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Divisions in the Body of Christ: Four Examples

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Jun 27, 2008

Up until June 23rd, it was expected that conservative Anglican prelates meeting in Israel this week would announce a break with the Anglican communion. The Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCon), convened primarily by African Anglican bishops, is being held at the same time as the traditional Lambeth Conference in England. Many Africans bishops, and other conservatives throughout the world, believe that there are irreconcilable doctrinal and moral differences within the Anglican communion, especially since the elevation of an active homosexual, the American Gene Robinson, to the episcopacy.

But on June 23rd at the opening session of GAFCon, Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola, announced that there would be no schism, that secession would not solve the problem, and that the conservative bishops were “Anglican by conviction” and did not intend to start another Church. After that, divisions emerged even at GAFCon, and the whole affair fizzled into the latitudinarianism so characteristic of the Anglican mentality.

Meanwhile, the Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church recently proposed to the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople that Ukrainian Catholics would be interested in maintaining “dual unity.” Under this plan, Eastern Catholics (already in communion with Rome) would also enter into communion with the Byzantine Church under the Patriarch of Constantinople. At a superficial level, it is technically possible to conceive of such dual unity if the requirements of Constantinople are simply a subset of the requirements of Rome.

But color this unlikely. If the Ukrainian Catholic Church is truly Catholic, then it really cannot be in communion with Constantinople if there are impediments to Constantinople’s communion with Rome. Moreover, concern for precedence and exclusive recognition on the part of the Orthodox Churches is legendary, rivaling that of Rome with far less warrant. Look for politics in the Patriarchates. Communion is far more than a checklist of minimal conditions.

Back in the Latin Rite, I also note that the Society of Saint Pius X was given until the end of the month to respond to new terms from Rome for the SSPX to come back into full communion. In addition to acceptance of the legitimacy of the teachings of Vatican II and the validity of the ordinary form of the Roman Rite (Novus Ordo), the SSPX must agree to avoid portraying itself as a rival magisterium, to respect the authority of the Pope, to avoid personal attacks on the Pope, and to refrain from public comments that offend against “ecclesiastical charity.”

Over the past few days, the SSPX repeatedly indicated that it would not even respond to what it regards as an ultimatum. But today the Society offered a minimal negative response, in advance of the deadline, so it is at least possible that the Society wishes to keep negotiations alive.

Finally, the vote is still out on the new liturgical translations slated for approval at the June meeting of the US Bishops in Florida. These translations of the Proper prayers of the Roman Missal were done in accordance with Rome’s current guidelines. Their purpose is to restore fidelity to the Latin and to revive the Scriptural and liturgical vocabulary which was lost when the Novus Ordo was first translated into English. While two-thirds of those present voted for the translations, the oldline coalition of theological minimalists with tin ears voted in opposition, still claiming that only flat, banal language is suitable for Americans because a more formal liturgical style sounds “archaic” and “stilted”.

Since many bishops were not present, the required two-thirds majority of the entire body was not obtained, and the remaining balloting must be done by mail. There are undoubtedly pros and cons to the discussion, but it is distressing to see the same old iconoclasts still so hard at work. This time, however, they are in the minority. Regardless of this particular vote, the smart money says they cannot stop the reform of the reform for long.

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