Sunday, February 29, 2004

Omitting the Washing of the Hands

(This will be of special interest to my anglo-catholic friends--P.T.)

Omitting the Washing of the Hands
And More on the Doxology

ROME, FEB. 24, 2004 ( Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum.

Q: At the weekday Mass our priests drop the ritual washing of the hands from the liturgy. Is this acceptable? I understand from what I read that no priest is allowed to change the Mass as prescribed in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. They also only dress in the alb and stole rather than proper vestments. One of them also says the entire first part of the Mass (Confiteor, etc.) from the front aisle and, after his homily, sits in the pews with the congregation rather than in the chair in the sanctuary. I find many of these things very distracting. -- R.M., Kansas City, Missouri

A: You are correct in saying that no priest is allowed to change the prayers and rites of the Church except where the rubrics specifically authorize him to do so, and you touch upon some very delicate themes.

We have dealt in an earlier column about the use of proper vestments at Mass (Oct. 7). The examples you cite are just a few among many that in themselves may seem slight but which cumulatively weaken the overall spiritual effectiveness of the rites.

The fact that you, and probably many others, find these anomalous practices distracting should serve as a reminder to us priests that we are first and foremost servants, not owners, of the divine mysteries. The Catholic faithful have a sacred and inviolable right to participate in the liturgy that the Catholic Church recognizes as its own, and we priests have a corresponding duty to fulfill that right.

In many cases these errors are due less to acts of willful disobedience as to an inadequate liturgical and canonical formation in the seminary.

In my travels I have met priests who categorically affirm that they learned in the seminary that "Rome" or "the Vatican" had abolished, mandated, mitigated or otherwise modified certain liturgical practices that I knew with certainty the Holy See had said nary a word about. Or indeed had said the exact opposite.

Sometimes a priest is doing these things in perfectly good faith and believes he is doing the right thing. Often a gentle request and an explanation of why you find these things distracting can clarify things for all concerned.

Before speaking to your priest, pray to the Holy Spirit so that he may enlighten both of you and that charity should reign supreme in your conversation.

In order to practice Catholic liturgy, one must know it. An advantage of Internet access to the new General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) and many other documents is that priests, deacons and lay people can read the norms themselves and find out how the Church desires that Mass be celebrated.

In most cases the GIRM is itself sufficiently clear to allow most parishes to easily apply most of its dispositions without any need to recur to the aid of liturgical specialists (including me).

Certainly some minor adaptations will always be necessary due to contingent elements such as church design and the size of the presbytery. But these are quite easy once the general principles are respected.

To complete the response I will comment briefly.

The washing of hands at the end of the offertory rites may never be omitted at any Mass. It is a significant rite and expresses the priest's need for purification before embarking on the great Eucharistic Prayer.

The omission of the rite may stem from a theory of its origin, popular a few years ago, that the rite was originally practical and was required because dust from the loaves handled during the offertory during the ancient celebration needed to be removed from the celebrant's hands. Only later was a spiritual meaning given to the rite.

Thus, some argued, the advent of pre-prepared hosts had rendered the rite obsolete. This theory, while coherent, has the disadvantage of being wrong.

Further research into the ancient rites has shown that the rite of washing of hands (dating from the fourth century) is older than the procession of gifts, and even after this practice was introduced the celebrant often washed his hands before, not after, receiving them.

Thus the rite has always had the sense of spiritual purification and validly retains this meaning today.

The penchant for leading the assembly from the pews rather than from the priest's chair is a far more recent phenomenon.

The GIRM in No. 310 says that this chair "must signify his [the priest's] office of presiding over the gathering and of directing the prayer. ... Any appearance of a throne, however, is to be avoided. It is appropriate that, before being put into liturgical use, the chair be blessed according to the rite described in the Roman Ritual."

Thus the chair's use and location is not indifferent, as it represents the role of the priest, who is not just a team leader. Rather, as the bishop proclaims in the prayer of ordination, priests are united to the order of bishops "in the invocation of your mercy for the souls entrusted to them and for the entire world."

The chair, by calling to mind the bishop's cathedra, also symbolizes the assembly's communion, through the priest, with the whole diocese and the universal Church.

Although we perhaps rarely consider them, the totality of our symbols, postures, gestures and suchlike manifests who we are and what ecclesiological ideas underlie our actions. History teaches us that a change in symbolism, given time, can provoke a change in mentality and even advance heterodox opinions.

Thus presiding from the chair or leading from the aisle could be taken as representing two distinct concepts of Church and of priesthood. And while this does not mean that the priest you mention holds any erroneous ideas, it is necessary to consider seriously the possible long-term consequences of our parting from established liturgical norms.

Follow-up: "Through Him, With Him ..."

In response to our reply on the people joining in the "Through him, with him, in him" (see Feb. 10), one priest wrote describing how he politely persuaded his flock to stop joining in the doxology: "by pointing out [to the faithful] that the 'Amen' is their part."

"While the 'Mysterium Fidei' proclamation is to be said or sung by priest and people," he wrote, "the 'Amen' is only said by the people. So I tell them, 'I won't say (sing) your part, if you don't sing my part.'"

The priest is correct regarding the celebrant's not joining in the Amen of the Eucharistic Prayer and I think his pastoral suggestion is a very valid one.

I would point out however, that the rubric which states that the people together with celebrant and concelebrants sing the acclamation after the priest sings the 'Mysterium Fidei' is found only in the present English Missal and does not correspond to the Latin.

The new General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 151, also makes no mention of the priest's joining in when it says: "After the consecration when the priest has said, 'Mysterium fidei' (Let us proclaim the mystery of faith), the people sing or say an acclamation using one of the prescribed formulas."

However, I would not labor this aspect too much for, unlike the final Amen, it is more practical than theological. In some cases, pastoral necessity requires the priest to intone and join in this acclamation in order to assure that it is sung.

A correspondent from Australia asked if the Sanctus were not an example of priest and people joining in the Eucharistic Prayer?

While the Sanctus (Holy Holy Holy) did not form part of the earliest known Eucharistic prayers, it entered very quickly, first in the East and later into the Roman Rite, perhaps introduced by Pope Sixtus III (died 440). Although it is, in a way, a part of the Eucharistic Prayer, it is so in the manner of an acclamation, proclaimed by all, which expresses very well both the universality of the Sacrifice and that the Eucharist is, above all, a sacrifice of praise.

In principle it should be sung by priest and people, although during several centuries the people were habitually substituted by the choir which sang an elaborate version during which the priest recited the Sanctus silently and began the recitation of the rest of the canon.

The very fact that the community aspect of the Sanctus has always existed, and has been constantly confirmed in Church documents, shows that the Church has never considered it either an exception nor in contradiction to the principle that only the priest alone should recite the Eucharistic Prayer.

Writing from the Philippines, an Irish priest who often ministers to the deaf suggested that there is, perhaps, one official precedent for the congregation praying the doxology with the priest. This would be the Eucharistic Prayer for the Deaf approved by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, Protocol No. 1621/85 for the bishops of England and Wales.

"The text, with the official introduction," he writes, "is in Liturgy, Volume 16, No. 6, August-September 1992, pp 39-48, published by the Liturgy Office of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales."

The text for the last part of the Eucharistic Prayer with the rubric is:

we praise you for ever
with Jesus, your Son,
in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

He takes the chalice and the paten with the host and lifts them up while the people respond:

we praise you,
we thank you,
we adore you
for ever and ever.

Our correspondent comments: "It would be impossible for the priest to sign while holding up the paten and chalice!"

This might indeed constitute an exception, although considering the extraordinary circumstances involved and the necessary demands of sign language, I do not think we can draw any general theological conclusions from this fact.

Finally, another Irish correspondent, a woman from County Mayo, asks if the prayer "Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles: I leave you peace, my peace I give you" should also be said or sung alone.

According to the rubrics, this prayer should be said by the priest alone; the people answer with Amen. The only place where I have found this prayer said by all is in Ireland. When I enquired during a recent visit, a priest told me that the common recital had been recently introduced as a special means of asking for peace in the country.

This may have been the reason (I have no other source of information on this topic). From a theological and pastoral prospective such a motivation would appear to greatly limit the scope and depth of Christ's peace no matter how desirable the cause.

I did notice that the common recital was very unevenly practiced, largely depending on who celebrated Mass.

I was also unable to ascertain by whose authority it was introduced. Such a change would normally require the approval of a two-thirds majority of the bishops and the Holy See.

Readers may send questions to Please put the word "Liturgy" in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Comprehensiveness, ECUSA, the 1979 prayer book & Dr George Sumner

Peter Toon

Principal George Sumner of Wycliffe College, Toronto, an ordained clergyman of the ECUSA, recently delivered a lecture in Birmingham, Alabama, on the theme of Anglican Comprehensiveness and the present state of ECUSA. In this, he explains the approach of the liberal Victorian churchman, F.D. Maurice, to comprehensiveness, the devastating criticisms by Bishop Stephen Sykes (now Principal of St John’s College, Durham) of a variety of theories of comprehensiveness, and other related matters.

The kind of comprehensiveness that has been generally supported by traditional Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics has a common basic center or foundation with variety allowed on secondary matters – often using the analogy of the cycle wheel, where there is one center and from which spokes go out to the perimeter, but there is nothing past the perimeter and the perimeter if firmly attached to the center. Here the Bible, the Creeds, the classic Anglican Formularies are the center or foundation and they are interpreted and used in a variety of types of emphasis and churchmanship. Such a view was commonly held at both Wycliffe College, Oxford, and Wycliffe College, Toronto, when I was working at Latimer House Oxford in the 1970s and Jim Packer produced a booklet on the very topic. This approach has been devastated since the 1970s by (a) the arrival of a plurality of liturgies wherein is a variety of doctrines, some orthodox & some heretical, and (b) the setting aside of the classic Anglican Formularies – the historic BCP, Ordinal & Articles – by churchmen of varying kinds.

Both Sumner and I agree that neither the Packer-kind of comprehensiveness nor any other kind of principled comprehensives is present in the ECUSA. What there is in the ECUSA at the parish level is diversity – from pantheism though panentheism and Unitarianism to Trinitarian Theism, and from the celebration of immorality to the devout desiring of the holiness of the Lord God in imitation of Jesus the Christ. What there is in the General Convention is the embracing of heresy and immorality by the majority. Where I think that Sumner goes off track in his persuasive lecture is in his lifting on to a pedestal the 1979 prayer book of the ECUSA (which as we all must know is falsely called “The Book of Common Prayer” when its content is that of “A Book of Alternative Services” – BAS/ASB).

Here are the claims he makes for the 1979 book of alternative services as they arise at the end of his lecture:

How can doctrine, prayer and community be understood in a full-orbed way so as to comprehend more limited affirmations? I want to suggest three: first, affirmations should be set against the full range of traditional doctrinal claims, arising from the whole story of salvation. Second, affirmations grow from and lead to devout congregational worship in accord with the best of the liturgical renewal movement, in our case found in the 1979 BCP. Third, (in place of a national polity), competing theological affirmations should be seen against the worldwide communion of which we are a part, and in conversation with which we test our claims. In each area I believe that a renewed comprehensiveness, though it conduces to a theologically generous orthodoxy, does draw some limits…. In contrast to Maurice, we are obliged in our time, to reclaim the importance of the doctrine of sin, alongside creation, redemption, and consummation, within our theological lexicon. An age which thinks in terms of the contrasting terms of affirmation and judgmentalism has trouble hearing sin as the doctrinal condition for a serious doctrine of grace. I am optimistic enough to believe that the 1979 BCP gives adequate expression to this full doctrinal picture, not least in the balancing of rites…

First of all, Sumner associates the 1979 Prayer Book with the best of the liturgical renewal movement. To do so, as he must know, is highly controversial and even if is the case it is the liberal (affirming) Anglican catholic understanding of liturgy of the late 1960s and early 1970s (when American society, culture and religion were in turmoil!) that is embraced. What is absolutely sure is that the 1979 prayer book does NOT represent the best understanding and practice of the present liturgical movement (note that the Common Worship 2000 of the C of E is theologically more conservative than its ASB of 1980).

In the second place, he assumes that the 1979 prayer book contains an orthodox doctrine of sin and an adequate expression of the balancing of rites (I am not sure what this latter expression means). To keep this essay brief, and as it is Shrovetide and a time for Shriving as I write, I shall only address the matter of sin in its liturgical expression. I want to state that the 1979 prayer book does NOT adequately state the biblical, patristic and orthodox doctrine of sin (as it does NOT state either the doctrines of the Trinity, the Person of Christ, Grace and so on in a consistent way – but I would need to write a book to show this).

But I stay with sin and with the doctrine as it is presented in 1979. The general approach of this prayer book in a variety of rites – e.g., M.P. & E.P. – is that the confession of sin (which is inadequately presented in the Catechism and elsewhere in the 1979 book) is something we do as quickly as possible (nor not at all in Advent & Easter) in order to move on to the more important activity of “Celebration.” In contrast, in the classic BCP (which is the chief formulary of the Church that Dr Sumner serves in Toronto) and in the 1928 BCP of the PECUSA (which ought to be the chief formulary of the new ECUSA Network) the confession of sin (following the lead of the Psalter and traditional Christian prayer) is also the praise of God, for it is the sinner not only acknowledging his personal wretchedness and grief before God the Holy One, but also praising the justice, righteousness, mercy & grace of God that both establish his sin and provide forgiveness and cleansing. The liberal catholic authors of the 1979 book expressed a revised, low doctrine of sin (not surprisingly in the context of the 1960s emphasis on self-worth, human rights & freedoms etc) in their liturgies. Herein is one – not the only one, but one – of the major causes of the apostasy of the General Convention and many dioceses of the ECUSA in the period from 1979 to 2003.

I invite Dr Sumner, who is a man of many talents and gifts, to rethink his position concerning the BAS/ASB 1979 of the ECUSA in the light of the official doctrinal position of the Church he serves – I say its doctrinal position not what its present bishops believe, teach and confess or its BAS teaches – as that is declared in the Solemn Declaration of 1893 found in the Canadian Book of Common Prayer of 1960/62 page viii. I suggest that the best way forward for the Anglican Way in North America is to be true to its best teaching and insights of the past and to move forward in harmony with them -- not partially or wholly to abandon them for that doctrinal and liturgical pluriformity which arose out of the social and cultural revolution of the 1960s and its aftermath in the West and determines much of the content of the American BAS/BCP of 1979 and the Canadian BAS of 1985!

(Note – I have written what I believe is an important 32 page booklet, An Act of Piracy, that will be available on March l. I invite users and lovers of the 1979 prayer book to read it carefully. It is about the relation of the 1979 prayer book to the historic catholic and reformed catholic tradition of Common Prayer and to the new prayer books that appeared in the Anglican family in the 1970s & 1980s. I propose that there can be no genuine movement towards true orthodoxy by The Network, the AAC, the FinFNA etc. until they recover the classic BCP as the Chief Formulary and make the 1979 book to be the equivalent of the Canadian BAS and the English ASB/Common Worship. For a copy send $5.00 to The Prayer Book Society, Box 35220, Philadelphia, PA. 19128-0220 or e mail or call 1-800-PBS-1928.)

The Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon Shrovetide 2004 -- & visit

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Hosts From the Tabernacle

And More on Female Altar Servers

ROME, FEB. 17, 2004 ( Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum.

Q: After the consecration, the Eucharistic minister proceeds to the tabernacle to obtain the consecrated Hosts needed to feed the faithful. He or she opens the door, then genuflects in adoration, and retrieves the container(s) of hosts and leaves the door open, exposing the presence of Jesus. Meanwhile, while this process is going on, the faithful recite the "Lamb of God," after which they kneel in adoration. This has always been the norm. Now, this has been changed to standing, with the option of kneeling or sitting in thanksgiving after the reception of Communion. This is done with the repository door open. I do not see the reason for these changes. Can you clarify? -- J.W., Waterloo, New York

A: There are several points in your question, which I will try to address in order. I hope you will forgive me for bringing in a related theme not explicitly formulated in your question.

The tabernacle is certainly worthy of all reverence and respect as the place where the reserved Hosts are kept for adoration outside of Mass and for distribution, above all, to the sick.

At the same time, the Church's magisterium has several times expressed a strong preference for "that more perfect form of participation in the Mass by which the faithful, after the priest's Communion, receive the Lord's Body from the same Sacrifice" (see the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 13). Thus, insofar as possible the faithful should receive Communion from hosts consecrated during the Mass itself and not just receive from the tabernacle.

This practice requires a greater effort on the part of the priest and those who assist him in preparing the celebration. It is usually achievable after a while as the number of communicants at most parishes is fairly regular.

A sufficient number of hosts should be reserved in the tabernacle to assure that none ever be deprived of Communion due to miscalculation. And it will be sometimes necessary to use the tabernacle in order to renew the reserved hosts.

A further point mentioned in your question refers to the extraordinary minister of the Eucharist going to the tabernacle to retrieve and repose the hosts. This is not the normal practice during Mass.

The GIRM, in No. 162, states: "(If) ... there is a very large number of communicants, the priest may call upon extraordinary ministers to assist him, e.g., duly instituted acolytes or even other faithful who have been deputed for this purpose. ... These ministers should not approach the altar before the priest has received Communion, and they are always to receive from the hands of the priest celebrant the vessel containing either species of the Most Holy Eucharist for distribution to the faithful."

Likewise, after Communion is completed, No. 163 specifies: "[A]s for any consecrated hosts that are left, he (the priest himself) either consumes them at the altar or carries them to the place designated for the reservation of the Eucharist." If a deacon or other priests are present they may also return the hosts to the tabernacle.

The fact you mention of leaving the tabernacle door open during the distribution of Communion does not usually imply an exposition. Indeed, liturgical law expressly forbids exposing the Blessed Sacrament during the celebration of Mass.

During Communion, Christ is equally present in the distributed hosts and so no special reverence is due to the tabernacle at that moment except for a genuflection by the minister on opening and closing its door, and even these are omitted should the tabernacle be near the altar upon which the Body and Blood of Christ is still present.

It is probably more prudent to close over the tabernacle door during distribution of Communion, if only to prevent flies and other insects from entering. This would be especially advisable if the host used for exposition of the Blessed Sacrament were clearly visible.

With respect to the proper posture during the liturgy of Communion, the GIRM in No. 43 specifies some norms approved by the U.S. bishops. One norm says the faithful should "kneel after the Agnus Dei unless the Diocesan Bishop determines otherwise." A few bishops have determined that the faithful should stand at this moment, and this practice is the norm within those dioceses.

Another phrase of the GIRM, No. 43, caused some controversy. It affirms that the faithful "may sit or kneel while the period of sacred silence after Communion is observed."

Some liturgists, and even some bishops, interpreted this text to mean that nobody should kneel or sit until everybody had received Communion. The resulting debate led Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. bishops' Liturgy Committee (BCL), to request an authentic interpretation from the Holy See on May 26, 2003.

Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, responded to the question on June 5, 2003 (Prot. N. 855/03/L):

"Responsum: 'Negative, et ad mensum' [No, for this reason]. The mens [reasoning] is that the prescription of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani, no. 43, is intended, on the one hand, to ensure within broad limits a certain uniformity of posture within the congregation for the various parts of the celebration of Holy Mass, and on the other, to not regulate posture rigidly in such a way that those who wish to kneel or sit would no longer be free."

Having received this response, the BCL Newsletter commented: "In the implementation of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, therefore, posture should not be regulated so rigidly as to forbid individual communicants from kneeling or sitting when returning from having received Holy Communion" (p. 26).

Follow-up: Female Altar Servers

Regarding the column on female altar servers (Feb. 3), a priest from Illinois asked if it were possible to place the issue in a theological context.

He suggests several arguments against their use and asks: "based on the same theology of the body that Pope John Paul II has so profoundly explained, how can girls serving at the altar not be perceived as a move towards women's ordination? The role of the altar server is not just functional. Also, actions speak louder than words; by the Pope allowing altar girls in the context of the cultural politicization of the liturgy and the role of women, he does send the message that women's ordination will come about despite statements to the contrary."

Personally I do not think it is wise to try to establish doctrinal grounds for every aspect of liturgical discipline. The very fact that the Holy Father approved of this change clearly shows that he does not consider this issue to have serious doctrinal implications.

While our correspondent is correct in saying that the role of altar servers is not merely functional, I think it is necessary to distinguish between minister, either ordained (bishop, priest and deacon) or instituted (acolyte and lector) and those who may be delegated in some cases to substitute for them.

Thus the formal ministries of the Church are open only to males, while altar servers, readers and extraordinary ministers of Communion, whose function is to substitute for the lack of proper ministers, may be delegated to Catholics of either sex.

Even when these functions are carried out frequently, or even daily, they will always be essentially delegated and substitutive. In this context the canonical decision to open service at the altar to girls was logical since every other delegated ministry had already been opened up.

This is certainly a break with a very long-standing custom of having only males serve at the altar even in substitutive roles. But it does not appear to be an issue of doctrine.

Nor does the Holy Father's decision open the way toward women's ordination. The papal declaration in "Ordinatio Sacerdotalis" that the Church has no power to ordain women is no mere statement of opinion but, as confirmed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, an exercise of the gift of infallibility and therefore binding.

Another reader, also from Illinois, asked if there were any norms regarding adults serving at Mass.

All instituted ministers (acolytes and lectors) are adult men, most of whom receive these ministries in their early 20s. Adult servers are very common all over the world especially in daily Masses or very early Sunday celebrations.

One or two female readers took exception to my comments that this debate should not use political categories such as rights, equality and discrimination.

One correspondent from Boston writes: "Since when have human rights and human equality become a 'political category.' Any brief survey of Church documents would reveal that such rights and equality are part of morality. Too frequently, it sounds as if the Church doesn't have to worry about breaking the moral law because it follows a higher liturgical law. Also, the last time I checked, by virtue of baptism, the Code of Canon Law says that every Catholic has a right to the sacraments. Does liturgical law also override canon law?"

Perhaps my choice of examples might have been better, but I think our correspondent read too much into my words.

She is totally correct, of course, in suggesting that rights, above all human rights, are essentially rooted in morality and thus should be beyond politics. I would also observe that there are other classes of rights less closely tied up to morality, such as the right to vote at 18 instead of 21.

At the same time, many of these rights have a political dimension and in this way are also political categories.

The social equality of women, for example, was not caused by a sudden surge of male morality sweeping away all discriminatory laws. Rather, it was eked and pried out by dogged, determined and sometimes heroic political action by women themselves.

Likewise, who can deny that the supposedly unalienable right to life has not tragically become the stuff of political activity?

Getting back to our subject, while the rights enjoyed by every Catholic are spelled out clearly by canon law, and include among other entitlements a right to the sacraments (see Canon 214), which is certainly not political, this fact has little to do with the question of a "right" to serve at the altar.

Serving at Mass, unlike the Catholic's right to assist at Mass and receive Communion, is a privilege and in some cases a vocation. But it can never be called a right. Therefore, I repeat that no one has a right to do so and to frame the question in these terms is to use political categories to seek to demand what can only be humbly accepted.

Finally, a reader from Kenya suggested that St. Margaret Clitherow could complement St. John Berchmans as patron of altar servers. This English wife and mother was martyred in 1586 because she kept the forbidden vestments, chalices, books and bread in her home and arranged that priests could secretly celebrate Mass there. It is an interesting suggestion and may prosper.

Readers may send questions to Please put the word "Liturgy" in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country.

Cardinal Ratzinger Blames 1968 and 1989 for the Contempt of Ethics

Says Postwar Cynicism and Marxism's Fall Paved the Way for Pragmatism

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 19, 2004 ( After the fall of the Marxist ideologies, there has been no rediscovery of ethics, but rather contempt of it and refuge in pragmatism, says Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith states this view in the latest edition of his "Introduction to Christianity" (Queriniana), just published in Italy. The book includes material from his days as a theology professor at Tübingen, Germany, in the 1960s.

The book, in its 12th edition, has a new introduction in which the cardinal assesses the effects of the last 30 years on the Church.

Cardinal Ratzinger believes that 1968, the year of student revolutions, and 1989, the pivotal year for Marxism's decline, are key to understanding the late 20th century.

"The year 1968 is linked to the rise of a new generation, which not only regarded the work of reconstruction after the Second World War as inadequate, full of injustice, egoism and the urge to possess, but conceived the whole evolution of history, beginning with the era of the triumph of Christianity, as an error and a failure," he writes.

"Wishing to improve history, to create a world of freedom, equality and justice, these young people thought they had found the best way in the great current of Marxist thought," the cardinal continues.

"The year 1989 witnessed the amazing collapse of the Socialist regimes in Europe, which left behind them a sad heritage of destroyed lands and souls," he laments.

"The Marxist doctrine of salvation, in a word, was born in its many versions articulated in different ways, as a unique and scientific vision of the world, coupled by an ethical motivation and capable of supporting humanity in the future. Thus can be explained its difficult demise, even after the trauma of 1989," Cardinal Ratzinger explains.

"Suffice it to think of how discreet the discussion on the horrors of the Communist 'gulags' has been, and the little that Alexander Solzhenitsyn's voice has been heard: Nothing is said about all this," he affirms.

"The silence has been imposed by a certain sense of shame," he contends. "Even Pol Pot's bloody regime is only mentioned, in passing, every now and then. But the disillusion has remained, together with a profound confusion. Today no one believes any longer in any great moral dictates."

"Marxism had been conceived in these terms: a current that augured justice for all, the advent of peace, the abolition of unjustified relations of man's dominance over man, etc.," he adds.

"To reach these noble objectives, it was thought that one had to give up ethical principles and that terror could be used as the instrument of good. When the time came that all could see, if only on the surface, the ruins caused in humanity by this idea, people preferred to take refuge in a pragmatic life and publicly profess contempt of ethics," the cardinal contends.

"Where has the voice of Christian faith been all these years?" he asks. He believes that the answer to the question is the Christian challenge of the moment.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Mother’s Day --- The Church invaded and overcome by the World

A discussion starter for the serious-minded

How is it that what in modern times has been called “Mother’s Day” occurs on different days in the U.K. and the U.S.A.?

Answer: In a well-used American phrase, “separation of church & state.”

In the U.S.A., “Mother’s Day” on the second Sunday in May is in essence a secular celebration, as is also its counterpart, “Father’s Day” on a different day. Cards, flowers, gifts, meals in restaurants and homes are the expressions of this celebration of mothers in middle-class America. Now since a lot of people go to church in the U.S.A. most congregations take note of this celebration and either absorb it in a big way or make adjustments in the service to recognize it. However, it is certainly not a religious festival except in so far as its theme is borrowed or adopted by opportunistic congregations.

In the U.K., “Mother’s Day” has been placed on top of an already existing Christian celebration, a day that has no fixed date for its time is fixed each year by the date of Easter. The Mid-Sunday in Lent has long been regarded by holy, mother Church and those of her children who take Lent seriously (as a time of ascetic discipline) as a day for semi-relaxation from the regime of controlled & reduced eating. The Gospel for this day in the ancient Lectionaries [and still so in The Book of Common Prayer] was the Feeding of the 5,000 (John 6) and so it was called “Refreshment Sunday;” and the Epistle was Paul’s Letter to the Galatians where he speaks of “Jerusalem above” which is “our Mother” and so it was called “Mothering Sunday.” It will be noted that the food in the Gospel was supplied by Jesus after the crowds had spent a long time listening to him and were hungry; and that the mother in the Epistle is the Church in her perfection after she is cleansed from all sin and sanctified.

How did Refreshment Sunday and Mothering Sunday become Mother’s Day? The obvious and primary reason is the heavy secularization of the Church in recent times. Because Lent is taken seriously only by the few, the mid-Sunday of the 40-day fast could hardly be appreciated by the majority as a relaxation of discipline for there was no discipline! But the name of “Mothering” was there and it was easily switched by (a) clerics looking for an easy & appealing theme and (b) the card and flower industries looking for business, to the seemingly harmless and even good theme of “Mother’s Day.” Thus for the 6 per cent who attend churches there will be in 2004 the celebration of human mothers and many people will think it is all very nice. In the service the children will give flowers or gifts to mothers. At the same time, in the rest of the population (94 per cent) Mother’s Day will be a secular festival much as it is in essence in the U.S.A.

[In Victorian times, there was a custom for servant girls to be allowed to go home to see mother on Lent IV and thus for some “Mothering” meant going to see mother. In the Middle Ages, there were pilgrimages on Mothering Sunday to the mother Church, the cathedral, by the faithful on Lent IV.]

In a time when human rights are much emphasized, it is not surprising that “Father’s Day” is well established in the U.S.A. and that other days – “Grandfather’s Day” & “Grandmother’s Day” – are on their way into public acceptance.

Will the U.K. follow suit and will churches in the U.K. soon have a “Father’s Day” as a Sunday celebration to match “Mother’s Day”? If not officially then certainly unofficially – and even a subdivision for step-parents.

In churches in the U.K., it would appear that Lent, the 40 day fast of the Lord Jesus, and related themes are suitably forgotten on Lent IV and so is the theme of the Church of God as the Mother of the Faithful, the one from whose womb souls are born by the Spirit and Word and the one at whose breasts the children of God are fed. Instead, the eyes of the many are looking not up to the Lord but rather horizontally at human mothers. And, regrettably, they are doing so as godly women without children look on in grief and pain, wondering why they have not been given the gift of children. It is this kind of religion which so easily becomes pantheism or panentheism. Historically, the celebration of motherhood in a religious way and sense leads away from Monotheism and certainly from classical Trinitarian Monotheism.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.),
Christ Church, Biddulph Moor & St Anne's, Brown Edge

Monday, February 16, 2004

ASH WEDNESDAY or CAPUT JEJUNII [“the beginning of the Fast”] is NEAR

Until 1549, the Collect, Epistle and Gospel in use in England [and the Western Church] for the beginning of the Forty Day Fast called Lent each specifically referred to fasting as a duty and good work offered to the Father through the Son by the Holy Ghost.

The Epistle was Joel 2:12-17 & the Gospel was Matthew 6:16-21. The Collect, true to the theme of fasting, prayed: “Grant, O Lord, that thy faithful people may enter on this solemn fast with suitable piety and go through it with unmolested devotion…”

In 1549, and in revisions of The Book of Common Prayer since then, the reformed Church of England has retained the reading from Joel 2 for the Epistle. It begins, “Turn to me [the LORD] with all your heart and with fasting…” Likewise the Church retained the Gospel reading from Matthew 6 where our Lord teaches the true approach to fasting as a duty unto God. “When ye fast, be not as the hypocrites…”

However, the Collect for the day was changed. The new Collect drafted by Archbishop Cranmer made no specific reference to Fasting but rather concentrated upon the need for internal cleansing of the soul through proper self-examination and repentance for sin. In fact the new Collect makes use of phrases from the old Latin Collect used on this day for the blessing of the ashes [from which practice the day was called “Ash Wednesday”], which when imposed upon the head of the penitent was intended to point to his humbling himself before the Holy Majesty of the Righteous Lord God, who hates sin and looks for penitence in his sinful people.

It would be a mistake to think that because the new Collect in 1549 makes no specific reference to fasting that the reformed English Church was down-playing the spiritual duty of fasting. Certainly there was a down-playing of external ceremonies – thus there is no provision in The Book of Common Prayer for the blessing of ashes – but the duty of fasting was always maintained. What is provided in the Collect is what the Reformers referred to as the internal aspect of fasting.

In the official Elizabethan Second Book of Homilies of the C. of E., there is a homily devoted to explaining the nature and duty of fasting. Fasting is presented in the Homily as a good work before God. Yet it is not a good work that earns or achieves God’s salvation, but a good work that is the fruit of salvation, a sign of a soul that is conscious of its great sin, is repentant and desires to love God and seek his will and glory.

There are two kinds of fasts, the public fast when a whole people are called by public authority to join together to seek the face of the LORD for his blessing upon a nation, and a private fast when an individual person chooses to wait upon the LORD for a particular purpose as he works out his own salvation in fear and trembling. Examples of such are provided from both the Old and the New Testaments.

It is important to note that there is both an outward and an inward dimension to all fasting.

The outward fast relates to the body and is “an abstinence from meat, drink, and all natural food, yea from all delicious pleasures and worldly delectations.” A normal day’s fast is said to be an abstaining from all food and drink from dawn until after Evening Prayer.

The inward fast relates to the heart, mind and will and pertains to their sanctification.

Of the two the inward is the most important for God looks upon and into the heart of man where the truth about him resides.

Fasting to be profitable to those who fast and to be accepted of God. must be directed to three basic ends.

“The first is to chastise the flesh that it be not too wanton, but tamed and brought into subjection to the spirit…The second that the spirit be more fervent and earnest in prayer…The third that our fast be a testimony and witness with us before God of our humble submission to his high Majesty, when we confess and acknowledge our sins unto him, and are inwardly touched with sorrowfulness of heart, bewailing the same in the affliction of our bodies.”

This Collect for Ash Wednesday – and for every day in Lent – rightly and importantly focuses on the inward fast, that is on what God looks for in the souls of men as a result of their outward fasting.

Let us all begin holy Lent on Ash Wednesday with a true fast, both outward and inward in scope, for the glory of God and the salvation of our souls and let us maintain such discipline for the forty days, with minor relief on the Sundays and especially on Mothering Sunday.

P.S. Why not read the Homily on Fasting in the Book of Homilies?

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.),
Christ Church, Biddulph Moor & St Anne's, Brown Edge

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Beatitudes, Blessedness and the Kingdom of God. (a meditation for St Valentine's Day)

Are these accessible within the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A.?

The Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon

The Common Lectionary for February 15 provides us with St Luke 6:20ff. as the Gospel. Here it is proclaimed that Jesus looked at his disciples and speaking specifically to them, and not to the crowd, told them of four circumstances, which would bring them true everlasting happiness/blessedness, and of four parallel circumstances which would bring them temporal gain but everlasting loss.

Though economic, political, social and cultural surroundings change through space and time, the principles of the kingdom of God and his righteousness and peace remain constant. What was true of eternal happiness in A.D.30 is true also in A.D. 2004. And it is true of membership within the Episcopal Church in 2004.

The first Beatitude is:

Blessed be ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of God (KJV).
Blessed are you who are poor, for your is the kingdom of God (ESV).

This is not to be confused with the Beatitude on poverty of spirit in Matthew 5:3. Here Jesus speaks of the blessedness of the poor – and especially those who have become poor because of their commitment to him. The poor have to trust in the Lord’s providence and grace in order graciously to survive by having food, clothing and lodging in this life. It is their absolute need to trust in the Father that brings them into closer union with the Lord Jesus and causes them thereby to experience the reality of the kingly reign of God in their lives.

The opposite of the blessedness of poverty is the material happiness & security of riches, communicated through the “Woe”:

Woe unto you that are rich, for ye have received your consolation (KJV).
Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation (ESV).

The second Beatitude is:

Blessed are ye that hunger now, for ye shall be filled (KJV).
Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied (ESV).

Here Jesus speaks again about real bodily hunger of the poor, a condition which causes the godly poor to look unto the Lord. They claim the promise that in the life of the age to come the righteous will be filled with all the excellent things that belong to the kingdom of God. Thus they shall hunger and want no more.

In contrast, those who make their belly and bodily needs their “god” in this life will hunger and thirst in the age to come for that which they cannot have.

Woe unto you that are full, for ye shall hunger (KJV).
Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry (ESV).

The third Beatitude is:

Blessed are ye that weep now for ye shall laugh (KJV).
Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh (ESV).

Those who priorities are those of the Kingdom of God experience much pain in this life where there is sin and evil, and thus they weep in anguish. However, in the age to come in the fullness of the same Kingdom they shall be filled with joy unspeakable.

In contrast, those who laugh now as they share in the sinfulness and evil of the present age, will be without any joy at all and experience much pain in the life after death.

Woe unto you that laugh now, for ye shall mourn and weep (KJV).
Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep (ESV).

The fourth Beatitude is longer than the previous three:

Blessed are ye when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice ye in that day and leap for joy, for behold, you reward is great in heaven; for in like manner did their fathers unto the prophets (KJV).
Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets (ESV).

The key words here are “for the sake of the Son of Man.” True disciples of Jesus, the Son of Man, were pushed out of the Temple and the Synagogue of the old Israel; likewise, it is to be expected that when the Church of God is descending into apostasy and error that true disciples of the Son of Man will be pushed out and reviled. Of course, there is a world of difference between being excluded because of a clear commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ and because of other matters be they of a racial, ethnic, cultural, sexual or personality type. The Blessedness now and in the age to come belongs only to those who are pushed out because they are clearly perceived as standing with and for Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.

The final Woe makes the position clear:

Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets (KJV).
Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets (ESV).

One thing that disciples should not seek in this life and that is the praise & congratulations of their fellow human beings. Being “God-centered” and “Christ-centered” they seek to glorify the Father who is in heaven by lives which adorn the Gospel of Christ.


Turning to the Episcopal Church and its current crisis wherein it has taken its apostasy to new depths/heights, and then applying this Gospel to this Church, we can learn much, but here only one point is made for consideration. Those of us who are protesting against the ECUSA from the inside or the outside, and thinking in so doing that we are on God’s side, need to be sure (for our own salvation’s sake) that it is not merely primarily but solely and only because of our commitment to the Son of Man, the Word of God Incarnate, and to his infallible teaching that we are protesting vigorously and loudly. If the protest is more informed by dislike of sexual innovation or by so-called homophobia, for example, than by passionate desire for the glorifying of the Name of Jesus, then we need to take stock of where we are in relation to the Father through the Son and by the Holy Ghost and to His Kingdom.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Rowan Williams on Commission & Network

ACNS 3776 | ENGLAND | 10 FEBRUARY 2004

Debate on the Agenda - Archbishop's remarks at General Synod

[ACNS source: Lambeth Palace] Madam Chairman: as the Dean of Derby indicated there may be some members of Synod who have some questions in their mind about the issue affecting the wider Anglican Communion, and whether it is appropriate to debate such issues in this forum. And I hope you'll bear with me if I say just a word about some of those wider issues, perhaps in explanation of why we have not thought it fit at this point to encourage such a wider debate - though questions will undoubtedly arise.

I'm thinking, of course, of developments particularly around decisions taken in the United States of America and the extraordinary meeting of Primates which took place in Lambeth Palace in October of last year. And Synod members will, I am sure, remember the statement issued at the end of that two-day gathering at Lambeth Palace. One of the things for which it called was the setting up of a Commission to examine some of the issues that were arising and would continue to arise for the Communion in the light of actions by any one province or diocese which created acute difficulties for the maintenance of communion. You will be aware that that Commission has been set under the Chairmanship of Archbishop Robin Eames to whom it is obligatory to refer all difficult and delicate matters in the Anglican Communion. And under his expert guidance that Commission is actually beginning its work; even as we speak, as they say, its first meeting takes place this week at Windsor.

I hope that Synod will hold that meeting in prayer during its time together this week. They have been charged with an exceptionally difficult and delicate task. But precisely because of that it would be very difficult indeed, and I think inappropriate for either myself or the House of Bishops or Synod to attempt to second-guess the work of that Commission and its recommendations and reflections on these large issues of Communion, maintenance of Communion and breakage of Communion.

The Primates' statement in October also mentioned the situation in the diocese of New Hampshire, where the consecration of Gene Robinson as coadjutor Bishop has already taken place as you may have noticed. And many Synod members will be aware of some of the reaction to that that continues in the United States and elsewhere.

Now the Primates in their statement in October called on provinces to make adequate provision for episcopal oversight in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury for those in conscience unable to accept certain dispositions made by their provinces. In line with that request from the Primates, I want to say that I remain fully committed to searching for arrangements which will secure a continuing place for all Episcopalians in the life of the Episcopal Church in the United States and I have been involved in working with several parties there towards some sort of shared future and common witness, so far as is possible. It is in that light that I've been following sympathetically the discussions around the setting up of a network within the Episcopal Church of the United States of America engaged in negotiating some of these questions of episcopal oversight.

I have also been sharing with Archbishop Eames the relevant documents and statements which have come from a number of parties around the world in this debate, so that the Commission may be fully aware of them and use them as a resource as appropriate in making their assessments and recommendations, in due course, concerning the future of the Communion.

The Commission has deliberately a limited life. It will report to the Primates probably at the very beginning of the next calendar year, and interim reports will be issued meanwhile.

I hope Synod will have take account of this very brief, necessarily very sketchy, update in order to put some of these matters in context. I hope Synod will be receiving and reflecting on the interim reports that will come from the Commission to which I am extremely grateful for already a good deal of work that has already gone on. As I have indicated on a number of occasions in recent months we do, as a Communion, face perhaps unprecedentedly difficult challenges and it's all the more important that we keep those involved in these discussions - in controversy and also in the work of the Commission - in our prayers, to equip all of us in the Communion for the task that lies before us.

Thank you, madam Chairman.

(c) Rowan Williams 2004

Monday, February 09, 2004

Is “The Network” based upon a foundation of sand?

A discussion starter

(I want "The Network" to succeed and therefore I offer this starter for discussion. )

The recently formed Network of thirteen dioceses within the ECUSA has stated that it intends to remain within the same ECUSA and live within the constitution and canons of the same Church. At the same time, some of its members have stated that it regards certain acts of the General Convention of 2003 and acts of the Presiding Bishop with other Bishops since then as unconstitutional. These are all to do with the permitting of same-sex blessings and ordaining/consecrating persons, particularly Gene Robinson of N.H., who is living in a same sex partnership. And the logic of this position is that. before the General Convention of 2003, there was nothing fundamentally wrong with the Constitution and Canons of the ECUSA – that is nothing that cannot be easily fixed.

In other words, what was agreed and done in late 2003 concerning sexual relations by the General Convention, and supported by a majority of dioceses, is judged by “The Network” as being unique in terms of the long list of innovations introduced and imposed by the General Convention since the 1960s.

There is no doubt but that sexual matters go to the core of human feeling and so an innovation which goes against the traditional taboos and standards of western culture – not to mention against Islamic and much tribal culture – and which pioneers new understanding, definitions and practical sexual arrangements within the human rights and personal fulfillment ethos of western culture, is going to create a lot of interest & condemnation around the world. So it is not surprising that Christian leaders of the global South as well as Muslim clerics have condemned the recent sexual innovations of the ECUSA. This widespread horror has given “The Network” a wave of background publicity and support, which have tended to strengthen its case in the public arena and media.

Yet, what is judged by conservative human culture to be an innovation and aberration of a uniquely serious kind may not be – in God’s way of judging things – uniquely wicked. In fact, it may, for example, be the fruit, the growth or the result of an earlier innovation (or innovations) which in God’s sight may be of a greater wickedness. And, it may well be the case that unless the earlier innovations are corrected then the official ECUSA sexual aberrations of 2003 will remain and will multiply.

In the case of the ECUSA, a very strong case can be presented for the position that the consecrating of Gene Robinson was the climax of, or one special fruit of, a process of the implementing of “justice” in the same ECUSA. That is, the real source of this innovation in “justice” are earlier major decisions taken by the General Convention and put into canon law (and to which, apparently, most of the members of “The Network” had/have no special disagreement).

Consider that since the 1970s the General Convention has taken as its theme a topic or phrase taken from the so-called “Baptismal Covenant” found in the Prayer Book that was approved in 1976 & 1979 to replace the received, classic “Book of Common Prayer”. One aspect of this covenant is that the baptized in the ECUSA are to work for “justice and peace”. These words have been consistently understood against the meaning given to them in the revolutionary 1960s. In other words, they belong to the culture of human rights and of personal therapeutic self-fulfillment. So, for example, it is justice to work for the right of a human being to have a life & experience which are true to her/his sexual orientation. And true peace in the church is only reached when each person is free and empowered to be who she or he really is.

In fact what “The Network” does not seem yet to have seen sufficiently clearly – and this is supremely important – is that the making of the 1979 Prayer Book [basically in essence “A Book of Alternative Services”] into the official Prayer Book of the ECUSA was a major change in the worship, doctrine, polity, discipline and morality of the ECUSA. It enabled the ECUSA to have the outward show of both a semi-traditional liturgy & the use of an ancient title, while pioneering the entry of all kinds of doctrinal, moral and practical innovations into the life of the Church. As a first example, take the very name given to the new Prayer Book of 1976/79 in which, regrettably, dishonesty is enshrined as a characteristic of the present ECUSA. Knowing that it was surely breaking the Commandment, “Thou shall not bear false witness”, but justifying itself on the basis that the end justified the means, the General Convention chose to call its new book of varied services (in which were all kinds of influences from feminism and the values of the 1960s) by the ancient and hallowed name of “The Book of Common Prayer,” as it also confined the authentic Book of Common Prayer to the status of a historical document. And then it proceeded to persecute those who chose to continue to use the classic Book of Common Prayer (i.e., the American 1928 edition which descends from the 1662 BCP).

Further, “The Network”, while it makes all kinds of claims concerning its commitment to the uniqueness of holy matrimony and of the latter being the only relation in which there would be sexual intercourse, does not yet seem to have realized that the canon law and the very position of not a few of the members of its dioceses actually stand for something other that the uniqueness of holy matrimony. That is, they stand – at least partially – for a conservative form of the divorce culture which has dominated American society since the 1950s. In other words, “The Network” has not yet publicly admitted and confessed that the allowing of divorced persons to be remarried in church, and the allowing of clergy to continue in office & pastoral leadership after divorce and remarriage, are in real terms a major contributing cause of the actions of General Convention in 2003 in allowing same-sex blessings and confirming the election of Gene Robinson as bishop. After all, if the so-called heterosexual person is given rights to personal fulfillment according to orientation in multiple marriage arrangements, why should not the homosexual person be treated in justice the same way? Further, there seem to have been no objections to Robinson based upon the fact that he is a divorced man and as such is unsuitable to be a bishop! Likewise, the trial of Bishop Righter several years ago was not on the charge that he has 3 wives alive but that he ordained a gay man – an amazing charge and brought by bishops now represented in “The Network”!

Then, also, “The Network,” by allowing without question the presence of ordained women, does not seem to have fully realized just how much the ordaining of women contributed to the change in doctrine and morality in the ECUSA and so is a major contributory cause to the consecration of Gene Robinson. Women were first ordained in the 1970s and it was very much seen by many then as an issue of justice and human rights. After they were ordained, the same justice cried out for a language to be in place in the liturgy & Bible which was true to their identity, and so it was that inclusive language came into the 1976/79 Prayer Book & Psalter and in greater measure – for God as well as humanity -- into the various Liturgies approved by General Convention in the period from 1980 to 2003. Further, belief in the ordination of women as of divine institution became in the 1990s an article of faith for office-holders in the ECUSA. We may note in passing that it has yet to be shown in full in a major study of the ECUSA just how the ordaining of women, as a 1960s project and as an issue of human rights and personal fulfillment, has been the cause of a very major change or adjustment in the doctrines of God, Christ, grace, salvation, sin, sacraments, anthropology and so on. Had women not been ordained certainly Mr. Robinson would never have been considered for consecration.

I suggest that for “The Network” truly to become by heavenly grace the righteous remnant of the ECUSA and to be a root, from which godly church order can grow, it surely must take seriously the fact that it is based upon a Formulary (the 1979 prayer book) and upon Canons which – even with the best will in the world – cannot be justly described as commending a biblical, Anglican orthodoxy. As a minimum, “The Network” needs to recover the classic Formularies – BCP, Ordinal & Articles -- in order to regain its Anglican identity and orthodoxy and at the same time do a most serious review of the Canons and the way that they are interpreted in order to know which it must set aside. And, of course, and importantly, to do this while seeking to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness and to be active in mission and evangelism. We need to look in four directions at the same time – up to the enthroned Lord, back to the Scriptures and the classic Anglican tradition, forward in hope of the Parousia, and around in mission and evangelism.

Upon its present foundation, which is regrettably like sand, the courage and energy expended by devoted founders and members of “The Network” will most probably collapse, even though it has at the moment the vocal support of various Primates of the Anglican Communion (most of whom, I suspect, do not know the full story of the innovations of the ECUSA from the 1960s to 2004).

The Rev’d Dr Peter Toon Feb 9 2004

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Female Altar Servers: the R.C. View

ROME, FEB. 3, 2004 ( Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum.

Q: What is the Church's position on the use of female altar servers? May all of the servers be female, or must at least one be male? Do you feel that the use of female altar servers detracts from the building of vocations among young males? -- M.C.S.N., Catonsville, Maryland

A: Female altar servers are permitted in all but two U.S. dioceses. They are also common in most English-speaking countries, and in Western Europe. The situation is patchier in the rest of the world, going from total absence to the occasional diocese that allows them.

From the point of view of liturgical law, an official interpretation of Canon 230, Paragraph 2, of the Code of Canon law on the possibility of delegating certain liturgical offices led to a 1994 letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments clarifying that girls may serve at the altar. But bishops are not bound to permit them to do so, nor could the episcopal conference limit the bishop's faculty to decide for himself.

A further clarifying letter published in 2001 said priests are not compelled to have girls serve at the altar, even when their bishops grant permission.

The 1994 letter states: "It will always be very appropriate to follow the noble tradition of having boys serve at the altar. As is well known, this has led to a reassuring development of priestly vocations. Thus the obligation to support such groups of altar boys will always continue."

The letter also recommends to bishops to consider "among other things the sensibilities of the faithful, the reasons which would motivate such permission and the different liturgical settings and congregations which gather for the Holy Mass."

Therefore the Holy See's recommendation is to retain as far as possible the custom of having only boys as servers. But it leaves to the bishop the choice of permitting women and girls for a good reason and to the pastor of each parish the decision as to whether to act on the bishop's permission.

It is important not to focus this debate using political categories such as rights, equality, discrimination, etc., which only serves to fog the issue. We are dealing with the privilege of serving in an act of worship to which nobody has any inherent rights.

The question should be framed as to what is best for the good of souls in each diocese and parish. It is thus an eminently pastoral and not an administrative decision, and this is why it should be determined at the local level.

Among the pastoral factors to be weighed is the obvious yet often forgotten fact that boys and girls are different and require different motivational and formative methods.

This difference means that both boys and girls usually go through a stage when they tend to avoid common activities.

Preteen boys in particular are very attracted to activities that cater especially for them, and they tend to reject sharing activities with girls.

They also tend to have a greater need for such structured activities than girls who are usually more mature and responsible at this stage of life.

As a result, some parishes have found that the introduction of girl servers has led to a sharp drop-off of boys offering to serve. Once the boys have left and enter the years of puberty, it is difficult to bring them back.

Some pastors say this phenomenon is less marked where serving at Mass forms part of a wider Catholic structure, such as a school, or when siblings serve together.

It is also true that groups of boy servers have fostered vocations to the priesthood. But to be fair, this usually happens within a broader culture of openness to a vocation in which other elements come into play, such as the example and spiritual guidance given by good priests, and family support.

If, for example, a long-established program of boy servers has proved successful in promoting vocations or has been useful in helping boys avoid bad company and maintain the state of grace, then the good of souls obliges pastors to weigh heavily the spiritual risks involved in abandoning it.

When girls do serve, it is probably best to aim for a mixture of boys and girls -- if only to avoid giving the impression to the congregation that Catholicism is above all a female activity. On some occasions, however, it might be best to separate boys and girls into different groups.

It is very difficult to lay down precise rules in a matter like this since the situation may vary widely between parishes. And it is not unknown to have sharp differences among the faithful who assist at different Masses at the same parish.

Introduction to Septuagesima

As the Church moves through the Christian Year from Epiphany to Lent she passes through three Sundays which have to modern ears strange titles. Septuagesima, Sexagesima & Quinquagesima are in fact three Latin words and they indicate how far away we are from Easter – that is, 70, 60 & 50 days respectively. From the fifth century after Christ these Sundays emerged as a preparatory cycle for Lent in the West.

The Latin names arose by analogy with Quadragesima, the first Sunday in Lent, known as the “fortieth day” before Easter. Quinquagesima is exactly fifty days before Easter but Sexagesima (60) and Septuagesima (70) are only approximations.

In Rome and the West, Septuagesima (the 70th) day before Easter was regarded as the beginning of the preparation for Easter and thus it was natural to attract to itself the theme of The Beginning, that is the Creation of the world by the Father through the Son and with the Holy Ghost. (Thus there began the reading of Genesis on this day in the monastic Daily Offices.)

In the Church of the East in the Byzantine tradition there also emerged a cycle of preparation before Lent proper, with the last two Sundays being known as “Meatfare” and “Cheesefare” Sundays. There is partial fasting between these two Sundays and then Lent begins on the Monday which is known as “Clean Monday,” with no meat or cheese.

In the West, in the modern post 1960s Roman Catholic and Anglican Prayer Books, the “Gesimas” have been abolished. However, they remain part of the Christian Year in The Book of Common Prayer. They serve to place worshippers today in a long tradition of regarding Lent to be so important as a preparation for Easter, the Feast of Feasts, as to require for itself a preliminary preparation. So the “Gesimas” are a preparation for the Preparation.

The Collect for Septuagesima which begins the short cycle anticipates two chief ideas of Lent – the confession of our sin and its just punishment, and the prayer for forgiveness from God’s mercy in Jesus Christ. Thus in these three weeks the faithful begin to turn their minds to Lent, its solemnity and how they will keep it, in joining with their Lord in his fasting, meditating, praying and resisting temptation in the wilderness.

SEPTUAGESIMA or The Third Sunday before Lent

O Lord, we beseech thee favourably to hear the prayers of thy people; that we, who are justly punished for our offences, may be mercifully delivered by thy goodness, for the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Epistle. 1 Corinthians 9: 24-27 Gospel. St Matthew 20:1-16

This week the Church in the West has traditionally begun her initial preparation for Lent. In this period of three Sundays and eighteen days until Ash Wednesday the Church as a whole and each member in particular are given the opportunity to work out the approach to Lent and the discipline to be followed in Lent. The Gospel through a parable of Jesus declares that God is debtor to no man and that everything he gives us is of his amazing grace. In contrast the Epistle urges us to give ourselves wholly to the service of God and to dedicate ourselves totally to his kingdom.

The spiritual tone that this Collect calls for and presents is one of penitence and humility before the all-seeing, all-knowing, wholly just and yet wholly merciful God, the Father of Jesus Christ. Our sins represent disobedience to him as the Law-giver, rebellion against him as the Master, pride before him as the Holy Lord, and irreverence before him as the universal Judge.

Yet, after self-examination, with repentant hearts and penitent souls, and looking unto Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son and Mediator between God and man, we can and must place ourselves before him, casting ourselves upon his goodness and mercy, made known unto us in the same Lord Jesus Christ. This is the spirit that will be deepened and extended during Lent, as we seek to draw near to God the Father through the sole merits and meditation of his Son.

The key verb is this Petition is “delivered”, that we may be mercifully delivered or liberated from the captivity and bondage of sin, by which we are tied as with chains that we cannot break.

Happily, the emphasis upon our sinfulness is matched in this Collect by the full emphasis upon the mediation of the Son, who in the final words, we recall and recognize is truly exalted to the Father’s right hand in glory to reign there as the King of kings and to be unto us the exalted Prophet, Priest and King. In fact the Collect ends with the glorifying of the Blessed Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.),
Christ Church, Biddulph Moor & St Anne's, Brown Edge;

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

No dumbing-down please!

Looking & going forward requires conserving & being guided by the past

When I call for the recovery by the Network (within ECUSA) and by Extra-Mural Anglicans of the classic Anglican Formularies [BCP, Ordinal & Articles] to stand not above or alongside but underneath the Sacred Scriptures, there are always those who respond by saying that the Formularies are irrelevant in the 21st century mission-based Church and congregation. They appear to think that all that is needed for a historic denomination is a modern version of the Bible, the Creeds in modern paraphrase and modern liturgy of a dumbed-down kind. They appear to look around and forward only, not fully recognizing what their fellow believers experienced and achieved yesterday. They need also to look up and to look backwards!

A more sophisticated kind of response that I receive goes like this. (Here I simply edit one specific response.)

‘What is needed is a contemporary edition of the classic Anglican Prayer Book (in the U.S.A. that of 1928) in good modern language and preserving in that contemporary language the doctrine of the historic Formularies of the sixteenth century. America is about change and improvement and going forward (sometimes too hastily, sometimes not quickly enough). Our cultural memory goes back to 1776. England and other major (and minor) nations have cultural memories that go back many thousands of years, to the earliest days of human civilization. We in American are not too much invested in the past. England and other old countries and cultures are deeply so. The Episcopal Church in the USA needed to grow beyond the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of American. That it should do so, in one way or another, was inevitable.

Abandonment of the great Book of Common Prayer by the General Convention was not, however, inevitable. It could have been rendered in contemporary American/English, and re-designed using current ideas about graphic design and typography to be visually more appealing and readable, holding off the drastic changes in the 1979 book for years, perhaps de-railing them altogether. We don't do much "returning to..." in America. Our landfills are stunning testimony to that. We upgrade.

Now with the magnificent English Standard Version of the Holy Bible, God has given us a grand example of how contemporary American/English can be used in a stately and holy way. The same thing can be accomplished in a contemporary version of the Book of Common Prayer.

With the new Network, formed by 12 faithful Bishops of ECUSA, there appears to be a splendid opportunity to bring forth a Millennium Version of the Book of Common Prayer. The Network Bishops can be made to feel a part of such a project, toward the goal of adopting the "new" BCP as an acceptable alternative to the 1979 book, and, we may hope, its replacement altogether after some period of become acquainted again with its history and its greatness and its basic importance in keeping Anglican Christianity alive in America.’


I happily concede and have said many times that there are good reasons for producing first of all as a Study Text in modern standard English a modern version of the classic and historic Book of Common Prayer. This is actually more difficult than it seems but it can be done – at least a concerted attempt can be made to accomplish it. And to be done worthily it would need to preserve the structure, the content, the style and the doctrine of the original. (Note that various modern renderings of the classic text of the BCP have usually edited it in terms of leaving out the unacceptable and importing the desirable – according to the whims and fancies of those who have done the work.) To use the texts in such a book would be altogether preferable, I think, to any of the rites in the 1979 ECUSA prayer book, which is so affected in so many parts by the revolutionary spirit of the 1960s.

But to do this task – to produce this Study Edition – does not mean abandoning the original – be it the text of 1662 or of 1928 or in Canada of 1962 – either as a Formulary or as a way of worship.

We need to be aware that people who want to say goodbye to the classic texts of English Christianity – the KJV & the classic BCP & the hymns of Watts & Wesley – do not usually bear in mind the power of these classic texts to stand against the secularism, the prominent individualism and the perversions of the human rights and therapeutic cultures of our day. Modern Bible translations and Liturgies are often produced in order to incorporate one or other of these contemporary concerns of our day (from feminism to environmentalism) and so, instead of making the Church to be in the world but not of the world and yet for the world, they have the tendency to make it affirming of and confirming of the world at the very points where the spirit of the world needs to be most challenged. These modern texts are produced to be relevant to our times and that often means compromised by our times.

One great value of the use of a classic text in the historic language of prayer for worship is that it enables the user (after he has become familiar with it) to move the more quickly out of the secular world and into the presence of God, from the affirmation of the world into the beauty of holiness. The different language and style enable the soul to shift gear and to move into the highway of holiness. Further, in using a classic text the worshipper has a sense of belonging to a vast company of saints united in the worship of the Lord. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and the proof of these points is only in the regular, sincere & trial use of the classic BCP (which is in print from Oxford University Press of NYC).

Also, the importance of the classic text of the BCP is in terms of it being the embodiment of what Anglicans have called Reformed Catholicism, the polity, religion and piety based upon the Scriptures as these were received, understood and used by the Early Church. Thus the BCP along with the Ordinal and Articles (printed within the covers of the BCP) are Formularies – stating the basic content of the Catholic Faith as received in the Anglican Way.

Those who merely want the immediate, the experiential, and the relevant in their congregations often have no roots and when the strong winds blow they can be like a house built upon the sand. They have little connection with those who have gone before them in the Way and they leave little to send down the Way for the upcoming generations. In the great Supermarket of Religions that is the USA religious scene, the classic Anglican Way should be advertised as a modern yet historic Faith with ancient and sure foundations, and with a sense of the communion of the saints through space and time.

The Rev Dr Peter Toon February 4, 2004

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Bishop John Howe and Benjamin Franklin

I wish to make two points with regard to what John Howe wrote in his ten points against the Anglican Mission in America a few days ago.

First of all, I want to repeat what I have said of all the bishops who have formed the Network. They are courageous. Thus Bishop John is courageous. They are so in the sense that they have stood up against the leadership of the Episcopal Church where that leadership believes it is being most innovatory and thus is being most progressive and relevant in the modern secular world of the West. They have stood up against the new sexuality which celebrates same-sex partnerships as allowed and blessed by “God”. They will pay the consequences of this opposition, even if they have support from Primates. (Please recall that in the late 1970s and 1980 those who opposed the ordination of women and the imposition of a book of varied services which was falsely called the BCP likewise showed great courage. Let us not forget this for from them came the Continuing Anglican Church movement and the whole phenomenon of Extra-Mural Anglicans, -- a phenomenon which the Network seems to undervalue. Strangely within the Network of 2004 are those who were happy to persecute the courageous souls of this earlier period, those who formed the Continuum.)

Secondly, I want to quote the great Benjamin Franklin, who in 1776 is reported to have said: "If we do not hang together we shall most certainly hang separately." Whether he said it or not, it is a fine quotation. And, regrettably, as not a few brethren who have long been around the Episcopal scene have told me, Anglicans have been hanging their brethren out separately for a long time, beginning in my experience with those institutionalist Anglo-Catholics who were quite willing to condemn those who stuck by the 1928 BCP, such that the motto of self-proclaimed Orthodox Anglicans of 1979 or 2004 appears to be "No friends to the right."

Let us take a large view. The Network needs and should welcome the friends to the right – the AMiA, the REC, the APA, the historic Continuing Churches (ACA,PCK,ACC) and their offshoots and so on. Likewise those on the right need and should welcome those to their left! In fact, all who aspire to be genuine Anglicans need each other and, further, and importantly, the only basis on which they have any hope of being united is on the historic formularies, which though belonging to yesterday, are in fact the basis for unity today and tomorrow for Anglicans of all kinds in the USA.

Built upon the Scriptures, Creeds and classic Formularies there can be Anglican unity with principled comprehensiveness, that is unity in diversity of churchmanship and origins. On the one hand, the Network needs to recognize quickly that the 1979 prayer book cannot ever be a formulary and, on the other hand, the extreme anglo-catholics of the Continuum need to realize that the Anglican Missal cannot ever be a formulary -- however both books may be seen as permissible alternative services not as the true Common Prayer.

Let those on the left look to the right and those on the right look to the left and let all walk together with the Spirit as soldiers in the one army of the Lord.

Feb 3, 2004

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.),
Christ Church, Biddulph Moor & St Anne's, Brown Edge

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Bishop of Cen Florida, AMiA, Anglican Unity & Formularies

from the Bishop of Central Florida - on the Network and the AMiA and why the ECUSA Network is "orthodox"

What I find missing in the mindset and productions of courageous Bishops such as John Howe of central Florida is any regular, obvious and stated concern for what I have been calling Extra-Mural Anglicans which includes the REC, the APA, and the traditional Continuing Churches - PCK, ACA & ACC plus their offshoots. I can see why they should be concerned about AMiA and why the latter wants to be free from association with an erring, lapsed church such as the ECUSA is.

However, in this present crisis for American Anglicanism there is surely an invitation from divine providence to find a way to bring together all Anglicans in the USA into some kind of new fellowship and to demonstrate to the Primates and their Commission (which begins work very soon) that there is a will by American Anglicans to put their own house in order.

It looks as though after this crisis we are going to have MORE Anglican denominations in the USA than before it arrived and that we are not listening to the gracious voice of Christian reason and unity prompted by the Holy Ghost, the unifier and purifier of the people of God. That is centrifugal forces of self-defence and self-promotion are more dominant in this current mess than are centripetal forces of grace and unity.

Please read what John Howe states in defence of his group and against the AMiA and pray for the unity of the Anglican Way and Household in the USA.

In terms of what is orthodoxy, and so that we all truly stand in one place, I once more propose that we need to return to the classic Anglican formulation of commitment to the Scriptures, the Creeds & the historic, classic Anglican Formularies (which do not include the 1979 prayer book to which the Network bishops are regrettably committed as their chief formulary - thus weakening their claim to historic orthodoxy! If only they would regard this 1979 book as a Book of Alternative Services and embrace the true Formulary of the Proestant Episcopal Church of the USA - the 1789/1892/1928 BCP!).


Date: Sat, 31 Jan 2004 12:14:29 -0500
Subject: John Howe: Why the Network is not a Compromise


1) Archbishops Emmanuel Kolini and Yong Ping Chung decided to proceed on their own in consecrating Chuck Murphy and John Rogers. There had been a very carefully orchestrated conversation for several years, with a large number of primates CONSIDERING the possibility of consecrating "missionary bishops." But their timetable was quite different. Had Kolini and Yong Ping waited it is probable there would have been a much more significant number of supporters for creating an AMiA type of effort. One that might have been irresistible to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Instead, they acted on their own, and ended up isolating themselves from the rest of the primates, with an endeavor that is at BEST tangentially related to the Anglican Communion, and specifically NOT recognized by either the former or the present Archbishop of Canterbury.

2) In the sharpest contrast to that, the newly formed Network has already been recognized by a dozen primates as being in "full communion" with the rest of the Anglican Communion, and it has the explicit encouragement of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

3) The Network is wholly committed to "upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as this Church has received them" (i.e., it is totally opposed to the innovations of the last six months regarding human sexuality), but unlike the AMiA, it is working within the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, and with the full backing of a numerical
majority of the world's Anglicans, and - we believe - shortly with a majority of the primates of the Anglican Communion.

4) Those who choose to leave the Diocese of Central Florida are leaving a bishop and a diocese that are as committed as they are to remaining orthodox. They are leaving not because of a quarrel with the bishop or the diocese, but because they cannot stand being part of a larger community (ECUSA) that accepts in some of its dioceses practices and teaching they find abhorrent. However, they say they want to remain Anglicans. To the
extent they ARE Anglicans (which is open to question; see #1 above), they are still part of a larger community (the Anglican Communion) that accepts in some of its provinces practices and teaching they find abhorrent. A somewhat strange parallel, I think.

5) Ironically, the key, essential element in being Anglican is being in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. The AMiA is not in communion with the ABC, AND the present ABC personally favors the very things these folks find so objectionable (although, thankfully, he has pledged not to further that agenda).

6) So: in order to be "out from under" the compromise of ECUSA, those who would leave either a) abandon their property, leaving both themselves and the diocese greatly impoverished - themselves for having to start over with new facilities, and the diocese because it does not have the resources to maintain the properties once they leave, OR b) as we have seen in several places, they enter into a terrible lawsuit against brothers and sisters who believe the same things they believe - one that impoverishes everyone but
the lawyers, and one that flies directly in the face of Biblical teaching, and makes the Church's witness a laughingstock to the outside world.

7) This diocese has not only joined the Network, but it passed, by a super- majority, a Canonical change that makes same-sex blessings illegal. We are in a stronger position than we have ever been.

8) The Archbishop's Commission has not even met for the first time yet, and Archbishop Drexel Gomez has indicated that he believes it will not be a paper tiger.

9) The Global South primates published a schedule for the Episcopal Church to mend its ways. Their key date was Easter. No one expects there to be any change in the posture of ECUSA by Easter, but wouldn't it be prudent to see what the next steps are on the parts of the primates?

10) Every time an orthodox priest, deacon, family, vestry or congregation leaves an orthodox diocese, that diocese is greatly weakened, and the cause of the other side is strengthened.

Rt. Rev. John Howe is Bishop of Central Florida

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.),
Christ Church, Biddulph Moor & St Anne's, Brown Edge;
V-P of the Prayer Book Society of the USA

Ramifications of ECUSA's Actions

January 30, 2004

These are some of the ramifications that have been reported as of the end of December 2003. The fallout is expected to continue in 2004.


1. The following Churches have postponed or suspended dialogue with the Episcopal and/or Anglican Church:

• Roman Catholic Church
• Russian Orthodox Church
• Coptic Orthodox Church
• Syrian Orthodox Church
• Armenian Orthodox Church

2. Both the Roman Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox have expressed solidarity with orthodox Episcopalians, as have the worldwide leaders of the Anglican Communion. The Russian Orthodox Church specifically expressed a desire to “maintain contacts and cooperation with those members of the Episcopal Church in the USA who clearly declared their loyalty to the moral teaching of the Holy Gospel and the Ancient Undivided Church.”

3. Interfaith Dialogue Meeting Between the Anglican Communion and Al Azhar Al Sharif, one of the most authoritative centers of the Islamic World, was cancelled because of Muslim outrage over the consecration.

International Anglican Communion

1. Nine provinces within the Anglican Communion (representing over 38 million Anglicans – a majority), have announced they are in some form of impaired or broken communion with ECUSA:

• South East Asia
• Kenya
• Nigeria
• Uganda
• Tanzania
• Rwanda
• Central Africa
• Congo
• Southern Cone (South America)
• Zambia (diocese)

Within ECUSA

1. The new Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes has been formally launched. It was formed at the suggestion of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Organizing Convocation was held January 19-20, 2004, in Plano, TX. Twelve Episcopal dioceses sent representatives to the Convocation.
2. Broad-based harassment, persecution and intimidation tactics used against orthodox clergy and laity and parishes by revisionist bishops, dioceses and/or churches.
3. Some dioceses have repudiated the consecration of Robinson and refused to recognize him as a bishop.
4. There has been widespread redirection of funds away from dioceses and the national church.
5. Some Episcopalians have already left the church and many others are still trying to determine what to do.