Why I left Rome for Canterbury: a reflection

Discussion in 'Non-Anglican Discussion' started by Toma, Oct 8, 2015.

  1. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Hi,

    As "Consular", I made many posts critical of Rome and was very rash about it. For the benefit of a forum user who asked, I'd like to set out some more rational principles that led me away from Rome.

    Foremost, there is a "Trinity" of subjects that does it for me:

    1. The Blessed Virgin Mary,
    2. Papal Infallibility/Supremacy
    3. Purgatory.

    These three are really one, for the portrayal of God that arises from them.

    Firstly: Purgatory, because it is the most easily explained. The Roman Catholic teaching is that souls who die in the mercy of God, yet without being "perfect" in holiness, receive purgation. They are "cleansed" to whatever degree they require it. This is because of the fact that God may forgive sin, but in His justice He must "punish" or clean away the effects of sin.

    I find this objectionable because of the vision of God it creates. Imagine a person who forgives you, but continues punishing you for things that are supposedly forgiven. This is senseless. It certainly isn't the God presented by Christ in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. If it is forgiven, it is forgiven. It is dealt with.

    Secondly: papal supremacy, and infallibility. These two are really linked, for although Supremacy was established and justified many centuries before Infallibility, I believe the former led naturally to the latter. They were based on the same principles.

    Papal Supremacy says that the Bishop of Rome has immediate divine authority & jurisdiction over all bishops, priests, deacons, and Christians in the entire world. Now, this is hardly evident from many centuries of Church Fathers, let alone the Holy Scriptures. I think it's a ghastly rendition of authority, power, and Christian ministry.

    Papal Infallibility says that the Bishop of Rome, when speaking "ex cathedra" - from his Episcopal Authority as supreme pastor of the Church - using a very specific formula and intending very specific things, may speak with the absolute unerring truth of the Holy Spirit in matters of faith and morals. I find this particularly mad, if only because in the early Church all the Apostles were infallible in their teaching. Why it should remain solely to Peter is a mystery. Again, there is not much Patristic stuff to defend this.

    Thirdly: the BVM. This is a more personal thing than a cerebral thing. As a RC, I've experienced every level of Marian devotion available to the Church: the Rosary, "Total Consecration", "The Secret of Mary", "33 Days to Morning Glory", icon-veneration, the Memorare, the Sub tuum praesidium, Marian-themed homilies... etc.

    What I find problematic with the Virgin is not necessarily veneration per se, but the mode of veneration. A "Hail Mary" is merely a prayer for intercession. Since we form One Body in Christ, I see no problem with asking a saint to pray for us. That first "mode" is fine by me. What happens when you get to different modes of veneration, however? Mary becomes less and less like a human person in the words of the devotee, and more and more like a God.

    As Louis de Montfort says in "Total Consecration to Mary", after having explained that Jesus is beholden to the prayers of His Mother by virtue of the Fifth Commandment:

    He claims that only through Mary does Jesus reign. He claims that God and Mary are equal in generating or imparting divine grace to souls. He claims that God has given her power over His only-begotten Son.

    Although it all sounds very God-centred or God-oriented, the practical effect is very different. Go to any average parish church at a daily Mass, and tell me how many people are reciting the rosary. Again, the rosary in itself isn't that bad, but the frequency with which she has become relied upon belies a certain dependency on a creature that I can't stomach anymore.

    I've heard so very many Catholics say that during the lowest times in their lives, when they couldn't pray they simply entrusted everything to Mary or prayed a rosary, and they got better. Unfortunately, they don't go on to admit that all they ever do is pray the rosary, and rely on Mary for everything. God becomes a remote, tyrannical sovereign who is too disgusted with His sinful creatures that we must rely on innocent, merciful Mary to bring us to Him. Refer to the story in the "Little Flowers" of St. Francis of Assisi, wherein the saint sees Jesus ready to hurl thunder at the Earth for its sins, but only stops because Mary pleads Him not to.

    So, to sum up, I believe that these three core doctrines not only are wrong, but that they psychologically turn our vision of God into a bully, a monster, and an oppressive jerk. If we have to rely on a spiritually-crushing Church bureaucracy, an omnipresent human Mother figure, and a strange purgatorial forgiveness-that-is-not-really-forgiveness, we lose all hope of salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ.

    As to "Why Anglican, then?", it comes down to episcopacy without tyranny, devotion without exaggeration, rationality without rationalism, the Eucharist without superstition, and most importantly, the glorious Word of God, the Bible, combined with the Church Fathers. Also I love English things. ;)

    Any other Catholic-to-Anglican stories, your own or those you know?
     
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  2. Ide

    Ide Active Member

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    Toma,

    Thank you for this list! Though I am not a former Roman Catholic these are among the precise reasons why I haven't turned to the RC church in my search. Once I learned more about the history of the early church, #2 became even more important to me as well.

    I really do appreciate the models of hierarchy found within the Anglican communion and the Orthodox churches. Though some people would happily eschew all structured leadership, I can attest that having it is a measure of strength and protection not found in all religious communities. However, I also can't abide by the idea of infallibility and the supremacy of Rome over all the churches. I think we have a nice middle ground!

    I have visited several RC services and churches, but the points you listed haven't permitted me to explore the tradition in any further depth.
     
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  3. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    "Middle Ground" is precisely the term to describe classical, loyal Anglicanism; in fact, it is core to her identity. I think George Herbert can say it best. He is one of our greatest saints, and let's not forget it.

    I Joy, dear Mother, when I view
    Thy perfect lineaments, and hue
    Both sweet and bright.

    [A symmetrical, balanced, beautiful, light, and airy Classical Temple)

    Beautie in thee takes up her place,
    And dates her letters from thy face,
    When she doth write.

    [A.D. system, saying the Church of England is the Body of Christ]

    A fine aspect in fit aray,
    Neither too mean, nor yet too gay,
    Shows who is best.

    [Not too little, not too much; i.e. not Puritan, not Roman]

    Outlandish looks may not compare:
    For all they either painted are,
    Or else undrest.

    [Endless chasubles, lights, processions, Jesuits, Friars, Monks, concealing emptiness]

    She on the hills, which wantonly
    Allureth all in hope to be
    By her preferr’d,

    [Rome always tries to tell everyone she's the Only One, and seduces everybody]

    Hath kiss’d so long her painted shrines,
    That ev’n her face by kissing shines,
    For her reward.

    [Rome's pride is immense because she adores all her altars, relics, etc. and has her reward]

    She in the valley is so shie
    Of dressing, that her hair doth lie
    About her eares:

    [Puritans, on the other hand, dwell far too low and wear almost nothing for their dignity]

    While she avoids her neighbours pride,
    She wholly goes on th’ other side,
    And nothing wears.

    [Avoiding Rome's arrogance, she is arrogant in her literalism, and sense of personal infallibility]

    But dearest Mother, (what those misse)
    The mean thy praise and glorie is,
    And long may be.

    [The middle ground is held by you, dear Church of England, as balanced and good]

    Blessed be God, whose love it was
    To double-thee with his grace,
    And none but thee.

    [God has given the Anglican Church alone a balanced, moderate faith to challenge them all]
     
  4. Swordswoman

    Swordswoman New Member Anglican

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    Hi Toma, the three things you mention are the reasons why my husband didn't want to be RC. There's more to that story but I'll post in the New Members section. Anyway, I was RC and the way that Purgatory is explained in everything that I've read is that we are forgiven spiritually for all our sins but the temporal effects of our sins is what we have to get rid of in Purgatory. Not saying it's right, just commenting on it.

    And I love the George Herbert poem! You wrote the comments after each verse I guess? I'm going to read more about him, thanks!
     
  5. anglican74

    anglican74 Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Fascinating reflecions. Any more on this?
     
  6. brndurham

    brndurham New Member Anglican

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    I'll be honest, I didn't have as much of a problem with Purgatory when I was RC as some might- though I kind of had to let go of the Roman dogma of it, seeing as my theology shifted from Satisfaction theory to Christus Victor as I became Anglican, I found it was not reconcilable with the Atonement theory I hold to now.

    So much, when it comes to theology, is dependent on what view of God someone takes, and the Medieval Catholic view of a bullying deity that refuses to forgive someone without Mary's intercession is just as heinous as the Calvinist view that developed from it; that of a bullying deity that, instead of needing Mary to intercede for each individual, needed a blood sacrifice for His wrath to appeased. Seeing as Jesus's method was simply 'go, and sin no more, your sins are forgiven you,' clearly, since Jesus is also God, God doesn't need a legal exchange to buy pardon. So, instead, the Son works with the Father to make atonement, and sacrifices Himself to buy back the human race from Sin, Death, and the Devil, as the old Christmas carol goes, "To save us all from Satan's power/When we were gone astray."

    There is no emphasis on this in traditional Catholicism, much less medieval, or even early Protestantism. It's just the same old focus on appeasing God's anger, or having someone else do it for us. The Roman Catholic Church doesn't seem to realise that there is, in fact, a way to retain the orthodox belief that Christ suffered, died and rose again to save us without imparting a specific medieval theory about it and passing it off as infallible dogma.

    And that's one of the biggest things that caused me to switch over to Anglicanism; trying to make dogma a specific theological view that may or may not actually agree with the Church Fathers, to the exclusion of the others. Take their view on the Eucharist, for example, and the imposition of Transubstantiation. Seeing as I actually view Sacramental Union as the nearest approximation of the Fathers' viewpoint, since they did, in fact, have slightly differing views (and this is not a bad thing), I would be considered a heretic by the RCs, anyway. Even though I hold the same thing they do in all other aspects Eucharistic doctrine, and revere the Sacrament of the Altar as much as any other Catholic (and considering the state of current Catholic belief in the subject, probably more so), it still wouldn't be good enough, because Transubstantiation is De Fide. Same thing with any other dogma that someone holds similar, but not exactly the same views on. It seems like, rather than trying to curb heterodoxy, they're just trying to be the worldwide ecclesiastical thought police. Don't hold Immaculate Conception? Heretic! Don't hold the exact same view of Purgatory? Heretic! I mean, yes, the Church is responsible for making sure they're teaching the Faith, but for goodness sakes, even the Fathers didn't agree on everything besides the Creeds. There has to be a balance between letting the Church turn into the kind of wishy-washy feel-good high church Unitarian body that is becoming the hallmark of your standard, establishment Anglican parish in Britain and North America, and being a wannabe Stasi in chimeres and canterbury caps. And Roman Catholicism seems to be leaning heavily towards the latter, even now.
     
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  7. Aidan

    Aidan Well-Known Member

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    What is "satisfaction theory" and Christus Victor please?
     
  8. brndurham

    brndurham New Member Anglican

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    Satisfaction Theory is the theory of the Atonement that Christ died as a way of satisfying the offended honour of God, as sin is a legal offence of lese-majeste against the honour of God, as heavenly sovereign. Therefore, Christ died because only an infinite sacrifice could appease the infinitely offended honour of God, and avoid punishment.

    Christus Victor is the theory of the Atonement that Christ died as a ransom sacrifice, redeeming the human race from the enslavement of Sin, Death, and the Devil like God did with the Hebrews in Egypt.
     
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  9. nkygreg

    nkygreg Member

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    I understand the struggle. Being in the US, I tend to go back and forth. The problem here is, the Anglican expression here is the Episcopal Church USA. It is so extremely liberal.
     
  10. alphaomega

    alphaomega Active Member

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    I love our via media also. It makes sense and just feels right. ( btw I really like your icon and Jesus Prayer)
     
  11. Christina

    Christina Active Member

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    Really interesting - thank you. The reference to heterodoxy is interesting - the EO would consider the RC heterodox.
     
  12. DICKSON NG'HILY

    DICKSON NG'HILY Member Anglican

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    I do subscribe to the later
     
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  13. Anglo1

    Anglo1 Member

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    Whether the Purgatory that Rome describes is accurate or not, I do tend to lean towards the stance that there is some intermediate state between the grave and the beyond. Course, soul sleep also makes perfect sense to me as well and I know that doesn't show up on the Anglican side of things, but to go to a reward or a punishment before the Final Resurrection and Day of Judgement, in rational thinking, makes no sense. Jesus does say that He is coming and that His reward is with him to give to every man for what he has done in this life. Yet, we've been told for countless centuries the exact opposite.

    Just saying...
     
  14. Severus

    Severus New Member

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    Thank you for this reflection, Toma. I think I agree with the things you wrote. But how did you analyse these questions? I've got a few books at home but the authors all say different things. About the Papacy for example. Catholic authors claim that the fathers support this doctrine while Orthodox authors reject that. I can't study all the old texts now and I refuse to believe that God wants me to get a doctorate in theology to know the truth.
     
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  15. Ide

    Ide Active Member

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    Amen to that! I think it that it is nearly impossible to wade through all the conflicting viewpoints between each church body. I have taken the route of visiting churches, observing the services and speaking with clergy and laity to learn more. Personally, I am still searching for a church home, but I acknowledge that at some point I will have to make a decision on a community of faith if I want to deepen my faith further. I think it has to be a combination of informed education and where we encounter the Holy Spirit in prayer and worship.
     
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  16. Tuxedo America

    Tuxedo America Member

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    The "Roman" view is that when you die, you are judged immediately. This is the particular judgement. After this, your soul goes either to heaven, purgatory or hell. During the general judgement (final resurrection, as you put it), all those who have died are reunited with their bodies, and once the judgement is complete, they return soul and body to wherever they had previously been.

    For the already deceased, the point of the general judgement isn't to reconsider their judgement or judge them again, but to reveal to them and others all their deeds- good and bad- and what impact they had on others.
     

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