Archive for March, 2009

Bishop Bramhall and The Vindication of the English Church (1654)

March 28, 2009

I offer the following text in full as it appears in the March 2009 issue of New Directions, courtesy of Fr. Arthur Middleton.

In his Vindication of the English Church (1654), John Bramhall took as a motto some famous words of Pacian, Bishop of Barcelona (365-90), who resisted the heresy of Novationism: ‘My name is Christian, my surname is Catholic; by the one I am known from infidels; by the other from heretics and schismatics.’

Bramhall’s firm belief was ‘that the Church of England before the Reformation and the Church of England after the Reformation are as much the same Church, as a garden before it is weeded and after it is weeded is the same garden…’ He believed in the continuity, catholicity and self-identity of the Church of England.

‘Whosoever doth preserve his obedience entire to the universal Church, and its representative a general council, and to all his superiors in their due order, so far as by law he is obliged; who holds an internal communion with all Christians, and an external communion so far as he can with a good conscience; who approves no reformation but that which is made by lawful authority, upon sufficient grounds, with due moderation; who derives his Christianity by the uninterrupted line of Apostolical succession; who contents himself with his proper place in the ecclesiastical body; who disbelieves nothing contained in Holy Scripture, and if he hold any errors unwittingly and unwillingly, doth implicitly renounce them by his fuller and more firm adherence to that infallible rule (i.e. the Rule of Faith expressed in the Creed); who believeth and practiseth all those credenda and agenda, which the universal Church spread over the face of the earth doth unanimously believe and practise as necessary to salvation, without condemning or censuring others of different judgement from himself in inferior questions, without obtruding his own opinions upon others as articles of Faith; who is implicitly prepared to believe and do all other speculative and practical truths, when they shall be revealed to him; and, in sum, that prefers not a subtlety or an imaginary truth before the bond of peace; he may securely say, ‘My name is Christian, my surname is Catholic’

‘From hence it appeareth plainly by the rule of contraries, who are schismatics; whosoever doth uncharitably make ruptures in the mystical body of Christ, or ‘sets up altar against altar’ in His Church, or withdraws his obedience from the Catholic Church, or its representative a general Council, or from any lawful superiors, without just grounds; whosoever doth limit the Catholic Church unto his own sect, excluding all the rest of the Christian world, by new doctrines, or erroneous censures, or tyrannical impositions; whosoever holds not internal communion with all Christians, and external also so far as they continue in a Catholic constitution; whosoever, not contenting himself (or herself) with his (or her) due place in the Church, doth attempt to usurp an higher place, to the disorder and disturbance of the whole body; whosoever takes upon him to reform without just authority and good grounds; and lastly, whosoever doth wilfully break the line of Apostolic succession, which is the very nerves and sinews of ecclesiastical unity and communion, both with the present Church, and with the Catholic Symbolical Church of all successive ages; he is a schismatic, whether he be guilty of heretical pravity or not.’

If General Synod proceeds with women bishops, Catholic continuity in the Church of England will end and she will become schismatic, like The Episcopal Church in America.


Origen: A Bishop’s Debt, and Priestly Sacrifice

March 23, 2009

But apart from these more general considerations, there is a certain “debt” due from a widow for the whom the church provides and another due from a deacon, and another from a presbyter, but the “debt” due from a bishop is the heaviest, since it is demanded of him by the Saviour of the whole Church, and retribution follows if it be not paid . . .

In like manner, therefore, the apostles also, and those likened to the apostles, being priests of “the great high priest,” (Heb. 4:14) having received knowledge of the healing that comes from God, know, being taught by the Holy Spirit concerning what sins they ought to offer sacrifices, and when, and in what manner, and they understand concerning what sins they ought not to do this.

Origen, On Prayer 28.4, 9, c. 234 AD, trans. Henry Chadwick

Why I am Not a Protestant II

March 19, 2009

(I am keenly aware of my neglect of this blog of late. I hope at some point to write why—indeed, one of the reasons I put off posting was because I kept pondering how I would answer that question. For the time being, however, I am going to continue to go through my notes, clearing off my desk and cleaning out my files.)

Scripture is, as I have written previously, the legible sacrament—but like all sacraments, it only has effect or meaning within the sacred community. Baptism means entrance into that community. Eucharist means sustenance within that community. Scripture means instruction within, or the common memory of, that community. It is indeed the ‘norming norm’, but only insofar as it itself has been normed by the Spirit of God that resides within the sacred community, the Body of Christ as a whole. We don’t call that ‘catholic’ for nothing.