Sunday, October 14, 2007

Trendy Anglicans are dividers and the enemies of ecumenism

Because they are only marginally religious (to put it politely), many of the "modernizers" both inside and outside the Church of England have the twin goals of throwing out scriptural restrictions and of promoting ecumenism -- the state where Christians become all one big happy family. The two goals are however in fundamental conflict. Throwing out the Bible splits Christians. It does not unite them. And the consistent opposition of Rome to modernizing doctrines ensures that the long-sought reconciliation between Rome and the Anglicans is completely wiped off the agenda

I want to mount an unfashionable argument: that the Anglican Church in Australia's decision to allow the ordination of women as bishops is an unqualified disaster. For a generation that takes the principle of equal opportunity for granted, it's often hard to understand why it shouldn't be universally applicable. But nature constantly reminds us of the category distinction by which people are equal by virtue of their humanity but nonetheless irreducibly different by virtue of their sex.

Along with all the other religions that explicitly see their foundations as supernatural, Christianity has a distinctive view of sexual difference that it takes to be definitive, divinely inspired and beyond the reach of any modern notions of human rights. Compared with Hinduism, where opinion is still divided over the question of whether women have wholly autonomous souls, Christianity's take is radical. St Paul told the Galatians that "there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free man, neither male nor female, for all are one in Christ".

This is an amplification of the parable: "I am the vine; you are the branches." But it is by no means the kind of category collapse that some feminists make it out to be, any more than the notion of the priesthood of all believers subverts the exclusively male priestly order that has characterised the church since its origins. Of course there have always been powerful women in positions of authority in the church. Even so, from a feminist perspective, it's hard to conceive of Christianity as anything short of a patriarchal conspiracy, complete with an obdurately male God the father, God the son and the Paraclete, described in the Nicene Creed as "the Lord and giver of life".

It's scarcely surprising that since the '80s, whenever they've had the chance, feminists of both sexes have attempted to reinvent Christianity in their own image and likeness. They've used sexually inclusive language to mistranslate the Bible and neuter the divine persons to whom prayers are addressed ("Our parent, who art in heaven"). American Episcopalians have been particularly brazen in their attempts to feminise the Paraclete as Sophia and likewise commissioned statues of "Christa".

The more deracinated orders of Catholic nuns have not been far behind, with a global network agitating for the ordination of women and 57 varieties of Wiccan or Mother Earth spirituality.

Pope John Paul II watched with horror the slow internal collapse of Anglicanism, in large part precipitated by debates over the entitlement to ordination of women as priests and men in active homosexual partnerships as bishops. He was moved to forbid any further discussion of the ordination of women in the Catholic Church, declaring that it had no precedent in scripture or tradition and was thus ultra vires, completely beyond the church's authority or power. Both the Anglo-Catholic and evangelical branches of Anglicanism share that view and are implacably opposed to the ordination of women.

High Church Anglicans have other theological grounds for objection. They believe, along with Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox Church, that when a priest celebrates the Eucharist he offers the consecrated elements in a sacrifice that is an extension and re-enactment of Calvary. He acts in persona Christi and his role in relation to the church is a variation of the relationship between Christ the bridegroom and his mystical bride, an inevitably gendered matter in which only male persons are canonically competent.

Many Anglo-Catholics also believe that when the second person of the Trinity took human form he chose a male form, consistent with his nature as the divine son. They believe he also chose males as his apostles and at the Last Supper enjoined them, and no one from among his female disciples, to follow his sacramental example.

From an orthodox Christian perspective, these were not choices to be explained away as circumstantial or dictated by Jewish attitudes of the times but rather to be seen as deliberate, freely chosen and divinely ordered elements of what theologians call the economy of salvation. Although this may well strike non-believers as so much mumbo jumbo, the point that has to be stressed is that theological questions demand to be considered on their own terms and can't be settled on the basis of the latest abstractions the UN has to offer on human rights.

Evangelicals believe strongly in the principle of male leadership of the church. However, their sense of a hierarchy and a distinctive priestly role is vitiated by a Calvinism that would have appalled even Thomas Cranmer. For example, in the Sydney diocese there has been much discussion of late over the desirability of laymen presiding and invoking the consecratory formulas, with little doubt in evidence that this would result in valid sacraments.

Valid sacraments are at the heart of the debate over female ordination. Certainty about the validity of the sacraments is something to which the faithful are entitled and that is often being cruelly denied them. Many well-educated Anglican laypeople cannot in conscience accept that it is proper to ordain women as priests. They do not believe that women have the authority to bless, to absolve or to consecrate and that only their baptisms are valid because in principle any baptised Christian can perform that function.

Neither the synod nor the appellate tribunal strikes most of these people as competent to judge the legality or validity of orders that the Pope himself declared was beyond his powers to authorise and no one in Christendom -- apart from a crackpot bishop in Hong Kong during World War II -- purported to confer until the '70s.

It follows that a great many Anglicans have been marginalised and sacramentally disenfranchised to placate a group of women whose belief that they had priestly vocations would have been regarded as plainly delusional throughout almost all of Christian history. Because women are now entrenched in the priesthood in many but not all Australian dioceses, it has often been argued that the time for argument is over and that everyone should concentrate on peaceful coexistence. However, the imminent prospect of women as diocesan bishops in Australia, after a 4-3 split decision last week from the appellate tribunal, is a grim reminder of how the problem of invalid orders will compound through time.

Before long, just because they can, Anglicans of a latitudinarian-liberal bent will elect a woman to an Australian see. But many Anglicans will be uncertain at best and often wholly unconvinced about the validity of her orders. That uncertainty will tend to contaminate any of her purported ordinations of other bishops, priests or deacons and all her confirmations. In a church whose apostolic succession and ordinal have already been definitively rejected by Rome, whatever the orthodox say, doubts about valid orders among many of the Anglican Church's most theologically literate laypeople presage institutional collapse.

It is only human nature for people given positions of authority to assert it. Many who have suffered at the hands of authoritarians of a left-liberal disposition can attest that they are apt to be more relentless -- by both temperament and habit -- than comparably placed conservatives. Pity help the Anglicans who first find themselves under a female bishop and pleading for alternative pastoral supervision because they can't in conscience, with all due respect, accept what's on offer.

Tom Frame, an Anglican bishop who commented on these matters on the Opinion page of The Australian on Monday, acknowledged the problem. "Because the church has not, and will not, make provision for alternate episcopal oversight -- so-called flying bishops with a roving brief -- the church faces a difficult pastoral challenge in caring for those opposed to the innovation."

This sounds more a matter of polite regret than heartfelt sympathy with the problems of those with conscientious objections. Are the winner-takes-all tactics that have been such a constant feature of Australian Anglicanism never to end? I'd have thought that now was precisely the time to be arguing the case for flying bishops, an expedient that would surely be preferable to the threat of breakaway movements and schism.

Frame puts his own position on the issue in a latitudinarian way. "Throughout their long and sometimes bloody history, Anglicans have shown a capacity to accept diversity of conviction and custom and have realised the perils of attaching ultimate significance to non-core beliefs and practices." By what stretch of the imagination, his Catholic and Eastern Orthodox colleagues will be wanting to know, can valid ordinations and valid sacraments be construed, in the political cant of the times, as non-core?

I've concentrated mostly on why women bishops are a disaster for Australian Anglicanism as a denomination and for many faithful Anglicans. It's also one more substantial impediment to Christian unity, both because it's internally divisive and because it will alienate the churches that take the apostolic succession seriously. On the latter ground alone, I can't see how anyone seriously committed to ecumenism could support it.


Australian Cardinal condemns wishy washy "Donald Duck" religion

THE Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, has stepped up his criticism of Catholics who support contraception, abortion and stem-cell research on the basis of their own moral conscience as proponents of a "Donald Duck heresy". In a compilation of 10 short essays to be published this week, Cardinal Pell also warns that the pill has created a "contraceptive" mentality with "evil consequences" for the world, including a plummeting fertility rate in which many children will one day know no siblings, aunts, uncles or cousins. He says a new approach is needed to combat unacceptably high levels of abortion, including the possibility of television advertisements to encourage women to proceed with a pregnancy by framing it as a means of regaining control of their lives, rather than it ruining them....

Cardinal Pell also disclosed that the church would contribute $15 million to $20 million of the $100 million-plus costs of World Youth Day in Sydney next July.

God and Caesar is the first academic title written by Cardinal Pell, and it returns to his regular theme of rampant liberal secularism and warns that anti-life attitudes are infiltrating the church, a traditional champion of pro-life causes. He disputes that there has ever been a traditional Catholic Church teaching on truth and personal conscience, which gives the ultimate right to Catholics to make moral judgments based on individual conscience, even if it is in error.

This argument lies at the heart of debate in the church over contraception and moral and ethical questions surrounding bioethics, euthanasia and abortion. It was aired recently when Cardinal Pell controversially called on state politicians to follow church teaching and not their conscience on issue of stem-cell research.

Referring to the work of the English historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, Cardinal Pell said he was concerned about the consequences of support for a Donald Duck heresy. "Too many Donald Ducks produce the feel-good society which works to remove personal guilt, anything that would make people feel uncomfortable so that complacent self-satisfaction becomes a virtue; confession is replaced by therapy and self-reproach by self-discovery."


In Praise Of Competition

I would like to know the name of the buffoon who first decided that competition was a bad thing. Who was the silly goose who woke up one morning with the goofy notion that kids shouldn't keep score in their games so that the members of the losing team wouldn't suffer from low self-esteem? And what fathead decided that high schools shouldn't have valedictorians because all the other seniors would feel like a bunch of underachievers?

No doubt it was the same idiot who determined that a level playing field didn't really mean equal opportunity, but equal results. But who was he? Could it possibly have been, as I suspect, Dr. Spock? And, if so, why wasn't he ridden out of town on a rail?

It's not that I'm unaware that there can be a dark side to competition, but that's only when the wrong people decide that the ends always justify the means, whether those means involve lying, stealing or back-stabbing. However, honest competition brings out the best in most people. It's what leads some individuals to invent, and leads others to refine those inventions. Whether people are driven to excel in pursuit of money, fame, glory or out of more altruistic motives, makes no difference to me. Whatever led to the creation of "The Brandenburg Concertos," the internal combustion engine, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," the pacemaker or the microchip, I suspect that competition of some sort played a major role in bringing them about.

When I worked as an advertising copywriter for Doyle Dane Bernbach way back in the 1960s, the agency insisted that their clients be able to point to a product difference, something that made them unique, and in some way better than their competitors. I recall in one instance that the product was salt. Salt, for god's sake, is salt. Expecting to have a competitive edge struck me as absurd. But I was mistaken. What the agency did was to design a superior container. After all these years, I don't recall what made it better, whether it was more functional or merely a much more attractive package, but I do know that the consumer was provided with a legitimate reason to buy our salt, aside from a clever advertising campaign.

On the negative side of the ledger, we have certain baseball players who have resorted to performance-enhancing drugs in order to out-do the competition. In the case of Barry Bonds, we've been told that he was so jealous of the attention being paid to Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa as they battled to break Roger Maris's home run record that he figured the only way to fight fire was with fire. Only in this case, it was a matter of fighting steroids with steroids.

To be fair, Bonds claims he thought he was actually using flaxseed oil, although I don't believe he ever said why. To me, that sounds like a cocaine addict claiming that he believed that the white stuff he'd been snorting was really flour or talcum powder. But, perhaps when Bonds finally hangs up his cleats, he can take that competitive spirit to Washington, D.C., a town where a man with a flair for lying and cheating can easily carve out a distinguished career


Pervasive British antisemitism

Who said this on a visit to America last week ? "When you think how fantastically successful the Jewish lobby has been . they more or less monopolize American foreign policy, as far as many people can see." Mahmoud Ahamdinejad? No: it was Professor Richard Dawkins, speaking at the Atheist Alliance convention in Crystal City, Virginia.

Mr. Dawkins has embarked on a campaign to give atheists a louder voice in the American public square. He appears to be unaware of the irony involved in his chosen method of attracting attention - which is to repeat the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of the Islamic fundamentalists.

As holder of the chair of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, Mr. Dawkins has even less excuse for holding such opinions than the Islamofascists. After all, Oxford academics, known as "dons," are exposed to a wide range of views, aren't they? They devote their lives to the disinterested pursuit of truth, distinguish between fact and fiction, tolerate dissent, defend freedom of speech and thought, don't they? Well, no, actually:aJewishfriend of mine who taught at Oxford until recently told me that he found the atmosphere there to be oppressive for anybody who did not buy the Palestinian narrative. His colleagues simply weren't interested in hearing the truth. They were tolerant, yes, but only of rabid anti-Semites such as the poet Tom Paulin, who called for "Brooklyn-born settlers" in Israel to be "shot dead." They were intolerant of those whose scholarship treated Zionism objectively. So, sadly, my friend left the university.

This is the context in which the British University and College Union voted to boycott Israeli academics - though last week the union backed off, after legal advice warning its leaders that such a boycott would infringe anti-discrimination laws. But why did the academics require one of the most expensive lawyers in Britain, Anthony Lester, to tell them what their consciences ought to have told them instinctively?

Part of the explanation is that these academics are, like the rest of Europe, busily appeasing the Islamists. Their forms of appeasement are more offensive than, say, the Sainsbury supermarket chain permitting its Muslim checkout staff to refuse to sell alcohol to customers, but the reflex is the same. It matters hugely, of course, when the free circulation of scholarship is stopped by the scholars themselves engaging in a deliberate act of sabotage. Let me give one very striking example. In the September 17 issue of the Weekly Standard, the German academic Matthias Kuentzel wrote a brilliant article on the Nazi roots of Islamism, "Jew-Hatred and Jihad," which I recommend to anyone who wants to understand the pathological motives and ideological provenance of our present enemies.

Readers of this column may recall that last March I wrote about how Mr. Kuentzel was prevented from giving a public lecture on the same topic at Leeds University in England, because the administrators claimed to be worried about "security" - meaning that they had received threats. Even if this had been true, it would have been a shameful capitulation to blackmail, but it emerged that no such threats had, in fact, been received. The Kuentzel case deserves to be a cause celebre in the debate on academic freedom.

Next month Mr. Kuentzel's book, "Jihad and Jew-Hatred: Islamism, Nazism and the Roots of 9/11," will be published by Telos Press. In it, he will show that Al Qaeda in general, and especially Mohamed Atta, leader of the Hamburg-based terrorist cell that carried out the attacks on September 11, were motivated by a Nazi belief in Jewish world domination. Atta "considered New York City the center of world Jewry, which was, in his opinion, Enemy No.1."

Amazingly, American and European authorities have completely failed to take cognizance of the anti-Semitic nature of the ideology that led to September 11, despite the wealth of evidence that has emerged since. Yet some of us were warning people about this elephant in the room at the time. On September 11, within hours of the attacks, I was writing the main oped article for the Daily Telegraph, which appeared the next day. This is what I wrote: "Let there be no mistake: global Islamic terrorism is rooted in global anti-Semitism. This was, in many ways, the most vicious blow aimed at the Jewish people since the Holocaust. New York is not only the richest city on earth, the capital of capitalism; it is also the largest Jewish city . The collaboration of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem with the Nazis is only the most notorious instance of a long line of Judaeophobic Arab leaders."

Why did the American authors of the "9/11 Commission Report," published in July 2004, fail to notice any of this? Why has the British academic establishment shunned the minority of scholars, such as David Pryce-Jones, Emanuele Ottolenghi, Matthias Kuentzel, and Efraim Karsh, who have consistently warned against this dangerous Islamofascist nexus?

The answer is that anti-Semitism has quietly insinuated itself into British social and cultural life again. On Saturday the chairman of Chelsea Football Club, one of the most famous soccer teams in the world, publicly protested about anti-Semitic abuse by the fans of the new manager and coach, Avram Grant. Mr. Grant had been in the job for just one week. His crime? To be an Israeli and a distinguished former coach of the national team.

This week the word from the White House was that President Bush has given up on Gordon Brown. He prefers Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel. Something is rotten in the state of Britain. And I fear that the ugly prejudices of Professor Dawkins are not only typical of Oxford academics, or even of evangelical atheists, but of many more of his - and my - compatriots



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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