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Wednesday, May 07, 2008



Sad to say, but it is already too late for a wholesale reuion with the Catholic Church. Any decision, either way, such as Cardinal Kasper requests would simply formalize the fractures that already exist in the Anglican Communion and accelerate the break-up.

Whatever happens at Lambeth, Anglicans will only return to Rome one parish at a time or one person at a time as has been the case over the last few years.


There is discussion on this issue over at "The Continuum" an Anglican site. It is a good site. However, there is some Pontificating going on by some Anglican's regarding Card. Kasper's comments.


Good on Cardinal Kasper for pointing out the obvious and pushing for clarity.

I think it's fascinating that N.T. Wright is apparently considered a serious contender for the next Archbishop of Canterbury. An Anglican primate who actually believes the Faith and the Bible -- could Anglicanism survive the shock?

Nick Milne

I think it's fascinating that N.T. Wright is apparently considered a serious contender for the next Archbishop of Canterbury. An Anglican primate who actually believes the Faith and the Bible -- could Anglicanism survive the shock?

Some implications and possibilities:

- After the weak and even sour milk to which the bulk of the Anglican faithful have become accustomed, Wright's enthronement would likely drive away many thousands of very foolish people. Not at first, though; the sort of person who would object to him doesn't know the first thing about him, at the moment, and will thus have to wait for the British media to out him as "hardline" and "conservative" before making their informed decision. He's attracted some attention already for various "controversial" statements, of course, but he remains more or less obscure to those not living in Durham or familiar with his scholarly work.

- A possible result of backlash against him would be the Anglican church, at least in England, becoming somewhat leaner and more orthodox. I seem to remember certain pundits declaring this a sort of best-case scenario for the Catholic Church on the election of Benedict, though whether that shall prove to be the reality or not is more than I can say.

- All of which would likely lead to pronouncements of outrage and doom from your American archpriestess, who could hardly differ more from Bp. Wright if she tried (and one suspects that she does, in fact, try). If she thinks Williams is too retrograde and stubborn for her to handle, Wright would probably make her spontaneously combust.

- As Wright grows in confidence in his new position, he might find himself moved (maybe) to rebuke Prince Charles for his constant bouts of public foolishness where religious matters are concerned. The general public, torn between their kneejerk resistance to religious meddling and their love of seeing the royals taken down a peg, will react in ways and to degrees currently unknown to me.

- All of this is great, but there is one cause for concern, perhaps. Inasmuch as having Wright as primate would do wonders for the sincerity, precision and intellectual legitimacy of ecumenical discussions between the Anglican and Catholic churches, it must not be forgotten that in N.T. Wright we see a man who has immersed himself in history to a quite elaborate degree and has not, contra Newman, ceased to be Anglican. The trade-off we might have to face is closely attached to this. Under Wright there could eventually be a more robust and rigorous Anglicanism, which is good as far as the general Christian milieu is concerned, but it would necessarily mean a transition away from the current state of affairs, which, though miserable in many degrees, is so miserable that it sometimes sees large groups of Anglicans throwing up their arms en masse and turning their exasperated eyes to Rome.

Still, interesting to think about, and speaking as someone who cited The New Testament and the People of God in a paper only this morning, I would find Wright's enthronement a most welcome turn of events.


I'd say our Holy Father Leo XIII did a great deal in "clarifying" Anglicanism's identity over a century ago with Apostolicæ Curæ.


"I'd say our Holy Father Leo XIII did a great deal in "clarifying" Anglicanism's identity over a century ago with Apostolicæ Curæ."

I suspect Leo would nonetheless agree that Anglicanism's self-understanding remains a highly relevant topic.


God's will be done. Viewing Wright's enthronement as something good is perplexing to me. In the short term, perhaps, but heresy is heresy and Anglicans, with the Queen and not the Magesterium as the head of their church are heretics. Why prolong the sin and division? I'm gleeful that the Anglican body is crumbling and many are swimming the Tiber. This is as it should be. Anglicanism's foundations are based on the whims of an adulterous, murderous, corrupt man of insatiable appetites. Wright, the educated and spiritual man you claim he is, must still consider Holy Mother Church a stumbling block, and therefore he leads people in error.

Ed Peters

Right, Thomas. What's to clarify here?


Thomas and Ed,

Perhaps you need to think beyond Eleatic concepts. The context of Cardinal Kasper's request is plain: Much has happened since 1896 in terms of the doctrinal, moral and ecclesial evolution of Anglicanism. More precisely, the clarification requested by Cardinal Kasper is not with respect to the validity of orders (this question is settled) but is framed in terms of both the direction(s) the Anglican community wishes to trudge and the status of its ecumenical intentions.

Dave Deavel

While I admire his biblical work in many ways, the elevation of N.T. Wright would not help Anglicanism move in a Catholic direction. And contrary to Nick Milne, he's not all that deep in history past the first century.

Brian Schuettler

"...he's not all that deep in history past the first century."

Wright has addressed, in a profound way, Christology as it developed in the first century and that period is the principal focus of his opus, expecially his contribution to the life and writings of Saint Paul. I do not believe that a conclusion can validly be drawn that this center of focus in a specific time frame or context inevitably leads to a lack of depth concerning the history of later centuries.


"While I admire his biblical work in many ways, the elevation of N.T. Wright would not help Anglicanism move in a Catholic direction."

It might help it move in a Christian direction. More truth is better than less truth.

Dave Deavel

Steve Greydanus,

I agree, sort of. The problem is that Wright has a sort of Evangelical Mere Christianity that, as Newman said, is no match for the forces of theological Liberalism. So he might help people come to some sort of "basic Christianity," but (and this is my experience of Wright devotees) 1) they tend to nurse a sort of anti-Catholicism and 2) they fall, like Wright himself, into lots of errors like a belief in women priests and a sort of instinctive political leftism.

Brian Schuettler,

My comments on Wright were based on the statements I've seen, in his books and lectures, about theology past the biblical period. For a good commentary on some recent evidence see Richard John Neuhaus's commentary in First Things (it's either April or May issue) about the perils of intellectual bishops. It agrees with my reading and adds more points to ponder--including some ridiculous statements about Pope Benedict's views.

Dave Deavel

I have the Neuhaus piece before me, "The Possibilities and Perils of Being a Really Smart Bishop," FIRST THINGS(April 2008): 57-59. The article is not available on the website except for subscribers, so I will quote a couple of Neuhaus's passages.

P. 58: Regarding SURPRISED BY HOPE, Wright's new book, Neuhaus has praise for Wright's focus on the need for a "greater accent in Christian piety and liturgy on the final resurrection of the dead and the coming of the Kingdom of God"; "But," says Neuhaus, "his argument is grievously marred by his heaping of scorn on centuries of Christian piety revolving around the hope of 'going to heaven,' and his repeated and unseemly suggestion that he is the first to have understood the New Testament correctly, or at least the first since a few thinkers in the patristic era got part of the gospel right.

"Unseemly, too, is the pervasive edge of anti-Catholicism, although I suppose that is to be expected from those who must justify their separation from the centering authority of the ancient Church. In refuting Catholic ecclesiology, Wright invokes the authority of what he calls the 'magisterial work' of Canadian theologian Douglas Farrow in the 1990s, apparently unaware that Farrow has long since become a Catholic. Both unseemly and risible is Wright's claim that Pope Benedict is coming around to his own view of the traditional doctrine of purgatory, which Wright mockingly repudiates. Paraphrasing a text by Cardinal Ratzinger, Wright claims that it is 'a quite radical climb-down from Aquinas, Dante, Newman, and all that went in between.' Bishop Wright would do well to consult Ratzinger-Benedict's encyclical SPE SALVI and what it says about purgatory. As the pope recently said in a meeting with Italian clergy: 'God creates justice. We must keep this in mind. For this reason, it also seemed important to me to write about purgatory in the encyclical, which for me is such an obvious truth, so evident and also so necessary and comforting, that it cannot be omitted.' It appears that Bishop Wright's tutelage of the pope still has a way to go."

p. 59: ". . .Wright debunks traditional ideas of heaven by noting that Jesus could not have been referring to heaven when he said that the good thief would be with him TODAY in paradise because Jesus still had to descend to hell and be resurrected and therefore was not himself in heaven on that day. Gotcha. Now why didn't Thomas Aquinas and all those other smart theologians think of that? Here and elsewhere, N.T. Wright is as literalistic as the staunchest of fundamentalists."

Read the entire article for more.

I would add that, though I've not read the entire trilogy, I read much of the first volume, including the extensive prolegomena on theological and biblical hermeneutics in the first volume. There is much to be affirmed there, though I would note that 1) he either won't admit or doesn't know that some of his sources are Catholic, specifically Lonerganian, and 2) there seem to be the same sort of pot-shots, though more subtle, against traditional Catholic ideas.

So no, I disagree with the claims that he is deep in history and that he will advance the catholicity of the Church of England.

Brian Schuettler

Thank you, Dave, for those quotes from Father Neuhaus' review at First Things. I am about four issues behind, so I haven't yet read it! But it certainly gives me a context to your thoughts about Wright being wrong and not being "deep in history beyond the first century".

I am too lazy to go into my library right now and find the review..mea culpa...and,besides,my beer may get warm! But I don't fully understand why your quotes demonstrate evidence that Wright does not have an extensive knowledge of the history of the Church beyond the first century. They, (the quotes) you used as evidence, merely reveal that Wright's opinion about his study of history disagrees with other theologian's opinions. There is no formal authorized Church interpretation of history, first century or otherwise, there is only history, a human endeavor. The Church is only infallible in matters of faith and morals, under the Vicar of Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit. You, I, or anyone else can agree to disagree...but frankly, one theologian's view is as good as another about history.

Now, having said that, I realize the real issue to your mind isn't history, it is theology. Your comments reveal that Neuhaus has discerned that Wright is not a Catholic! He seems to rub his nose into Church teaching in matters such as Purgatory and actually disagrees with then Cardinal/Theologian/Future Pope Joseph Ratzinger. Is this a surprise to you? We have uncounted CATHOLIC THEOLOGIANS, SOME OF THEM BISHOPS, who do not agree with Benedict, before or after he ascended to the Chair of Peter.

Bottom line, Wright is not a Catholic, but he does have a deep understanding of history beyond the first century.

Dave Deavel


OK, I guess you admit my contention that Wright won't be of much use in "catholicizing" the C of E. On the other point, you've presented no evidence of his depth of knowledge of history, unless your mere assertion settles it.

I used the Neuhaus quotes to demonstrate at least that Wright has no knowledge even of the last thirty years, judging from his quotations of Ratzinger and Douglas Farrow, and of the rest of theological history, given his naive belief that he alone has understood the New Testament, especially in such matters as Jesus' words to the good thief. You are right that I was thinking of theological history, primarily. The Neuhaus reference to an insinuation that only Wright has understood the Gospel is part of my feel that he has no notion of history. This is part of what I think is an extremely defective understanding of Tradition. And in respect to Tradition and history, Rowan Williams, despite his own problems on such topics as homosexuality, is head and shoulders above Wright and much more "Catholic."

If you have evidence of some deep understanding of history on Wright's part, I'm open to hearing it. But again, you saying it is not evidence.

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