teaching on human life and dignity should be reflected in our parishes and our educational, health care and human service ministries.

* The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.

Fr Jenkins, the university president, should have recognized that he was contravening an instruction from the Conference of Catholic Bishops in offering President Obama a doctorate of laws. A commencement ceremony is not a place to engage in political dispute, yet that is exactly what happened when President Obama took the stand. Instead of avoiding the issue, and speaking on topics which might concern a graduating class, he gave a speech which indeed was a pro-choice speech. Consequently Notre Dame gave him a platform to profess something that is contrary to Biblical authority and the long-held teaching of the church.

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee, and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee (Jeremiah.1.5)

It is by God's providence that we come into the world, and it is He also who knows the end of our days. He is the beginning and end, the alpha and omega of everything that exists, including ourselves. Every conception is ordered to His will, every humanly contrived termination is an act of ours. Surely it must be clear that human life is not ours to willfully take away.

One lesson that Anglicans should take away from watching this debacle is that even within the Roman Catholic Church there is precious little power to regulate rogue priests, university presidents and boards of trustees of Catholic universities. Even the local bishop of South Bend, Indiana could only voice opposition. The president of the University of Notre Dame, despite being a priest in the Order of the Holy Cross, could not be stopped from awarding an honorary degree to President Obama. Even the most hierarchical church has limited authority over subordinate institutions and priests. Those in the Prayer Book Society who work without any institutional backing should take heart. It is argument, not power, that must be marshaled to win any theological fight.

Roberta Bayer

Friday, May 01, 2009

From Graham Eglington, former National Director of the Prayer Book Society of Canada

Tribute to Dr. Peter Toon

Peter was my comrade in arms, guide, counsellor, and dear friend for upwards of 20 years. I owe him much personally. But it is his contribution to the Anglican Way of reformed Catholicism, particularly in North America and Australia which concerns us all. The Prayer Book as the principal formulary and root of the Anglican Way was at the heart of his message. Indeed it would not be saying too much to observe that there would be no Prayer Book cause in North America without his tenacious, dedicated, learned contribution. Peter shone like a searchlight through the fog of ignorance, amnesia, wishful and selective thinking , the muddled motives and petty jealousies that surround the supposedly orthodox Anglican forces in North America, Australia and even in England. His incisive mind and clarity of expression served us all so well, even those of us who were made uncomfortable thereby.

Peter was determined to understand and to engage modern North American life and society. His analyses remain a tremendous gift to us who are left to fight on for the Anglican Way. Not for Peter was the Anglican Way a retreat into some romanticised, enchanted world of faux mediaevelism. Peter’s faith was a living, driving thing, and in him one got a real sense that our God is a flaming fire. His profound humility never lessened the urgency with which he worked, and wrote. A master of terse, nervous English he could address complex issues in simple direct terms in a very brief span. We shall not see his like again. He was God’s gift, and his writings are a treasure trove to be rediscovered and put to use by succeeding generations.

Generosity of spirit attended Peter in all his work and life. Never did he resort to ad hominem attacks on opponents in argument. His tenderness to some of his antagonists was extraordinary, though his life was marked by adversities and betrayals, by humiliations at the hands of those he thought were allies, and by slights, sneers and condescension on the part of those who were in every respect his inferiors, that would have provoked a lesser man to sarcasm and worse. Never was he bitter. Peter remains to us all an ensample of emulation of our Lord’s life and teaching. Peter lived the petitions in so many of the Collects he delighted to expound to our benefit in his weekly commentaries on the Eucharistic lectionary.

We are all so much the poorer for Peter’s personal absence from us and from the end of his earthly ministry. But of him we can say with confidence: “May he rest in peace; and rise in glory”. In his memory we must all “press on”.

Graham Eglington, former National Director of the Prayer Book Society of Canada