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Monday, June 18, 2007

Wither the Episcopal Church?

Via Mark Steyn at NRO, an Episcopalian priest has decided she's also a Muslim.

[Rev. Ann Holmes] Redding's bishop, the Rt. Rev. Vincent Warner, says he accepts Redding as an Episcopal priest and a Muslim, and that he finds the interfaith possibilities exciting.

"Exciting" is one way to put it. Unknown at this time is how a Muslim can take Communion when there's wine involved, since Muslims don't do alcohol. But if the Catholics are correct and the wine is transubstantiated into the Blood of Christ, I guess it's not wine anymore, so that's cool. But head Protestant honcho Martin Luther thought that although it's the Blood of Christ, it's still also wine (consubstantiation). As near as I can tell, the Episcopalian Church is firmly on the fence. Looks like they might have to finally sort that one out after all these years, unless they just start using grape juice.

Then again, Muslims don't believe in the Eucharist at all, so when a Muslim Episcopal priest consecrates the Eucharist, well, I remember the nuns telling us that if a fake priest said Mass but you took Communion in good faith, it was still Communion.

At least I think that's what they said. I never thought about it much because there wasn't much likelihood of running into a fake priest. Until now...



Kathy Hutchins said...

I can't possibly speak to whether "Father" Holmes is a good Muslim or not, but she is in no way a Christian. She must recite the Creed with her fingers crossed behind her back. Unfortunately this is not a first for ECUSA; they tolerated John Shelby Spong as a bishop, and they will continue to reap what they've sown.

And Tom, I believe you misremember or misunderstood what the good nun told you. A fake priest cannot confect the Eucharist, period. If you take communion from a sham priest in good faith, you have not committed a sin, as you would have if you knowingly participated in a false liturgy. But you also have not received the Body and Blood of Christ. Ecclesia supplet applies in the case of a validly ordained priest who bollixes up the consecration to the point of invalidity, not to an out-and-out fraud.

Matt Huisman said...

What then happens to any marriages performed by such a priest? Marriage is a sacrament in the RC, no? The implications are enormous.

I would think that there would be quite a distinction between a sham "priest" (that never was) and a legit one gone bad. (Didn't Augustine cover the latter?)

Either way, grace is sweet.

Kathy Hutchins said...

Matt: Holy Matrimony is one of the seven Catholic sacraments, but the priest is not the minister of the sacrament, the couple themselves are. If a man and a woman agree to marry, provided both are free to marry, understand the meaning of matrimony in the same way as the Church (lifelong, open to children, exclusively monogamous), and have the mental capacity to give full assent, then they are married.

Actually, that's not quite all there is to it. The marriage covenant is not sealed until the marriage is consummated. So much for those body-hating prudes, eh? We actually have a sacrament that requires nudge-nudge wink-wink.

The Church reserves the authority to demand certain public actions from Catholics desiring to marry. The Church has an interest in making marriages public events, mainly to ensure that the couple are free to marry and properly prepared for marriage. In fact most Catholics in developed countries choose to be married in a church, with the wedding ceremony incorporated into a Mass. But the priest does not *marry* the couple -- if they are not capable of marrying, nothing he does can join them, and if they meet the requirements stated above, no defect of his can stop them.

It is possible for Catholics to participate in an *illicit* marriage, but this is not the same as the marriage being invalid, it just means they've committed a sin by defying legitimate episcopal discipline. This comes up a lot with people involved in various schismatic movements like the SSPX. If they stand up in front of a priest whose faculties have been lifted by the bishop because he's a Lefebrevite, they're still validly married.

In fact, Catholic theology recognizes that the marriages of any baptized persons, provided the bride and groom meet the requirements stated above, are sacramentally valid marriages.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Who says there's never a canon lawyer around when you need one? Leave it to the Catholics for not only anticipating funky situations, but coming up with a Latin name for it, too. Deep thanks to Miz H for correcting the memory of a parochial schoolkid.

(Surely the nuns would never have steered him wrong!)

And as you explain it above, the Catholic theology of marriage strikes me as very beautiful. Thanks, rabbi. ;-)

A little poking around about the Eucharist suggests that Catholics don't accept Episcopalian ones, although John Paul II (naughty naughty) dispensed a few of his own to non-Catholics here and there. But it's a one-way door, which leaves the Rev. Redding still on a Muslim hook about the wine/Blood without the escape hatch of transubstantiation.

Judging by their recent proclivities, I put the Episcopalian odds on splitting the baby. What's Latin for "grape juice?"

Kathy Hutchins said...

What's Latin for "grape juice?"

toxicum purpureum

Matt Huisman said...

Looks like I picked on the wrong sacrament. Your explanation makes perfect sense.

However, it would seem to make most sense along the lines of ex opere operato (by the fact that it is Christ working through the minister). Or perhaps ecclesia supplet (the Church provides) applies with respect to marriage, as it relates to having received the proper authority to administer the sacrament. (Though I’m not so sure about it - ecclesia supplet - covering up for the failings in form - ex opera operantis - by the authorized individual.)

Which leads me back to my original idea, slightly modified. I believe that you are correct that an improperly administered sacrament, while not a sin, is understood to not be legitimate and therefore without its benefits. Considering what’s at stake, I would think that the administration of, say, Last Rites would be a very nerve-racking, high pressure event.

I guess I don’t understand why it needs to be. I don’t want to abandon the significance of human works, but it sure seems problematic sometimes.

Bubba said...

Ok, up front, I am a conservative Lutheran Christian.

"Ecclesia supplet" Bah! Humbug. The Church provides absolutely nothing. Christ provides everything. Christ is everything.

If the believers had to rely on what the Church provided, where would hundreds of years' worth of believers be during those years when the "chief priests" (aka the Popes) were having illegitimate children? Does the relative sinful condition of the priest prior to the Mass affect the efficacy of the Eucharist? Or what if the priest drank a little too much of the wine after the 7:00 am Mass and is a wee bit tipsy for the 8:00 am Mass?

I mean no disrepect, I merely want to push the argument to the extreme so the case for the host and the wine to either transubstantiate or to consubstantiate being dependent upon either the RC Priest or the Lutheran Pastor very clear. The Priest or the Pastor contributes nothing to the Eucharist. The Priest or the Pastor is just another sinner standing in front of a congregation full of sinners. Nothing more.

Did it matter where the bread came from or who had a hand in baking it on Maundy Thursday when Our Lord instituted the Lord's Supper? No. Jesus said this is My Body given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." Did Jesus say "Find yourselves someone like the Amazing Kreskin who can be your priests after I am gone so they can turn unleavened bread into My body. The miracle on Maundy Thursday where Jesus made the unleavened bread into His body is the same miracle that occurs every time the Eucharist has been celebrated down through the centuries. Jesus did it all for me. Jesus still does it all for me.

The exact eternal problem exists in regard to the sacrament of Holy Baptism. Both the Roman Catholic and the Lutheran denominations rightly base their understanding of the sacrament on Scriptural grounds as they understand Baptism as a "means of grace", when God meets humanity and saves him or her by the "washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3). What place does the Priest or the Pastor have in this sacrament other than to sprinkle or pour water onto the one being baptized and speak the name of the Holy Triune God, saying: "I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

Forget what the nuns taught you and please review your Bible, the key point being: read for yourselves and understand God's Word, not someone else's words.

"Ecclesia supplet" The Church provides absolutely nothing. I praise the Lord for that! And, together with all Christians, I look forward to praising God for this throughout all Eternity. Nothing in regard to my soul's salvation is dependent upon any man- other than my Lord Jesus Christ, who died for my sins upon the cross.

Why would you want to risk your salvation by making it dependent on man? or on a man? Isn't that what necessitated Christ's substitutionary death? Because all are sinners, there is no one good? WHY would you want to make salvation ANY other way? In the words of an old hymn: "...My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness..."

By the way, there is just no way that this person can be both a "Moslim" and a Christian "priest". The Lord Jesus made it absolutely clear that if someone is not for Him, he is against Him, and "I am the way the truth, and the life. No man comes unto the Father except by me". The Koran and those who follow its teachings are definitely anti-Christian. Recall those Venn diagrams that we had to suffer with in middle school math? Draw a circle representing all Christians and another circle representing all Moslims. Can you draw a circle containing the subset of all Christians who are also Moslim? Once this was the epitome of a "Null set". Apparently, now the ECUSA can.

Tom Van Dyke said...

You have a good point in there somewhere, Bubba. Keep in mind we were all one church for 1500 years or so. If you lean on Augustine (c. 400 CE) and Aquinas (c. 1250), I think you'll be OK, and mebbe not so angry.

Bubba said...

Please do not mistake "anger" for passion. I am not/was not angry. If anything I was disappointed. Disappointed that the postings were seemingly missing, to me, the whole point of this means of grace. It seemed to me with all of these churchy terms being tossed out that, in regard to salvation, God's part had gotten lost or at least minimized while man, who had no part in the plan of salvation was being elevated. A modern day example of "...But in vain they do worship me,teaching for doctrines the commandments of men..." Matthew 15:9 & Mark 7:7.

Matt Huisman said...

Keep in mind we were all one church for 1500 years or so.

I think that’s a good word, Tom. Perhaps it is not always evident, but one of the reasons that I like to occasionally prod an RC friend about these things is because they have a fairly deep well to draw from with respect to man’s part in our relationship with God. Bubba, I’m a solidly saved by faith alone kind of guy too, but even that involves the work of choosing…so we’re not without our mysteries either. (If she had the inclination, I suspect Ms. Hutchins would be more than able to help us locate a few more.)

I think we can both challenge and appreciate what they bring to the table. Given the caliber of RC contributors around here, it seems to me that our best bet is to challenge them with the hope (expectation?) that we will benefit from doing so.